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,