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 ©