Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Praying the Toddler Way...

Hi Friends,

I was looking through some of my old stories this week and came across this one from when Joelle was two. This little story helped me refocus my prayer life and realign my heart with God's. I hope it will do the same for you …

Praying Like a Two-Year-Old

I know how to pray.  I’ve been a praying Christian for years.  I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied all the greats - Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and a dozen others.  I’ve given talks and written seminary papers.  I’ve fasted, and prayerwalked, and read the Lord’s Prayer in Greek.  I’ve even written articles!  So, imagine my surprise when I got a lesson in prayer from a two-year-old.
It happened just the other night.  The food steamed on the table.  The silverware shone.  Our five-year-old, Bethany, squirmed in her seat.  “Who’s gonna pray so we can eat?”  She looked down at the spaghetti on her plate. 
I opened my mouth to volunteer, but before I could say a word, a little voice piped up from beside me. 
“Me do it.  I pray.”
I glanced at our two-year-old daughter, Joelle.  “Okay, you do it.  You know what to do?” 
She nodded. 
She’d never prayed out loud for a meal before, but she had heard us pray hundreds of times.  We always asked God to bless the food and thanked Him for it. 
Joelle folded her hands as we all bowed our heads. 
Then, we waited.  And waited.
I peeked at her.  “Go ahead, sweetie.  Pray.”
            She closed her eyes.  Then, came her prayer, loud and clear over the table.  “Jesus no cry.  Jesus be happy.  Amen.”
            We all looked up. 
            Bethany frowned.  “That’s a funny prayer.  Can we eat now or not?”
            I tapped her hand and shushed her.  “It’s a great prayer.  You can eat.”
            Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister.  “I pray,” she muttered.
            I smiled as I contemplated her words.  She prayed all right.  A prayer no one had taught her, a prayer that came right from her heart, a prayer that put all my grown-up prayers to shame.  In six simple words, Joelle had gotten to the heart of God-honoring prayer - not a rote repetition about the food, but a sincere desire for Jesus to be happy. 
            As I sat there twirling spaghetti on my fork, I thought about how my prayers compared with Joelle’s.  Sure, I knew all the right phrases and all the how-to’s.  Yet, as I contemplated her simple words, I saw how woefully self-centered my own prayers had become.  I asked for blessings on my family, help with my work, wisdom in dealing with people, and that all would go well.  Good things, surely, and things that God wants me to pray for.  But it wasn’t enough.  If I were to simplify my prayers down to Joelle’s language, I saw that they would sound more like “Marlo no cry.  Marlo be happy.” 
Where Joelle prays for Jesus, I pray for me.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:10 (NIV) to pray, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  I’ve read those words so many times, but only through Joelle’s prayer have I seen their deeper meaning.  When we spurn God’s will, Jesus weeps.  When we do His will, Jesus is happy. 
            These days, Joelle prays that same prayer for every meal.  And as I listen to her, as I lift my heart to God with her words, my prayer life is changing.  Instead of only asking for God’s blessing, I’m focusing more on asking God to help me to be pleasing to Him.  As I ask for His help in my work and writing, I voice my desire for Him to help me to glorify Him in my life.  When I ask for wisdom, I also ask Him to help me honor Him in all I do and think.  And instead of focusing on my desire for all to go well, I ask Him what I can do to bring Him joy. 

In other words, I am learning to pray with childlike faith.  I’m learning to pray, “Jesus no cry.  Jesus be happy.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When God's Lost His Mind...

Hi Friends,

I had an interesting conversation with a woman this week who is sure God hates her because she was unable to have children and her life-as-she-wanted-it has fallen apart. She insisted that if I hadn't eventually had children after my years of infertility I would also be bitter and would no longer follow Christ.

I disagreed. Because I've walked through the darkness, I've endured the pain, and I've made the same difficult choice that Mary, Jesus' mother, had to make … do you stand outside the door and tell Jesus he's crazy, or do you walk in and sit at his feet even though it seems he's lost his mind?

Here's an excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder that explores Mark 3:20-21, 31-35 when Jesus' mother and brothers go to "take charge of him" because they're sure he's lost his mind. I offer it as encouragement for anyone who feels like God just isn't doing what he's supposed to be doing in their lives…


Like he did for Mary, Jesus breaks in to shatter our old paradigms, to remake us. And life doesn’t turn out the way we expect. God doesn’t act like we expect. The promises don’t seem to be coming true. Our life looks like a crazy mess. We lose our job, we can’t pay our bills, a child rebels, a loved one dies, cancer hits, we face divorce, infertility, failure in ministry. Bombs fall into our lives and break us apart. We face the loss of what we expected life to look like if only we follow Christ, surrender to him.
            So we wonder ...
            Am I doing something wrong?
            Has God forgotten me?
            Has he betrayed me?
            Are the promises just not true?
            God, have you lost your mind?
            We wonder, we doubt, we worry. We question his goodness, we call to him from the outside. And all the time it is not us or God or the promises that have failed, it’s our expectations that have betrayed us. They have taken the truth and whispered lies in our ears. We operate in the paradigm we know—the world’s paradigm. We see the promises through the lens of what the world says is blessed—success, victory, being well fed and well loved. The problem is true success, true victory, being truly well fed and well loved looks little like we’re taught to believe. Sometimes it looks like failure, sometimes it looks like we’ve been abandoned, sometimes it looks like death itself.
            We’ve forgotten that we serve an unexpected Christ, we follow an out-of-the-box Messiah. We forget that every promise will be fulfilled ... but in ways we never dreamed. Mary would learn this. Every single line she sang in the Magnificat would come true, but not a single line in the way she must have expected. And in the journey, she would become who God always intended her to be. She would become mother of the Messiah by a means she never would have wanted, never would have dreamed. She would see victory beyond imagination. And she would see it when all seemed lost.
            So, the question is, when life takes a turn, when things are nothing as expected, will you still believe, will you still sing? Will you still say “My soul magnifies the Lord?” Because this is the Christ that comes into our lives, the One who fulfills every promise and defies every expectation. The One who showers his mercy, who lifts us up in our pain, who fills us in ways we cannot foresee. The One who remakes us ... beyond our expectations, beyond anything we could have ever dared to dream.
            Like Mary, we too must choose. When God seems to have lost his mind, will you still walk through the door, sit at his feet, and do the will of the Father? Or will you keep calling to him from outside the door? Will you cling to your picture of who God is supposed to be and insist he conform to your will instead of you to his?
            Or will you trust that he is truly your Messiah when he doesn’t behave the way you want? When life is nothing like you expect and prayers aren’t answered the way you’d hoped, when God hasn’t intervened, when the songs seem like delusional dreams ...
            Will you still trust him?

            Will you go in and sit at the feet of the Savior?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

When Your Plans Crumble ...

Hi Friends,

Endorsements have been coming in for my next book, Waiting for Wonder, which is on schedule to release in November. As I was reviewing the manuscript today, I came across this this little bit that I thought might be encouraging to you:


Who is this God who allows our plans to become like sand, running through our fingers? Who is he who stands by while everything we tried to build crumbles around us? 
He is the God who builds.
We work so hard. We labor, we scheme, we work, we plan, we scrape and toil. But sometimes, often, life goes awry anyway. The lives we live are not the lives we planned.
But sometimes the lives we planned must die before we can live the lives God plans for us. 
Sarai learned that the hard way.
So did Paul. 
The New Testament tells us that Paul built for himself the life of a respected Pharisee. His letter to the Philippians describes it: “I was circumcised on the eighth day. I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. With respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee. With respect to devotion to the faith, I harassed the church. With respect to righteousness under the Law, I’m blameless” (Phil 3:5-6). 
But after a single encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus (see Acts 22), all that came crumbling down. Paul lost the carefully constructed life he had built for himself. God built him instead a life with meaning. A life that changed the world. Paul’s God-built life still affects us to this day, thousands of years later. Had Paul’s plan worked out, he would have been nothing but a long-forgotten Pharisee. But the life God built for him blessed the entire world. He became a man who spread the gospel throughout the known world of his time. Thousands were saved because of him. He became a man who would write thirteen of the twenty-seven of books of the New Testament. We read his work today. Paul’s life is still changing lives. He mattered.
In Philippians 3:7-9, he went on: “These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him.”
That’s the kind of life to which God is calling all of us. He calls us to a life that matters in the kingdom of God. It may not look like it when everything crumbles around us, when our towers tumble, when the diagnosis is grim. But Sarai’s diagnosis was grim too. She was infertile and would remain so for decades to come. God built her life into one that changed the world in the great workings of the kingdom. 
He will build yours too. 
He is the God who builds.
So when plans go awry, when life falls apart, let God judge. Let God choose. Let God build.
Wait for Him. He will change your world, and because of that, you will change the world around you. 

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house, 
the builders’ work is pointless.

Psalm 127:1