Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When Life is Like Riding a Bike with Only One Pedal

Hi Friends,

I've been contemplating this story from my college days this week. So for anyone who feels like they've veered off track, here's some encouragement:

Pedal Problems
It was my first new bike ever.  A beautiful apple-red mountain bike, with a shiny black seat and real, honest-to-goodness gears.  Not many gears, but gears all the same.  Unfortunately, it was also the cheapest new bike I could find.  In the weeks before heading off to college, I had scoured the newspaper ads to find the very lowest price for a new bike.  Eventually, I found it. 
I didn’t realize my mistake until a few months later when I was late to Chemistry class.  I pedaled hard up the last hill.  Gears crunched, wheels turned, my backpack slipped sideways on my shoulder.  Then, it happened.  With a sharp crack, followed by a loud clunk, the left pedal broke and fell off my bike.  I swerved off the path, brushed against a tall pine, and finally crunched into an old wooden bench.  I looked down at the spot where the pedal should have been and at the fresh smear of grease on my pantleg. 
Then, I propped the bike against the bench and went back to retrieve the pedal.  Surely I could just stick it back on, or screw it in, or do something to make it stay put.  But it wasn’t that easy.  With the right tool, and a couple small parts, the pedal could be fixed.  But that didn’t help me now, on the side of the bike path, five minutes late to Chemistry 101.
So, I popped the pedal into a pouch in my backpack, climbed back on the shiny black seat, pointed the bike in the right direction, and pushed my foot against the one pedal that was left.  After two wobbly revolutions of the wheels, I quit.  Trying to ride a bike with only one pedal was not only impractical, it was impossible.  The bike was still apple red, the seat still shiny, the gears still working as they should.  Everything was just right, except for the one missing pedal.  But that’s all it took for the whole bike to be useless for its purpose.  So, there I was, with a perfectly good bike, minus one pedal, walking to class and pushing the bike beside me.
               I learned two valuable lessons that day:  First, cheapest is not always best.  And second, more importantly, both pedals need to be attached for a bike to go. 
The second lesson has come back to me often over the years since college.  I don’t ride a bike much anymore, but there still have been plenty of times when my daily life seemed to be veering off the path and heading toward the pines.  When, no matter how hard I was trying to pedal uphill, I just couldn’t get things to work.  And in those times, most of my life still looked right – the shiny parts were still shiny, the gears still worked as they should.  But something had gotten lost or loosened along the way.  Something had to be fixed before my life could pedal up the straight path again. 
Sometimes that something was a relationship that needed mending, or a habit that had to be changed.  Sometimes it was fear replacing faith, or a hidden anger that things hadn’t gone as I’d hoped.  Most often, something had gone awry spiritually.  I was too busy to take the time needed to maintain an intimate relationship with God.  So, the pedal of trust grew loose and my life wobbled into the trees.  When that happens, I’ve found that I need to stop trying to push forward, get off the bike for a moment, and see what’s wrong.  Then, it’s time to ask God to repair my broken parts and make me whole. 
In those times, I often pray the words of Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV):  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” 
And God is more than willing to replace my pedals and help me back onto the path He’s chosen for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Preparing for Life's Storms

Hi Friends,

Ah, we're finally getting some good rain here on California's central coast! And with it, we're getting flooded roads, backed up pipes, and a lot of water everywhere (even where we don't want it.

So, as I was watching the rain pouring down today, I remembered this story - a good reminder for the beginning of a new year.

I was encouraged to keep my spiritual pipes clear in preparation for the storms that are bound to come. I hope you're encouraged too!

When the Rains Come

I gripped my umbrella in tight fists and stared through the rain that careened off the fabric above me.  Then, I took a few steps forward and waved at the yellow, husband-shaped blob that stood a few feet away, the image obscured by the water pouring between us.    
Bryan tugged at his mustard-colored rain slicker and didn’t wave back.  In fact, he didn’t even turn as he sloshed through the foot-deep water that threatened the foundation of our house. 
“Hey, you need help?”  I shouted the question over the roar of the rain.
He glanced back and squinted.  “Get a hose.”
A hose?  With all this water, it seemed that the last thing we needed was a hose.
Bryan waved his hand toward the garage.  “Get all the hoses you can find.  Hurry.”  He knelt down and starting digging into the hole where the drainage pipe was supposed to be.
“What happened?”
“Drains must be plugged.  We need to siphon off this water before it damages our foundation.”
I nodded and jogged to the garage.  There, I found three hoses and hauled them back to the ever-deepening pool over our patio.   
Bryan grabbed the first hose, shoved it under the water, then pulled the other end downhill to the lawn.  After a few minutes, he stood and strode back toward me.
I held out the second hose.  “Is it working?”
He grimaced and took the next hose.  “Yeah, but it’s slow.  We really need the drain pipes to work.”
“Why aren’t they?”
“I don’t know.”
Bryan set the second hose to siphoning while I worked on the third.  But even with all three hoses, the level of the water didn’t seem to be lowering.  And the rain just kept pouring down. 
For the rest of the afternoon, we labored in the pounding rain to keep the water from flooding our basement.  It was hard work with pumps and hoses, buckets and brooms.  We sloshed, we hauled, we siphoned, we swept.  We watched, we waited, we hoped, and we wondered what had happened to the drains.
In the months previous, when the sun was shining, nothing seemed wrong.  The patio was clean and shiny.  The drains looked fine.  But the first big rainstorm of the year proved that something had gone wrong.
The next day, after the rains had let up, Bryan came in from working in the yard.  He called to me from the front room.  “I figured out what happened.”
I peered around the corner.  “What?”
“Seems that a bunch of grass had grown into one of the pipes, plugging it.  The water couldn’t get out.  That’s why it backed up.”
“Guess we should have checked that.” 
“I didn’t even know that pipe was there.”
“Well, we certainly know it now.”  And now, we’d know to keep it clear.  But it was too bad we hadn’t paid enough attention to the pipes while the weather was good.  It took a storm to show us that everything wasn’t as clear and free-flowing as we’d thought.
Life is a lot like that, too.  When the sun’s shining and all seems well, it’s easy to think our faith is all right.  It’s easy to forget to keep things cleared out and the pipes flowing.  I miss my regular time of Bible study and prayer and think, “Oh well, I’ll just do it next time.”  Little issues pop up, and I simply deal with them, forgetting to cast all my cares upon God, because he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). 
But then the rainstorm hits.  Something hard and unexpected happens.  Fears, worries, doubts pile up and threaten my foundation.  And in the midst of the storm, it’s hard work to clear the flood.  Instead, it’s better to pay attention when the sun’s shining.  It’s better to keep the lines of communication open and flowing freely between me and God before the rains start to fall. 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) tells us “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

By praying continually, by being joyful, by giving thanks, I can keep my spiritual “pipes” open so I won’t be caught by surprise when life’s storms hit.  I need to pay attention while the sun’s shining so that when it rains my faith is ready to flow freely through pipes kept clear by prayer and faithfulness.