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.

Apr 192013
 

broken_leg_kittenAt the Stanford Eye Clinic in Palo Alto, CA on August 29, 2011, a sight I will likely never forget passed through my eyes and into my heart.

A lovely Asian family – father, mother, and daughter – slowly crossed the waiting room floor, the aged father maneuvering one small, weak step at a time, his quivering hand gripping a cane for support while his daughter steadied his other arm. The mother, herself old and worn, shuffled alongside.

What touched me was the young woman had a cast on her left foot wrapped with a black support brace. It was clear she was also having a great deal of trouble walking, and her expression revealed it was quite painful. But she could still walk better than her father and was noticeably stronger, so as a loving daughter she supported him regardless of her personal difficulty and discomfort.

What a perfect model of Christian service…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)

As mentioned in my last post, I struggle with those inner voices saying I’m not good enough to serve, that I still have too many fleshly weaknesses to help others around me in their Christian walk, and that for such an imperfect person to speak of a perfect god God is the height of hypocrisy. But I’m discovering more each day the truth of how very weak we all really are when compared to the absolute strength of Christ that we are being perfected into and will attain not in this life but in the next life only. It is through our mortal weakness that God’s strength most fully manifests.

So rather than bemoaning our own shortcomings we should instead use the strength we are given to do the best we can wherever we are now. While we are not strong to the best degree, we have strength to some degree. The young woman could not lift her father and carry him across the floor, but she could certainly support him along the way.

Focusing on our weaknesses and comparing ourselves against others only further debilitates us. We then imagine what we cannot do and do not see what we can do.

Should I not swim since I’m not Michael Phelps? Should I not cook since I’m not Bobby Flay? Should I not invest for retirement since I’m not Warren Buffett?

Should I not sing praises to the Lord since I’m not TobyMac? Should I not evangelize since I’m not Billy Graham? Should I not give service since I’m not Mother Teresa?

None of us are truly strong. Yet none of us are truly weak. We are all somewhere in the middle and we are all a work in progress. And the wonderful reality is that when we admit and embrace our own frailty and instead focus on God’s strength He does amazing things through us. It is not our strength he requires. He provides that. It’s our obedience to His will and the love in our heart for Him and for His children that is important to God.

“…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45 ESV)

It is to the servant’s heart that God supplies strength. When we cast aside selfishness and replace it with selflessness we become that light on the hill through which glory shines. He then smiles and says this is my child in whom I am well-pleased. Through our weakness He makes us strong.

You do not have to be rich to help the poor. You do not have to be mighty to lend a helping hand. You do not have to be eloquent to say a kind word.

There are always those less fortunate than us, whether physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. When we become that servant who does not see himself or herself, but instead sees Christ living inside, the power of God is instantly there to do things we could never do on our own.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34 ESV)

What do all of these have in common? They took action not for themselves, but for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.

Like the loving daughter did for her father, in the strength of your own weakness whose arm can you support today to help them through this journey of life?

 

Apr 142013
 

There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12 ESV

pathI have always interpreted this to mean that when we ignore God’s ways and instead cling to our own that the results are personal and tragic loss, generally in the form of moral wickedness, sickness, financial ruin, psychological problems, and eventually physical and spiritual death. I still think this is the core meaning, but like most passages of scripture, there is layer upon layer of wisdom as we dig deeper. It seems no matter how often I return to a passage thinking I have already mined every precious nugget from those golden words, there is a new vein from which to extract some further insight from the Holy Spirit for application in my life.

So it is with these words as well – and at the moment they are very convicting to me, actually causing tears of repentance to flow as I begin to understand what I am risking, not only in my life but in the lives of others.

I share this because I wonder how many people are struggling with the same self-doubts and fears? How many know in their heart what they should do, yet there are crippling thoughts which cause them to remain silent and still? How many of us still adhere to our own ways that seem so right, and not God’s ways which are absolutely right because we are not trusting completely in His guidance?

I wish with all my heart that I could write inspired and anointed words declaring the righteousness and holiness I have attained in my walk with Christ, but the truth is I have very little of either. I am striving but far from arriving. So all I can write about with a clear spirit is the ongoing war between the light of Jesus and the inherent darkness which seeks to retain possession of my body and soul.

For reasons far beyond what I can cover in this single blog post (but will delve into more deeply in future writings) I have always struggled against my calling, giving far too much heed to every word of the enemy and to every imagining of my mind, easily finding a multitude of reasons why I cannot and should not bring the Word of the Lord to those around me. What credentials would allow me to speak on such things? I have never attended seminary. What church has appointed me a minister? What proof do I have of the revelations and insights I have been given? Who really cares about what I’m saying anyway?

Intellectually, I realize the most holy of men to ever walk this earth, except our Saviour, were far from worthy of their calling. But for such a thought to travel from the brain to the heart to become wisdom is often a long and arduous journey. In my mind, I know that God has always called the unqualified, esteeming their obedience more valuable than their talents. Yet my heart still struggles with understanding whether this is true in my life as well. Doesn’t this apply only to other “special” people?

Or does it indeed apply to me as well? And to every other person called as a child of God?

So what is the destruction that ends those things which seem right to us? Is it only our own personal destruction? Or when we have been disobedient to our calling do we perhaps also risk destroying others? Sins of omission exist in addition to those of commission (James 4:17). So is personal unworthiness an excuse for inaction that I can bring before the throne of grace on judgement day when asked, “Did you do what I called you to do?”

I have struggled often with whether others (plural) would heed the words I speak or write, and whether I was a proper vessel to bring these words forth. But the Holy Spirit asked me today just how many must heed? Did not Jesus teach us that although He has a hundred sheep if but one (singular, not plural) is lost He will leave the ninety-nine to retrieve the one who is lost (Matthew 18:12-14)? It is the same with my words. If they reach but one person and bring that person to Christ it is worthwhile and helps fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15) that Jesus proclaimed to us as He ascended back into heaven to prepare a place for us when He returns.

And so, with the realization I am not, nor could ever be, qualified or worthy of bringing His Word to anyone, I must nonetheless respond in obedience to the calling to speak those things the Holy Spirit places upon my heart. I lovingly hope that those who hear and read these mortal words will not see me – but will instead see the glorious light of the message inside the filthy and unqualified messenger. Let me become nothing, for He is everything.

The way that seems right to this man, the self-justification of avoiding doing this very thing I am now doing, if I continue upon that path, leads not only to my destruction, but perhaps unwittingly prevents another soul from being saved that could otherwise gain heaven by accepting the precious gospel message. For that reason I must speak, even as an unworthy messenger.

I cannot allow such blood on my hands.

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. – Exodus 4:10-12 ESV

Blessings and wisdom to you…

Aug 072012
 

TreasureChestWhen we think of buried treasure, our mind most often conjures pictures of finding precious metals or jewels that have lain in wait below the ground for a wonderful discovery that makes our life richer. We dream of the pleasures we can buy with the value of such a lucky find, and we imagine the luxuries and indulgences we can afford for our enjoyment.

But not all treasures are brought forth from an underground hiding place. Sometimes it’s just the reverse. Instead, we deposit a priceless treasure below the ground, out of the reach of ourselves and others, and never again do we gain the benefits we could otherwise enjoy.

This is what happened on June 22nd. A rare jewel was hidden below the earth where we can no longer marvel at her beauty, or partake of the bounty of her generous gifts. On this day we laid to rest a 25-year-old precious woman of God who left us before we could fully appreciate this priceless treasure.

To say that such an early death was God’s plan is a lie. God knew, of course, for God knows all things. He knows the end of a thing from its beginning. But this was not God’s will. His will from the beginning was that we would live forever in paradise. That was His plan in creating a garden that was perfect, without sin, and without death. No, to lose a young woman so early, is not His will. But it is instead the result of living in a fallen world where physical death, sickness, disease, poverty, war, famine, pestilence, floods, and fire are real and present every day of our all-too-short lives.

I cried as I realized I would never again – at least not during this lifetime – speak with her, hear her sing in the choir, watch her playfully interact with the children during vacation bible school, or embrace her with a warm and heartfelt hug. During her funeral service, in the memory of my mind’s eye, I could see her excitedly swaying and clapping, singing songs of joy to worship our King. Now she has indeed traded her sorrows and laid them down for the joy of the Lord. As I write this, she is no doubt joined with the angels around the throne of grace, singing holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, while she awaits that glorious day of the second coming when she will be given her perfected body that will never again feel the sting of death.

So do I feel sorry for her? No. She is in a wonderful place.

But I do feel sorry for those of us left behind, especially for her parents who are dealing with the loss of a child and the painfully cold void her departure has left in their lives. In the life of a Christian, grief about death is not for the deceased, but it is for the survivors. Did not Paul tell us not to grieve as do the heathen without hope? He was not telling us to not grieve at all, but he was simply admonishing us to grieve in a different way. If we indeed believe that we are heaven-bound after this life is complete, why would we not be filled with joy that one of our own has already made the journey? We do rejoice for them, but it is for us who stay behind that we feel sorrow.

I’ve thought about her many, many times since that day. And remembering her fills my mind with such a variety of thoughts – far more than I can cover in a single article – so I will focus on this one key concept.

The greatest treasures the world have ever known lie buried in our cemeteries.

How many lives could have been touched? How many discoveries could have been made? How many songs could have been sung? How many books written? How many diseases cured? How many sermons could have been preached? How many lives could have been saved or made so much more worth living had those deceased treasures accomplished all they had been capable of accomplishing? Many indeed did, but the majority did not.

So I ask you, dear friend. What gifts has our heavenly Father bestowed upon you? What callings has He placed on your life? What dreams has He given to you? Unless Jesus returns first, you and I have a date with the grave that is approaching closer and closer each day. It’s uncomfortable to realize this, but it’s the way our time here on this planet will end. The price for this wonderful gift of life we have been given will ultimately be paid for with a death to complete the transaction. And what we do here on earth will decide the reward we receive in heaven. It has been said that life is our gift from God. What we do with it is our gift to God. Are you giving Him a worthy gift? I hope so but, at least in my case, I fear I am not.

The army says to be all that you can be; God says to be all He’s called us to be. Are you everything God says you are? Are you obedient to the tasks He has given you to do? Are you fully developing the gifts He has given you? If not, when will you? If you are waiting, when will you start and what are you waiting for? Will you have time to finish before the clock stops ticking?

A lovely young woman has left this earthy realm, and her shell has become buried treasure below the earth. We cannot possibly know if she fully accomplished all she was sent here to do. Whether she did or whether she did not, her race is over and her reward is forever settled in heaven, to be determined when the seals are broken and the King of Kings reads from the Book of Life and from the Book of Deeds. But in one personally important way, her work here continues. She is an incredible inspiration to me, giving an urgency to do more than I’ve ever done before. I pray this inspires you to do the same.

Tabetha, I thank you for the life you lived and for allowing me to share a small part of it. I, like many others, love you and miss you so very much.

You are a precious buried treasure…

 

Jan 092012
 

A Short Story for Engineers

And you don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate this….Toothpaste

This was sent to me by my dad on 1/6/2012, and it’s not mine. But it illustrates a really terrific point, so I’m sharing it with you. If anyone knows the original author, please let me know so I can give proper credit.

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timing so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time.  Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get upset and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem (as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra projects).

The undertaking followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality, and everyone in the project was imminently satisfied.  They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should.  The line would stop, and someone would walk over and yank out the defective box, then press another button when done to re-start the line.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results!  No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share.  “That’s some money well spent!” he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out the number of defects picked up by the scales was zero after three weeks of production use.  It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that,” says one of the workers. “One of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang.”

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.