Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Joelle and a Simple Prayer

Hi Friends,

In honor of my daughter turning 16 (wow, those years went by fast!), I wanted to post a fun story from when she was two years old. This girl has always been a deep thinker. Teachers used to call her an "old soul" because it seemed even when she was wee little she pondered those deep thoughts and asked deep questions.  And here's what happened one evening when she was two ...

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Marlo Schalesky

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.”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mommy in the Moonlight

Hi Friends,

Just a little story in honor of Mother's Day, for all you Mamas out there. You matter!

Mama in the Moonlight

Marlo Schalesky

            Darkness closed in around our camper just as the crickets began to sing. It was going to be a long night.  I knew it because there was no familiar crib, no Curious George toy, no door I could close to shut my two-year-old daughter off from the strange and scary noises of the night.
            I zipped up Jayna’s jammies and kissed her forehead.  Then, I set her on the bed in the pop-up camper and pointed to a spot beside the canvas wall.   “Night night time, Jayna. Lay down.”
            Her brow wrinkled.  Her lip trembled.  “Nigh Nigh?”
            “It’s okay.  Lay down.”  I pointed again.  “Close eyes.”
            She looked down at the spot.  Her eyes stayed opened.  Too wide.  
            I cringed.  “No cry.  Go night night.”  I patted the bed.
            She sniffed and scowled some more.  Then, she rubbed her nose and pranced in a circle around the bed, her head barely skimming the canvas above.  
            “No, no, no!”  I snatched her up and plunked her down on the thin mattress.  “Night night.”
            She sprung back up.
            I bit my lip.  I knew this wasn’t going to work.  Jayna was used to her own room, her own crib, her own little Winnie the Pooh bumper to keep her head from hitting the crib’s slats.  This wide camper bed, with plain sheets, wobbly sides, and a big pillow was nothing like where she slept every night.  It was strange, different.  Weird.  I sighed. “Okay, just wait a minute.”
            I put on my pajamas and quickly brushed my teeth. Then, I crawled into the bed beside her and pulled up the covers.
            She stopped prancing and stood still.  She looked at me.
            I patted the bed beside me.  “Night night.  Lay down by Mommy.”
            She plopped down and rolled on her side, her big eyes fastened on my face.
            I blinked as a swath of moonlight trickled in to illuminate Jayna’s face.
            She smiled at me.
            I smiled back.  
            She inched closer.  Then, she sat up and patted my shoulder.  “Mama hee-a.”  The words came out as an awed whisper.
            “Yes, Mommy’s here.”
            She laid back down and snuggled up next to me. Then she began to laugh.  “Mama here.  Mama here.  Mama here,” she said between giggles.  She turned to face me.  A huge grin lit her face.  She touched my cheek.  “Mama. Here.”
            I laughed with her as I held out my arms and gathered her close.  
            She closed her eyes, the smile still evident on her little face.  She was happy, thrilled, comfortable, secure.  Despite the darkness, despite the strangeness, despite the weird sound of a hundred crickets chirping outside in the night.  None of that matter, because Mommy was here.  The joy of Mommy’s presence drove all the fear away.
            As I laid there in the moonlight, with Jayna snoring softly next to me, I marveled that for her “Mama here” was enough.  And if that was so, shouldn’t “Jesus here” be enough for me as well?
            When I enter the dark places in my life, times laced with uncertainty, scattered with strange and unfamiliar sounds, why should I fear?  Jesus is with me.  He said in Matthew 28:20 (NIV), “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Always.  When I’m traveling alone, when I’m in a group of strangers, when I’m trying something new, when I’m in circumstances that are unfamiliar and difficult.  He is with me.  
            When worries chirp outside my camper walls, when I can’t see beyond the end of my bed, when it looks like life is taking a turn to places that make my brows wrinkle and my lips tremble, then God says to me, as it says in Isaiah 41:10 (NIV), “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
            And so maybe, for me too, “Jesus here” will be enough.  Maybe I don’t need to fear because God is with me, wherever I go, wherever I lay down to rest.  Maybe I, too, can just snuggle in and have a little giggle.