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I had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend this weekend. I have been rare on the updates again, I’m sorry. I have been working on my creative responses, but they are all still in such a rough form, it will take some work to get them to a publishable form. So until then, here’s my sermon from yesterday, Father’s Day, where I preached to our church for the first time.

I’d love to hear any comments or feedback if you would.



This is a superficial post, but I was recently amazed when I saw a comment from my former schoolmate and fellow minster Chad. Apparently people are somehow still visiting this site on occasion. Much Has Happened with the Groves, we are now in Oregon, we have three daughters and God is growing us personally, in our family and vocationally. I apologize to any who have been missing any of my rambling thoughts. My thoughts still ramble, I just have much less time and energy than before. I am trying to spend more time reading good and classic fiction, learning more to play my electric guitar as opposed to my acoustic, and trying to prioritize my Annie and girls as much as possible.

A quick note for the lenten season. I love the liturgical calendar. I love using the calendar to refresh and refocus my walk of faith. This year I richly enjoyed intimate Ash Wednesday times with my small group of guys and then with Annie, yet when it came to thinking through lenten fasting, nothing came to mind or heart to give up. After a little more prayer I felt God’s direction to instead increase my own personal worship time which has been lost in the hecticness of my new schedule. So this Lent I am focusing on worshiping in my heart, with my mind and then with my instrument. I put more work into a project that I began in June 2011 (right after moving from Hawaii) where I began to work to set the Psalms of Ascent to personal and corporate worship songs. I had a fun moment the other day putting work into that.

May you and yours experience a blessed Lenten season that draws you nearer to Our Lord and Savior.

Note – I realize that I need to do some significant editing to the site. I have already begun that process, but I think you’ll see more changes in the coming weeks.

Sorry for the ridiculously long break.  I have been feeling strained in my time with the birth of Claire and then the process of preparing for and going on our short term mission to The Nehemiah House in the Philippines.  The trip was again a huge blessing and a challenge as I was leading a team of 5 from our church and sadly leaving my three girls at home.

God worked powerfully on the trip both in me and the team as well as in the girls there at the Nehemiah Houses.  I thought that I would throw out on quote from the trip that is really striking me even now.  In conversations with John Parsons, YWAM Philippines director, and fellow Oregon boy, we were discussing various things when somehow we got to the point where John recalled the words of Jesus warning his disciples to “Beware the yeast of Herod and of the Pharisees”

Mark 8:15 (Today’s New International Version)

15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

While we talked, John illuminated the plain truth of this warning that I had missed through many readings of this.  Jesus is telling us to watch out for the two main places of power in our world, Politics and Religion.  Watch out for those things he tells us, because he rightly saw how the power in both of those spheres will corrupt us and draw us away from him.  So I remind us during this American election season and during a time when many throughout the world are also working through political changes to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod, because Christ alone is where we find the answers and hope we so desperately seek.

I was scanning through my google reader when I saw this recent post by Donald Miller and thought I must share it.  He writes a convicting and thought-provoking blog here and I am challenged by what he says, but I also thought he does a fantastic job of explaining our need for a savior.

I have heard many presentations of the Good News of Jesus Christ in my life and many of them explained the fall in terms that left me unsettled and wanting.  Donald’s explanation here is awesome so I thought I would highlight it (pay special attention to the italicized part, which I added):

We were designed so our identity would be affirmed in a relationship with God. In other words, my feelings of self worth do not come from within me, they come from an external source. That source was supposed to be God. But in the fall of man, that relationship was severed (it had to be as God could not mix or mingle with anything opposing him, not because He is a jerk, but because He actually defines what is good in the first place) and so after the fall, we continue to look for affirmation from an outside source, and that source is each other.

I love the way Miller describes the fall here.  Through my life I have been told that at the fall our sin caused God to punish us with separation from him, which is sort of hard to reconcile when elsewhere the same people say that God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you in Jesus  (why did God mess things up in the first place, I wondered).  When we look at the fall, however, not as our punishment from God, but as the consequence of our sin and our choice, things become clearer.  If God is perfect (and God is perfect), then everything about and around God is also perfect (heaven and such), then it reasons to say they any imperfection (our rebellion and sin) around would disturb God’s perfection.  God’s perfection can’t, in fact, be disturbed and so any imperfection (our rebellion and sin, and therefore us) could no longer be around.  I am reading this parenting book that shows and encourages the parents to show that disciplining a child is not because we are mean, nasty jerks and want to make them suffer with punishment, but because we are loving, responsible parents who are enforcing the boundaries and consequences of their own choices and are providing the clear boundaries and structure we so desperately need.  I think when we understand the fall this way, God is no longer the bad guy(a mean, nasty jerk), God is in fact so good that we can’t even compare, and when we understand that, The Good News is actually Good!  God could no longer bear this separation so God came to us, in the flesh and became like us so that we could be made right! Thanks for sharing this view, Don.

In other news and randomness, The Hawaiian Island Ministries Honolulu 2010 conference starts this evening and I am stoked to be going to it with some of our teens and Annie.  I am especially stoked because The David Crowder* Band is performing a worship concert on Friday night that is sure to be face-meltingly-rocktacular and worshipful.  I will try to post some conference updates as I can.

In further randomness, if any are following along with the shrinking JD, I weighed in today at 247lbs and am stoked to be down 20lbs from the original weight.   I wasn’t able to work out due to sickness, nor was I able to keep up with my lose it due to sickness and laziness and busy-ness due to Annie starting maternity leave.  Hopefully, I will able to get back into those next week.  I am posting this because the conference schedule on Friday runs from 8am to about midnight, not including drive time, so I may not be able to do my normal Friday weigh in and post.

aloha, (ps. we made it through the tsunami) (pps, i like to use the word stoke, I know, you couldn’t tell)

Allright, Don.  I get it.  You’ve made your point clearly to my silly, feeble brain.  There’s something important about story.  It started with a podcast I heard where you taught Mars Hill about how their story was important to their lives.  Then we downloaded this other teaching about it from your website.  Then I read your blog where you kept discussing (in an inspiring way, not as though you were beating a dead horse) about how you were writing this book about letting story guide the way you live your life and showing specific examples from your own life, even putting in parts of the book for we readers to look through and help give feedback on.

Then I read the book.  Wow.  First, I must say, that I’ve loved every book of yours that I’ve read (even those ones you mention that didn’t sell very many, I thought they were still great), but your writing has come of age in a powerful and poignant way.  There were multiple times while reading “A Million Miles in A Thousand Years,” when I was moved to tears.  Somehow your writing has become even more honest and meaningful and encouraging.  Thank you for that and for writing this book .  As I finished the book I found myself nearly shouting to my wife and my friend (we all read it together), “Why has nobody ever said this before!?  Of all the story-writers writing all the stories, knowing what makes a good story and what we people intuitively crave in one, and they only use it to sell their own stories?!  Why has no one else defined a story then challenged we common folk to live stories that we would want to read?!”  I still am a little shocked that this is just now coming out, but I’m glad its you who’ve brought this to us.  I am also glad and thankful that throughout, you point to God, our Writer, and how it’s not about what we do, but about following Our Writer’s Voice.

So to that end, and after reading how you wrote your “New Year’s Goals,” I thought I might reflect on the story I am living and look at what story God might be writing for me and my family.   (To my friends and family: Some of these things you read may be old news, some may seem new and weird/crazy, but the reason I am putting it out there is because I need the accountability in my story, I need some stake in the outcome of my story.  There’s not as much of an incentive to do these things if I don’t have my ten readers in on it, so here we go.)

A chubby, lazy character is not good for anyone, and right now that’s what I am.  I want to be a disciplined, healthy young man to look better for my wife, be in better shape to play with my daughters and students, and to keep my mental health positive by being able to feel good about myself.  You don’t watch a movie and root for the slob, and if an author was describing me in a book I wouldn’t read too far, so I want to change this about me.  My readers already know a bit about this and what it’s doing in my life.  They know my progress and what is happening so I won’t elaborate further.  This goal is also already helping me better manage my time and helping me to get up earlier and better.

I want my daughters to know the blessing of serving God and putting yourself out there.  I want our whole family to get out to the Nehemiah House in the Philippines.  Our church is even taking a trip back there in May; our family can’t afford this and it certainly won’t be easy to fly across the ocean with a newborn and 2 year old, but I feel like this is where God’s leading me.  I understand and believe that this is probably not going to happen this year, it would take a true miracle of God to get us over there 2 months after we have a baby.  It sounds crazy, I know, and I’m not going to push it where it isn’t right, but if God wants it for us, who am I to stand against God; also last year while I was in Cagayan De Oro, Mike told me that the next time I came back, I would bring my wife and kids.  The only thing is, we were not pregnant with baby number two then (and he knew we weren’t pregnant), but maybe he was foreshadowing, who knows?

Don, according to you, a good/sympathetic character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.  Currently, I think I am living that out as I seek to facilitate relationships with teens and Jesus, but I feel drawn to a more difficult and more self-sacrificing story line.  I feel like God may be asking me to give more of myself.  This is going to sound crazy and out of character and maybe even silly, but I think that it would be glorifying to God to become a lawyer and work to right wrongs and injustices in 3rd world countries and maybe even our own.  Right now, UH Law is very affordable, has an Asia and Pacific discipline and will keep us here in HI a little longer.  This story is going to be really difficult.  Law school is hard and time-consuming.  What I’m looking to do is not going to pay well, and so I must rely on God to find the best way to support my family.  Also the legal profession provides the dangerous lures of self-reliance, pride, greed, and any number of other pitfalls to pull me away from Christ and my family. After all that, though, I think that the story God wants for my life involves those conflicts and dangers and victories.   It probably is no small coincidence that I have been thinking about and praying about this for a while and trying to figure out if it is right, and then I read your book, feel called to a better story, and this idea keeps coming to my mind the whole time I’m reading (it also doesn’t hurt that Bob is a lawyer who works to right wrongs in 3rd world countries, and that he coincidentally mentored one of my best friends while he (Andy) was in college and even got him (again, Andy) excited about this line of work.  Whew, that’s a sidebar!)

Finally, what I think is most important, I want to be the kind of husband and father that a reader would root for, respect and that provides the love and time and care that my wife and daughters deserve.  I don’t think anyone roots for the crappy parent in a movie or novel, and we all get behind those parents who give sacrificially, and really are the parents we want to be.  I figure, why don’t I start being the parent I want to be, and stop thinking about not being the parent I want to be.  To do this,  I need to get past the laziness and sloth that keeps me sitting at home and doing nothing.  I want to take my wife and daughters on fun, cheap, memorable dates and I want us to treasure our time together and the memories that it creates.  This will take great creativity and willpower as I am not normally the type to figure out, plan and enact memorable dates and family outings.  We’re trying for it, and as you say, Don, it’s better for us to try these things and fail gloriously than to do nothing at all.  So thanks again, Don.  You may have been my inciting incident, and my life might never look the same, and I might be the child of God, man, husband, and father that I dream of being, all because you wouldn’t let up on this story business.

It feels like so much is going on in my world right now and the last thing I have time for is writing.  Additionally, I feel like so much of what’s going on has created in me an inability to shape these thoughts cohesively to present to others.  We wrapped up 2009, one of the hardest years I can remember and moved into 2010 with one final crotch-kick from 2009 as Annie, Ellie and I all spent the First week of 2010 cooped up in our house with the stomach bug from hell.  We are recovering now, though it is still taking a long time.  As I previously said, I don’t know how to formulate these coherently so its going to come at you in a sort of bullet-point-stream-of-consciousness form.

  • The disastrous tragedy in Haiti is incomprehensible and has caused so many to question how a “Good God” can allow such tragedy and destruction.  It has also caused some to proclaim God’s judgment and many others to explain why we can still love and trust God in the midst of this, I have been encouraged by the latter and encourage any and all who read to check out some of these links, as well as to be God’s body here on earth to this nation through prayer and compassion giving.  Here’s Ben Wintherington III, Donald Miller/ Mark Stuart, Adam Mclane, and Andrew Jones
  • One of my Christmas presents from Annie was Donald Miller’s most recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  It took me 3 sessions and 3 days to read it.  The book is fantastic and the best he has yet written.  I was moved nearly to the point of tears multiple times and the book’s message has given both Annie (she’s now almost finished it) and me a gut-check that is helping to shape and change the way we live even now.  I don’t want to ruin the book for any who want to read it, but the premise is that if we look at our lives as stories, then we will live them differently.  I highly recommend this book with the caveat that you should not read it if you don’t want to be challenged and inspired (and disturbed, as Rob Bell reviews in the liner notes)
  • Ellie is growing and changing so much.  She has been doing things more and more like a girl and less and less like a baby.  She has become sort-of compulsive about cleaning and now insists on clearing and wiping her own tray after meals and she can regularly be seen wandering around the house with a paper towel or wipe or rag cleaning away.  She’s also talking much more.  She has been babbling and speaking in full sentences to us (in her own nonsensical language), even gesturing and changing her facial expressions while she looks us in the eyes to communicate some great truth.  The the other day, she took it to the next level by speaking her first real, unprovoked, non-parroted sentence; “I like food,”.  This has led way to others, notably today saying, “I(‘m) a baby,” to which I replied, “Ellie, you’re not a baby, you’re a big girl!”
  • My mind has begun wrapping around the idea that we  have two children and particularly two girls, I can’t really express it yet, but I am (and have been) very excited to be a family of four and the father of two girls.  These are uncharted waters for me, I am a guy and grew up in a house full of guys (and my poor sister had to deal with only brothers) and I honestly am about the dumbest guy when it comes to girls.  I don’t understand how they think and other things like that, but I know that God isn’t putting me in too far over my head, so I know it will be good and I will learn a little more about how to understand and relate to girls.
  • With gift money from my last birthday and this Christmas and a little I had saved on my own, I was able to recently buy an electric guitar and amp.  I have had a blast jamming and practicing scales this past week.
  • We are beginning a crown financial ministries study this month with a couple other young couples and our friends the Metcalfs.  Craig has taken these classes and is an instructor so he is graciously leading us through this study that will teach us how to better handle God’s money.
  • It’s an El Nino year and the surf has been so great this whole winter on the north shore.  It has been much bigger than my feeble abilities can handle and everywhere else has been too small for my large size/feeble abilities.  They even ran The Eddie, Quicksilver’s big wave competition at Waimea Bay.  I have had a surf drought and it’s no fun.  I miss the ocean and surfing.
  • My weight loss and workout plan is progressing pretty well after the holiday hiccup and time off for stomach bug.  This has been a good week of workouts and my eating habits have improved (and probably my appetite decreased). I weighed myself Tuesday and weighed 252lbs, which might not sound great but then I realized it means I have lost 15lbs since I started in late September and am about halfway to my goal of 235 (251 is technically halfway).  It has also been great to see some of my strength coming back as I continue to push myself in the weights.  I typically go in an start with 20 minutes on the elliptical, then move on to a fast (45 minute) weights session where I alternate between working back, legs,  shoulders and biceps one day and chest, legs, triceps and shoulders the other, and I finish with a quick but grueling ab workout that takes 5 minutes or less.  The leg and shoulder exercises are very different so I won’t develop overuse injuries.  It has also been fun meeting new people at the Y, as well as seeing more of others that I know from church and from when I coached football.

Well, I think that’s all I have for now, hopefully I can further delve into some of these topics in future posts as I have more time and clarity to do so.  Aloha from Hawaii.

Today, October 14 is Coach John Wooden’s 99th birthday and I thought I would link up a cool article from the LA times for all my readers (basically my family and maybe 2 friends).  The article gives 99 facts about Wooden on his 99th birthday, and it is certainly inspiring.

I also thought I would relay my own personal John Wooden story.  My freshmen year at UCLA I was in the midst of my first college football season, dealing with the pressures and excitement of actually playing but also the difficulties and frustrations of being an 18 year old, 235lb fullback (for the non-football readers, that’s a pretty small fullback if you aren’t 21 or 22 and super strong).  I was away from my family which wasn’t easy but I was blessed by having my folks come down to a couple games and meeting them up in the Northwest for a couple games.  Anyway, I was far from home, learning new things, living my dream and being blessed to do so.  One of the new friends I made was a Bay Area based quarterback named Brian.  He had played his high school ball at De La Salle high School in Concord and was blessed to play with many great players (one of whom, Maurice Jones-Drew, ended up playing with us at UCLA the next year).  Brian was also privy to be the son of then-Oakland-Raiders-head-coach Bill Callahan (these were the good years when they went to the super bowl).

Brian’s dad had had the opportunity to spend some time with Coach Wooden and was so impressed by the man that he set up a meeting for his son with the coach at the coach’s own home.  Brian, being the nice guy and incredible friend that he was, decided to invite me and an older receiver, Tab Perry and the three of us spent a fall Sunday afternoon at coach Wooden’s.  We arrived at his place and one could immediately see that it was completetly filled with various awards.  It was to the point that his house almost looked messy because he was the recipient of so many awards.

The afternoon was full of Coach Wooden, hearing stories about coaching Alcindor (Kareem) and Walton, about the many conference championships, about the National Championships and mostly about his wife.  I think the impression I was most left with was the incredible love he and his wife shared.  Even after her death he would write her a letter every week (I would bet he probably still does).  This is a man who is deeply in love with his wife.  He also is a man who practically lives a life of faith in God.  He shared about his weekly church attendance and showed us all the message bulletins he had saved, he also told us about a Christian book he was co-authoring where he would share some meditations and the other guy also tied them in spiritually as well.  I remember leaving and feeling incredibly inspired and blessed, knowing that this was one of those rare momemts in my life I could never forget.

I also remember my sophomore year, when we were preparing for our bowl game and one of only a few hundred people still at campus.  They were dedicating the court at the opening of the 2003/2004 season against a good Michigan State team.  Our whole team was at the game to see the court dedicated and so were probably hundreds of former Wooden players.  All the greats (the aforementioned Walton and Abdul-Jabar included) came out to support their coach and see UCLA’s court receive it’s proper name; even Magic Johnson, though he never played for coach Wooden, came out and supported.  Again, in the court’s naming (it’s the “Nell and John Wooden Court”) everyone can plainly see this humble, great man’s great love for his wife.  The night was also a testament to Wooden’s powerful and lasting influence in the lives of so many.

So Happy Birthday, Coach Wooden.  I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I, unlike so many countless others, cannot forget you and the incredible mark of your life and character.  Here’s to you.

Today at church Sean preached. Since he normally leads worship he asked me to lead for him while he preaches and to bring a couple of our super talented high-schoolers with me. I was very excited to do this and so I agreed. We practiced on Thursday and warmed up early this morning and played through our opening set nicely. Then it happened (this moment will probably forever stick in my mind as it’s that embarrassing).

I should mention, that although Sean has previously given me the lead for a couple songs while he and I have ledworship together, this is the first time I was leading the whole shebang by myself. I should also mention that Sean’s preaching topic today was, in fact, worship itself. I should also mention that we celebrated communion this Sunday and that, as usual, we do that after the message during the final worship set. The perfect storm is brewing, you see.

Anyway, we went to play a contemplative-Crowder-esque All Creatures. We play this in “C” (Crowder plays it in “D”) and it’s great to have an acoustic guitar play capoed on the 5th fret in “G” to add a nice high-end bounce to the song. I was responsible for that, and also for starting the song out with Brian, our talented HS pianist/guitarist. The only problem was that I was capoed on the 4th fret and actually playing in “B”. I could immediately hear the grating and assumed I was at fault, so I had to stop, ask our bassist, Joanne, for a “C,” in embarrassment plainly see my fault, and capo one fret further. At this point there is nothing I can do to save face, anyone who can hear notes knows that the guitarist and the pianist were playing in different keys and everyone watched the guitarist humbly correct himself. All I could do at that point was say, “Sorry, let’s try that again,” and then take it from there,

I know you’re thinking that sounds too similar to many people’s nightmares and it was pretty bad, though not mortifying. You see, while Sean had been preaching on worship, he had not been preaching on forms and styles but rather the heart of worship; the heart of surrender, adoration for and glorying of God (specifically NOT for music itself) and all these other incredible impactful things that made every brother and sister in the congregation very forgiving and patient and focused on God and not on my terrible rookie mistake.

On top of all that, the set finished and I was getting ready to leave the stage when Beth, one of our sweet church secretaries bounded onto the stage, gave me a big kiss on the cheek and nearly tearing up told me how wonderful the worship was, and how great it was to see our teens leading worship. And again I was reminded in such a powerful way that God doesn’t want or need perfection in our service, rather God wants faithfulness. God doesn’t need me to lead worship like Crowder or Tomlin or Stanfill, God wants me to lead worship like imperfect Groves, and to point others to God in my weakness and imperfection.

I am so blessed by today; by my opportunity to lead our body, by the message I heard, by the humility of imperfection, and by the gut-wrenching grace and heart of God that Beth showed to me (and so many more, its a lifestyle for her).

I sit typing this at midnight on late-night number 3 of 4 this week. Monday through Thursday are late nights for me and that rarely happens. Typically youth night is the beginning of our workweek, as Tuesday is usually our “Monday,” and therefore we are energized and pumped. This week it was the hardest night (the penultimate is almost always the hardest). I knew this going into it and have been praying that God would make up for my weakness.

This brings me to tonight. God showed up. God showed up in a deep and real and big way. I can’t explain it here, Annie and I spent 1 1/2 hours remembering and discussing and aweing. All I can say is that tonight God worked and ministered,and it was like we were the hand-tools. I don’t write this to tritely convey the fact that I brought God’s message as if I’m some modern-day prophet. In fact, God’s message was brought wholly without me and I actually just got to enjoy it.

The hardest thing for me is that I am always surprised that God answers the prayers like that. I pray that God would speak and work and then act amazed when it happens. I wish I lived as one who merely expected God to show up (when that’s what God wants to do anyway) but even if I never do, it doesn’t change the fact that God showing up is how this ministry thing is supposed to work, and I still continue to be grateful for my part in it.

And I’m trying to make you sing

From inside where you believe

Like it’s something that you need

Like it means everything

And I’m trying to make you feel

That this is for real,

That life is happening,

That it means everything…

I’m just trying to make you sing

Can’t express it any better than David Crowder has here

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