More than just a football game…

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 9:36 pm by Libbie

Itís been a full week, and this post would get way too long if I wrote about everything, so I will mention one or two things and then mostly just tell you about Sunday.

By Friday night, Alís hair, which had been falling out gradually in patches, was starting to look unsightly, so Saturday we shaved the rest of it off. Now we tease him about looking like Lex Luthor, but really he looks pretty cool. After 28 Ĺ years of marriage, Iím so used to Al having hair that it still surprises me when I look up and see him bald, but that will change quickly, Iím sure. Last weekend Alden got his very long hair cut short, and last Tuesday Alasdair surprised us by shaving his head, so the Groves men all have a distinctly new look. Iíll put pictures up here as soon as I can.

Iíve learned a ton about the funeral and burial business in contemporary America, and I have to say that some aspects of it rankle. A group called the Funeral Consumers Alliance has provided an alternate view of the process that is refreshing and helpful, and we (the whole family) are talking through the issues involved. Itís been pretty time-consuming and sort of draining. Folks who are hit with the whole thing by surprise and have to make all the decisions in 2 or 3 days are up against formidable odds, and if their preferences differ substantially from what has become accepted as the standard arrangements, their chances of doing things in their own way are slim to none. For example, if you prefer to have a plain pine box rather than a big fancy casket (a preference that Al has expressed for years), you may have to fight very hard to be able to do that. At least that’s been my experience so far. When people advise you to make your funeral plans way ahead of time, they know what they’re talking about. It’s good advice. (Although the advice seems to include: Pre-plan, but don’t pre-pay, except for a cemetery plot in certain cases.) Of course we still pray that God will heal Al and we won’t need to implement these plans for years to come, but the information-gathering and planning will definitely not have been wasted.

Over the weekend we had some special time with friends, which was great, and on Saturday a group of people from our church came over and caught up a summerís worth of yard work. Bless them! It actually looks like somebody lives here again, and Iím sure the neighbors are relieved.

Sunday morning we had a special church service to send off the 60 or so people from our church who are going to start a new church in another area. It was emotional for all of us, especially for Al, but also a great time of worship and celebration. The kingdom of God is growing, and in order to see that happen we give away precious friendsówith both sadness and gladness. Al couldn’t sing for a while because he was weeping as we sang “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and he heard the words and saw the Lord in a fresh way. My turn to cry was watching Al serving communion up front with his bald head, wondering how many more times he’ll get to do that. It was a special morning.

Then on to Sunday afternoon. Since the service ran quite late, we had guests at our house long before we got home. But before I tell you what happened Sunday afternoon, I have to fill in a little background. Both Alasdair and Alden are passionate Eagles fans. Neither of them has ever been to a professional football game, nor has Al, and back in September Al had the idea that he would love to take his boys to an Eagles game before he dies. Ha! We hadnít realized that that’s not so simple to do. Tickets are hard to come by, and they are frightfully expensive. We had no idea just how expensive until Al checked with some friends who used to have season tickets. When we found out, we laid that idea to rest.

But Lauren (Alasdairís wife) and Andy (their good friend and housemate) were not satisfied with that and started calling people who said theyíd be interested in chipping in to buy tickets. Wow.

And then one day a friend who was among the former season-ticket holders and who now lives in Michigan called to say that by some miracle that I still donít understand he had come by 4 tickets for free! Incredible. And those tickets happened to be for the Dallas game! Really incredible. It’s the game of the season. The Cowboys are our traditional rivals, and Terrell Owens, who was such a controversial player for the Eagles, now plays for them. That game would be his first time back in Philly after leaving, and the tensions promised to be electric. Alasdair and Alden were astonished that they were going to be able to go to an Eagles game in person and completely floored that it was going to be that game in particular. I wish you could have seen their faces when Al told them back in September.

Since that time the national interest in the Eagles-Cowboys game has skyrocketed (as have ticket pricesósome seats were selling for thousands of dollars). Hype around Philadelphia has been unbelievable, and Alden has hardly been able to stand the wait for game day.
Of course there was the uncertainty of not knowing if Al would still be in physical shape to go to a game October 8, or if the weather would make it impossible, or how he would be able to keep his leg elevated during the game. But he was strong enough to manage it, and although the days leading up to the game were cool and rainy, yesterday was sunny and in the 70ís, and Al figured the experience was worth exhaustion and a very sore leg. Alasdair and Alden ďpainted upĒ for the game, which was great fun, and they looked outstanding. Other fans gave them high fives and took lots of pictures of them (I think they would have shown up on TV except that the woman sitting in front of them had an offensive sign that the TV camera wouldnít have shown. Again, I’ll send pictures.) We had 13 people here before the game to see them off, some of whom are life-long (perhaps manic?) Eagles fans, so we even put shaving cream messages on the car and chanted the Eagles cheer as they drove away. It was a hoot.

The seats they had were tremendous, down low on the 30-yard line behind the Eagles bench. How Jim came up with them Iíll never know. And get this: unbeknownst to Jim, there was a wall behind them to lean back against and even a wall that ran right beside Alís seat that he could put his leg up on while he sat! That detail could not have been anticipated by anybody but was something the Lord threw in as an extra reminder of his love and care and that he was very much involved in this wonderful day.

The game was a barnburner, suspenseful right down to the last 12 seconds. When an Eagle intercepted the ball and ran 102 yards for a touch down in the last seconds of the game, the stadium, where the cheering had already been thunderous during the whole game, went completely bananas. Our guys came home almost deaf and mute from the cheering, and flying high from the excitement. What a great day! Al was thoroughly exhausted, but he said it was worth every bit of it.

What a gift it was. That they could go to a game at all, that it was the Dallas game, that T.O. was shut down by the Eagles defense, that Al had the strength to go, that the weather was beautiful, that the crowd was over-the-top electrified, and that it was a down-to-the-wire, fantastic game made it a day none of them will ever, ever forget. It was a giftófrom Jim, from friends who had been willing to chip in and get tickets, and from the Lord, who oversaw the details right down to the weather and a wall for a footrest.

Of course, it was just a football game. It’s sad that for some of the fans it’s “more than just a football game” in an empty sort of way, because getting drunk, cheering themselves silly, and hoping their team wins is all they can find to try to bring some kind of joy or meaning to their lives.

For our guys it was “more than just a football game” in a different sort of way. It was a chance to enjoy a special experience and an amazing game together, to build a memory that they will cherish in the years ahead, and to see the Lord’s generous, tender love. Does the Lord care about who wins a football game? I doubt it. But does he love his children and delight to pour out that love in personalized, intimate, generous, overflowing ways? You bet! He does it all the time, for all of us, 24/7. But I for one often don’t notice. I tend to forget that he’s intimately involved in the things that happen in my life, and I go around living as if things “just happen” or “just work out,” rather than that they come to me directly from God’s loving hand. He was so clearly involved in the details of the whole day, but it wasn’t until he provided that wall for Al’s feet that I saw that crystal clearly. It seems that unless He writes with fireworks, I don’t read his messages.

May he give us all eyes to see his love,



  1. Jay McCoy said,

    October 9, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Of all the gallons of ink spilled over this game, this description is my favorite: “The Cowboys are our traditional rivals, and Terrell Owens, who was such a controversial player for the Eagles, now plays for them. That game would be his first time back in Philly after leaving, and the tensions promised to be electric.”

    You should’ve been a sports writer.

    What a game to go to!

  2. Mark A. Stone said,

    October 10, 2006 at 9:11 am

    Thanks for the detailed update. I was thrilled to hear that the boys got to go to the Eagles game. I must admit that I am not thrilled that they enjoyed the game at the expense of the Cowboys (we were throwing pillows at Bledsoe when he threw the interception at the end of the game). I am always interested in seeing how the Lord reaches out and reminds you and the family of His grace. “Crown Him with Many Crowns” is also a hymn that would move one to tears as they embrace its true meaning — a meaning more poignant to one who senses themself closer to that throne. You, Al, and the family remain in my constant prayers.

  3. Marc Davis said,

    October 10, 2006 at 9:18 am

    Al, how very sweet it was to receive communion from you and Ed together on Sunday. A taste of the feast to come and a gift to me.

  4. Craig Higgins said,

    October 10, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Thanks for the update, Libbie; it showed to me that our Father is answering our prayers for you guys–not just for healing, but for joy.

    And when they are playing the Cowboys is pretty much the ONLY time we Giants fans are cheering with the Eagles.

  5. Dukjoon Park said,

    October 10, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    I have been reading the journals with tears and worries so far.
    But as I read today’s, I cannot help praising the Lord who providently cares for all the details of our lives.

    I just want to let you know that I and my colleagues (Th.M.’s and Ph.D.’s at WTS) are praying for Al and his family every Monday morning.

  6. Mariana Viss said,

    October 10, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    What a cool blog-and I agree with Jay McCoy-that you would have made a fantastic sports writer-though I will say you would of made of fantastic everything…We were in Philly watching the game with Mike Cohen, Jake G, and Andrew Milky…and we were ALL thinking about Al, and they guys at the game-we were grateful we won, grateful for the magical time we were sure they were having…and like you-grateful of Gods provision for Al’s desires. I love you, and continue to pray everyday for Gods healing. I am so overwhelmed to see Him meeting ,what I am sure are thousands of peoples prayers for you ,in addition to mine each day.

  7. Jenny said,

    October 10, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Libbie and Al,

    You are so right Libbie about the way our Father answers our prayers so intimately and personally as to give Al a place to rest his leg during a football game. Yes, it is these little details in life that we often don’t see, but they are the Lord’s little ways of loving us tenderly. What a joy that your men got to experience this (quite special) game together and on the 30th yard line yet. God is gracious in the little things which makes even the little things big blessings.
    Watching Al walk foward in the morning to give communion was also a great blessing. I am so thankful the Lord enabled him to do so much in one day.
    You are continually in my prayers. Jenny

  8. Carolyn Ritter said,

    October 10, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Wow –
    Hasn’t He been good!?

  9. Grace Zhao said,

    October 10, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing God’s all-the-time goodness with us.

  10. Rick said,

    October 10, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Read this from Nouwen:
    “Christian healing is to call our fellow human beings, in the Name of Jesus, to live their pain as a call to mourn what we lose and a call to dance for joy over the grace found in the center of our grief.” Grace is found in all kinds of places, even an Eagles game.
    Thanks for sharing with us Libby.
    I will miss Al this weekend.

  11. Craig Combs said,

    October 11, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Still loving to hear from you, all the details. And still praying for you, and still weeping, and still seeing Jesus in it all.
    Thanks for continuing to keep the door ajar so I can look in… my love to you all.
    For the sake of Jesus,

    P.S. Still rooting for the Eagles up here in Patriot country, with one or two allies.

  12. kim clement said,

    October 11, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    We were also extremely blessed by God’s goodness on Sunday as we received communion from Al. What a wonderful service! I agree that God often has to spell out His goodness in such a way that it is a HUGE neon sign for us to see. Thanks for sharing the blessing of this day with us!

  13. Sungheum Abraham Lee said,

    October 11, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you, Mrs. Groves, for your sharing.

    While reading through what you wrote so far, I could have a invaluable chance to learn more about the way of God through which He takes care of and loves His children. Praise the Lord!

    In His grace and mercy,


  14. Mardel Landis said,

    October 11, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Dearest Al and Libbie and family,

    What a precious email, Libbie! Thank you for taking the time to include us in your lives…even across the Atlantic. We read your updates with much expectancy knowing that God IS doing more than you can ask or imagine!

    Geo is going to love the eagles story…your description will fill his “eagles emptiness.”

    We mourn with you over the ones who do not have our Hope! WE are really reminded of it as we just past the half way mark of Ramadan. It breaks our hearts to see so many people – most at least – genuinly trying to please God by their works – fasting, prayers etc! And so often my heart is tempted to do the same…oh, how sweet our Hope is!

    We love you,
    Mardel and family

  15. Steve Hailstone said,

    October 11, 2006 at 7:43 pm


    I don’t know that you would remember me. I met you at orientation a couple years back at WTS (Fall 2003). I came to the picnic with my family before classes started, and I was able to introduce you to my wife, Margie, and my kids.

    Just an brief introduction.

    My wife had a diagnosis of a pre-cancerous condition a few years ago, but things have been under control. I

    don’t remember how I first learned of your blog, but I am glad I found it and can’t tell you how many times the Lord has used your witness as an encouragement.

  16. Ondrej Franka said,

    October 12, 2006 at 3:09 am

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    Greetings in Christ from Serbia, former Yugoslavia! It is so inspiring to read your letters and pray with you for Al’s healing! Being a doctoral student at WTS I saw Al last August driving the sport car! That was such an answer of God to His grace and sustaining mercy! Keep on as we hold your hands before the Almighty God! Our Church is praying too!

    Rev. Ondrej and Milina Franka

  17. Fred said,

    October 12, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Hello, Al & Libbie.

    What a hoot to read about last Sunday! And to juxtapose that against everything else including the Lord’s Supper that morning. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes, with “good news” and “bad news” just sitting cheek-by-jowl, no explanation of how they fit, just the bald statement that enjoyment is God’s gift.

    Your comments about [the] other fans reminds me again of one of my favourite passages from Pascal–on “distraction”, and our desperate need to forget that we are “alone in the infinities of of the universe” so that our depravity is demonstrated in our inability to sit alone in an empty room. We need something to fill our minds, lest we realize how miserable we are. Of course, the “we” fits into the first half of Pascal’s main paradigm: “The misery of man without God; the happiness of man with God”.

    I appreciated your charge to Doug yesterday at WTS, Al–both its tone and content. Lovingly and forcefully pastoral, and graciously tendered. It was a great blessing to be reminded again of God’s concern for, and grace in, every area of our lives. I know that Doug will ever be so very grateful to the Lord for enabling and allowing him to hear those words from you. Thanks.

    Blessings always.


  18. Kent Morton said,

    October 13, 2006 at 8:18 am

    Libbie — This was precious. Thank you so much. As avid football fans, Marilyn and I tuned in to the Eagles’ game after the Patriots’ game was over. It WAS quite a game! I would have been even more interested had I know that Al, Alasdair and Alden were there in person. Wow!

  19. j stracuzzi said,

    October 17, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    Loved the photos. Team Groves and Friend were not out done by any Eagles fans at the Linc I am sure. What a great and unexpected treat to share in the eagle mania that did take over the city.
    Thank you for reminding us over and over how God is in the details of our lives.
    Even if the details involve football.

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