Dec 312016
 

Traditionally, New Year’s Day is the time we make resolutions only to rapidly break them. So I’ve long considered them of little value. But there are indeed specific actions we should take.

  1. Reflect on the past year. What went well? What went poorly? What was satisfying? What left you feeling disappointed? What was aligned with your life goals? What wasn’t aligned?
  2. What are your priorities for next year in the areas of health, family, relationships, and career? (In that order – one builds on the other just like a house must be built on a solid foundation.
  3. Identify WHY these are priorities. A strong WHY motivates you to do them.
  4. Turn these priorities into specific actionable goals with deadlines. Goals should be uncomfortable, but not unrealistic. Set only 3-7 goals in each area, since it’s better to achieve fewer than to fail at several more.
  5. WRITE THEM DOWN, and look at them daily! Critical!
  6. Do NOT over-plan. Over-planning is simply a way to rationalize procrastination.
  7. Identify the next step and take it. The next step is always the most important and helps create momentum.

Now work toward them daily and incessantly.     –RG

 

Nov 292016
 

World PeaceLast night I was given the honor of being asked to speak at the Porterville Peace Rally. These were my comments.

Good evening. My name is Rick Groves. Most of you don’t know me, and all of us are far too complex to nail down in a few words. So, by way of personal introduction, I’ll just say I’ve been known to teach a little and to preach a little. But mostly to just love people around me. And I love to tell stories. Time permitting, I hope to share one or two with you here tonight.

I want to thank the organizers of this Peace Rally for this lovely chance to share some words. I received a call from Kayleen Murello last Tuesday inviting me, and I was extremely surprised and quite honored she had taken the time to run me down. I cannot begin to express what a blessing it is to be included and awarded this wonderful opportunity.

Tonight, my friends, we’re having a Peace Rally. Peace is the freedom from disturbance. It is quiet and tranquility. It is harmony.

We all desire these things.

To say the world does not contain evil would be a false statement or hopelessly naïve. But to realize the world is comprised of a greater and far more powerful good is not simply reassurance. It is reality.

Good does not always triumph, but the lessons of history are that evil wins for only a short season. The undefeatable spirit of humanity always rises up and retakes the victory. And we will have victory.

To achieve victory takes two things: The brave action of a group coming together to stand and fight for what’s right, and the brave action of an individual standing alone to fight for what’s right.

Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been achieved without both. It takes cooperation and it takes leadership.

It’s been said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. If we hold this as true, then its corollary is also true. Good people doing something are the only thing necessary for triumph over evil.

And so we come together tonight as good people taking action for a cause that is right.

And make no mistake, this involves all of us together. You cannot say this doesn’t affect you.

I promised a story, so here’s one of my favorites. You may have heard it before. If so, you’re about to hear it again.

There once was a mouse…

The mouse peeked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. “What wonderful food might this contain?” the mouse wondered as his little nose sniffed the air. He was terrified to see it was a mousetrap!

Scurrying to the barnyard, seeing the chicken, the mouse screamed his warning, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head, and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can see this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I just cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse ran to the pig and told him, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse dashed to the cow and said, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m really sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So the mouse, head down, feeling dejected, returned to the house to face the farmer’s mousetrap….alone.

That very night, a sound echoed through the house – the single abrupt snap of a mousetrap capturing its prey.

The farmer’s wife, awakened by the noise, rushed through the darkness to see what was caught. In the deep shadows, she didn’t see the poisonous snake whose tail was wedged in the trap.

With a ferocious strike, the snake’s fangs injected venom into the soft flesh of the farmer’s wife’s leg. Awakened by her scream, the farmer rushed to her and killed the snake with a butcher knife. He called the doctor, who came right away and removed as much poison as he could and gave her medicine, but her fever would not go down.

Everyone knows that chicken soup is the best treatment for a fever, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard to collect the main ingredient.

But the poison continued to do its deadly work, and her sickness continued. Friends and neighbors sat with her round the clock and, to feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

Alas, the farmer’s wife did not recover – and on the third day, she died.

She was well-loved by all and her funeral drew so many people that the farmer slaughtered the cow to provide enough meat to feed them.

Meanwhile, the mouse with great sadness stared out from his crack in the wall. He had tried to warn them…

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem, and you don’t think it concerns you, remember this little story. When one of us is threatened, we’re all at risk. Together, we are all in this journey called life.

So keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to give support and encouragement. Never forget that each and every one of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry – our lives are woven together tightly for a reason.

You know, when I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation – and I could indeed have changed the world.

We change others only by changing ourselves and then demonstrating that change to inspire others. And when they are inspired, they become that group that stands together to change the world.

Aesop tells the fable of an old man on his deathbed summoning his children around him to give them some parting advice. He asked his oldest son to bring a bundle of sticks that were tied together.

“Break it,” he said.

The oldest son, also the strongest, strained and strained, but with his greatest effort couldn’t break the bundle.

The other sons also tried, but none of them could break it.

“Untie the sticks,” said the father, “and each of you take a single stick.”

When they had done so, he called out to them, “Now, break them!”

Each stick was easily broken.

“You see my meaning?” said their father. “Apart, you are fragile. But stand together, and you cannot be broken.”

We’ve hopefully enough time for one last story.

A squirrel perched on a branch talking to a dove that had landed there. “Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” he asked the bird.

“Why, nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the squirrel said.

“I once sat on the branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavy, not a raging blizzard – no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off under the weight of the snow.”

Having said that, the squirrel flitted away.

The dove thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

An old Texas Baptist minister from way back in the day named Joseph Fort Newton said, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” I’m going to challenge you here tonight to figure out how you can build a bridge and by so doing tear down a few walls. This refers back to my earlier comment about standing alone as a leader.

Are there any leaders in this group tonight?

If so, start leading.

Because, after all, like the little mouse tried to warn us, we’re all in this together.

And like Aesop’s tale of the dying father, together we are invincible.

And like the squirrel showed us, it may be your voice that makes a difference in this world.

So I encourage you tonight, stand together and love one another. Teach others around you by your demonstration how to love.

I have experienced personally what it feels like to be mistreated and to be on the receiving end of unfair discrimination. Long ago decided I will not tolerate intolerance, will speak and act against it.
I will stand with you and will not abide that others treat anyone with hatred or violence.

I know many in this community and this country who will pledge the same.

May I leave you with some wise words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Thank you.

Nov 092016
 

Two AmericasTo my Liberal Friends after the Election (and yes, you are my Friends)…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Thus begins A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. And today we have the tale of two Americas, a dark day for some, a new day for others. Surprisingly, even after the election results, I awoke this morning to the sun still rising in the east, its light spreading forth across the world. Birds still sang happily. The cat woke me with her habitual morning kiss, desiring good-morning strokes. The dogs anxiously bolted from their nighttime kennel, escaping to the backyard so they could bark at the neighbor’s dogs before settling in for breakfast and a fresh drink of water. The coffee from the Keurig still tasted fine, and my wife was still the loveliest woman on the planet in my admittedly biased eyes.

In short, life continued.

Yet, in the eyes of some it did not. Hate speech overflows the Internet and social media. Fear and loathing fills parts of America as Liberals and Social Justice Warriors bemoan the downfall of civilization not only in America but throughout the entire world.

Protestors gathered in the streets by the thousands decrying their hatred of our president-elect.

Articles describing how bad the country is going to be such as “Trump voters will not like what happens next”, “If Donald Trump wins, it’ll be a new age of darkness”, and “An American Tragedy” are posted and shared by those I know to be intelligent.

Comments such as, “I am also completely embarrassed to be an American. I have never felt so ashamed for the human race. I never thought we would have white supremacist with their hands in America, but, I guess that is what the uneducated white men and women in this country want. I never knew we had sooo many uneducated people in the USA…wow!! How could I have so completely misjudged the depths of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, bigotry and just plain hate that a majority of my countrymen / women have sunk to. I no longer love this country. I am sickened by the people in this country who are so cruel, selfish, arrogant, racist, sexist, and just plain mean that they believe that orange-faced buffoon is actually a good thing. I will never like or respect this country again. Ever. There is nothing to proud of here. That rapist, pedophile, sexual predator, narcissistic, demagogue will never, ever be my president. I am simply terrified. Dark and unpredictable times ahead. I am scared for my children and grandchildren in a way I have never before experienced. Also scared for the planet. The KKK is already rejoicing.” And many others with language I will not quote show a despondency hard to overlook.

And I understand and empathize to a point. It’s hard to lose what you believe in. I get that. And I get it’s not about politics, but about a worldview. You see the causes you championed falling away. You see the clock turning backward to a time from which you struggled to escape. But it’s not so. It’s an illusion turned delusion.

A particular post catching my attention read, “America has spoken. I do not matter. Minorities do not matter. Women do not matter. Immigrants do not matter. Gay people do not matter. Teachers do not matter. Education does not matter. Diplomacy does not matter. Love does not matter. Truth does not matter. Integrity does not matter. The American ‘experiment’ is, in all likelihood, over and done with.”

This from an individual who is a church leader and had previously taken several opportunities to “chastise” me personally for expressing viewpoints that differ from his, or perhaps were simply stated in ways he finds uncomfortable (although there are many rather unfriendly posts targeting conservatives on his own timeline).

My point: Really? Sorry. But you’re completely wrong. All those things still matter.

I can understand pathetic pathos emanating from the world, but from those who profess God in their lives? Seriously? How do you honestly join that Christ died for you and God loves you with the concept that you do not matter? I point toward this not to single out or pick on this particular individual who hopefully remains anonymous. But only to use it as an example replicated throughout society.

My question: Why are you victimizing yourself? Why are you separating what you profess to join together? Why do you despise the results of Democracy you support as a tool to gain your own ends?

Perhaps therein lies the answer – Your own selfish ends. The original sin of Satan’s downfall.

Democracy is wonderful when it supports your own selfish desires. But it suddenly becomes the tool of evil racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and bigots when it does not. I particularly like the term “obstructionists” used to describe politicians with opposing viewpoints representing the interests of the constituents they are actually supposed to serve.

Let that sink in.

Why the hate? Isn’t that what you speak so vehemently against, yet spew forth in dragon’s breath against those who oppose you? Why do you use words describing fear and evil? Simply because they are inflammatory? Or are you simply too afraid of your unsubstantiated positions to actually speak truth about others?

This election was not about Trump being a good or even desired candidate for the highest position in the land. It was a response to your own racist bigotry you are blind to.

Here’s why.

Let’s use South Africa as an example. Apartheid was horribly wrong, and Nelson Mandela will be enshrined in history for his untiring devotion to its abolishment. With its meaning of “separateness,” it segregated people into classes and put ruling power over a majority into the hands of a minority. Both parts of this equation were wrong. Thanks be to God that Mandela was outraged enough to act and sacrifice to overthrow this tyranny.

Can you see any semblance here? American Apartheid in recent years was not overtly horrific as in the case of South Africa, but it shared a similar spirit of division and overrule by a minority of people. This never works. This is subjugation not liberation, domination not freedom.

The Left has sought to segregate people into groups of Black, White, Latino, Native American, Asian, Straight, Gay, Transgender, etc. And also into groups of groups, such as “People of color” and “LGBT”. Whenever you group people, the natural psychology of the human brain seeks to define them by differences. What makes red different than blue? What makes hot different than cold? What makes good different than evil? That’s the way our mental storage boxes into which we drop concepts are created. It is called surprisingly enough “differentiation”.

Another aspect of human psychology is that we adhere to those who are similar and shun those who are different. This is not hatred or discrimination (at least not in the social warrior sense), it is merely a fact that is in part a survival mechanism. We are social creatures and there must be a commonality that brings us together as a family, a team, a community, or a nation. Stressing differences by grouping and categorizing people alienates us from one another.

Instead, we should be looking for sameness that will unify. Yet you choose tactics to divide? Stressing differences strengthens the “us vs. them” mentality that has been the source of conflict between individuals, families, factions, societies, and nations for millennia.

Stop it.

America spoke this election by saying she was simply fed up with your crap. And that’s exactly what it is. Crap. Lots of it. Deep. Smelly, Squishy. Crap.

You scream against angry old white men being the enemy. Let me remind you it was exactly that group who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words are foundational to why you can scream against those who gave you the right. Rather ironic.

If it is racist to discriminate and hate a person for being black or brown, it is just as racist to hate someone for being white. Being a misogynist who hates women because of their female genitals is equally as wrong as being a misandrist hating men because of their male genitals.

Xenophobia implies the fear of those foreign to us. There was nothing in the political rhetoric I heard to substantiate that conclusion in any way. What was said was that if undesirable and destructive foreign elements are entering the country illegally – as opposed to legally – they should be prevented from entering. That’s not fear of foreigners, nor is it global to all foreigners, it’s simply common sense to protect our citizens from such occurrences as 9/11 and illegal drug and human trafficking. If you really believe otherwise then I challenge you to leave your doors and windows unlocked and open when you are home, away, and asleep at night. And do not lock your car doors or roll up your windows when parked in your driveway or at the supermarket or at the shopping mall or stopped in traffic traveling through a bad part of the city. Show a little trust, please. Open your own borders.

Homophobia is much the same. There is no fear of someone with a different gender preference. Admittedly, there is disdain perhaps, but not fear. Disdain because, in the minds of many, there is a moral issue in addition to a psychological or biological one. All three major world religions consider it a sin. Islam punishes it by death. Christianity simply doesn’t like it. But is it a sin? Does it really matter from a social perspective? Not really. Many choose to sin and have free will to do so. So who am I to judge the actions of another? I’ll not be accountable for it and have plenty of my own sins to worry about. Let them do what they like regardless of how I feel about it. I think it really boils down to the re-defining of a word considered sacred by many. Marriage. This word denotes a special bond between a man and a woman that is holy and not to be defiled. Is it defiled? Yes, and quite often. But that’s not a valid argument to change the definition. And it’s not even about the right for same-sex partners to “marry”. It’s about calling the joining together a “marriage” when by definition (according to people of faith) it cannot be such. So let people join together and have all the legal rights of a marital union. Just call it something different and do not force those who morally object to perform the ceremony.

Also, do not try to force people to like what they morally object to. Tolerance is about recognizing something exists and not making an issue about it. Like marriage, Social Justice Warriors demand we change the meaning of tolerance from recognition to embracing and supporting an idea. We don’t. And we won’t. You’re wasting your time and becoming quite irritating in the process. The more you push it on us, the more we will resist. Leave us alone, and just let everyone get along fine. We accept it, but we don’t like it. That should be good enough since it’s the best you’re going to get.

Remember, we have religious freedom in this country. I cannot tell you who or what to worship or not worship nor vice-versa. Freedom works both ways. But you seek in your intolerant quest for tolerance to not tolerate or allow religious viewpoints with which you do not agree.

I saved the best for last. Bigot. A person who is intolerant of those holding different opinions. Wow. If you are hurtling hate speech against those who disagree, let me assure you the evil you see before you is, in reality, the devil inside you. Please hold up a mirror and gaze deeply. Think about how you feel about those who disagree with you. Then say…

Mirror, mirror, before my face

As a member of the human race,

I ask you help me empathize

To see the world through other’s eyes.

That I would not deny their view

Nor by my words seek to outdo,

But let me see that we’re akin

So as we join we both may win.

God loves you, whether you believe in Him or not. And I will pray for you whether you want me to or not, although you’ll probably never know. And this could easily and hopefully be a prayer instead of a poem. So it is my earnest prayer that you consider your methods and try to find ways in which we can join together. Both sides – liberal and conservative – are right and wrong. Both viewpoints contain good from which each side can learn. But fighting for dominance is not the answer. And believe me, all the discussion here points fingers back at me as well. I have to do this just like I’m urging you.

But we must neither be victims if we are to be victors. We must not be bullies if we are to lift others up. We must not be harmful if we wish to be healers.

So please let us abandon the two Americas for but one. Let us seek not to divide, but to join. Let’s see not our differences, but our similarities. Let’s become not the Disjointed States, but the United States.

Quit your sniveling, be part of the country, and help make it a better place. Start by making yourself a better person. As it stands neither of us are the solution we think we are.

But together we can be.

–RG

 

 

May 232009
 

Every Christian knows it’s sinful to be an idol worshiper, putting false gods in a higher position than the one true God. But many do not realize the spiritual danger of being an “idle worshiper” and not acting on the gifts and callings God has placed upon our lives.

Although we are saved by the grace of God through our profession of faith, once we are transformed by His Word our Heavenly Father calls us to do something more than merely hold down a chair in church on Sunday. We are called to do the work of His kingdom – and there is indeed a sin of omission. “Whoever knows what is right but doesn’t do it is sinning.” (James 4:17 GW). See also the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.

James tells us, “You see then how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
(James 2:24,26 MKJV).

Genuine faith is never alone – it will always manifest itself in action. What would Jesus do? Simple. He would be about his Father’s business. If the mind of Christ be truly formed inside us, can we do any less? Don’t be an idle worshiper. Work your faith.