Wednesday, April 27, 2011
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” –Eph. 2:8
I love Easter for a lot’s of reasons. I have to admit that way up there near the top of my list is the candy. I confess that I’m a recovering chocolaholic. I go to C.A. meetings every week (you can figure it out). The regular chocolate bunnies are awesome and the marshmallow filled chocolate bunnies are even better. But at the very, very top of the reasons I love Easter is the yearly realization of renewal. Easter is always a reminder to me of God’s loving grace. Be sure you remind your kids about the significance of Easter this week. Even after the event is over, remind them that the reality of Easter lasts all year long.
Chocolate is great, but the reality of God sending His Son to die so that He might have renewed fellowship with mankind is a bit bigger. The reality of Jesus’ willingness to die for my sin and His victory over death is definitely higher on the list than sweets and Easter bunnies, right?
But the Easter traditions may not be as irrelevant as they might seem. Rather than fight against the candy, baskets and bunnies, use them as object lessons of truth with your kids.
The best part about the candy is that it’s unexpected and free. For no particular reason, the basket appears on Easter morning filled with all kinds of treats. And it’s there for only one reason: to be enjoyed.
Some families and churches even have an Easter egg hunt. There, we have to search and find the eggs, but the candy inside is ours if we find it.
God’s grace is like that candy in the morning basket. God provides salvation for us on the condition of faith only. The gift is simply there and available for us. Yep, it’s free for us but somebody paid for that candy. And if it’s the Swiss Cadbury kind of candy, it cost a lot! God’s grace is like that too. It’s free but it costs God so much. We think “Yeah, but He’s God. What could possibly bother him?” Sending His only Son to die for us costs Him a ton.
And I don't have to earn the candy. The Easter egg hunts are fun, but we don't have to earn God’s gift of grace to us. It’s freely given to us, if we’ll accept it by faith.
The Easter eggs are a reminder to us of the newness of life. Eggs represent a new life given. Jesus died a horrible death on the cross, but as Easter reminds us, three days later he rose from that death to life and now sits at the right hand of the Father. His new life provided the opportunity for us to experience new life.
Easter next year, 2012, will be on April 8th, two weeks earlier than this year. Here’s why: In 725, Bede succinctly wrote, "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter." I don't really understand all of that, but I do know that 2000 years ago, Easter happened. And it will happen again.
And I know that every day we can experience the fruit of God’s grace.
Eat that chocolate and with every bite, be thankful for God’s gift of grace.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, April 22, 2011
“Set your mind on things above…” –Col. 3:2
Health dominates most of our lives. If you disagree, take a notepad with you the next time you watch TV and jot down every commercial that has to do with healthcare. Insurance and medication advertisements take up most of the commercial business. That’s because we’re obsessed with health. It’s certainly okay to be healthy, but I was reminded this past week that it’s not okay to be obsessed with it. It reminded me that what we prioritize in our lives is usually passed onto our kids. We need to be sure that what we’re passing on is appropriate, lasting and quality.
This past week I contracted a bacterial infection in my colon (yuck). I had pretty bad “digestive issues” along with chills and fever. I got so dehydrated that I had to go to the hospital to have an IV inserted to give me fluids. While there, they prescribed a heavy-duty antibiotic to knock out the bacteria. My body was doing it’s best to rid me of the bad bacteria (apparently we have “good” bacteria that lives down there too) but I needed help. And slowly, it’s apparently working.
From the minute I took the first regime of pills, I felt better. Just knowing I had something inside me that was fighting for me made me feel better. For all I knew, the capsule contained sugar only, but it still made me feel better. Research has proven that theory over and over: if I think I should feel better, than I usually begin to feel better. There is a whole science in medicine and psychology called “psychosomatic medicine” that studies how our minds affect our bodies.
I wonder why knowing I had taken that pill made me feel better? I’m sure somewhere deep down inside I felt like something was fighting for me. When we’re sick, we can feel so alone. Sure, we know our bodies are fighting the infection, but we want that extra boost.
Of course, other “boosts” exist within us that are much more lasting than a pill. None is more important than the spirit of our loving God that lives within those who have confessed Jesus as Lord. Scripture reinforces that God, via the Holy Spirit, lives within each one of us as our teacher, convictor and encourager. A pill wears off after a few days, but the Spirit of our loving God is eternal and lasting. If a pill brings confidence to our lives, then knowing the God of the Universe calls us friend and lives within us should produce major confidence in our lives. Remind your kids again and again that they are never alone if the Lord lives in their hearts.
Another “pill” that fights for us is family. We often forget that we’re not on our own, that we have family that stands with us through the difficult times. It’s been said that, “blood is thicker than water.” In other words, there is a bond within family that should bring security and confidence to us. Unfortunately, it’s easy for competiveness and distance to dispel the security that God intended within family. Take the initiative to reach out and love those within your family. Remember, your kids are watching how you treat your family. That’s how they’ll treat you when they’re older so be sure to set a good example.
Be sure you model more than a focus on health with your kids. Prioritize faith and family with your kids and though they may act like they’re not interested at times, they will remember the lessons. Feel free to be obsessed with family and faith.
You’ll find that it is contagious, whether you take the pills or not.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, April 16, 2011
“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” -Prov. 18:13
Watching one of my favorite TV shows this week, I was again reminded that one of the most powerful things we can do for those we love is listen to them. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty good listener, but a friend challenged me this week to be a better listener with him. It seems I practice selective listening. Most of us do. Listening is not as easy as it seems and is a treasure for those we love (especially our kids) if we choose to put it into practice.
For those of you who don’t watch the Andy Griffith Show, Floyd Lawson is the absent-minded, quirky barber with the little mustache, who hosts the men of the town all day in his barbershop. For those of you who do watch Andy, I bet you didn't know that his last name was Colby in his first appearance only and then changed to Lawson for the rest of the series. I think what made Floyd such a great friend to everyone in Mayberry is that he listened. He was always waiting in his chair for anyone ready to engage in a conversation about Calvin Coolidge or the weather.
Howard McNear, a veteran actor in the 50’s and 60’s, played Floyd. He was hired by Andy Griffith to play the minor role at first but, because of his immense talent, became a major character in on the show.
If you aren’t into the Andy Griffith Show, let me first share that it’s not too late. There is no statute of limitations on Andy, so though you’ve deprived yourself all these years, there is still time. Think about it, after almost 50 years, the show is still on TV most of the day on various stations. Secondly, let me assure you that if you get your “Andy fix” at least a few times each week, you’ll be more emotionally stable. Trust me. I’m a Counselor.
What was it about Floyd? When interviewed a few years ago, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts both said the actor on the set that cracked them up the most was Floyd. They both said they had to stop more takes because Floyd would have everyone laughing in the middle of a scene. He was a likable and respected actor.
Floyd was just a character, but he also was and is a good reminder to all of us of what a true friend should be. He exhibited 3 qualities that we all need:
He was “others” centered. He spent most of his time asking the townsfolk how they were doing. Most conversations weren’t about Floyd, they were about whoever had just walked into the shop. People congregated in the barbershop because it was a place to be accepted and that atmosphere began with Floyd himself.
He was content. Floyd was 100% OK with being the town barber and was at his best when telling a story or laughing with his buddies. Again, his friends liked being at the barbershop because it was a place of peace in the craziness of Mayberry.
He was a listener. As was already mentioned, Floyd let the other person talk more than he did. His apparent naivety lent itself to his willingness to let the other “fella” tell his story first. “You don't say,” Floyd would often remark, as he focused on the other person.
Yep, one of my favorite characters is Floyd and I hope to be more like him as I love and listen to my family and friends.
But without the mustache.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Sunday, April 10, 2011
“Above all, love each other deeply…” 1 Peter 4:8
OK, the cruise is over and I’m back to the last story in the “napping” series about my beautiful granddaughter, Reese. One of the beauties about naptime is the opportunity for rest and escape from the pressures of life. Imagine having to spend all that time as a child figuring out how to talk and eat and crawl. It's a full-time job and exhausting! Don’t you remember? Mom and dad need a break too for relaxing and regrouping. But like any rest time, it finally comes to an end and that’s good. Life is meant to be lived together, not separately and too much naptime isn't good for baby or mom (trust me).
Most naptimes end when the baby monitor comes alive. Most babies don't announce calmly, “Oh mother, my nap is over.” Most naptimes end with a few coo’s and then that unique cry that can only mean “my diaper is full and my stomach is empty- now get in here!”
When naptime is over, several options exist:
1. Leave the baby in the nursery to feed herself and change her own diaper. That way, she’ll learn to take care of herself later in life.
2. Pretend like you don't hear him crying. Maybe someone in the neighborhood will hear the crying and take care of the problem for you.
3. Turn up the volume on the TV so you don't hear the crying. After all, the end of Wheel of Fortune is the best part!
4. Grab that little munchkin; give her a hug, a new diaper and a meal!
Of course, number 4 is the correct choice. When break time is over, it’s time to grab those we love and hug them like we’ll never let them go. Sure, the break is great, but there is nothing like the post-nap snuggle with a baby. Why do babies feel so cuddly after their nap? I think it’s because they’ve missed us and we’ve missed them.
I guess that’s the whole point. When we’re with someone a lot, we tend to take them for granted. Our kids didn't seem so sweet on the 9th hour of a 10-hour road trip. They were hungry, tired and needy. I was too. But when I’d have to leave town for a week, I loved coming home to my beautiful family waiting to give me a hug in the driveway.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” That’s supposed to mean that the lack of something increases the desire for it. But sometimes our greatest blessings get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes we forget what is really important.
So enjoy that post-nap snuggle. As a matter of fact, enjoy all the phases of growth with your child. Because, as we know, one day it will come to an end. They will leave home and eventually we’ll all go to our heavenly home.
So get in there to your little munchkin, change that diaper and hug them like you’ll never let go.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
“…and there is a time for every event under heaven” — Eccl. 3:1
After all the wonderful cruising and excursions, our trip finally came to a close. It went so quickly, but vacations seem to always end that way. We plan and plan, finally embark on the trip and then suddenly the journey ends. And all our wishing won’t change the outcome: the trip is over. It’s true in parenting too, but not necessarily sad. There comes a day when our kids leave home and go fly on their own. How they fly has everything to do with how well we prepared them for the debarkation.
Debarkation is defined as “unloading from a ship or plane.” In truth, it could be defined as getting everyone off the boat as quickly as possible so they can reload the boat for the next cruise. Debarking is simply the end. Embarking has a better ring to it, but most things begin and most things end. Accepting the end is the hard part.
A couple of days before the end of our cruise, the cruise director (Chris) began to tell us about the end of the journey. Through handouts they gave us, reports on the cabin TV and announcements over the PA, Carnival cruise-line prepared us for the final day on the ship. Carnival has obviously learned over the years that educating the passengers reduces their stress and anxiety. Too often, our teens aren't well prepared to head out to be on their own. It’s all too easy to overprotect and shield our kids instead of preparing them for the inevitable end of the journey. Parents say, “Oh, we’ll deal with that later,” and then suddenly it’s time for our teens to launch out on their own. Some kids go on to college while others hit the job market. Either way, they need to be prepared.
Getting our luggage off the ship was a huge issue. The cruise line gave us several options on how to deal with our bags. Option #1 was to let them handle our luggage. We were to simply sit tight until they came to get our bags. That option was definitely easier, but would take a while. Option #2 was for us to carry our own luggage from the ship. It required more work, but was much quicker. We chose that option. We didn't have to wait for the Carnival personnel, we scurried off the boat when they called our floor, and we didn't have to “tip” anyone. It’s best to choose option #2 when it comes to letting our kids live out their own lives. Our kids need to learn to carry their own bags. There is a lot of life waiting for them as they journey into being adults, and the more practice they have bearing responsibility before they leave home, the more prepared they will be for life.
Finally, the time came for us to leave. They called our deck number and we walked off the boat. It was time to move on. We considered hiding in the closet in our room and going back out on the next cruise, but we figured another week of unlimited dining might not be too healthy. We boarded the shuttle to our car and began the drive back to the Ozarks. Back to cool weather, back to work, back to RESPONSIBILITY! The “R” word was hard to swallow when we were used to being wined and dined, sleeping in and lying around. But truth is, deep inside, we are fulfilled when we’re being used. Teaching our kids to bear responsibility for their lives is the ultimate goal. They might whine about it, but deep inside, it brings them fulfillment.
So, we’ve debarked and we’re back to reality in the Ozarks. The end of trips isn’t so difficult if there’s a larger goal in mind. We need to be sure we’re constantly teaching our kids how to fly on their own.
Then, when they leave the ship, it’s okay, bags and all.
By Eric Joseph Staples©