Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Waiting in the Dark

Hi Friends,

I've been working on my new book this week and have been revisiting the story of Sarah when she was taken by Pharaoh. So I was reading some of what I wrote in Waiting for Wonder, and came upon these helpful thoughts about encountering Christ in the dark places of our lives. I found these words helpful. Maybe you will too:

Who is this God who rescues us from the harem of Pharaoh, who stops at nothing to reach into our shadows and bring us into his light? Who is he who calls us by our names and tolerates no deceptions? 
Who is he?
He is God of Sarai.
He is God who stopped a crowd to look a healed woman in the face, to call her by her true name. Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8 tell about a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. No doctor could heal her. She had no money, no cure, no hope. Like Sarai, she was caught in the dark shadows of of circumstances that shut her away from her most precious relationships. She was untouchable. She could not go into the temple. And this disease was as powerful in her life as Pharaoh himself.
But she saw Jesus. She wiggled her way through the crowd that day. She touched the hem of his robe. And she was healed. She was free.
At that moment, she had everything she had come for, everything she hoped for.
She was finished.
Jesus was not.
He stopped the crowd. He turned. He looked around carefully to find her. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” 
He called her Daughter. He called her his own.
Daughter, loved one, precious one, dear one. Daughter, the one you would give anything to save.
That’s who she was.
That’s who we are.
Healing is not enough. Rescue is not complete without restoration. Sarai is sent away with Abram only when her right relationship with him and with God is restored. The woman called “Daughter” is sent away only when Jesus has stopped the crowd to restore her to the community and to himself. Only when she is called by her true name - Daughter.
When no one saw her for who she was, Jesus did. Even now, we refer to her as “the woman with the issue of blood.” But Jesus didn’t call her that. He called her Daughter. And he made her whole.
So when you are waiting in the dark, when hope seems lost, when circumstances are beyond your control, when God’s promises seem like a distant dream, he is coming to rescue you. You are his precious one. 
All you may be wanting is your situation fixed, but he is offering so much more. He will stop the world to look you in the face, love you, and call you his child. 
No matter where you are, what you’ve done, what’s been done to you ... He names you as his own. You will be called out of Pharaoh’s harem and set free. 
Reach out to touch the hem of his cloak, and wait for your redeemer.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Silencing the Negative Voices Within

Hi Friends,

You know when your own worst enemy is yourself? Here's some help for silencing those negative voices that rise up within us sometimes and tell us lies:

Silencing the Negative Voices Within
(adapted from REACHING FOR WONDER, Encountering Christ When Life Hurts)

         Few stories in the Bible are more fascinating than the tale in Mark 5 of a man who had a legion of demons living in him. Sometimes when we speak of demons in the New Testament, people want to argue about whether demons are real or are forms of mental illness. Some want to debate how many demons can fit on the head of pin, or in this case, in one poor man. Others want to focus on the question of whether Christians are immune to possession. 
         But no matter the debates, none of us are immune to the voices in our heads. We all know the whispers that arise in our minds when life turns to dark, painful places. All of us can relate to the pressures of insidious thoughts that are not from God and mean only to destroy us. Thoughts that tell us we’re worthless, hated, unable, unfit, unwanted, abandoned, helpless, hopeless, and no one, even God, can redeem us. Thoughts that drive us to actions we despise and cause us to hurt those around us. Voices that build hate and fury, that break community, crush love, and leave us lonely.
         You know those thoughts. You know the chaos they create within you. I do too.
         So I look to this man with thousands of voices screaming for attention in his mind, and I wonder … what is it like to encounter Christ with when the voices are so loud you can no longer hear yourself think, or pray, or believe? Can Jesus reach through the voices within? Can he silence them? And in doing so, will we hear the very voice of God?
         Three things give me hope:

1) The Voices Make Themselves Known
         We know what the voices say. Perhaps those inside the man said, “You’re worthless, you’re an animal, you’re bad, evil, irredeemable.” So like the condemning voices in our own heads. “You’re not good enough. You’re so stupid. You’re fat, you’re ugly. Those people hate you… you’re shamed and despised. You’re less than. They’re less than. You’re different. You’re wrong. They’re wrong. You can never be free. You can never be who God created you to be.”
         But they will not be silent on their own. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing.
         Because there’s one thing about these voices in the demoniac’s head, in our heads, that lead to their ruin: they make themselves known. They don’t run and hide. 
         When Jesus arrived on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the demoniac didn’t hide in the tombs or in the hills. He didn’t run in the other direction. Instead, he, and all his inner voices, ran straight to Jesus (see Mark 5:2).
         The presence of Jesus brings evil to the light. And when it is revealed, Jesus calls it to come out, of the demoniac and out of us. 
         Every ungodly thought, every whispered accusation that comes from the evil one, every voice that does not reflect the truth of God, are exposed by Jesus. And when they are exposed, we can know them for what they really are: Lies.
         The voices only have power when they whisper within us. In an encounter with Jesus, when they’re brought into the open, they have no power over us at all.

2) God Knows Where the Voices Belong
         Jesus sends the demons into unclean pigs. The pigs all run over the cliff and drown in the Sea of Galilee. What the demons did to the pigs they intended to do to the man. Every whisper, every stealthy hiss, every sharp shout was meant to drive him to death and destruction. The voices that haunt us in our worst moments, the thoughts within that confuse and cause us to hurt others and ourselves – their goal is always the same - our death, to destroy us. 
         These unclean thoughts do not belong in a mind dedicated to Jesus. But we cannot cast them out ourselves. Others cannot bind them for us. Instead, just like the man, we must encounter Christ and throw ourselves at his feet. Only he can free us from the lies the enemy tries to plant in our minds and hearts. Only he can send them where they belong, into the unclean pigs. 
         So what more can we do? We can only follow Paul’s example when he says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Every thought brought to Christ. Submitted to him. Spoken aloud to him so that he can cast them out. That’s all we can do.
         But it is enough. Because Jesus is enough. 

3) In the Silence, We Become Who We are Meant to Be
When Jesus freed the man from his legion of demons, the man sat at Jesus feet and heardhim. He was restored. He became who he was meant to be. 
And that’s how it works for us too. When the voices of self-incrimination, doubt, hate, fear, despair, hopeless, and accusation are thrown out and driven away, we can finally hear God. And we can hear ourselves think.
I know because I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes. A close friend began to believe the lies and fears whispered in her mind. She believed she was less than, not good enough, unloved. Then a man came into her life who enticed and tempted and lured her toward destructive behavior and isolation from everyone who loved her. Her friends tried to help, but just like the demoniac, she broke the bonds that would have held her away from him. We were powerless to save her. 
         So we prayed. All we could do was pray.
         And one night Jesus showed up on the shore. In a scene reminiscent of Mark 5, the man blurted out his malicious intentions to isolate her and have her for himself. He spoke of his plans, his needs, his desires. And in doing so, Jesus revealed to her that all those things that had been whispered in the dark were not words of love, instead they were fit only for pigs. They were meant for her death and destruction. Their purpose was to take everything away that made her beautiful and unique, human, to separate her from her community, devour her and her future. 
         But in a moment, God changed all that. The veil was removed from her eyes and she could see the lies for what they were. She could see the man for what he was. She was in her right mind again. That night, Jesus cast out not only the unhealthy voices within her but also the man who had tried to enslaved her. He tried to come back, tried to lure her again, but he had no power. The pigs were dead. 
         When she was freed and restored, she became again the woman we all knew and love. The unique personality traits that God has created in her bloomed and came to life again, stronger and more beautiful than before. She became a witness to God’s mercy, and because of her, today my faith is stronger, my hope more resilient, my heart, like those in the ten cities, more ready to receive God’s truth when he visits again.
            The voices have no power when you kneel before Jesus. Our God is the God of the voices within.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

God is Willing to Make You Whole

Hi Friends,

As we begin 2019, I wanted to share some thoughts from Reaching for Wonder from the story of leper being cleansed. All of have places in our lives that are falling about, that are afflicted with a "disease" we can't figure out how to cure on our own. All of us have those places where we can do nothing but come to God and say, "If you're willing, Lord, you can make me whole."

I Am Willing
In the face of our doubts and fears, Jesus speaks not a condemnation, but instead two simple words (in the Greek) that dispel both doubt and fear. This first is, when translated, I am willing.” And the second is, Be cleansed.” 
         When we are at our lowest, when faith fails, when it hurts to try to hope anymore, God’s answer to us is not disappointment or guilt or shame. His answer is, I am willing.”  He is willing to make us whole. He loves us enough to not just heal, but to make clean. 
         I love the deeper meaning of the word to cleanse” in the Greek. It not only means to cure a person from an unclean” disease, but it also means to free from faults, to free from the doubt we see in if.” It means to consecrate, to dedicate, to make complete for God’s use.
         That is what Jesus intends to offer us. Not simply a cure for the external need, but a deep soul cleansing that takes our if” and transforms it into wonder.
         He is willing. The question is, are we?