Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Contest Winner Announced!

Hi Friends,

I'm pleased to announce the winners from my recent Waiting for Wonder Live on God's Timing Giveaway and blog tour. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Congratulations to the winner: Donna Wolf. My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Shepherd's Visit... Embracing Mystery

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas! As we celebrate the wonder of Christ's birth, I wanted to share with you the fiction portion of the shepherd's visit from my book, Wrestling with Wonder.

May you embrace the mystery of a Savior become a babe, born in a barn ...

Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder:

I hold him in my arms. He nestles, and nuzzles. So normal. So real. He lets out a cry, his mouth open, searching.
I smile and guide him to eat. He is strong, this newborn son of mine. Of God’s. This Messiah.
I roll the word over in my mind as I gaze down at his pink cheeks, his stock of curly black hair. His eyes are closed, his lashes dark against his skin.
Messiah. Rescuer. Deliverer. Redeemer. King … Baby
I sigh and place him back in the manger. He wiggles. Hay crinkles. I press it down to make it softer around him.
A Messiah in a Manger. What does it mean?
I lean over and kiss his brow. “Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night?”[1] I whisper the words from the holy scroll of Job, words spoken by God himself.
Does God see his son in a manger? Did he intend to provide no better bed? Will there be no visit from angels bearing gifts? Will there be no witnesses to the miracle of his birth?
Lord, where are the angels?
I hear a noise behind me. A rustling of feet. A whisper of voices.
“We found him.”
“Just as they said.”
I turn and see the silhouettes of men against the night sky. Men in ragged robes with tall staffs in their hands.
These are no angels. They are shepherds.
Simple shepherds from the fields. Are these the witnesses God would send?
Joseph stands, positions himself between the shepherds and the babe. He touches my shoulder.
One man steps closer. “May we enter? May we see the baby?”
Joseph nods. I scoot closer to the manger.
The shepherds shuffle in. The smells of grass and dirt, sweat and sheep swirl in with them. I look into dirty faces, gaze at calloused hands gripping rough wood. I see the stains on their robes, the dirt caked in their sandals.
They are anything but angels.
And they bear no gifts.
Or do they?
Three lean over the feeding trough and laugh. They laugh!
“It’s just as the angel told us,” says the tallest.
“A baby in a manger.”
“A Messiah in a feeding trough.” The oldest sighs, his face alight with the incongruity of a messiah-babe lying in a feeding trough for oxen.
I touch his sleeve. “An angel you say? An angel visited you?”
“We were out in the fields, watching our flocks by night. An angel of the Lord appeared right before us. The glory of the Lord shone all around us. It was amazing.”
“You mean it was terrifying.” The tall shepherd moves closer and continues the story. “But he told us to not be afraid because he was bringing us good news. Us, shepherds living in the fields!”
The third shepherd shifts, never taking his eyes from my son. “He said the Messiah had been born, and the sign to us was to be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard – a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough. He said we’d find the Messiah in a manger.” He glances up. “And we did.”
“Other angels came, a whole host of them. They sang of glory and peace. They sang of wonder.”
“And when they left us, we came here, searching for a baby in the last place we’d have thought to find him.”
“So here we are.”
“And here he is.” The last shepherd’s voice drops low with awe.
Here he is …
I sit back on my heels and wrestle with my own incongruities.
Welcomed by shepherds and not kings, not angels …
Angels singing not to him but to the low ones of our society in the open fields at night …
Lying not in a crib but a manger…
And that, somehow, is a sign.
Of what?
What kind of Messiah is this? What kind of Rescuer? What kind of King? 
            I stare at the old wooden feeding trough and grabble with the truth of God sending shepherds to a manger.
We put him there because we had no other place. God put him there because he intended to. Because it is a sign.
            Not an accident. Not an oversight. But a sign.
            A sign I cannot yet understand.
A Messiah meant to lie in a manger. Could it be? The words of the prophet Isaiah tiptoe through my mind: “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”[2]
I don’t know. I do not understand. But I do know there’s meaning in the manger. God has done this. He has placed his son in a feeding trough on purpose.
Will I ever comprehend it?
The shepherds rise, murmuring about all the people they must tell of this miracle. I watch them go, their robes swaying at their feet, their staffs tapping the ground with eager anticipation. And I know they’ll speak of angels and babies. Of feeding troughs and swaddling rags.
They'll speak of God. 
But what kind of God is this? What kind of Messiah?
Their voices fade. I pick up my son again. I look into his slumbering face. There's so much I don't understand. So much that doesn't make sense at all. Will I ever make sense of a King born in barn? Of a Messiah welcomed by shepherds? Of a Son of God with a manger for his bed?
I press my lips together and look out into the night. What do I do with these strange truths? How do I comprehend them?
I close my eyes and hold him close. I know what I will do. I will wrap these thoughts, these wonderings, carefully in the rags of my pondering and tuck them safely in the manger in my heart. There, I will treasure them.
Because the shepherds brought a gift after all. They brought the gift of Mystery.

[1] Job 39:9
[2] Isaiah 1:3

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Waiting for Wonder Fun Christmas GIVEAWAY!!

Hi Friends!

Couldn't wait (pun intended!! :-)) to tell you about the fun new giveaway my publicist is doing for Christmas for my new book Waiting for Wonder.

Sign-up HERE to enter! Click HERE and then click on the picture to get to the entry form. The giveaway is for a really great watch plus two copies of my new book. Can't beat that! And the giveaway is running until December 23. The winner will be posted here on my blog on December 27th.

So, sign up now! And in the meantime, here is an excerpt from fictional section of chapter 1. These fictional sections, meant to bring to life the story of Sarah, Abraham's wife, are one of the unique qualities of this book that explores Sarah's story to help us find the wonder of waiting in our own lives.

Read on...

EXCERPT (from Sarah's point of view):

I never dreamed my shame would define me. I never imagined I would be known for the very thing that causes me the deepest pain.
            Everyone I know has children. Everyone but me. Decades have passed. Hope has turned to a bitter herb in my mouth. Dust stirs around me as I make my way to the marketplace of Ur. They know me here, know that I am barren, childless. And they whisper.
            Today, as always, the marketplace buzzes with the sounds of children’s laughter, the murmuring gossip of women, the shouts of merchants. And beyond that, I hear the footfalls of worshippers traveling to the great ziggurat, the temple tower, just built by king Ur-Namma. Its bricks rise over the city, calling us to the worship of Nanna, the moon god. Calling me to come and beg favor from a god of fertility.
            I do not listen.
            I will not go.
            Instead, I pause beside a cloth-maker’s booth. I block out the sounds of the children, the mothers, and the silent beckoning from the temple of Ur. I stare at the bolts of cloth. A deep red, a tired yellow, a pale blue. My fingers barely brush the rough weave. The blue cloth would make a good garment for travel.
            Travel? Why do I think of these things? Perhaps because the walls of the city seem to press in on me today, the dust, the noise, the thousand voices, the footsteps, and the temple. Mostly the temple. And the children. And the whispers that always follow me.
            The pitying glances.
            The cruel conjectures.
            The snide advice that always involves a trip to a tower of bricks, timed with the moon’s transformations.
            Barren Sarai. Childless Sarai. The one whom the gods hate.
            Shame. Guilt. Pain.
            Hopelessness. Helplessness. Despair.
            I choose the bolt of blue cloth. My fingers fumble as I pay. Blue cloth. For travel. But where would I ever go?
            I hear my name, spoken gently. I hear it despite the bustle of the city all around me.
            I turn. He is there, my Abram, standing behind me. He has come from tending his sheep. It is too early for him to come in.
            He moves closer, his hand touching my arm. “Follow me, we must speak.” He takes the cloth from me and my hand flutters to my belly, flat as always.
            The noises fade as we walk out from the shadow of the great temple. We walk toward home. Then my Abram speaks.
            Elohim has spoken to me. God, our Creator, has come to me.”
            “You saw him?”
            “No one sees him, and lives. But he spoke to me all the same.” Abram’s voice catches, lowers. “He made us a promise. An impossible promise.”
            My hand drops to my belly again.
            Abram pauses, swallows, and I see the wonder in his eyes. “He has told me to leave here, go from our father’s house, to a land he will show me.”
            “Leave?” A blue cloth, just right for a garment for travel. . . .
            “And, and . . . He has promised to make me into a great nation.”
            My hand falls. My heart constricts. What kind of promise is this? I am barren. Decades barren. Who is this God who promises a nation? Who is this Elohim who makes promises in the place of my deepest pain?
            “Listen, Sarai. He says we are chosen, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through us.”
            Us? How could it be us? I tremble and straighten my shoulders. I fight to hide my tears.
            But he sees them anyway.

            And there, with the cries of children playing in the distance, with the soft tread of feet toward a temple to the city’s god, with a blue cloth for travel, I weep and wonder.
            Does this God of promise see me after all? Does he know who I am?
            I draw a long breath. “When?”
            “I don’t know. He said only what I’ve told you already. But this I know.My husband’s eyes search mine. “The promise is for us, Sarai. Elohim, God himself, will accomplish it.”
            I press my lips tight shut. Isn’t it already too late? This Elohim could have promised wealth, power, beauty, long life. But instead he promises to remove my shame.
            What kind of crazy, impossible promise is this? No one calls a barren woman to birth a great nation. No one chooses the childless to bless the whole world through their seed. No one but Abram's God would do such a thing.

            No one but Elohim would dare.