Friday, July 30, 2010

Great expectations

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” -1Th. 2:7

When we built the new building at Doulos, I learned a lot about electric breakers. They are designed to switch “off” when the circuit is overloaded. It prevents the attached equipment from being damaged.

When kids feel pressure from mom or dad to achieve, they can become overloaded. Many times parents live out their own needs to achieve through their kids. Parents have to be careful that they don’t impose their own drive onto their kids. The “switch off” sometimes looks like anger, depression, or a lack of motivation.

As always, Andy Griffith addressed the issue in one of my favorite episodes titled “Opie flunks arithmetic.” By the way, the title is interesting because he didn't flunk math, he made a “D.” Anyway, when Helen tells Andy that Opie isn't doing too well in math, he's pretty relaxed about it. She recommends that Opie should do a bit more homework and he agrees. Barney however (good ole Barney) thinks Andy's attitude is completely off base. He starts talking about how the boy may not get into college and he gets Aunt Bee all worried. Soon, Andy is just as stressed and he tells Opie to buckle down and cut out his play time. Helen soon reports to him that since they last spoke of Opie, he is actually doing much worse and not only in math. Andy can't understand since he's been quite strict with the boy who has done nothing but study. Helen suggests that that may just be the problem. Andy resents Helen “judging” his parenting.

Andy, still upset over Opie's low mark in arithmetic, makes a big fuss and forces the boy to spend more time studying to bring up his grade. Of course this has the opposite effect. Helen finally steps in and tells Andy that all work and no play seldom works and Andy backs off. With the pressure off, Opie does better.

One of my favorite scenes is when Andy, realizing he’s been pushing Opie too much, comes into Opie’s room. “How was football today?” Andy asks. Opie responds, “I don't play too well these days.” Andy smiles, “Oh, I expect you’re about as good a player as you ever were. You just do the best you can in school. I’ll back off and you be a little boy.”

Andy “releases” Opie to be all he can be, not all dad wants him to be. Opie leaves the room with a huge smile. Andy realized that he needed to back off and let Opie be Opie.

If I want my outdoor security lights to shine brighter, I can't increase the brightness by increasing the electrical load to the lights. That will simply overload the lighting system. There’s such freedom that comes with me sitting on the swing in the backyard and realizing that the lighting is fine. Not perfect, but fine.

Be a parent that has released your teenager. It’s okay to encourage our kids to be their best and to try hard. But be careful crossing the line and imposing your own ideas and expectations on your teen. Let them achieve and reach their own potential, not yours. Pray for a heart that knows the difference.

And enjoy the smile.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saying I accept you

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” –Eph. 4:2

“Tolerance” is a tricky term these days. The “love the sinner, hate the sin” montage seems to have evolved into a “tolerate the sinner and neglect the sin” motto. Teaching our teens to love everyone but to take a stand for moral issues is absolutely imperative if we expect our kids to have any moral foundation. After all, it is possible to love someone completely but still disapprove of that person’s inappropriate behavior.

Jesus modeled that duality with everyone he encountered. Certainly, with the women at the well, he accepted and loved her, but he challenged her to “sin no more.” He wasn’t being judgmental, unloving, or intolerant. Truth is, to love her completely, He had to share his conviction. And the woman left, not feeling judged, but loved. So much so that she went to town and shared the good news about Jesus and scripture says, “Many believed because of her word.”

As you may know about me, I love hamburgers, and the more unusual the better. While we were in Amarillo this past weekend, we visited Smoky Joe’s CafĂ© on the old Route 66 through Amarillo. The name fits the smoky atmosphere. We sat on an outside picnic bench and ordered awesome burgers. The place was full of Harley motorcyclists and alcohol consuming people. It was easy to stereotype most of the people there as wild, lost and unfriendly.

As we sat at the table eating our burgers and fries, a motorcycle couple stopped at our table. As I reached for my cell phone to call 911, they both smiled and said, “What a beautiful baby.” We said, “Thank you” and they left on their Harley.

I realized I’d done it again. My heart is so judgmental. I forget that Jesus looks inside, not outside. With a glance, I slot people into categories and file them away. I don't see the best, but the worst. My sinful heart is tarnished and only loving when it’s looking through the lenses of Jesus.

So much of the bias we develop is picked up as kids from our parents. I remember my kids learned early to cheer for the Rangers and hate the Yankees. They liked the Rangers because I liked the Rangers. The same holds true for people. If they hear and see me commenting on people, they develop the same attitude about those people.

But if they observe me being loving and helping, they in turn learn to be loving and helping. As they go through the teenage years, their friends and the media will compete with your good intentions, but in the end, they’ll mature and grab hold of what they heard.

So, pray everyday for a heart that is accepting and for the overflow of that heart to speak words of love and acceptance. At the same time, pray for a heart that shares truth. Not your own bias, but truth that is grounded in God’s Word, the Bible. It has proven to be a solid foundation for thousands of years.

Help develop a loving and accepting heart in your kids- whether it’s a Yankee on a motorcycle or not.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saying I'm sorry

“…be reconciled to your brother…” –Matt. 5:24

It’s usually not easy to apologize and say, “I’m sorry.” A prideful heart always looks for excuses and blames the other guy for the problem. But teaching kids to apologize begins with teaching ourselves to admit when we’re wrong. As our children grow into teenagers, they model what they’ve seen in us, as their parents. Let them observe when we make mistakes and be the first to say, “I’m sorry” when the mistake happens.

I grew up with three older brothers and no sisters. I was absolutely clueless about girls and so focused on sports in high school that I didn't learn much there either. By the time I was a freshman at Baylor, I was way behind in the “sensitivity quotient” which is absolutely necessary in dealing correctly with girls.

My buddies and I became friends with several girls in the ladies dorm. So, when we passed a dead squirrel in the road, it just made sense to put it in a box, wrap it up and give it to a friend for her birthday. Thinking back, it was a DUMB thing to do, but seemed so funny to my buddies and me at the time. So I wrapped the box and left it in the lobby at the freshman dorm with a note saying “happy birthday.” What an idiot.

An hour later, I got a call from another upset friend letting me know that the girls were upset and furious. I remember thinking “what’s the big deal, can't y’all take a joke?” But as the reality of what I’d done sank in, I realized how stupid I was. I made a huge mistake.

I apologized over and over to that girl and we are still friends to this day. What she didn't need to hear from me was, “It wasn’t my fault because it wasn’t my idea. The guys with me made me do it,” or “How did a squirrel get in that box?” Now trust me, my family has seen my pride raise its ugly head plenty of times over the years and offer excuses in anger. But hopefully they heard an “I’m sorry” at the end of the episode.

What kids need to hear is a parent that is willing to admit mistakes and to make amends when they happen. The teenage years are insecure years of a child developing into an adult. The freedom and security to make mistakes needs the freedom to fail.

Too often kids aren't willing to risk because they don't sense the freedom from parents to fail. Someone said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t “right the wrong”, but it does help bring closure to the many episodes in our lives that involve mistakes.

Be a parent that admits fault. Be a parent that doesn't blame others. Be a parent that is quick to say “I’m sorry” when mistakes take place.

And your kids will likely follow your example when they do something…squirrely.

By Eric Joesph Staples ©

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saying thanks

“Now one of the lepers, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him…” -Luke 17:15-16

Being thankful is not a spiritual gift or something that a child inherits from his parents. Thankfulness is a character trait that is taught and learned in the life of a child and cultivated as a teenager.

We all have different temperaments, but whether half full or half empty, a heart that gives thanks lends itself to humility and other-centeredness. As the above verse illustrates, the healed leper “turned back” and gave thanks. Selfishly, when the blessing is provided, too often we accept the gift and move ahead to the next need. Taking the time to turn around and recognize the gift giver comes with the realization that I’ve been given something, and not earned it through my own effort.

As parents, we teach the concept of thankfulness by having our kids take the time to bless the gift givers in their lives. Having our kids write notes to relatives when they send a birthday card or Christmas present teaches our kids to be thankful.

Of course, you can expect a, “Oh mom, please just write the card for me…Pleeeeeze?” But love your kids by making them write the letter or make the phone call. Model a heart of thankfulness before your kids. When the family is out to dinner, don't just tip the waiter but tell them thank you also.

A few weeks ago, I received a random phone call from a teen that had been in Shelterwood 25 years ago! He is 43 years old now with a family and wanted to tell everyone “thanks” for changing his life. “I know all the Staff are different, but I wanted to publicly say thanks to all the Staff for the difference the program made in my life. I was a pain when I was in the program, but now I’m a successful businessman, I have a great wife and I’m loving being a dad. The effect Shelterwood had in my life set the course to bring me where I am now. Again, thanks.”

What a wonderful phone call. As anyone in the “people helping” profession knows, most phone calls are from customers making strong “suggestions,” not saying thanks. I always appreciate constructive criticism, but when I pass on the thankful calls to the Staff, everyone is encouraged.

That’s the beauty of saying thanks. It blesses the giver and the receiver. When the ex-Shelterwood kid hung up the phone, he’d brought closure to an experience he’d carried for 25 years. Why did he call after that many years? By saying thanks he acknowledged the work of grace in his life. As long as he withheld the thanks, he withheld the work of that grace.

We all feel better when we deliver the thank you because we put the focus where it belongs- in the life of the giver. Our selfish pride neglects the acknowledgement, but the habit formed promotes thankful humility.

Be an intentional teacher of thankfulness. Be a parent that promotes a thankful spirit in your kids. Using the phone, email or snail mail, have your teen show appreciation.

Like the leper, teach your kids to “turn around” and give thanks.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saying no

“He who loves his son disciplines him diligently” -Prov. 13:24

Sometimes “no” is a good answer. As parents, we are called to provide for our kids but not to indulge them. “Yes” is a always a fun answer and our kids appreciate it (sort of), but learning to wait or go without helps produce patience for bigger things later in life.

It was Fall of my 7th grade year and I had just spent a week of the summer on a boy’s canoe trip on the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. The trip stretched me and challenged me like never before. I fell in love with adventure and canoeing and dreamed of living in the wilderness one day.

So, as Christmas approached and it was “list” time, I kept thinking of canoes. And I had a plan. My birthday is Dec. 20th, so I would pull the ‘ole “combine my birthday gift with my Christmas gift” strategy to get something really big. Hopefully, I’d get the gift for my birthday, but then get something else pretty good for Christmas too.

So I not so subtlety let my wish be known that I wanted a canoe. My dad responded with a “well Joey, that sounds nice” answer. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was optimistic. All the attributes of the youngest spoiled child came out that December and I waited anxiously for my canoe. But I kept quiet about it all. A boy learns early that the “Christmas present strategy” requires keeping quiet with subtle hints and magazine pages left open for parents to see. It had worked for earlier Christmas’s and I’d seen my 3 brothers use it to perfection.

My birthday came and went with no canoe. But I didn't worry. I figured they were probably saving the big gift for Christmas day. Christmas morning came, I hurried into the living room, but no canoe. Perhaps it was in the garage? Maybe it hadn't arrived yet? Everyone came in the living room and the gift opening came and went. I’m sure I got some awesome gifts (I always did), but the canoe never appeared and I never asked.

To this day, I’ve never brought up the canoe story, but the lesson was learned that Christmas. Etched in my heart was the message “you won't always get what you want.” A big part of a secure and healthy self-esteem carries this attribute and some of the most secure people I know have lived lives going “without.”

As parents, we need to be careful we teach our kids that their lives will go on and their worth is solid with or without. I wish I had a transcript of the secret conversation between my mom and dad about that canoe. I know they had the money to buy it, but my dad grew up on a cotton farm in west Georgia. He grew up with a large family that went “without.” I can hear him suggesting to my mom, “let’s pass on the canoe this time,” inside knowing that little Joey was pretty spoiled. Truth is, I needed the “no.” (Besides, what was a 7th grade kid going to do with a canoe in Fort Worth Texas?)

Bless your kids today by not “blessing” them. We think giving them things provides the blessing. But loving our kids blesses them and the irony is that saying “no” unconsciously reminds them that we’re involved in their lives.

Sure, give gifts to your child and have fun, but realize that what you’re training now influences their lives later. Life will be pretty tough on your teen later.

They’ll learn that they’re okay whether they have a canoe or not.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Being there

“Two are better than one. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” –Eccl. 4:9

As parents, perhaps the greatest thing we can do for our kids is to be there for them. No advice or words- just there beside them as they go through difficulty and trial.

My commute to work at Doulos each morning takes me about 2 minutes driving and 5 minutes if I walk through the woods. The other day I needed to drive for a meeting in town later. Half way to Doulos, I passed a car that was stuck in the ditch beside the road with an upset young lady standing by the car. A friend was helping her when I drove up. The car’s wheel looked partially bent from the ditch and the car wouldn't start.

I asked her name and she said “Bailey.” I asked her what happened and she said, “I went too fast around the curb last night and spent the night in the car.” I asked her if she called her parents. She said, “I called my mom and my dad and neither one of them would come help me.” I asked her where she was going last night and she said, “to see a friend right up the road.” I asked her if she’d called that friend. She said, “they aren't home.” My years at Shelterwood have taught me alittle about interrogation techniques with teenagers. I knew enough to know her stories weren’t lining up.

A friend came and helped pull me the car out of the ditch and jump-start the car. I reminded her that God loved her and would come to help her anytime she called on Him. She thanked us for helping and drove off.

Later I thought about Bailey and her uphill battle. How difficult it must be for her to hear about a Heavenly Father that is there for her when her earthy Father is absent. Of course, I don't know the whole story of her family. Perhaps her dad is ill or out of town. Maybe her mom is watching other kids at home. But I could tell from her demeanor that she was alone.

Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can leave our kids alone. Granted, sometimes they need to be alone. There are times when the worst thing we can do is rescue our kids. There are appropriate times when they need to get their own car out of the ditch.

But more times than not, they need a loving parent there beside them. They need to be able to make the call and count on us to be God’s love to them through a difficult time. The “being there” isn't always geographical. Sometimes it can't be. But in the electronic world we live in, parents can be there with a loving voice and a listening ear.

I pray that Bailey has a safe and nurturing place to stay tonight. I pray that her mother and father will receive the greatest blessing possible by being a blessing to their daughter. And I pray that I will have eyes of compassion and ears that hear the call when my children need me.

As the Scripture says, two are definitely better than one, but only if one and one make two. Be there for your kids and God will use you as His example of love.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, July 19, 2010


“I will set no evil thing before my eyes…” –Psalm 101:3

I can already tell that this won't be a popular blog. I’m discussing the topic of television and no topic get’s more personal than TV. But when it comes to parenting, the management of the television can have huge effects on our influence on our children.

I grew up in a home with a great mom and dad and three older brothers. As the youngest, rarely did I get my preference when watching TV (don't you feel sorry for me)? I watched whatever my brothers watched on the 4 or 5 channels we could pick up on the antenna on top of the house, and since my dad pretty much controlled the TV, I remember a lot of Lost in Space, Leave it to Beaver, Gunsmoke and any sports available (which wasn’t much). The choices were simple shows about cattle rustlers and silly predicaments with friends.

One of my best childhood memories happened lying in my bed at 10:35 PM each night, having just gone to bed. We were allowed to stay up and watch the sports to see who won that day (before internet and ESPN) but had to be in bed promptly at 10:30. From my room, I could hear my mom and dad laughing at the Johnny Carson monologue. My dad would laugh so hard until he coughed sometimes. I fell asleep knowing there was laughter in the house.

All that has changed. Now, television is a major part of every household. I won't bore you with all the statistics- you can read them on the internet- but television controls and sways popular opinion about every moral area of society. Sitcoms that were once shy to even show a married couple sleeping in the same bed have been replaced by sitcoms that show unmarried couples having sex in bed.

Shows that were careful not to show anyone being killed or murdered are now replaced by shows with graphic murder scenes. Reality TV brings into the living rooms of America violence and sex on an unprecedented scale. Teens tend to conclude what's normal from what they see “everyone” doing on TV.

So, is the answer to remove televisions from our household’s? Probably not. The answer is to be a good parent and teach, not dictate. I remember my freshman year at Baylor seeing the “church kids” that had been over-controlled by well meaning parents get their first taste of freedom. I had a couple of friends that were dismissed from Baylor after their freshman year. Their grades were poor because they had partied and drank too much.

Our role as parents is to teach our kids how to manage their toys. It all starts in the playroom with Legos, teaching our kids how to share with friends and when to clean up the toys. The same applies to television, cell phones and cars. We teach our kids how to use them. We teach them what's appropriate and when to move on.

And of course, any good teacher models what they teach. So it is with TV. Sure, watch American Idol if you want, but if it gets trashy, turn to TV land and watch Andy. Explain to your teen why. If you’re watching a football game and a sketchy commercial comes on, watch the Weather Channel. Explain to your teen why.

Remember, if you’re watching it, then in the eyes of your child, you’re approving it.
That’s just the way it is.

So, enjoy TV, but be sure your watching style matches what you expect from your teenager.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, July 17, 2010


“Faith without works is dead” –James 2:17

One of the things teenagers (and adults) crave from any authority (parents included) is genuineness. When authority is real with us, we typically respond with respect. But when the words don't match the works, there is a problem. When the words spoken contradict the life lived, disrespect sours the relationship.

The attached picture is the model of contradiction. It was taken in Little Rock, Arkansas a few weeks ago. I was there on some Doulos Ministries business and a friend told me about this interesting oddity. You can see the Krispy Kreme restaurant on the left. The signs inside say “enjoy the donuts.” The building across the street, behind the car, is the Little Rock Heart Hospital.

How convenient. I wonder which came first. Did the Krispy Kremers build the hospital, guaranteeing them business as they clog arteries one donut at a time? (By the way, I love Krsipy Kreme donuts). Or was the hospital behind on income, so they built the Krispy Kreme to drum up business? Hum.

Too many times, as parents, we say one thing, and then live out the opposite. There are the obvious examples like, “You’re too young to smoke. Now, please pass me my cigarettes.” And, “OK, everybody order something healthy. Now, can I have the super sized super size meal with the super sized triple burger please?” (By the way, I love burgers too).

But it’s the not so obvious examples that can produce lack of respect between parents and teens. When we lecture our teens about loving everyone and only speaking well of others, we reinforce the rule, “If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, then don't say anything at all.” But when we rip apart the baseball coach driving home after the game, we’re leaving our kids confused. Or, when we tell out teen that it’s the heart that matters, not looks, but then spend three hours fixing our hair and picking out clothes, we produce more confusion.

The message we’re sending is, “It's OK to say one thing and then do another. As long as you believe it in your heart, then what you do doesn't matter.” And the door opens to the classic “white lie” –a lie we’re convinced doesn't really hurt anyone, but keeps us covered.

The truth is, most of us are masters at rationalization and great at justifying most anything to suit our need. What might appear as a contradiction to others is fully justified to ourselves.

So be sure your words match your belief. Be sure your teen sees a genuineness and honesty in you as their parent. Sure, we’re all going to make mistakes from time to time, but we can all be real and honest. Model integrity and honesty as you live your life out before your teenager. Pray for a check in your spirit when the potential for dishonesty exists. Don’t cheat in board games, don't short change at the restaurant, live out a genuine faith, and practice what you preach.

When your teen takes pictures of your life, be sure they see consistency, not contradiction. Go ahead and enjoy the donuts, just don't label them as health food.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, July 16, 2010


“The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” –Proverbs 16:9

I have a Garmin GPS that I got for Christmas a few years ago and I absolutely love it. It really bothers me if I don't have it in my car when I’m traveling. It tells me how fast I’m going, it tells me the speed limit (I have no idea how it knows), it shows me the course to take to my destination and it even has a built in wireless system that let's me watch Internet TV while I’m driving (just kidding).

Of course, we used to just take a map and figure out what the GPS calculates for us. But it’s so convenient to let the Garmin do the work. But there is one major problem with Mr. Garmin: it doesn't always pick the best route to the destination.

Now, the GPS itself is fully convinced that it’s route is the best one. For that reason, I turned the voice feature off on my device. I got tired of hearing it get upset with my resistance to its choices. The annoying “recalculating” drove me nuts. I know the Garmin simply calculates all the factors and suggests the best possible route. But I was driving when my Garmin was still scrap metal at a junkyard somewhere. When traveling routes I’ve been driving for a long time, I know short cuts that aren't programmed in the GPS.

But the Garmin seems so reliable and every time I choose differently than the GPS, it makes me nervous. I’m a little concerned that some spy satellite is going to zap my car for disobedience or something.

Driving to Nashville last weekend from Branson, the route across northern Arkansas was crazy. Highway 412 meanders through the Ozarks hills with multiple routes and bypasses. My Garmin was in a frenzy. My friend said to “stay on 412” but Garmin kept leading me on all kinds of smaller roads. I stayed on 412 and Garmin was upset. But I went with the word of a friend and not the calculations of a toy.

As a parent, decision-making can be difficult. Knowing when to set firm boundaries, knowing when to say “no,” knowing when to say “yes,” discerning when and how to discipline. The list goes on and on. As our kids grow into teenagers, the decisions become more and more complicated. No longer am I deciding which cartoon to let my son watch. Now, I’m helping set curfews for my son on his first date.

Parents go to multiple sources of wisdom in their decision-making. Some go to the way they were raised. Some go to the library to use other’s wisdom. Some read blogs (really?). Some ask other parents. All of those are good resources. But there is one that beats any GPS on direction finding.

The device is called prayer. I don’t really understand it but I’m so thankful for it. I’m not talking about the “lay me down to sleep” kind of prayer. I’m suggesting that true conversation with the loving God of the Universe through His Son Jesus beats any electronic device for providing clear and relevant direction. I’ve seen it play out time and time again in my life. I bet you have too.

As you are determined to be the best parent possible to your teen, keep the prayer GPS turned on and let it guide you in your role as mom or dad. When you encounter tough situations with your teen, pray. Before you spend time with your teen, pray. When you’re anxious about your teen, pray. In other words, pray without ceasing.

And don’t turn off the voice feature- the words of direction will help lead you in the journey with your teen.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"Do all things without complaining…” –Phil. 2:14

These days there are all kinds of personality tests. There are the heavy-duty psychological tests that are the most reliable, but it seems most of us rely on the super market magazines to determine our personality style. From Readers Digest to Vogue, publications carry all kinds of simple instruments to measure temperaments and tendencies. The validity of these tests rate right up there with horoscopes and Ouija boards, but we take the tests anyway. One test I saw rated whether we were “half full” or “half empty.” Another “test” measured the “sunny day and cloudy day” quotient.

But no matter our personality spectrum, we all share the common tendency to complain. Some personality types hide it better than others, but inside we are all judgmental and critical. It’s all part of that good ‘ole sin nature that we carry with us everyday. And it seems that the more stressed and hurried we are, the more the judge in us steps up to the plate.

Someone said that, “everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change himself.” No one likes complainers, but yet we complain. We dismiss it as justified protection or mature assertiveness, but in the end, its good ‘ole complaining at it’s best.

We have a tendency to see the worst in life. But the mature don't give in to their tendencies. Those that see the best in life have trained themselves to focus on what they have, not on what they’re missing. They understand that comparison only leads to complaining because someone else always has more than they do. The content person is a non-complainer because he understands that a loving God supplies all that’s needed. He holds on to life loosely so when an expectation isn't met, it’s okay.

Nowhere is this more crucial than in parenting. Children and teenagers are walking computers, uploading massive amounts of information continually. Of course, they are storing information that comes from the most valid sources. And at the top of the list are mom and dad.

What mom and dad say and do is unconsciously burned into the minds of kids and stored away forever. Complaining kids are generally products of complaining parents. If mom and dad do it, it magically validates permission for the child and teen to follow suit. Whoever invented the “do what I say and not what I do” rule apparently never had kids. Our kids are watching us like a hawk. Unfair pressure? Maybe, but all a part of the parenting job description.

So, prayerfully and purposely determine yourself to be an appreciator (I think I just made up a word) and not a complainer. When life doesn't go your way, go with the pitch and focus on the positive. Sure, be real about your feelings- it’s okay to be disappointed when life is tough, but when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In other words, make the best of tough situations.

See the best in life and you’ll store in the hearts of your kids the tendency to see the best as well.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crazy dreams

“Be strong and courageous…” –Joshua 1:9

Kids like to dream. Before the logic of the teenage years contaminates their thinking, children live in a wonderful, creative fantasy world of made up friends and animals. I remember my kids wanting to be a different character every day with the costumes and outfits.

More and more, research is confirming that intelligence is closely related to creativity. In many of the tests that measure IQ, the creativity quotient is an important score. Helping foster creativity in kids is an important aspect of parenting. We need to be willing to let our kids and teenagers try crazy things.

I have such great memories of summer time. Growing up in Fort Worth, the summers were hot and dry. But my projects and plans were fresh and new. I had fun building forts in the woods with my buddies and setting up lemonade stands on the street corner to make a few dollars. One summer, I even decided to go to Camp Carter with my buddies. It was a YMCA camp a few miles away, but for me, it felt like I was venturing off into the jungles of the Amazon basin. Looking back, I appreciate that my parents let me attempt all these fun ventures.

Perhaps my greatest summer achievement involved a baby pool and a bunch of rocks. I had read stories about scientist bringing animals into captivity and I was determined to help in the research project. I filled the plastic pool with water, put in rocks and sand and began to fill it with animals from the creek down by the woods. I transported crawdads, minnows, tadpoles, frogs, and fish. You know me, Mr. organized, so I even had a journal listing all the animals and how many of each was in the pool. My parents helped me take care of the miniature water zoo. But as summer came to an end and my interest died, most of the animals died too. I still remember my parents supporting me along the way.

The helicopter parent of today would never allow such experiments to take place. The forts would be pre-made at Lowe’s. The lemonade stand would require a permit and the pool project would be too messy with possible germs and diseases. Kids schedules these days tend to be prepared for them by well-meaning, super-organized parents. But it’s important that we let our kids and teenagers build their own forts and foster their own interests.

Let your child be creative. Yield to the signals your child is sending you to be given space to be creative. Someone asked me the other day, “Joey, should we just take away the cell phones and electronic games from our kids so they will go outside and play?” We parent best when we teach our kids how to live in the world, not take their world away. The key is moderation. We live in an electronic world. Forcing teenagers to be creative stifles creativity. But setting boundaries allows the teen to relax in their world but also nudges them to spend time reading or shooting baskets outside.

Teenagers need to be dreamers and take risks. John Eldredge reminds us in “Wild at Heart” that kids, especially boys, need to be risk takers. It’s all a part of moving from dependence to independence. Often, the best thing we can do as parents is back off. Most parents are too involved in the life of their teenagers (and adults too).

Let your kids dream and play. It may make no sense to you, but you’re giving your child permission to risk and grow. You're letting them cultivate their God-given abilities to create.

Yep, they may get dirty, but the smile on their face will be priceless.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, July 12, 2010

In memory

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” - Phil. 1:21

I drove to Nashville and back on Saturday to attend a Memorial service for the dad of my best friend John Vicary. John and I have been friends since college. We’ve talked every month or so for 30 years. We all have a few friends that are like brothers and sisters and John has been a brother to me through life’s ups and downs, good times and bad. I love him dearly. He has been God’s messenger for encouragement to me over and over and over.

So, it was an easy choice to make the trip to stand with him in the loss of his father. John was there for me 22 years ago when my dad passed suddenly and I wanted to be there for him. Too often, in the past, I’ve made the easier choices to miss these kinds of things and regretted it later. I’m learning, as I get older, to have no regrets. Good intentions are worthless. Perhaps they are even worse than no intention at all. If prompted by the Lord, we are to go, period. The circumstances are just details. When I go within God’s prompting, he provides all the grace I need to make the journey.

I went with the intention of being a blessing, but as usually happens in these deals, I was the one blessed. Jack Vicary was a tremendous man who loved people, was devoted to his family, worked hard and loved the Lord Jesus. The testimonies of his co-workers and kids were tremendous.

And you know what? Not once did the speakers refer to how much money he had in his checking account. They did not refer to how well his kids did in sports growing up. There was no mention of his golf score or what kind of car he drove. And the balance of his 401 K was not sitting on top of the podium in the front of the sanctuary.

The stories told were about his family and faith. Jack was diagnosed with A.L.S. a year ago and the disease took away his health rather quickly. But he never lost his faith in Jesus and his love for his family. As John told us, he never once complained. He knew, as he certainly knows now, that death only leads to life. Jack truly knew that “death is only gain.”

As his sons shared and his grandkids reflected, they were left with hearts forever changed because of the life lived by Jack. He certainly “practiced what he preached” and left his mark on all of our lives. And I thank him for his affect on me.

As I drove back to Branson that night, I reflected on my own memorial service. I wondered what would be said about me, “He exercised a lot. He watched Andy Griffith whenever he could. He worried quite a bit. And his yard looked pretty good most of the time.” I confess that I didn't like what I heard everyone sharing.

In the end, the mark I leave behind for my kids and friends to remember is the mark I leave with them everyday. When the candle of our lives is extinguished, the image of the flame remains. It’s the attitude I live out before them on good and bad days. It’s the choices I make to follow Christ and put the lives that surround me before myself.

Enjoy sports with your kids and save money when you can, but don’t make those things your life. Jack, like Paul, boldly proclaimed every day “to live is Christ.”

What memories of ourselves are we leaving behind today?

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, July 9, 2010

Watering well

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” -Psalm 1:3

I love working outside around our yard. We live on 2.5 acres of land and it keeps me busy. I especially like keeping our grass growing and when you live in the Ozarks, that can be a challenge. The rocky, spotty top soil presents a challenge. But with watering and care, yards in the Ozarks can be beautiful.

When we left for the beach last week, I had friend water my yard for me. He did a great job turning on the sprinklers that I had set out in the yard. But when we got back from our trip, I noticed something strange. The circles where the sprinklers rotated water were green. But right outside that circle, the grass was bone dry.

Have you ever flown across Kansas in the summer time? If you have, then you’ve seen the circles all across the Kansas farmland. They are produced by the huge agricultural sprinklers that keep the crops growing. But again, within the circle, crops are green. But outside the circle, the land is dry. The areas that are being watered are growing. But the areas that are not being watered are dying. There is no growth.

If you are the parent of a teenager, then you are someone who waters. There isn't a parent alive that doesn't desire for their teen to grow in every area of their lives. We hope to instill in them the virtues of integrity, faith and love. We want them to grow up being responsible for their lives. We want them to grow spiritually. We want them to be green and growing.

So the challenge of sprinkler placement is crucial to their growth. Where we water determines where they grow. As you’re reading this, take a giant step backwards and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself this question: where do I spend the most time watering my teen?

For example, if you water them in the sports world, then they’ll focus and grow in sports. But sports are not life. We’ve all read about phenomenal athletes lately that are great at their sport but bone dry in the important areas of their lives. I wonder what their lives looked like growing up? Did their parents spend time irrigating anything except their talent area?

We just have to remember to move the sprinkler around. We need to remember to spend time with our teens discussing all areas of their lives. Ask them how they’re doing in their walks with Jesus. Ask them how they’re doing with their friends. Ask them how their relationships are going with the opposite sex. Ask them about sex. Ask them questions, but also listen.

How about the next time our teen walks through the door, not asking him how practice went or what grade they made. Those areas get watered enough. How about asking them how they’re doing. How about sharing with them a story about how our walk with Christ is going. Or, what if you don’t ask anything, just listen to them?

I’ve been accused of watering our yard too long in some areas, which is probably true. Over-watering doesn't help. Watering evenly does help.

Pray for God’s wisdom in loving our teens wholly and completely. Move those sprinklers around and be there to water the whole yard.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


“A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for adversity” - Prov. 17:17

My wife Jeanie and her sister Holly are not only loving sisters, but they’re best friends too. Though they are a few years apart, they are true kindred spirits. So it’s no surprise that their families would grow up being friends too. The Staples’ and Hallums have been going on ski, beach and whatever trips for over 20 years. What Jeanie and Holly possess has been passed on to their kids. The cousins simply imitate the love they’ve seen in their moms for years.

They imitate humor. There is absolutely no one in this world that can get Jeanie laughing like her sister Holly. From another room I can hear Jeanie and Holly laughing till they cry and then scurrying to the bathroom to keep from, well, embarrassing themselves. They both bring laughter to life and are good reminders that as serious as life can be, there is always a place for humor.

They imitate compassion. When difficulty strikes, their first calls are to each other for comfort, advice and tears. They lean on each other and bear one another’s burdens. They genuinely look out for each other’s needs over their own and are not shy to tell the truth to one another. In the end, through the tears and the pain, they are there for each other.

They imitate family. As with any family, the Beadle family is not perfect. But in spite of the imperfection, the sisters make a choice to love. And they put that love into action. Though God is number one in their lives, the love of grandparents, mom and dad and the brothers has always been a top priority. And they are phenomenal mothers to their kids. Their kids are their number one priority, and though it makes empty nesting difficult, they love their kids deeply.

They imitate faith. Jeanie and Holly both love the Lord Jesus Christ and have acknowledged Him as their Savior and Lord. They have not been shy in teaching their kids that a life with Jesus is a life of true freedom. All their kids have professed Jesus as their Savior. Though none are perfect, they all have a solid faith. The sisters spend regular time in God’s Word and in prayer and live out the example of being Godly women for all to see.

They imitate beauty. Not only are Holly and Jeanie beautiful physically, but more importantly they are beautiful on the inside. The integrity and grace they possess is lived out through their daily actions and choices. They are examples of class and poise as they go through the day. They make choices to love and serve and provide for those less fortunate. They love little gymnasts and help handicap kids. They possess the greatest beauty of all in a submissive spirit before their Lord.

Someone said, “A true sister is one who listens with her heart.” Holly and Jeanie are certainly true sisters and their example has produced a strength of family in their kids. Of course, we all are an example of something in the eyes of our children.

I wonder what example we will leave behind today?

By Eric Joseph Staples ©