there’s nothing to writing…

August 23, 2010


I’ve recently been on an unintentional writing hiatus, and I’m tired of it. I’ve attempted to sit down and write on countless occasions over the last four (or so) months and nothing good would ever come of it. I’ve been frustrated with myself to say the least. Perhaps I have been over-analyzing it. Perhaps I have been trying too hard to produce what I view as “top notch” material. Perhaps I need to just roll with what comes to me and not care what others will think about it. After all, it’s my writing…it’s what I love…it’s who I am.

I read a quote somewhere recently that I immediately stole and posted to my twitter account. It’s actually quite an incredible quote.  Ernest Hemingway said it best about writing when he said:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Perhaps I need to take good ol’ Ernie’s advice and just sit down and “bleed,” without caring how much of a mess I will make or what color my blood runs.

From here on out, I will write what comes to me and make the best of it.

– paulg


The Art of Writing Letters…

June 8, 2009

Over the course of about 12 weeks last year, my good friend (also my boss at my old church in New York) and I studied and worked through a book together. The book was called “Leadership from the Inside Out,” and was written by Kevin Harney (a long-time pastor and teacher). This book was written for church leaders to examine their inner lives and to help them become spiritually healthy. There were many useful and beneficial ideas that both myself and my friend took from that study. One of the main things I adopted from this book was the old (and somewhat lost) art of writing letters. I’m not talking about writing on the computer or some other form of technology; I’m talking about doing it the old fashioned way…hand writing letters. Harney said that he took time each day to write three letters to people in his ministry. They didn’t have to be long and elaborate notes. He often wrote to encourage his leaders, church family, and friends. He would write to let them know he was thinking about and praying for them. And he wrote to show that they were important to him. I loved this idea and couldn’t wait to get started.

I started my position as the youth pastor of The Altoona Alliance Church on February 8, 2009 and started writing letters on February 10, 2009. Since then, I have written somewhere around 50 letters to leaders, students, friends, and church family! I enjoy doing it, and I have gotten a few responses from the recipients of those letters thanking me for taking the time to write to them. Everyone doesn’t respond, but I know that they are getting them and I hope that it brightens their day!


The reason I am writing about this though is not to brag about how many letters I have written or to get recognition for what I do. What I am writing about is how much of a blessing it is to hear from a parent who sees what I am doing, and writes to me to show her appreciation.

I received an email from a parent of two of my students about a week ago that really blessed me and made me realize that there is a reason for what I do. I’m going to paste that email here but I will leave the names out (for confidentiality purposes):

“Thanks for all you do.  Our students (I changed this so it didn’t give it away) really enjoy youth group and you!  We appreciate your communication and your Biblical teaching and your patience with them.  It’s nice to see some kids who would never come before are now coming out. God bless!”

This little email reminded me of the importance of taking time out of my busy days to write to people and encourage them. It reminded me of what I learned in the book and about how much this simple thing (writing letters) can impact my ministry!

In closing, I just want to encourage you to try this sometime. Try sitting down and taking a few minutes each day (or once or twice a week) to write a letter of appreciation and encouragement to someone who is close to you, or to someone who you want to be close to you. Let them know you are thinking about, praying for, and that you appreciate all that they do. It will bless the recipient as well as the writer!

–    paulg

Being Irrelevant…

April 11, 2009

Based on the recommendation of a friend of a friend that came to my apartment the other night (to watch the NCAA Championship game), I started reading a book called “In the Name of Jesus!” This is a book that has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust for quite some time. I was required to read it in college but I don’t think I actually did read it, or at least I don’t have a recollection of doing so. Anyway, I’ve only read a few chapters so far and something stuck out to me that I want to write about today.

The book is written by Henri Nouwen and it is geared toward Christian Leaders; hence the inscription at the bottom that reads, “Reflections on Christian Leadership.” In the Introduction to this book, Nouwen tells of how he went from 20-some years of being in the academic community at Harvard to living in a community of mentally handicapped people. God called him there and he went. The first two sentences of the first chapter say, “The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house with mentally handicapped people was that their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my twenty years at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.” I quoted these sentences to you to help lead in to what I really want to write about in this post…

Nouwen goes on to say that his moving to the mentally handicapped home was the most important experience of his new life. He said that it forced him to rediscover his true identity. He said, “These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self-the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things-and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments. I am telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.”

I showed you all of these quotes because I honestly believe that what Nouwen said was correct. The Christian leader of the future (or should I say, the Christian leaders that we need to become), needs to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world (in our different ministry context’s) with nothing to offer but our own self. This is what true relationship is about: Being completely honest and open with people. Or, as some of my youth ministry friends would say, being authentic with people. I believe that if we are truly going to make a difference in people’s lives, we need to be real to them and get on their level. We need to show them that we genuinely care and that we are not there to benefit ourselves, but to benefit them.

Nouwen was right in saying that it doesn’t matter how many books we have read or written, how many prestigious schools we have attended or plan to attend, or how smart we are. It’s about real relationship and being genuine with people. We need to be open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments (or distractions…I added this) that we have in our lives.

The question I will leave you with is, “Do we need to live in a community of mentally handicapped people in order for us to realize that sometimes we are being fake: that we need to learn how to be real with people?” Let’s drop the act of how great we are or how much we have achieved and let’s stay focused on what it is all about: loving God and loving people!


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