Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Life that Plays Beautiful Music

Hi Friends,

In honor of "Joelle week" (who just turned 13!), here's something I learned from her when she was little, about playing beautiful music in life. I hope it encourages you as it encouraged me.

Making Music With the Master
Small brows furrowed in concentration.  Small fingers pressed hard on guitar frets.  Small thumbs thrummed the strings. 
            And music filled the room – awkward, off-key, clashing music.  But to my mommy-ears, the sounds were sweet.  I smiled. 
            Bethany and Joelle, my two young daughters, were working so hard to learn how to play real music on their brand new kids’ guitars.  They sat on short stools in front of their dad, with their guitars on their laps and their fingers poised over the strings. 
            Bryan held his own guitar (adult-sized, of course) and strummed the chord again.  A perfect C warbled from his instrument.  He paused.  “See, like that.”  The sound died away.  “Now you try.”  He placed the girls’ fingers on the proper frets one more time. 
            The girls studied Daddy’s fingers.  They glanced at their own, then looked at his again.  Then, they took deep breaths, and strummed.
            Better.  Not good, but at least the sound didn’t leave my hair standing on end.
            Bryan adjusted their fingers again.  First Joelle’s, then Bethany’s.  “Try not to push down the other strings.”
            Bethany nodded and grinned.  “Okay, Daddy.”  She leaned forward. 
            Joelle stuck out her tongue to focus.
            I hurried for the camera. 
            They tried it yet again – studying the way Daddy did it, checking their own fingers, and playing the note.  Studying, checking, playing.  Boldly, joyfully, with Daddy’s help.
            It wasn’t perfect, but each time, the sound improved.  By the end, their fingers were dented by the strings, their picks were well worn, and they had almost learned to produce a decent C chord. 
            But most importantly, they were happy.  Glowing.  Why?  Because they were playing guitar, just like Daddy. 
            As I stood by and clicked pictures, I was reminded of how God, my father, asks me to imitate Him too.  1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV), says “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”  And in Matthew 11:29 (NIV), we’re told to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . .”
            I’m called to be like Him, to learn from Him.  Doing that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t a whole lot different from my girls learning to play guitar.  As God makes beautiful music, He asks me to join in – to try.  And though my fingers may be still a little small, and I might bump the wrong strings, still what’s important is that I study the way my Daddy does it and try to do the same myself.  Study, check, play.  Boldly, joyfully, and with my Father in heaven’s help.
            It doesn’t matter if my music isn’t always perfect.  What matters is that I watch, learn, and try again.  That I practice using my instruments like God uses His. The Bible, circumstances in life, popular culture, off-the-cuff comments by acquaintances, friends, or family – how does God make music from these instruments?  How does He work in people’s lives?  And how can I make music with those same instruments?
            The only way to know is to study the Master.  Study the gospels.  How did Jesus use scripture, culture, circumstances, comments, in the gospel accounts?  How does God work in my own life?  In the lives of the people I know?  We must study, watch, learn, and play. 
            God is making music all around us.  If we pay attention, we can make music too.  It may not be perfect.  It may a little off-key, a little awkward.  But if we practice and watch the master musician – if we allow him to move our fingers along the frets, we too can play the notes of heaven, and bring beautiful music into the lives of those around us.

            So, let us play.  Joyfully, boldly, with our gaze fixed on the Master who teaches us the proper chords.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wrestling With Wonder when Life Goes Awry

Hi Friends,

Some good news -- Wrestling with Wonder (my book that focuses on the journey of Mary, Jesus' Mother) has been selected as a Kindle monthly deal for May (yay!), so if you haven't gotten your ebook version yet, now's the time!! Looks like it's offered for $1.99 all month.  Great read for Mother's Day!

Here's the link: http://amzn.to/26MbGbY 

And below is an excerpt from the chapter when Mary takes baby Jesus to the Temple and Simeon takes the baby in his arms and says to Mary: "Look! this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is opposed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also. So the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2)  

This is what it meant for Mary to be a mother, for her follow in the will of God. I hope it encourages you, especially when you feel as if a sword is piercing your soul…

And yet ... Simeon is not finished. His blessing does not end with the sword. Instead, with a single, small word, he gives us new vision and a new hope. “A sword will pierce your own soul,” he 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.