Friday, January 29, 2010

book review: "take your best shot" by austin gutwein

"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives and God is with us if we are with Him." – Paul David “Bono” Hewson

Austin Gutwein sets the tone for his story with this quote. It’s a reminder that no matter the situation, God is still with us. In 2004, Austin was nine years-old and began a journey that would not only change his life but so many others as well. He watched a DVD about a little girl named Maggie. Maggie lives in Zambia and is being raised by her great-grandmother. Both her parents, along with her aunts and uncles, are all dead due to AIDS. AIDS is a disease running rampant through Africa, leaving many children without anyone to care for them when family members lose the fight against it. After seeing Maggie’s situation, Austin couldn’t forget about her and he finally decided to do something about it.
Thinking about what he liked to do, Austin chose basketball to be the way he’d help the thousands of orphans in Africa. Just as people get sponsors for running a marathon, Austin decided he’d get sponsors for shooting free throws. This is where Hoops of Hope began. Hoops of Hope is an organization started by Austin and his family. Each year, thousands upon thousands of people shoot free throws and the money raised goes to doing great things in Africa. Because of Austin, orphans are being sponsored through World Vision, a school has been built, caregivers have been equipped with supplies to help those who are dying, a medical testing lab has been built and a second clinic is in the works for this year.

Austin gives all the credit for everything he’s helped accomplish to God. He knows none of this was possible without Him. His desire is for all those who pick up this book to find your passion and then use it to do something bigger than yourself. You don’t have to do something big to make a difference. When you start something, others will follow – they will want to make a difference too. Making a difference is contagious. “After all, if AIDS is contagious and brings death, shouldn’t hope be contagious and bring life?”
I really enjoyed this book. It inspired me to use my talents to help change this world. If a nine year old can shoot free throws, I know I can do something as well. We can’t be afraid to step out of our comfort zone. We have to be willing to do what God’s leading us to do and go where He’s leading us to go. “In order to take your best shot, in order to truly do something that’s bigger than yourself, you need to be able to see differently. You need to be able to look at the world and observe things that some people don’t even notice. You have to be able to see and you have to have a vision. Vision is your cause. Vision is your purpose. Vision is your heartbeat. Vision is what you get when you see a need that captures your attention and have the passion to do what you love to do. Having your own vision opens you to God’s possibilities. It blows the dust off of your dreams and highlights the fact that God wants to use you to make a difference.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Have you ever experienced a moment when everything felt right? This happened to me at church last night. I was in our Student Center, sitting in the back as service was preparing to kick off. I was watching some of the teens stand in front of the stage, talking and laughing. I watched others sitting in chairs, interacting with those nearby. It all just made for a perfect picture of contentment. I had that sense of "yeah, this is where I'm supposed to be." I've been working in youth ministry for two and a half years and have loved every second of it. There's just something about it - I can't really explain why I enjoy it other than it's a great place to serve and I work alongside an amazing team of fellow leaders. I don't know where else you'd find people who are so willing to invest in the lives of teenagers. It's pretty cool :-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ready - part 5

"God, please," Kennedy begged as she tried starting her car one more time. It had been acting up lately and she had every intention of getting it looked at once she received her first paycheck. Yet her car was obviously not willing to wait that long. She was resting her head on the steering wheel, trying to think of her next move when someone tapped on her door. She jumped and then met the gaze of Lucas Warner. Their earlier interaction had been playing over and over in her mind ever since it had happened. She still didn't know what to think about the man but right now she was willing to call a temporary truce if it meant she could get home.

Kennedy rolled down her window a few inches and he bent down to better see her. "Everything ok? Do you need some help?" She really wanted to say no - pride could be such a hard thing to argue with. However, she did need help. Sighing, she softly answered, "My car won't start." Lucas almost replied with "Oh, sorry. See you in the morning," but he couldn't bring himself to be that big of a jerk. "Pop the hood and I'll take a look," he said, moving to the front of her car. She obeyed but couldn't hide her surprise. Not missing her reaction, Lucas talked as he worked. "Yes, I know cars. I've always enjoyed messing with them and learning how they work. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty." Kennedy felt he meant more to that than just cars but didn't have the chance to ask. Lucas closed the hood, coming back to her door. "It'll get you home but that's about it. I'm going to follow you. I've got tools at home and can fix it later." Kennedy gave him a blank stare - she saw his mouth moving and heard his voice but the words weren't registering for some reason. He grinned and spoke slower. "I'm going to follow you home to make sure the car's ok. " She finally nodded, praying as she drove, "God, what are You doing?"

Friday, January 22, 2010


Last night at choir practice, my choir director announced the planning process for the Easter program was well under way. My first thought was "I don't want to hear about Easter since I've finally recovered from the Christmas program." HOWEVER, after hearing his vision for the program, I am sooo excited to see it come about!! Part of the Easter story focuses on doubt and disappointment. I mean, these men who had left everything behind to follow Jesus were now left wondering "what now?" since the One who they had placed all their trust in was now laying in a tomb. Talk about a reality check. They had to have some serious doubts regarding Jesus and how He could really be who He claimed to be. Wouldn't you? And even when He appears to a handful of people, the others are obviously skeptical. Thomas very clearly voicing his doubts: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it" (John 20:25).

I have to admit I've doubted God at times. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that He really cares about every single one of us. I struggle with if He's really there - how does that work? My mind has a hard time comprehending it at times. But then I experience Him in such a way that I KNOW He has to be real. All doubts vanish and I've had a taste of something I can't even begin to explain. It all circles back to faith and simply believing. I wonder how much easier this faith thing would be if we could physically see God; sit down and have a cup of coffee with Jesus and see the same scars Thomas needed to see? Yet Hebrews 11:1 gives us a clear definition of what faith is: "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see" (Message). So we believe because...that's part of having faith...believing in what you can't see or understand.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ready - part 4

Giving that man her attention, Kennedy didn't miss the smirk he tried to hide. More than anything she wanted to slap it off but swallowed that desire since his father was only a few feet away. She had the feeling he was used to getting what he wanted and needed to be taken down a peg or two. Only adding to her desire to inflict physical pain was when he offered his hand, appearing every inch the professional. "Ms. Yates, I'm Lucas. Welcome to our company." She could hear the insincerity that was dripping from each word. Deciding to play along, she shook his hand; there would be time to handle this later. "I'm glad to be here," she responded. "Ms. Yates, my son is needing someone to assist him on his newest project," Mr. Warner began. Kennedy inwardly groaned. She could see where this was going and didn't know if she'd like the outcome. "Somehow you've managed to make an impression on my son and he's asked that you be the one to work alongside him." He busied himself with a stack of papers on his desk while delivering the final blow. "Until the completion of this project, consider Lucas your supervisor." No, her mind began to scream. "He'll be the one you report to and answer to." No, no, no! it screamed louder. "Any questions?" Not giving her a chance to respond - that seemed to be a habit around here - he stood, making it clear she was no longer needed. Stepping outside the office, Lucas was right on her heels. "We'll get started tomorrow. I'm sure you still need to get settled in. Be at my office at nine in the morning." With that he strode off, leaving Kennedy no longer wanting to slap him but wondering what had just happened.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

weary of waiting

I'm going to do a little venting. Have you ever gotten tired of waiting on God? You've prayed for something and followed that up with (1) sowing seed, (2) confessing it as though you already received it, (3) claiming verses that are relevant and even (4) fasting. Yet your seed still remains in the ground - not even a stem has poked through the soil. Part of you feels like you'll be struck by lightning for questioning God's timing because who are we to question...God? Yet at the same time, you feel like He's forgotten all about you (can anyone relate?). You see others around you having their prayers answered and you can't help but wonder if your request didn't quite reach God's ears - that maybe something happened in the delivery process and it was counted as spam. You hear all the Christian lingo that's supposed to bring comfort but instead only serves to annoy you. Things like "God has a plan" or "it's all in His timing" or the ever popular "trust in the Lord" - words that sound good but can sometimes ring hollow when you're in the midst of a situation and needing God to move.

However, there is good news (I wouldn't end this on such a sour note). It's during these times of waiting that we have to continue to cling to God. We can't hide out and miss church because ultimately, that's only hurting us. We have to remain faithful to God and not give up. When things aren't going as planned, God's the only sure thing we have. We have to trust that He is working things out (though it may not look like it) and that He does have a plan (though we don't know what all it involves) - I'm realizing God likes leaving us in the dark because it forces us to rely on Him instead of feeling we can do it all ourselves (because we can't). Saying all of that to say, don't give up on what you're believing God to do. I've been listening to the song "Wait and See" by Brandon Heath. One part says,

"Still wondering why I'm here
Still wrestling with my fear
But oh, He's up to something
And the farther on I go
I've seen enough to know
That I'm, I'm not here for nothing
He's up to something..."

God's not finished with us. "Never think that God's delays are God's denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius." - Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon

Monday, January 11, 2010

ready - part 3

Kennedy was determined to have a better second day than her first. She went back and forth debating if she should look for Lucas and try to explain her refusal. While she wanted to stay on his good side, she also didn't want to show him any special treatment just because his last name is Warner. She knew all about the battles that were attached to having such a name. Making it to her office, she put down the bag of supplies she had brought with her. She figured the best way to ensure she had a good day would be to begin with a clean office. She had this thing about dirt and grime interfering with her productivity.

The phone on her desk ringing made Kennedy jump. Unfortunately, she was on her hands and knees beneath her desk when that happened. Hitting her head on the wooden surface, she let out a yelp. Holding her head with one hand and picking up the phone with the other, she tried to ignore the shooting pain. "Hello?" she said, not letting her voice give anything away. "Mr. Warner would like to see you in his office," came the voice of the less-than-friendly receptionist. "Ok, where -" Kennedy was cut off before she could ask where that office was. It took longer than she wanted and she was again wishing for those bread crumbs but she found the right office. Trying to look on the brighter side, she realized had it not been for her knack for getting lost, she wouldn't of met the handful of co-workers she'd encountered while asking for directions. If only the receptionist and Lucas could be so friendly.

Knocking on the door of the man who had her future with this company in his hands, Kennedy waited for him to grant her entrance. This was her first time meeting Mr. Warner - someone in Human Resources had interviewed and hired her. She had been reassured that Mr. Warner was fully aware of who she was and her qualifications. She worried how much about her he knew but would let that take care of itself. "Come in," a deep male voice said. Quelling her nerves, she opened the door and went inside. Meeting Mr. Warner's gaze, she noticed someone else out of the corner of her eye. Before she could turn to see the person, Mr. Warner introduced him. "Ms. Yates, I'd like for you to meet my son, Lucas."

Friday, January 8, 2010

ready - part 2

"You're still here?" a man stuck his head in Kennedy's office. Looking up from the handbook she was only halfway through, seeing a smiling face was more than welcome. "What time is it?" she asked. Not being a big fan of watches, her phone served the purpose of telling her the time but it was currently m.i.a. Glancing at his wrist, the man again looked at her. "Almost seven. Seriously, you should go home and rest. I'm sure you're exhausted." Her mind tried to process that. Seven o'clock! She'd been here that long? Standing, she closed the book and ran a hand through her hair that was surely pointing in every direction. "Can I walk you out?" Finally giving the man in her office her full attention, she offered a polite smile. "I don't think so. But thanks for the offer." He studied her. She could feel him watching her as she searched for her phone before sticking it in her purse. When she looked up again, he was gone. It was nothing personal, she reasoned as she closed her office door and retraced her steps from that morning. She just had no idea who he was or even his name. You couldn't be too sure these days.

Reaching the lobby, Kennedy was ecstatic that she'd managed her way out of the maze. She had taken countless wrong turns before finally getting her bearings. Maybe she'd leave a bread crumb trail in the morning. When she found her car, she saw the man who'd stopped by her office pulling out of the parking lot. Driving past, he didn't even look her way. Great, she thought. Her first day and already someone was mad at her. It was then she realized who was mad at her. The spot he had pulled out from had "Lucas Warner" written above it - the same last name as her boss. Her first day and she'd just managed to offend her employer's son.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


She took one more deep breath before opening the door. The thick carpet and richly decorated lobby only served to make her more nervous instead of easing her discomfort. No matter that she was more than qualified for the position, it was her first day in a new environment with people she didn't know. Tucking a few loose strands of hair behind her hear, holding her head high and pasting on a smile, she approached the front desk.

"We've been expecting you," the receptionist said before she could even utter a "hello." "Come with me and I'll show you to your office." The carpet silenced their footsteps as they made their way through the building. They turned corner after corner, marching down one hallway before encountering another. She ignored the stares from her new co-workers, no doubt assessing the "new girl." As nervous as she was, she was thankful for the chance to start over. To make new first impressions and not be linked to her past. A name can be a hard thing to compete against at times but she was ready.

The receptionist slowed to a door at the hallway and before disappearing around the corner, said over her shoulder, "There's your office. Welcome to the team." She watched the woman finally disappear and then stared at the door. Opening it, she couldn't help but sigh. It wasn't quite what she was expecting. A small desk with a dusty lamp greeted her. There was an empty bookshelf to her left and a chair to her right. Behind her desk was a window with the blinds closed. Carefully raising the blinds, she ignored the grimy glass to smile at the view. She was apparently at the back of the building that faced the wooded area the company owned. Loving the outdoors, the sight of trees helped buoy her mood. "My silver lining," she whispered. Turning back to her desk, she sat down and picked up the employee handbook waiting for her and a letter from her new employer. "Welcome to the bottom rung," she said as she opened the letter. But it was a fresh start and she was ready.

Monday, January 4, 2010

new year, new title

I've been trying to come up with a new title for my blog - something catchy and awe-inspiring - but was drawing a blank. I was talking to a friend of mine ( and she reminded me of a conversation with another friend that made me go, "Yes, that's it!" I don't remember the context but this other friend and I were talking and when he meant to say "tidbits" he instead said "snidbits" (though he denies it ever happened).
I like this as my title because it captures the whole reason behind it: me giving random glimpses into my life - snidbits, if you will. I'm excited about this journey that will take place over the next year and all the "snidbits" that will accompany it :-)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

no title

I honestly have no point behind this post except that it's January 1 (not technically but I'm still awake so that makes it still Friday - sort of) and I wanted to kick off the new year with a post. I hope these clips make you smile :-)