Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Feel Like You're Drowning? Here's How to Breathe!

Hi Friends,

It's a very hot day here, so I was thinking of summer and all the things God teaches me through summer activities.  And I thought of this story of swimming, and panic, and thinking you're drowning … and how Bryan taught Joelle how to breathe.  So I remembered how to breathe too, when the waters seem to be closing in around me, when I want to panic, when I'm flailing about in life.

Maybe you'll find this story helpful too, and remember how to find your breath, even when you feel like you're drowning:

Sometimes parents are right.  This was one of those times.
            Joelle paddled around the shallow end of the pool with a long, skinny floater tucked under her arms.  She made a few circles then headed for the far end of the pool.
            I watched her go.  Past the ladder, past her sisters, past the light that marked the end of the area where she was allowed to swim.  “Don’t go in the deep end!” I called out the warning after her.  “Stay where you can touch bottom.”
            She didn’t turn.
            I started to go after her.
            My husband, Bryan, touched my arm.  “Give her a minute.  She’ll learn.”
            Joelle glanced back at me.  “I’ll be all right, Mommy.  I’ve got my floatie.”
            “You could let go of it, and it would float away.”
            She turned back around away.  “I won’t.  I promise.”
            “Stay out of the deep end.”
            But of course she didn’t.  Soon after, the floatie had drifted off and there was Joelle, floundering, gasping, sputtering in the deep end of the pool.  Arms flailed, water splashed.  And the floatie moved even further from her reach.
            Bryan shook his head and went after her.  A moment later, he’d hauled her back to the shallow end.
            Joelle trembled, and wailed, and hung on to her Daddy.
            He sighed.  “Well, what did Mommy tell you?”
            “Waaaaa!”  She buried her head deeper in his neck and refused to look.
            He loosened her grip from around him and placed a finger under her chin.  “You’re all right.  Next time listen to Mommy.”
            She sniffed and nodded.  “I was s-s-s-scared.”
            Bryan smiled at her.  “I know.  Now, let’s practice how to float, in case that ever happens again.”
            So they did.  They practiced being still, letting her body float at the top of the water, and raising her head above the surface to breathe.  No flailing, no panic.
            The strange thing is, bodies are buoyant.  Yet people still drown with their noses a couple inches from air. Joelle had gasped and thrashed when all she really needed to do was calm down, stop flailing, and raise her face above the level of the water. 
            She only had to lift her chin and look up.
            I wonder if it’s not often like that in life as well.  We do something foolish, and we start to drown in our mistakes.  But God doesn’t abandon us.  He’s given us what we need to float.  We just have to listen when he says to "Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) All we’d really have to do is look up, look to Him, and we’d find our head above water.  We’d be okay. 
            But instead we panic.  We flail about in fear and desperation.  And all the while God is swimming toward us, calling out to us to just look up. 
            The Bible says in Psalm 121 (NIV), “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth… The LORD watches over you … The LORD will keep you from all harm.  He will watch over your life;  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” 
            God is not far.  There’s no need to panic.  Instead, we just need to be still and look to Him.

            So, next time I feel the waters rising, next time I find myself flailing around in fear, I hope to remember the lesson of Joelle’s trip to the deep end.  I hope to remember to stop panicking, look up, and breathe in the peace of God.  Because my Father in heaven is there with me.  He won’t let me drown.  He’s given me what I need to stay afloat in all the circumstances of life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When All Seems Lost, Let God Roll Away the Stone

Hi Friends,

So, Easter is past and Christ has risen … and what now?  I've been thinking about that this week -- what does it mean that Christ is risen?  What does it mean in my life today?  How does it change everything?

Those are questions so rich, so deep, that I could never cover all the nuances, all the wonder.  So instead, I wanted to share with you some thoughts from my upcoming book, Wrestling with Wonder (excerpt from Ch 15).

This is a bit, a glimpse, a tiny taste, a single aspect, of what the resurrection means to me -- I think you will be encouraged:

Who Is This God?

So who is this God who rises from the dead never to die again? Who is he who transformed death itself? Who is he who calls us to live in the wonder of resurrection, and see our world transformed?
He is the God who makes all things new...
He is the God who transformed the cross. And if he can do it for two rough-hewn pieces of wood, he can do it for you as well. 
Consider the symbol of the cross.
In Mary’s day, it represented horror and death, the worst kind of execution. To the ancient Roman world, it was a symbol of everything awful, bad, terrifying. It was ugly. It meant disgust and destruction. It meant shame and agony and loss. To see a cross was to see a symbol of the worst kind of death possible.
That’s what the cross was ... until Christ transformed it.
Right now, in my jewelry box, I have several sets of cross earrings and necklaces. I don’t wear them to let people know I’m a Christian, I wear them as a reminder of God’s power to transform. 
Because the cross is a perfect picture of how God transforms the ugly into the beautiful. I wouldn’t wear a hangman’s noose or a guillotine or a gilded electric chair. But I do wear crosses. Why? Because God has transformed the cross. 
We use it to decorate our homes. We put it in the front of our churches. It has become a symbol recognized all over the world. And it doesn’t mean death and shame anymore. It means life, salvation, redemption, love, and hope...
And that is a shocking transformation.
If God can do that for the cross, he can do it for you. And he will. He can take the awful things in your life and transform them, too, for his glory. 
Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things that happen are good, but that God can turn the hard things into good. He can make them into a shining testimony of his love and faithfulness. 
But if they are going to be transformed, you must take those difficult, sometimes painful experiences, and offer them to him. You need to come to the tomb, even if you come with trembling, even if you come with tears.
... Will you face the strange, the uncertain, the mystery of the tomb . . . or will you cover over the truth with false platitudes, even if they are ones of God’s “goodness.”  Or will you, afraid, confused, doubting, approach the gravesite, peek inside, and be changed forever?  Come, believe that what Jesus did for the cross, he will do for you. 
The worst things in your life can be transformed into life and beauty. Hear the whisper of angels, “Why do you look for the living among the dead ... He is risen!” And you are raised with him. So even at the tombs of life, God is calling you to live with expectant joy, knowing that he is not dead. Even if you can’t see him, he is on the move, he is working.
Because now, anything, everything, can be transformed by his love.

Let him roll away the stone . . .

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Story that Changed Everything

Hi Friends,

Last Saturday we had a fun time telling Jesus' story through drama at our Celebrate! Kids Easter Event at church.  This Saturday, I'm leading a team that's going to some apartment complexes in town and we'll put on an Easter party for the kids there and I get to tell the Easter story again (yay!).  

So, this Holy Week, I'm pondering the Story That Changed Everything and rejoicing in the amazing, wonderful, incredible, breath-taking, inspiring, Wonder-Filled thing that Jesus did for you and me.

Here is that story, as I'll tell it to the kids on Saturday.  Soak in it again … and be filled with His Wonder!


The story begins in a beautiful garden called Eden where God created the first people, Adam and Eve, to be in relationship with Him and to walk with Him in the garden every day and care for His creation.  But Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and their sin destroyed their relationship with God and corrupted all of creation. They had to leave the garden and live with the disease of sin within them  and we all have that same disease in us.  Oh no!  
Thousands of years went by. And then … something happened! In a small town called Bethlehem,  God became a tiny little baby -- Jesus was born!! We celebrate that at Christmas. Then Jesus grew up. He cared for the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, and welcomed children and blessed them.  Jesus never, ever did a single thing wrong.  He showed us just what God is like.  And some people hated him because of it.  They plotted to kill him.  
So they arrested Jesus one night in a garden called Gethsemane.  Soldiers came with their torches and their swords, and they took him!  They took him to a place called Gabbatha, which means the Stone Pavement, the place of judgment.  They beat him with whips and he stood there on the stone pavement with the governor, Pilate, and all the people yelled, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  
And that’s just what Pilate decided to do!  They made him carry his own cross to the place called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.  And they put a crown of thorns on his head.  And they laid the cross on the ground, and they laid Jesus on the cross.  Then they drove the nails through his hands and feet.  They lifted the cross up until it hung between the heavens and the earth.  And they set it.  THUMP!  The sky turned black, like pitch, in the middle of day! And Jesus died on the cross that day.  And all the people who loved him cried and thought all their hope was gone.  
Why did Jesus do it?  Why did he die that way on the cross when he could have called all the angels of heaven to rescue Him?  I’ll tell you why!  He did it for YOU!  He took all the wrongs things you ever did and paid for them himself.  Jesus died on the cross so we can walk with God again and know HIm and be in relationship with him.  He paid for what we’ve done wrong!  Isn’t that great news!!  
But that’s not the end of the story.  Who wants to know what happens next?  Well, let me tell you.  After Jesus died, one day passed.  Two days passed.  And very early on the morning of the third day, the ground shook.  And the stone they had put in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb rolled away!  Some women had come to put spices on Jesus’ body, and when they looked into the tomb, what should they see??
Not Jesus!  They saw angels!  And those angels said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here.  He has risen!”  Jesus was alive again!  And that is the most wonderful, fantastic, incredible, amazing, beautiful, happy thing that has ever happened from the beginning of time until now!  

Jesus rose from the dead.  He defeated death for you and me!  And because of that, he’s able to give us clean, white lives to replace our black ones.  Who would like a clean life from Jesus?  Our new lives are not just tickets into heaven, but tickets that allow us to have a relationship with God, for us to pray and talk to Him, and follow Him all the days of our lives.  We don’t have to be all black and yucky inside anymore.  We can be clean and white and with God every day!  He loves us that much!
And that's what Easter is all about … Wow!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wrestling with Wonder Cover!!

Hi Friends,

Just wanted to share the cover to my new book and a bit about it.  Here it is, to be released this coming September.  Whoo Hoo!

And here's the catalog copy:

You’ve never seen Mary, or her God, like this!  

Who is this God?  Who is he who calls us to surrender and then leads us on a journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, unlike anything we could have ever expected?  Who is this God who calls a young girl to birth a Savior and then watch him die on a Roman cross?  Who is he who fulfills every promise and yet shatters every expectation? 
Come, join Mary, Jesus’ mother, on a journey of discovery. Hear the angel’s call, walk the long road to Bethlehem, give birth in a barn, search for a lost son, kneel at the foot of a cross, and experience the wind of the Spirit.  Come, walk with Mary, and find your own journey in hers. 

Because life rarely turns out the way we planned...
Because we lose the wonder in the disappointments of life ... 
Because being highly favored does not mean being highly pampered ...

Because Mary shows us God -- Passionate, breath-taking, and unpredictable...