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


Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          paulg


Blown Away: The First Five Hours In My New Ministry

July 7, 2011

I’ve had many memorable moments with students in the past. All of these youth have impacted my life in a major way, as I hope that I have with theirs. I will cherish some of these memories for the rest of my life. As some of you know, I have recently been hired by a new church after a long (in my eyes) 14-month hiatus from youth ministry. It wasn’t my choice but it is what it is and I feel that God definitely had a reason for taking me out of full-time ministry for that amount of time. I won’t touch any more on that for now but rest assured that I will definitely be writing about it as soon as I can. Anyway, I got hired at Doylestown United Methodist Church on June 12, 2011 and my official start date was to be July 1, 2011. I left Belle Vernon, PA on June 30, 2011 and headed down Interstate 76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to start my new life and new ministry. On my way there, I stopped at a huge Christian music festival called “Creation” that my new youth group and leaders were attending. And when I say “huge,” I mean 82,000 people HUGE! Creation is a four or five day festival. I only planned to stop for one day to get to know some of the youth and leaders that would be my new family. Stopping at Creation was key and had potential to be an extremely beneficial way to begin my new ministry. The reason for this is that I will be taking 39 of those students on a High School Missions Trip on July 10-15 and then 20 or so more of them on the Middle School Missions Trip on July 24-29. So breaking the ice, getting to know them, and getting them to know me was an extremely important thing that needed to be taken care of as quickly as possible since there is no youth group and no other way for me to meet/get to know them before the trips. I was blown away as soon as I pulled up in front of our groups’ camp site.

Looking down on Creation Fest from overlook mountain...

As I was driving the two and a half hours it took to get there, I couldn’t help but to feel nervous. I wondered how well the students would like me, if things would be awkward because no one knew me and I didn’t know them, would they want to meet me, would they be mad/hurt that I was the guy replacing their old youth pastor, etc. All kinds of scenarios were running through my mind but the conclusion that I came to was that I would have to just leave it in God’s hands and wait and see what would happen. And that’s exactly what I did. There was nothing else I could do.

As soon as I stepped out of my truck, I got “attacked” by my new youth group. All of the kids that were there (some were at concerts or at the various other attractions that they had at “Creation”) swarmed to me around my truck and started to introduce themselves. They were excited to meet me and it was such an amazing, warm, and welcoming feeling when all I expected was shyness and awkwardness. I was so blown away/overwhelmed with joy because of this. This took away all of the nervousness, uncertainty, questions, and broke the ice. I was able to focus on building relationships with them the rest of the time since this initial part was knocked out by them. God’s hands were definitely all over this and I am so thankful for that.

A small group of my youth on overlook mountain...

There was one other amazing thing that these students and leaders did for me that I didn’t quite pick up on right away. As I was meeting them I noticed that they all had some form of a temporary or henna tattoo on them. Some had them on their necks. Some had them on their arms. Some had them on their stomachs, backs, legs. And one even had so many of them on one arm that it looked like a sleeve. I noticed it but I didn’t put much thought into it because I was so amazed at how awesome these kids were. Later that night at one of the sessions/concerts one of my leaders was talking to me and she asked me if I noticed everyone’s tattoos. Then it hit me: it wasn’t just a coincidence! She told me that they planned it and all of the kids and leaders wanted to make me feel comfortable (since I have tattoos) so they went out of their way to put all of those tattoos on…AMAZING! I ended up staying for two nights because my students wanted me to stay longer.

So if all of this awesomeness took place within my first 5 hours of being there, I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me, this youth group, and this church. It’s going to be good!

–          paulg


Alexis Update: Urgent Prayer Needed…

January 12, 2010

I just received an update on Alexis, and it didn’t sound good. I am writing this with tears in my eyes, but God is still doing His thing…I can feel it and have faith in Him!

Alexis Running on the Beach

The bone marrow test that Alexis had done two weeks ago came back and the news is not what the doctors and family were expecting. Alexis has come a long way since her initial diagnosis on December 4, 2009 but she is sicker than they initially thought.

On Sunday, Ashley told me about a super strong bone marrow test that was performed on Alexis the last time she was at Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. If they hadn’t put her in the study (which gets her the above-mentioned super strong bone marrow test…that is 10,000 times strongerr than the normal test, they never would have caught the Leukemia cells that are still in her body. Ashley said that because of this test, she is now considered “standard-high risk. It doesn’t decrease her chances of beating this disease, but it does mean she needs an extra two months of intense chemo!

These two extra months of chemo will be added to the original plan of 2 ½ years. She will also be getting chemo every day this week here in Altoona, PA. And she will probably lose her hair by the end of the week. Most of the news on Alexis has been good up to this point, but this is a big setback for her, her family, and those who love this little girl. The family and everyone involved is overwhelmed and could use large amounts of prayer, and that’s why I’m writing and regularly updating you all.

The doctors still feel that a full recovery will happen, but it will just take longer than they originally thought. The doctors initially told the family that the journey would be like this, with good days and bad, like a roller coaster. And that is exactly what it has been thus far!

Please keep praying for Alexis, Ashley, Family, and everyone involved in this little girl’s life. As my pastor put it, “we are in this journey with them…together…in prayer and support!”

I will provide more details as they are made known to me to help us pray more specifically. For now though, this should be enough info to send us to our knees to pray to our mighty, powerful, and awesome God! Nothing is too hard for Him!

As I was about to post this, I text messaged Ashley letting her know I was praying and would be updating you all so you could pray too. I let her know that God is in control, even when it seems that He isn’t, and that I am there for her no matter what.

And she responded with this:

“Thanks…I’m just about in shock. We’re really surprised. They said if we hadn’t put her in the study they wouldn’t have caught it and she probably would’ve relapsed. So THANK GOD!”

I have been teaching my youth group lately that no problem is too big for our God, and this is reminding me again of that. This seems HUGE and hurts so bad to think about, experience, and have happen to someone so innocent and young, but still we MUST worship! God knows what He is doing, and He knows that it will and allows this problem to seem huge to us. I believe He is working here and will prove to us all that HE IS BIGGER THAN leukemia, sickness, disease, pain, sorrow, hurt, uncertainty, and any unpleasant thing that we can ever imagine.

When we can’t, He can!

If you guys haven’t realized yet by these last few months of posts/updates, Ashley and Alexis mean the world to me and they are very dear to my heart. Please continue to pray for them…that’s all I ask! Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO incredibly much! Words can’t begin to describe how much this means to me, and to them!

–       paulg


Alexis Update: Day 8 (GOING HOME)…

December 11, 2009

Hey Everyone,

Just a quick update on little Alexis! She had a little bit of a rough week with some vomitting from the chemo and a little bit of constipation, but she is doing better now and has pooped! Amen for poop! I spoke with Ashley and she said that there were about 8 diapers in an hour…that is a lot of diapers (are you glad I didn’t say “a lot of poop!”?

alexis and "her paul"

Yesterday, we received word that Alexis’ platelete count was down again (13,000…was 75,000k after last transfusion) so she received another dose of platelet’s to get her numbers up before her bone marrow aspirate that is to take place at 8:30 am today (at the time of my writing this, that was 15 minutes ago). I haven’t received any negative texts yet, so I’m sure all is going well with that!

This bone marrow aspirate will determine if she needs another one next week or if she can wait until the 31st for one! Pray that she can wait because I’m sure it is not a fun thing for a 2-year-old to go through and they have already been through so much in the last week!

If all goes well today, Alexis and family will be traveling home form the hospital at 1 pm…FINALLY! It has been a long, tiring, scary, and stressful week for them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for Ashley! So please, please, please continue to pray for little Alexis, Ashley, and the rest of the family as they continue in faith through the remainder of this process!

In life, sometimes God gives us pain, suffering, and confusion…and sometimes He gives us beauty in the midst of it! I was having a very rough day (because of Alexis’ and mine and Ashley’s situation) and as I was leaving work (in a very sad mood), God showed me the following picture. It was a dark, gray, snowy, and cold day…and God provided this for me!

When we can't, HE CAN!

God knew I was upset and He provided me with this bit of beauty to let me know that He has things under control and that He can make even the darkest and ugliest thing (Leukemia, sickness, disease, sadness) into something beautiful that will bring glory to HIS name!

Thank you all in advance! God is going to do great things in Alexis and Ashley’s life through and because of this…and He is already starting! Amen!

P.S. – I will be away for a week so I will not be able to make any updates about Alexis, but I will be sure to update as soon as I get back! Thank you all so very much for your continued support of Alexis and her battle with Leukemia. She is a tough little cookie (who loves cookie monster) and she IS going to beat this…with God’s help!

– paulg


Alexis Update: Day 4…

December 7, 2009

Hey Everyone,

For those of you not familiar with what is going on with Alexis, please go read “Alexis update #1” and “Alexis update #2

Here are a few updates from the last few days, thanks to Alexis’ Aunt Sara from Alexis’ Care Page.

These next two are from December 5, 2009

“Just got off the phone with Alexis’ Papa. They just got back from the play room and Alexis was running wild! She is going to rest for a bit and receive some more blood. They will have to give her a new IV for the Chemo she will be receiving soon.”

“Just talked with Ashley, Alexis finished her first treatment! Ash said that it was really fast, right through her IV and Alexis did great! She will have several different types of treatment over the next 6 months and then maintenance treatment as necessary. I will keep updating as possible!”

These next three are from December 6, 2009

“Words can’t even explain… Just got off the phone with Brandon, Alexis’s daddy. Alexis had her first dose of Chemo last night and is doing very well today. She has been wiggling her toes and giggling saying “piiiigggiieess!!!” Hehe what a doll!!”

“The doctor’s report this morning says that Alexis’s hemaglobin is back to normal at 100% with her platelet count right behind! Oh the power of prayer!!!!”

“She is scheduled for surgery tomorrow for port placement. The port is used for her future treatments for easier access, so that she won’t have to endure endless IV procedures.

Also later this week she is scheduled for another round of Chemo as well as another Bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap to reassess her counts. She is doing very well and could be released from the hospital by Sunday.”

The cutest little girl I have ever seen!

I got to talk to Ashley this morning for a bit while Alexis was in surgery! She was very optimistic. Just now (January 7, 2009 @ 1:31 pm) I received a text that the port placement surgery went extremely well and Alexis is in recovery. Can I get an Amen?

Alexis in recovery after her port placement surgery

Alexis in recovery after her port placement surgery

In regards to the post from December 6, 2009 about her hemoglobin being back to normal with her platelet count right behind, I just want to make a quick comment to give God the praise. During church that day, I stood in the front of the church and received prayer for Alexis and the family because no one else was there to do it and I have an attachment to them. So many people prayed…and then after church, I received the text with that wonderful information. Isn’t it wonderful when God answers prayers? And answers them fast?

I want to also urge you to pray for Ashley. She is going through so much and such a young (25) mother should not have to go through this…any mother for that matter! Ashley is overwhelmed, stressed, and freaked out about everything. Changes are taking place in her life and her world was rocked, but she is being strong for her little girl, and that is so very impressive and an example to all of us! I am amazed at how awesome Ashley is and how strong she is being! Continue to pray for Alexis and Ashley and the rest of their family! Pray that they can get rest, eat well, and stay healthy!

Alexis’ Aunt Sara closed her last update with these words, and I want to use them as well:

“Thank you so much for all of your support and prayers! I will continue to update as needed! Keep praying!”

– paulg


Alexis Update: Day 2…

December 5, 2009

For those of you not familiar with what is going on with Alexis, please go read “Alexis update #1” and “Alexis update #2

I still haven’t gotten any sleep since my last post. I haven’t seen Alexis and Ashley since 9 AM this morning but from what I have heard via text message updates, she is doing well. Today she underwent a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap to confirm what the doctors believed to be Leukemia. There were two possibilities, A.L.M. (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) and A.L.L. (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). The latter is the better of the two. Alexis has been diagnosed with A.L.L.

Alexis will begin Chemotherapy tomorrow for one full week. After that week, they will pull more bone marrow and do other tests to determine where to go from there.

They have a long road ahead of them, but as her Aunt says, “Lexi is a fighter with her Daddy’s bullheadedness…” Continue to pray for strength, understanding, and rest for all those involved.

I also would like to ask for prayer for myself. Due to Alexis’ immune system being week, they have her on a germ watch, meaning that anyone with even a runny nose can’t go near her. I have a slight cough; therefore I can’t go visit her or Ashley. I feel completely and utterly helpless and I can’t seem to calm down about it. I want more than anything to be able to be there by Ashley and Alexis’ side for as long as I can be, but I can’t be until I beat this sickness. So please pray that I can recover with supernatural speeds so I can be back by their side. Thank you so much for your incredible outpouring of cries, thoughts, and prayers to God.

– paulg


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