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

 

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Moses in the Desert


“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matt. 19:26

Sometimes things are just too big for our puny little brains to comprehend. And when we can’t wrap our minds around a situation, we look elsewhere for things to make sense. Hopefully the All-Knowing God of the Universe is at the top, the very top, of our list. 

 

We all know the story of Moses. He was faced with an insurmountable situation. Moses and the people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them?

 

They had to be fed and feeding two or three million people requires a lot of food.

 

According to the Quartermaster General in the Army, it is reported that Moses would have to have had 1500 tons of food each day. Do you know that to bring that much food each day, two freight trains, each at least a mile long, would be required!

 

You also must remember they were out in the desert, so they would have to have firewood to use in cooking the food. This would take 4000 tons of wood and a few more freight trains, each a mile long, just for one day.

 

And just think, they were forty years in transit!

 

And they would have to have water. If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes, it would take 11,000,000 gallons each day and a freight train with tank cars, 1800 miles long, just to bring water!

 

And then another thing!

 

They had to get across the Red Sea at night. Now, if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days and nights to get through. So there had to be a space in the Red Sea, 3 miles wide so that they could walk 5000 abreast to get over in one night.

 

But then, there is another problem...............each time they camped at the end of the day, a campground two-thirds the size of the state of Rhode Island was required, or a total of 750 square miles long........ think of it! This much space for camping. (By the way, all these facts are taken from a fun website called anunseenworld.com).

 

 

Do you think Moses figured all this out before he left Egypt? I don’t think so! You see, Moses believed God. Not the “Oh, I believe in God like I believe in Santa Clause” kind of belief but a belief in his heart that God had it all under control. Period. God took care of these things for him. Now do you think God has any problem taking care of all our needs?

 

Now, there is nothing wrong with planning. Those of you who know me know I can be a bit O.C.D. The problem comes when we put our planning and control above the will and providence of the Lord. Sometimes (most of the time) His plans differ from our plans. Peace comes with our willingness to “let go and let Him.” 

 

May our needs become a prayer. We ask for the Lord’s blessings and care. We ask for the Lord to guide and protect us as we go along our way.

 

His love is always with us and His promises are true, and when we give Him all our cares, we know He will see us through.

 

May we all rest in HIS provision and plans…

 

…as we journey through the desert.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

 

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Making Sense of It All


“Who has
 measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?”- Isaiah 40:12

 

If you are a human being reading this, then you are a part of the “I like things to make sense” Club. We ALL are that way. Our hearts rest easy when something is explained to us and we can nod our heads and say “Oh, I understand now!” But the truth is, sometimes things just don’t make sense. That’s when fear and anxiety can rule the day.

 

In a world that doesn’t make sense, it’s imperative for us to cling to the One who does make sense- to let our loving God be our peace. Yes, in a way, one may think God doesn’t make sense either. But God, being well aware of the gap between Himself and His finest creation- mankind, sent His Son Jesus as a mediator to bridge the gap. Amazing.

 

There is so much “talk” these days. People trying to make sense of it all. That’s what fear does. It provokes us to try and figure things out- to take control. The truth is, God’s ways are “inscrutable.” If you know what that word means, you read way too much! It means “doesn’t make sense.” Put a different way, God’s ways don’t fit into our logical, objective mind. 

 

Example: the COVID virus. There are so many different opinions about it all. “The virus is a hoax! Everyone is dying! 95% of people who get the virus have already been vaccinated.”  It’s hard to know what to believe.

 

When I played football and soccer and the coach saw us struggling on the field, he used a marvelous tool called a “time out.” The coach would motion to the referee, and he would stop play. We would all come over to the coach and he would refocus us back to the game plan. And guess what? We played better after the time out (usually). 

 

We need to remember the importance of “time outs” in life. We need time to refocus back on God. We need time to remember just how big He really is. That’s one of the purposes of the Bible- God’s Word. It’s a beautiful narrative to remind us of just how big He really is. 

 

It’s the story of His creation. 

Job 38

 

It’s the story of the size of Heaven

Isaiah 40:12

 

Scientists say it would take eighty thousand years to get from one end of the Universe to the other.

 

Scientists say it would take ten million years to get to the farthest we can see.

 

Astronomers say the average galaxy has one hundred stars and that there are one hundred billion galaxies

 

Oceanographers say our oceans contain three hundred and forty quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them in the hollow of His hands (Isaiah 40:12)

 

Geologists say the Earth weighs six sextillion metric tons, yet to God it is dust on a scale (Isaiah 40:12,15)

 

Scientists tell us the known universe stretches more than thirty billion light years (two hundred sextillion miles) yet, to God, the great expanse represents but the breadth of His hand (Isaiah 40:12)

 

Oceanographers say if we drop an anchor in the Pacific Ocean’s Marianna trench, an hour later it will hit the bottom- seven miles down.

 

It goes on and on! God is SO BIG and we are not.

 

When things don’t make sense, realize that God does make sense. His ways are amazing, and we can trust His providence and care. So much of life’s seasons maintain their purpose in the mind of God alone. That precious commodity called trust allows us to rest in the care of our mighty God.

 

Call time out and be reminded that God really is big enough for us.

 

He is truly worthy of our trust…

 

…even when we can’t make sense of it all.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

 

 

  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Praise or Prayer? Yes


Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” -Matt. 6:9

 

Praise to our awesome God is better “caught than taught.” When we live in praise, we live in the presence of God. And of course, when we live in praise, we live in prayer. Or is it the other way around? Truth is, it’s not either-or. Both beautifully go together when we’re focusing on God.

 

When we praise God without an attitude of prayer, it’s a pretty insulated form of praise. It’s like saying good morning to someone you’re angry with about something. You’re getting the good morning out of the way by saying it from your head, not your heart. It feels logical and sterile. 

 

When we pray to God without a spirit of praise, it’s selfish and caustic. It’s like asking Santa Claus for things. It is usually us coming to God with a grocery list of things we want. We’re not so much asking Him from a spirit of submission, we are telling Him what we want and oh, by the way, we want it now.

 

Being a parent or grandparent trumps any book on parenting. Someone said, “Experience plants deeper and surer than words.”

 

Many times we take our kids or grandkids to an event only to have to deal with their reluctance. “I don’t want to go,” they might say. “Muppet Babies comes on at 3:00 and I’ll miss it if we go out.” We went out anyway, the kids got into it and Muppet Babies was forgotten.

 

Praising God works out the same way. When we get engulfed in worshipping God, our circumstances don’t rule the moment. Our circumstances, SO important at the time, becomes a faint memory. When the majesty and glory of God become the centerpiece of our lives, the other “important” things fall into their lower place. 

 

Like someone said, “We all have ‘re-sources’ and ‘the-sources’.” Prayer and praise are the way we keep our awesome God in His worthy place in our hearts as THE source of contentment and peace in our lives. Then, we’re able to give healthy time to the other important resources in our lives: family, friends, finances, future, etc..

 

When what should be “re-sources” become “the-sources”, we create a problem. If I leave out everyday praise to God and rarely pray to Him, then these other things can become THE priority.  Suddenly, (though the process is typically gradual) finances, for instance,  can become the center of me, my marriage and my life. THE source of purpose and significance for me is based upon how much money I have. There is certainly nothing wrong with money. But when it becomes my source of peace and contentment, I’m pretty much sunk. Like someone said, “How much money is enough? A little bit more.”  Money is never a fair source of peace. Neither is anything other than God.

 

But God is and always will be The True Source.  And prayer and praise are the main “tools” that our loving Father has given to us to keep the connection pure and true. Like the loving mom and dad who gave their college bound seventeen-year-old her cell phone so she will “stay in touch,” our loving God gives us prayer and praise to keep the link fresh and strong between Him and His beloved children. 

 

May we all keep that “cell phone” charged and available in our walk with God. May we stay established in the intimacy of our relationship with our loving Lord as we praise His name and remain in prayer. 

 

It’s all provided by Him for one reason: He loves us. May we walk in His love every minute of every hour of every day, Muppet Babies or not!

 

By Eric Joseph Staples

www.lifeaid101.com