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 © “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©

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 ©

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©

Thursday, September 7, 2017


“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 ©

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Therapeutic discipline

“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” – Heb. 12:6 Of course, Barney Fife called it “therapedic,” but if something is truly therapeutic, it is something that cures or treats disease. We all like to take medicines that taste good. I used to love having “fever” when I was a child because I loved to chew ‘aspergum.’ I loved the orange flavor. Yes, I even faked having fever a few times to get to chew it. But truth is, most medicines taste terrible. Most things that bring healing happen to hurt. But in the end, they cure. God is the ultimate physician. He knows exactly what we need. Someone said, “Discipline yourself so someone else won't have to do it.” God knows when we need to be disciplined and exactly what medicine we need and how much and when to take it. There is no area in need of healing more than pride. Example: Uzziah was 16 when he became king of Israel and he was awesome. He reigned 52 years. The writer of 2 Chronicles recorded in 26:5 that, “He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him. ” Wow! Uzziah prospered because he sought God. No therapy needed for him. He was seeking God and all was well. A few verses later, in 26:16 the writer describes King Uzziah again, “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.” What? How did the humble, seeking Uzziah become the proud, unfaithful Uzziah? He simply quit seeking the Lord. Chapter 26 in 2 Chronicles records that Uzziah contracted leprosy and died of the disease. Pride replaced humility and Uzziah went from prosperous to leprous. We all have that tendency to drift away from the Lord. The old hymn records “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Sin keeps us wavering on this side of heaven and it often takes God’s discipline to keep us on track. Someone said, “Drifting away from God is usually not a blow out but rather a slow leak.” It happens so subtly. It happens so passively. It happens so discreetly. Yep, the evil one knows what he’s doing. But the Greater One, our Lord, knows when to step in and produce circumstances to bring us back on track. He’ll never force us, but that atmosphere toward humility points us back to God. We have to believe that “God loves His people when He strikes them as much as when He strokes them.” As God orchestrates trial in our lives, he isn't just trying to mess with us, He’s trying to make us better and teach us how to depend on Him alone. God’s discipline is always therapeutic. It’s always for our best. And it’s always right. So, let the medicine go down. As hard as it is, swallow the whole tablespoon. It’s worth enduring the bad taste… …for the goodness of His grace. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Staples Family Legacy

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” -Psa. 127:3-4 For many years, the Pelham Porter Staples Sr. family tree gathered in Roopville, Georgia, at the “old home place,” and celebrated the legacy and heritage of the Staples family. I remember attending those reunions as a kid and then as a young adult. I loved meeting and seeing the “legends” of the Staples family. All the “old” people told stories and I listened and took mental notes. I sensed that those times were special. I could feel the roots going back for generations. But soon the aunts and uncles began to pass away, the old Roopville house was sold and the reunions ceased. But the seeds remained. This past weekend, we had the Staples’ reunion for the branch of one of Pelham Staples Sr.’s sons, Pelham Staples Jr., my dad. Thirty of his son’s, grandkids and great grandkids gathered in Branson, Missouri for a great time together. We came to celebrate the legacy and heritage of the Staples family and the roots continue to grow. I teared up several times over the weekend just watching all the great-grandkids being themselves. They were happy and secure and free. And while the Staples family is far, far from perfect, it is mostly healthy. It was a special time for lots of reasons: We saw loved ones in the great-grandkids. The Staples’ have a Scotch-Irish heritage. The tendency toward blond hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones and fair skin has left sunburns on the Staples family for generations! Watching the family interact was amazing as so many of the clan looked like each other. It was beautiful. We needed to visit about what we were missing. Most of us are good stuffers. We all have a tendency to take our hurts and tuck them away. But we truly shared the weekend together. Dad passed away in 1988, Pel in 2013, Marc in 2015 and mom this past January. We have been through a lot of loss as a family. Being together and telling stories helped us all. We mourned the losses but embraced the gains, especially in the faces of the eleven great-grandchildren. We had fun. We spent a lot of time swimming, diving, riding roller coasters, playing in forts and sitting outside. Though we all came from different parts of the country, there was ease in being family. It was just good to sit on the back porch and chill out together. And to eat and eat and eat some more! God was present. The Staples’ certainly have varying views on God and denominations. The early Staples clan had roots in the Methodist church. The old Methodist church in Roopville has the Staples name written all over it. But the Staples worship the God of all the churches, Jesus Christ. My dad, Pelham Jr., passed away in 1988. He has two symbols on his tombstone, the caduceus, representing his medical career and a cross, representing his faith in Jesus Christ. Definitely not in that order, because God was important to my father and is to the family as a whole. This past weekend, we certainly validated our “Staples pass.” We’ve all signed an unwritten agreement to pass on our heritage. Sometimes, family members decide they are “disqualified” to pass on the legacy, but we all have something to offer. It’s not about what we do, but who we are. As we talked and hugged and loved on each other and our kids, we renewed our commitment to family. I think everyone was glad they made the long trek to the Ozarks. I encourage everyone to take the steps to initiate family time. The weekend was precious and will never be forgotten. As is written in “Dixie” - “old times there are not forgotten.” They are not forgotten if we choose to remember. Let’s all be advocates for family- for reaching out and loving those who share our DNA. Thank you Lord for the Staples family… …and may we never forget. By Eric Joseph Staples ©