Wednesday, October 27, 2010
“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” -1Thess. 2:8
There is a profound difference between being around someone and being with someone. The “I see you” connection from Avatar is vastly different from the surface connection of a Facebook friend. Kids today are no different than kids of yesterday. They long for connection with others, especially their parents. Take the time to truly connect with your kids.
We are packing up to make that long, flat drive across Kansas to say goodbye to our dear friend, mentor, example and boss, Richard Beach. He passed away a few days ago after a truly courageous 16-year battle with cancer. I know Rich is at peace, healed and loving being in the presence of the Lord. He impacted so many people for Christ during his 65 years on this earth. I’m sure the memorial service will be huge.
I‘ve been reflecting on what made Rich so unique. He had an amazing ability to make everyone feel comfortable in his presence. He didn't have a graduate degree in anything (though he claimed to have bestowed upon himself a doctorial degree). And he never wrote a book (though we tried to get him to write one many, many times)!
So, how was Rich able to touch so many people’s lives, from the stewardess to the bank president? I think the secret lied in his ability and willingness to connect. Sure, he was an extrovert, but the “connection ingredient” isn't about temperament, but about love.
Rich simply made the choice to love. His willingness to love the unlovely sometimes got him into trouble too. Much like Jesus sharing with the adulteress woman, Rich sometimes embarrassed those closest to him. But his heart of love simply had no choice.
Kids are asking, no, they are begging, for us as parents to provide that kind of connection and love. Not the cheap “I love you because you’re my child” love, but the thick kind of love that jumps in all the way. Rich invested into every life he encountered, whether that person was lovable are not.
Rich was simply a reflection of the love of Jesus who loved unconditionally. Many claim that kind of love, but Rich lived it out with every person he encountered along the way. There’s not one of us who had the privilege of working closely with him who wasn’t embarrassed by one of his encounters at some point. Sitting at a restaurant, Rich would joke with the grouchy waiter and minutes later be sharing Christ with her. No matter the result of their conversation, they would part with a hug and a smile.
The legacy Rich leaves behind for his family and for thousands of teenagers and mentors is that love is an action verb not a passive noun. If God is on my heart, I have no choice other than to impart my life to everyone I encounter.
Parents, squeeze every drop out of every encounter with your teenager. Impart your life. Love. Give. Sacrifice.
Rich, have a blast as you encounter Christ Himself. Enjoy the time together. You deserve it!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Sunday, October 24, 2010
“….put on a heart of humility…” –Col. 3:12
It’s been said that, “A violinist can't truly appreciate first chair until he’s played second fiddle.” It is so important to teach our kids about humility. We can’t make them humble- they have to do that themselves, but we can help them understand why humility is so important. Life is packed full of situations engineered by our loving God to “put us in our place.” Our “place” is actually an awesome spot when we’re sitting at the feet of God.
Pride is the opposite of humility and at it’s root is the attempt to put ourselves on the throne of our lives. So much of this life reinforces the building up of pride. From academics to athletics, the directive is to take control and come out ahead.
By contrast, humility “regards one another as more important than myself.”(Phil. 2:3). Does that mean a humble person never competes? No. But it does mean that the humble athlete does his best for the sake of best, not to humiliate his opponent.
I still remember 5th grade at Mary Louis Phillips Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas. We had an end-of-the-year program for the parents. We were dressed as different historical characters and I was an Indian. When they were choosing where we would stand on the podium for our singing, they moved me to the back row. I was devastated. To this day, I’m not sure why. But I figured it was because my singing voice wasn’t very good. I was humbled. I was learning to be okay without the spotlight.
“Joey’s humility book” is filled with many chapters. Not making the 6th grade basketball team, having to get glasses, losing my final high school football game to our across town rivals. The list goes on and on. But all those “defeats” have been used to teach me to take my focus off myself and onto the loving God who watches over me. It’s still a struggle, but I’m learning.
Kids come prewired towards pride and by the time they become a teenagers, self- esteem and self-worth have rarely been softened toward humility. So what is the role of a parent in teaching teens humility? Practice humility before them. It's another “better caught than taught” principal. Let your kids see you choosing humility.
Put it into action. Let your teen see it. Admit that you made the mistake. Share stories with your kids about a past failure in your life. Give your child the last M&M. My dad didn’t share too many stories with my 3 older brothers and me but when he did tell us about the hardships growing up in rural Georgia, we listened. Hearing about his simple background reminded us that simple is awesome.
Reward your child when they put humility into action. Many scriptures remind us that, “pride comes before the fall” but “the humble man will be exalted.” Many victories and defeats await your teenager. The wins come easily, but he’ll be better prepared for the losses if you’ve helped increase his humility quotient.
So, rosin up the bow and let the second fiddle begin.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
“He that walks with wise persons becomes wise” –Prv. 13:20
Peer pressure can be positive and negative. Sometimes parents, in an effort to shield their teen from negative influence, can “over-shield” them from positive peer pressure.
I’m not sure if you saw this headline in the sports section last week, but it’s worth reading:
Rangers celebrate ALDS title with ginger ale; Hamilton: 'It meant a lot'
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -When the Rangers clinched the American League West in Oakland, All-Star Josh Hamilton remained in the training room to avoid the alcohol bath in the postgame celebration.
After Tuesday night's 5-1 American League Division Series-clinching victory, Hamilton was in the center of the action.
Left-hander C.J. Wilson and equipment manager Richard "Hoggy" Price supplied the team with bottles of ginger ale. The team waited for Hamilton to hit the clubhouse door and then doused him with the soft drink.
Being part of the postgame festivities meant everything to Hamilton, who battled alcohol and substance-abuse problems.
"It says a lot about my teammates," he said, "them understanding the sensitivity of my situation and not wanting to send the wrong message to other people out there."
Hamilton celebrated with his teammates for a few minutes then left the clubhouse when beer and champagne showers started.
He did interviews in the hallway and reveled in the team's first playoff series win.
"Obviously this is something we've never done before," he said. "To be a part of a team that's done that in Texas is a privilege. To do it with these guys is a privilege. Hopefully we're not done.
Sure, negative peer pressure can send teens (and baseball players) in bad directions, but positive pressure can send them in positive directions too. Sometimes we underestimate the ability of teens to encourage and build up others.
I love the story of the kid that had been going through chemo for cancer and was nervous to go to school because of his baldhead from the treatments. When he entered the classroom, he looked up to see all his boy classmates with shaven heads. They had shaved their heads so he wouldn't feel embarrassed.
Encourage your kids to build up and encourage others. Better yet, model positive peer pressure for kids. Let them see you build up your spouse. Let them experience you building them up.
Be sure to pressure those you love to be positive, even if that means drinking ginger ale!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
“…but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” -Matt. 20:26
It’s been said that people are born to be leaders. I’m not so sure leadership is a genetic predisposition or a skill that’s learned early in life. To most people, a good leader is someone who leads. But truth is, a great leader is someone who serves, and the others-centered servant learns his skills early.
I remember as a child admiring the Smith family (named changed to protect the innocent) down the street. They always had mini bikes in their driveway and cool motorcycles down at the “trails.” The trails were the paths through the woods behind our subdivision where I spent countless hours playing as a child.
My dad wouldn't let us boys have mini bikes or motorcycles. I remember him saying, “I’ve seen too many kids in the ER seriously hurt by them.” That sounded scary to me so the phase passed, but I still thought the Smith kids were cool through junior high because they “led” a lot. They were always out in front in sports and activities. By the time high school came, they were still leading, but in areas like drug use and fights after school.
In high school, my admiration switched to another kind of leader (and I will share his name). Andrew Thomas was an African American friend that came to my high school from across town. He played football next to me as a linebacker and we became good friends. I admired him as a leader. His quiet demeanor and leadership through serving was an awesome characteristic. He was a great and quiet leader on the football field and was admired by many.
Teens might appear apathetic and passive, but their eyes are open and their ears are listening for truth. They are looking for honest, truthful leadership. They recognize that the loudest and most talkative person isn't usually the best leader. They are watching parents like hawks and are thirsty for truth and wisdom.
Be a parent that models servanthood to your family. When opportunities present themselves, give. Unselfishly give. Be a family that serves together. Go to the homeless shelter in your town on a Saturday and serve. Go to the neighborhood food pantry and give your time. Take the family on a mission trip to Africa or across town to pour into the lives of those less fortunate. Or those more fortunate, it doesn't really matter. Just give.
Your kids will learn that a true leader isn't the one who has the title or is up front. The true leader is the servant. Jesus was the perfect model. Be sure to read His stories to your kids and teens.
Model servant leadership and you kids will admire your spirit of servanthood much more than the Smith family!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, October 9, 2010
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up…” –Eph. 4:15
Honesty and vulnerability in relationships always fosters growth and maturity. This is true in marriage and also applies to the relationship between parents and teenagers. Yet we shy away from being honest with each other. Too often, we avoid the truthful conversations that would bring the very peace and closure that we need with those we love.
Fred Goss, owner of a dry cleaning business in Mayberry, invites Aunt Bee to a dance. Bee is not the least bit interested but when Clara Johnson suggests that Andy will never marry until Bee marries first, Bee unenthusiastically gives Goss some consideration. When Andy learns from Otis that Goss is romantically interested in Bee, he believes Bee is interested as well and encourages her to get to know Goss better. Bee and Goss have a few dates. Within days, Andy thinks Bee and Goss will marry and Bee leads him along - believing she is doing the right thing regarding Andy's chances for marriage. In a discussion one evening with Bee on the porch, Andy learns that Bee doesn't love Goss. Andy makes it clear that no one in the family marries unless they are in love. Aunt Bee is relieved that she's released from marrying Goss.
An honest conversation between Andy and Aunt Bee during the first 5 minutes of the show would have made the whole episode 6 minutes long. Not good for the producers, but good for the Taylor family. Instead, Andy and Bee presume and guess their way through each other’s intentions without sharing their honest feelings.
This week, a friend was telling me about an honest but difficult conversation they had with their spouse and about how it produced such a freedom in their relationship. He said it was great for his relationship with the Lord too.
We could all share stories about times when we’ve finally been honest with someone we love about an issue and the freedom that followed.
This morning, I was headed out of the house to work and my brother-in-law Brian stopped me. He said,” Joey, you’re not wearing that shirt- it’s all wrinkled.” I froze and the moment was awkward. But he was right. The shirt (like many items in my somewhat outdated wardrobe) was wrinkled and fit tightly. I changed shirts and thanked him. I didn't like it at the time, but I appreciated it. He was right.
Be sure and model honesty with your teen. Don't be rude and don't be judgmental in your heart, but love your loved ones enough to share the truth. And, allow yourself to receive truth also.
Your kids will appreciate you and love you for being willing to engage with them and share your ideas. They may not act like they like it- but they will respect you for being real.
Speak the truth in love to your teen. It will help your teen grow and it might even keep them from marrying Fred Goss!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, October 4, 2010
“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19:26
There aren't too many things in life that are not risky. Billions of dollars are made every year to cover “risk management.” Health, life and home insurance all exist to cover “risk.” But raising children may be the biggest risk of all. No matter how hard we try, there are no guarantees. But we need to be willing to let our kids take risks as they explore and experience life.
One of my favorite board games (remember board games?) is the game “Risk.” It’s the one where each player takes over countries and tries to take over the world. But at its most basic level, it is a game where the one who rolls the dice the best wins. It’s a game of chance. It’s a game of risk. And if you take over your country and decide to just hunker down and not take over the world, you lose quickly. Risk is required to win “Risk.” The same is true in life.
Life is a risk- at least an abundant life worth living. Scripture is packed full of stories of men and women who were willing to risk. They were willing to try the difficult because they had the directive of the ultimate risk manager- a loving God. When God is initiating a risky venture, even supposed failure is a success. And when we have the correct view of life’s risks, we’re freed up as parents to let our kids attempt difficult things.
When I was in 7th grade, my parents let me go on a YMCA canoe trip to the boundary waters of Northern Minnesota and Canada. Looking back, it was a huge decision for them to let me go for a week to a place a thousand miles away. They were entrusting me to unknown staff to canoe in a wilderness area in the rustic Canadian wilderness. Even now, I get nervous writing about it. What were they thinking?!
But the trip was a blast and not without it’s trials. Our camp was visited by bears several nights, I got lost for a few hours one day, portaging canoes between lakes was very hard and I missed my home. But it was so good for me to be stretched. I needed to risk and as John Eldredge writes in his “Wild at Heart” books, young men need to experience adventure.
But all too often, well meaning parents overprotect their kids. Especially today, the media describes everything as “risky.” It implies that the “good parent” will shield kids from anything that has the potential to be harmful. I’m sure not advocating that we knowingly let our kids step into danger, but I am challenging us to “back off” and let our kids experience adventure. Let them fail. Let them succeed. Let them try something crazy.
Remind them that if God is the initiator, then “all things really are possible.” Remind them that if they take that kind of risk, they’re a success whether they win or not. Challenge them to try out for the team. Let them apply for that job. Encourage them to apply to that college.
It may not all work out perfectly, but your kids will learn how to be confident to step out on their own. Don’t do it for them. Let them attempt it on their own.
That way they’ll be a success, no matter how they roll the dice.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, October 1, 2010
"... My soul finds rest in God alone..." –Psalm 62:1
Wouldn't it be nice if we never had to say “good-bye” to those we love? Wouldn't it be perfect if our kids were contracted to live with us forever or to at least live in our neighborhood?
Truth is, those we care for and love so much typically leave our home. The kids we raise and nourish and teach to fly on their own eventually decide to…fly on their own! It’s paramount that we deal with the goodbyes and separations in healthy ways. Our kids are taking mental notes on what they observe in us as they learn to cope with their own goodbyes.
Jeanie and I have been having a blast in Amarillo all week with our daughter Elizabeth and our beautiful granddaughter, Reese. Brian, my bro-in-law, came too. He’s on furlough from his missionary work in Africa and is living with us for 6 months.
But the trip has been tempered by the absence of our son-in-law Mark. He’s in his last year of Medical School and is doing away rotations for his training, this month in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s been away from home for 9 weeks. Everyone misses him and he misses his family, but all is okay.
I have been so impressed with Elizabeth and Mark and their perseverance during these weeks. Though they miss each other, they recognize that it’s a season and that their rest comes from the Lord always. Mark continues his hospital work, Elizabeth her school teaching and Reese keeps smiling. It seems we all long to be with someone, but true rest is never found in a place or a person. There are never geographical solutions to contentment.
There is another kind of separation too, which is emotional. I’ve been going through a pretty tough month changing ministry focus. I’ve been dealing with a lot of change and have not been much of a husband to Jeanie. I have apologized for being so self-focused these days, but she has been phenomenal. Though I’ve been grabbing all the encouragement lately, she has persevered and been such a model for me. I love her so much. Her peace comes from a deeper place.
Our kids leave for camp for a month, our kids go to school for the day, our kids travel to sports activities until late at night, our kids go away to spend the night with a friend… the list goes on and on. Bottom line, our kids leave. And eventually they pack up to move away. And then eventually we all, without exception, leave this earth and leave loved ones behind.
Things change, and we don't have to grieve like the world grieves. Whether for a night or a lifetime, our goodbyes should be different. I’ve discovered how much of my security is in what is familiar and not in my loving God who controls it all. I’m still learning to lean on Him alone.
Our kids (and I) need to learn that “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” Anything else is shaky and vulnerable. Sure, it’s okay for us to miss those we love, but we continue on.
Have the conversations with your kids about those you miss or long to be reunited with soon. Be honest about the pain.
Then, when your child’s wings begin to flutter, the goodbye will be sweet.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©