My Time is Very Valuable…

November 17, 2011

From a quick glance at this title, one might conclude: “this sounds intriguing…Either he thinks too highly of himself or he has a good grasp on reality,” or “this will be a blog about him and how someone wasted his time.” Well, you are wrong (if you thought that)! It has nothing to do with me, sort of…you’ll see…

Today, I embarked on my journey from Doylestown, PA to Atlanta, GA for the National Youth Workers Convention. Convention related things don’t start until tomorrow, but I wanted to come a little earlier in hopes of making time to relax and reenergize myself before I partake in this information overload that will be thrown my way in all of the Big Room Sessions, Breakout Sessions, seminars, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazingly beneficial things, but I’m at a point lately where I need to be recharged.  I went to bed at 2:00 am last night and woke up at 5:45 am to go lead my High School students in a Bible study at a local coffee shop. After that, I took a quick nap, loaded up my truck, and hit the road. What should have been a 45-minute drive to the airport, turned into almost a two hour excursion on account of the rain and the people of Philadelphia’s inability to drive in said rain! I was frustrated! I just wanted to get to the airport, get on the plane, and sleep until I landed in Atlanta. Being that I am 26 years old, you would think I would know by now that I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane. Long story short, I eventually got to Atlanta and then my hotel in the downtown area.

After I unpacked and freshened up a bit, I started walking in hopes of finding a restaurant some friends and I went to years ago when we were here for the convention (Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill and Brewery). I found it and the food was just as good as I remembered it being. However, the barbeque sauce was  ten times as good as I remember it being. They must have made some improvements since I was last here. For that, I am thankful!

I bet you are still wondering why this blog post is called “My Time is Very Valuable…”! Don’t worry, I’m getting to it!

When I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant, I somehow ended up going the wrong way. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get back to my room. Before I go any further, I need to give you some context of this city…

If you know anything about Atlanta or if you have ever been here before, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Some of them will play instruments on the side of the road in hopes of passers-by giving them some change. Some of them will just sit there with a coffee can and a sign asking for any spare change. Some of them will sing in hopes that you will give them money. And others will start walking right next to you, show interest in you, and help you get to where you are going. This latter example happened to me when I was here in 2008 and again tonight. The man that I encountered in 2008 made a huge impact on my life. We walked and talked and I got to learn a little bit about his life and why he was in the situation that he was in. As I got to my destination, God was laying it on my heart to help him but all I had was a ten dollar bill, so I gave it to him. I don’t know if it helped him very much, but that encounter really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on Matthew 25:35-40…

“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, Jesus teaches that when you help people in need, you are actually doing whatever it is you did for Jesus.

I wish I could tell you that I remembered that guy’s name and that I regularly prayed for him, but I can’t. I did for a few weeks, but then I forgot about him. Until tonight…as I was walking into the restaurant I saw a guy standing near the side of the building who looked very familiar. He said “what’s up, big man?” and I nodded my head and proceeded to go get some dinner. I can’t be certain that it wasn’t the same guy, but the odds of it being him are very low. Regardless though, seeing that man tonight brought memories of 2008’s encounter back into my mind and God renewed those thoughts of wanting to make a difference in my mind.

Now, back to tonight…as I was walking around trying to bounce back from being lost, I walked past a guy who was singing something. And guess who this guy looked like?!? You guessed it, the guy from 2008 and the guy I saw earlier in the night. If it was the same guy, then God was definitely behind that beautiful orchestration. He looked at me and started walking and talking with me. He took note of my Steelers hat and started talking to me about the Steelers…not the Steelers of today, but the champions from the 1970’s. Now, keep in mind, I was lost and frustrated at the time. After a few blocks, we came to a cross-walk and waited for the signal to change that would grant us permission to cross. He asked me which hotel I was trying to find. Because of the frustrated attitude I had, I didn’t want to be bothered so I said “I’m just walking around…” But as soon as I said that, I got a gut check from God that pretty much told me that I’m an idiot and I need to help this man out. So I told him the truth and that I was trying to find the Sheraton Atlanta hotel. He told me that he knew where it was and that he wanted to help me out. Then he proceeded to tell me that besides the singing, he likes to help people like me out when they are trying to get around in the city. I reached into my pocket and gave him whatever money I had in there. It wasn’t much, and I told him that, but he said “that’s perfect!” I shook his hand and found out his name was Timothy. I thanked him and told him to go get himself something to eat!

So, you’re still wondering what this title has to do with anything, huh? I suppose it’s time to tell you. As soon as that guy stopped singing and started walking and talking with me, he went on a little rant that went something like this: “you know, I don’t have a job right now and I’m struggling, but I can sing and so I was just singing for those guys (points back to the group that had just walked away) and they wouldn’t even give me a couple dollars so that I could get something to eat. If they’re going to waste my time, they should just leave me the (expletive) alone. You know? My time is very valuable…” And that’s when it hit me. That man; although he didn’t have a job, money, or a place to live, still had an amazing grasp on reality. His reality was that even though he didn’t have much to offer, he wanted to use the little that he did have to help people. The group of guys that listened to him sing and then didn’t help him out were wasting his time. Time that he could have been using to help other people in whatever way he could.

So the questions that I want to leave you with are: Is your time so valuable to you that you aren’t allowing yourself to be tuned in to where God is leading you in terms of being the difference in peoples’ lives? Are you too busy or too frustrated to allow God to use you to help someone in need?

The reality is that our time is valuable. Not for the purpose of doing what makes us feel good but for the purpose of completing the good works God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can live by our own agendas or we can live by His, but either way, we only have so much time…

 – paulg

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Alexis Update: A Blessing in Disguise…

February 8, 2010

Hey Everyone,

On Friday February 5, 2010 Alexis had her port replacement surgery. Before I tell you about it, I would like to thank you for praying. God heard those prayers and gave the surgeons wisdom and knowledge in order to see that something was wrong and turn this surgery into a “blessing in disguise” as Ashley called it!

Alexis playing in the snow!

Alexis had to be at Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA for surgery at 5:45 AM. This meant that they had to leave Altoona, PA at about 3:00 AM.

On Wednesday, Ashley got a call from Alexis’ hem/onc doctor and she told her that Alexis would need a plasma infusion when they arrived because the clotting agents in her blood were abnormal, due to the PEG-aspariginase (type of chemo) that she has been given. Ashley said that the doctors said it was totally normal and something that they expected to happen; that’s why they looked for it. She said it was nothing really bad and if it were an emergency, they would have no worries about just doing the surgery. But since it was scheduled, they decided to go ahead and do the infusion to be on the safe side.

There was a bit of confusion whenever they got to the same day surgery unit. No one had any record of Alexis needing the infusion. They made some phone calls and found out that Ashley was correct, and that Alexis was supposed to have the infusion. The doctors opted to give her the infusion during the surgery, which made Ashley a little bit nervous. But she trusted the doctors and let them do their thing.

The surgery went extremely well. They placed the new mediport on the same side as the old port, only lower and more towards the front. Ashley says “It looks AWESOME!!!!!” The new port is less noticeable than the old powerport. When the surgeon came out to talk to Ashley after the surgery, he told them that he tried to place it on the opposite side but couldn’t get the catheter into the blood vessel, so he placed it on the same side as the old one. When he removed the old port, he told the family that the catheter had flipped and was going in the opposite direction. This is where the “blessing in disguise” comes into play. God saw that she needed this done and that it could give her problems in the future, so He gave the doctors what they needed in order to correct the problem before it became a serious problem. Ashley said “SO thank God that she had it replaced before it gave her problems!”

Alexis slept the whole way home from the hospital and was doing awesome by the time Friday night rolled around.

We got slammed with a huge snow storm on Friday and Saturday. God allowed them to get home though before the roads got bad. We got around 23 inches of snow (or somewhere around there). So thank you to those of you who were also praying for safe travels to and from the hospital!

Lastly, Ashley says “Thanks for your prayers and support!!!”

You guys are awesome and I know that God hears our prayers for this little girl and her family and is answering them left and right! Wooo Hooo! Thank you!!!

–          paulg


When “The Big One” Hits…

September 15, 2009

Yesterday was a very long and productive day for me. I was at the office for eleven hours and got a lot of work done that has been piling up for quite some time. I was focused and driven. During my lunch break, I went with my Pastor to a luncheon/information seminar that a senior citizens group from my church was sponsoring. The speaker was an ex-cop who is a current Red Cross worker. He was informing everyone on what to do in the face of a disaster (natural disaster, terrorism, viruses (H1N1), etc…). He has been involved in many disasters over the last few decades (Oklahoma City Bombing, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, The World Trade Center attacks…a.k.a. 9-11, and many more). It was very interesting to hear what he had to say and to hear him speak from experience. He went into great detail about how many cities, places, and organizations in the US have a very poor plan of action for when disasters strike! He referred to these plans as “disaster plans.” He talked about what could have been done differently to save people in the city of New Orleans more effectively. He talked about how when “The Big One” hits (whatever that may be), there are many people that will suffer due to the poor disaster plans that are in place!

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This got me thinking: How can I apply this idea to youth ministry? In my experience in youth ministry so far, I can’t even begin to count how many times a student has come to me with a problem or a concern, looking for someone to talk to or for some advice. I’ve taken numerous classes at Nyack that have prepared me for some of the things I’ve run into thus far, but there are just some things that cannot be taught in a classroom setting!  I’ve heard some pretty serious things from my students in the past, but I wonder what would happen when they have a problem that I (or my leadership team) have no idea how to deal with! What would happen when “The Big One” hits in one of my student’s lives? Will I be prepared with a disaster plan to adequately help and be there for them? Or will I let the disaster take over that student’s life because my plan was not in existence or perfected and I didn’t know what to do?

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There is another set of questions I could be asking as well. Am I the kind of youth pastor and friend that my students will want to go to when disasters hit their lives? Have I built up enough rapport with them that they will be comfortable enough to grant me access into their disasters?

disaster area no entry

I don’t have any answers right now. In fact, I most likely won’t have the answers until I am faced with a certain situation. What I do know, however, is that I will do everything in my power to get my students through their “Big Ones” that hit them hard! I will be a pastor, a shepherd, a listener, and a friend walking along side of them on their journey through life…disasters and all!

–          paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 2, Part 1…

August 9, 2009

Due to the fact that most of our group had an extremely long day yesterday, we were all in bed by 10:30 PM…teenagers and adults! This (going to bed early) is rarely seen on a youth trip, so I can’t complain. Everyone slept extremely well and woke up energized. Sheryl, the woman that is running this camp surprised us with donuts and these awesome sausage/cheese sweet rolls for breakfast. They are hard to explain, but oh so good. So that was a nice way to start the day.

After breakfast and getting ready, we embarked on a journey to find a church called “The Loft” ( http://www.loftchurch.com )! The church is actually part of the church that is in charge of running the camp we are working at. The church is called “The Woodlands United Methodist Church” and is a mega-church. The Loft church is basically a whole other church, within the larger church. They have their own building (on the property of the bigger church), their own pastors, their own youth center, their own children’s center (that was huge), their own café, and their own offices. The two church buildings sit on 33 acres that the church owns. The property looks like a small college campus (buildings all over the place).

As soon as we walked in to The Loft Church we were all amazed at how sweet it was. The sanctuary itself was nothing impressive, but it works so well. It looked like our ceilings at our new church property look. It was a simple room with concrete walls, plastic chairs, and a stage up front. The sound system, lighting, projectors, and screens were probably a bit pricey, but everything else was probably very easy and cheap to do. This gave me some ideas for our future youth room!

The worship team was incredible and the worship was very real! My students and leaders enjoyed the worship and I could tell that they were connecting with God when they were singing praises to Him. It was awesome to see! After worship was over, a guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt walked onto the stage. I later found out that he was the loft church’s high school youth pastor. He preached the message this morning. He started by saying that every once in a while, they let him come across the hallway (from the youth room) and preach in the big service. It was cool to see someone preaching the word of God in normal, everyday clothes. It further proved my theory that being dressed up in a suit and tie does not matter to God, as long as you are doing His work. Brian (the youth pastor/preacher for this service) started by saying that it was a “stripped down stage with a stripped down message!” Meaning that there wasn’t anything fancy on the stage and there was nothing impressive to look at, and that he was going to preach a message that was not fancy and full of media and other things of the sort. He was just going to read through the word of God and discuss a few key things. I loved his intro. Then he said “but this is no small undertaking, so allow me to open in prayer!” I loved how serious he was about the word of God and how he knew the importance of praying before bringing the message. I hoped that my students saw it and realized why I open every lesson or talk with prayer, asking God to speak through me and to my hearers (them)!

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The church started a study on the Gospel of Mark a few weeks ago. They were on Mark chapter 4 today and the message was on The Parable of the Sower! Brian started out by talking about how Jesus always used his surroundings to communicate truth. In this case, Jesus used the seeds, the vines, and the soil to illustrate a point for His hearers. He then started to read us the Parable (and the words were on the screen for us to follow along with if we didn’t have our Bibles). After he got to verse 9, he stopped and said that these 9 verses are ridiculous, meaning it confused people greatly. I loved it because I am currently teaching a series of lessons to our youth called “Seriously Ridiculous,” which was an idea I got from the national youth workers convention a few years ago. He then said that people probably thought Jesus was crazy for basically saying, “a farmer had some seeds…he threw them and some landed on the path and were eaten by birds, some fell on rocks, sprang up quickly, got cooked by the sun and died, some fell in a thorn bush, and some fell on good soil and produced fruit…if you have ears, hear that!” And that was the end of Jesus’ message. Then we read that the disciples waited until everyone else left and then they asked Jesus what the heck He was talking about. Then Brian told us “luckily, Jesus broke it down for us!” He read verse 13 and said that there was something foundational about it that we need to grasp in order to move on. Jesus said to the disciples, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” Jesus was saying that they needed to understand this parable and grasp it before they could move on in their understanding of God.

Brian then went on to talk about the four different kinds of soil representing the four stages of the human heart. The first soil (the path/concrete/cement) represents hard hearted people, the second soil (rocky places with very little soil) represents superficial people (they receive the Word of God and allow it to grow a little bit, but because there is not much soil, God’s Word dies out in them), the third soil (thorny ground) represents people who hear the Word of God but have thorns (pride, jealousy, envy, sexual addictions, money issues, lust, greed, etc) that take their eyes off of the Creator and puts them on creation, and the fourth soil (good soil) represents all encompassing commitment to Jesus and His word! Brian then asked us which soil we are…and how do we know for sure? He said that soil is important because, “at creation, God scooped up soil and breathed life into it…at salvation, God scooped up soil and breathed life into it.” He said that “it’s transformation if the Word of God takes root and it is goods soil! And the answer to the question of “which soil are you?” is found in verse 20. We know which soil we are by the fruit that we bear!

The reason I repeated to you most of the sermon was because it hit me hard at the end. I realized that this message was for me and our youth group. I believe we needed to hear that message specifically for this week. What kind of soil are we and what are we doing? Are our neighbors benefiting from nearness to us and our nearness to God? Can the kids we will be working with this week see Jesus in us? Can they be encouraged, uplifted, and discipled if we ourselves are not actively seeking God each and every day in our own lives? Are we bored in our walks with God, or are we finding life in His love letter to us (the Bible)? Brian said something that I really liked towards the end of his message. He said that “we can all get there (boredom) if we let something incredible and miraculous (the Word of God) become typically routine!” Wow, how true is that?

I was going to write about our whole day, but this ended up being longer than I anticipated it to be, so I will write part two later tonight!

Until then…

– paulg


An Unexpected Visitor…

April 20, 2009

We had an incredible night at youth group last night. We had 20 students and 5 leaders. Played some soccer, had a lesson on temptation that the kids seemed to learn form, and had an ice cream sundae party. We had teams of 5-on-5 for soccer and had enough students not participating and/or waiting to be subbed in that it even looked like we were at a real soccer game with an audience and fans.

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One of my 12th grade girls brought 4 friends. Along with those 4 visiting students, we had one other visitor that I couldn’t quite figure out why he was there. He clearly did not fall into the category of 6th-12th grade and he didn’t look like he belonged there. I introduced myself to him and asked him some questions. What I got was not what I expected. I will leave his name out for confidentiality purposes. Here is a brief glimpse of how the conversation went:

Me: “Hey man, how are you? My name is Paul and I am the youth pastor here!”

Guy: “Hey, I’m ________ but I don’t like to talk to people ever since my dad died three years ago! I haven’t really talked to anyone since then.”

Me: “Ok man, I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m sorry to hear about your dad.”

Guy: “what I don’t get is why he had to kill himself in front of me…I mean, couldn’t he have waited until he was alone?”

Me: “wow…again man, I’m very sorry to hear that and that you had to go through that!”

Guy: “yeah, that’s why I’m trying to be a better father to my children than my dad was to me…”

Then he pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures of his kids. One was 3 months old, one was 2 years old, and one was 5 years old. After finding out this information, I did some quick calculations in my head and confirmed that this guy was in fact not in the category of 6th-12th grade. Even though I knew from the beginning that he was in his mid-twenties, I thought I should ask how old he was. He said he was 25. The question running through my mind this whole time was, “Why is this guy here at my youth group?”

After our few games of soccer in the gym, we all went into the library (our temporary youth room for the night…so we could be closer to where the ice cream would be served) for the lesson. During the lesson, out of my periphs (peripheral vision) I kept seeing the guy walk back and forth past the youth room. One of my leaders went out to see what he wanted. I didn’t see my leader for the rest of the lesson. When we went into the fellowship hall for ice cream, I saw the leader and this visitor sitting there and talking. I was very proud of him for seeing a need and attempting to fill it. It turns out that the guy was looking for help and just needed someone to talk to. The conversation didn’t last very long, but from what I gathered they talked about how the guy thought he was too messed up and bad for God to love Him. I hope that the youth leader who talked to him made an impact in his life and that he will realize that it’s never a bad time to turn to Jesus, no matter how bad or messed up you are!

The reason I write all of this and have been thinking a lot about it since last night is because I strongly feel that God brings people into our lives for a reason. I couldn’t understand why that guy was there, and I was very uncomfortable with him being around my students, but it ended up being ok and I hope that God spoke to him through one of my youth leaders! Sometimes people just need someone to talk to or someone to listen to them. That guy told me that he doesn’t like talking to people but after I asked a simple question, he just started unloading all of this information (about his past, his dad’s suicide, his kids) on me. I didn’t know the guy, but maybe God sent him to my church last night for a reason.

I would like some feedback about this, so please respond with your thoughts.

I’ll leave you with this: Are we making ourselves available to be used by God in the simplest of situations? If you ran into this situation in your youth ministry, how would you respond/what would you do?

– paulg


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