Friday, December 21, 2012

Temperature Change

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart" -Col. 3:21 In the Ozarks, we're in that strange time of year when we're caught in between hot and cold. Up and down. Up and down. It seems like just a few weeks ago, we were blazing under the summer sun and today we're digging out gloves and wool caps for winter. It's that "in between" time. Being a teenager is an in between time too. One day teens are comfortable in their dependence and relationship with family; the next day they are uncomfortable as they're seeking independence and separation from family. Adolescence (from Latin: adolescere meaning "to grow up") is a transitional stage of physical and psychological human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood (age of majority). The period of adolescence is most closely associated with the teenage years, although its physical, psychological and cultural expressions can begin earlier and end later. Certainly, dependence and independence aim in different directions. Our kids are born 100% dependent and the progression of independence begins from day one. If you're not convinced, go stare through the glass at your local hospital maternity ward. Those babies are 100% dependent on the nurses in the room. And they're fine with that arrangement…for a while. Now, go help in the nursery at your church this Sunday. And I don't mean at the registration desk. I'm talking back in the actual "trenches" where the kids are being…kids. The progression from dependence to independence starts its evolution. The temperature begins to fluctuate. Yes, the kids want you to serve them their snack (dependence) but they want it served in a particular way (independence). Yes, the kids like the toys you're giving them (dependence) but they want the toys the other kids are playing with too (independence). So, what's a parent to do? Navigate slowly. Seek God's discernment. Be willing to let go. Letting our kids experience independence is not easy. It requires risk and for most conscientious parents, control is a huge issue. We figure that lack of risk is good for our kids. We need to protect them at all costs. Not true. They do need our protection as they depend on us but their independence needs to be reinforced as well. Rebellion does not equal independence. But lack of space to be independent can produce rebellion in our kids. We need to be the Godly, loving parents that the Lord equipped us to be with our kids but also need to be willing to let go and let them learn who they are, independent from mom and dad. Let them fly on their own…. whether it's hot or cold. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, December 14, 2012


Jesus said, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” -Matt. 21:16 I continue to learn so much from my adult kids. Whether our kids are five or fifty, they know us well and if we're careful to listen, they'll provide us with great insight and instruction. Certainly, the parent-child relationship goes both ways and benefits both sides. God uses parents to teach and instruct and God uses kids to teach and instruct. God used my adult kids, Elizabeth and Eric, over Thanksgiving to teach me a couple of great lessons. The origin of a toast is pretty foggy. Some say its origins go back to ancient times. It's said that the practice of touching glasses was to test for poisons as each glass spilled over into the others. Others say it's from the custom in the 17th century of flavoring drinks with toast. Whatever the origin, it's seen now as a way of blessing anything from marriages to boats. We went to Silver Dollar City and had a great time riding the train, eating funnel cakes and enjoying the Christmas decorations. Afterwards, we had a late dinner at the Landing. Before we ate the meal, Eric raised his glass of water and said, "Here is to now." We all raised our glasses and repeated what he'd said. I soaked the lesson into my heart. It's a lesson I need to learn. I tend to focus too much on yesterday and tomorrow. I even tend to over focus on today. But I need to focus on NOW. Like Eric said, "All we have is now. Tomorrow can't be reached and yesterday is gone." It's obvious, but a lesson I see lived out in his life. He told me once, "Dad, you need to listen to more music." Again, he's right. I'm way too intense and focused. I do want to be intentional about what I do, but life is short. When Paul told the Philippians that "He'd learned to be content in whatever circumstances he was in," that's what he meant. He might be shipwrecked tomorrow, but right now he's okay because the sovereign God of the Universe was with him. Elizabeth is about to have baby number two in a month or so. She is a phenomenal mom to Reese, our beautiful granddaughter. She too, is a great wife to Mark who is working hard in his residency program. I admire the strength of Elizabeth a lot. She's tough. It's because she knows where her security lies. Today she sent a twitter saying, "Emmanuel, God is with us. So thankful for this promise today!!!" That really sums it up. Though Elizabeth is chasing Reese around, getting used to a new home and city and eight months pregnant, her strength comes from the Lord. It's hard, but it's okay. It's another lesson I need to learn. Though the challenges may be many, God always supplies the strength necessary to make it through the trial. Too often, when life is hard, it's not okay with me. I can be grouchy, impatient, and discontent. Elizabeth reminds me, "When God guides, He always provides." Thanks E and E, for teaching me again. You two are amazing. I am sure proud of you both and thanks for allowing the Lord to use you in my life. I pray that everyone reading this will allow God to use those closest to them to teach them, especially their own kids. Over the holidays, be "quick to listen and slow to speak" and have a teachable heart. Listen closely to your kids and family and the Lord will use them to teach you and impart wisdom. With or without a toast. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Flat Tire

“…to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me" -Matt. 25:45 Well, I blew it again. I'd just had a phenomenal Saturday, at First Baptist Branson, with 200 plus other volunteers. We provided fun, care, prayer and groceries to hundreds and hundreds of people in need from the Branson community. It was an honor to get to serve and give. It was a lesson I'd never forget…at least for a few hours. Early Sunday morning, I was on my way to "work" at the church when I passed a man on the side of the road with a flat tire. As I kept driving, multiple thoughts raced through my mind. "I'm late and don't have time to stop" (I had plenty of time), "It's a guy, not a girl, so he can take care of himself" (he was by himself with no gas station in sight), "he might be an ax murderer who just escaped from prison" (we don't have a prison in Branson). Then it hit me. "Staples, did you learn anything yesterday? Sure, you can "give" when it's an "event" but how about when it's not convenient? The Lord brought to mind the passage in Matthew I was going to teach in Bible study later that morning, "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me" -Matt. 25:35,36 The truth is, most of us give when it's convenient. This man had a need and I chose to pass up on the opportunity to help him. I passed up on the opportunity to help Jesus. Our selfish flesh comes up with other excuses: "He's probably just lazy; He should have checked his tires before he left; He's getting what he deserves; If I help him, I'm just reinforcing his irresponsibility." We become like Peter at the end of the book of John. Jesus had already clearly instructed Peter to mind his own business and "tend His sheep," but Peter just couldn't help getting into the business of Jesus regarding John. "So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man? Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” - John 21:21-22 In other words, "Mind your own business. Feed my sheep. Meet other's needs.” It's not our responsibility or job to discern or figure out how much people qualify for their needs to be met. I'm sure many of the people at the feeding of the five thousand could have gone home to eat that day. But Jesus fed them anyway. Better yet, the disciples fed them anyway while Jesus provided the food. Why? Because, when it comes to grace, it doesn't matter. Jesus gives freely and without strings attached. It's not calculated giving. It's radical giving. It's not about food or cars as much as it's feeding people love. When we give radically and without calculation, we're sharing the grace and love of Jesus. It's a lethal mixture that can eradicate a lost world. Under conviction, I turned my SUV around and went back to help the man. He was gone. But the truck remained. An opportunity was lost but a lesson was learned. Perhaps he was an "unknown angel" that God used to teach me a lesson. He reminded me that it's more blessed to give than to receive. There are people with flat tires everywhere. Pray for opportunities to give and serve. And don't forget to stop and help. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Upgrade

"…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" -Phil. 3:13-14
I'm back! I realize I haven't posted anything to the blog in a few weeks, but life has been super crazy. Why? Because we decided to do a…. (insert organ music here) REMODEL of our kitchen, laundry room and downstairs bedroom and bathroom. We contracted out for some of it, but we also did a lot of the work. For several weeks, I came home from work and went back to work until bedtime. But the project is finished and the remodel looks great. It all came with a figurative and literal price. I work with people all day long choosing to move on through difficulty. I admire them so much because they're making the choice to grow and improve their lives. Most people don't make that choice. Why? Because most of us, and I do mean us, are content to live with out-of-date kitchens. We're okay (sort of) with our broken dishwasher and stained cabinets. As we should, we "count the cost" and decide it's not worth the change. It's wise to consider what it will take to make changes, but nearly always, the right choice is to pay the price. Consider what has to be paid to do an upgrade: We have to be honest about where things stand. Like someone said, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt!" (If you don't get it, feel free to call me). How many times did Jeanie and I say, "I can't believe we lived with this messy kitchen." But it's so subtle. We miss the obvious. We don't realize the mess unless we allow others to speak truth to us. Those we love know us better than we know ourselves and if we listen, they will encourage us in ways to grow. We need to listen to them and be honest with ourselves. We have to be willing to tear out the old. That might be my favorite part of remodeling. I love tearing out the old stuff. Demolition is a blast! But it also hurts. I kept thinking, "I paid a lot of money for that appliance that I just sold for NOTHING!" But we have to let it go. There is no way to install new appliances if the old ones are still there. The company out of Springfield said as much when they instructed us," the old appliances need to be removed before we deliver the new ones- that is your responsibility." That was our job, not theirs. Change is always difficult, because we like what's familiar. We're used to it. But we have to let it go. We have to add the new. There's a huge home north of Fort Worth that we pass every time we drive to my mom's home. It's a large house that began to be remodeled nearly 30 years ago. Apparently, right in the middle of it all, the project was abandoned. Perhaps they ran out of cash or someone died. So the house sits today unfinished and deteriorating. The old was removed, but the new was never applied. In Ephesians chapter four, Paul challenges the church to "put away" a bunch of negative attitudes." But then he challenges the church to "put on" kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness. If we don't replace the old with the new, we leave a void that can quickly resume the old habits. Sure, upgrades and remodels always come with a cost, but it's worth the cost when the investment yields its reward. It's always best to "press on" and move forward. Be prayerful, ask God for the strength to make the change and move on. Pay the price and make the change. And enjoy the new kitchen. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Conductor

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord." Psa. 27:14 I was speaking with a senior in college the other day and addressed the age-old question that every potential graduate asks, "What am I going to do after college?" The future is on the minds of everyone. And it's so important for parents to discuss with their kids. Everyone needs to have a handle on how they deal with the unknown. We all need to be reminded that true peace about tomorrow can only come when we surrender our concern to God today. He controls it all and we can trust His timing. Someone said, "We will never really know what the future holds but we can know the One who holds the future." Much like the conductor of an orchestra, God waves his baton in different directions at different times. It might seem like all that waving makes no difference at all, but a great conductor, like our great God, knows exactly what He's doing. An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus. I'll have to admit that I've always been skeptical of the importance of a conductor. It seems like all they do is stand there in their tuxedo and wave their wand around. Then, when the music stops, they turn and bow. Aren't the musicians doing all the work? But then I discovered something about conductors. They practice the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. Though it appears that they're doing little to create the musical masterpiece, their leadership is critical if the collection of sounds is to be unified into a crescendo. God is the Great Conductor of our lives. He knows exactly when to wave the wand and exercise His sovereign will. He knows that certain instruments need to be utilized in certain ways. The flow and pace of the Great Conductor is absolutely crucial to the overall sound of the music. God knows when to wave that baton! He is the Master Conductor and knows every musical piece forward and backward. He invented the music itself and holds the specifics of the future in His hands. The Great Conductor knows the big picture while the players are focused on their own parts. He always, always has the big picture on his heart. God knows when to emphasize sections and to decrease others. Though the woodwinds may be paused, the strings play away. Why? Because it's their time to play. Even when the musical piece doesn't call for a particular section, that section still has an important part to play. It's a part called silence. The best thing they can do is to rest and to do it well. So much of following God's will involves patience and a willingness to wait on God's timing. God holds the future. As members of the orchestra, we're all facing the audience. Only the Great Conductor sees the full orchestra and the big picture. Our role? Play our instrument the best way we know how. Ask Him to help us. Trust that He knows what the next page of music holds and He'll be right there in front of us to lead us through. Yes, all that waving of the baton makes a difference. If we trust Him, He always works it out. One note at a time. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's All Relative

"With the kind, You show Yourself kind; with the blameless, You show Yourself blameless…" -Psalm 18:25 Character determines how a person interprets God's will. It's all a matter of perspective. It's all relative to the condition of our hearts. When difficult trials hit, we either approach them with faith, trusting that God has a plan or we approach them with a fist, angry that yet another difficulty has gotten in our way. No doubt, our kids model the way we handle difficulty. Someone said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to what happens to us. It's all a matter of perspective. It's all relative to the condition of our hearts. Like most emergencies, once the crisis hits, it's too late to begin preparation. When the trials come, a quick quiet time won't usually settle the issue. It's the investment we've made in Jesus (or the investment He's made in us) that makes all the difference. Mark and Elizabeth live in Des Moines, Iowa. It's a beautiful city and they are still getting to know their way around town. When they first moved there, Elizabeth was trying out a neighborhood Hy Vee grocery store expecting to buy all the groceries on her list. She searched the store only to find mostly pharmacy items. Unknowingly, Mark went to that same store a few hours later expecting to buy pharmacy items. He noticed what Elizabeth did not- that it was a Hy Vee Pharmacy store. He was excited to find some groceries there too. The difference? Expectation. Elizabeth had expected to buy all her groceries and was disappointed. Mark just expected to buy shaving cream but was excited to find milk and bananas too. In First Peter 4:12-13, Peter said, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." Are we supposed to get excited when bad things happen? No. But we're to expect trials and challenges to come our way. They are God's way of breaking, molding, building and using us. God calls us to trust Him. While we were in Des Moines a few weeks ago, we visited the capital building and I, being a history nut, was inspecting the monuments around the capital yard. The inscription on the civil war monument read, "To the brave men of Iowa who gave their lives in the War of the Rebellion." The Civil War monument in Vicksburg, Mississippi reads, "To the brave men of Mississippi who gave their lives in the War of Northern Aggression." Which one is correct? It's all a matter of perspective. It's all relative to the heart of the person. The teenager cries out, "My parents are too aggressive!" The parents cry out, "My teenager is too rebellious!" It's all a matter of perspective. It's all relative to the condition of our heart. Our perspective needs to be from the viewpoint of our loving God. David asked God to "create in me a clean heart" (Psalm 51:10). A clean heart allows us to view trials from the right perspective. If the difficulties and trials we encounter occur in the relative context of a clean and pure heart, then we can trust that "all things do work together for the good" because we "love Jesus and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Approach trials with faith and not with a fist. Let God have His way. It's all a matter of perspective. It's all relative to the condition of our heart. Whether you pick up groceries at Hy Vee or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" -I Thess. 4:13 Goodbyes aren't much fun. There are some exceptions I guess. Saying goodbye to the dentist, a bad cold or a bad relationship can be satisfying. But for the most part, goodbyes are difficult because they are usually to things and people we care about. This month, we said goodbye to three outstanding men of God that have been rocks for the Branson community and for the faith. Though we all know they're in a better place, so well deserved, we still miss them terribly. Their deaths leave a huge void in all our hearts. In the Academy Award winning movie, Out of Africa, there is a scene between the Baron and Karen that describes how most of us feel about saying goodbye. He is leaving to go hunting and she gives her husband a halfhearted kiss. Baron Bror Blixen comments, "That's a fine kiss goodbye.” Karen Blixen responds, "I'm better at hello.” Most of us prefer hello. I remember my dad, an obstetrician, saying, "One of the things I like most about my job is getting to bring babies into the world instead of being a doctor that works to keep people from leaving this world.” We certainly need all kinds of doctors, but welcoming life is more joyful than saying goodbye to it. But of course, that depends on how you define "life and death." Another thing my dad used to say was "there are a lot of things worse than dying.” Growing up, I was never quite sure what he meant by that, but the older I get, the more I understand. Dying, as a Christ-follower, is really living. And living, without hope, is dead. Jack Purvis, Jerry Lilley and Ed Williams were all outstanding men of God who loved their families and their Lord. Yes, they were successful in the world's eyes, but mostly, they were successful in the eyes of the Lord. They were selfless, giving and friendly. They loved and served their Savior, Jesus Christ. He was their source of strength. And the three of them are having a total blast in the presence of God. Second Corinthians 5:8 says "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." I'm not exactly sure how heaven works, but it's real and it's there and it's wonderful. So we say goodbye. James 4:13-14 reminds us that life is short, very short. "Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away". We need to remember that it's okay to plan, but not too far. Plan for today not tomorrow, because tomorrow may not ever come. Life is so, so short. We need to focus on the things that matter. We need to focus on family. We need to focus on people. We need to focus on God. That's what Jack, Jerry and Ed did and so many lives were changed because they made that choice. They lived like there wasn't a tomorrow and it made their today an awesome privilege. Goodbye my three brothers and thank you for the example you leave us. May you enjoy what you deserve… To be in the very presence of God. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, October 5, 2012

Judge Not Lest...

“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" -Matt. 7:2
I was humbled again the other day. As a matter of fact, I was humbled twice in a big way. And for someone like me that has always battled pride, humility is a very good thing. One of the worst manifestations of pride is a judgmental heart. It's usually hidden away, so no one directly sees it, but the judgment is there, and God knows it. We can talk compassion and forgiveness all day long, but unless our kids see it lived out in our lives, they'll grab the baton of judgment from us and continue the curse. People that text and drive make me angry. The idea of someone being selfish enough to risk my life for a text is beyond me. What message could be important enough to justify distracted driving? Mature people put the phone away and drive responsibly. A few weeks ago, I was driving through my neighborhood and heard the buzz on my phone signaling an incoming text. I glanced down and read it. When I looked up, I was veering into the other lane with a car coming straight towards me. I swerved back into my lane and stopped while the other car drove by. My heart sank as I realized what I had done. The very act I despised in others I did myself. Like that guy on TV that caused the horrible wreck by texting and was sent to prison, I too had acted irresponsibly. I won't be going to prison, but I'm no better than that gentleman paying his "debt to society." Truth is, I'm no better than any man in society. I'm only OK because of God's willingness to make things right with me by sending His son Jesus to the Cross to die for my sin. That's the problem with judging. It always claims to make us better than others but Romans 3:23 reminds us "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Today, I was driving down highway 76, through the middle of Branson, when I came upon a red light. I approached an old pickup truck in the left lane. Both men were a bit "unkept" and the driver was smoking. My first thought was to roll my window up because I didn't want smoke in my car. Then, as I pulled up next to the truck, I was stunned. The passenger in the truck was taking time to read his Bible while they waited at the red light. He even looked like he was reading to the driver (see picture). I'd done it again. I drew an instant conclusion about two people, which was less than loving. Of course, I don't know these men, so I can't give testimony to their lives. But that's not the point. The point is that I'm not to judge. When I saw this man reading his Bible, my heart sunk. I was embarrassed and ashamed. But I prayed for forgiveness and again, confessed my need for God's mercy. Thankfully, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin" (1 John 1:9). So I move on and I learn. It's so easy for us to be judgmental. It's easy for us to critique a person's looks or their background and draw conclusions that are less than loving and always inaccurate. I think it's true that the faults we see in others are the faults we see in ourselves. We're quick to dismiss our own shortcomings while pouncing on those same faults in others. Better to see our brothers and sisters and draw conclusions that are loving and graceful. That's the example that Jesus left for us. None of us need to throw stones. Instead, we need to look for the best in people. Whether they're reading their Bibles or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, September 28, 2012

Taking Steps

"Where there is no vision, the people perish…" -Prov. 29:18 It's the end of September, and time to dust off those New Years' resolutions. With three months left in the year 2012, those goals we set back in January are probably in a drawer somewhere or in the county land fill. But the good news is, it's not too late! It all begins with becoming reacquainted with the goals and taking steps. That's the hard part. Remember, kids imitate what they see much more than what they hear. Let them observe you pursuing goals. Laotzu, a Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 B.C., said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Taking that first step requires initiative and action. We hesitate because I think we intuitively know that if we begin the process, then we're responsible. Even if we are the last person to take the first step, we can still finish the race. We were in Des Moines a few months ago, helping our daughter, Elizabeth and family move in. I went running one morning and passed an old house (picture attached). It looked vacant, but I didn't peek inside to make sure. I couldn't help but notice the front steps. Obviously, they were once sharp and sturdy, but now, they were frail and crumbled. Houses, steps and goals do that when they're not used for a while. That's because when things are left stagnant, they rot. Wine get's better with age, but unmet goals get worse. Jeanie and I are "empty nesters" these days and you can tell it from our pantry and refrigerator. We once had a parade of people marching through our kitchen eating anything edible, but now the traffic has dwindled. So, we encounter moldy grapes in the bottom drawer of the fridge and the occasional stale bread in the drawer. Like that soured carton of milk in the back of the fridge, we throw out our neglected things when they're rotten. They don't smell very good. We prefer fresh and new. The same is true with goals. That's why there are so many diet plans advertised on TV. They all look new and inviting. Sure, they're just like the one we purchased last year, but maybe this one will be different. Like my late boss, Richard Beach, used to say, "All the diet plans are the same- eat less and exercise more. I'm not paying someone to tell me that." In the end, most of us have goals related to our families, our health, our God and our money. Nothing new. But the steps to getting there are what matter. Without the steps, we won't get from point A to point B. When you're setting goals, be sure your sequential steps to reaching the goal follow two guidelines: Steps need to be reachable. When building steps for a building, there are OSHA guidelines that have to be followed to assure that the steps are accessible. Be sure your steps are challenging but realistic. Robert Browning said, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" We should try for the best that we can achieve, not what we can easily have. Steps need be purely motivated. Hitler had huge goals, but his ugly motives led to his downfall. Goals with a pure motive aren’t always reached, but they spread grace along the way. The process is just as important as the end result. Steps genuinely motivated by God are pure. So, take those steps and move forward. You'll feel better about yourself. Don't be intimidated by the steps lying before you. If the steps need some updating, make the repairs. And then you'll accomplish those New Years' resolutions. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bobbie and Blankie

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our affliction" -2Cor. 1:3-4 From the day a baby is born, a parent's number one goal is to protect and provide. Our baby's number one goal is to be protected and provided for. What a great combination! As moms know better than us dads, babies "long for the pure milk…." Most babies don't have to be coerced into loving their security blankets, eating or being cared for by mom and dad. But the "care for" concept gets a bit complicated later on. It is commonly believed, the term security blanket was popularized in the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, who gave such a blanket to his character Linus van Pelt. Linus called it his "security and happiness blanket," in Good Grief, More Peanuts printed in 1956. If a child has not acquired the ability to pronounce complex onsets, it may be a "Banky", a "Woopie" or a "Wink." Our kids called them their "Bobbie" and their "Blankie." In human childhood development, the term transitional object is normally used. It is something, usually a physical object, which takes the place of the mother-child bond. Common examples include dolls, teddy bears or blankets. Donald Woods Winnicott introduced the concepts of transitional objects and transitional experience in reference to a particular developmental sequence. His research showed that most children need a physical object to replace mom and dad. The blanket comes to represent the love and nurturing of mom when she leaves (naptime and bedtime). Research with children on this subject was performed at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee by Richard H. Passman and his associates. Among other findings, they showed that security blankets are appropriately named — they actually do give security to those children attached to them (what a surprise)! Along with other positive benefits, having a security blanket available can help children adapt to new situations, aid in their learning, and adjust to physicians' and clinical psychologists' evaluations. Passman's research also points out that there is nothing abnormal about being attached to them. In the United States, about 60% of children have at least some attachment to a security object. Our goal as parents is to do the best job we can transitioning our kids from dependence on us to independence. But that independence is actually trading dependence on us to a healthy dependence on other things, namely God. God is the ultimate security blanket. I've heard some people say "God is just a crutch- a security blanket. People just depend on him cause they're weak." You know what? Those people are right. But someone who isn't depending on God is depending on something else. Exercise, money, and fame are all "security blankets." As humans we were invented to depend. And our Creator is the only one who can effectively fill the void. But we don't give up easily. According to a 2011 survey by Travelodge, many adults take comfort objects away on business trips to remind them of home. About 35 percent of British adults still sleep with a teddy bear. Blankets are OK, but we need to teach our kids and teenagers that the only thing that brings true security is Jesus Christ. He is the only "Bobbie" that never wears out. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, September 15, 2012


"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" - Gal. 1:10
I'm watching Alabama play Arkansas this afternoon in football. Nick Saban is the coach for Alabama and is the epitome of intensity. A few weeks ago, Alabama was nearly 40 points ahead of their opponent with just seconds left in the game. An Alabama player jumped off sides and Coach Saban scolded him as though he'd lost the game. As someone said, "Coach Saban expects perfection always." That's why his teams do so well- perfection is the goal and mistakes aren't tolerated. A mistake is defined as "an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, or insufficient knowledge." No one likes to make mistakes. We all like to get it right. But ask any politician or, for that matter, any person, and they can describe both minor and major mistakes they've made in life. The anatomy of a mistake: we make a plan, we have an expectation, we count on a particular outcome and something changes. We overlook a set of variables, we forget a step in the process and the mistake is made. It's done. And all the regret and apologies won't fix it. "But everybody makes mistakes." Every time I hear that, I cringe. I understand that that's the truth and I understand that you will occasionally make mistakes, but I tend to live in the fantasy world that I should never be less than perfect. Mistakes and the need for perfection tie into our own needs to be OK. Deep inside, we're all people-pleasers. But God holds the only report card that matters. Because of the cross, if we've accepted Jesus as our Lord, we can all pass with flying colors. Nothing we do increases our "grade" before God. Grace is free. I could fill pages with the reasons why mistakes bother me so much. I'm from a high achieving family, I'm the youngest of 3 very talented brothers, and I expect a lot out of myself. But mostly, I like to please people. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing things correctly. We should all do our best. But motive is important. Why we do our best determines how we rebound when we make mistakes. God pleasers have a resiliency that people pleasers don't possess. People pleasers do their best to be noticed by men. If and when a people pleaser makes a mistake, they won't receive the fickle strokes that come from others. Why? The approval from others is conditional. God pleasers do their best as servants of Christ. They aren't working for the approval of men. If and when mistakes are made, they're okay because they realize that God covers mistakes with grace and forgiveness. Why? Because God's approval is unconditional. So, go ahead and do your best and try not to make mistakes, but realize that when it turns out differently than you expected, it's okay. Whether you jump offsides or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Umbilical Cord

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” -James 1:2-3
In life, it's so easy to misinterpret bad things for good things and good things for bad things. Paul challenges us to, "Consider it all joy when we encounter various trials." But when we're actually in the middle of tragedy or difficulty, it's hard to see the good in the trial. However, so often, difficulties are blessings in disguise. If we're not careful, we can wish for the removal of something only to find that it's something good. My precious daughter, Elizabeth, and her wonderful husband, Mark, are expecting their second daughter in January. Reese is our two-year old granddaughter and she'll be a great big sister. We've been so excited for baby number two. But we had some difficult news last week. Elizabeth went in for an ultrasound and they saw indicators that the baby might have a cleft pallet. Many have received more difficult news, but we were disappointed for the surgeries that would be required. The doctor told Elizabeth that they would do a more detailed ultrasound in a week and that there was a chance it could be negative. We all joined in prayer and resolved that if it was a cleft pallet, the trials of surgeries to come would be part of God's plan. We were reminded that every child is "fearfully and wonderfully made", defects and all. But at the same time, we prayed for a healthy baby. The week went by very slowly (as they always do in these situations), and Elizabeth called later that morning to give us the news. "The baby’s umbilical cord had been hanging in front of her face causing a shadow and that's what they thought was the cleft pallet. The baby is fine." We were all relieved. It's amazing that an umbilical cord, the very pathway used to nurture and provide life for a child in the womb, could be mistaken for a birth defect. God knows how to turn bad things into good things. Just ask Joseph. He was taken through deception and betrayal by his very flesh and blood. He was sold into slavery and thrown into prison. He had every right to be bitter and angry. But instead, he embraced forgiveness and did not "take into account a wrong suffered." He acknowledged that God could take a bad thing and use it for good. Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut, described a time he saw bad used for good. "I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La, and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone... because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was - it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm lookin' down at a big, black ocean, so I flip on my map light, and then suddenly: zap. Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone. And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean. And I, I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this uh, there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship. And it was - it was - it was leading me home. You know? If my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that. So uh, you, uh, never know... what... what events are to transpire to get you home." We need to be careful what we pray. The very thing we ask to be removed might be the very thing that takes us home. Umbilical cords need to stay put but cockpit lights need to go out. God's will is always best in the long run. It's so much better to rest in His will. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, August 31, 2012

Running on Empty

"But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers” He lay down and slept under a juniper tree..." -1 Kings 19:4-5
The older I get, the more I realize how fragile and vulnerable I am. I'm not as strong as I used to be and my memory is, well, fading. It's humbling to admit that I just can't do as much as I used to do. I'm not whining or anything, just being honest. I just get tired quicker. But exhaustion is God's reminder to us that we're limited creatures. Whatever our age, we simply cannot run at breakneck speed and not bear the consequence of the craziness. God intended for us to depend on Him and have pace to our lives. If we choose not to (and most of us do), then our lives bear the consequence of the choice. My Trailblazer SUV has a 21-gallon tank and gets terrible gas mileage (sorry Chevrolet). But it does have 4-wheel drive and will carry a pretty good load. We always take Jeanie's Honda on trips because it gets great gas mileage. But when we helped move Elizabeth and family to Des Moines, we needed the SUV to pull a trailer. It was on the way back from Des Moines to Branson that we ran into a problem. We were driving south on I-35 south of Des Moines and we had about half a tank of gas. But there are a million exits between Des Moines and Kansas City, so we thought "no big deal." The longer we drove and the emptier the tank, the more uptight we became. Then, we finally saw a gas station sign and pulled off to fill our empty tank. As we pulled into the station, we discovered that it was closed! We pulled back on the Interstate and the dreaded red light came on the dash- "low fuel." There were no exits in sight! We prayed, held our breath, turned off the AC and radio (not really) and we hoped we'd see a sign or exit. Minutes seemed like hours and then, as we crested a hill, we saw it- A GAS STATION! We hurried to the station and pulled up next to the pump. Jeanie and I looked at each other and sighed. We'd made it. We'd survived! As you can tell from the attached picture, we made it by the "skin of our teeth" (I've never really understood that word picture). But it didn't have to be that way. We found ourselves in a predicament, but we were running on empty because of two choices we'd made before the journey. We didn't fill up when we had the chance. There was the option, before the journey, to fill up the tank and be ready for the trip. But we didn't exercise the option. Why? We were too busy or we figured we'd be able to make up for it later. But the best way to avoid being empty is to stay filled up when the "fuel" is available. We all need to take breaks as a maintenance tool, not as a survival tool. Take the vacation before the exhaustion sets in. Heed the advice of those around you (especially your spouse). Wipe the sweat off your brow and rest. We'd forgotten the load we were bearing. The Honda would have easily made it to one of the many stations in Kansas City. But we weren't in the Honda. We were bearing a heavier load. Apparently, Elijah forgot that too. He'd just defeated all those prophets of Baal and he was exhausted. He lost his focus and ran for relief away from God. The amount of "gap" should be proportional to the amount of "load." Yes, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" but Christ understands our limitation as humans on this side of heaven. We need to model pace and balance in our lives. And let God initiate when we're to "go" and when we're to "stay" and rest. He is not glorified by our exhaustion. Yes, we're limited creatures, whether we get good mileage or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Africa: Mornings

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness" -Lam. 3:23 One of the most beautiful times in Africa is the morning. For that matter, it's one of the most beautiful times anywhere. Most of us aren’t really into early mornings. I am convinced that my "biorhythm cycle" doesn't operate well as the sun is coming up. I'm not really sure what that means, but I've never been at my best before seven o'clock. But Africa never looks better than when the sun is rising above the horizon of the savanna. What is it about the morning time? What makes the daybreak such an appealing time for enjoying the day? It's new. We all long for the opportunity to start over. In any board game, there is a feeling of relief when it's time to reshuffle the cards and start the game over again. It's a chance to right what we've wronged. It's chance to learn from our mistakes and make the next day better. It's fresh and clean and unchartered. It's God's design to reset his creation and let it all begin anew. It's just another example of God's grace in action. It's quiet. The night before we feel asleep in Brian's house in Botswana, there was music coming from the local hangout spot on the main street. Apparently people all over the world like to dance and "carry on" (as Brian would say). But when we awoke in the morning, we only heard the sound of African bird's chirping and the sounds of the river flowing behind Brian's house. The sound of nothing was beautiful. Quiet and stillness are always powerful. Our lives are so noisy. We need the morning to quiet our souls. It's peaceful. The crazy pace of the day cranks up later, but daybreak is tranquil. Peace is different from quiet. Quiet is on the outside. Peace is on the inside. We're peaceful as we wake from tranquil sleep and start afresh. Our thoughts are fresh and new. The world's noises of the day haven't cranked up yet, so there are few interruptions to the quiet inside. It's inviting. Not being a "morning person," I rationalized that I could communicate better with God later in the day. But too often I'd let the day's pace overrule my quiet time with God. Several years ago, I was challenged by a mentor to get up early and accept God's invitation to be together. In Psalms 5:3, the Psalmist declares, " In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch." There's nothing legalistic about having to spend time with God in the morning, but it has changed the quality of my time with Jesus. Including God in the beginning of my day makes a huge difference in how I approach the schedule ahead of me. I'll never forget the sights and sounds of the African mornings. But mornings are truly beautiful worldwide. They really are a gift from God. Audit your morning time. Is it a frantic mesh of alarms, breakfast, showers and rushing to work or school? Perhaps you could allow 45 more minutes to relax, soak up the quiet and spend time with God. Teach your kids to create gaps in their schedules to rest in the mornings. May we all let the sunrise be a God-given time of rest and peace. Whether it suits our biorhythms or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, August 17, 2012

Africa: The Standard

"…and He will lift up a standard for the nations…" -Isa. 11:12
I don't leave the country very often, but when I do, I am always amazed at the contrast of the cultures. Africa and the United States are so different. It's no wonder this crazy world has a hard time getting along. We all see the world so differently. Values seem to vary by location. But the Bible says that Jesus is the same, "yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8). In a world that's constantly changing, that's a huge comfort. God is our "strong tower that we can run to and be safe" (Proverbs 14:10). He is the only true standard we can build our lives upon. But if we're not careful, we can be deceived. If we're not careful, we can be led away from the truth. At the beginning of our mission trip to Africa, we rented a small vehicle to run back and forth from the church plot where we were working to Brian's house. I went to the rental office over by the airport in Maun to sign the necessary paperwork. Toward the end of our trip, we exchanged the small vehicle for a larger pickup so we could travel into the bush. I went back to the rental office but it was locked. I waited and waited but the door remained locked. I sat on the stairs wondering why I couldn't get inside. Finally, I'd had enough and I began to wander around the area. That's when I discovered my mistake. The stairway to the rental office wasn't the only stairway in the complex. There was a duplicate stairway a few offices down and I was looking for the office at the wrong stairway. Embarrassed, I went back and got Jeanie and we went to the correct office. I apologized to the teller and I signed the papers. I was fooled. I thought I was pursuing the right location, but I was wrong. The right location looked a lot like the wrong one. I hadn't looked close enough. As you can see in the attached picture, we built a "pole barn" next to the church in Maun. The church needed a place to have Sunday school for the kids. We estimated that we nailed about 700 poles around that structure. We wanted to be sure that all the poles were the same height, so we designated a "standard" pole (held in the picture by Joey and Kefilwe, a Botswana student). Every time we cut or drilled holes in a pole, we laid the standard pole next to it. When we finished the project, the last pole we attached was that pole. We even put a star on it because the pole was valuable to us. After all, it assured us that the structure was accurate and even. The difference between the "pole barn" and the search for the rental car office was the standard. We never deviated from the pole and the shed stayed true to its design. I searched for the rental car office in the wrong location and remained lost (until I found the truth). Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Most people are lost because they don't live their lives by a standard. The only true and solid standard is the Lord Jesus Christ. Like that "pole barn," Jesus sets a solid pattern for our lives. Whether we're a parent or teenager in America or Botswana, if Jesus is our standard, we'll be "accurate and even." Let those you love know your standard is Jesus Christ. By focusing on prayer, God's Word and fellowship with other Christians, your "poles" will stay straight and true. And you won't get lost in the wrong stairway. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Learning About His Ways

When Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples . . . He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities —Matthew 11:1 It's that time of year again, when moms and dads are saying "bye" to their kids. It's a very good thing to "release" those we love to "fly on their own." But it's so difficult. This time, I'm going to let one of my heroes, Oswald Chambers, say it much better than I ever could. May the Lord bless his words to you. From "My Utmost For His Highest," Aug 01 2012 He comes where He commands us to leave. If you stayed home when God told you to go because you were so concerned about your own people there, then you actually robbed them of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all the consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach, but as long as you were disobedient, you blocked His way. Watch where you begin to debate with Him and put what you call your duty into competition with His commands. If you say, “I know that He told me to go, but my duty is here,” it simply means that you do not believe that Jesus means what He says. He teaches where He instructs us not to teach. “Master . . . let us make three tabernacles . . .” (Luke 9:33). Are we playing the part of an amateur providence, trying to play God’s role in the lives of others? Are we so noisy in our instruction of other people that God cannot get near them? We must learn to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert. God wants to instruct us regarding His Son, and He wants to turn our times of prayer into mounts of transfiguration. When we become certain that God is going to work in a particular way, He will never work in that way again. He works where He sends us to wait. “. . . tarry . . . until . . .” (Luke 24:49). “Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual fits of emotion to “wait patiently for Him?” (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told. These are some of the facets of His ways that we rarely recognize. May we all be willing to "let go and let God" have those we love the most. When we do that, then they are truly safe and in His care. No matter the circumstances. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, August 3, 2012

Africa: Brian

"How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation" -Isaiah 52:7
Lekgoa (White Man) The White Man came to heed his call, He followed God's command like Paul; God made the choice of where to go, A place to help the people grow. Botswana was the place He chose, If you're wondering where to go, He knows; The White Man went and staked his plot, To share the truths that Jesus taught; But times were hard when droughts would come, When hearts were dry and spirits numb; But the White Man stayed upon His course, Cause his strength came from a higher source; The White Man's strength came from the Lord, He loved the people as the Spirit poured Himself through the man to the lost and lame, As he served and loved and shared The Name; Then a funny thing happened in the midst of drought, When times were lonely and he'd sometimes doubt; Fruit began to grow in spite of the dry Cause Christ brought growth in spite of the sky; So press on Brian in His awesome plan, Keep sharing God's love in that beautiful land, Botswana's richer when the White Man's there, We love you Brian- stay in His care By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Africa: Coming Back

"So when they were sent away, they went back to Antioch…" -Acts 15:30
Pardon my preoccupation with Africa for a while, but we've just returned from a phenomenal trip there and I'm still adjusting, both emotionally and physically. The time in Maun, Botswana was a tremendous time of ministry and friendship for the team of eleven that made the journey and with my brother-in-law, Brian. I know I need to turn the page and be all back in Branson. But I don't want to move on too quickly. I want to be sure I've soaked up and downloaded every last drop of our experience. I want to be sure we all take the lessons learned and make them matter where we live. Mission trips always seem to follow the same pattern: months of preparation that go by slowly, the trip arrives, and then a phenomenal time that flies by. Suddenly, we're sitting back in our offices and wondering if the trip ever really happened. Life just happens too quickly. It seems our circumstances change way ahead of our emotions. I bet Paul went through a bit of the same emotions in his day. As he returned from his missionary journeys, he always came back to his home church at Antioch and shared about what God was doing "out there." Then he was always ready to go back. That's where I am today. I'm really missing Africa. I'm missing Brian. I'm missing the team. I'm missing lots of things. African sunrises. Every morning we woke, grabbed coffee or hot chocolate and went to the back porch of Brian's home in Maun. Twenty yards from his porch flows the Thamalakane River and it is absolutely beautiful. Watching the sun rise over it's banks and listening to the silence was the perfect way to start a day. The people. This trip was less about projects and animals and more about the precious people of Botswana. Forgive my spelling, but Lingani, Kefilwe. Lovemore, Maprince, and so many others were a blessing to meet and become friends. The people of Maun are friendly and respectful. They have a need for Jesus just like the people of America and are eager to share God's truth with their fellow countrymen. Brian. He is such an inspiration to me personally and to the entire mission team. He slowly and methodically pours his heart and soul into the people of Maun. Every day Brian led a Bible study or a small group with the people of the church. He took a few of the team with him to each study and we observed the richness of relationship that he has earned with the people. Thank you Brian for your example to us all. The team. There were eleven of us that made the trip to Botswana. The comradery of the team was amazing. Everyone served selflessly and poured their hearts and soul into the building projects and into the people. It was truly the body at work and it was beautiful to watch. You'll be hearing more about the trip in the blogs to come. More than anything, I want the legacy of the trip to be in how we carry out our lives back here in the States. Brian's great work continues in Africa. May our work be just as intentional wherever we live. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Headed to Africa

"But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord and he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches" - Acts 15:40-41
The idea of "Missions" probably came from the Latin word, in the 1500's, of "a sending abroad." Originally from the Jesuits, the Latin word missionem (nom. missio) meant "act of sending, a dispatching; a release, a setting at liberty; discharge from service, dismissal." Of course, when we think of "Mission trips," most of us think of Paul. All those maps in the back of our Bibles chronicle his journeys through Asia and Europe. Those maps got most of us through the boring sermons of our childhood. And they are a great reminder to us that we need to "go." Jesus commanded us to "go" and make disciples. Sure, for the people across the street, but when He leads us, we're to "go" across the ocean as well. Later this week, we will be "dismissed and released" to go to Africa. We've been planning this trip for months and it's finally here. Sponsored by First Baptist Church in Branson, eleven of us are heading to Botswana, the country right above South Africa. It's about the size of Texas with a total population a little less than Houston, about 2 million. We're going to share the love of Jesus with the people there. We're also going to support Brian Beadle, my brother-in-law, who has been a career missionary to the Botswana people for more than 12 years. I'm predicting one thing for sure: we'll be blessed as much as the people we're going to bless and we'll be loved as much as the people we're going to love. It seems that in those too seldom times when we give of ourselves, we always inherit the blessing. Funny thing is, we know that, but yet we're hesitant to serve. We just have so much we think we need to control around us that there is hardly time to be concerned about someone else. There's a harsh word that describes that cycle pretty well: selfishness. Yikes. Not a pleasant word. But true. One of the most amazing things about Paul and his travels of thousands of miles around the known world was the simple fact that he went. Today, that's no big deal, but back then, the culture didn't travel. I read once that in 1855, the average American never travelled more than 50 miles from their hometown. Of course, the Civil War changed all that. The war sent thousands and thousands of men all over America and we've never looked back. Jesus should provoke the same reaction in us. Why has America "never looked back?" Because Americans found out that there was so much to see and experience in America. Staying put was a poor alternative to "leaving." The spirit of God reminds us that we need to "go," not just geographically, but in our souls. Change is difficult because we're inclined to stay the same. Growth always requires a willingness to go because there's so much to see and experience in our faith. Though we have people staying in our home, we have to leave it behind and "go." In Maun, we're planning on doing construction work on Brian's church, help at the orphanage, and do a Bible school for the children. But we're open to doing whatever the Lord has in mind. It will be several weeks before I post to the blog again, but, in the meantime, we would sure appreciate your prayers. Not just for the Mission trip, but for our hearts to be changed. Then, even when we return, we'll keep "going." By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tribute to Andy

Opie said, “The cage sure looks awful empty don't it, Paw?" Andy replied, "Yes, son, it sure does. But don't the trees seem nice and full."
Andy Griffith passed away this week. Andrew Samuel "Andy" Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, and writer. I won't share the details of his biography, you can read them on the Internet, but it's enough to know that he proved the validity of family- focused entertainment with a message. I've heard several interviews today with people that worked with Andy and they're quick to say, "His shows and writing were indicative of the man." Yes, Andy had phenomenal writers for his shows, but he reviewed all the scripts and added his flavor to every episode. It's a good reminder that who we are and what we stand for comes out in our daily lives. What we are is who we are. I just spoke to Janet, the program director for the NBC affiliate in Springfield, KYTV. I called to thank her and the station for faithfully showing the Andy Griffith Show at 12:30, Monday through Friday, for as long as we've lived here, over 30 years! Like I told her, "The show has been a breath of fresh air for our family. We need this show. Excuse me for saying it this way [I told her] but with all the trash on TV these days, it's nice to expect something clean". She replied, "I agree. I don't want my kids watching some of the programing that is popular today and Joey, you need to know we're under contract for the Andy Griffith Show for at least 2 more years." I said, "In the middle of sometimes difficult days, we need what that show provides: simplicity, humor, family and fun.” Simplicity. Life can be so complicated sometimes. Or at least we make it that way. Mayberry was simple and Andy commented in an interview that he modeled the show after his upbringing in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. We need the reminder that as intense and competitive as we can make life, we all need to stay in Mayberry. Interestingly, when CBS cancelled the show in the late 60's, Andy commented, "The producers felt that people didn't want the country flavor anymore. They wanted shows that are more sophisticated." Boy, were they wrong. How many of those sophisticated shows are still airing today? Simple will never go out of style. Humor. Andy was a master at hiring the right actors and employing the right writers. The writing staff for the show won numerous awards for their talent and episodes. And the humor wasn't "potty humor.” It was clean. We need to laugh not only at great jokes, but also at ourselves. We laugh at Barney because we all are Barney, in one way or another. We do dumb things, we try to cover for them and we're glad, in the end, that our friends still love us. Family. In a world that is struggling with the definition of family, we're reminded by Andy that a father's love for his son Opie, a cousin's love for his cousin, Barney and a nephew's love for his Aunt Bee are all what's most important. Through the ups and downs, Andy reminded us that family is the most important. And finally, fun. Television shows today are filled with graphic violence and reality life situations. Most shows last a season or less. Andy's show worked because he took everyday life and made it funny. Remember, the 60's were difficult days in this country: the Vietnam War, assassinations, race riots, etc. But Andy provided some relief and he still provides it today. Thanks Andy, for providing us with a gift. Thanks for using your God-given talent to provide good, wholesome entertainment for us. May you enjoy the simplicity of Heaven with a loving Creator. The world is definitely empty without you, but doesn't Heaven seem nice and full? By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, July 2, 2012


"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going" -Heb. 11:8
Webster defines moving as "changing from one position to another." Changing positions is never easy. Whether we're driving our cars to the store or running down the track, moving always requires effort. It's simply easier to stay put. Not moving needs little effort while moving requires energy. But when the move is positive, it brings blessing with it. We spent the past week helping move Elizabeth, Mark and Reese to Des Moines, Iowa. We had never been to Iowa and found ourselves very impressed with the people and the atmosphere there. But anyway you slice it, moving is difficult. Change is difficult. Why? Because we like to put our security in where we are. If we're not careful, we can miss out on God's better plan somewhere else. Moving means we leave some things behind. As we packed Elizabeth and family, we filled the largest U-Haul, a flat bed trailer and several vehicles with "stuff." But we didn't pack it all. They decided to give some things away and to trash some things too. They left it behind. They discovered that they didn't need everything they possessed. They needed to leave some things behind. Moving also means we gain things for the future. As we moved them into their new home in Des Moines, we were so excited. Their home is wonderful and nicer than their home in Columbia. They lost some things but gained even more. Moving motivated by God beings new opportunities and blessing. Moving means we say good-bye to friends. When we leave where we've been, separating from those we love is difficult. Dear friends and family that we love and cherish stay put while we move on. Elizabeth, Mark and even Reese had to say bye to friends who were dear to their hearts. The day-to-day dependency we develop on God-given friends is hard to release, but a part of the process. But moving means we make new friends. Nearly every neighbor near Elizabeth's home came by to say, "Welcome to the neighborhood." And they already have a dear family that has adopted them. As they plug into a new church, new friendships will develop. Friends they don't even know yet are waiting to be ushered in under God's perfect timing. Moving means we disconnect. We say bye to all we've grown accustomed to living with. Where we eat, the teams we cheer for, the weather, and the people. So much is different where we're going. The language and the culture are different. Elizabeth and Mark are from the south and there were concerns about moving above the Mason-Dixon line. But moving means we reconnect. While in Des Moines, we found the people were actually very nice. We found MacDonald's and even a Chick-Fil-A. We even heard the "southern" Cicada's chirping at night. It was a lot like home and the people were so, so friendly. Previous friends remain friends forever, as they come to visit when they can. Moving is a challenge but staying put when God says, "go" is worse. We're so proud of Elizabeth, Mark and Reese for following God's plan, even though it's difficult. We already see how the Lord is blessing their move. God always blesses those who yield to His will, whether there's a Chick-Fil-A there or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Village

"A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity" -Prov. 17:17 Someone rather famous wrote a book several years ago describing how “It takes a village to raise a child.” Children grow in all sorts of situations, but the healthiest kids grow up in healthy communities. My family has been fortunate to be a part of a phenomenal neighborhood of friends for most of our lives. It has been such a blessing for us, but more of a blessing for me. It does take a healthy community to raise healthy kids but it also produces healthy parents, and more specifically, healthy dads. Life on this side of heaven will never be easy, but it can always have purpose, and the dad’s of my kid’s friends have been a blessing to me. I have made some poor decisions and stupid choices over the years, but I’m 100% convinced that without these friends, my life would be less than it is today. They have blessed me with their example of parenting. We all watch those around us and compare notes. Envy and jealousy accomplish nothing, but comparison to learn is a different story. I have watched these men my whole life and learned valuable lessons on how to raise both daughters and sons. Their skills as dads has spurred me on to be a better father. They have blessed me with accountability. I have worked and labored in our community for almost 30 years. We know each other well enough to “speak the truth” with each other. We are able to be honest and frank. It’s not always easy, but it’s true. We’ve been able to reduce the “blind spots” in each other. We're not perfect, but better men because of each other. They have blessed me with their example of marriage. Our wives are great friends too and our mixture, through Bible study and time together, has solidified our ties to each other. So much of being good parents begins with being good spouses. When things are healthy with Jeanie and me, it sets the stage for healthy parenting (and grand-parenting) with our kids. They have blessed me with their Christian walk. These men aren't of high integrity and wisdom because they read their horoscope every day. They are true men of God. Not perfect, but doing their best to follow "after God's own heart." I've studied God's Word with these men, prayed with these men, and wept with these men. They have truly been God's instruments to draw me closer to Him. They have blessed me with their smile. During the fun times and the tough times, they have stood beside me with an encouraging word or handshake. Just passing them on the road with a smile has been the reminder to carry on in ways I couldn't muster up by myself. Yep, it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a village to raise a parent as well. We all need community, no matter how independent we think we are. We all need people. No exceptions. So thank you men (a few that are pictured here) for your example on my life. Thanks for letting your "iron" [life] sharpen my iron [life]." Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for speaking the truth to me. Thanks for being my brothers. And thanks for being a part of the village. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beach Lesson #3: Reese

"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have established strength…" -Psa. 8:2 One of the greatest blessings of this beach trip was time with our 2-year-old granddaughter Reese. I know I'm totally biased, but she is absolutely the cutest thing ever. She has a great mommy and daddy, so no wonder she's awesome. We laughed and hugged and took pictures as we soaked in the wonderful experience at the beach with her. We all learned some good lessons from Reeser: 1) Don't settle in until you know the ground is solid. When we hit the beach that first day, Reese was excited for fun in the sun in her cute bathing suit. When we got to the sand, Uncle Eric was carrying her and started to put her down. She put her feet down and then quickly picked them back up. I'm sure the sand felt funny and shaky to her little feet. But the grasp of Eric felt secure and sure. Of course, later, she was running around and loved having her feet buried in the sand. It took time for her to trust the beach. In the meantime, she played it safe. We need to do the same. We move from circumstance to circumstance and too often let go of the grasp of God along the way. When we start to sink, we reach for His grasp, but like Reese, we shouldn't have ever let go. God desires to walk with us always. 2) Depend on others. As a two- year old, Reese is pretty much dependent on those around her for everything. Elizabeth and Mark are such great parents and recognize their role as her caretaker and provider. It's a beautiful thing to watch Elizabeth loving on her child. Reese loves us all, but there is a special link between those two. Her little will is strong, but she submits to those that love her. Putting on sunscreen, changing diapers, putting her under an umbrella, carrying her across the hot sand, giving her water, providing food...the list goes on and on. Reese simply would not survive without those who love her, and she's apparently okay with it all. Truth is, whether two or ninety five, we're all designed to be dependent. We need our loving God and we need people. And that's okay. Pride says to be independent and protected. But humility says to "be like a child" and let others love us. 3) Be picky about what you eat. Reese is so selective about what goes in her mouth. She's a petite little thing and doesn't eat huge helpings of food. We took a picnic to the beach everyday. She just likes certain things and refuses to eat others. Grapes certainly qualify as a good food to eat but she doesn't like eggs. We need to all be careful about what we "eat." A hundred years ago, there were only a few meals available. In the electronic world we live in today, many different "devices" feed us constantly. If we're not careful, we succumb to information that isn't healthy. We need to be picky about what we allow inside our souls. 4) Take a nap. It's not hard to tell when Reese is tired. She rubs her eyes and get's a little irritable. Everyday she had naptime in the afternoon, but usually fought to stay awake. She'd sing songs in her crib or cry, but eventually, silence came from the baby monitor. She rested and woke up ready to go again. We all need to rest. We fight it, resist it and avoid it. But we need it. Not necessarily a nap in the afternoon, but rest in the trust of Jesus. Thanks Reese for teaching us. We sure love you. There is a lot we can learn from the unexpected. Jesus said we're to have the naive, uncalculated, simple faith of a child. That's when we experience the most joy in this life and have the most fun at the beach. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beach Lesson #2: The Lost Wallet

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" -Phil. 3:7 The beach trip was a great time to let go and relax. I'm sure the lack of the "R" word, RESPONSIBILITY, was one of the main reasons. Sure, there's the responsibility to put the sunscreen on correctly and to be sure the umbrellas don't blow away, but the big pressures aren't there. But, wherever we venture on this earth, God meets us there to grow us. He is the loving, constant, sometimes annoying coach that never quits teaching, ever. He knows we're the most complete as we're learning, not tanning. One of the main lessons He taught me on this trip involved my wallet. The underlying theme of most of my trials in this life is control. And I'm sure it's rooted in insecurity. I grew up in a very high achieving family. As the youngest of four boys, I lived with the perceived pressure to keep up. Everyone called me "little Staples" and it seemed I was always trying to be rid of the "little" title. Notice I called it "perceived pressure." Most of our insecurities aren't real. Truth is, no one probably expected me to be anything but Joey Staples, warts and all, but back to the wallet. I had left the condo one afternoon and was headed out to the car to make a grocery run, but I couldn't find my wallet. I went back to the condo and searched, but no wallet. I went to my car and searched, no wallet. Panic began to settle in and I brought the family into the panic. We searched and searched. I just knew I'd put the wallet in the drawer next to the bed, but it wasn't there. I don't know about you, but as each day passes, my memory dims. I remember learning in a Psychophysiology class in graduate school that we have about 100 billion neurons in our brain and that we lose about 9,000 of those neurons every day. Our brain doesn't regenerate cells so it is no wonder we lose our memories. Did you know the life expectancy of the average American in 1900 was 47 years old? One hundred years later, in 2000, the average was 78 years old. We're all living longer and we're inventing diseases that never existed before, like Alzheimer's. I don't know if I'm headed that direction, but I do forget things more often. Perhaps all those years of heading soccer balls did it's damage. But the wallet was lost. It contained cash, credit cards and ID's. I prayed as I searched, "Lord, if you will help me find my wallet, I'll never be mean again." No, I didn't pray that prayer, but pretty close. But He spoke louder to me "Joey, let it go. Yes, you may lose some money but I control it all. Let it go." As you might have guessed, I looked one more time in the drawer next to my bed and there it was. It had slid to the back of the drawer. I was relieved but disappointed in my reaction to the loss. I had once again held on too tightly. And for what seemed the billionth time, I learned to submit to His plan. It was yet another reminder to me to let go and let God. Our kids, our homes, our savings accounts, our health, our jobs are all susceptible to be being squeezed by our controlling hands. God reminds us that He is God and we are not. When we let them go, we release them to a loving and wise God that engineers circumstances for the bigger plan. Sometimes we find the wallet and sometimes we don't. Either way, we trust. Job said as much after he'd lost it all, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." There is such freedom in the hope, whether we find the wallet or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beach Lesson #1: Silence

“Be still and know that I am God" -Psalm 46:10 We absolutely love our trips to the beach. Every year, for over 20 years, we have taken regular trips down to the Alabama-Florida Gulf Coast for vacation. Jeanie and her sister Holly are best friends and our two families spend a week at the beach together. There are many things I love about these trips, but one of my favorites is the silence. You may not have known that the word "vacation" comes from the Latin word vacatio meaning "freedom from something." Of course, if we "vacate" something, it means we leave it or give it up. Unfortunately, in the crazy world we live in today, it's possible to take a vacation but never leave anything behind. We're "dumb" when we take the "smart" phones with us and never really relax. We had dinner with some friends a few weeks ago and one of them said, "Oh, I don't like taking vacations down at the beach. It's too boring just sitting there." Ironic, because my absolute favorite thing to do is to sit on the beach. No cell phone, no appointments, no agenda. Just me and God and the ocean. I need that time so badly. We all need it. My favorite time at the beach is in the morning when it's so quiet and the roar of the waves breaking fills the air. At any given moment, there may be a dozen waves breaking at the same time, but every now and then, all the waves break at the same time then, for a few seconds, the silence is deafening. I think I love the silence because my life is so loud. Like the volume turned high on our TV, we have so many competing sounds in our lives. The pressures of work, the expectations of a family, the voices of the media, and the words of our friends all speak to us. None are bad in themselves, but the combined noise can be deafening and distracting. In the midst of the noise, God, via the Holy Spirit, attempts to speak to us. If we're not careful, His voice can be drowned out by the seemingly more relevant voices. Like the breaking waves, the sounds can be garbled up into a mass of noises that are difficult to separate. No wonder we struggle to hear God's will when we're listening to multiple signals indicating the right way to go. But then it happens. We finally get alone with God- really alone with God and all the waves break at the same time. And the silence begins. And if we listen, we can hear the voice of God reminding us to be still. Not moving, not progressing, not organizing, not getting ahead, not controlling, but simply sitting. On the beach, in the chair, eyes closed, rested and at peace. Just being still. And God speaks volumes. Are we supposed to spend out lives sitting on a beach? Absolutely not. Jesus instructs us to "go." There is important work to be done. But His challenge is to sit on the beach as we go. That's what it means to "be still and know that He's God." So, let's remember to live lives of silence. Let's teach our kids to rest and listen to the silence. Let's let God speak and we'll be more content and at peace if we hear His words of grace. Thank you family and the Hallums for another wonderful time at the beach. And thank you Lord for Your gift of rest. And for speaking so loudly to me this week in the silence. By Eric Joseph Staples © www,

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Trails, Part 2: the Catfish

"And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” -Mark 6:31 Children and adults alike need “gaps” in this life. Gaps are those inexplicable separations between responsibilities. They are the difference between the “have to’s” and the “want to’s.” We need to be able to handle the difficult days. But we need to realize too, that difficult circumstances are more manageable when we’ve cushioned them with gaps. As I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, most of my summers were spent playing in the hundreds of acres of woods north and west of our neighborhood. One of our favorite things to do at the trails was to catch animals and fish. I would leave the house, ride to Joe Paget’s house, and we’d make the 5-minute ride down Ridgemar Boulevard until it reached a dead end. I always loved getting to the end of the street and riding from the asphalt to the dirt trail. It meant we’d left the man-made and entered the God-made. These were the days before today’s hyperactive sports programs. Today, it seems that driven parents are “forcing” their kids to spend more and more time focused on a particular athletic set. No gaps. Back then, as soon as baseball was over, the wide-open summer stood ready to absorb our exploration of the trails. Back then, summer began in May and lasted until after Labor Day. The creek that meandered through the trails usually had water flowing through it. It fed into a larger tributary of the Trinity River that eventually made it’s way through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Many times we’d send boats down the creek, imagining their eventual landing in some Mexican Beach. In truth, the boat probably never made it out of the trails, but our imaginations simply wouldn't accept reality. Gaps are like that. They are rich in creativity but low in productivity. There was a bend in the creek where it widened and became more of a pond than a creek. We had caught many baby catfish in the pond and we were just smart enough to figure out that those babies had to have a mommy. We also deduced that she was probably in the pond, so we decided that we’d find her. These are the kind of projects that never take place when days are spent heavily involved with sports and homework. Athletics and academics are important and needed, but gaps are needed too. Creativity is built around these meaningless gaps, but they have to be intentional. That particular summer in 1970, we spent most days trying to find that catfish. Joe, my best friend, had rigged his bow and arrow with a line so that if we hit the catfish, it couldn’t swim away. One afternoon, in the middle of a Texas drought, the water was so low that we finally spotted the catfish. We were so excited. We cornered her under a tree and Joe fired the arrow. His shot was true and we had us a catfish. We took it to Joe’s house where his mom filed it, fried it, made some hush puppies and we had a feast for lunch. We felt like true pioneers. We had hunted, captured and cooked it and were convinced we could conquer the world. I am so thankful for those summer days. As parents and grandparents, we need to let our kids be kids and experience this world for themselves. Those times at the trails, we were on our own. Our parents never made a trip there with us. My parents were willing to let us go. Audit the gaps for your kids. Audit the gaps in your own life. Our kids model what they see in us. Go for a walk. Watch the Andy Griffith Show. Spend time with God. Work hard, but relax. Allow yourself to go to the other side of the lake. Even if the crowd meets you there, the journey across will be well worth it, catfish and all. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Trails, Part 1: the Backyard Pool

“Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace” -Psa. 144:12
I grew up in the same home where my mother lives in today. It’s in a nice neighborhood in Fort Worth. I make the journey there several times a year to spend time with her and do projects around the house. I love that home and I reflect a lot when I’m there on the great times growing up. Growing up, my mother was always joking about one day having a pool in our backyard. My dad would always say, “There’s a nice pool at the Country Club.” We’d all remind him, “We know, but we have such a great yard for it.” And we did have the perfect backyard for a swimming pool. But the wish never came true. Or did it? When I was in 6th grade. I was really into bugs and animals. We lived near a lot of undeveloped land that we called “the trails.” There were tons of woods and trails for “mini-bikes” (remember those?) and a creek that flowed right through the land. I spent countless hours down at the “trails” with my friends. We built a cool fort there where we kept secret treasures. One day I had a great idea, “Why not start a ‘zoo’ in my backyard?” I remember asking my mom and dad if I could buy a baby pool and put crawdads and stuff in it? They said, “sure,” but I’d have to take care of it. So, my mom drove me to the BX at the base (my dad was retired Air Force) and I (my mom, really) bought a baby pool. I brought the pool to the backyard, filled it with water and rocks and the transplant began. My friends and I used buckets and began to transport all kinds of living things from the creek to my backyard. We brought tadpoles, frogs, minnows, catfish (small ones), plants, and pretty much anything we could catch. I remember later that week I left to go to YMCA camp for 4 days, but my parents said they would “water the pool.” When I came back, most of the fish and tadpoles had died but my experiment was complete. I had proven to the scientific world that the creek creatures could survive for a few days in my backyard! My parents unknowingly showed me their love in several ways. My parents were willing to let me mess up the backyard. I’m sure my dad didn't like the idea of an ugly baby pool with smelly fish in his backyard, but he loved me enough to let me do it. It reminds me of the story about the man who was mildly rebuked by the neighbor for not keeping his yard tidy. His reply, “I know there are toys and bikes all over my yard, but I’m growing kids, not grass.” My parents were willing to let me pursue my dreams. I was in 6th grade and summers were a blast! The world has changed so much since the 70’s. Now, 6th graders are typically so intensely involved with sports that they don't have much time to do meaningless things like build a fort or catch animals. We need to be careful to let our kids just be kids. Everything doesn't have to be super intense. My parents were willing to cover for me. Taking care of a bunch of crawdads might not seem like a big deal, but they tried their best. They even wrote me at camp to let me know how the “pool” was doing. They didn't just let me pursue my dreams, but they supported my dreams as well. Some childhood memories are sad. But what better memories are we leaving for our kids? One of the joys of parenting is providing our kids with memories better than our own. We need to let our kids pursue their dreams, as goofy as they might seem us. We need to be willing to buy baby pools or whatever, and let it be their idea. We must not forget that our most important job is growing kids. Smelly tadpoles or not, there’s nothing more important we can do. By Eric Joseph Staples ©