Author  |  jennifer benson schuldt

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

hard paths

When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.

radical recovery

Attempting a quadruple toe loop, Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott swiveled into the air and fell. He careened into the rink’s wall and lay clutching his side. Amazingly, Jeremy then stood up and resumed skating. The rest of his routine included two extremely difficult, yet well-executed maneuvers. In the end, his perseverance after a serious mistake won the crowd’s heart.

pray and release

Author and speaker Mary Lou Quinlan claims that her mother “inhaled a worry and exhaled a prayer.” She says this because her mother had a habit of writing down prayer requests and keeping them in a special place—her “God Box.” There was one rule related to these petitions. According to Mary, “If [anyone] ever worried about the request, Mom would say, ‘If you think you can handle it better than God, it’s coming out [of the box].’ ” This helped Mary and her family to let go of their concerns.

earth’s shadow

When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”

you’re beautiful

Ashley Munroe penned the message “You’re beautiful” on nearly 2,000 notes and then placed one on each locker in her high school. Via surveillance cameras, school authorities saw Ashley distributing the notes. The principal assumed she was causing trouble and suspended her. Several hundred students, however, signed a petition to help Ashley avoid punishment. Perhaps her best reward was hearing from a girl who had planned to commit suicide that day but did not because of Ashley’s message.

cold snaps and curiosity

When the temperature dipped to -27 degrees Celsius in my city, newscasters cautioned the public against going outside. An authority in a neighboring state declared, “In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.” After hearing warnings such as these, my husband said what I was thinking: “I think I want to go outside . . . just to feel what it’s like.”

suited up

During a visit to an art institute, I observed a German suit of armor made in 1521. None of the other defensive ensembles seemed as complete as this one. It featured vented metal to cover the face; a curved breastplate to deflect blows; metal that continued down the arms, hands, and covered each finger; leg shields that were seamlessly fitted to metal shoes. The craftsman had imagined every possible offensive strike and addressed each in his design.

one source

During October, the trees come alive with color in my region. One year, a particular tree caught my attention. Like Joseph, it wore a “coat” of many colors. Its top leaves were plum-colored. A little lower, the purple morphed into crimson foliage. The red gave way to robin’s-chest orange, and finally, neon yellow leaves peeked out at the bottom like a petticoat. Although the leaves had radically different colors, they all had sprouted from the same maple tree.

heaven scent

Bugs love it and humans hate it. It’s the pungent odor of the Rafflesia flower, a plant that can weigh more than 15 pounds and measure more than 3 feet across! This botanical beast smells like decaying flesh or rotting meat, an odor that carrion beetles and flies adore. Although this bloom attracts insects, it repels people. Its stench is so foul that people have nicknamed it the “corpse flower.”

underground serenade

I was wowed by a video clip in which seven singers performed an 800-year-old hymn. They sang it a cappella in a German subway station where the underground acoustics created a haunting, beautiful sound. While the performance mesmerized me, I noticed that only a few people stopped to listen. With such a beautiful message and amazing delivery, I wondered why more people failed to attend the impromptu concert.

powerful light

The “Walkie Talkie,” a 37-story London skyscraper, created some unique problems during its construction. At times, this concave structure reflected the sun’s rays with dangerous intensity. Television crews used a reflected sunbeam from the building to cook an egg! Residents opposite the building claimed damage to paint and carpet as a result of the intense reflections.

spiritual self-examination

Yed Anikpo created an app called Heartpoints to help Christians track their spiritual progress. Users of the app can review their daily history to rejoice over victories and to repent of sins. According to Anikpo, “Heartpoints [can] help us capture [what] makes up our walk today so that we can examine it and use [it] to inform . . . our pilgrimage tomorrow.”

remaining true

A young man wavered between two worlds. Would he roll with the gangs in his neighborhood, or walk with Christ? Although his father struggled with addiction and his mother suffered from schizophrenia, his grandmother prayed for and encouraged him to follow Jesus. Christian hip-hop artist FLAME admits that there was a time in his life that he tried to fit into both worlds. But today he has a degree in biblical counseling and is attending seminary. And his top-selling albums contain street-savvy beats and inspiring Christian messages.

craving cashmere

While I was helping to organize donations of clothing for a church event, I paused to touch a cashmere sweater’s soft grey cloth. When I realized it would fit me, I considered the possibility of owning it—for free! Volunteers were allowed first dibs on the donations. Cashmere is an expensive fabric, and although I have enough sweaters, this one was calling my name. After some inner turmoil, I finally offered the item to a fellow worker, who joyfully accepted it.