Saturday, June 26, 2010
I will be away from the keyboard for the next week. I’m not really going fishing, but I am going to spend the week with my family. We’re headed down to the beach in the Florida panhandle. Yes, we’ve made a gillion calls and the beach is still beautiful where we are going.
But honestly, the trip is less about the ocean and more about just chilling out and being with family.
A friend from Branson asked me once, “What do y’all do at the beach?” I said, “Well, we just sit together as a family, chill out, read, and listen to the ocean.” Puzzled, he asked again, “Well, I know that, but what do you do?” He just didn't get it. Years ago, I didn't either. But I do now.
What I get is that I need retreats away from doing anything except vacationing. I need intentional focused time with my family. I need rest. But it’s difficult not to think about “work” - though it continues on well without me. It’s tough not to think about housework - though people are staying at our home all week. The point is, it’s hard to slow down. But breaks are crucial if we’re going to “finish the race” well.
So, I’ll be away from the Blog for a week and will start back up on July 5th. I sure hope you get to have a vacation this summer. When you do, do fun things, but mostly, just be with your family.
Thanks for everyone’s support and have a great week.
In His love,
Thursday, June 24, 2010
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” –Matt. 5:4
As parents, we wear many hats in relationship to our teenagers. We are advisors, providers, coaches, disciplinarians and friends. And we are also comforters.
Normal, healthy teenagers all go through periods of grief. When the loss occurs, what our teen needs most is a listening ear and a comforting word. What our teen doesn't need is a lecture on why he shouldn't be grieving.
When my father passed away many years ago, I was in shock and grieving. I had several well-meaning friends who called with lengthy advice on how to deal with the loss. I appreciated their calls, but two dear friends reached out in ways that were exactly what I needed.
Richard Beach, my mentor, boss and friend, had a friend fly him to Ft. Worth to attend the funeral. I never spoke to him on that day, but I looked up at the funeral and saw Rich in the crowd. Just knowing he was there meant so much. I felt his arms around me even though we never touched.
My best friend, John Vicary, called the morning of the service and simply said, “I love you. Remember, the Lord is with you.” Just knowing he was with me in spirit made all the difference. I just needed to know he was next to me.
Whether the death of a parent or friend, the breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or being cut off a sports team, the times of loss can be very difficult. In the pain of it all, they need us as parents to be there for them.
Many parents are uncomfortable with “silent conversations” with their kids. Remember, Professional Counselors remind us that most people already know the solutions to their problems. What they really desire is someone to simply be with them. In our desire to “solve” the problem, we too often fill the air with advice already revealed to the hurting person.
Emily Dickinson said, “saying nothing sometimes says the most.” Keeping silent allows our hurting teen to share his heart with us. As we acknowledge and validate his feelings, we’re letting him know that he is not alone. Sure, there are times to give needed advice. But God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Remember, everyone grieves differently. Most teenagers grieve through anger, so don't be pulled into the anger cycle. They’re still developing the security and confidence to be real about what they feel. The message you want to send to your child is, “your feelings are so important to me, and I will find time to listen to them. You are not bothering me. I love you."
Inside, teens have super-sensitive radar equipment that can tell when someone really cares and loves them. In times of loss, the radar is fully operational and working. Pray for a compassionate and sensitive heart that is in touch with your teens’ emotions.
Allow God to comfort your teen through you, but remember, it may not be through what you say, but by simply being there.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us”
Today we have immunizations that many call “miracle drugs.” They are medications that ward off Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio and other really bad diseases that 100 years ago killed and left many people very sick.
Most doctors are quick to admit the human immunity system is complex and unpredictable. While many diseases respond to these drugs, many do not. Illnesses that relate to the immune system still leave many debilitated and physically sick. But new drugs are being developed every year.
The main problem with a majority of the immunizations is that they don't come in a pill or a patch. They require the dreaded (organ music please)…SHOT. Grown, mature men who have fought in wars and wrestled alligators cringe, roll up in a ball and cry when they are required to get a shot. Why? Because shots hurt. They inflict pain. Whether we’re 80 or 8 months, when the nurse rubs our arm with that alcohol swab and says “this might sting a little," we all get a bit teary eyed and nervous. How odd that it requires an ounce of hurt to avoid a ton of pain.
Our sweet granddaughter Reese just turned 2 months old. That meant it was time for her to get her shots. It was an appointment that her mom, Elizabeth, has been dreading for a while. When a baby gets shots, there is a special cry that is only associated with that event. But Elizabeth reported that the shots went fine today and though Reese was a little fussy, she’s fine.
But imagine if Elizabeth and Mark had decided, “nope, we’re not taking Resse to get shots today because it hurts her and our role as parents is to protect our child and not allow her to be hurt.” Sounds like good rationale at first glance. Frankly, some anti-shot parents choose this route. I’m always amazed at the parents that are willing to risk years of medical research on their own wisdom. But of course, most parents are willing to put their child through momentary pain for the greater good of knowing they are better protected from potential future problems. “No pain, no gain”, our coaches often proclaimed. But that didn't mean we enjoyed the pain. We mostly wanted the gain.
The truth is, Reese is in for a lot more “shots” in her life. And there will be many situations that will be out of the control of mom and dad. It’s not the medication on it’s own that prevents the disease, but the medication interacting with the God-given immune system to ward off disease. In the same way, God uses stinging circumstances in the lives of our kids to help develop and mold them into responsible Godly adults. Let your child get their shots.
It not only hurts the teen, but it hurts us as parents also. It’s just hard to watch someone you love hurt and cry. It’s tempting to push away the nurse, grab the needle and throw it away. It’s tempting to be near-sided as we raise our children into teenagers. I really am near-sighted. That means I see fine close up, but I can't see far away.
Be a parent that sees far away. Let our loving God have his way in the life of your teen. Pray that your teen will make wise, Godly choices. But also pray that if he makes poor, painful choices, that they will be used to make him stronger, full of humility, and teachable.
Don’t shield your child from the shots. Let the difficulty run its course in the life of your teen. Let them bear their own load and they will only grow stronger, not weaker.
Yes, how odd that it requires an ounce of hurt to avoid a ton of pain. But remember, when the sting goes away, there’s peace and healing on the other side.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” -1 Thess. 4:11
It was never a problem for Andy Taylor to admit he lived in a small town and that “sheriffing” was not particularly difficult in Mayberry.
Barney, on the other hand, was always upset that he worked “in a hick town.” He was constantly requesting tear gas and sub machine guns to fight off the “mafia influence in Mayberry.” He resented what Andy embraced: a simple, quiet life.
In the later shows of Andy Griffith, after Barney moved to Mount Pilot, he got a corner room at the YMCA and worked for the police department. Barney was describing how fast life was in the big city and said, “Sometimes I walk through the lobby of the Y and don’t even stop to say hello to the people there. There's always someone on the lobby either using the public typewriter or eating a pear."
In this super hyped-up electronic world we live in, the pace and complexity of life has invaded the family lifestyle. Like Barney, teens and adults want more than they need. We think that if we live in anything less than a fully-wired HD, WiFi home, we are missing out. The media would have us think that unless we have the latest 3-D television, we’re way behind.
Our kids expect all of the latest methods of entertainment in the household. In our work at Shelterwood, it’s become more and more difficult to impress our teenagers in the “entertainment” world. They come to us having seen and experienced it all. But what many haven't experienced is the simplicity of a morning fishing in Lake Taneycomo and catching trout. Most haven't been on a canoe trip and caught crawdads at the camping spot.
As parents, we control the environment of the family. Our kids don't need tear gas or machine guns, but what they need is us. Whether they’re 8 or 18, they need (and want) time with mom and dad. The best quality time is spent in the simple. Fishing and hunting are classic times to be with your teens; working together in the yard provides good quality time together; playing board games in the house is good interaction time. Your kids may act like they “think it's dumb,” but inside they will cherish the time that you have committed to them.
Beware of lower quality times together. Movies are a blast, but not the best interaction time together. They may ask for us to pick up all their friends to come along, but let them know that “I want to just hang out with you for a while.”
Take the family camping and to the lake; next trip, get off the Interstate and stop at the historical markers on the highways; tonight, grab the family and go to Sonic for dinner and sit outside; give each family member one dollar and go to the neighborhood dollar store. Draw family names and have each family member buy a gift for the person they drew. Go back to the house and go around the circle and have each family member present their gift and tell why they bought it.
Not exactly a trip to Cancun or buying new cars for everyone, but simple fun. And you know what, kids and teenagers love it. Deep inside, they love the simplicity.
Barney loved it too. In the end, he was perfectly content to “go uptown and get a bottle of pop.”
Keep it simple and enjoy the quiet pace of it all with your family.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, June 19, 2010
“Honor your father…” –Exodus 20:12
This father day, I want to honor the wonderful legacy of my father, Pelham Staples.
My dad was born March 18th, 1919 in Roopville, Georgia on a cotton farm. He was the fourth son of seven kids. After serving in World War II, he married my mom, went to medical school and practiced medicine for his whole career. But his main focus was always his four boys, of which I was the youngest.
My dad died suddenly in 1988. He was my father, my hero and my security. When he died, my world stopped for a while. Even though it was 22 years ago, it seems like yesterday. I still miss him very much. The sting of grief has definitely turned into something sweeter than before, but I know that a part of me is gone and will never return. I also know that I have a heavenly Father that is more than capable of filling that void in my heart that left us all that cold December day.
It’s funny the things we remember about those that we love. When I think of my dad, I remember things he said. He was a man of few words and language meant a lot to him.
“There are a lot of things worse than dying.” He often spoke of the sadness of lack of love within family, living a life of empty conceit and the importance of living life to fullest. I saw my dad die a lot through his giving spirit and unselfish attitude. He was a giver.
“Worrying doesn’t stop the rain- besides the farmers need it.” Seldom did he comment on the rain-instead he rejoiced in who was recieving the blessing. My dad’s agrarian background often showed in his appreciation of nature. We’d be driving along and he comment on “the beautiful crops.”
“Joey, I’d love to decide for you but I’ll only decide with you.” I went to him for so much counsel. “Should I go to Baylor? What should be my major? What do I do after college? Should I marry this beautiful girl named Jeanie? Should we move to Branson?” With all the questions came that same response. He knew I needed to own my life, but he was always there for me.
After he died, as we sat at visitation at the funeral home, an old pickup truck pulled up in front and a well-dressed Mexican family filed out of the truck, 4 girls and the mom and dad. It was Gonzalo, my dad’s helper at our ranch, and his family. They had driven all the way from west Texas to honor my dad. They came over to my mom and the brothers and introduced themselves. Then he pulled up the cuff of his pants to show us his lizard skin boots. “Your father gave me these boots. One day he noticed my boots were old and worn out and right there on the spot he took off his boots and gave them to me. I will never forget Dr. Staples and I come to honor him.”
My dad would be the first to say he was far from perfect. But he was a dad that loved. I am so thankful I got to be his son, and that I can live the rest of my life to honor him and my heavenly Father.
Happy fathers day!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, June 18, 2010
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing” - Phil. 2:14
Taking responsibility isn't very popular these days. In this high achieving, “fight to get ahead” world we live in, admitting fault is difficult. We all want to be perfect or at least make others think we’re perfect!
But in reality, the most secure people are those who are willing to admit mistakes, learn from them and move on. When I blame others for my mistakes, I learn nothing from the episode accept how to manipulate and blame. As parents, we need to be sure and teach our kids to own their mistakes and take responsibility.
This reminds me of the Andy Griffith episode about a young man learning to take responsibility for his own actions. The young man’s dad was a very powerful politician in the state of North Carolina and had bailed him out of every poor decision he had ever made. He got in an accident in Mayberry and was arrested by Sheriff Taylor for hit-and-run. While arrested he went fishing with Andy and Opie, had Sunday dinner with them etc… While with the Taylor’s, Andy made Opie pay for a window he broke while playing baseball. The young man thought Andy was being too hard on Opie but Andy told him, “Opie has to learn to pay for broken windows and stand on his own two feet.”
At the end of the episode, the politician’s lawyer coerces the person the young man hit in order to get the young man out of jail. The young man decides to stay in jail and finish his sentence saying “tell my Dad I broke a window and have to stand on my own two feet.” It’s just another classic and so well written. The young man learned to take responsibility.
A few weeks ago Jim Joyce made a mistake. Joyce happened to be working first base Wednesday night in Detroit for the game between the Tigers and the Indians when infamy “did not just tap him on the shoulder, it slapped him upside the head.” Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had just thrown the 21st perfect game in baseball history, and a ridiculous third perfecto inside of four weeks, when first baseman Miguel Cabrera threw to him covering first base on a grounder by Jason Donald for the 27th out. Cabrera celebrated. Only one thing was missing. Jim Joyce called Donald safe. Upon seeing a replay, Joyce was crushed."I just cost that kid a perfect game," the umpired admitted afterward. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay." It was a classy move by Joyce, who also apologized to Galarraga personally. The pitcher told a Venezuelan reporter that Joyce was crying when he offered him his apology. “He really feel bad. He probably feel more bad than me," Galarraga told Fox Sports Detroit. "Nobody's perfect, everybody's human. I understand. I give a lot of credit to the guy saying, “Hey, I need to talk to you because I really say I'm sorry.” That don't happen. You don't see an umpire after the game say 'I'm sorry.'"
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, after seeing a replay of the call Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, said of about Joyce, "It happened to the best umpire we have in our game. The best. And a perfect gentleman. Obviously, it was a mistake. It was a perfect game. It's a shame for both of them, for the pitcher and for the umpire. But I'm telling you he is the best baseball has, and a great guy. It's just a shame."
So parents, go ahead and make your mistake. Mistakes are going to happen and the kids will be watching. We all hate to mess up, but when you do, admit it. Better yet, grab it and own it. When you do, your child’s eyes will be watching and learning.
Then, when you have the accident or miss the call, your peers and children will remember who you are, not the mistake you made. And they’ll learn to be responsible.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will run and not get tired” –Isa. 40:31
I had a crazy weekend. Maybe life is just crazy! Certainly, for anyone who has the privilege of being a parent, it’s even crazier!
The past week had been a great week but really busy and I was tired. I came home Friday night ready to chill, eat dinner and watch the Cardinal game. But when I walked in the garage, I encountered a mess! Jeanie had been to the store and the washing machine liquid soap she’d put I the back seat had fallen over and spilled on the carpet in the back of her Honda. I spent 2 hours trying to get it out of the carpet. It was hot and I was grouchy. With the help of a shop vac, I finally got all the soap out. And the Cardinals lost.
I slept OK, then got up to the cut the grass Saturday morning. Half way through the process, the mower died. I spent 3 hours working on the mower and never could get it to run. I had the carburetor and other parts on the driveway. Pretty impressive but it made no difference. The mower was toast. I borrowed a mower and finally finished the yard much later than expected. The Cardinals lost again.
Sunday, church was wonderful, but then I spent nearly the whole day helping with a project over at Doulos. I enjoyed the time, but never got to my weekend list of projects. The Cardinals lost again!
Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I was worn out coming into the weekend and what should have been minor issues became big issues. I became a coward and a whiner.
I was reminded of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19. With God help, he defeated 850 prophets of Baal in a huge way. Victorious (and probably wiped out) he used his remaining energy to outrun King Ahab’s chariot 17 miles down the mountain. Elijah would have been a phenomenal cross-country runner.
Then, an angry Jezebel threatened him and the fatigued Elijah “is afraid.” Remember, fatigue brings out our worst. Defeated, he ran to Beersheba (I bet he ran really slow), hid under a tree and was depressed. He had relied on God’s protection for 3 ½ years! But now he was relying on himself. God met him and restored him, but not before he’d spent wasted days in self-pity.
None of us run well when we're tired. Sure, sometimes life is just hard. Sometimes, circumstances are just crazy. But more times than not, I have contributed greatly to the chaos. Too often, I’ve gone too hard and neglected necessary “gaps” in my schedule. We all need times to exercise, read and spend time with Jesus. Then, when the craziness hits, we’re ready to run.
Can God supply supernatural strength for us all the time? Sure, He can, but He probably won’t. Just as Jesus Himself needed time “on the other side of the sea”, so it is with us. We’re limited to finite earthly bodies that need proper rest and nurturing.
We owe it to our families and to our Lord to take care of ourselves. We can't control life, but we can take care of ourselves. Then, if the Cardinals lose, somehow it’s OK.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” -Prov. 16:2
It’s difficult to know when to let our teens make their own choices and live with the results and when to step in and say “no.” There is no area that tests our motives as parents more than decision-making. We all like to think we’re striking the right balance but often there is no balance at all. If we’re not careful, deep inside, we’re making decisions for our teens that suit our agenda.
Too often, we claim to be protectors of our kids when in truth we’re over-protecting. At the other extreme, we permit our kids to over-extend themselves to meet our need. We might allow our kids to attend too many sports camps and clinics in the summer, knowing that they’re too busy. Deep inside, we see it as the pathway to them being the next super star athlete (that we never were, by the way). We claim it's for their future but it’s really for ours.
Much has been reported about the 16-year-old sailor on a round-the-world journey. She alone was drifting in the frigid southern Indian Ocean on Friday as rescue boats headed toward her yacht, damaged by 30-foot waves that knocked out her communications and prompted her to set off a distress signal. After a tense 20 hours of silence, a search plane launched from Australia's west coast made radio contact with Abby Sunderland on Friday.
A lifelong sailor, Sunderland had begun her journey trying to be the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop around the world and continued her trip after mechanical failures dashed that dream. She told searchers Friday that she was doing fine with a space heater and at least two weeks' worth of food, said family spokesman William Bennett.
Abby's father, Laurence Sunderland, rejected criticism that it was far too dangerous to allow a 16-year-old to sail around the world by herself. "Sailing and life in general is dangerous. Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car?" Laurence Sunderland told the AP. "I think people who hold that opinion have lost their zeal for life. They're living in a cotton-wool tunnel to make everything safe." Abby's brother, Zac, himself a veteran of a solo sail around the world at age 17, said he told his sister to be prepared for storms and other problems. But he said it's in her nature to handle those calmly. "I think Abby is quite a conqueror, quite level headed," her brother said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday.
More has been written today about the sailor’s father. Only the father’s heart and God know the motives behind it all. But it reminds me that every parent has to make a choice: do we make the choices for our teens or with our teen? It’s really a simple heart question: are we truly letting our teen own his life choices? Certainly, we should correctly draw lines and insist that our kids hold to family boundaries and values, but choices of preference should be theirs.
Don't forget that we’re raising our kids to fly on their own. Let them risk and experience success and failure in this life. Check your heart and keep your motives unselfish and pure. And let your teen enjoy sailing, whether it’s stormy or not.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, June 14, 2010
“I press on…” -Phil. 3:14
Surviving is way underrated. There’s a lot to be said for just hanging in there in the midst of difficult situations. As I’ve counseled hundreds of families over the years at Shelterwood, I’ve spent countless hours with grieving parents. These loving moms and dads have been through heavy trials with their teenage sons and daughters. But they are true survivors who refused to give into the difficulty. They believed and loved when no one else would.
A few weeks ago, Jeanie and I were traveling through Oklahoma City on our way to Amarillo. We decided to stop and visit the Oklahoma City Memorial that honors all those involved in the April 19, 1995 bombing. We walked and toured the Memorial and we were touched by the tragedy.
An American elm on the north side of the Memorial was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building, and commuters would come into work early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by its branches. Photos of Oklahoma City taken around the time of statehood (1907) show this tree, meaning it is currently at least 103 years old. Despite its age, the tree was neglected and taken for granted prior to the blast. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the Tree ultimately survived after nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation, in order to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark.
The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left of the tree. Most thought the tree could not survive. However, almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree, noticed it was beginning to bloom again. The Survivor Tree now thrives and an intricate irrigation system keeps the tree healthy. Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing today in public and private places all over the United States; saplings were sent to Columbine High School after the massacre there, to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and various other times.
Parents, as difficulty and trial come your way, never let go of the hand of God and “hang in there” as the battle rages. I had a dad say to me once, “Joey, no matter what it takes, I’m going to hang in there with my boy. When I look back on this life, I want to look back with no regrets. I may be broke, but I’ll know I gave everything I had to love and save my son.”
All we can do as parents is love the best we know how and survive under God’s grace. Like the Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City, you might be battered and scarred, but you stand tall as an example to struggling parents.
You too are spreading seeds of hope and love to people around you as you hang on to survive with your teen.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, June 12, 2010
“Jesus did not disclose Himself to them for He knew what was in the heart of man” –John 2:24
Somebody messed up the other day and he will pay the price for the mistake the rest of his life. It wasn’t a simple mistake, but a premeditated hurtful act that made a mess and will affect a lot of people for a long time. Those people are paying the price too. It's further complicated because it was a popular person that a lot of people respected and trusted.
We’re usually okay with mess-ups by people we perceive as messed-up. But when it’s a minister or public official, we’re left dazed and confused. We look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “if that person is capable doing that, then what about me?”
Of course, we all mess up. We all make mistakes. Sometimes our mess-ups are huge and sometimes they’re small. The point is, we all have the capacity to do dumb things. Some of those mistakes can be fixed while others do permanent damage.
Jesus, being God, never differentiated between the “mess-ups” and the “normal.” He knew that all men were capable of the worst. But he hoped and prayed that all men would seek the best.
In His dealings with the disciples, he loved completely but He was not naïve about the capacity of Judas or the other disciples to act on evil. He was careful in His dealings with these men and how much He disclosed to them.
As parents, when someone hurts our most precious children, we’re left to choose. Do we shut the door on trusting that coach or leader? Do we grow bitter and angry that we missed something? Do we close the door to any opportunity for our teenager to risk? Parenting is a tricky business with no guarantees. All we can do is our best and leave the results up to the Master.
When the mess-ups affect our kids, we correctly confront those involved, then all we can do is learn and trust that “all things really do work together for good to those who love God.” All we can do is trust that the Father that loves our kids more than we do will use the trial to develop our kids into men and women of God.
I’m reminded of that phrase in the song by Point of Grace, “I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart and heal the wound but leave the scar.” None of us want our kids wounded and hurt. But sometimes our kids will be wounded. We protect the best we can, but sometimes the worst of this world affects our kids.
It’s then that we hug our kids and yield to someone bigger than ourselves. We pray for healing to happen but we also pray for the scar of brokenness to do its work and never go away. We want our kids happy, but mostly we want our kids complete.
Yep, somebody messed up badly the other day. There’s no excuse. It’s not fair. There’s no explanation. But there is a guarantee that above this tragedy, God rules sovereign and will use this and any trial to strengthen our teens, and ourselves, if we will yield to His work.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, June 11, 2010
“…and he came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him” - Luke 10:34
The use of medication for emotional issues is a controversial and hot topic today. With the explosion of psychotropic medicine, its use and misuse have been widely documented. In a world where people are hesitant to take responsibility for most things, the use of medication as a “fix” for negative emotions and actions has been popular.
But the use of medication has also been a miracle for many that would otherwise be hindered by their emotions and behavior. Before the advent of these medicines, many were left living and suffering in their mental illness. Many adults and teenagers are on medications that have been a tremendous help in their treatment process. For many of the teens at Shelterwood, meds have helped them stabilize to focus on their challenges. Used correctly, the use of meds is a crucial part of the better solution- behaviorally being in control of emotions.
Research has shown over and over that many have a “leaky faucet” in their brains. There is no underlying deep cause for their behavior- they simply have parts of their brain that secrete too much of chemicals that cause depression, mania or other destructive behaviors. The correct medication can balance out the chemicals and produce balanced behavior.
But some would claim that taking medications is an unhealthy crutch. But medication is in fact a healthy crutch. What's wrong with using crutches? I think that a lot of resistance to meds lies in pride. To have to depend on something other than myself is humbling. But we all have needs- whether on others or on doctor recommended medications. After all, using crutches lets my broken bones heal correctly.
Some Christians feel that meds is a worldly substitution for God. But if I have a headache, I take aspirin to decrease blood flow to my brain and help the headache go away. Is God somehow glorified by my suffering through the headache? I don’t think so. I think God is pleased that I’m “healed” from the headache and useful for Christ. I know in my years of counseling that meds have helped people better deal with the destructive issues in their lives.
So parents, if your teenager is struggling emotionally and in need of help, certainly seek out good solid Christian counseling, but also be open to the use of medications recommended by a physician. It may be the key to stabilizing emotions so that counseling can be more effective.
God cures in all kinds of ways. He can certainly cure with a touch, but may also choose to use competent Professional Counselors and medications.
Either way, God is doing the healing.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, June 10, 2010
“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” - Heb. 12:1
I try to run everyday. Sometimes I miss and sometimes I play racquetball, but I guess you could say I’m in the habit. It bothers me if I have to miss a workout. I’m not exactly sure why running is such a priority. I’m sure there are endorphins involved, but mostly, I love the time away from the cell phone and the time with the Lord. I love the prayer time in God’s creation and He’s constantly teaching me lessons on the run. As parents, God is the Master teacher and if we listen, He’s always teaching as we journey along.
Yesterday’s run was particularly tough. Three lessons I learned (hopefully):
1. Run within God’s boundaries.
I went too hard yesterday. I had worked in the yard for an hour or so, then went for a run. The humidity was around 95% and it was hot. Half way through the work out, I was longing for the 40 degree days, starting out cold but ending just right. When I over-extend myself and run ahead of God’s plan, I’m at my worst. God patiently waits for me to slow down, meets me again and we continue forward. As a parent, I’m called to be faithful to what God has asked me to do. I’m not called to fix everything or to make sure my teenager turns out perfectly. My assignment is to simply love and let go.
2. God gives us all we need.
On my way back from the middle of the run, I was running up the last hill and didn’t think I could make it. I hate to walk, but could tell my body was urging me to rest. As I came closer to a friend’s home, she was out watering her flower bed. As I approached, she asked if I’d like to be “watered.” I said, “sure,” and she soaked me with the hose. It felt so good and I finished the run. God knows exactly what we need. He will never leave us nor give us more than we can handle, with His help. He brings the strength we need at just the right time. My friend Tim Scheuer often says, “God never gives death bed grace on a sunny day.” In other words, God always supplies for our particular circumstance. He provides exactly what we need and usually, others won’t understand.
3. Keep running.
When I over heated, I slowed down and stopped to wipe the sweat from my eyes. Two huge horse flies were determined bite me, but when I ran, they went away. I stopped another time to tie a shoe and the dive bombers returned again, buzzing around my head. There’s sure nothing wrong with walking- it’s great exercise, but I’m reminded that when I’m idle in my spirit, bad things usually happen. I think the old saying that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” means that I need to always be moving towards a goal. When I’m stagnant in my spirit, negative hurtful attitudes and thoughts tend to rule my behavior. Paul often challenged his fellow believers to “finish the course.”
Every day is a new run. God’s lessons (and mercies) are new every morning. As parents, we need to keep our ears and eyes open to God’s daily lessons. They will help us as we make difficult parenting decisions. They’re easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. Perhaps that’s what Paul meant by “praying without ceasing.” He didn't mean for us to sit in the backyard and pray all day. I think he meant for us to keep running and listen for that “still small voice” of God to lead and guide us.
So put on those running shoes, unplug your ears and enjoy the run.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly” –Lev. 19:32
Today’s society is growing progressively older but teenagers seem to have less of an appreciation for today’s senior citizens. The rise in divorce rates and the increase in blended families has led to more of a disconnect between extended family and younger kids. Families are less likely to have family reunions these days. Therefore, there is less of connection between aunts and uncles, cousins and nephews. There isn't as much interaction between grandparents and grandkids. But no matter the flavor of the family, we need to teach our kids to value those who are older.
Charlie, a new retiree-greeter at Wal Mart, just couldn't seem to get to work on time. Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their "Older Person Friendly" policies. One day the boss called him in for a talk: "Charlie, I like your work ethic. You do a bang-up job, but being late so often is quite bothersome." "Yes, I know boss, and I am working on it." "Well good, that's what I like to hear. It's odd though you're coming in late. I know you're retired from the Armed Forces. What did they say if you came in late there?" "They said, 'Good morning, General, may I get you some coffee, Sir?’”
Our tendency to stereotype and label creates bias that older people have little to contribute to a society in which they have already contributed so much. One of my favorite movies is Driving Miss Daisy. In it, Hoeck, the black chauffer (played by Morgan Freeman) is hired by Miss Daisy’s son to drive Miss Daisy (played by Jessica Tandy). Miss Daisy tries every trick in the book to get Hoeck to reject and leave her alone. But Hoeck serves and loves the elder Miss Daisy until he finally wins her love, affection and friendship. It’s important that we model that same kind of love and affection for the elderly.
My 82 year old mother lives in Fort Worth by herself. When her health was declining, we moved her to Branson where she lived not far from our home. But her adjustment here was difficult and she wanted to move back to Fort Worth. We kept the house in Fort Worth just in case. After 6 months of a lot of talking and praying, we moved her back. I love my mom a lot but there were lots of reasons to be angry and frustrated over it all. I definitely grew impatient at times, but was reminded to show her love and respect.
Remember, if God grants us length of days in this life, we’re all destined to grow old. There’s not hardly a day goes by that I don’t get caught behind an elderly driver enjoying their vacation in the Ozarks. I might grow impatient at first but then I think of my mom driving in Fort Worth and the person following behind her. I hope they’re patient. I hope they understand. I hope they love. I need to have that same respect.
Be sure and model respect for senior citizens for your teen. Be patient. Be kind. Be respectful. Keep your family in touch with older aunts, uncles and grandparents. Go visit a nursing home in your area. Sure, it takes effort. But the lesson in respect is so important. Remember, one day you’ll be the elder and your kids will model what they saw in you.
Be respectful to the elderly- you might just be saluting a general!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he’s old he will not depart from it” –Proverbs 22:6
You know, there’s just no way around it. Diapers are gross. But babies are wonderful. And as I discuss diapers in this article, it’s bound to get a little stinky. But hang in there with the smell just like you hang in there with your teenager. Though diaper management isn’t the best part of parenting, it’s necessary. We’re willing to put up with it all because we love our kids.
In Amarillo last week with my 6 week old grand daughter Reese, diapers were being changed left and right. Did you know that the average baby goes through 3,000 diapers a year? But these were the newborn diapers. Like I reminded mommy Elizabeth, “Enjoy these diapers because the… ‘special’ one’s will be here in a few months when the solid food begins.” I noticed a new contraption in their nursery. It was a diaper pail that automatically injects the dirty diaper and seals it in a chamber. Our old one from years ago was basically a trash can, but this device supposedly keeps the stink away. But we’ll see how well it works when it attempts to handle the serious “poopy” diapers.
Unfortunately, parenting can be stinky too. A lot of teenager issues are just hard, but necessary. Issues like sexuality, being healthy, and dating are all a part of growing up. But they can be difficult areas to establish dialogue with our teens. You may not like some of the uncomfortable discussions, but they’re all a part of diaper maintenance.
I remember when Elizabeth was a baby, we were struggling to make ends meet, so we decided we’d try cloth diapers to save on having to buy Huggies. Hat’s off to those of you that use cloth diapers, but for us, the experiment was difficult. It might have worked in the early months, but when we got to solid food stage, the cloth didn't work too well. It was less costly, but not nearly as effective as the disposable diapers. Good, honest, open communication about difficult areas comes with a cost. Instant messaging and emailing your thoughts to your teen are no substitute for the face-to-face talk over a cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper at Sonic.
And here’s the light at the end of the diaper tunnel: one day your baby (teenager) won't need to wear diapers anymore! Being potty trained is a wonderful thing for lots of reasons. My favorite reason was the money we saved! As a teen, we teach them and dialogue with them and reason with them and they begin to think and reason on their own. That’s a good thing. You don't want your child wearing diapers when he is 10 years old.
So, stay the course with your teen and take advantage of these less busy summer months to grow the relationship with your son or daughter. You take the initiative in some of the stinky topics. It’s okay if you’re both uncomfortable. Let there be some tension. But share your heart and better yet, let your teen share his heart.
Make the conversations happen. Be intentional.
One day, the diaper stage will be over and you’ll be putting that diaper pail away. They’ll be “going” on their own. That’s a good thing. But in the meantime, change that diaper with gusto and let your precious child (teenager) know you love them.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, June 7, 2010
“To whom much is given, much is expected” –Luke 12:48
Driving is such a big part of every teenager’s life. Teens are walking that fine line between gladly depending on their parents for so much and desiring the freedom to call their own shots. Driving represents the ability to have control. It represents a “rite of passage” to a bigger adult world. But driving is serious business. According to insurance industry statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15 to 20 year olds. 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age and 16-year-olds are 3 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
Handled correctly, the driving phase of the teen years can be a great platform to teach kids a little humility and a lot of responsibility.
On a clear December morning in 1973, I left home with my mom to drive across Fort Worth to take my driver test. I was 16 and so excited. My three older brothers were always several steps ahead of me in the “mature human being” area, but getting my driver’s license would move me one step closer to catching up with them. It seems like I’ve spent most of my life trying to catch up with them. I had this particular morning all worked out. After I passed the test, I was going to drop my mom off at the house and then drive on to school where my friends would meet me in the parking lot. I had washed the ’69 Camero that would be passed down to me to drive and I was feeling pretty cool.
The test went great. I aced the written exam and the driving part was going well. We got to the last part of the test…the dreaded (organ music please) parallel parking! I’d practiced with my dad and I was ready. I signaled, pulled up even with the flag, checked the mirrors and proceeded to back up. But I turned too sharp and hit the curb. I pulled forward a bit and slid right into the parking spot. Boom. I was finished. I was done. I had passed and highway, here I come! No, wait. The instructor sitting next to me didn’t seem as excited as I did. As we exited the car, he announced (in what seemed like in slow motion, like the Matrix), “You did well, but when you hit that curb, you committed an automatic safety disqualification. I’m sorry. You’ll have to retake the test.” (organ music again).
I was devastated. I asked the officer if I could retake the test, but he said I’d have to come back another day. So, my mom dropped me off at the high school in front of all my friends. They knew what had happened. The guys laughed and the girls felt sorry for me (typical). I went from being cocky to eating crow. I also learned that driving was serious stuff. I went back the next morning and passed, but the parade wasn’t waiting for me when I drove into the school parking lot.
Most teens will pass the test on the first try, but most teens don't realize how much responsibility they’re actually taking on when they begin to drive. Be sure you teach your kids about the seriousness of driving. If they get a ticket, have them help pay off the debt and feel the sting. If they get in an accident, have them bear the weight of the mistake. As with any responsibility, teach your teens how to handle it with wisdom and patience.
It just might save their lives.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, June 5, 2010
“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” -Luke 5:16
Jeanie and I spent the week in Amarillo. We had a great time with Elizabeth, Mark and Reese, our granddaughter. She is growing and absolutely beautiful. We also enjoyed the time with Mark’s parents, our good friends Donny and Lisa. Donny and I have been best buddies since the Young Life days in high school and have remained true brothers these 35 or so years.
Early Thursday morning, Donny handed me one of the best gifts I’ve received in a long time. He picked me up and we drove south of Amarillo to Palo Duro Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the United States (the Grand Canyon is number one). It was absolutely beautiful and we had a great time walking and running on the trails. God taught me some great lessons that morning as I enjoyed His creation.
•“Getting alone with God requires effort.”
We had to be intentional about going to the canyon. We had to get up early. We had to pay a fee to get into the State park. We had to decide to go. The saying that “if you close your eyes, you’ll be there” is a nice thought, but not true. Imagining being there is not being there. It takes sacrifice to get alone with God. Sure, God has done His part, sending His Son to die on the cross for us to qualify to have fellowship with Him, if by faith we confess our sins and believe in Him. The door is open. But we have to walk through the door. Just like marriage, sealing the covenant is great, but enjoying marriage day-to-day requires loving effort. It's not necessarily a geographical thing, but in my soul I have to “slip away,” as Jesus did, to be alone with my loving Creator. As a parent, I’m at my best when I’m having regular alone times with God.
•“If I focus too much on the trail, I miss the beauty.”
My buddy, Donny, gets credit for this one. The clay trails at the park wind through the beautiful red clay passes and have loose dirt as their base. They’re slippery and require focus. But if I focus on the path too much, I miss the beauty. We can sometimes get so focused on the trail that we forget to look up and see God’s awesome creation. The journey is important, but don't forget to slow down enough to see what God is doing. Palo Duro Canyon is beautiful. Pictured is the “lighthouse,” just one of the many landmarks throughout the park. But I have to be looking up to see them and enjoy what God has created.
•“Hiking is more fun with a buddy.”
Somehow, hiking is just more fun with a friend. Sure, in a way it's easier by ourselves as we decide where to go and when to stop. But it’s best to walk the trails with those we love. Every veteran trail guide warns the rookies to “never hike alone.” It’s a safety issue for sure, but it’s also a quality issue. Donny and I had a neat time talking and catching up on our lives as we journeyed along. God was walking with us as we had true fellowship with each other.
• “The wilderness magnifies prayer.”
Prayer is valid regardless of location, but when I’m “in” on God’s creation, the conversation flows like breathing. Donny and I enjoyed a beautiful time of prayer at the end of our hike. Too often I rush through a grocery list of prayers with God and miss the quality conversation with my loving God.
Be intentional about your times alone with God. Create gaps and sabbaticals in your schedule. Journey to the canyons and wildernesses in your world and walk with God.
As a result, you’ll be a better parent and you’ll enjoy the hike.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, June 3, 2010
“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” –Eph. 4:32
Jeanie and I are in Amarillo Texas this week spending time with Reese our granddaughter, Elizabeth and Mark. Reese is 6 weeks old and growing fast. We also have fun hanging out with Mark’s parents, best friends since high school and college. We stay at Mark and Elizabeth’s home in an older but really nice neighborhood.
I love the sense of neighborhood when we visit here. There are sidewalks and streetlights. Is the neighborhood perfect? No, but there is the feel of community. It’s important that we as parents teach our teens about the importance of community. Too many nice neighborhoods today are “drive in and drive out” communities.
Today we had lunch at what is called the “Burger Barrel,” a burger establishment in Amarillo that opened on Route 66 in 1937. It is shaped like a barrel (it was originally an A&W root beer) and has great old-fashioned burgers. You know me, always looking for a good burger! There was line waiting for the orders and everyone was talking and having a good time without the rush felt at most fast-food places. They don’t have a drive through either. Again, more a sense of community, not somewhere “fast,” to get in and get out, but a place to enjoy.
Last night before dark, we loaded up baby Reese in the nicest stroller I’ve ever seen. This stroller has a flat-screen TV, wireless Internet connection and a built in iPhone dock. Okay, just kidding on all of that, but it really is nice. We took a walk around the neighborhood and as we got nearer to the city park around the corner, we heard music. As we walked up on Sam Houston City park (named after the first president of the Texas. Yes, president. Texas was a country you know), we saw nearly a hundred people sitting all around the park in lawn chairs listening to a country band playing “Amarillo by morning” on the park stage. Sponsored by the city of Amarillo, I found out that every Tuesday night is a “family night” at the park with live bands and blow up rides for the kids. People were smiling, throwing Frisbees, talking and having a great time.
A sense of community doesn't come from a building or a park, but it does come from citizens that value each other. Community is an attitude of friendship that is passed down to our children. I’m not knocking the McDonalds and Wal-Mart’s’ but in the “mom and pop” establishments of yesterday, the sense of community came a little easier, without drive in windows and on-line ordering.
We don't need to live in the past, but teach your kids to value the neighbors. Teach your kids to be friendly and kind. Teach your kids to befriend people who are different from them. Of course, to teach that attitude, you need to have that attitude. Speak kindly about the neighbors around the dinner table. Take the kids to check on the widower down the street. Go for walks in the neighborhood and don't look down when a neighbor looks at you.
This week, load up the kids and the dog and go to the Burger barrel in your town. Every town has one like it. Sure, the burgers aren't healthy, but the time being a part of the community will add years to your life.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” -Prov. 11:14
The professional counseling profession has burst on to the scene in the last 30 years and is firmly entrenched in the fabric of today’s society. From Dr. Phil to Dr. Lara, from Internet sites to Facebook sites, from L.P.C.’s to M.D.’s, from workbooks to library books, counseling is playing a huge part in helping a hurting world.
The focus on helping inward issues is to be applauded, particularly in a society that is slow to take true responsibility for problems. While we don't need to shy away from asking for help, we do need to be careful whom we seek as our source of help.
My son-in-law Mark was telling me the story about a well-meaning radio announcer that was helping her audience prepare for the pending hurricane to hit her listening area. “Fill the bathtub with water in case electricity goes out, then you’ll have a water source for drinking and cooking,” she announced. As the hurricane made landfall, that same announcer instructed any listeners still in the area to “take shelter in the middle rooms of your house. If it’s the bathroom, sit in the tub and put mattresses over your head for protection.” A panicked women immediately called in and asked, “Won't I get all wet if I sit in the tub?” Advice comes in a variety of flavors and colors- some of it helps and some of it hinders.
Having a few letters after a name and a shingle in the front of an office does not guarantee good counsel. And, I’m embarrassed to mention, calling oneself a “Christian Counselor” doesn't guarantee good counseling either. I heard a psychiatrist say once that he was looking for a true Christian colleague that would come practice in his clinic. He got a call from a friend he remembered from medical school years earlier. “Thanks for inquiring, but I had no idea you were a Christian Counselor,” the psychiatrist commented. “Oh, I can be any kind of Counselor you want me to be,” said the friend, “I just need a job.” Scary.
So, whether it be your teenager, your marriage, or yourself, seek out help from the many excellent Counselors that have dedicated their lives to being people helpers. But be wise. Here are three basic filters I would run through every potential Counselor before choosing: 1) Be sure the Counselor has professional training in being a people helper. Make sure the Counselor is licensed as a professional Counselor, which assures you that they have the degrees, training (thousands of hours) and competence to truly help. 2) Be sure the Counselor has a pure and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Have them tell you their spiritual journey. Every Counselor bases their Counseling on something. Be sure yours is on Jesus. 3) Be sure the Counselor has a good reputation. Call around. Find out who has been to this Counselor. Make sure the Counselor fits you.
I am so thankful that God has gifted so many professionals with skills to help the hurting and heal the wounded. When you encounter difficulty personally or within your family, be willing to let someone “bear the load” with you. But be careful and prayerful as you find the right person.
Don't get caught sitting in a bathtub full of water.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
“The works of His hands are faithful and just…” –Psalm 111:7
Over the years I have had the privilege of dining at the tables of some of the world’s best cooks: my mom, Jeanie, Mamaw, Granny, Elizabeth, Holly, and my Aunt Chloe are and were all phenomenal cooks. From crawfish ettouffee to sweet tea, I can still taste their meals. They were good cooks for two reasons: they knew how to follow a recipe and they knew how to apply that recipe to fit their guests.
Faithful parents do the same thing. They follow God’s plans and recipes in raising their kids and make those principles fit each unique child. That's what we're teaching the families involved with us in Shelterwood.
With all due respect to these and other phenomenal cooks, the best meal I remember eating wasn’t prepared by any of them. As a matter of fact, it came out of a can!
Almost 20 years ago, I headed up a 5 day canoe trip on the Buffalo National River in Northen Arkansas. I took 22 teenagers and Staff from Shelterwood on a 22 mile canoe trip in the middle of July. For 5 days we slept outside on gravel bars and cooked our meals on open fires. The canoeing was perfect as the water level wasn’t so high that it made the canoeing difficult but not so low that we had to drag canoes. We fished and swam and had a blast. But, we also nearly ran out of food (my fault) and five days is a long time for a bunch of guys to go without junk food. So, when we reached our last camping spot, I quickly prepared the dinner I had saved for the last meal: Dinty Moore beef stew. I emptied all the cans in a huge pot, heated it over the fire and we all ate till we were full. We had never tasted anything so good. Every bite was precious.
Though I didn't make the stew, I was more than happy to follow someone else’s recipe and deliver the meal in a can. That’s so important if we’re to be a faithful parents. We don't have to blaze our own trail and come up with our own recipe. We don't have to fret and worry and “control’ all the ingredients that are a part of our child’s growth. Like the Dinty Moore, we release, submit and trust another cook. When I opened the cans, they weren’t full of sand and grass clippings. They were full of nourishing food. God promises that if we prayerfully submit ourselves to His plans for our children, that He’ll produce circumstances in their lives to make them into a good meal. There are no guarantees since there’s still that element of choice- but God is faithful to love gently and intently.
Good cooks make the recipe fit the occasion. I didn't serve liver and onions to the guys that last night of the canoe trip. Honestly, I think I could have served boiled shoe leather and nails that day and the group would have loved it. But the recipe fit the need. If we’ll get out of God’s way, He’ll make the circumstance fit our teen every time. They may be tough and challenging and sometimes down right hurtful, but they’re guaranteed to be loving and helpful. Too often we jump in to take the blow and we rob our kids of the life lessons they need and even desire.
May we be faithful parents that aren't too proud to submit ourselves to the Master Chef in letting him cook and create that wonderful meal we call our children.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©