Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

God, Is There an Easier Way? (Thoughts from a Journey to Bethlehem)

Hi Friends,

I wanted to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS season! On the right is our tree this year. We love decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, wrapping gifts for each other, playing Christmas songs in the background as we work.

But sometimes it strikes me that my Christmas is very different from Mary's, Jesus' mother. For her, what a journey! Difficulty after difficulty, hardship after hardship. There was no easy way.

Then I pause. Maybe our Christmases aren't so different from Mary's after all. Trees and cookies and music and gifts are all great, but they aren't the heart of this season. Some of us may have all those things, and yet our hearts hurt. We may be missing a loved one, suffering from a broken relationship, hurting from harsh disappointments, or dealing with the shards of dashed dreams and fragmented hopes. We may be, like Mary, traveling a difficult path. We be traveling the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

For Mary, I imagine it might have happened something like this:

MARY TELLS HER STORY (Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder)
            They say he’s the son of god. They say it of Caesar Augustus, adopted son of Julius who they say is a god. Augustus. The Romans used to only use that name for their gods. But it’s the emperor’s name now. So they call him son of god, born in a palace in Rome, born to a king’s brother, born of royalty, wearing a crown.
            But my son, this one I carry in a womb now round and full, he is the true Son of God. He is the true Emperor, the true King.
            And yet, it is Caesar Augustus who reaches his will from Rome and sets me on a path I never wished for. A journey to Bethlehem. It is a long journey, taking us nearly a week. We travel south. I walk, well, waddle really. And I ride like a sack of squash on the back of Joseph’s old donkey. Months ago, I practically ran to Elizabeth’s. But now I go slowly. Oh, so slowly, with my belly swaying before me, my feet fat and painful, and my back aching with every step.
            Because Caesar Augustus has issued a decree and the whole Roman world must be counted.
            The Roman world.
            Don’t they know it won’t be Rome’s anymore? It will belong to my God, to my Son.
            And yet, I waddle, I ride, I bump and bumble along, and wonder ... why now? Of all the times for Caesar to call for a census, why must it be when I am so pregnant that I can’t even see my toes?
            The baby kicks. His tiny foot smashes into my ribs, and I gasp. He’s a strong one, this boy. He turns and flips and rumbles, until my belly wobbles like a cup of wine in an old man’s hand.
            I glance at Joseph. He smiles at me, a sad but comforting tipping of his lips. He has done all he could to make this journey bearable. He is good man. A righteous man. He would have divorced me quietly, but God sent him an angel in a dream. The angel said not to be afraid. So he wasn’t.
            I am trying not to be.
            But I’m tired. My feet hurt. The journey is long. And now here we are, traveling this strange road to the City of David.
            Why, Lord? Why now? Why couldn’t I have stayed home where my mother could help me deliver my child? Where the midwife I’ve known all my life would have come to my side? Where everything is familiar, normal, easy? Why must I travel on this meaningless road, take this pointless journey, to a place I do not know and have never been?
            Dust billows up before me, sticks in my eyelashes, wiggles down my throat. I want to go home.
            But Joseph leads us on. Toward Jerusalem, and beyond it. Toward people I’ve never met, a place I’ve only heard about in stories. He leads me toward the unknown, and I stumble along, wishing, wondering, and hoping that my God will still be there when I get to the end of the journey. When I get to Bethlehem.
            The baby thrashes, and I press my hand against my belly. I suppose it is fitting that the Messiah will be born in David’s town. The Messiah in Bethlehem. There is perhaps a prophecy … But oh, the journey is long. It’s hard.

            Lord, couldn’t there have been an easier way?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Are You Settling for Less?

Hi Friends,

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, I'm thinking about how we so often settle for less than the full meal God is preparing for us. Here's an excerpt from my next book, REACHING FOR WONDER to contemplate as we seek to sit down at the table ...

Good Enough is Not Good Enough
         What do we do when all we want is healing, but the more we pray the worse things seem to become? Usually we convince ourselves to settle for less.
         I’m reminded of the many times my young children have tried to sneak a snack right before dinner. They’re hungry. They just want the hunger to stop. They want the immediate need fixed. So, Jayna (somehow it always seems to be Jayna!), tiptoes into the pantry and very quietly and unobtrusively, pulls out a bag of chips. Then, she opens them ever so gently and begins to nibble. And chips satisfy her hunger for a moment, but they don’t cure the real hunger within. They don’t nourish her deep inside, and they spoil her dinner.
         Meanwhile, I’m preparing a full meal for her complete with foods that satisfy, meats, cheese, bread, milk, vegetables, fruit, everything that will a body needs to be healthy and happy. I’m setting the table so we can sit around it as a family and share life and relationship. I’m planning not just an empty experience that satisfies the minimum need but, as a loving parent, I’m wanting and preparing to give more, to give a healthy, whole, fully satisfying eating experience.
         Jayna would settle for a bag of chips. I want to give her a whole dinner sitting around a table, enjoying each other and the meal. As C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. … like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
         So why do we a settle for a bag of chips when God is preparing a full meal? Do we think we are more likely to receive when we minimize our request? Just heal me, Lord, and I won’t ask for anything more. I’ll settle for the minimum. I think that way sometimes.
         But this isn’t what God wants. He’s not satisfied with the minimum fix that allows us only to go back to go back to what we’ve know. He is determined to give us a real meal. What he wants for us is something more, something new, something wondrous. An actual encounter with the living God!

         He will settle for nothing less. We shouldn’t either.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When the Thing You Fear Comes Upon You...

Hi Friends,

We just finished up four (count 'em, four!) Haunted Trail events in five days at Wonder Wood Ranch. We had a great time and were able to bring fun and joy to a lot of kids (yay!). It was so fun that I just had to write about it in the chapter I'm working on for Reaching for Wonder. I thought I'd share a little excerpt:

Every year we do a Haunted Trail event the weekend before Halloween at the charity ranch I run. We do it because in our lives, and in the lives of our guests (disadvantaged kids from all over the city), there are many things to fear. There’s a lot of failure. The trail begins with a sign from the book of Job that reads, “The thing that I fear comes upon me…” (Job 3:25, ESV). It ends with a sign saying “Who will rescue me from this … death?” (Romans 7:24, NIV). The final sign points to a huge wooden cross.
Unlike some, we don’t choose to ignore Halloween. We choose to transform it. Often life is like a haunted trail. The thing we fear comes upon us. Death comes, cobwebs invade, evil scratches at the corners of our lives trying to defeat us. Sometimes we have a child flirting with death and nothing we do helps. Sometimes we have a financial, health, relational, marital, spiritual crisis and all we can see are bones and scary glowing eyes along the path of our lives. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fear. And that’s the trail we walk. But the trail doesn’t end with a graveyard. It doesn’t end with a skeletal horse and rider. It ends with the cross. It ends with hope. And sometimes, you just have to keep walking. You just have to dare to hope again, believe again. You have to hold to the wisps of faith you have and be honest about the faith you lack.
            So, the question is:  Do you dare to try again? Ask again? Hope again? Do you dare to be honest about the war within?

God does not scorn us in our failure and our desperation. He invites us deeper. He invites us to bring to him not only our faith, but our failures, in all their ignominy. Lay it all out before him, and then be quiet, watch, wait.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Becoming Your True You - Names Matter

Hi Friends,

A good friend (thank you, Joanne!) requested that I post this excerpt from WAITING FOR WONDER, Learning to Live on God's Timeline


You Are Not Moe
            Names matter. Knowing who we truly are matters. I was reminded of this truth not long ago on a Friday night at our local women’s homeless shelter. My daughters and I had gone with a small group of women from our church to play and make crafts with the kids at the shelter, just as we did every month. I was in charge of name tags. I love being in charge of name tags.
            I slapped down a dozen blank tags in front of the kids at the shelter.  “All right, everyone, step right up and tell me your name.” My daughter handed me a purple pen. I motioned to a boy of about eight.
            He hesitated, then came forward. “I’m John.”
            I wrote his name, added a smiley face, and placed the sticker carefully on his shirt.
            Next came Juanita, Miguel, Michael, and Ashley.
            Behind them stood a little girl with big brown eyes and two short pigtails. She stuck her fingers in her mouth.
            “What’s your name, princess?”
            She looked at her toes. She shuffled her feet. She wiped her wet hands on her blouse.
            “You know, if you don’t want to tell me, I can always call you Moe.”
            Her gaze shot up.
            “I call everyone Moe if I don’t know their name.”
            Miguel giggled. “I wouldn’t want to be Moe.”
            Juanita wrinkled her nose. “Me, neither.”
            Ashley checked her name tag and made sure it was stuck tight. “My name is Ashley.”
            They stuck out their chests and pointed to their nametags.
            The little girl tried on a tiny smile. “I’m not Moe.”
            “I didn’t think so.”
            “I’m Victoria.”
            “Ah, Victoria. A much better name than Moe for such a nice little girl.” I wrote it on the tag, drew three hearts, and placed the tag on her shirt.
            She grinned, then poked a soggy finger at my sticker-less shirt. “What’s your name?”
            I fake-gasped. “Oh no!”
            All the kids laughed. “You’re Moe!”
            I chuckled and quickly wrote my name on a tag and stuck it on my shirt. “There, that’s much better.”
            After that, with everyone properly named, we all had a great time making bead necklaces, playing with play dough and plastic dinosaurs, and building little relationships right there under the fluorescent lights and in a place no one called home.
            Real relationships require someone who knows who you really are. They require your true name.
Nobody wants to be Moe. We know who we really are only when God calls us by name. We find our true names, our true selves in walking intimately with him.
In Isaiah 43:1, God says, “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” And John 10:3 says of Jesus, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
            God knows my name. Jesus calls me specifically and leads me. He calls me to walk whole-heartedly with the God who is enough.
            To God, I am not Moe. I am Beloved. I am Daughter. I am Redeemed. I am Precious. He writes my name not on a paper sticker, but on my heart. So, just like Victoria, I don’t need to suck on my fingers and stare at my feet. Instead, I should wear my “name tag” confidently, knowing that only in him will I find who I really am.

            Because I am known by him.