Thursday, January 27, 2011

Respecting everyone

“Honor all men; love the brotherhood…” -1 Peter 2:17

Teaching our kids to respect everyone, I mean everyone, means treasuring and acknowledging God’s creativity and love for all people. Too often we are judgmental as parents and pass our bias on to our kids. Try to model respect for others with your family. Of course, no TV show modeled love and respect more than the Andy Griffith Show.

In “A Date for Gomer,” before Barney can take Themla Lou to a dance, he must find a date for her "homely" cousin, Mary Grace. Mary Grace is shy, awkward and introverted. Barney asks Gomer and he accepts. On the night of the dance, Andy, Barney, and Gomer arrive at Thelma Lou's where Thelma introduces Gomer to Mary Grace. All of a sudden, Gomer rushes away without saying a word. Mary Grace is embarrassed and decides to forgo the dance.

The others leave very disturbed. Gomer returns a short while later. He has brought Mary Grace a corsage for the dance. Mary Grace is charmed with Gomer's gift and the two decide to have fun at home instead of going to the dance. When Andy, Barney and the ladies return to the house - still upset over the evening's events, they are pleasantly surprised and delighted to find Gomer and Mary Grace laughing away and dancing the jitterbug to a loud recording.

Gomer and Mary Grace were having a blast! They may not have been social experts, but they respected and appreciated each other. That’s the theme of many of the Andy Griffith shows and it’s still pleasant to watch almost 50 years later.

Perhaps we enjoy it so much because it stands in such contrast to today’s non-respecting society. We claim “tolerance” but it seems people are less tolerant than ever. It’s definitely something modeled from parents to their kids.

Spike White, the founder of Kanakuk Kamps, modeled such an awesome respect and care for all people. The story is told that every Saturday morning, Spike had a cup of coffee and donuts for the trash men that came to get his garbage. Spike respected both the white collars and the blue collars equally and modeled that respect to everyone working at the camp.

It’s been said that, “God never creates junk.” In other words, everything that God creates is a treasure. He knows our “inward parts,” and all people, short or small, rich or poor, lost or saved, are precious to God and should be to us.

So, the next time you pass a homeless person, pray for them with the kids instead of lamenting that “they should get a job.” The next time you see a Muslim person on TV, express your desire for him to know Christ instead of calling him a terrorist. The next time you encounter anyone who pushes your “judgment button,” push back against it and love that person.

That's what Jesus modeled for us- a respect for all people. He respected the tax collectors, prostitutes and rich people alike. Be that model for your kids- a model of love.

Even for the Mary Grace’s…

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stamp of approval

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” –James 4:17

Right and wrong. In this relative and tolerant world we live in today, it’s more difficult than ever to get consensus on what is right and what is wrong. Everything seems to be fair game to any opinion. But kids today want to know what is right and not just any old standard will do. The greatest justification for any behavior for any kid is whether their parents are doing it. Every child believes subconsciously that if mom and dad are doing it, it must be OK.

Does that put pressure on us as parents to get it right? You bet. Being a parent is a huge responsibility. Sure, we’re going to make mistakes. But the key is that we’re trying to get it right. It’s patterns of negative behavior that can be destructive for our kids.

Now let me assure you that the son or daughter of a bank robber is not destined to become a bank robber. Patterns of behavior can always be changed. But there has to be a “counter justification” to the behavior of mom and dad. If a parents example is less than “right”, other people in that child’s life can make all the difference.

I remember my father telling me once why he quit smoking in 1966. Like most adult men, he had smoked most of his life. When the medical world determined that cigarettes were hazardous to health, he gave up the habit. As a physician, he felt he was contradicting his profession. But more importantly, he shared that he couldn’t expect his kids to avoid smoking unless he avoided it too.

“Do as I say, not as I do” might be the worst leadership directive ever issued. Kids and employees will always do what we do over what we say. A leader or a parent that is willing to humbly serve tends to produce employees and kids that are willing to humbly serve. We follow the examples of our leaders, right or wrong.

As an amateur student of history, I have read several books about Robert E. Lee, the famous commander of Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He was far from perfect, but he did have unusual popularity with his troops. One example of why he had the love and respect of his soldiers had to do with his sleeping quarters. While most commanders lived in the relative comfort of houses, Lee insisted on living in a tent like his troops. In that way, he communicated through his actions that not only was he over them but he was with them.

Pray for an attitude of humility and wisdom with your kids. Let your actions be your directive. Remember that what you say has much less of an impact than what you do. Your kids are taking mental notes on what they see you do and filing those memories away for future reference (and justification).

Respect your children’s individual differences but guide them in life choices using God’s wisdom and the Bible as your guide. Don't let media be their standard. Instead, counter the world’s negativity with God’s promise of abundant life to those who follow Him.

Begin each day with a reminder that, in this crazy world, we are the role models our kids need. Pray for wisdom and humility in raising kids.

Even if that means sleeping in a tent…

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” -Heb. 13:5

The love of money. It’s the number one cause of marriage problems. It’s the number one cause of crime. It’s the number one cause of stress for most people. And it’s the number one opportunity to trust that a loving God will provide.

It’s post Christmas and most of us are paying the price (literally) for holiday travel and gift giving. Finances, budgets and money can be tense topics these days. Take the time to educate and teach your teens about money, how to manage resources and how to make financial decisions.

My daughter Elizabeth was watching the movie Wall Street and heard a great quote. The main character (who works on wall street) was talking to a big time billionaire and asks him, “What’s your number? The number that would be enough for you to walk away and feel content like you could survive for the rest of your life.” He replied, “More." Of course, money is like that. It’s like trying to grab water.

Go fill the sink with water. Now, put your hand in the sink and try to grab some water. It’s impossible to grasp. Money is like that. We try to grab wealth but it’s never enough. We never find peace with our accounts because how much money is enough? A little bit more.

I love the perspective of the writer of Proverbs in Chapter 30, verses 8 and 9. “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion,
that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.”

That’s the right view on money. God promises that He’ll provide what we need. And He always does if we follow His plan. Part of our problem is that we confuse our wants with our needs. Teach your kids the difference between the two. The truth is that most of us are very “full” and tend to deny the Lord.

Teach your kids that God promises to supply all our needs, if we yield to Him. Remind them that just as you supply for their needs, God supplies in the same way.

Start them on an allowance and instruct them on how to use their resources wisely. Remind them that the more they save, the more they have for a “rainy day.”

Educate them on the concept of tithing. Teach them that it's not about 10%, but about freely giving to God a portion of what He’s given them. Help them learn about giving to churches, missions and needs.

Finances are an important area of needed discipline and a necessary area of education to our kids. As always, it’s best for them to learn from our example.

Teach your kids that what God supplies through His resources and grace is just right, without needing “a little bit more.”

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


“Go therefore…” - Matt. 28:19

My brother-in-law, Brian Beadle, is a career missionary in Botswana, Africa and has been living with us in Branson for the past 6 months. First Baptist Church Branson is his home church. When he gets a furlough every few years, we are so thankful that he comes to live with us when he is stateside. He heads back to Africa this week and, though he’s excited to return, we are sad he’s leaving. But he’s headed to where God has called him and when someone follows God’s lead, it’s always the right choice.

Brian leaves a legacy behind for all of us. I love his laughter and even his warped sense of humor. I love his cooking, though his southern Louisiana upbringing puts a lot of spice in his food. And I love his vocabulary and his “twists” of the English language. But more importantly, he also leaves a spiritual and character legacy for us.

He is faithful. Brian is someone I can count on and trust. There are only a few men in my life that I want in the trenches with me in battle and Brian is one of those men. I am confident that he “has my back” and chooses to see the best in those he loves. His word is as good as gold. When Brian says he’ll do it, he does it.

He is above reproach. Brian has a good name. He’s not perfect, but integrity is very important to him. He has set up accountability in his life to keep his way pure. He has invited men into his life to hold him accountable in life. Brian recognizes that leadership in his life guards him.

He is gentle and kind. He would be the first to deny this one as his transparency sometimes makes him frankly honest. But his heart is soft and he’s “other-centered” in his devotion to others. In one of my favorite John Wayne movies “the Cowboys,” one of the kids is defending John Wayne when he says, “Oh, he’s quiet. It just comes out loud.” I think Brian thinks he’s hard. But he’s really a softie. His soft and gentle spirit enables him to have compassion on others and to apply the love of Christ to those he encounters.

He pursues God. He begins the day in prayer and studying scripture and he ends the day praying and studying scripture. He recognizes that his relationship with the Lord is #1 and that any outflow has to come from that source. As he ministers in a foreign land, he knows that his sufficiency has to come from the Lord. His faith is real and valid and up-to-date.

He is a true friend. He is an encourager and challenger and is not afraid to speak the truth in love. I have watched him truly die to himself and serve and give. He regards others as more important than himself. He has told me what I didn't want to hear. Maybe I didn't like it at the time, but I’ve thanked him for it later. True friends do that often.

He is a giver. He truly regards others as more important than himself. A few years ago, we got to visit him in Africa and I watched his giving spirit with the people of that culture. They respect and love him dearly. He freely gives of his possessions and his time.

There are many more qualities I admire in Brian. But mostly I’m just thankful he’s my brother and friend. Yes, I’m sad he’s leaving but I’m also excited because he’s going home. God has uniquely gifted Brian to reach the Setswana people of southern Africa and so he must go.

We love Brian and hope to see him again soon. May our loving God bless you, Brian.

By Eric Joseph Staples

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cleaning up the messes

“…forgetting what lies behind…” - Phil. 3:13

We all make mistakes. Sometimes the hardest part of a “mistake episode” is the moving past the mistake. As parents, letting go of our kid’s mistakes is so important. We often forget that when our child messes up, they are usually bothered more than we are. They have all the guilt they need. What they really need from us is the encouragement to do better the next time. But we have to make the right post-mistake choices to be that encourager.

I had spent the night with one of my best buds, Donny, in Amarillo on my way to Colorado. It was my senior in college and my dad loaned me his car to drive to the post-Christmas ski trip. As I drove out of Amarillo that Friday, the snow began. The snow picked up, so I decided to spend the night in Raton, New Mexico. Just a few miles from town, I came over a hill to a stopped 18-wheeler. As I put on the brakes, my vehicle slid into the back of the truck. I was fine, but the front of the car was damaged. I had it towed into Raton and had to spend the weekend there to have the car repaired on Monday. As I fell on the hotel bed, I felt terrible. I had damaged my dad’s car and was missing most of the ski trip.

I took a deep breath and called my dad (collect on the hotel phone- remember those days?) He was ticked and angry. Looking back as a dad, I would have been angry too, about the situation. What I needed was encouragement, but all he had to give was anger. My dad and I worked it all out later, but at the time, I needed my dad to just be there for me. No more guilt was necessary.

We have expectations as parents, and when our kids fall short, we basically have three choices. One is to be angry at our child. Of course, we’re always disappointed when our kids struggle. But, hopefully, we take a deep breath and realize that most of the time they’re doing the best they can with what they have.

A second option is to be angry with someone else about them. That usually is a coach or a teacher. We blame the mess on someone who could have prevented it. We forget that it’s not the teacher’s fault that our child made the C on the test. My child made the C because he did a “fair” amount of studying for the test.

And our third choice is to let it go. Hopefully, we realize that the consequence of the mistake falls on our child alone, not us.

I remember reading research in Graduate school about “latch key kids” and their emotional stability. Research shows that most kids that come home to an empty house after school are actually more responsible than kids coming home to a parent. I’m not advocating empty homes because I believe it is great when moms are there. But I am cheering for parents who teach their kids to clean up their own messes.

So, when our kids mess up, try to control the anger and be there to be their encourager. Don't own the mess for them but be there to guide them through with love and encouragement. And be there to point them back to the loving God that wants to walk beside them through the journey.

Remind them that we all make messes. Remind them that whether at home or in Raton, we all make mistakes.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's resolutions

“…behold, I will do something new now…” –Isaiah 43:18

Happy New Year! 2010 is over and 2011 has begun. I’ll have to admit, I’m still caught in a time warp- it still feels like the 80’s. But life moves on and the unmistakable feeling of newness begins with a new year. If you’re like our family, you went around the table and made resolutions for the New Year. Goal setting is such a good thing. Challenge your kids to use the new year as a time to start fresh, especially in their spiritual lives.

But like many goals with our kids, the challenge begins not with them, but with us. They are watching us like hawks to see if the goals we made are accomplished. They might have heard us say at dinner a few nights ago “we would get in shape for the new year.” They’re watching as we buy the new running shoes and start running. But they’re also watching when the shoes get dusty in the closet because they haven't been worn in a while.

Like it or not, what we do speaks louder than what we say. It’s important that we teach our kids the validity of commitment and discipline. Deep down, if they see it in us, then they’re more apt to practice it themselves.

My wife Jeanie is a gymnastics instructor at the local YMCA here in Branson. She commented the other day about the first day she returned to the Y after the New Year’s break last year. She said the parking lot was noticeably packed with cars and she couldn’t find a place to park. But a few weeks later, the parking lot was back to normal again. The truth is we all like to make goals but we tend to lack the discipline to do the hard work to achieve them.

List your 2011 goals on a sheet of paper. Teach your kids that setting goals is a good thing. Scripture often reminds us that having vision leads to success. Of course, our adult goals are different than kid goals, but help them set some fun goals for 2011. Remind them to set goals physically, socially, spiritually, and academically and to make those goals attainable. Remember the SMART acrostic for goal setting: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timeable.

Prayerfully find a good friend to hold you accountable to your goals. A good, solid, objective accountability partner is absolutely key to achieving goals. Like someone said, “it’s not what we expect but what we inspect.” We all need a good “inspector” in our lives. Too many times we choose poorly in this area. We need a friend who meets with us often and is willing to tell us what we don't want to hear. We need a true friend who cares more about us than the friendship. Remind your kids that the best friends help us be the best we can be without expecting anything in return.

Review your goals often. Be honest with yourself about how they are going. If things aren't progressing as well as you would like, you can revise your goals or choose a different strategy to achieve them. There will often be set-backs along the way, but losing one game doesn't mean the season is over. Instruct your kids in goal auditing. Help them learn how to re-group and re-load in their goals.

A new year is a great time to do an overhaul of our lives and re-group on direction and goal setting. Help your kids learn how to be goal setters. And be sure you’re “practicing what you preach” as you put on those running shoes.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©