Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Invisibility of Motherhood Welcomes Marlo Schalesky

Today I invited novelist Marlo Schalesky to chat on Words to Go about The Invisibility of Motherhood. She is the author of seven books, most recently releasing her novel If Tomorrow Never Comes. She also happens to have a Masters of Theology degree, so like a lot of us she loves studying the Bible and speaks to groups.

PATTY: Welcome, Marlo, to Words to Go!

MARLO: Thanks, Patty, for inviting me!

PATTY: Marlo, I love the story you shared with me recently about your child. Would you share it with us today?

MARLO: Sure, Patty. Let’s say that 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.

PATTY: I have all those classics right here on my bookshelf too. But even with my bookcase groaning under the weight, I still find myself pondering one of life’s greatest questions: How do I know when I’m pleasing God? What I love about your story is that it answers this question in an unexpected and profound way.

MARLO: I’ve given talks and written seminary papers. I’ve fasted, and prayer-walked, 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.

PATTY: Do tell.

MARLO: It happened just the other night. It was at the dinner table that 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.”

PATTY: I noticed the pause too. I imagined angels falling silent just waiting to hear this two-year-old pray.

MARLO: 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.”

PATTY: Yes, older siblings feel the need to “call foul” on their younger siblings.

MARLO: Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister. “I pray,” she muttered.I smiled and 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.

PATTY: And it’s interesting that she would see Jesus, not just as a God of happiness, but one who cries. I think that a lot of people assume things about God without seeing him for his emotional connections to us.

MARLO: 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.

PATTY: That must have been the Holy Spirit summoning up your inner contemplator.

MARLO: 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.”

PATTY: So you’re saying that our prayers can get so complicated and so like a laundry list that we forget the One in whose presence we’re bowing.

MARLO: 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.

PATTY: I recently had one of those gut checks just like you’re describing. But what I love about this story, is that God used your child as a reminder to you of that internal prayer posture.

MARLO: 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.

PATTY: It’s very authentic to admit that we often pray for God to bring us joy rather than realizing that we have a responsibility as part of our stewardship in Christ, to submit, if you will, in a manner that will bring joy to God’s heart—like Joelle did.

MARLO: Yes. In other words, I am learning to pray with childlike faith. I’m learning to pray, “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy.”

PATTY: That’s a great mom’s story and a great way to kick off our week on Words to Go as we chat with author moms about The Invisibility of Motherhood. Today Marlo Schalesky shared her personal story and what I like is that it exemplifies those “invisible” moments we have as mothers, where our children become the examples to us rather than the other way around. If we’ll just stop and notice the stories going on right where the Lord has placed us, we’ll hear his voice and it won’t be so invisible any more.

Thanks, Marlo, for sharing on Words to Go. Tomorrow author Maureen Lang chats with me about the struggles and blessings of mothering a special needs child. You won’t want to miss this awesome story of a mother’s love for a child who may never be able to express in words the invisible work God does through special family relationships.
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