Thursday, December 15, 2022

Holidays With Family: 2022 Version. An Absolutely Beautiful Mess!

 


 

“Love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” -1 Cor. 13:5

 

Here we go into Christmas ’22! What an odd time of year! Thanksgiving is awesome, Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” and it’s a “jolly” four weeks between the two holidays. Yet, stats expose this month as the most depressive and difficult time of time of the year for most people. But that is certainly not what God desires. His plan is toward peace, contentment and completeness. 

 

I think the beautifproblem lies in family. Yes, a myriad of ingredients produce this difficult season: the weather can be cold, the pressure to buy gifts is high, the stress of party after party can bog us down, and we’re reminded of the loved ones we miss. 

 

But Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays for family. And most families, if not all families, have a grocery list of issues that have not been resolved. One important trend I have discovered in my years of working with families: most families have some form of dysfunction. They have always been like that. Why? Because families are made up of people and all people are wounded, to some degree. 

 

Wounds are medicated and healed when they are brought to the light. Family works when family members submit themselves to love one another. Family works when anger accounts are kept empty by reconciliation and forgiveness. But most family accounts are full.

 

I love well-written stories about healing in families. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean is one of my favorites. This quote from the book describes this family dynamic:

 

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.”

 

The key is “loving without understanding.” We can all do that one. During these holidays, as we’re around family, may we all reach out to love and give and bless. May we do the hard work of reconciliation and forgiveness to keep our accounts empty and our love flourishing. After all, the more our accounts are emptied, the more capacity we have to love. 

 

So, have a holly-jolly Christmas season this year and enjoy your family. Love those who are unlovable. That’s what God did for us when He sent His Son to be born and die for our sin. If we have maintenance work of forgiveness to do, then clean the slates during the holidays. 

 

Family is difficult and messy. But it’s a beautiful mess. So this holiday season, dive in! Get wet! Love, forgive, touch, interact, and love again. 

 

Entertain your beautiful mess and enjoy the season. Realize we can love only because God loved us first…

 

…as a beautiful mess.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Capturing Things

 

“…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” -2 Cor. 10:5

 

I remember in fifth grade trying to capture rabbits in the woods near our home in Fort Worth. I asked for a cage trap for my birthday. I filled it with food to attract the rabbits and gave it a few days in the woods behind our house. I even chained it to a tree so it wouldn’t be stolen.

 

Two days later, when I went to check it, the trap was gone. Someone had cut the chain and taken it. 

 

It’s hard to capture things. 

 

Thoughts can be even more difficult to capture. As Paul was trying to help the Corinthian church grow in their faith, he challenged them to “capture their thoughts.” There is no sin in the initial thought, but at that intersection of thought and reaction, I make a choice: will I bring the thought before the Lord, that He might lead me in integrity in how to react, or will I just let my flesh react? At that point, if I give it over to Him, He provides direction- if I’ll let Him!

 

It’s hard to capture and give it over. 

 

What an important intersection! For most people, the gap between the thought being triggered and me choosing how I’ll react is a billionth of a second. Our flesh is severely reactionary. The brain chemicals take over and we react so quickly. But, there is a gap. And how I navigate that “gap” makes all the difference! 

 

It’s hard to see the gap. 

 

The challenge is that when we have a reactive thought (that we recognize in our soul) we choose to throw the hand cuffs on it and “capture” it. And then we bring it before the Lord using the beautiful vehicle called prayer. Then we submit our thought to His obedience and will. But it takes discipline to capture it. Yes, it’s 100% on us but somehow our flesh wants to put it on the other person. “Sometimes you make me so mad,” we might say to a friend. But truth is, no one can make us angry. They can sure press our buttons, but we make the choice as to how we’ll react. We are 100% responsible for our reactions. 

 

It's hard to capture our thoughts. 

 

So, may we be super intentional about out thought life. This side of heaven, managing the collision between our flesh and spirit is part of navigating this life. Paul spent so much of his time writing about all of this to the churches of the New Testament. He knew that if people would bring their baggage to Christ, then the church, made up of those people, would flourish. 

 

May we be a people who recognize our curious thoughts and intentionally take our captured thoughts to our loving Lord. May our dependance be on Christ alone, as I rest in Him. 

 

Because it’s easy to rest when I’m captured by Him. 

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Steve McQueen's Greatest Escape


“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” 

-Rom. 10:19-10

 

Growing up, I loved watching movie’s that included Steve McQueen. He was just “cool”, to say the least. My favorite was probably “the Great Escape” about some Allied POW’s that escaped from a German prison camp. 

 

John Gann wrote an awesome article about Steve, “Something You May Not Have Known About Steve McQueen”. It brough tears to my eyes at the end. I think you’ll enjoy.  

 

“Steve McQueen was a Hollywood bad boy and headstrong thrill-seeker, drawn to drugs, women, fast cars and motorcycles. At the height of his stardom in the 1960s and ’70s, Steve McQueen was at the top of his game, yet the “King of Cool” was still searching for something more. That’s the subject of a new documentary, Steve McQueen: American Icon.

 

With an alcoholic mother and a string of abusive stepfathers, McQueen had always wanted a real dad in his life—someone to look up to. He found a father figure in his flight instructor, Sammy Mason, who answered his countless questions about faith and told him about the perfect Father, God Himself.

 

Little by little, this lead role in The Great Escape stopped running in the opposite direction of God. Three months after McQueen and his wife started attending Mason’s church in California, McQueen invited the pastor to lunch and asked another round of questions. Could he really be forgiven? What does it look like to follow Jesus Christ? With a slew of fictional movies under his belt, this actor wanted to know the truth.

 

It was during that lunch that the pastor, Leonard DeWitt, asked McQueen about his own beliefs, and McQueen shared that he had devoted his life to Christ a few weeks back. He had a new purpose and an ever-softening demeanor.

 

Six months later, in late 1979, McQueen was diagnosed with cancer. Although he wanted to live, friends and family could see he was also at peace. If and when he died, he said, he knew where he was going.

On Nov. 3, 1980, four days before his death, one of McQueen’s wishes came true. He’d wanted to meet evangelist Billy Graham for some time, and on that day, Mr. Graham paid him a visit. The pair prayed together and talked about the afterlife, and McQueen told him how his faith in Christ helped him deal with the cancer. At the end of their meeting, Billy Graham left McQueen his personal Bible, the name “Billy Graham” printed on the front and all.

 

Inside, he wrote the date, along with a message: “To my friend Steve McQueen, may God bless and keep you always.” He signed his name, along with a reference to a Bible verse, Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

 

Billy Graham’s Bible became McQueen’s most valued possession. He died on Nov. 7—Billy Graham’s 62nd birthday—and was found clutching that Bible.

 

Before his death, McQueen said he wanted to tell more people about God. While he grew weaker physically, he grew stronger spiritually, and wanted others to know where that strength came from.

 

God began something wonderful in McQueen’s life—a total transformation—and has continued impacting others through his story. Nov. 7 is much more than his death date; it’s the day the King of Cool met the King of kings.”

 

Whatever you’re chasing after in life, nothing compares to God Himself. If He can change Steve McQueen’s life, he can change yours, too.

 

It really is that simple. Confessing my need for Jesus and inviting Him into my heart is so simple because the cross cost God so much- the Son He loves. As Steve McQueen did, talk to your Pastor or good friend about God’s saving grace.

 

May we all live in His peace.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

God's Purpose or Mine?

Every now and then, I try to get out of the way and let God speak to us through one of my heroes. This morning, I was reading the devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” and again, Oswald Chambers’ devo hit the “nail on the head.” It’s what I needed to hear and I hope it’s an encouragement to you as well…

“He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side… -Mark 6:45

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.

May each of our moments be precious today as we lean on Him and Him alone. Thank you, Jesus, for being our Rock and our Fortress.

Written by Oswald Chambers

 Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com


Thursday, July 7, 2022

His Octane


“Do not quench the Holy Spirit” -1 Thess. 5:19

In our amazing relationship with the Lord, some days are awesome and other days seem difficult. If we’re in a relationship with Jesus, we have true life. But if we’re walking well with Jesus, we have abundant life (John 10:10). There is a difference.  It directly affects everything about us: our job, our parenting, and our lives.

 

When we fill up our cars with gasoline, we typically pull up to the pump, get out, slide our credit card, then choose the lowest number possible (for the lowest price) and fill her up! Have you ever wondered what that number is? It’s the Octane number for the particular gas you’re choosing. Any ‘ole gas will do, but the higher the number, the higher the octane level in the gasoline.

What is Octane? Octane is a hydrocarbon and an alkane with the chemical formula CH3(CH2)6CH3. Translated: the higher the number, the better the gasoline.

I pulled into a huge truck stop in Springfield recently and did a double take at the gasoline pump. It had the usual octane choices of 87 and 89, but it also had a choice for 110! And it cost $6.49 a gallon. It said next to the pump “for racing only.” I found out the station isn't far from a racetrack. This special gas is reserved for racing cars.

But I thought, “What if I put the racing gas in my SUV? Would it drive at amazing speeds?” Of course, it wouldn’t. I have the wrong kind of engine. Having the right gas is only part of the package. It takes a racing engine too, built to take high-octane gas and convert it to speed.

As Christians with a new life in Christ, we have all the necessary equipment to drive really well. We are equipped with the Holy Spirit inside of us who supplies us with the highest octane possible. 

Instead, it seems, we choose to drive like our tank is full of cheap gas. Even though we‘re empowered by the Holy Spirit with an octane number of ten zillion, we’re limited by our capacity to yield ourselves to His power through us. Through Christ, we have all the potential to be a powerful NASCAR vehicle, but we’re left to decide…do I yield to myself and the Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine that came standard when I was born, or do I submit to Jesus and use the jet engine that is available to me as a child of God?

Here’s the deal: having Jesus as my powerful engine doesn't mean I speed. The irony is, it means I slow down and rest. It means that in Christ, I submit to His strength. 

It means I enjoy the most coveted and powerful thing of all: contentment and peace. The price has been paid. The tank is full. I can work with joy, I can raise my kids and parent with joy, and I can live my life with joy.

Now, sit back and enjoy the drive.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

Sunday, June 19, 2022

My Dad


"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” –Joel 1:3

I sure do miss my Dad today. He would have been One Hundred and Four years old on this Fathers Day. He died in 1988 but he never passed away. He will never pass away. He will always live in my heart, the hearts of my brothers, in the hearts of my kids and in the hearts of their kids. He legacy will go on and on.

 

A legacy of faith. As was true of most of the early Staples’ family, he loved God and was dedicated to the Methodist church. The Methodist church in Roopville, Georgia still stands today. I have copies of his Sunday school notes that he used as he taught class for many, many years. He was far from perfect, but his faith grew more and more as he grew older. His faith mattered and he passed it on.

 

A legacy of integrity. Honesty mattered to my dad. He put coins in the parking meters and he paid all of his taxes. “I have no problem paying taxes,” he would say, “It’s just what every man should do.” Having a good name made a difference to him and he elevated honesty and truth as he dealt with people. He was the same man in private as he was in public. As his son, I saw him lose patience and get angry frequently, but he knew how to say “I’m sorry” and I watched him settle differences quite often. 

 

A legacy of simplicity. My dad was absolutely at his best with those who had the least. He could mingle with the “high-falutin” physicians, but enjoyed the blue-collared folks the most. My dad kept things uncomplicated. His favorite ice cream was Blue Bell Vanilla. Boring maybe, but it was all he needed. He never forgot his simple Georgia roots. Though, as a physician, he had the choice to be proud, he preferred not to elevate himself above others. He was humble. As a goofy teenager, I was often embarrassed by his faded jeans and suspenders. I sometimes wanted a “cool” dad. But I came to realize that my dad was more than cool: he was awesome. 

 

A legacy of hard work. My dad didn’t mind breaking a sweat while doing a long project. After he retired, I remember trying to keep up with him as he tended to his garden in the back yard. He could work me into the ground. I remember appealing to my dad one Sunday afternoon. I was a freshman in high school and after watching football on TV, I had run out of time to mow the yard. It was 5:00pm and I needed to be at a Young Life event at 5:30. “Dad, I won’t have time to cut the grass. I’ll do it later in the week,” I said. “Well, you should have done it earlier today. I guess you’ll have to miss youth group,” he said. “I can mow it later this week,” I appealed. “Nope, it needs to be today,” he replied. I wasn’t happy about it. After all, I was going to youth group- the Christian thing to do. But he wouldn’t budge. I mowed the yard and learned that keeping a promise trumped any Bible study. 

 

My dad was an awesome man. I only hope to imitate a little of his character and life. He loved my mother, Mildred, so, so much. And he loved and nurtured his four sons with everything he possessed. 

 

I am honored to have had Pelham Porter Staples Jr. as my father and I will always be thankful that I had thirty-one years with him. I too am thankful for his legacy branded into the Staples family. Thank you Lord for a my dad and for his powerful, simple life…

 

…and for his beautiful, faded jeans and suspenders. 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

So Worth Remembering


“When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick." -Matt. 14:14

Memorial Day honors those wonderful men and women and their families, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States of America. They gave and served and died for the country they loved!

Did they lay down their lives for a perfect country? Not at all. Our imperfect country has struggled with issues it’s entire existence. Injustice, weighty tariffs to the homeland, segregation by race, money, income, and religion, slavery, finances, and probably fifty other issues have always challenged this “experiment” called America. Abraham Lincoln called war a “test” for this nation to “see if this nation or any nation [dedicated to freedom] could long endure.” And we have “endured” for several hundred years.

The unity of this country has always been challenged. No doubt, a “benevolent dictatorship” is the easiest way to run a country. Let one nice guy run the show! But a true democracy attempts to carry out the dreams and desires of the collective, diverse population. In the case of the United States, we’re attempting to satisfy about 326 million people.

A true democracy makes mistakes, big mistakes. After all, it’s made up of imperfect people. A country (and family and marriage) work best when those mistakes are dated, acknowledged, forgiven, and heeded. None of these men and women, who laid down their lives for our nation, died only for their issues. We all have issues and beliefs that we hold dearly. We all have areas in which we disagree in our wonderful country. We do have wonderful diversity in the United States.

In the very fabric of America is diversity and differences in nearly every area of finances, religion, community, relationships and least of all, sports. But I can cheer for the Cardinals while you cheer for the Cubs. As someone said, “We can be brothers without being twins.” We don’t have to see it the same but we do need to respect each other’s views.

So, this Memorial Day season, may we all be people who love and accept those around us. Might we be “curious instead of judgmental.” The truth is,

judging really takes us nowhere, as a country or in relationships. But curiosity has the ability to allow us to love.

Imagine the capacity of Jesus to feel compassion. “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick”, Matt. 14:14. He knew what was in the heart of man, yet still bestowed love and compassion towards all. He saw the worst parts of man and knew He would eventually die by the hand of mankind, but he still loved.

This Memorial Day, might we honor those who died, not by the sacrifice of our lives, but by the sacrifice of our flesh. Might that judgmental, non- loving part of us be set aside and let us choose to love those who surround us. Glance at First Corinthians 13 if you need a reminder of what that love looks like. The best picture of love is Jesus dying on a cross for us, that we might have peace and connection with Him.

Thank you, men and women, who gave their very lives for our country...and for us.

By Eric Joseph Staples © 

www.lifeaid101.com

Note: I try to post to the blog every few weeks. If you would like to receive the blog posts by email, you can subscribe to "parenting 101 by email" on the blog. Please pass these on to friends that could use the encouragement. If you’re getting this email yet you already receive the posts from blogger, let me know and I’ll remove you from this mailing list. Thanks. Have a great day in the Lord -JS