Saturday, May 14, 2022

Codfish and Trials


“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 

and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” -James 1:1-4

 

Difficulties and trials aren’t our favorite parts of life, but much like athletics, we understand the necessity of “workouts,” even though our preference would be a cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper by the pool. Did any of us enjoy running wind-sprints after practice or two-hour workouts on a hot Texas afternoon? We don’t like difficulty and trial, but we understand the necessity of it all. Our coaches pushed us so we would be in shape for the game, just as God pushes so we’ll be at our best for life. Resting in letting God have His way and will makes all the difference!

 

Chuck Swindoll tells a great story about codfish. In the NE United States codfish are a big commercial business. There is a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand posted a problem to the shippers. At first, they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So, they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, but the cod also still lost its flavor and, in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected. 

 

Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy- the catfish. From the time the cod left the east Coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. And, you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before. 

 

Each one of us is in a tank of particular and inescapable circumstance. It is painful enough to stay in the tank. But in addition to our situation, there are God-appointed “catfish” to bring sufficient tension that keeps us alive, alert, fresh, and growing. It’s all part of God’s project to shape our character so we will be more like His Son. 

 

Understand why the catfish are in your tank. Understand they are part of God’s method of producing character in your life and mine. Understanding doesn’t mean we “like” it, but we don’t have to like it to submit ourselves to it. Hum. That’s where faith trusts and submits to a sovereign God- even when nothing makes sense! That’s the reason we have the narrative called the Bible to remind us that we can have peace and contentment in the midst of difficulty. 

 

Be willing to trust God and let Him do His thing in our lives. His plans are good- kind of crazy sometimes, but good. Understanding God’s good purpose doesn’t make the trial any easier. We would all prefer to “have our cake and eat it too.” In other words, we want all the rewards of trial without the difficulty.

 

But let’s rise up, put on our pads and run on down to the field where practice is beginning. God will give us all the strength we need to play the game. May we call upon Him to give us the strength to battle the catfish in our tank. 

 

May we let the struggle with that employee or the difficulty with our spouse or the tension with our teenager be a chance for us to display character and integrity. May we let God’s plans have their way in our lives. And may we trust that He really does know what He’s doing…

 

…catfish and all.

 

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

 

 

  

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

God's Delays


“Yet those who wait for the LORD, will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary” -Isaiah 40:31

 

Waiting has always been a challenge for this youngest child, Joey Staples. The pace of society today hasn’t helped me at all. I expect instant answers and instant solutions. I text someone and expect an answer within 5 minutes. Back in the day, if someone missed the stagecoach, they had to wait a month until it came through again. Today, if the plane is five minutes late, most people go berserk. But the truth is, God is in control. His timing is paramount to our well-being IF we choose to trust Him. 

 

The attached poem by Robert Schuller has always proven true to me:

 

God’s Delay is Not God’s Denial

 

God always hears and answers prayer,

Though long may be the trial.

Let patience bloom while God prepares;

Delay is not denial.

When God would glorify His Name,

And make His blessing great;

The one whose heart God's will doth frame

Must sometimes pray and wait.

But come, the answer surely must,

For God has never lied.

And faith, which looks at God in trust,

God never has denied.

So when the weeks turn months, then years,

And doubt feign would defile,

Beseech the more and that with tears;

Delay is not denial.

 

 

God always hears our prayers, 

But He does not always say, "Yes!" 

Sometimes He says, "Wait" 

Sometimes He says, "No" 

For He has something better for us.

God's delays are not denials, 

He has heard your prayer; 

He knows all about your trials, 

Knows your every care.

God's delays are not denials, 

Help is on the way, 

He is watching o'er life's dials, 

Bringing forth that day. 

God's delays are not denials, 

You will find Him true, 

Working through the darkest trials, 

What is best for you.

 

God has a good plan for our lives also. 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

 

May we welcome God’s change of plans as good. Look back on the times when God blocked a plan and “caused all things to work together for good.” I’m so glad that Paula and I broke up (by note) in 6th grade! I’m glad because God had another person waiting, Jeanie, as a part of His plan. And we’ve been married 41 years! 

 

May we all rest and be secure in HIS plan. May we all wait well. Resting in His care and walking at HIS pace makes all the difference. Even when none of it makes sense, we trust in His plan. Whether it’s a “yes,” “wait,” or “no,” He is in control. His ways are always higher…

 

…so, may we rest in the lower as we move to His higher.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com



Wednesday, February 16, 2022

An Unlikely Friendship


“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” -Phil. 2:3

China is hosting the XXIV (24th) Olympic games right now. It has been fun for Jeanie and me to watch. As always, these games are being held during controversy. But Olympics have always occurred in challenging times, which is part of what is remarkable about the Olympics. We, as a broken and divided world, lay down our arms and compete. But sometimes we just can’t leave it alone. Oh, but sometimes we can!

History is messy and wonderful at the same time. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens came as an American Olympian track star and Lutz Long was a German Olympian track star.

But African American Jesse Owens became friends with Lutz Long, who was a Nazi soldier. Despite the presence of angry, racist leader, Adolf Hitler, at the games and plenty of Americans who had bias towards all Germans, these two made the choice to be friends.

Long publicly embraced Owens while American President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t send Owens a congratulatory telegram after his impressive wins.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler,” Owens later said in an interview. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have, and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Lutz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

After besting Long and taking home gold in the long jump (and three other medals),  Owens was famously photographed saluting the American flag. Long stood behind him, offering the Nazi salute.

The two remained friends, keeping in contact as much of world plunged into war. Long was stationed with the German Army in North Africa before being killed in action on July 14, 1943, during the Allied invasion of Sicily, at the Battle of San Pietro. In his last letter to Owens, Long, seemingly aware of his impending fate wrote, “My heart tells me, if I can be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is a something so very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war done, someday find my Karl [Kai], and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we are not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

In 1951 Owens traveled to Germany to meet Long’s then 10-year-old son, Kai, fulfilling his promise to indeed tell the young boy how things could be. Owens eventually served as best man at Kai’s wedding, and the two families remain in contact to this day.”

Their friendship was and is powerful. They were men of their times but didn’t let that keep them from being friends. If they could figure it out, we should be able to do the same.

Making the choice to befriend and love is a choice we make (or don’t make). We can’t do this unless we choose to look past circumstances and bias and make the choice to love. It doesn’t mean I agree with their values- but it does mean I agree with their value.

In the all-time best show of love, our loving God chose to make us His own by sending Jesus to die on the cross to take away our sin. We did nothing to earn it. He “befriended” us by His grace. Saying “yes” to Jesus is to become a friend of God. Our friendships here on planet earth are meant to be reproductions of that Godly relationship.

May we all be willing to see past the skin color, nationality, political views and differences and reach out to love. May we be willing to befriend our brothers and sisters, no matter the variation. Let’s all “go for the gold” …

…and love each other.

 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

 

 

 

 





Friday, January 21, 2022

Reap What You Sow


“Do not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” -
Is. 43:19-19

 It’s January 2022! If you’re like me, my whole “schedule-calendar lobe” in my brain has been on hold for the past year or so. The other day, I was trying to find the Rangers game on the TV and then realized it’s not baseball season- it’s football season! OK, I made that up, but it has been a disoriented- challenging move into the New Year. 

 

“What are you thinking about the New Year?,” Bill asked. “I think it’s going to be all roses,” Denise replied. “But how do you know that?” Bill asked. “Because that’s what I’ve been planting,” said Denise. 

 

A New Year- 2022. Sounds like a sci-fi movie but it’s where we are today. It is indeed a new year- a year of potential and a year of newness. It’s a time of new beginnings. It is a year for us to start over. It is an opportunity for us to plant roses. 

 

Of course, planting roses doesn’t mean the garden is spotless and beautiful all the time. I plant the roses, but I don’t control all the factors; rainfall, condition of the soil, or how many dogs trample through the flower bed. I’m not in control of all of life’s circumstances. But, if I am diligent about the areas I do control, roses tend to grow. If I take responsibility for myself, I can help myself grow. 

 

We all hear the challenges to make New Year’s resolutions: don’t eat too much, exercise more often, get ten hours of sleep each night (?). Perhaps this year we can “sow” goals that are likely to grow roses. Focusing on fertilizing this year might be great for the yard, but probably won’t affect the roses growing in the front flower bed. We need to tend to the flower bed.

 

We have this weird tendency to focus on things that are out of our control and disconnect from things that we can handle. For example, I can watch the national news today at 5:30 and hear about the international struggles in the Middle East. By the way,  I advise people quite often not to watch the news. Not to reinforce denial and sticking our heads in the sand, but the news is always 90% negative and depressing. That’s why people watch it. People don’t want to hear thirty minutes on how great things are. Most of this lost world is…lost and unhappy. Negative news helps reinforce and validate my despondent state. Sad but true. I won’t find the encouragement I need there, but yet we run to the Internet, Google and press for our news. We have absolutely no control over the state of the Middle East, but we crave the latest updates about it all. 

 

On the other hand, I do have control over most of my own time and schedule. I know I need to spend time with the God I love-in the Bible and in prayer, I know I need to spend time exercising, I know I need to spend time with my wonderful wife Jeanie, but my soul can be lazy in those crucial areas. 

 

May this year be different. May we be people who “live and let live,” people who take responsibility for our own lives and release ourselves from trying to control those around us. After all, how much control do I have over those around me?  Let’s all say it together…ZERO. I might think I have control, but the truth is, I don’t. Sure, I care but I can’t control. 

 

I pray 2022 will be different for us all. May we be correctly focused on the ingredients that will cultivate growth in our lives. May I set the boundaries and the goals necessary for me to grow. It’s not selfish at all. Truth is, when I take responsibility for me, it frees me up to love and care for those around me. Not control- but care. 

 

May we all grow roses as we cultivate and care for ourselves, love those around us and lean on the grace of God in 2022.

 

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

 

 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Holidays with Family: A Beautiful Mess


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

What an interesting time of year! Thanksgiving is a blessing, and they say that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year.”  Christmas is a “jolly” four weeks between the two holidays, yet, stats expose this month as the most depressive and difficult time of the year for many people. But that is certainly not what God desires. His plan is toward peace, contentment, and completeness.  


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. Yep. We’re a mess!


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, unfortunately, most family accounts are pretty 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 to 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, 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. And we must remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with whether THEY make a change or not.


So, have a holly-jolly Christmas season this year and enjoy your family. Love those who are sometimes 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. I love our family SO much and cherish the time we get to be together.


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

 

 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Falling But Rising


“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” -Luke 9:24

As one grandkid said, “Look Grandpa, all the trees are dying- their leaves are falling off.” Grandpa replied, “You’re right, all the leaves are falling off. That’s what they do in the fall. But the tree isn’t dead. It’s doing just fine. It’ll be back, alive and well, in the spring.”

I love the fall season. Jeanie and I never really experienced the beauty of autumn growing up. The trees of Texas and Louisiana don’t show their color as well. But the Ozarks are beautiful and amazing in the fall. And even though I’m partially color blind and can’t experience the total brilliance of fall, I do see the beauty in the Ozarks.

How ironic: trees and foliage going dormant can be such a beautiful thing. But it truly is the irony of life in this beautiful illustration called Autumn. Really, all the seasons are a God-given illustration of God at work. The message of the fall is “a season of falling but rising.” Scientists remind us that winter is a certainty that all vegetation in the temperate zones must face each year. Perennial plants, including trees, must have some sort of protection to survive freezing temperatures and other harsh wintertime influences. Stems, twigs, and buds are equipped to survive extreme cold so that they can reawaken when spring heralds the start of another growing season. Tender leaf tissues, however, would freeze in winter, so plants must either toughen up and protect their leaves or dispose of them.

The main characteristic of fall is a loss of foliage. Put simply: leaves are falling off. Trees are not dying (though trees do die) but are going, as the horticulturists tell us, dormant. Dormant does not equal dead. It might look and feel like death, but there is still life. 

 

Winter is a certainty and so are trials and difficulties in our lives. In us, fall shows up when our lives go through the seasons of loss or trial or difficulty. Sometimes we do lose most of our leaves and color. We wonder “What is the purpose of it all?” We question the future, and we grieve over the loss. Joy and hope tend to disappear during these particular seasons. It’s so easy to lose the joy of the Lord when our circumstances are cold, windy and dormant. 

 

But God is alive and well! He uses every season for His purposes. Yes, spring and summer are so nice! Warmth and growth and sunshine are so attractive. But every season serves a purpose. 

 

Someone said, “Fall is truly a celebration of death.” Nothing is dying but it can appear so. May we let this agricultural “timeout” have its way in the quiet and rest and peace. 

 

Yes, celebrate the beauty of spring but embrace the beauty of fall as well. Let God have His way in the humility and brokenness. James 1:9, “Let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position.” “High position”? What? What is high about feeling low? Humility is when I realize my place with God. When He is at the source, all is well. As a matter of fact, it can’t get any better!

 

May we rejoice as we rise above our circumstances and rest in His peace and strength. 

 

Enjoy the beauty of the fall…

 

As we rise in the beauty of Christ! 

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

God's Silence- Then What?


“When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” -
John 11:6

 

Oswald Chambers nails it! He captures the truths of the Lord SO well. I’ve been learning from him for many years.  I’ve heard so many people express their frustration with God because He is seemingly choosing to “sit this one out” and “even now, is leaving the world to wallow in its struggles”. Nope. God is as involved as He can be in our world today. Please read Oswald’s words below and I’ll comment afterwards: 

 

“Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.”

Wow. Such truth. No doubt, the electronic world we live in skews our perception of silence. If we have any question about anything, Siri is a question away from answering us. We expect immediate understanding and immediate answers which all feed our insatiable “need” for control and the fueling of our pride. 

Silence and pride do not mix well. Sure, we could tape our mouths shut but even then our soul would spew out comments and distractions away from the peace of Christ. “I have to share my opinions and perspectives on just about everything- I have the right!” Yes, it’s our right and it’s also our downfall. Silence means I’m willing to trust and confide in the One who knows all. It doesn’t have to make sense to my heart to be true. And it doesn’t mean I live in a cave somewhere by myself. We all need community. It’s how we’re built. But I do want to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).

Listening quickly means I’m quiet quickly. I have so much to learn and so much to hear. There will always be a lot to say, but a lot more to hear. No where does that show up more than our prayer life. Am I always asking for stuff, treating God like Santa Clause? Or am I listening as well to His instruction and comfort for me?

May we all be worthy of God’s trust to keep us in silence. May we trust His timing and sovereignty to be able to wait. It means we must give it over again and again and again. Let Him be the faithful God He is in your circumstance. He’s got this even when it appears out of control. 

Rest in His peace…

…and His silence.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com