Saturday, April 14, 2018

Plan A or Plan B

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” -Prov. 16:9 Being present means I’m aware of what is going on in my soul. It means I don’t have covert, secret buttons that get pressed that cause reactions. It means I’m in touch with my “innards”- I still have triggers that get activated, but when those alarms go off, I don’t push the snooze button- I heed them. It doesn’t mean I don’t have buttons that get pushed, it just means I’m not a slave to them unconsciously. It simply means I’m aware and able to make healthy and mature decisions on how I’ll react. It means when the “Plan A’s” don’t work out, I’m okay switching to Plan B. It means I seek the Lord’s will and His desire for my life. I teach these concepts quite often. But this past weekend, I didn’t exactly follow my own advice! Saturday finally arrived after a super busy week. It was a great week working with people, but in the people business, I don’t often see concrete, objective results. Jeanie has observed that when I come home, I like doing projects. I like replacing the broken light switch and watching it work. After all, it’s actually fixed! I love that. So, I was looking forward to working in the yard and giving our lawn it’s first cut of the year. After all, our yard looks beautiful when all the weeds are the same height! So, I filled the mower with fresh gas, pulled the cord, and the mower started, but sounded terrible! I played with the throttle, but it ran roughly. I restarted the mower but it still ran poorly. With each restart, I got more and more frustrated. And that’s when it happened- my finger got too close to the blade. Rewind almost 25 years. My mower had bogged down, in this same yard, in heavy grass. As I was clearing a small twig out of the shoot, the blade hit my middle finger and cut it about half an inch. We wrapped a bandage around it to stop the bleeding and Jeanie drove me to the ER. They stitched my finger and it took months to heal. Back to the present: I slowly pulled back my hand and nervously looked at my fingers. Did I do it again? No blood. No cut. The blade had barely glanced my hand. The Lord was saying, “I am in control. Go ahead and make all the plans you want, but I want you to realize that I hold the trump card. I could have cut your hand off, but I didn’t. Trust me. Relax.” I was so humbled. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and my spirit was changed. I slowed down, took a deep breath, and surrendered my spirit (for the zillionth time) to the Lord. I took the mower to the local mower shop. A kind workman helped me and in five minutes fixed the problem. It ran great. A small choke part was stuck from sitting all winter. He and I had a great visit. Somehow, it was in the Lord’s plan that I should have to have my mower repaired and I was simply to follow His plan. I asked, “But why that plan?” I have no idea. But I don’t need to know why. Buttons will always get pressed. But what we do after the button is pressed is up to us. It’s our choice. No broken mower can make me angry. I have to choose to let it make me angry. Or I can choose to trust in the Lord and be okay with the circumstances. May the Lord have His way in us and in our plans. May we let the Lord truly direct our steps with a teachable and flexible spirit. If my finger had been cut off, would I have trusted His wisdom? If the mower had been ruined, would I have trusted His plan? Have I “learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in?” (Phil. 4:11-12) To continue Paul’s words, do I “Know how to get along with humble means, and also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance have I learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need?” Of course, the end of that passage Paul says it all, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13 The “secret”, as Paul called it, is to depend on Him and His divine plan. May we rest in that today. May we rest in His providence… …whether the grass gets mowed or not. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What I Learned from Taco Bell

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel”- Prov. 1:5 The summer after my freshman year in high school, I worked at the Taco Bell restaurant in south Fort Worth. I’m still not exactly sure why I got that job. My brothers were all working that summer and I copied everything they did. It was a tough experience for sure, but I learned valuable life lessons that only that time at Taco Bell could teach me. The Lord wants to use every experience to teach us. Every season has lessons to be learned, if we’re teachable. 1. It’s scary to step out- There weren’t a lot of places that were hiring that summer. As I called through the classified ads in the paper, I came upon Taco Bell. I called and interviewed and they hired me. Years later, my parents confessed that they were concerned about me working on the “south side” of Fort Worth. I was concerned as well. But they let me step out and risk. They let me go. They let me begin learning how to depend on the Lord. As the youngest child, I needed to learn to walk on my own two feet on my own path. It was a little risky for sure, but there is no progress without risk. 2. Road blocks are a part of the journey- Being new on the job, I got the worst hours. I worked weekends, 5:00pm until closing at 11:00pm. Those were crazy times to be selling Tacos on the south side of town. Naive Joey made some poor decisions for sure. An older teenage co-worker asked to borrow my ’69 Camero one night after his shift and I said “sure.” He took my car with friends and smoked pot in the car. It reeked when I took it home. My dad had a firm talk with me about boundaries. 3. You can’t judge a book by its cover- My fellow co-workers were a crazy mix of young and old, of men and women, of multiple races and a variety of perspectives on life. In the back of the store, I heard a lot of interesting perspectives and philosophies on life. Honestly, some of the most “downtrodden” looking people were the most sincere and honest. Sometimes it was the educated good-looking people who cheated on their time cards. 4. We pay a price for our adventures- I think I made a whopping $1.60 an hour working at Taco Bell in 1973. Yes, I made money and a dollar went a longer way back then. A stamp cost 8 cents, gas was 65 cents a gallon, and you could buy a nice car for $3000 and a nice house for 47K. I worked long hard hours late at night but made very little money. I gave up free time with my friends but the experience was life changing. It was my first experience actually working for someone. I felt a sense of pride when I drove home at night. 5. Don’t eat too many Taco’s- To this day, I don’t get real excited about eating at Taco Bell. We had access to all of the menu items during breaks (or at least we took free rein) and we ate and ate and ate some more. Chips and tacos and Enchiritos became my summertime staple diet. As they say, “too much of a good thing” can be a hindrance. I was definitely hindered that summer. Thank you Taco Bell for teaching me even more than I probably realize. Moms and dads, let your kids take risks. Don’t micro-manage their adventures. Let them stretch and try new things. Let them fail. Let them succeed. Let it be their doing. Let them reach out and try new jobs and sports and activities. Yes, be the parent and steer them away from damaging circumstances, but let them grow up. Let them experience independence as they “branch out” and continued dependence as they lean on the Lord. Let them venture into circumstances to learn life lessons. They will grow and be nourished… …even eating taco’s. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Shining in the Super Bowl

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” -Matt. 5:16 Growing up in Fort Worth, as a life long Cowboy fan, I was brought up cheering against the Philadelphia Eagles. That wasn’t really hard to do since they usually weren’t very good. OK, they did win three NFL Championships, but never a Super Bowl. They were in the same division as the Cowboys and it helped us for them to lose. But in sports, it’s possible to like the players but not cheer for their team. After reading the article below, it’s easy for me to cheer for Philadelphia on Sunday in the Super Bowl. I’m still not crazy about the Eagles, but I’m excited for the players. I know there are Christians playing for the Patriots as well. I’m hoping their game goes well too, but much like the Cowboys in the 90’s, the Patriots have enough trophies. Maybe it’s time to pass on the torch. I know the players aren’t perfect and that the Eagles are not a “Christian team,” per se. They are a sports franchise that is in the business of winning games and making money. But I’m cheering for those who are standing for Jesus. It’s a choice we all make every day. Maybe we work at Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart is not a “Christian business.” But our goal in our work each day is to glorify Jesus and work with integrity. We need all the prayers and encouragement we can get. I pray we all play our game well every day. It may not be the Super Bowl, but it’s God’s will that we would carry out our jobs with integrity and honesty. I pray a lost world notices, sees something different and desires the source of our joy - Jesus. Enjoy the Super Bowl! By Eric Joseph Staples © www.parentingyourteen101.com “Strong Faith Binds the Eagles” PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Seventy-two-year-old Susan Collesidis was never a football fan until she heard Carson Wentz talk about his faith. Then she was hooked on the Philadelphia Eagles. When Wentz found out his newest fan was fighting an advanced stage of cancer, he sent her an encouraging message with inspirational Bible verses. "How much joy I get from watching him and his team play supernatural football every week," she said after reading it. Two weeks later, Collesidis lost her battle with cancer the night before Thanksgiving. "The message meant so much to Susan because she admired Carson as a person and believer more than a football player," son-in-law Doug Horton said. "He's the reason she started caring about sports and she couldn't wait to watch the Eagles every week." Wentz isn't playing in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots because he tore his ACL in Week 14. But backup quarterback Nick Foles also is a "brother in Christ" and one of the leaders in a locker room filled with guys who have formed a strong bond because of their faith. "It truly is a brotherhood," Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz said. "Those guys are holding me accountable. Off the field, I'm holding them accountable. We truly care about each other, we truly care about the growth that each individual has in the word, as believers, as well as friends and family. There are a lot of guys who are truly trying to boost me up and keep me focused on the main thing, which is obviously the word. ..." Christian players openly expressing their faith is nothing new in the NFL: Reggie White, Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow, Ray Lewis and Russell Wilson among many others. But these Eagles are an unusually close-knit group. "There is a stronger connection here," said defensive end Steven Means, who played for three other teams. "It's another level because we push each other in certain areas that we are flawed at and open ourselves up to each other. We text each other throughout the day making sure that everybody is on the right path and doing the right thing." Torrey Smith played with Lewis on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in 2012. They had a solid core of Christian players who used their faith for inspiration during their journey. Smith also spent two years in San Francisco before the wide receiver came to Philadelphia this season. He said it's different here. "I've been lucky to be part of three organizations that do have a very strong Christian presence," Smith said. "The difference here is a lot of younger guys lead." It starts with Wentz, the face of the franchise. Wentz went on a mission trip to Haiti last May with former teammate Jordan Matthews and a group led by Kyle Horner, lead pastor of The Connect Church. He delivered a sermon a month later at a church back home in North Dakota and launched his Audience of One Foundation in July. Wentz and several teammates even created a devotional video series for the Bible app. Four days before the season opener, Wentz and teammates Trey Burton and Stefen Wisniewski spoke at a faith event in front of a crowd of 2,000 people who sat in the rain for a couple hours to hear their favorite players share their testimony. But before he had an MVP-caliber season and led the Eagles from worst to first, Wentz received plenty of criticism from some media and fans because he openly talked about his faith on social media . He wasn't deterred. "Jesus was persecuted everywhere he went," Wentz said. "So if Jesus, who is our ultimate example, endured that, then I can endure a couple tweets. I can endure a little riff-raff here and there." A large group of players meet for Bible study on Thursdays and hold a study for couples on Mondays. They get together for prayer and devotionals the night before games. They've even gathered for baptisms in some unusual places. In October 2016, Burton and pastor Ted Winsley baptized six players in a cold tub at the team's practice facility. "It was crazy," said Winsley, the team's longtime chaplain. "The guys were just hungry, wanting their lives changed." Before a Thursday night game at Carolina last October, second-year pro Marcus Johnson was baptized in a hotel pool. "Since I've come to Philly, I've grown in my faith so much," Johnson said. "As a rookie last year coming in, you always hear about the locker room and how dysfunctional it can be and people playing for money and this and that, but when I got here, everyone was so supportive and I knew it was something special." Having strong faith doesn't make players immune to adversity, but it helps them deal with it. The Eagles (15-3) have overcome numerous injuries to important players on their way to winning the NFC championship. Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, running back/return specialist Darren Sproles, special-teams captain Chris Maragos and kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered season-ending injuries along with Wentz and Jordan Hicks, the playmaking linebacker and quarterback on defense. Instead of anger and resentment, they've leaned on their faith to maintain a positive attitude. "Character is always revealed in times of testing," said Horner, who pastors several players. "For these men, Christ is not a crutch to lean upon, he is the foundation which their life is built upon. For them, faith is not an intellectual acknowledgement of truth, but a day-by-day expression of their love for God. This is where it all starts."

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Bitter Sweet Christmas

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” -Matt. 5:4 I absolutely love bittersweet chocolate. I am a recovering chocaholic for sure. Okay, to be honest, I’m not recovering very well! The two flavors mix well and taste SO good. But this Christmas season, I am struggling between the clash of bitter and sweet. Bitter, as I process through losing my mom and missing my dad and two brothers. And sweet, as I celebrate the birth of our wonderful Savior, Jesus. These two emotions just don’t fit very well. It’s oil and water for sure. Family seasons like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are all about stuffing. We stuff the turkey for sure, but we tend to become “unstuffed” ourselves. Emotions and feelings that were nicely tucked away during the year come flooding back to us. Though painful, it’s actually a good and healthy thing. It‘s good to be honest with ourselves about our feelings. Big boy’s DO cry and being honest about what we feel makes a huge difference. Why? Because being honest about what we feel allows us to be real with ourselves and with those we love. We don’t need to fear what we feel. Being real about loss allows us to grieve over what we miss. It allows us to heal and move on. It allows us to feel and struggle and step into pain. God wants to comfort those who grieve, but He can only comfort those who acknowledge that they have lost something. Grieving allows us to face the loss, process through it and move on. There’s no time frame in grieving. It takes as long as we need to say “good-bye.” I lost my dad 29 years ago. I’ve lost my two oldest brothers in the last ten years. And I lost my mom after Christmas last year. My brother Bob and I are the two remaining members of the family. I’d love to have our family picture complete again, but life moves on. And we move on as well. Death stinks. Losing a loved one is bitter for sure. As Christians, we do have life beyond the grave. That’s what Christmas is all about. But the losses still hurt. It was not a part of God’s original plan. Sin did and does its damage. I know every time someone grieves over the loss of someone they love, it grieves God’s heart as well. Of course it does. He Himself knows the pain. After all, He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sin so that we might have eternal life. As God watched His beautiful baby, Jesus, cuddle in the manager, He knew that death would be His lot. He knew that His precious Son would die a horrible death. It was bittersweet for Him as well. Sweet because He knew that Jesus’ death would bring us life. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Where are you Christmas” sung by Faith Hill. The song begins with these words, “Where are you Christmas, why can't I find you, why have you gone away? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me, why can't I hear music play? My world is changing, I'm rearranging, does that mean Christmas changes too?” The song goes on to highlight the reality that Christmas never goes away, but perseveres as we make the move to come back to celebrate the coming of Jesus. The song addresses both the joy of Christmas and the pain of Christmas. It highlights the two realities: that Christmas is alive and well but that life’s losses require us to rearrange and change and adapt to life’s seasons. I pray this Christmas will be a wonderful one for all of us. May we be willing to “rearrange and change” to find a place for the truth of the birth of Christ to be made new to us all over again. May we be able to embrace the losses but embrace the gains as well. We all are missing loved one’s this Christmas. Let’s not miss the reality of Christ as well. May we all have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the lives we are missing. May we embrace the bitter… …as we taste the sweet. By Eric Joseph Staples© www.lifeaid101.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Which Season Is It: Summer or Fall?

“…be ready in season and out of season...” -2 Timothy 4:2 It’s late October 2017 and the expected high today is 82 degrees in the Ozarks! It’s supposed to be in the upper 20’s this weekend. What? Where is that coming from? It makes no sense. We’re all a bit confused, as are the trees, flowers and animals. The leaves are falling and it looks like fall, but it feels like summer. So which is it? I’m so thankful that our faith in God isn’t built on how we feel but on the truth. He is our mighty and sovereign God, whether we feel like it or not. I can climb to the roof of our home and decide that if I jump off, it wont hurt me. I can feel like I’ll be fine. But when I hit the ground, I’ll meet the reality of gravity. It’s not dependent on how I feel. It’s just true that I’ll probably get hurt. The same is true of God. He is: Omniscient- He knows everything Omnipotent- He has no limits Omnipresent- He is present in all places at all times Immutable- He is unchanging Holy- He is pure Righteous- He is truth Sovereign- He is in control Love- He desires a personal relationship with all He creates Merciful- He gives us the grace we don’t deserve Trinity- He manifests Himself in the Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit We all know that God is really, really big. Are we truly living in the reality of who we are and who He is? Are we living in the reverence and awe of His might? As children of the living God, are we walking in the peace and security that He provides for us today? Like gravity, we can deny that God exists or we can make God really small. But He is still very, very large! I spoke with a dear lady this week that is experiencing some heavy trials with her family. She loves her family so much and prays daily for her kids to be delivered from the trials they are enduring. But, like she said, “The storm seems to just continue on.” She is losing her trust in the Lord as He seemingly sits out of her precious son’s anguish. I spoke with a best friend in Houston who is in the middle of recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. His faith and family are safe and well, but in his tears, he expressed his exhaustion, “We are just so tired.” Sometimes life makes no sense. Sometimes life is very hard. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God is around. But He is. The Matrix was a popular movie in the late 90’s. The plot is kind of confusing, but simply put, machines had taken over the world and had put mankind into a virtual reality, orchestrated by the machines. One human broke free and attempted to bring the human race back to reality. There is a power, controlled by the evil one, on the planet earth who wants us to live in the allusion that what happens here is it. That “power” wants us to believe that money and power and control are to be won at all costs. Our amazing God reminds us of reality. He is God and we are His. We’re at our best when we’re living in obedience to Him and carrying out His plan for our lives. That blueprint may not make sense to us, but it does to him. Good or bad, sunny or cloudy, we thrive when we’re active participants in His plan. How do we do that? We make the choice to live in the season God grants us, in peace and security. We choose not to live by how we feel but by who we are. Sure, grief and tears are a part of the seasons, but deep down, we live on the Rock. Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”. So, enjoy the sultry season of fall. Don’t jump off roofs, but live in the reality of God’s love and will. He will always be faithful… …in every season. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Dove Hunt

“…make the most of your time…- Eph. 5:16 Every September 1st, dove season begins in most states. Dove are the most populous game bird in America. They are fast flyers and hard to hit, but are a blast to hunt (pun intended). This past September 1st, my son Eric, Brian my brother-in-law, and I packed up the shotguns and camo and went on a hunting trip up to Bois D’Arc Conservation area, west of Springfield. We had a great time and even got a few birds. The morning of hunting stirred up more than just the birds- it stirred up my soul. My dad loved hunting. I think it tapped into his rural, farm upbringing, and he was an excellent shot. Mostly, I think he just loved the time with his four boys. No sports, no pagers going off (remember those?), no phone calls, no TV. It was just raw, beautiful time well spent with a dad and his kids. We knew we had each other for most of the day. Mom never did join us. She stayed home to do the cooking when we returned. If we brought back birds, she cooked the dove and we had a feast. That Friday with Eric, I found myself teary-eyed several times as I reflected back on those hunts and times with my dad and my brothers. Growing up, we never went hunting on our own. In between all the sports and business, we always made time for hunting together. I remember Dad waking us up Saturday morning to go hunting and my wanting to stay in bed. Most of our Friday nights were late following our football games. But once we got to the hunting fields, we were ready to go. I miss those times. I miss my dad. I miss my mom. I miss my oldest brother Pel. I miss my second oldest bother Marc. I miss my family (though I am so thankful for my brother Bob). These “every Saturday morning” hunts were so much fun for little brother Joey. I felt so secure and solid spending the day with my awesome brothers. As the youngest, I hunted with a .410 shotgun. My brothers had started with the good ole .410 as well. It used s smaller load and had a smaller pattern. It’s already tough to hit the fast-flying dove, much harder with this small shotgun. But my dad wanted us to learn to hunt slowly and safely. What we learned was that it took a very good shot to hit a dove! Eventually, we all became pretty good shots and we all graduated to larger guns. The beauty of those hunts was in the time together. It was in cleaning the dove when we were finished. It was in eating sandwiches out in the field. It was in swapping stories (mostly true) of our exploits on the hunt. Those were the times I was missing. As I was reflecting back on those days, it hit me: let the new hunts begin! I glanced over at Eric, so thankful for my son. I thought of Mark, my son-in-law (who I went hunting with the next weekend). I thought of their sons, James and Griffin. One day they will take their boys hunting. And the legacy will continue. It will continue because the hunts have never really been about the birds. Many times the Staples boys would drive home from the hunt empty-handed. Dove are very finicky. Sometimes they don’t come out. But the family time was solid. It was bonding time for us- time to just be together. May we all cherish the times we have with family. Time passes so quickly. May we make the most of every opportunity. May we relish in the hunting or shopping or mealtimes… …as we embrace out beautiful families. By Eric Joseph Staples© www.lifeaid101.com

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 The idea of rest is definitely not over-rated. As a matter of fact, it’s way under rated. Worst of all, it’s under emphasized in me. In the Staples family genetic make-up, the “rest gene” is definitely lacking. But I won’t blame it on genetics. It’s the choice that I make. But every once in a while, the door opens to an almost surreal time of rest and relaxation. And most importantly, occasionally, I choose to walk through that door. We just returned from a wonderful trip to the west coast, specifically, San Diego. The beach and surroundings were beautiful. The past year has been challenging, to say the least. Jeanie and I needed a time to get away and rest. We spent the week with my big brother, Bob, and his wife, Lisa. Yes, the door opened and we walked through, but we had to be intentional. Several “voices” discouraged us from going. “It costs too much.” Rest always comes with a cost. Flights to the west coast are not inexpensive. But the cost of not seeking rest is higher. We always pay a price for staying busy and that currency is our neglected families, friends and our own contentment. In the end, we spend our money on our most valuable commodities and our rest is well worth the price tag. The results of a healthier marriage, a stronger family and a healthier me are invaluable. Someone said, “We work hard our whole lives to make money to spend on our families but not with our families.” Being at rest for and with those we love is worth every penny. “I don’t have time.” Time is indeed an illusive, funny thing. Sure, we need to honor our vacation priorities where we work. But most of the time, we make time to do the things we really want to do. As is often quoted, “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” The truth is, we make time to do the things that are important to us. We have time, it’s just a matter of moving it up in the priority list. And we’ll always be glad we did. “Things won’t run well without me.” We feel a sense of guilt that if we go and leave the business to others, it will all suffer. We would all be surprised at how well things really do run when we get out of the way. The world was spinning before we were born and will continue when we leave. Pride wants us to think that what we do is more valuable than it truly is. Humility wants us to realize we are not what we do- we are who we are. For me to be the best Joey I can be, I need rest and recovery. And I need to trust those on the mission with me to run the show. Perhaps, just perhaps, things will run even better when I’m gone! “It’s too much trouble to travel.” Sure, going from here to there involves movement and energy. Moving is never easy. The hardest part about rest is getting there. Getting off the treadmill can be difficult. If it’s all we’ve ever known, then change is a challenge. But we need to take the journey from A to B, from heavy to light. Ralph Marston said, “Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” Someone said, “A field that has rested yields a bountiful crop.” Take the time to chill out. Take your wife on a trip, load the family in the car and go camping, go for a walk by the lake, spend some time on the back porch reading God’s Word. Be intentional about your rest. Let the Lord build you up…. …so that He can produce that beautiful crop of peace in you. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com