Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Trusting God for Today: It's All About the Map

Hi Friends,

In honor of Bryan's birthday coming up in a few days, I thought I'd share a lesson we learned together several years ago when we were traveling to Pennsylvania to learn how to build log homes.

It would’ve been different if it weren’t nearly midnight, if I’d ever been in Baltimore before, or if we didn’t have a two-hour drive before us.  But it was, and we hadn’t, and we did.  So when my husband, Bryan, and I climbed into our Hertz rent-a-car we knew it wouldn’t be easy to get to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania over 140 miles away. 
But when I unfolded the Hertz map, I realized it would be even harder than I’d thought.  “This only shows downtown Baltimore and Washington DC.”  I turned to Bryan and frowned. 
 “Well, um,” Bryan cleared his throat, “looks like we’ll just have to figure it out on our own.”
“You’re kidding,” I muttered.
He gave me a sheepish grin, started the car, and pulled from the parking space.  We hadn’t driven ten feet when a strange voice spoke from a box attached to the dash.  “What is your destination?” it asked. 
“What’s that?” I pointed.
“I think it’s an onboard navigator,” Bryan answered.  “Punch in where we’re going and see what happens.”
After a minute of pushing buttons, a map appeared on the screen, and a smooth woman’s voice emanated from the box.  “Approaching right turn,” it said.
“Look!” I exclaimed.  “It’s showing us where to go.”
Bryan made the right turn and continued to follow the box’s instructions until we reached a freeway and headed north.  “I love this machine!” I announced.
But after about 45 minutes, I wasn’t so sure.  The problem was, the machine only showed us up to the next turn.  It didn’t reveal the entire map, and I was starting to have my doubts. 
“Are we sure that box knows where we’re going?” Bryan said.  
“How do we know it’s giving us the right directions?” I responded. 
“That doesn’t seem like the right turn, does it?” Bryan grumbled ten minutes later.
“Why are we going west when Lewisburg’s supposed to be north?” I answered.
Finally, Bryan had enough.  “I’m pulling over and getting a map,” he announced. 
“Shouldn’t we trust the machine?” I said, but not very convincingly.
Soon, he spotted a gas station and pulled off the road.  Ten minutes later he returned with map in hand.   “This is the right road,” he murmured in a very small voice.
“Trust the machine,” I winked.
Bryan grinned.
For the rest of the trip, we decided to “trust the machine,” and sure enough, before long, we pulled up, safe and sound, in front of our hotel in Lewisburg. 
Since then, I’ve realized that our Lewisburg trip is much like life.  Sometimes I’m tempted to navigate by poor maps of worldly wisdom.  Or, I think I can “wing it” by doing what seems easiest at the moment.  But those methods will only get me lost.  Christ offers me another way.  When I gave my life to him, he became my onboard navigator, saying to me “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 31:21)
The problem is trusting.  Sometimes it’s hard when God is telling me to be kind to someone who’s hurt me, to forgive, to go the extra mile when there seems to be no benefit for me.  But what’s the hardest of all is to trust when I don’t see the whole map in front of me.  I want to see all the turns and curves of my life right now.  But that’s not how God works.  Instead, he asks me to trust him one step at a time.  And like Bryan, sometimes I feel like pulling off the road to check if he’s leading me the right way.  But, then I tell myself to “trust the machine” – trust the One who knows more than any map I could ever buy.  He knows where I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going.

And so I’m learning to believe and obey God for the “now” – to do the right thing, to do what he asks today, in this moment, and trust that He will be with me in the turns and curves to come.  I remind myself that I have an onboard navigator; God knows the whole map of my life.  All I need to do is trust and obey. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Truth about Lies and Brokenness

Hi Friends,

Bethany turns 15 tomorrow (15!!??!!), and I was thinking back to when she was younger and learned a lesson from a broken door that I knew would be helpful especially in her teens…and it has been.  Not only for her, but for me too.

So, for those broken places in you, and in me, here's a story that has made a difference in how I deal with the brokenness …

It happened like this:
“Jayna!”  I roared the name of my three-year-old daughter and glared at the cabinet door that sat mangled on the carpet in front of me.  “Get in here!”
Jayna came running.
I stabbed my finger at the broken door.  “Did you do that?”  It was a good guess that Jayna was the culprit, even though she had four other siblings.  Of the all the things broken in the house, Jayna had caused 95% of them.  We didn’t call her ‘little monkey’ for nothing.  So, when something turned up broken, Jayna was the first one I called.
Except this time, she didn’t hide her face and pretend she didn’t understand.  This time, she looked at me with wide, innocent eyes and said, “Bet-a-nee break it.”
I frowned.  “Are you sure?”  It had been a long time since Jayna’s nine-year-old sister had done anything like break a cabinet door.
Jayna smiled.  “Yes.  Bet-a-nee do it.”
I picked up the broken door and walked into the other room where Bethany was practicing piano.  “Do you know how this got broken?”  I waved the piece in her direction.
She paused, then shrugged.  “I dunno.”
“Did you do it?”  Doubt edged my voice.
She plunked her fingers down on the piano keys and shook her head. “No.”
I frowned.
She fidgeted.
I shifted the door into my other hand.
Her face turned red.  Then, she started to bawl.  “Yes, I did it.  I did it,” she hollered.   Between sobs, she told about how she sat on the door just like we'd told her not to do, and it broke, and she lied, and, and, and . . . and she didn't want to get in trouble.  Waaaa....
About three minutes into her big confession, I was trying to not grin.  Not because I was happy that the door was broken, but because I was starting to see all the great lessons I could help Bethany glean from this one incident, lessons that would be essential for her to learn, especially as she drew closer to her teen years.
So, once the sobbing subsided, Bethany and I settled in for a good talk.  We discussed how Mommy and Daddy are wise. It's best to do what they say.  And if you fail to obey and do something stupid, it's best to fess up right away. Otherwise you end up carrying your mistake around with you.  Then, we talked about how it’s better to repent fast.  Don't make excuses. Just say, “I did something dumb. I know you said not to, but I did it anyway, and I'm really sorry.”  Next, we covered how lying is worse than the original offense. Sitting on the cabinet door may cause broken furniture, but lying causes brokenness inside. And that's a lot harder to fix.  But if you do let a lie slip out, fix it with the truth right away. The longer the lie sits inside you, the more damage it does. A lie is like giving yourself a cut.  The longer it festers without the medicine of the truth, the sicker it makes you.  And finally, if you lie, someone else may get in trouble for what you did, and that's not fair.
By the time we were finished, I began to wonder if God had allowed that door to break just to give me the chance to teach Bethany the rich, character-forming lessons that would help her navigate her future.  And of course that got me thinking about the "broken doors" in my life.  Perhaps some things in my life had fallen apart so I could learn valuable life lessons too. Maybe instead of shifting the blame and trying to deny my mistakes, I needed to see them as an opportunity to change, learn, and grow.
After all, Hebrews 12:6-7 (NIV) says, “the Lord disciplines those he loves . . . Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” In other words, perhaps God allows hard things in my life so I can learn the same lessons as Bethany.  God is wise. It's best to do what He says.  If I fail, go to Him quickly in prayer and say, "I messed up!"  Don't make excuses. Don't lie - not to others, and not to myself.  Embrace the truth even when it's hard to hear and accept.
And most of all, how I react to the broken parts of my life matters not only to me, but to others, especially those I love.  What I say and do, my character, matters not just to me and God, but to them too. 

So maybe, just maybe, it’s time I complain less about the broken doors of life and instead look for the ways God can make me whole through them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Impossible? Think Again!

Hi Friends,

When I was well into my 40's, a baby girl was born into our family  born to a woman who had traveled for over 20 years on the path of infertility.  Born when I was sure that any chance for another baby was dead and buried.
            But God has a way of transforming death.
            And that changes everything.
My baby girl turns four tomorrow.  And today, as I kiss my little girl and gaze into her wide, brown eyes, as she giggles and wipes her boogers across her cheek, as she throws her arms wide for a hug from Mommy, I hold her tight and can barely breathe for the wonder of it.
God did this.  He did it with the same power, the same love, that raised Jesus from the dead.  He resurrected my dead hope.  He made a way, a miracle.
Does it always happen that way? No. Does God always give the barren woman a houseful of children? Does he always cure cancer? Does he always save prodigals? Does he always mend marriages?
But he has risen from the dead. And that still changes everything. There is always hope because Jesus defeated our last enemy. He defeated death itself.
And so there is nothing—NOTHING—that cannot be transformed by his love, the same love, the same power, that rose Jesus from the grave.
Nothing is impossible. Nothing is hopeless. Nothing is beyond his reach.
I remember that today as my miracle girl spends her last day as a three-year-old.  I remember, and I rejoice.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Are We Supposed to Suffer?

Hi Friends,

As some of you have heard, my 11-year-old lost her much-loved rescue pony, Pippin, this week to a freak accident.  She lost her pet rat the next day, and went to school the following day for the first time after her best friend moved away.  It's been quite a week of heart-breaking loss for one little girl.

As we've been grieving, finding comfort in Christ's love, and missing the ones we've lost (especially our sweet little Pip! - happiest horse I've ever known), I've been thinking of Simeon's "blessing" to Mary.  In Luke 2, he takes baby Jesus in his arms, says a prayer and a blessing, and then says this to Mary:  "A sword will pierce your own soul…"  It is his blessing for her.  A strange blessing.  But I am understanding it more this week.

So, for everyone who has felt the soul-piercing sword in their own lives, here's a bit from WRESTLING WITH WONDER that I've been pondering this week, that has encouraged me.  Maybe you will find hope here too:

Chapter 6 Excerpt:
“A sword will pierce your own soul,” Simeon says, “so that ...” In the Greek, it’s a tiny conjunction: hopos. Most simply, it means “in order that.” But in reality, it means so much more. It means that everything Simeon has spoken of—division, opposition, and the piercing of the soul—doesn’t happen for nothing. There is purpose in the pain. There is meaning in the suffering. And that matters. It happens not just so Mary can suffer, so we can suffer, but it happens “so that ...”
            So yes, Mary was called to suffer. But not for suffering’s sake, but for a purpose—for revelation. “So that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” Simeon says, using the same word that appeared just a few verses above when he sang that Jesus would be a light of revelation (apocalypto, in the Greek) to the Gentiles. Revelation: meaning something we cannot know unless God himself shows us. We can’t see it unless he pulls back the curtain with his own hand. This is a seeing, an understanding, that comes through the work of God himself, God alone.
            And according to the Spirit’s words through Simeon, revelation comes through suffering,
through the sword that pierces all the way to the soul. Through suffering, the thoughts of our hearts are revealed. Through suffering we see the hand of God.
            Our souls are laid bare in our suffering.
            And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
            There is purpose in the pain.
            So is Mary intended to suffer? Are you? Am I? Simeon says yes. It is part of walking with him, being his. Falling, rising, division, opposition, rejection, piercing pain ... leading to revelation.
            Because since the promise of the coming Messiah has been fulfilled, favor and blessing now must include the soul-piercing sword. God has redefined favor. He has introduced a new type of blessing.
            Yes, we are meant to struggle. We are favored with sorrow. We are blessed with suffering. We are called to be like him. It’s not intended to be easy. It never was.