Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas, Mary, and the God of Mystery

Hi Friends,

This year I have so many who are close to me are facing serious health issues, some are dealing with the impending death of a loved one, some have lost jobs, some are lonely from lost or strained relationships. Even at Christmastime, sometimes especially at Christmastime, life is hard.

Why does it have to be hard at Christmas? That is the mystery I ponder, and as I do, I think about these words from Wrestling with Wonder:

Christmas, Mary, and the God of Mystery:

I Don’t Know.
Scary words. I don’t like to speak them. I don’t like to write them. I don’t like them at all. Instead, I much prefer:
I know.
I understand.
It makes sense.
I have the answers.
But the reality of life often is:
I don’t know.
I don’t understand.
It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t have the answers.
I cringe away from admissions like that. I want my world to make sense. I want explanations and reasons and a carefully constructed theology where all the i’s are diligently dotted and all the t’s carefully crossed.
I don’t want mystery.
And yet God is a God of mystery. He often refuses to explain himself and instead woos me to that uncomfortable in-between place where things don't make sense and I don’t have it all figured out. 
He beckons me there, and asks me not to understand, but instead to ponder.
To question.
To think.
To wonder.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this is the God who calls me to live in the tension between faith and works, between a loving God and a broken world, between justice and mercy. He calls me to wrestle with my questions, dance with my doubts, and live with not understanding all the whys and wherefores and what-does-it-all-means.
He calls me to ponder as he offers no easy answers, no pat theologies, no simple explanations to put on the bumper stickers of my life.
He beckons me to live with mystery -- the mystery of a Messiah in a manger.
Mary pondered the mystery of her God when scruffy shepherds showed up looking for an infant lying where the animals feed. She pondered as they told a strange story of singing angels who visited not a newborn messiah, but a bunch of sheep-herders in the fields. She pondered as they spoke. And she treasured the truths she could not yet understand.

May you embrace the mystery of a Messiah in a manger this Christmas!
Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 7, 2015

On the Difficult Road to Bethlehem

Hi Friends,

This week I'm pondering the long road to Bethlehem and how much Mary had to go through before she could hold Jesus in her arms. Sometimes you and I have to travel long and go through much before we experience Christ in a new and more vibrant way as well.

Here are some thoughts about that from Wrestling With Wonder:


Too often, I think, when we approach the Christmas story, we are caught up in the star, the angels, the babe in the manger. We forget that it took a nearly-one-hundred-mile journey, while pregnant, to get there. That could not have been an easy trip...
But at the end of the journey, Mary would encounter Christ in a way she hadn’t before. The Messiah would be born, and she would be transformed. She would hold God incarnate in her arms ... but only after a long and arduous journey.
Sometimes, it’s no different for you or me. Sometimes we have to travel a path we don’t understand to arrive in the place where God wants us to be.
And as s I recall my journey, and Mary’s, they teach me that even through hurt and discomfort, maybe especially in hurt and pain, God is leading to a place where I will glimpse his glory anew. He is saying to me that I must travel the path he has placed before me in order to get to the place he has planned for me since the beginning. 
So, when you’ve surrendered to God’s call and are suddenly thrust onto a road you never imagined and never wanted, remember, he knows the path you take. He travels with you, within you, and you will see him as you never could have before if you just keep going, trust, and persevere.
There, you will see the face of the Messiah. You will meet him in a new way. So, place one foot in front of the other, walk through your life day by day, know that this road, as pointless as it seems, is the only way to his will. 
Jesus must be born in Bethlehem. You must travel the difficult road at the worst time in your life to get there. Keep going, have faith, walk ... and you will get to that new place where you will see him in a new way. The place where you will be changed. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. 

This road leads to Bethlehem ... 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mary & God's Interruptions

Hi Friends,

So the Christmas season begins! And as you might imagine, I begin my season pondering an angel's visit to a young girl in Galilee, a girl who would become the mother of Jesus.

Here are some thoughts from the first chapter of Wrestling with Wonder that I'm thinking about this week, and I thought you might find encouraging too.

May God remind you, as he's reminding me, to treasure his interruptions, especially in this season, and to find his promises, plans, and joy in those moments when he interrupts my plans with his own.


Who is this God? Who is he who interrupts our lives with a call to the impossible?
He is the Dream Taker and the Dream Maker.
The Dream Taker 
“Follow your dreams!” says the world. 
“Die to self,” says God. “Die to your plans, your dreams, your tight-fisted grip on what your life should be.”
  “You can do anything you set your mind to!” says the world.
“I am God, you are not,” says God. “Submit to me, and together we will do everything I set my mind to.”
“Be somebody!” says the world. “Accomplish, achieve, fight your way to the top!”
“Be mine,” says God. “Stop striving and instead rest in my plans for you. Will you be my handmaiden?”
The Dream Maker 
Meditate on these verses. Hear in them God’s call to you:

  • “Delight yourselfTake delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NIV). Not “Delight yourselfTake delight in the Lord and he will do whatever you want.” Instead, he will give you the desires themselves—new desires, new dreams, his dreams for you. His dreams will becomes yours!
  • “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has already prepared for us to walk around in” (Eph. 2:10, translation mine). He has already favored us with a plan and a call. It’s all prepared. You just have to let go and step forward.
  • I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, emphasis mine). And they aren’t our plans. They aren’t our dreams. They aren’t our carefully scripted ideas for what our lives should be. Instead, they are a call to the impossible—to loss, confusion, difficulty, misunderstandings, ridicule ... and ultimately to wonder. 
            So in the great calls, and in the small: Rejoice, fear not, and submit. Whisper to God, “Let it be to me as you have said.”