Thursday, May 11, 2017

James and Mom: a Beautiful Contrast

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” -Job 1:21 Something wonderful happened yesterday: a beautiful baby boy named James Wylie Staples was born to Eric and Jennifer Staples. And he is perfect. He has all his toes and fingers. He weighed eight pounds and fifteen ounces and is twenty-two inches long. Eric was almost identical when he was born. Mom, Jennifer, did a great job and she is resting well. James is such a wonderful blessing. And I am a blessed Papa Joe. A contrast is defined as “a comparison in which differences are demonstrated or enhanced.” About four months ago, something else wonderful happened: my sweet mom, and James’ Great Grandmama, went home to be with the Lord. She wasn’t nearly so perfect. Her body was worn out and failing after eighty-nine years of being a mom, friend, and wife here on planet earth. But she too did a great job and she is resting well. She was a wonderful blessing. While I am tremendously blessed to have my grandson, James, this Mother’s Day, I’ll be missing my sweet mom. It’s quite the contrast. We embrace and marvel at birth but we shy away from death. This morning I had multiple texts from friends and colleagues expressing their joy at the birth of James. “Precious and congrats,” “So Sweet,” “How awesome.” There’s just something about a sweet baby that we want to embrace. The joy and blessing of a new life grabs us. After all, it’s life. Not so true with death. Though I had a few close friends call me, the texts were few and the comments awkward. We’re just not sure how to respond to death. In a world that values and craves control, death is the ultimate lack of control. We can exercise and eat right to add a few years to this life, but in the end, we all die. But as Christians, that’s OK. There is wonderful, eternal life beyond the grave with Jesus. In one of my favorite John Wayne movies, The Shootist, Wayne plays an old, sick gunfighter, John Books. In a key scene, Books goes to visit his doctor. Books is clearly depressed when Dr. Hostetler tells him his cancer is fatal. Books responds, “You told me I was strong as an ox!” Dr. Hostetler responds, “Well, even an ox dies.” We all are born and we all die. And while it’s OK for us to rejoice when a beautiful baby is born, we can rejoice when a life ends as well. I’m sure not knocking grieving. It’s a God-given necessity for us to say “good-bye” to someone we love and will miss. And I’ve sure been in the midst of grieving the loss of my mom for months. We need to experience sadness and emptiness and struggle. But the sting is turning sweet. It just takes time. I’m so excited for Jeanie and me to get to go to Nashville in a few days and celebrate the birth of James. I can’t wait to hold him and hug him. While my mom has moved on, James has arrived! It’s the circle of life. God does give and take away. As James grows up, I’ll always think of the wonderful legacy that my mom left behind: a legacy of integrity, faith and family. Let’s choose to embrace life. Death is a necessity and we all have our time. But let’s choose to embrace our time of life. It’s a wonderful gift and beautiful in the eyes of a newborn. May our sweet James grow up in every way… … in the legacy of his sweet Grandmama. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Happy Birthday Mom!

“We give thanks to God always for you…”– 1 Thess. 1:2 We lost our precious mom a few weeks ago. We had moved her from the town she loved, Fort Worth, to Branson, barely six months ago. Living at the house in Fort Worth became too difficult for her. Though her spirit was strong and encouraged while she was here in Branson, her health continued to decline. She died just a few weeks short of her 90th birthday, which we’ll celebrate tomorrow, February 20th. What better birthday present than to be in the arms of the Lord! But I am missing her today. They say, in grieving, that eventually “the sting turns into sweet.” I’m still stinging these days. It will just take time and being patient and waiting has never been a strong suit of mine. The truth is, she’s doing great. We’re the ones who are missing her. I keep thinking of what I could have done. I keep thinking of ways I could have loved her more. I keep thinking of her frailty and pain. I keep wondering if I could have made her life better. But I also find myself focusing less on what “could have been” and more on what “was.” What “was” was awesome. The Staples family lived a wonderful life of adventure. From Georgia to Ohio to Washington D.C. to Germany to Texas to Alabama and finally, back to Texas, my parents assured that we experienced the world. My mom and dad gave us the “OK” to risk and search. I cried as we watched the new movie “La La Land.” I was reminded of the precious gift my parents gave to us boys: permission to pursue our dreams. My mom allowed us boys to “give it a go.” “Better to be starving pursuing our dream than to be fat and bored settling for life.” As one older man once told me, “How sad to get to the end of your life, look back, and discover you have lived out someone else’s dream.” If you looked at the resume of the four Staples boys, it would definitely include some failures. My former mentor and boss, Richard Beach, used to encourage me to “risk.” “If something didn’t work out”, he’d say, “Chalk it up to R and D” (Research and Development). What he meant was that it was OK to risk and fail, because somewhere in the failures come the huge successes. My mom’s greatest legacy is her boys. She selflessly gave all for her kids. Her sons and now her nine grandkids, carry on the legacy. Some might say she was too consumed with us. In the end, she didn’t have garden club plaques but she had love. The greatest investment she could have made was locked in and passed on. I’m already missing all those fun things about her, but mostly I’m missing her smile at a pretty sunset, her compliment of a job well done, her encouragement on a hard day, her stories about her childhood, her stories about my Dad. In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul said, “I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith.” Mom’s race is over and she finished well. She fought a great fight. We will miss her, but all is well. We love you mom. Oh, and happy birthday! By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Journey

“…I’ve learned the secret of being filled and going hungry…” Phil. 4:11-13 Today we’re flying to Arizona for my nephew’s wedding. It’s been quite a journey already, from the parking garage to baggage check, late arrivals to turbulence, the journey has been difficult. But the time with family and the wedding will be awesome. Journeys worth taking are usually difficult. Life takes us on such multiple walks- most not of our choosing. And that’s okay if we remember that the worth of the walk depends on our willingness not to waiver. We all just finished another walk called 2016. All of us experienced ups and downs. Some days we rejoiced on the mountaintops. Other days we struggled in the valleys. Some days we got ahead and other days we fell behind. Of course, we all love easy days when everything is just clicking. But there’s no growth when times are easy. Mountaintops are great- but nothing grows above the tree line. We learn little when we win. We learn so much more when we lose. Someone once said that “trials don’t produce character, they reveal it.” I think they can do both. Trials send us one of two directions: growth or grouchiness. The sun shines on butter and melts it, and that same sun shines on clay and makes it harder. Same sun but different material- different substance. It’s what James meant when he wrote James 2:1-4 “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result…” We’re all going to encounter trials but we choose whether the difficulty will do us any good. We have to “let it” help us grow. A hard heart grows bitter in trial- a soft heart grows better in trial. A soft, teachable heart is willing to learn and grow. Only a heart that is pliable and flexible can see the purpose in difficulty. I’m hearing the passengers in the seats behind me in the plane describe their “horrible day” and how life has just been “terrible.” They are frustrated about the “airlines not caring because they lost my bag.” They concluded, “We just didn’t have good luck today.” They are like so many of us who define our days by our circumstances. If we’re slaves to the “luck” in our lives, then we’re like a roller coaster- up and down and up and down. But life is more that our circumstances. 2016 was not defined by events. It was defined by how well we let the loving, awesome God of the universe have His way in our lives. It’s why Paul could say, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in.” (Phil. 4:11) How about we make that our goal for 2017: to live above our circumstances instead of underneath them. We can’t do that on our own. Paul goes on to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Let Christ have His way in your life this year, whether the flight is on time… …or delayed. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pure Joy 2016

“For You are our glory and joy…” – 1 Thess. 2:20 It’s Christmas time! There is certainly joy and happiness this time of year! I prefer joy. Happiness rises quickly like a flash flood in the Ozarks and can disappear just as fast, but joy lasts. It sticks around. It has deeper roots. And it’s absolutely wonderful. In it are the necessary ingredients that produce contentment, peace and security. If the joy is pure and God-produced, it is pure joy. Christmas is the season of joy. We sing, “Joy to the World” over and over, and we should. Anything less downplays the context of Christmas. We were lost and blind and sunk. But God stepped in and provided us a way. He sent His Son Jesus to be born, first, then sent Him to die for our sin. He made a way that we might be reconciled to Him. Because of His amazing grace, He made peace with us. He created the very essence of pure joy. The world provides a different kind of joy but it’s a counterfeit. It’s not joy at all. It’s comparison and sorrow and despondency. Of course, the world doesn’t like this season of joy. It’s like a neighbor bragging about their new automobile. That neighbor has something I don’t have, but I want. When pure joy is exposed, the world’s is envious because it doesn’t possess that kind of joy, and it wants it badly. It won’t get excited about pure joy. But it desires it greatly. And it can have it. In a season built for pure joy - envy, malice, and jealousy, instead, rule the day. I know those words are unpleasant but they’re true. Notice they are heart words. Most of these struggles occur at a heart level and that’s where the damage occurs. Joy works in the same way. The source of pure joy is in our hearts. It’s a by-product of God Himself via the Holy Spirit. It works from the inside out. It is intertwined with love. It allows us to “rejoice with the truth,” if we make that choice. Experience joy this Christmas season. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience some sorrow as well. We miss loved ones who have passed on. A lot of pain is exposed during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. We grieve and old feelings are stirred up again. But pure joy can shine through. It doesn’t neglect the sorrow but chooses to grasp the joy. In “A Christmas Carol,” nothing really changed in the life of Scrooge. The difficulties still remained. But he chose to see life differently. “Choose joy”, someone said. “Well, that won’t work in my world,” was the reply. “Then change your world,” he responded. What does it mean to “change our world?” It means we choose to see the bigger picture. It means we don’t choose to live “under our circumstances” but rather above them. It means we yield to a loving God who is our rock and our fortress, 24-7. So, Merry Christmas. Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
May every one of our hearts prepare Him room. May we rejoice in His coming. May we all proclaim His truth. May we not let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground, cause He comes to make His blessings flow. He declares the curse null and void. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness. He is wonderful love and… …pure joy. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Final Election Thoughts…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 Well, here we are! Election time! Like you, I’ve been experiencing V.F. (Voting Fatigue). I made up that diagnosis, but I really am numb to the television and radio political commercials. I GIVE UP! And that’s exactly where we all need to be. By now, we’ve all read excellent articles by many well-known Christian authors. Even though they bring a plethora of perspectives on the election. One theme is crucial: we need to surrender it all to the Lord. It’s clear that we’re to prayerfully vote our own conscience. I am ultimately responsible for me, not you. Like any major decision, I diligently search the scriptures, seek Godly counsel, and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guiding in my life. You don’t have to understand my choices, but I have to be true to my conviction. God’s Word is clear: He is a master over-ruler. God will have His way. He has been moving and shaking nations for a long time. And our beautiful America is no exception. We all love this country and desire the best. One thing is for sure: God will bless America. But His blessings aren’t always easy. Sometimes they are very hard. A loving Father does “discipline the child He loves” (Prv. 3:12). He also disciplines the nations He loves. May we all be prayerful and trusting and peaceful as we lean on His love. His will be done…His will be done. May His will be done. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election

“Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” -Psa. 20:7 My friend, Will Cunningham, took the “words out of my mouth” regarding the election next week…except he said it better! Please prayerfully ponder his excellent thoughts below. Stay secure in Christ! “Friends... sometimes the Lord puts a message on your heart meant only for you. At other times, however, He gives you a message and makes it very clear He wants you to share it. I believe God wants me to share the following words with you: "So... the ballot is filled out, and the envelope is sealed. I cast my vote for Darrell Castle, knowing he can't win the White House. Over the last few weeks, I went back and forth in my mind, struggling to justify what has been called by many Christians... "a wasted vote." Having as much disdain for a Clinton presidency as the next guy, I had come close to letting fear guide my conscience–– and I told myself a vote for Trump would prevent Clinton's success. Recently, however, God brought to mind a similar situation in the life of ancient Israel. With Assyria breathing threats against them, King Hezekiah was tempted to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against her enemy to the north––despite God's warning through prophets that this would be a disastrous idea. After all, the Assyrians had already carried off Israel into captivity––and Hezekiah certainly didn't want to be next. In Hezekiah's mind, such an alliance was the "lesser of two evils". Sound familiar? But God spoke to good king Hezekiah, and He assured him that if he would just stand still, just wait a little longer, God Himself would fight on Judah's behalf. So, Hezekiah abandoned his plan to ally with Egypt, and that very night God sent an angel who slew 185,000 of Sennacherib's soldiers, sending the Assyrians running. Ask yourself, dear friends... What would motivate a Christian to vote for Donald Trump? It certainly can't be admiration, or like-mindedness, can it? I submit that only FEAR of Hillary could motivate such a vote. Consider this... an alliance with Donald Trump is an alliance with immorality and idolatry, the two evils for which God ultimately judged His chosen people. Trump has promised to make us "rich". But all the money in the world won't make us "good", will it? Nor will it save a single fetus, or turn our prideful hearts back to God. Only repentance can do that. Isaiah 30 and 31 are still crying out to us today––warning us not to align ourselves with Donald Trump, the "lesser of two evils". Please read them today, and question the wisdom of such an alliance. I'm thankful you and I have the freedom to cast our votes as we see fit, and I do not judge anyone who votes for Donald Trump. But I'm also thankful that we have historic examples of men, like King Hezekiah, who, in the face of logical defeat, stood strong, believed in God, and didn't cave in to the "lesser of two evils’”. So, remember, the sun will come up (God willing) the day after the election. Our hope is in Christ anyway, not in any elected official. Rejoice in His presence and care. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Boundaries

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” -Prov. 16:9 Boundaries are curious things. We like them but we hate them, at the same time. We like them because they provide safety and security from outside dangers, but boundaries also attempt to instill a level of control to our desire for independence. God-given boundaries ultimately contribute freedom to our lives, our schedules, our jobs and our relationships. They make us better. We love our two-year-old Labrador retriever named Sammy. She loves us too- especially when we’re feeding her! She has a love-hate relationship with her boundaries as well. She loves to wander around the neighborhood and explore in her independence. But she also loves the fence around our yard. It makes her feel safe and confined. Boundaries work well for us as well. Those of us who work in a church setting need fences. Churches can be a strange mix of a crowded “Times Square” atmosphere and a desolate desert. Issues and people line up in an almost constant array of needs, wants and problems. Without boundaries, church workers can get caught in the middle of the chaos. They can be less than their best when care and skills are needed the most. Of course, that’s true in any work or family environment. Jesus had boundaries as well. There was a time when Jesus went to the other side of the lake with the disciples. There was a time when Jesus told the disciples to feed the five thousand. There was a time when Jesus went away to the garden to pray. Jesus’ focus was on the disciples. Remember, “He chose the twelve that He might be with them” (Mark 3:14). He knew He needed time with the twelve. He knew there would be a day when He would be gone and they would be running the show. He needed time to be an influence on them. He knew that unless He drew boundaries, the time would be taken by the needs around Him. We need boundaries as well. And boundaries are determined by our priorities. When we prayerfully set goals for our ministry and life, we insure their success by drawing boundaries around them. We simply can’t be everything for everybody. In the end, we answer to God’s priorities in our lives. We can say “no” or “not now” and be confident that we are setting healthy boundaries. Of course, our boundaries can be trumped by God’s plans. Jesus “went to the other side of the lake” only to be met by the crowd. The disciples wanted to “send them away,” but Jesus submitted to the Father’s plan and met the need. We set the boundaries but God has permission to interrupt. With the interruption, He’ll provide the strength and the plan. Our plans need to be flexible. When we’re inflexible with 0ur plans, we pay a price. Joe Brown was the fiery governor of Georgia during the Civil War. He refused to let Georgia soldiers cross the Georgia border to fight for the larger Confederacy. He honored the Georgia boundary but he was too tight. He only wanted Georgians to fight for Georgia. Several battles happened just over the state line, but the soldiers weren’t allowed to go fight. Perhaps letting those soldiers cross the border would have helped win those battles. In the end, Georgia (and the rest of the Confederacy) lost the war. When the boundaries are too tight, we become less usable by the Lord. We need to set boundaries but submit to His will. We need to be willing to lovingly say “not now.” We need to be willing to set priorities. We need to be willing to be a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser. Let the Lord set your priorities, be safe behind your boundaries… …and let the Lord have His way. By Eric Joseph Staples© www.lifeaid101.com