Friday, January 23, 2015

Deer Dependency

“Bear one another’s burdens…,for each one will bear his own load” -Gal. 6:2,5 It’s not easy for most of us to depend on people. Truth is, it’s not easy for most of us to depend on anything. We like our independence, our control and our consistency. We don’t mind others depending on us nearly as much. But in God’s plan here on planet earth, most of the time, he chooses to meet our needs through others. We’re called to “bear one another’s burdens.” But for us to be able to bear others’ burdens, we have to be given permission. We have to humble our pride and yield to another’s ability to love. Most of us would rather gargle tomato juice than depend on another brother or sister. But in doing so, we let others love us and they are blessed besides. Before Christmas, we were driving to Des Moines to spend a few days with Elizabeth, Mark and the grandkids. We were driving after dark in between Springfield and Kansas City when out of nowhere, a huge buck, crossing the median, slammed into the side of our SUV. The side airbags deployed and we pulled over in shock. We drove to the next exit and pulled over to survey the damage. The vehicle was badly broken. I have come so close to hitting deer in the past, but this was the first time I’d had an actual collision. As my bro-in-law Brian pointed out, the deer actually hit us. It’s amazing how much damage a big buck can do when he makes contact with a pile of metal going 70 mph. But the vehicle was drivable. We still made the three hour drive to Des Moines with no problems and drove the six hours back a few days later. On the way back home, we spotted the deer on the side of the road and stopped to survey the damage. It was indeed huge and it’s rack badly damaged from the collision. We dropped the car off at the body shop in Springfield and had someone pick us up to take us back to Branson. A few days later, I had a call from the body shop that they would do the repairs and, in a month or so, I’d have the vehicle back in my possession. A month! Having no choice, I responded “yes” and the dependency began. I became a man without wheels! It’s kind of funny because most of the men in this world do not own a car. They don’t need a car. Most cultures are much more dependent on mass transit and their feet to get them from here to there. But not in America. We take pride in our independence. And that’s the problem, one that the Lord is working on in me these days. With no car, I’ve been forced to depend on Jeanie and Brian. They both have Hondas and have been generous to let me use their vehicles when needed. And Terry, a co-worker from the church, has been so gracious to give me rides to work. They have all been more than gracious. But I had to let them help me. I had to be willing to let them serve me. As Chuck Swindoll said in his classic book Improving Your Serve, “We can not be true servants if we do not let others serve us as well.” Makes sense. It’s meant to be a continuous circle of giving and being served. When we’re hyper-independent, we rob others of their ability to provide blessing to us as well as the blessing they can receive. So, be someone who helps carry others’ loads. Give someone a ride. Take a senior citizen to the grocery store. Encourage a friend. But also be willing to be served. If you have a need, reach out to a brother or sister. Ask for help. Let God provide for you through others. Thanks to Brian, Jeanie, Terry and everyone else who have helped me during this season… …and thanks to that poor deer for making it necessary. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dad and the Baylor Grade

“…to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me…” -2 Cor. 12:7 My whole life, I’d been trying to keep up with my three awesome big brothers. Everything they accomplished created a bar for me to have to jump over as well. At least that’s what I thought! They were great big brothers and were smart and athletic. I kept the pace pretty well through high school but at the close of my first semester at Baylor, I was concerned I had fallen way behind. But a loving dad and graceful Heavenly Father would teach me a great lesson. My time in high school was full of athletics and pretty good grades. My best sport was soccer, but my brothers all played football, so I did too. We lived in Texas, after all. So life in the fall for the Staples family focused on football. I had pretty good speed but was much too small to play in college. So, keeping up with the brothers in college wouldn’t include football. Ironically, I did play soccer in college, but back then soccer was kind of like being on the bowling team- not a lot of exposure. My oldest brother went to SMU and my other two brothers to TCU. I thought I was ready to try my own wings so I chose to go to college far from home- actually only two hours from home! By the time I landed in Waco at Baylor, I was a confused freshman searching for my identity and purpose. I chose biology as my major and quickly discovered that I was way out of my league academically. Truth was, I had no idea what I “wanted to be” and competing with the best of Baylor wasn’t going to go too well. By the time I finished my first semester, I changed my major to “undeclared” and waited nervously for my final grades. My grades were decent, but I had made a D in one of my biology courses. I was devastated. I’d never made a grade below a B in high school. It was a crisis as I struggled with my identity. I didn’t know who Joey Staples was. I wasn’t Joey the football player. I wasn’t Joey the smart person. I wasn’t Joey the success. And alone in Waco, I wasn’t Joey the little brother of Pel, Marc, and Bob either. Funny that I always rolled my eyes when someone called me “little Staples” but with that gone, I missed the title and the security. But God had a plan and a purpose. He always does. He was chipping away at a huge reserve of pride built up over the years in my heart. It consisted of a competitive, envious, controlling, arrogance that lent itself well towards winning games and making good grades, but not toward living in freedom in God’s grace. So, after my first semester at Baylor, I arrived home in Fort Worth and waited anxiously for my report card to arrive. I checked the mailbox and it finally came in the mail (no email back then). I opened it and sure enough, I had made the D. That night I walked back to my parent’s bedroom with the report card in hand, prepared to be rebuked. I handed it to my dad and apologized for the poor grade. His response, “Oh well, try to do better next semester. The Cowboys play tomorrow. Let’s watch the game.” What? That was it? I replied “yes” to the doing better and the Cowboy game and left the room shocked. My dad (and my mom too I guess) had just given me a huge gift. It was called grace. Truth was, I didn’t need more pressure from them. I needed grace. I already had plenty of guilt. But remorse and guilt are fuel for success when the principle players apply grace. Do you think I left the bedroom feeling like I could be lazy and make all D’s? NO. I left determined to honor my dad’s grace. I returned to Baylor and focused on school. I didn’t make a 4.0, but I graduated four years later. I was free to fail. And therefore, I was free to succeed. My earthly dad had ushered me to the grace of my Heavenly Father. It was and is a tremendous gift. I still struggle with trying to perform, with trying to “keep up.” Then I remember my loving Father and His grace toward me. I’m okay. I have nothing to prove. God has already declared me officially loved and approved. I smile and I relax and I remember… …that the Cowboys play tomorrow. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, November 17, 2014

Helicopter Living

“Peter…said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘…what is that to you? You follow Me.’ —John 21:21-22 It’s amazing that Jesus had the profound ability to know everything, yet He was limited by His humanity. How those two factors blended into the personality of Jesus, I have no idea. But I do know that in God’s plan, He meant for Jesus to be human, that He might be able to relate to us. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” In His humanity, Jesus chose to submit to the will of His Father. He calls us to do the same- to let go of control and submit to His plan and will for those we love. One of my favorite writers, Oswald Chambers, addressed this issue of submission: “One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.” We become “helicopters” when we hover over our kids, employees, friends or parents and become what Oswald called “amateur providences.” We attempt to control so that people or circumstances will turn out the way we desire. We control so that what they do will look good on our resume. We hover over people and when we see a problem, we quickly land the helicopter and fix the situation to our liking. What’s the motivation for all of this? It’s our old friend PRIDE and when pride rules, it demands results and I can only control the results when I take control. Thankfully, Jesus would have none of that. His life was ruled by HUMILITY. Phillipians 2:6-8 reminds us that Jesus … “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He came to do the will of the Father and left the details in His Father’s hands. We tend to grab the details and determine that a problem for someone we love needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Our motives are right but our hearts are interfering in God’s plan. He knows what’s best. He knows whether pain or relief is necessary. He knows what course is best. He has a better plan. Yes, we’re called to reach out and love, but not control. Our role is to land the helicopter and focus our dependence on Christ. We’re at our best when we let go of control and latch on to His Spirit. Then we’ll be used as God intends… …and have our feet back down on the ground. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” -Gen. 9:16 Jeanie and I walked out of a restaurant a few weeks ago, looked up and a phenomenal rainbow consumed the evening sky. People were pulling out their cell phones and snapping (pressing?) pictures like crazy. It was beautiful and perfect and amazing. A woman in the parking lot commented, “We’ll all have good luck now.” Good luck? The rainbow promises more than luck. It assures us that when we’re at our worst and we turn and run, God will never run the other direction. Rainbows are sweet and pretty and nice, but they are serious business as well. They are God’s created promise that He will stay with us. Rainbows are God’s reminder that He will never break His covenant with us. I read about rainbows tonight. The world of science has always marveled at rainbows. The rainbow is not located at a specific distance, but comes from an optical illusion caused by any water droplets viewed from a certain angle relative to a light source. Thus, a rainbow is not an object and cannot be physically approached. Indeed, it is impossible for an observer to see a rainbow from water droplets at any angle other than the customary one of 42 degrees from the direction opposite the light source. Even if an observer sees another observer who seems "under" or "at the end of" a rainbow, the second observer will see a different rainbow—farther off—at the same angle as seen by the first observer. Amazing. When sunlight encounters a raindrop, part is reflected but part enters, being refracted at the surface of the raindrop. When this light hits the back of the drop, some of it is reflected off the back. When the internally reflected light reaches the surface again, once more some is internally reflected and some is refracted as it exits the drop. This forms the rainbow. Lot’s of detail, I know. But God is a God of detail. Just read the Old Testament description of the building of the temple, for instance. Second Chronicles lists all of Solomon’s intricate details regarding his building of God’s house. He set up ten basins, ten golden lampstands, bronze altars, etc. The list goes on and on. We tend to fast forward through all the specifics. But there’s a point to it all. God knows what He’s doing. He is a perfect, detailed God. He is a God of design and order. He does everything perfectly. He does everything exactly right. He does everything in intricate detail. He is the definition of exact. When He created the earth and animals, he had it all set up without blemish. Scripture tells us in Genesis, “He saw it all as good.” But one thing was missing: man. So God invented man and God’s “perfection” has been tested ever since. As sin entered the picture, Man rebelled. God had enough and wiped the slate of His creation clean but left the legacy to Noah to start again. He didn’t have to do that. He could have cancelled His “experiment” here on planet earth and moved on to Pluto or Mars. But His grace prevailed. God was and is perfect, but He is also graceful. Perfection plus grace always equals love. So God acted. He first set up the system of sacrifice, that man might be able to earn his place with God. But ultimately He set up the better system of grace. He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for that sin so, by His grace, man might have everlasting life with Him. I would imagine that if someone had looked up on that terrible yet beautiful day of crucifixion, he might have seen a rainbow off in the distance. It would have been God’s reminder that He would not abandon His people. It’s why He sacrificed His Son Jesus. May we all remind each other of His grace and love. May we all be reminded whenever we see a rainbow, that God has made His ultimate move of grace. The next move is the responsibility of every man to confess his sin and yield to the love of God. Don’t get lost in the storm of life… …but, instead, get caught up in the rainbow. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Faithful Wounds

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” - Prov. 27:6 “A good friend is someone who is willing to stab you in the front.” Yikes! That sounds painful. But a true brother or sister is willing to speak the truth to us and loves us enough to tell us what we don’t want to hear. Those kinds of friends are rare. One of those friends to me is Donny Mason. We met at a Young Life camp back in high school. We roomed together in college, were in each other’s weddings and our two oldest kids, Elizabeth and Mark, ended up marrying each other! Crazy! Donny and I have been through so many seasons together- up’s and down’s-and trust each other enough to be truthful and honest. I am simply a better person because of Donny and I love him dearly. This past weekend we drove to Amarillo to spend time with Donny and his wonderful wife Lisa. They are going through some trials in this season of their lives and there’s nothing like being with grandkids to bring encouragement. So, we loaded up Elizabeth, and the grandkids, Reese and Lucy, and made the haul to West Texas. Mark, wasn’t able to pull away from work. Of course, the drive to and from Branson included watching everyone’s favorite movie, Frozen. We have watched the DVD ten thousand times I think, but I always enjoy it. Reese and Lucy simply cannot get enough of Anna and Olaf. I can’t either. Olaf is my favorite character. He is the simplistic, almost neurotic optimist snowman that loves a season he’s never experienced, summer. As he sings his song “Summer,” he’s dwelling on how wonderful this season is that would most certainly end his existence. He doesn’t understand the implications. He doesn’t understand because no one has ever explained it to him. People don’t want to hurt him. People don’t want to embarrass him. After all, he’s so excited about it. When Christof attempts to explain it to Olaf, Anna exclaims, “Don’t you dare!” In the car, I said to the DVD player, “Tell him.” He needed to hear the truth. He deserved the truth. We all need to hear the truth. We all are blind to so many things in our lives. We need friends who are willing to tell us what we don’t want to hear. We need true friends who are willing to wound our spirits to reveal the truth about situations that harm us. After all, wounds heal. We are all blind people. None of us see it all correctly. We think we do, but we don’t. God created us to need each other. God usually chooses to extend His own hand of love through brothers and sisters in our lives, if we’ll let Him. Be a true friend to others and “speak the truth” in love. Allow others to speak the truth to you as well. You probably won’t like it- who likes to be wounded? But we are set free by the truth. Jeanie and I have this “deal” with Elizabeth that any time she sees something in our house that looks outdated are old (yes, we’re getting old!) she’s to be honest and tell us. We don’t want a house with “weird” items still sitting on the counter that have been there forever. Why couldn’t we just do the same? Because we live there. We’re desensitized to so many things. That’s true in our lives as well. We leave on the ugly wallpaper of our lives. We just don’t notice it anymore. We need a voice to say, “Uh, it’s time to remove that old wallpaper and paint the living room!” This morning I was hurrying out the door for a run and Jeanie stopped me, “Don’t you have an 8:00 appointment?” “Yes,” I said. “You may not have time for a run,” she said. She was right. Normally, I would have been a bit defensive. But I looked at the clock and chilled. I spent time with the Lord and had a good breakfast and relaxed, I made it to the office in plenty of time. I needed to hear her wisdom. I get going so fast sometimes, that I’m my own worst friend giving poor advice. We all need to heed the advice of those special people God has surrounded us with to keep us going. I am so thankful for Donny and the life-long friendship I have with him. Our friendship is solid because we are honest and real. Let the Olaf’s in your life know the truth. Be honest. Share your heart in love. Be willing to let others share with you as well. It might just help produce a solid life… …instead of one that’s melting away. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, September 28, 2014


“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” -Gal. 5:1 I do not know Lo Lo Jones. But I do know she is a world-class track athlete who was an All-American hurdler at LSU and an Olympic runner. I had read she was a Christian and heard that she would be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. Usually, Jeanie watches the “dancing show” upstairs while I watch Ice Truckers or some other nonsense downstairs. As with any competitor, Lo Lo has had her victories and defeats. But when she was voted off the show the first night, I’d heard she was visibly upset. Bottom line: losing, at anything, is hard. If who I am depends on how I perform, then I’m left to have to earn my significance. But Lo Lo made it right. She posted the comments below on her blog the next day: “My prayer tonight is for God to soften me and my heart. When you go so many times rejected in public you put walls up. When I was dancing last night and messed up I had flashbacks of the three Olympics and that people constantly tease me about. I thought oh no here it comes again. People are going to ridicule me. I'm so tired of feeling embarrassed. I joined the other competitors upstairs and I couldn't force a smile on my face. I felt like vomiting and in between the other dances I went in a back room and fought back tears. I felt so broken. So unlovable. Embarrassed. My brief time on #DWTS was a lasting lesson. I really wanted to stay on the show and have the layers of hurt wash away by showing the public how hard I work. I wanted to come away a victor for once. I wanted to do so good performing in public that the haters would stop teasing me. But that is my way of thinking. Not God’s. Instead I need to trust God that he would heal my heart. That I would not work so hard for the world to validate and redeem me but know that God already conquered that for me on the cross. My time was brief but the lesson is lasting. Thank you everyone who wrote me kind messages. You were helping me not fall into darkness. Love ya guys (see I'm getting softer) My prayer for tonight is Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Wow! To me, Lo Lo Jones is more than a winner. Many wear the medals around their necks like a ball and chain. The weight of the pressure to have to succeed can ruin the joy of victory. It is amazing to me that Lo Lo sees herself as a rejected! I bet she has a house full of trophies and medals. But to her, they must not be enough. It’s s bit like the anorexic who sees themselves as overweight when in reality they are dangerously thin. The reality for a Christian is grace: unmerited (unearned) favor from the God of the Universe, period. It’s just hard for us to fathom, but it’s true. When we grasp the reality of His grace without having to earn it and then go to work, we work in freedom and joy. If we win, great and if we lose, that’s okay too. Either way, we’re a winner. That’s what Lo Lo learned and what we all need to grasp as we begin each day. Especially parents, in our sports crazed world, need to teach this freedom to their kids. We need to work, compete, and live in His peace and grace… ...whether we’re still dancing or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, September 1, 2014

Growing Old

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” -Prov. 16:31 Someone said to me the other day, “I’m not sure how I’ll handle it if I ever get old.” Surely he meant WHEN he get’s old. One thing is for sure- if we’re fortunate enough to wake to another day, we just got older. We are ALL growing older every day. It’s important that we teach our kids and grandkids how to age with dignity and respect. We teach the best (or worst) by being who we are, not by what we say. How we live out our days with grace and treat our elders makes all the difference. I read some amazing news about Daniel the other day. Perhaps when you think of Daniel, you think of a young man. But the Book of Daniel covers at least seventy years in the life of this amazing prophet. According to the best estimates, Daniel was 76 years old in chapter 4; 86 years old in chapter 5; and an energetic 93 years old in chapter 6! No matter his age, Daniel’s faith shines brightly, whether interpreting a king’s dream, reading the “handwriting on the wall,” or taking a stand for his God. Did you know at 90 years old, Chagall became the first living artist to be exhibited at the Louvre museum; Pablo Picasso was still producing drawings and engravings; Chemist Paul Walden was still giving chemistry lectures; and American composer Elliot Carter wrote his first opera (at 90) and he published more than 40 works between ages 90 and 100. Perhaps you have heard it calculated that John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and traveled 225,000 miles (his horse had never heard of kilometers). Did you realize these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 36 to 88? I was impressed; until reading George Muller’s figures. He is said to have traveled 200,000 miles, using his linguistic ability to preach in several languages to an estimated three million people. Now admittedly, Muller traveled extensively overseas. But here’s the best part: Muller’s statistics only began after his seventieth birthday and continued for the next 17 years. Yes, age is all relative. Eighteen is old to a ten year old; when we turn 21, 30 seems ancient; when we turn 30…and so on. We need to embrace our age. Around 400 B.C., Plato wrote, "He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden." I think what he meant was there isn’t a temperament that awaits us in old age. We are simply who we are today. And the way we are today is mostly the way we’ll be tomorrow. A Godly life resting in the hands of Jesus isn’t an easy life, but a secure life. And it’s that very security that leads to the peace we all desire. No health insurance coverage, 401 K plan or retirement village can provide that security. Don’t let the commercials convince you otherwise. What was true when we were ten is still true when we’re 100- a life hidden with Christ brings peace. God is not finished with us yet. Let Him have his way. Corrie Ten Boom said, "The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation." What donation will we make today? Perhaps it’s a call of encouragement to a family member, maybe it’s a heartfelt prayer for a missionary overseas, or it’s a visit to an ailing friend. No matter your age, make this day count. Let this “growing old” day be a day that matters. Let us be respectful to our elders, embrace life today… ...and maybe write a few operas. By Eric Joseph Staples ©