Monday, May 31, 2010
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free” –Gal. 5:1
Today is a special day. It’s traditionally called Memorial day, but was once called Decoration day to honor the Union soldiers who had died in the Civil War. It’s a day to remember all the men and women who sacrificed in all wars to provide the freedom we all enjoy in the United States. Many of those soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice, their very lives, so that we might be able to live in a free society. The older generations seem to understand the meaning of the day more than anyone. Makes sense, since they lived through more of the carnage than most. It is so important that we parents instill that appreciation in our kids. It’s good that a majority of younger parents haven't had to fight in a world war, but the respect and appreciation still needs to be passed on.
I remember when Elizabeth and Eric were in elementary school, I read in the paper that the Branson V.F.W. post (veterans of foreign wars) was having a ceremony at the memorial at the local cemetery. So I loaded up the kids and a few of their friends and we went to the ceremony. The kids didn't really understand what was going on so I explained to them that it was a time to appreciate those that had fought in wars to keep bad people from bothering our country. They thought the gun salute was really cool (I did too).
Take the time to tell your kids about the meaning of Memorial day- whether kids or teenagers, help them understand the true meaning of honoring heroes.
I grew up in a military family. My dad was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. He was a physician and served in the military for 22 years. Up until 4th grade, our family moved every 2-4 years. My 3 older brothers lived all over the States and I was actually born in Wiesbaden, Germany where my dad was stationed at one of the largest bases in Europe. We grew up with a deep respect for the military. Living on the bases, we saw the day-to-day simple sacrifices that our father made while serving as a physician in uniform. Certainly, those that fought in major wars and gave their lives are deserving of our deep respect. But also those men and women who served in the military that did less glamorous things to preserve the freedom need to be respected also.
Yes, today is a special day called Memorial Day. Have a blast on the lake and barbequing, but be sure and spend it with your family and be sure and discuss the true meaning of the day. Tell your kids a story about your parents or grandparents that served in the military (or about your service). Maybe visit a military cemetery in your town to honor those that served and gave of themselves for us.
Also, let’s not forget to honor the One who gave His very life so that we might live, Jesus Christ. Any true Memorial Day needs to pay homage to God’s wonderful plan to set us free for eternity.
Teach that to your kids too.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, May 29, 2010
“Where there is no plan, the people perish” -Proverbs 29:18
As I’ve counseled with families over the years, I’ve often heard parents say, “This parenting job is crazy! I just wish I had a recipe to show me how to do it all correctly.” I’ve often wished for that recipe or formula in many areas of my life.
I remember once in college I went goose hunting with my dad and 3 older brothers in south Texas. We had a blast (pun intended) and I brought one of the geese back with me to Waco. I planned to cook it for a pre-Thanksgiving meal that my roommates and I had planned. But the day got busy and the next thing I knew, I only had an hour to cook the goose for our 6 o’clock dinner. Not having a recipe, I improvised and used my logical male mind: turn up the heat to 400, put the goose on a tray and cook away! We prepared the mashed potatoes and green beans and had it all on the table as we waited for the goose to be ready. The timer went off and I took the goose out of the oven and set it on the table. Do you remember the turkey in the movie “Christmas vacation?” That’s exactly what the goose looked like. It was like eating beef jerky. Terrible. But at least the mashed potatoes were good. The problem was I had no recipe.
Another cooking adventure for me was a mayonnaise cake I made for Jeanie. I have no idea why I was making a cake, but I do remember following the recipe and putting the mayonnaise in the cake, cooking it, and the cake tasting like…mayonnaise. The problem wasn’t being without a recipe. The problem was I had a recipe that didn't taste very good.
My last cooking fiasco involved one of my favorite meals. To this day, I’m famous in the Staples household for making meatloaf. I make all kinds of varieties. One day, I decided to branch out on my own and serve a creative meat loaf I’d invented. I put cheese in the middle of the meatloaf. I figured it would taste like a cheeseburger. Well, the cheese in the middle of the meatloaf melted and when we cut into the meatloaf, the cheese melted all over the knife and plate. I had a recipe and it tasted good, but I added to it and ruined it.
I’m reminded that God has given us the recipe for parenting through His words to us in the Bible. Scripture is packed with great recipes for success in preparing our teens. Here are some recipe ingredients:
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” –Proverbs 22:6
“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul” - Proverbs 29:17
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” - Ephesians 6:4.
There are many more important principles there for the picking in Scripture. The recipes definitely exist and are all applicable to families. Some parents don't parent at all. Their children are an interruption to their lives. Other parents choose to parent “by their own devices.” They have no plan and fall back on their own logic and desires. And still other parents have the recipe for parenting and desire to cook a great meal, but then add to the recipe.
Choose your recipe for parenting carefully and stick to the ingredients and instructions. No meal is perfect, but turkey tastes pretty good when it’s cooked by the recipe.
Next we’ll focus on one of the best meals I’ve ever prepared in “Recipes, part 2.”
By Eric Joseph staples ©
Friday, May 28, 2010
“But where can wisdom be found? Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold” -Job 28:17
We often hear, “that kind of wisdom is as good as gold.” The very best wisdom is even better than gold. I read the other day that one gold field in South Africa alone has produced 49.4 million ounces of gold. Using an average of $395 per ounce as an example, that represents a gold mine of over $19 billion.
Imparting wisdom to teenagers is important. No one denies that part of our responsibility as parents is to teach and instruct our teenagers. Parents have lived a lot of life and learned a lot of lessons. As a child, parental wisdom is sometimes hard to understand. As a teenager, we’re convinced we have all the wisdom we need. And as an adult, we mostly crave any wisdom our parents are willing to give us.
I remember asking my dad some future questions when I was finishing my college degree and unsure of what direction to go. I asked him his advice. He said, “Joey, I think you’ll do well wherever you go.” Not exactly the answer I was wanting. I was counting on him to choose my profession. But there was wisdom in his answer. It wasn’t about how I’d make a living, but about me being Joey. It was my decision to make, not his to provide.
But there is parenting wisdom that we don't withhold from our kids. We provide precious wisdom when we empathize with our kids and bring focus to life issues that our teen is crying out for help to solve. “Mom, I’m terrible with relationships. I just don't get it,” your daughter cries. You reply, “Well honey, let me tell you about a couple of boyfriends I had back in the day and what I learned from those relationships.” That kind of wisdom is as good as gold to your teen. Seeing that you can relate to her not only provides wise words but provides life wisdom.
There is another kind of wisdom and it’s worth much more than anything we or this world can provide. It’s the wisdom of God. It’s the wisdom found in the Word of God, found in God’s truth spoken through other believers and found in the Holy Spirit’s words through prayer. I can remind someone to be a good listener, but when I remind someone of James 1:19, to “be quick to listen, and slow to speak” it carries a different weight. Not that there’s something mystical about the words, but the foundation behind the words adds weight to it’s meaning. We show wisdom as parents when we usher our kids to God’s wisdom. And, of course, we usher advice the best when we’re living out the example of following God’s wisdom ourselves.
Help create wisdom in your teenager by sharing life lessons when you can. But remember, you’ll help them the most when you lead them to the definition of wisdom- God Himself.
No amount of gold rivals God’s loving and peaceful wisdom.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, May 27, 2010
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” –Gen. 2:18
Boyfriends and girlfriends. What a subject. Whole books…better yet, whole libraries have been dedicated to this topic from kids handing out notes in 4th grade to senior citizens dating at the nursing home. Having a “friend” that’s a boy or girl is huge.
My dating career officially began in 5th grade with a girl named Paula. She lived down the street and I thought she was cute. Being the youngest of 4 boys, I was clueless on any topic regarding girls. But I’d watched enough TV to be an expert, so I did what anyone wanting to entice a girl did in those days, I wrote her a note. You know me, Mr. organized, so I wrote her the classic, “If you want to go steady, check this box. If you want to be friends, check this box.” It was a beauty and pretty intense, but I wasn’t about to actually converse with her about anything. The note was given to her via courier (another girl) and handed back to me via courier (that same girl). And she checked “go steady.” I was nervous but excited. Then I went to Ridglea Drug Store and bought her the ultimate gift: an ID bracelet that had “Joey Staples” engraved on it. I gave it to her (in person). Three days later, she gave it back to me (via courier) and I don't remember ever speaking to Paula again. I wasn’t mad at her. Life just sort of moved on to other things. I still have that ID bracelet in a box at home. Maybe I’ll give it to Jeanie.
The point is, it’s okay for our teens to have interest in the opposite sex. It starts early and it’s important for us to educate and teach appropriate ways for our kids to interact and be friends with their peers. Locking them in their room won't teach them how to develop relationships with boys and girls. I’m not suggesting dating relationships in 5th grade, but I am suggesting that we begin to teach our kids how to appropriately pursue friendships with the opposite sex. As you know, Shelterwood is for both guys and girls. They obviously live in separate houses and are closely monitored, but we want them to learn how to correctly interact with each other.
Someone said the other day, “I’m really not interested in dating someone, I just want to meet my wife.” Wow. Scary. So much has been written on the validity of “dating” and “courting” and “pursuing”. eHarmony has highlighted the compatibility factors in relationships. In the end, we’re called to pursue friendships and that’s what we need to teach our teens. “But how will I know if I’m supposed to date and then marry that friend?” I challenge teens (and adults) not to worry about it. Pursue and strengthen friendships with your peers and the one’s that might go deeper and develop into “suitable” friendships for marriage, prayerfully consider taking them further. We need to teach our kids to be patient. We need to teach our kids that contrary to the trash they watch on TV, a relationship based on sex has no depth.
In the end, if we marry, we marry our best friends. Sure, they’re our helpers and our lovers and our soul mates. But they are “friends that stick closer than brothers.” The glamour, physical appeal, and passion come and go, but the depth of relationship always stands the test of time and trial. Any relationship with Christ in the middle is a healthy and valuable relationship.
Even more valuable than an ID bracelet!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
“in love…show yourself to be an example” -1 Tim. 4:12
Jeanie’s father, Burton Beadle, has been my father-in-law for 29 years. He is 89 years young and is a tremendous man for a lot of reasons, but mostly because he is a gentle man who loves deeply. Many say they love, but Papa Beadle puts action behind his love and care for family.
When Elizabeth was a freshman in high school, she went out for track that Spring, like most of her friends. She jumped hurdles in junior high and was pretty good, but after the first meet of her freshman year, coach had heard she was a gymnast and asks her to try pole vaulting. She caught on quickly, and the next thing we knew, she medaled at district’s and sectional’s and earned a trip to the State meet in Jefferson city. Now Papa loves Elizabeth and loves track (himself a decorated senior Olympics track medalist), but I think there was a scheduling conflict with the State meet. But I’ll never forget the call the week of the meet when Papa let us know he’d be coming anyway. Granny, Jeanie’s mom, had to stay in Baton Rouge for a previous engagement, but Papa jumped in the car by himself and made the long drive to Branson to go to the meet with us. But we all knew he came for one reason: to show Elizabeth how much he loved her. He didn’t just say he loved her, but he showed it by his actions. The attached picture is of Papa and Elizabeth hugging after Elizabeth received her All-State medal. I always thought Papa deserved a medal too that day for making the long drive and for putting love into action.
He has repeated that scenario over and over through the years, driving up with Granny for Eric’s State Golf tournament, numerous events, Eric’s graduation from college, etc. He’s shown that same love for his other kids, and grandkids. He simply makes the choice to love.
Growing up in a large family in Lafayette, Louisiana, Burt Beadle learned early the importance of faith and family. After serving his country in the United States Navy, he became an engineer by trade. He spent his life working with Kaiser Aluminum/Chemicals and being a loving husband and father to his family. During Jeanie’s gymnastics career, Mr. Beadle traveled to most of her meets all over the U.S. In California, Connecticut, and Colorado, he was her rock during many stressful gymnastics meets. Jeanie recalled many special trips that they took together.
Like most men of integrity and truth, loving is a lifestyle, not just a choice made for the big trips. I’ve observed Mr. Beadle living out the choice to love day-to-day in teaching Sunday school for 50 years, volunteering for various events and being quick to help a brother in need. Even at 89 years old, he continues to be other-centered, devoted to God’s will in His life and devoted to family.
Thank you Papa for your example. I was fortunate to have a father that I loved very much. He passed away 22 years ago. But I’m doubly fortunate to have another father that I respect and love deeply.
Thanks for your example to all of us. As we raise our families, may we make the same choices to put our love into action.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” - Phil. 2:3
Pride plus parenting equals difficulty. Of course, pride plus anything equals difficulty. Pride simply doesn't mix well with anything. Pride is having too high an opinion of myself and always regards me as more important than those around me. It is selfish, conceited and demanding. Pride always has a slanted, negative view of others- even our own teenager.
I’m reminded of another of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes about Opie. When local do-gooder Anabelle Silby reveals to Andy that Opie contributed only three cents to a fund raising drive, Andy lectures Opie on the value of charitable giving. Andy and Opie have the classic “Poor Horatio” conversation. A short time later he meets Tom Silby, Anabelle's husband, on the street. Andy rushes Tom into the office and out of public view - explaining that as far as he and the rest of Mayberry are concerned, Tom is dead, run over by a Taxi in Charlottesville.
Tom reveals that he wasn't killed, but simply had enough of Anabelle's prideful ways and left her. Rather than admit she lost her husband, Anabelle pretended that Tom had been killed and had an empty casket buried in the Mayberry Cemetery! After visiting his grave, Andy convinces Tom to go home to Anabelle and patch things up. Back at home, Andy tries again to convince Opie to give more than three cents to the children's fund.
When Opie refuses because he's saving his money to buy his girlfriend Charlotte something, Andy assumes he's going to squander it on toys and calls him a playboy, sending Opie off to his room without supper. Aunt Bee then confronts Andy, lecturing him about suffering from the same foolish pride that led Anabelle Silby to have her absent husband buried. Andy concedes the error of his ways and decides to let the matter drop. It's then that Opie reveals he's been saving his money to buy Charlotte a new coat because her family is poor and can't afford one - showing Andy that his own pride had gotten the better of him.
Of course, pride always takes away the “better” of us. True love “believes all things,” but pride demands it’s way and usually is critical and judgmental. If Andy had handled Opie with a humble heart, he’d have opened the door for Opie to communicate where his money was going in the first place. Pride always jumps to pre-conceived notions and is usually prejudiced toward others and their motives. Humility is accepting, patient and understanding.
Pray for a humble heart in your dealings with your teen. When you’re frustrated that your teen’s plans aren’t fitting your agenda, do a pride check and remind yourself that it’s their life, not yours. Put on an attitude of humility and make your teen more important than your plans for them.
Believe the best and, in the end, your teen just might surprise you. And even if everything doesn't end perfectly like most Andy episodes, trusting your teen will help produce confidence and trust.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, May 24, 2010
“…there is a Sabbath of complete rest” -Ex. 31:15
Newsflash: there’s been an increase in the pace of the family! OK, not exactly a new observation, but families that used to cruise at 50 mph now travel at 100 mph. Certainly fueled by the acceleration of electronics, what was fast 20 years ago is not acceptable today. 120 years ago, if someone missed the stagecoach, they unpacked their bags and planned to catch another coach the next month. Today, if the plane is delayed a few minutes, the crowd freaks out.
Certainly, cell phones and computers have increased organization and productivity, but in the family, they have also increased the stress level. Today’s teenagers live at a frantic pace so different from my teenage years of the 70’s. I recall afternoons coming home from school, grabbing a snack from the kitchen and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. I played sports and during those seasons, we had practices every afternoon, but only during the seasons. Summers were spent at camp and just “hanging out” with my family and friends.
Today, year-round sports mean the domination of athletics 365 days a year. A friend told me the other day that his son’s football coach was reluctantly giving his players a week off in the summer. Crazy. Year-round schooling and academic pressures demand that teens spend more time than ever in the books. The increase in “electronics” means that text messages, email, and phone calls are accessible all the time.
As parents, we need to help dictate the pace of the family. I’m not suggesting we live like the Jews of old who wouldn't even walk more than 8 steps on the Sabbath. We don't need to pull our kids out of sports or take away their cell phones. But I am suggesting that parents prayerfully step into the pace of the family. Kids and teenagers (and adults) all need down time. And the “down” is different for all of us. Today, as I was praying with Jeanie, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for a restful day.” Jeanie asked me later “was today really restful? You mowed the yard and cleaned out gutters.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was restful because I chose what I wanted to do.” Stress ensues when our schedules are dictated for us. Sure, ultimately our time is God’s time and we yield to His will, but we make loving choices everyday to make wise choices in setting our schedules.
Parents, step up and in and help your teenager set boundaries. Help them establish “gaps” in their schedule. Every hour doesn't have to be filled with an activity. Don't dictate to them but teach them. Of course, it's easier to teach what we practice, so take inventory of your own pace first. We all need down time to just chill and read, exercise, watch TV, mow grass and most importantly, spend time with family and with God.
Make down time a priority for your family. Unplug the electronics and enjoy the time of Sabbath.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, May 22, 2010
“Then Jesus said to His disciples…follow me” –Matt. 16:24
Navigating the ocean called parenthood is tough. Sometimes the waters are calm, but most of the time the waters are pretty rough. As we sail along, we all want to be sure we’re making the right decisions for our precious kids. We make small decisions and huge decisions every day.
I have never seen the television show Parenthood, but I doubt there’s any way a show on TV can truly capture the adventure and challenge of parenting. What most entertainment about parenting misses is the genuine concern and love that we as parents have for our kids. But it’s so easy to lose perspective when we’re in the middle of all the detail.
I’ve been in Kansas City the past few days. I was following a friend who lives here to dinner and another friend in my car said, “Do we know where we’re going?” I said, “No, but our buddy in front of us knows exactly where we’re going- we just have to keep up with him.” The friend and I looked at each other. It was one of the times when you’ve said a lot more than you realize.
Parenting is like that. Sure, there is a human element to all the decision-making and responsibility. But we don't have to figure it all out. Out prayerful role, as parents, is to follow the one who knows where He’s taking us. We may not like the pace or the direction, but our loving God does not require a map or a GPS. He is a Master navigator and if we choose to stay behind Him, the ride will be okay. Not necessarily easy, but okay.
Last week, when I was flying back from Fort Worth, I looked out of the window of the American Airlines jet and the cloud canopy was so beautiful. I took the picture attached, but it doesn't do justice to how beautifully God had arranged His clouds. As I looked down at the serenity and peaceful scene, it occurred to me that things might not be so peaceful on the other side. I remembered that I was flying over Oklahoma and Arkansas and that they were supposed to be getting thunderstorms. Calm on my side but rough on the other side. It’s all about perspective- all about which side of the clouds we’re on.
As a parent, do I choose to be under the clouds or over the clouds? A wife asked her husband, “How are you doing?” The husband replied, “Oh, okay under the circumstances.” The wife replied, “What are you doing under there?” As a parent, be sure you stay above the clouds. Not only is it more beautiful but the perspective is so much bigger and wider.
So, slow down your vehicle and get back in the right lane behind the loving God that knows what He’s doing and has the highest perceptive. Make the “no passing zone” apply to every moment of your life as you stay above the clouds, loving and nurturing your precious teenagers.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, May 21, 2010
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” - Rom. 12:15
I read a survey today of 340,000 Americans that said that after we turn 50, we are generally happier. The 30-50 age was less happy and the most stressed out group was 20-30. The study didn't survey teenagers, but I wonder if the 13-18 group would top all the age groups on feeling stressed. Today’s teens especially carry a pretty hefty load of issues on their shoulders every day. Of course, the load is relative to the degree that we learn to be content. That’s why the older we get, the more at peace we become. But teenagers are just beginning to deal with life’s up’s and down’s.
Sometimes your teen may seem to be overly sensitive. And the more you try to help them, the more he or she may cry or sob. The guys will be better stuffers and will tend to funnel all their emotions into the one they know best: anger. Girls tend to be more expressive and deliberate in their emotions.
I remember one night when Elizabeth came home from cheering at a basketball game. She made it to the steps coming up from our basement and fell to her knees sobbing. I thought she’d broken up with her boyfriend or been in a bad accident. She announced that someone had backed into her car in the high school parking lot. I looked at her car and it didn't even do much damage. I laughed and gave her a big hug. Another time she called home from college in tears and upset. As she cried, I figured she’d been kicked out of school or arrested. She announced, “Daddy, I dropped my cell phone in the fountain.” I just started laughing again. I was so relieved. It made her laugh too. “It’s OK darlin,” I said. “We’ll get you another phone.”
The point is that a part of being a teenager is feeling things intensely. I probably shouldn't have laughed with Elizabeth because what may seem trivial to us as parents is huge to them. But I was so relieved. As parents who have dealt with heavier issues, getting bumped by a car is small beans. But to our kids, these events are huge.
We need to be careful that we validate our teen’s emotions. As parents, we tend to trivialize events and happenings in the lives of our teens. Though dropping a cell phone or struggling with a friend at school or having a bad baseball practice or having a zit may seem small to us, to our kids, it’s huge and we need to feel the pain with them. The danger, if we discard these events, is that our teens will stop telling us about events in their lives.
Yes, hormones are pumping and our teens may seem irrational at times, but show your teenager that you love them by listening to them in the midst of the drama. Don't offer advice or minimize the problem, just listen and sympathize.
Yep, you may have a drama queen (or king) on your hands. But be sure you take them by the hand and show them you love them by being with them through the problem.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, May 20, 2010
“And God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” – Romans 8:28
All of us as parents sometimes struggle with the “what if’s” of life. Sometimes our minds wander back to decisions made and occurrences that changed the course of our lives. Sometimes life events are “roadblocks”- a direction we thought we were supposed to go but a barrier kept us from going there. Other life occurrences are “hurdles”- a direction is given, but we have to jump over hurdles to get there. What if we had waited to have kids later? Should I have home schooled the kids? What if we had one more child?
I think back to two decisions or situations that the Lord used to direct me years ago. Of course, there are a zillion more, but these two stand out.
One was a roadblock. In high school I played soccer and football (I lived in Texas after all). I played outside linebacker in football and sweeper in soccer. I always considered kicking in football as well. I could kick the ball pretty far. But I was focused on playing defense in football and we already had a phenomenal kicker. But he was graduating 2 years ahead of me and I decided to announce that I’d be going out for kicker. I still remember the day, because before I could make the announcement, one of my soccer buddies announced that he was going to go out for kicker. I froze. I wasn’t about to compete against my friend. So I backed off. He did a great job kicking and I continued to play defense in football and play soccer. But I still have dreams about my NFL career and the records I’d have set as a kicker. Truth is, I’d have probably been mediocre anyway. So God directed me a different direction.
The other situation was a hurdle. I was finishing up my Masters degree program at Baylor and had been hired to work with the new K-Kare program (Shelterwood) in Branson. I was excited to work at Kanakuk in the summers and be a Counselor with families at K-Kare during the year. I’d sent out graduation announcements to my families. Deep inside, I was so proud (not good) to be graduating and keeping up with my professional, competitive brothers. Pride has been a struggle all my life and God has been kind enough to help produce humility in me. And he did then. A couple of weeks before graduation, one of my professors let me know I’d be making an “Incomplete” in his class. “But that means I won't graduate,” I reminded him. “I know,” he said, “ but you’ll be able to finish next semester.” Wow, I was devastated and I was humbled. I was still able to begin the work at K-Kare in the Fall and finished the coursework by correspondence from Branson and got my degree in the mail in December. It all worked out, but not in my timing. It couldn’t work out in my timing, because God had a lesson to teach me.
Roadblocks and hurdles. The Lord uses them both to steer us where He desires and teach us lessons as only God can do in His creative way. The roadblocks and hurdles that are part of our past are just testimonies to God’s orchestration of our lives. He truly is the master conductor.
So, have fun with the “what if’s,” but let them go. Even if there were poor decisions made, they’re in the past. Maybe you’d have been a movie star or a professional athlete, but now you have the greatest and most rewarding job of all: being a parent.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
“There is a time for embracing and a time for letting go” –Eccl. 3:5
While in my hometown, Fort Worth, this past week, I was reflecting back on some childhood memories. I was remembering all the time I spent at the end of our main road at what we called the “trails.” We had forts and secret places built in the trees and fields in the acres of dense woods past our subdivision. The trails now are a huge shopping center development, but 40 years ago, the trails were the perfect getaway place for my friends and me.
Then I started remembering the details of what we did at the trails. We rode friend’s mini-bikes without helmets, we caught snakes and bugs, we ran in the creek barefooted, and had more than a few cuts and bruises from falling off bikes and running into things. We had so much fun just being boys.
Now, I’m sure not advocating carelessness and I appreciate that we, as parents, are responsible for the safety of our kids, but in the control-crazed society we live in today, I’m afraid we’re over doing it. The crazy stuff we did as kids back then would probably be considered child abuse today. In the agrarian society of 50 years ago, kids and teenagers probably took on more responsibility to make day-to-day decisions than most kids do today. I’m thinking parents were working on the farm instead of following their kids every step of the day. I’m thinking that without all the communication devices of today, kids were left to make decisions and live with the consequences. Maybe parents trusted their kids a little more to learn from their mistakes and move on.
So be careful over-analyzing your teen’s every move. If you’re a “stay-at-home” mom, then God bless you. What a blessing to get to focus on the home front. But don't be a “stay-on-my-kid” mom. Give them room to risk and grow. If you’re like many parents that have to work day-t0-day, research shows that “latch-key” kids sometimes develop more independence and self-reliance. The plus is, they learn to take more responsibility for themselves.
Wherever you are on the “controlling my kids” continuum, the goal is in the magic middle: provide and care for them as our kids but we let them take chances and risk. We don’t need to go back to the “good ‘ole days” without seat belts and smoke alarms when more kids died in car wrecks and families perished in fires. Be thankful for technology. But neither do we need to keep our kids from being kids.
Let your teen take that spring trip to the beach, let your teen go to summer camp, let your teen spend the night away. Teach them to come up with a plan, communicate well and go. They’ll make mistakes and get a few cuts and bruises, but in the end, they’ll learn to fend for themselves.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
“For though I caused you sorrow… I do not regret it” -2 Cor. 7:8
I am a “people-helper” by profession. One of my greatest struggles in parenting has been knowing when to and when not to fix things. I am a fixer. Not that I can fix everything, but I get fixated on fixing. I step into a problem, immediately analyze, size up the options and then move to correct the situation. That works well when fixing a car or managing a business, but not so well when raising kids. Remember, the goal in parenting isn't to catch fish, but to teach our children how to catch fish. When we start to fix the problem, we’re taking on the responsibility and the pain of the situation. Our teenagers need to feel the pain. Sure, it’s hard to watch our kids hurt, but good can come out of tragedy.
“Opie the birdman” is one of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes. Opie is having a grand old time with his new slingshot. He’s shooting trees and rocks. His father had warned him to be careful with it but when he inadvertently kills a bird, he is genuinely heart broken. He tries to get the bird to fly, but to no avail. Opie finally breaks down and tells his father what he has done but the real problem is that there are three newborns in the nest. Opie decides that he is going to raise them and he meticulously cares for them. In a funny scene, Barney tries to assure Opie and Andy that he’s an expert on raising birds. He evens tries to convince them he knows how to interpret a bird’s whistles. Opie works hard raising the birds he names “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” but he eventually comes to the realization however that he will also have to let them go free. In the last scene, Andy nudges Opie into letting the birds out of the cage. As they fly away, Opie replies, “My, doesn't the cage look empty?” Andy replies, “Yes, but don’t the trees seem full?”
Call me a softie, but I cry every time I see that episode. I cry because I’m laughing so hard as Barney whistles the different ways that birds talk to each other: “There’s a cat…run away…OK.” But I’m also crying because of the love Andy has for his son. After Opie tells Andy he killed the mother bird, Andy opens the window of Opie’s room and has him sit and listen to the baby birds calling for their mother. Andy says, “Sorry isn't going to bring the bird back. You can just sit and listen to those birds calling for their mom who’s not coming back.” That probably sounds harsh to some parents. Some parents would have cuddled their son, drying his tears saying, “Oh, that’s okay, that ‘ole robin shouldn't have been in our trees anyway.” That son learns that whenever he makes a mistake, he has zero responsibility to fix it. He learns that any mistake is okay, therefore, he can do whatever he wants.
In the next scene, Opie embraces responsibility for the baby birds and takes pride in caring for them. In that way, he releases the guilt from the mistake by putting his hands on taking responsibility for the problem. All kids (and adults) need that opportunity.
So, take care of your teenager and show grace when appropriate, but let them feel some sting. Loving sorrow can be a healthy thing. Let them take the car to get fixed. Let them pay off the parking ticket. Let them do their own laundry. Simply put, let them grow up and take responsibility for their lives.
It may make you feel a bit uncomfortable and empty, but it will make your kids more confident and full.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, May 17, 2010
“…put aside all envy” -1 Peter 2:1
Envy is simply wanting what someone else has. The age-old push to “keep up with the Jones’” is alive and well today in the family. That competitive stress to “stay ahead” can infiltrate and affect us personally and underscore our parenting. Our values loom at the foundation of every decision we make for our families. And if those decisions aren’t based on love and nurturing, then they are less than the best and can even be catastrophic.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a man in Chicago, who neighbors say was obsessed with his lawn, fatally shot his neighbor whose puppy urinated on the man’s well-manicured grass. The man had won the neighborhood’s lawn up-keep award but was also known to have threatened people who dared to set foot in his yard. Witnesses said a man was walking his fox terrier, when the dog stopped to urinate in the yard. The two men began arguing when the homeowner pulled out a gun. The other man said. “next time you pull out a pistol, why don't you use it?” At that point, witnesses said, the gun went off and the man fell to the ground.
The stress of keeping up a yard, the pressure of a hundred hour work week, the anxiety of financial stress can all have negative effects on the chemistry of the family. Truth is, there isn't a “family scorecard” out there that keeps track of how well we’re doing in the game. In all my years of counseling and work at Shelterwood, I’ve found that the most peaceful families seem to be the simplest families. We know that all families struggle and all families are a bit dysfunctional. But the scales tip when the parents are providing an unhealthy competitive push on the family system.
I remember reading a story about a mom and dad who were raising a family of 2 boys and 2 girls. Most days, their yard was a mixture of jump ropes, soccer balls and frisbees. One day, a single man with an immaculate yard across the street had had enough. He crossed the street and, after tripping over a tricycle in the driveway, indirectly confronted the father, “If you ever need any help with your yard, I’d be glad to help you.” “Well thank you,” responded the dad, “but while you are growing grass, I’m growing kids.”
How’s the “kid growing” going in your family? I’m not here to judge any family because families vary widely and family decisions are up to parents, but are you about family or about the “Jones’?” Simply put, are you growing kids or growing your bank account? Are the 2 high-end vehicles really necessary? Do you really need that huge mortgage payment or is the simple house just fine? Do your kids really need to be involved in an activity every single night?
I’m only challenging you to step back and prayerfully take the pulse of your family. Bank accounts, cars and sports are great but only if they’re lassoed and controlled. When the yard becomes more important than the kid, we’re in trouble. Of course kids need to have structure and of course they need to help keep that same yard nice, but it’s about motive. We don't need to be about pleasing our neighbor, but about pleasing our God. And He is pleased the most when we’re a loving, flexible and relaxed parent.
So pray for wisdom. That new car? The golf game? That new house? Maybe it’s time to give up some things to get back the simple: a loving relationship with your family.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, May 15, 2010
“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household” -John 19:26-27
I’ve been in Fort Worth this week spending time with my mom. I love her a lot. Her name is Mildred and she’s lived in Fort Worth by herself since my dad passed away 22 years ago. For 40 years, she’s lived in the same home where I was raised. Before this home, we moved a lot, but when my dad retired from the military, this became our home as he continued practicing medicine. She did move to Branson for 6 months a few years ago, where I live, but insisted on moving back to Fort Worth. So we moved her back to the same home. I come to see her several times a year and we speak on the phone a couple of times a week.
Rewind 28 years. I remember driving out to our “farm” one Friday with my dad. Truth is, the farm was really a small ranch in west Texas, but my dad grew up on a cotton farm in west Georgia and never lost his heritage. As we drove along that day, he asked me a very vulnerable and tough question, “Joey, I won't be around forever. When I’m not around, will you take care of your mother?” We both kept looking straight ahead and I answered “yes.” There was silence for a few minutes, then we switched the conversation to the coming dove season and how the Dallas Cowboys were doing.
We never had that conversation again. We didn't need to because his words were engrained on my heart. Like a dying soldier on the battlefield asking a buddy to take care of his family, I always knew that a part of God’s calling for my life was to care for my mom. Of course, my 3 older brothers care for her too, but somehow I became her unofficial “caretaker.” I love my Lord first and of course my family in Branson, but wherever the Lord leads me geographically, I will be true to my calling to love my mom. I’ll do whatever I have to do to love her.
My mom and I were watching TV the other night (she loves to watch TV) and during a commercial she said, “the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Thanks for listening to me.” With our moms or our teenagers, with anyone really, the most precious thing we can give them is our time and a listening ear. But I can be so impatient. Why is listening so difficult? Is it because life is busy and the “tyranny of the urgent” keeps us from loving those closest to us?
Love your mom. And remember, it’s not about geography. Wherever you are, you can show your mom you love her by talking to her, being with her when you can, and especially by listening to her. Remember, your teens are watching you like a hawk and the way you treat your mother might be just the way your kids treat you.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, May 14, 2010
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” - Eccl. 4:9-10
Every time I write an article about parenting or anything else, I have to get it past my favorite editor, my wife Jeanie. She has a great eye for detail and is good grammatically. She reminds me to where to put my commas and she spots incomplete sentences and confusing stories that make sense to me but to no one else. Of course, every major publication has multiple editors that scour over the manuscripts, taking the raw and cleaning it up.
“He was a modest man with an unbelievable ego”
“I am proud to be able to say that I have sustained from the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products”
“Take Wordsworth, for example; every one of his words is worth a hundred words”
“For almost all involved in these stories, premature burial has had a negative effect on their lives”
“My mother worked hard to provide me with whatever I needed in my life, a good home, a fairly stale family and a wonderful education”
“They eagerly and happily took out bags, welcomed us in English, and quickly drove us out of the airport”
“Do I shake the hand that has always bitten me”?
“In the spring, people were literally exploding outside”
“On a transcript: AP Engllish
“Handwritten on an interview form under Academic Interests: Writting”
Why is editing important? Because when we’re in the middle of the detail, the obvious is easy to miss. I can read over an article ten times and not spot what Jeanie catches on her first read. Truth is, we quickly justify words and actions when we evaluate from our own perspective. We’re terrible editors of ourselves.
The same is true in parenting. We’re not very objective. We’re quick to justify ourselves and our actions. Deep, deep inside, we think the way we do most things is right and if everyone else just understood our slant on things, we’d live in a better world. But we’re handing in papers with plenty of typo’s and misprints.
Who holds you accountable in your parenting? For those with a spouse, are you asking and including your partner in your parenting? For you single parents, who is a close friend that you’re including in on your parenting? We all need editors that we’re allowing to audit our relationships with our teenagers.
Sure, there will be times you’ll disagree with your editor and there will be times you might be defensive and angry. But beware of dismissing the editors in your life. It’s the feedback you really need. Editing and accountability are about exposing blind spots. Of course, blind spots are by definition, well… blind. You can't see them. Someone else can bring just the right fresh perspective you need.
You tell your friend, “I told Beth she was grounded until she got that starting position on the volleyball team.” That friend reminds you that you need to back off on the volleyball. “But she has the potential to be a starter,” you respond. Your friend responds, ”her potential is up to her. She’s a great kid. You need to back off.”
So you do.
Be a parent that allows accountability. We all need friends and editors for what we do. Via prayer, don't forget to include God in all the details. He has an amazing ability to clean things up.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, May 13, 2010
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” -1 Cor. 9:24
Muscle memory is the ability of our muscles to remember. When a movement is repeated over time, muscle memory is created for that task allowing it to be repeated without conscious effort. It’s a great thing for athletics and has led to the concept of “practice” where we repeat a certain activity so as to be repeated come game time. That’s what the coach so eloquently meant when he said (or yelled), “we’re going to keep running that play ‘till you knuckle-heads get it right!” We learn early as athletes to be focused, intense and competitive. That works well for sports but sometimes not so well in parenting.
Years ago, some friends asked me to come play soccer with them. There was a group of adults and teens that played soccer every Sunday afternoon at the local park in Branson. Lots of fun, but the competitive soccer world is not “fun.” Soccer is a super competitive, intense sport with no time outs, few goals, and no pads (unless you count shin guards, which weren’t required when I played). I was hesitant to go play. I’d played for so many years and it just seemed odd to go, though I’m not sure why. But I decided to play. It really was fun, until the second half. One of the teenagers on the other team was making a run down the field and my “muscle memory” kicked in. I ran him down and made a good “legal” tackle to prevent a goal. But I did not prevent embarrassment. The teen was ticked and, once I came out of my intense daze, I must have apologized a million times. I should not have made that hard play on him. This was just a fun game. But something “unconscious” kicked in. I, in essence, lost control and a billion hours of practice kicked in.
Muscle memory in parenting is a combination of past experience, including how we were raised by our parents and of how we parent day-to-day. How often do you catch yourself reacting the same way your parents reacted towards you? And you swore you wouldn’t be like your parents!
Parenting really can be fun. It doesn't have to be a super intense exercise of winning at all costs. It seems to be about perspective. Your son calls and has a flat tire north of town. He needs your help. You have a choice. You could get grouchy and frustrated, drive to where he is, and be impatient and irritable because your dad was like that. The world is like that. After all, you’re missing your favorite show on the Weather Channel! Or, you can say a quick prayer, take a deep breath and take this as an opportunity to love your son.
Be sure you’re repeating those attitudes and values in your life that are worth repeating. Silver Dollar City in Branson has, as it’s mission statement, “we are creating memories worth repeating.” Make that your motto as a parent, to create a parenting style worth repeating. Certainly, model all the wonderful ways your parents raised you, but be willing to break the mold in weak areas.
Pray for open eyes and an open heart to needed change and improvement in parenting. It doesn't have to be as intense as a soccer match. There are time outs and the victory is a growing relationship with your son or daughter. It's not always easy, but the muscle memory of loving is always the best goal.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” -Eph. 1:5
A few weeks ago, the world watched in horror as a mother made the decision to “un-adopt” her adopted Russian son by simply putting him on a plane and sending him back to Russia. Unbelievable. Unthinkable.
You may have read the story about the little girl in the 1st grade class. One day, the teacher asked the kids where they were born. The little girl answered, “I’m not sure, I was adopted by my mommy and daddy.” Later, at recess, one of her friends commented, “I never knew you were adopted. That sounds weird.” The little girl responded, “No, it’s not weird. Your mommy had you in her tummy, but my mommy had me in her heart.”
1.7 million households in America have adopted kids. Most of these families are thriving as wonderful parents reach out to love their families. Yet media tends to slant adopted kids as alienated and unhappy. But most adopted kids grow up just fine, with normal struggles just like all kids.
A famous study in the 90’s by the Search Institute of Minneapolis showed that a majority of adopted teens were strongly attached to their families and psychologically healthy. In fact, adopted teens scored better than non adopted siblings in connectedness, caring, and academics. I have worked with many adopted kids in my years at Shelterwood. Do adopted kids have problems? You bet. But so do non adopted kids.
Here are some famous adopted adults:
• Nancy Regan (former First Lady)
• Halle Berry (actress)
• Robert Byrd (U.S. senator)
• Peter and Kitty Caruthers (figure skaters)
• Eric Dickerson (football player)
• Former president Gerald Ford
• Melissa Gilbert (actress)
• Scott Hamilton (Olympic gold medalist skater)
• Debbie Harry (singer, A.K.A. Blondie)
• Faith Hill (singer)
• Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computers)
• Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s)
•Jim Lightfoot (congressman)
•Jim Palmer (professional baseball player)
Another more recent study was led by Matt McGue at the University of Minnesota and included over 1000 children, including adolescents and their siblings. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, it is called the Siblings Interaction and Behavior Study (SIBS). Researchers concluded that adopted kids had as close a relationship to their siblings as non adopted kids. In addition, they found no greater risk for emotional problems than among non adopted kids. You can read more about adopted kids in Parenting your Adopted Child: a positive approach to building a strong family by Andrew Adesman, M.D. (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
If you are feeling led toward adoption, let me strongly encourage you to “stay the course.” The choice to be a parent, through adoption or not, is a choice to love. Either way, God is in control and knows just what we need.
After all, God knows a lot about adoption. He adopted us as His sons and daughters a long time ago.
By Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
“After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days” -John 2:12
All families are different and the differences are varied and wonderful. Family traditions and styles are what make each family unique and appropriate to each home. One of the problems with the current pace and size of media today is that there’s too much comparison. Parents and teens compare themselves to TV shows and magazine articles. And I can't think of a worse comparison standard!
Contrary to popular opinion, there is not one right way to raise a child. Certainly there are basic principles of integrity, honesty and faith that need to be incorporated into every child’s upbringing, but style of a family is determined by the prayerful conviction of mom and dad.
One of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes is “Mayberry Goes Hollywood.” When a Hollywood producer wants to make his latest movie in Mayberry, the Town Council is suspicious of his motives, concerned that he may just want to make fun of the town and its people. Andy takes the producer, Mr. Harmon, on a tour of Mayberry, sizing him up at the same time. Once he realizes that Harmon means no harm, Andy manages to convince the council and they agree to have the picture made.
As soon as the producer heads back to California, however, the Mayberry Gazette prints the story under a banner headline and Hollywood fever strikes Mayberry like lightening. The town loafers sport three-piece suits and stores offer everything from Cary Grant haircuts to Hollywood funerals. It seems that everyone, except Andy, (even Barney, Aunt Bee and Opie) catches the film bug. The Mayor, the Town Council and the entire town become convinced that they must fundamentally alter themselves in order to live up to Hollywood's expectations.
When Mr. Harmon returns with his crew he is astounded to find that the simple, pure Mayberry he wanted to film has morphed into a Hollywood Mayberry. Exasperated, he explains that he wanted to film Mayberry in its natural state, not all gussied up and phony looking and scolds the town just before it destroys part of its heritage by cutting down a landmark tree. A bit embarrassed, as if a spell had been broken, the mayor and townsfolk come to their senses returning Mayberry to normal.
Though the people of Mayberry were convinced that the town needed to change, truth is the way they were was just fine. It wasn’t till they compared to Hollywood that they lost their uniqueness.
So, don't let your teenager set the tone for the family. “Everyone does this and all the other families are doing that,” says your 16 year old. Let them know that you’re not responsible for their families, but that you are accountable for your family. So, the curfew will stay the same or we will all eat dinner together tonight or you won't be allowed to go to that movie. If neighboring families do it one way, you’re okay to prayerfully stick to your tradition. Even if you’re accused of being “boring,” go see the relatives over the break.
Stick to your convictions. And don't let comparison take away the beautiful traditions that define the uniqueness of the family.
By Joseph Staples ©
Monday, May 10, 2010
“Then God said, “Let Us make man to rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” -Gen. 1:26
Why did God create animals? I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that God loves relationship. Pets are great for bringing out the best in friendships and companionship. Pets are great for any family. If it is at all possible, have a pet in your home. Throughout my life, pets have been great teachers and friends. I realize that not everyone raising a family is in an environment where pets are possible, but if you can, own a dog or cat or something. Stats show that about 60% of American families have pets with 40% owning dogs and 30% cats.
Growing up, we had a cocker Spaniel names Rusty. I had many conversations with that dog when we went to play down at the “woods,” as we called it. He was a great companion, a faithful friend, and someone who loved me unconditionally all the time. When he ran away, I learned how to let go of something I loved. When he mysteriously came back 2 days later, I learned how to be thankful for an unexpected gift. When we had to have him “put to sleep” at 16, I learned about death being a part of life. I learned how to let go again and I had a priceless talk with my dad about death.
Jeanie and I have had 3 Labrador retrievers and 2 cats in our family here in Branson. Our dogs, Josie, Maggie, and now Kipp, have been great. Josie died at 16 and was a great babysitter for our Elizabeth and Eric. Maggie was hit by a car at 3 years old and was used as an opportunity to teach our kids about death. And now Kipp is 9 years old and a blast. Our cats, Cookie and Tigger are…well…cats. Cookie decided to leave home one day and never came back. Elizabeth, then 10 years old, cried and cried. We then got Tigger who is 15 years old and has always been a grouchy cat. Tigger teaches me to love unconditionally (because trust me, that cat contributes nothing to us as a family)!
Animals are simply God’s gift to children and adults to enjoy. Do all dogs go to heaven? I’m thinking not, but I have a feeling it won't matter in the bigger scope of what's in store. But in the meantime, down here on earth, embrace pets.
My message to you neat-freak parents that don't want a pet because of the “mess they create” is “get over it.” Remember, you’re growing kids, not a spotless home or a perfect yard. Sure, animals require some work and maintenance, but use them in a way to teach your kids responsibility, ownership, compassion and love. If you have a dog, teach him. Dogs are the happiest when they’re trained and they’re more fun to be around.
So, if you’re part of the 40% of households without a pet, buy or adopt one and you’ll add a valuable member to the family.
by Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, May 8, 2010
“A godly mother’s… children rise up and bless her” –Proverbs 31:28
“Happy mothers day” to all you wonderful moms. I especially want to say happy mothers day to Mildred, my mom, to Jeanie, my children’s mom and to Elizabeth, my granddaughter’s mom. All you mothers do so much more than anyone even realizes and your faithfulness to your children is so pleasing to the Lord. Because you are willing to stand up for us as you stand before the Lord, we are better because of you. Here’s what I see in you as moms:
I see mothers of prayer. You are moms that seek direction from the Lord. You are Proverbs 31 women that go to the Lord asking for advice and counsel. You’ve learned that unless the Lord is doing the parenting through you, your parenting is incomplete. You have made petition for your kids countless times that He might be a loving Father to your kids. You’ve asked that the Lord would discipline your kids so they would grow, but that He would be kind and gentle with your babies. You simply are Godly women,
I see mothers that are patient. You recognize that growing takes time. When there are opportunities to push or expect, you have caught yourself and paused with a smile to say, “it will all work out- give it time.” When the pace of the household is running on fast forward, you have led the movement to slow things down. You have brought a beautiful pace to the family.
I see mothers that bring hope. It’s not an easy job growing up. Kids need the hope that a mother brings in the midst of difficulty. Throughout my life, my mom has always been there for me. Through defeat in sports, to struggling dating relationships through the teenage years, to my father passing away, she’s always been there as an encourager. I heard her encouraging words a few months ago when Elizabeth was about to have our granddaughter “turned” in the womb before the delivery. I think she sensed the concern in my voice because moms seem to have that kind of “emotion sensing” radar. She said (with her Georgia southern drawl), “Joey, it’ll all work out fine. It’ll all be fine. When I was a nurse, those procedures usually went well. She’ll be fine.” It was the encouragement I needed. You moms bring hope when we need it the most.
And lastly, I see moms that simply love. The 1st Corinthians list of love attributes fits you mothers well. You love well because you’ve allowed the Lord to love through you. You loved us in tough ways when we needed a spanking and you loved us in gentle ways when we just needed to cry on your shoulder. I’ll never forget those beautiful pictures of Eric or Elizabeth in Jeanie’s lap, head on her shoulder, and the tears flowing over a hurt or rejection. They needed their mom and mom was always there.
Moms, have a great mother’s day. May God bless you and honor you for your years of love. Thank you for helping us through our lives and for always being there for us.
We (all us kids) love you
By Joseph Staples ©
Friday, May 7, 2010
“Bear one another’s burdens, but each one will bear his own load” -Gal. 6:2,5
As summer quickly approaches, most teenagers are thinking about the summer schedule and the infamous summer job. Many parents are arranging those jobs for their teens which is okay, but it’s better when they figure it out on their own. Too often we’re helicopter parents, hovering over our teens, taking care of it all for them.
I remember getting ready for summer at the end of my freshman year of high school in Fort Worth, Texas. I knew I was going to Young Life’s Frontier camp during August, but June and July were open. My buddies were getting jobs and I kinda wanted one too. So, I began the search and scoured the employment section of the newspaper. There was a job opening at a Taco Bell in the tough part of Fort Worth. I went and interviewed and I was hired to work the six to midnight shift. So, for June and July I worked the late shift at Taco Bell. It was a tough experience, but so good for me. It was good because it was my deal. I owned it. I found it. I interviewed and I got the job all by myself. My dad didn't work it out for me. Years later, my parents laughed with me about that job. They told me they were both shocked when I went and got that job. I was too, but my self-esteem and confidence grew a lot that summer. And I made a little money too. By the way, minimum wage in 1973 was a whopping $1.60. Today its nearly $8.00. Crazy.
It can be so difficult not to help out our kids. Sure, there are times when we need to jump in and help, but most of the time, we’re taking responsibility when we really need to back off and let our teen work it out. They need to bear the load themselves and we need to do the hard work of doing nothing.
We do need to remind them that in the high school years, allowance is their responsibility in the summer. We remind them that they have chores to do if they’re living in the home. We remind them that there are guidelines of respect that exist for everyone in the family. Then we leave it up to them. If they’re prepared to live on the modest amount we supply as parents for the essentials, then that’s their choice. They learn that if they’d like to “up their standard of living” then they’ll either have to win the lottery (just kidding) or find a job somewhere.
It’s all a part of learning responsibility and teenagers have to learn that on their own. Don't expect a pat on the back for this one. We all struggle a bit with work. We’d all rather take a vacation than practice a vocation (I just made that up, thank you). But learning the value of work as a teenager better prepares adolescents for a life of purpose and work later on.
So, be the encourager as your teen is learning to take responsibility and if they land at the neighborhood Taco Bell, cheer them on!
by Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, May 6, 2010
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord” -Psa. 31:24
While I was waiting on the birth of my granddaughter a few weeks ago, I spent some time wandering around the hospital in Amarillo. A bit lost, I found myself walking through the halls of the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. These newborn care units are amazing. They provide a high level of care for ill or premature babies and truly work miracles on the precious babies that need help. They bring hope to families that are dealing with the unplanned problems with their precious newborns. By the way, did you know that James Elgin Gill (born on 20 May 1987 in Ottawa, Canada) was the earliest premature baby in the world. He was 128 days premature (21 weeks and 5 days gestation) and weighed 1 pound 6 ounces. He survived and is quite healthy.
As I ventured down the hallway of the NICU, I noticed these posters hanging on the walls. They were pictures of older kids with the length of time they’d been in the intensive care unit written below their snapshot. Each child on the poster was smiling as if to say, “yes, when I was a baby, I was in the NICU unit for a while, and things looked pretty bleak, but look at me now! I’m doing great. There are no guarantees, but you can be encouraged and have hope now because of me.” What a great idea! Yes, do everything medically possible to heal these precious babies. But also do something to provide hope for the parents and family. The posters cry out “hope” to everyone who walks down those halls.
Wow! What parent of a teenager doesn't need that encouragement? Sometimes raising teens can be very difficult. Sometimes the way to go seems so unclear. But there is hope. The hallways of the parenting years are lined with pictures of adults that were once difficult teenagers. Maybe your picture is even hanging in that hallway. It’s tough being a teenager and learning to be responsible, but God promises that in Him there is strength, courage and hope.
When the going is tough and you’re seemingly disconnected from your teenager, remember that most difficult phases of the teenage years pass and healing happens. We work hard to bring hope to families through Shelterwood. Maintain your hope because many times it’s your confidence and hope in your teen that carries them through the difficult periods of adolescents.
I love the hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.” What is your hope built on today? It might be your hundredth time to do this, but once again, give your teen over to the loving God that knows them best. Base your hope on your teen in the Lord. Keep praying for their future.
There are no guarantees, but pray that one day your teen will be an encouraging poster on the wall to encourage others.
By Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
“Be angry and …be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” -Eph. 4:32
This is the last discussion on anger and how to deal with it in a healthy way in our families. We’ve discussed stuffing and shifting anger. And we explored putting away our anger lest it develop into deeper anger.
Today we conclude the discussion on anger: putting on.
Paul emphasized that we need to put away negative emotions. But he concludes Chapter 4 in Ephesians with a challenge to put on the 3 positive things. Paul is reminding us to be angry and don't sin, then move on and put it all away; then put the top layer of icing on the cake by doing these things for that family member.
First, Paul says to put on “kindness to one another.” That’s the Greek word Chrestia which means “to help someone suitable for a need.” In other words, reach out and help the very person with whom you were angry. Yep, things were pretty tense a few hours ago. Yep, it took some time to work through the issue in love. But past is past. Now is now and there’s no better way to show love than by being kind. You know your family well. You know your teenager- do something kind for them.
Secondly, Paul says to be tenderhearted. That’s the Greek word eusplanchnoi. It means to “show affection.” Apparently doing something nice is great, but having a soft heart towards that person means I’m not afraid to show affection. Give your unhuggable teen a hug. Deep inside, he’ll like it and others will notice it too.
And lastly, we’re challenged to forgive one another. It’s the cherry on top. It’s the word charizomai, which is “being gracious as a favor.” When we forgive, we show grace. When we experience grace, we’re gracious. Our teen hurt us badly, but we’ve worked through the issue. It's in the past. Now we need to forgive and move on. Why? Because that’s what Christ did for us.
Paul said in Eph. 4, “be angry but do not sin.” He literally used the word orge which means “to be stirred up.” It’s helpful when used in a constructive way, but potent when negative. Every family deals with anger. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Using the anger in a constructive way then putting it away helps produce peace in the home. Putting on an attitude of forgiveness and kindness helps maintain that peace in the future.
by Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
“Be angry but… put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander along with all malice” -Eph. 4
We continue to discuss anger and how to deal with it in a healthy way in our families. In lesson 1 we discussed the tendency to stuff anger. Lesson 2 was about shifting. Blame shifting is the process where responsibility for a problem is shifted from one person to another. When a problem presents itself and we get angry, often we look for someone to blame. We prefer to point the finger at someone else.
But love points the finger at ourselves and challenges us to do something edifying with our “stirring up” or anger. It’s always the best choice to love your teenager.
Today we discuss lesson 3: putting away.
It’s true that any healthy relationship has struggles. Every family deals with anger issues. Paul’s continues his challenge on anger in Ephesians chapter 4. He challenges us to use anger in a positive way and then get rid of it. Specifically, he says to “put it away.” When my kids were little we always had “put the toys away” time after they’d left their toys all over the house. We had a wooden toy box that sat in our living room that stored all the toys. But the toys didn't jump into the box. It required the kids to pick up the toys and put them into the box and shut the top. When the toys were “put way,” they weren’t there to play with anymore. Paul is reminding us, whether the anger is appropriate or not, to get rid of it quickly.
Paul specifically lists 6 “toys” to put away: bitterness (“bitter-hatred”), wrath (outward anger), anger (the same word used for good anger), clamor (shouting), slander (intent to injure) and malice (to wish ill-will). What a gross list of fleshly, damaging emotions. Putting them away means I bury them. It means I let them go. It means I shut the lid on the toy box and turn the latch. It means I move on.
It’s interesting that Paul says to put away the very “anger” he said was positive. He’s reminding us that even justified and useful anger needs to be buried and forgotten.
The family is such a dynamic, interacting machine. Emotions come and go as they’re stirred up in relationships. As you work through issues with your kids, when the issues are resolved, don't hold on to the anger. Like a cancer, anger not put away can morph and grow into destructive emotions that will harm the relationship.
Remember, when destructive emotions are correctly put away, the home becomes a place of peace.
Next: lastly, option #4: putting on
by Joseph Staples ©
Monday, May 3, 2010
“Be angry but…let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” –Eph. 4
We’ve been discussing anger. Lesson 1 was about stuffing. Sometimes when we get angry, instead of dealing with the anger, we stuff it and file it away. It’s efficient but damaging. But when we filter through the source of the anger, we discover it’s either helpful or hurting. Either way, we act on the anger and put it away or use it to confront a brother.
Today we discuss option 2: shifting.
Blame shifting is the process where responsibility for a problem is shifted from one person to another. When a problem presents itself and we get angry, often we look for a person to blame. We prefer to point the finger at someone else. When the accident occurs, we blame the highway department; when the team loses, we blame the coach; when the storm hits, we blame the National Weather Service; when the oil slick appears, we blame the government. More importantly here, when our teenager is less than what we expect, we blame them. Why? Because if someone else is at the source of the problem, then we have no responsibility to fix the problem and our anger is justified.
When we are “stirred” or angered over something, we reach a crossroads every time. Do we own the emotion and deal with it in a healthy way or do we look for someone to blame? We’d rather critique and judge someone else for creating the situation that stirred us. It’s the easier route. Then we can gripe and complain all day long. But if we own our part in the difficulty, then we are required to help solve the problem in a constructive way.
In Ephesians Chapter 4, Paul challenges us to “be angry but don't sin.” Then he challenges us to own the anger. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth except that it’s good for edification, for the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” In other words, help solve the problem. My mom used to say, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.” That’s sound wisdom, but this goes deeper. If you don't have anything good to think in your heart about someone, then do something about it.” Either forgive, confront, or drop it.
We counteract shifting when we own it. Grace is a powerful thing. It’s a Monday night with our teenager. The track meet went late and she is behind in studying for the test tomorrow. We’re angry because she might do poorly on the test tomorrow. Don't gripe at them. Choose to own it and help her study. Take her a snack. Edify. Help the need. Give grace. That is Paul’s challenge.
Shifting points the finger at someone else. Love points the finger at me and challenges me to do something edifying with my “stirring up” or anger. It’s always the best choice to love your teenager.
Next: option 3: putting away.
By Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, May 1, 2010
“Be angry but don't sin” –Eph. 4:26
Parents get angry sometimes. Teenagers get angry sometimes. We all get angry. But the typical lesson on anger taught by most parents to their children is “never get angry.” It’s like teaching your kids not to eat. You say, “You kids don't eat right. You just eat junk food all the time, so here’s the new rule in this house: no more eating!” Ridiculous. Just like we need to teach our kids how to eat correctly, as parents, we need to teach our kids how to be angry correctly.
Paul the Apostle wrote tons on the issue of emotions and anger. Ephesians Chapter 4 is a blueprint on how to be angry correctly. Paul says to “get angry without sinning.” Apparently it is possible to have this thing called anger and it be okay. That word for anger is the Greek word orge, which means “a stirring of emotion that begins slowly.” Being stirred can be a good thing. But rarely do we deal with anger in a healthy and constructive way. When our emotions are stirred and we get upset, we react in several different ways.
Option 1 today: stuffing
Unfortunately, we are all good at stuffing anger. Paul says in Eph. 4 “not to let the sun go down on your anger.” Our emotions are stirred about something. Instead of running that emotion through the “filter,” we typically stuff or file it away. Not good. The filter involves praying about the situation, then either confronting the issue or letting it go. Letting it go is not stuffing it. Example: I’m frustrated with my teen because he’s on the JV and not the varsity. I run it through the filter. My “anger” or stirring is really just jealousy of my neighbor’s kid being on the varsity. I don't stuff it. I’m honest about it and choose to be happy for him and let it go. God uses the emotion. The other option to stuffing is to confront. I’m stirred because my teen was rude to his sister. Weeks earlier, we’d discussed that very issue and he asked me to hold him accountable. I run it through the filter. My motive is okay. He’s my son and I want the siblings to get along. I remember Proverbs 27:6 “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” So I confront him and he’s defensive at first, but accepts the rebuke. God uses the emotion.
The stuffing option is quick and convenient, but super destructive. The “stuffed to” file cabinet is a dark and ugly place filled with past hurts and stinky trash. Too many files can lead to bad anger, which the Greek calls thumos. Paul uses that word for anger too, but in a negative sense. Part of what we do at Shelterwood is unload that filing cabinet. Not easy, but so freeing. We’re at our best when the file cabinet is empty. We’re the healthiest emotionally when we’re about the 1 Cor. 13 principle of “not taking into account wrongs suffered.”
So keep that filter system running today. When, not if, you become stirred or angry, run it through the filter system. Don't react, but pray and then act. Either let it go- really let it go or confront the situation. Your teen knows more about your issues than you think. They are modeling what they see and experience. This is all a part of “training up.” Take a deep breath and let God use your anger in a healthy way as you run it through the filter and avoid the stuffing.
Option #2 coming next: shifting
By Joseph Staples ©