Thursday, September 29, 2011

Puppy lessons,part 4: chaos

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” - Col. 3:21

I came within an inch this week of taking Maisy to the local animal shelter, giving her a hearty pat on the head and saying goodbye forever! I was angry. Not once, not twice, but three times she chewed some wiring underneath my SUV in the garage and messed up the ABS brake system on the vehicle. Over the years, I’ve visited with many parents that were ready to drop off their kid somewhere. Anywhere. It’s easy to get frustrated, but perseverance and patience are always rewarded. Loving deeply means loving for the long haul.

Child abuse is a horrible thing and should not be tolerated. In my pre-parent world, I thought it unbelievable that a parent could physically and emotionally lash out at a defenseless child. But later, having been up late with our sick kids one night, I do remember thinking, “I can see how a parent with a few loose screws could lose it.” When exhaustion, frustration, lack of teamwork and self-centeredness rule the day in my life, most life issues become chaos.

That’s why compassion and patience are such huge factors in parenting, marriage and life. When I am focused on me and getting my needs met first, anything that isn't meeting that need is an annoyance. Chaos is relative to what it’s being measured against.

Because the truth is, Maisy is a puppy that I’m trying to treat like a dog. What I call chaos is just fine with her. My O.C.D. world wants the backyard spotless and tidy. Her puppy dog world adores chewing things. It’s in her genetic makeup to chew. As a vet explains, “A dog's mouth is the canine equivalent of our hands; it's what dogs use to pick up and examine things, evaluate their potential use, and transport them from one place to another. Chewing lets a dog know what something feels like, how it tastes, and whether it's good to eat. It's a natural part of dog behavior: You can no more train a dog to stop chewing completely than you can train him to stop breathing. Chewing is also an important part of the pup's development. Just like babies, puppies chew in part to soothe sore gums during teething. It can take up to a year for a pup's adult teeth to come in, so this is another instance where you'll need lots of patience to teach your dog what he can chew and what he can't.”

Wow. Chewing is a part of the natural maturing of a puppy. Pups have to chew. So to leave our pup in the same garage with a mostly rubber car is a set up for disaster. Is it Maisy’s fault or mine? Hum. In truth, I was the one who set her up to chew the wiring.

Now, I’m sure not excusing a lack of responsibility in dogs or kids, but I am appealing to us as parents to be careful before we overreact and threaten to sell our kids to the lowest bidder. We need to remember that kids are kids. They’re going to make dumb decisions sometimes. That’s part of growing up. Take a deep breath and remember that sometimes they’ll learn more from your grace than from your grump.

Hang in there and pass on a little of what our loving God gives to us so freely: grace. Pray for a heart of patience and compassion.

And keep your dog out of the garage.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


“…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” -1Pet. 3:4

Hidden things, like Easter eggs, can be good. Other hidden things, like land mines, can be bad. There are several hidden essential keys to contentment and peace in this life. And they’re good. Certainly, faith in something bigger than us, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is paramount. From that essential value flows the rest of the values that govern and lead this life. As parents and friends, there is no better message we can pass on to those we love. Then, hopefully, when their circumstances are difficult, they’ll have that hidden faith to get them through.

I was in a hurry the other day (seems I’m always in a hurry). I rushed out to my car in the church parking lot with books and folders in hand. I quickly unlocked the door and threw my pile on the car seat. But I’d left my laptop in my office, so I shut the door and went back in to get it. When I returned to the car, I reached into my pocket for the keys. They weren’t there. As I gazed through the car window, I saw them on the car seat. In slow motion, I reached for the door handle to open the door, but, you guessed it, the door was locked. Yikes!

But then I remembered, I’d hidden a key under the car (which you’ll never find- it’s in a weird place). Though I got a little dirty, I found the keybox, removed the key and unlocked the door. Pretty simple. No problem.

A few months earlier, a friend of mine locked the keys in their running car and didn't have an extra key stashed away. Not simple and yes, a problem. A locksmith and fifty bucks later, the door was unlocked.

So many of the lessons we teach our kids are caught rather than taught. We’d prefer the “taught” options. The “caught” scares us a bit because it’s not something we can teach in a lesson or type on a sheet of paper. It’s the way we live our lives. A life of faith teaches our kids that a there is something stronger and more powerful than ourselves, that is the “strong tower” we can run to and be safe in the hard times.

When the tough times come (and they always do), having that hidden, secure, heart-filled faith makes all the difference. It’s there to grab and lean on through it all. Sure, we can always call the locksmith to unlock the door, but that’s always a temporarily fix. Or we can determine to never lock the keys in our car, but it will happen when you least expect it. A loving God guarantees it. Why? Because he knows we’re at our best when we’re depending on Him. So He engineers circumstances in our lives to produce faith in our lives.

He produces circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees. That’s what James 1:2 is reminding us, “consider the trials as joy knowing they are there to produce something good” (my paraphrase). It’s difficult because we have our plans and our expectations. But life is short and the building of faith is what it’s all about.

So, next time you lock your keys in the car or whatever, reach for that Hide-a-key and pull it out. Trust that God is there as a Helper and Comforter. Don't solo through the difficulty. Put that key in the lock and open the door. And let your kids and friends know about it.

And rejoice that you can never be locked out again.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spreading the news

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” -Rom. 12:21

I heard someone comment yesterday that they feel sorry for teenagers today who are “growing up in a world with so much evil.” They were reflecting on the events of 9-11 and all of the difficulties in our world today. But as a student of history, I’m reminded that this world has always been in pretty bad shape. It’s really just a question of whether we live in this world or of this world. It is a question of whether we stand for what is good and best or settle for what is mediocre. We have to let our voice of good be louder than the shout of bad.

How does this relate to parenting? Kids model what they see in their parents. And if we are parents who see the worst and never express the best, our kids tend to model that same behavior. It’s more than just being half-full or seeing the day as partly sunny versus partly cloudy. It’s being real about the world’s difficulties, but acknowledging the bigger purpose and role of faith.

We recently went to the “kick-off” football game at Cowboys stadium between #4 LSU and #5 Oregon. Jeanie is an LSU graduate and I am a qualified fan by marriage. The game was sold-out, loud and intense. If you’ve ever been to an LSU game, you soon discover that it’s much more than just a casual contest. It is war. Tiger fans are awesome. Fans wear every variety of LSU garments to proudly proclaim their loyalty to the Tigers and possess all knowledge of anything involving LSU. The fans are absolutely sold out to the Tigers. They even bow their allegiance to the defense when they hold the opposing team. They can't wait to attend the games every weekend.

At church Sunday, I wondered why the “good news” of faith and freedom isn’t shouted and exalted like fans about their schools at football games? Why is it okay for fans to go absolutely berserk but not okay for most people to express their faith? Most football fans aren't afraid to risk rejection as they loudly proclaim their allegiance to a particular school. Granted, many times alcohol is involved in the uninhibited nature of the fan, but still, they are aggressive about what team they support.

In a world that is seemingly falling apart at the seams, we need to proclaim our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and the need for a hurting world to find it’s answers in putting faith in a loving God. Sure, we need to be respectful and loving to those of different faiths, but as Bill Hybels says, “We need to be willing to walk across the room and tell our story.”

Teach your kids to talk about what is good and true and lasting. Talk about God and His love with your kids daily. Tell your stories of God’s faithfulness to your kids often. Turn off the national news (which always shares the worst of the world) and replace it with some time in God’s Word. Remind your kids that there is an alternative to finding peace in this unpeaceful world. Remind them that true peace only comes through faith in the Lord.

Mention again that God is our strong tower, whom we can go to for peace and protection (Proverbs 18:10). Be bold about your faith. Be reminded that the God of the Universe carries more weight than even LSU (but I still like the Tigers)! He is truly worthy of our praise and of our sharing to a hurting and lost world.

Go God (and go Tigers)!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, September 4, 2011


“…there is a time to love…” -Eccl. 3:8

“We’d love to come see you, but the drive is just too long.” That’s the excuse used by most family members to avoid leaving their cozy homes and going to see relatives. As much as family means to most, the “cost” of making the drive and plans to make the meeting possible are just too high. Facebook and email are easier and more convenient than face-to-face meetings. But something is lost. There is no substitute for being able to hug and connect with people that share your name and DNA. But it comes with a price. Teach your kids that the price is worth it.

What a fun week we had last week! We had some very special people that drove a long way to be with us. My daughter Elizabeth and granddaughter Reese made the drive from Columbia to our home in Branson, Missouri. My sister-in-law Lisa, her daughter, Becca and her daughter, Emery, made the trip from Indiana. We all gathered to celebrate family and grandkids. It was a mini-reunion of at least part of the Staples family and a chance for a couple of cousins to meet each other for the first time. Mostly, it was a time for family.

With the prevalence of the blended family and the geographical relocation of many families, reunions aren't quite as popular as they used to be. Many kids grow up having never met aunts, uncles and cousins. The stories told at reunions go untold and the links between generations are left blank. Be a parent that chooses to pay the price to being family together.

When I was a child, I remember the long drives from Fort Worth to Georgia to visit my mom’s family in Thomson and my dad’s family in Roopville. The journey was long and hot and my three brothers and I played games in the back of the station wagon. We always went to Thomson first where I loved running around house, playing with my strange cousins and going to help my grandpa pick corn in his garden. After a few days, we’d make the drive across Georgia to Roopville. It was much more rural and I loved staying at the farmhouse outside of town. The home had one bathroom and a wrap around porch. It was surrounded by acres and acres of farmland. There too, I played with mysterious cousins, helped fetch eggs from the chicken coop every morning and just had a blast. My Papa died when I was little but my gran-nanny was a wonderful, kind woman. I loved seeing my dad with his brothers and sisters. It made me proud to be a “Staples.”

Somehow, none of that is captured on Facebook. Those big reunions and small reunions unite family and create a security within all involved. Sure, they can be sticky and awkward sometimes. All families carry hurts and scars from the past. But differences are set aside when family gathers. That’s called love. The Greeks used the word “storge” to describe the familial love between family members. It’s different than loving ice cream or a spouse. It’s the thick kind of love that cares because it's simply family.

Be a parent that teaches your kids to love family. Don't let them hear you speaking badly about relatives. Be sure to model love for your extended family. Remember, one day you’ll be old and will want those you love visiting you. Allow your kids to meet their aunts, uncles and cousins. Be willing to make the drive, no matter how long it takes. Because, in the end, the drive is always worth it.

And will mean tons more than a Facebook chat.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©