Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hope for the Doubting Heart

Hi Friends,

The first chapter of Reaching for Wonder explores the story of the man in Mark 1:41-45 who says to Jesus, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Sometimes all we can bring to Jesus is our if.

Who is God in the face of our doubts? Here are some thoughts from the end of chapter one ...

Who Is This God?
         Who is this God who hears my doubt and offers not condemnation but more than I can even dream? I mull over that question as I drive away from the home of my friend with ALS. If you were willing, Lord, you could heal her. . .
         But he doesn’t. 
         Or does he?
         Her ALS progresses. Today she was surrounded with tubes to help her breathe and to pull the mucus from her lungs. Another machine pounded her chest to break up the mucus for removal. 
         She was able to speak only through the movement of her eyes on a computer screen. She asked how she could pray for me.
         I read to her from a book called Heaven.
         And my soul was filled.
         If you are willing, Lord . . .
         I am willing.
         And in that moment as I approach a stop sign, my mind still caught in the room where my friend sits in her wheelchair amidst the menagerie of machines, I know it’s true. God has taken my if” and transformed it to wonder.
         He is willing, not to cure the body (at least in this life) but to make my friend whole, and in doing so to touch me, make me whole, as well. With every labored breath, I see God with her, offering more than physical healing, offering himself – a close, intimate walk through her last stages of life, with him. I see the wonder of a God who can use even this awful ALS as a testimony to them” (v. 44b) and to me. 
         People ask me why I go visit my friend when she can no longer speak more than a few computer-generated words, can barely even breathe. They think I am being kind, they think I am faithful. They don’t know the truth. I go because there, in the eyes of my friend, I see the God who takes my if” and makes me whole. I encounter the God who is reaching for me.
         And I discover anew that my doubts are no barrier to God’s gift of his presence. I discover this God who is willing to give me what I truly need to become all he created me to be.
         I find the God of Gideon, who doubted that God was truly calling him to rescue the Israelites from Midianite oppression. Three times in Judges 6 Gideon brought to God his if” and asked for a sign.
But Gideon replied to him, ‘With all due respect, my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?’” (v. 13) 
Then Gideon said to him, ‘If I’ve gained your approval, please show me a sign that it’s really you speaking with me.’” (v. 17)
But then Gideon said to God, ‘To see if you really intend to rescue Israel through me as you have declared, I’m now putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor.’” (v. 36-37)
         Gideon doubted. God encountered. God led. And Gideon received more than a blessing; he received a purpose and the presence of God in it.
         That is the God we have. The God who embraces our "if" and changes it to glory. 
God is willing, not because of our perfect faith, but despite our stumblings. He loves you. And that is enough.
         So come, sit with me and with Gideon, waiting, breath held, our hearts whispering, Lord, if you are willing ... so am I.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Where's Your Focus When Life is Tough?

Hi Friends,

I'll be starting radio interviews soon for Reaching for Wonder and wanted to share some thoughts with you about where our focus is when life gets tough. Here are some interview questions and answers that you might encouraging and helpful during the tough times:

Q: What do you mean when you say our focus is wrong when life is at its worst? Doesn’t it make sense to focus on getting things fixed as soon as possible?

A: I was shocked to discover that while my focus is on healing during the hardest times of life, God’s is not. I grapple with the idea that his focus is on relationship, on revealing himself to us and drawing us closer to him at the very time when all we want is relief from the pain. Discovering the reality of this truth has changed the way I approach the hard things in my life. Now, I’m looking for that moment when he stops the clamoring and calls me daughter. I’m listening for the words, “Do you want to be healed?” I know that my doubts in the midst of my pain are something he accepts and doesn’t scorn. Focusing on him instead of my need for a quick fix has opened me receiving and recognizing what he’s doing both in me and in my situation.

Q: How does this focus on relationship make a difference in our worst times? 

A: It opens our eyes and allows us to see God where we would have thought he was absent. When life hurts, and we pray for relief, we tend to have in our minds a very specific picture of what our answered prayers should look like. Very rarely do those pictures match up with God’s plans. Opening our vision allows us to recognize where and how he’s actually working around us and in us. That’s where we can connect with the wonder of God even in the worst of circumstances.

Q: Now for the hard question: Why does this wonderful God who loves us allow these terrible things to happen in our lives? 

A: I’m sorry to disappoint, but I truly don’t know. However, I do know this: There is absolutely nothing in our lives that cannot be transformed for his glory. Nothing! When I doubt that, I look at the cross. In Jesus’ time, a cross was a symbol of the worst kind of guilt and shame and pain. There was no worse death. Yet today the cross is a symbol of hope, redemption, and salvation. Jesus turned the ugliest thing into the most beautiful, the most wonder-filled. That’s what he can do for us too. He specializes in taking the hardest, worst things in our lives and making them beautiful. I see it not only in the cross and the New Testament, but in the lives of the people around me. God’s wonder is found, somehow, in these places in life we least expect it to be. 

Q: What final words of encouragement would you offer to those who are right now going through the worst time of their lives?

A: One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 28:28. It says, “Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever.” Sometimes we just feel threshed, but this verse says that there’s a purpose to the threshing – to make something good and beautiful that will bless you and bless others. This threshing has purpose, and it won’t go on forever. 

So, reach for wonder. Dare to hope again. One more time, reach … not just for healing but for transformation, relationship, growth … wonder. He wants to give you more than the edge of his cloak. In the worst of times, the God of the Universe is longing to give you himself.