Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drought Buster

“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit" -Jer. 17:8 One of the things I love most about living in the Ozarks is the seasons. Growing up in Fort Worth, we definitely experienced summer (HOT) but the other seasons were limited by the Texas climate. Though I love Texas, there's not enough foliage to have much of a Fall. We only have a dusting of snow most winters and Spring is rather short. But the seasons bring variety and a beauty that can so easily be missed. This year we've had more snow later in the season that is typical for southern Missouri. I was listening to an agronomist this morning on the radio (someone who works with agriculture) as he explained why snow is better than rain. "Rain runs off and displaces quicker than the ground soil can soak it in," he said. "But snow sits there and as it slowly melts, is absorbed into the soil slowly and methodically. It provides exactly what the ground needs. Droughts are best solved by either slow soaking rains or a melting snow cover." God breaks the droughts in our lives with His slow, absorbing grace- if we let it soak in through trials. Suffering, trials and tests are such a big part of this life. The truth is, Christ did not come to do away with suffering and he didn't come to explain suffering but he did come to fill it with His presence. Suffering is a huge part of life and how I respond to it determines my attitude towards this life. In Mark chapter 8, Jesus taught the disciples that He must suffer and die. This idea of suffering was unthinkable to the disciples. They signed on with Jesus to bring prosperity to their lives. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. Jesus huddled the twelve together and told them if they wanted to come to him they must be stretched, deny themselves, take up their cross and follow. Paul challenged Timothy in 2nd Timothy 2:3 to “suffer hardship with him as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." James, in James 1, said “blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life." He was later martyred under Herod. The examples in scripture go on and on. Stretching, pruning, refining, breaking, risking, emptying. It’s been said that a loving God is more concerned with our heavenly character than our earthly comfort. Our kids, Elizabeth and Eric, are grown now and by God’s grace, they’re awesome. But we made tons of mistakes as parents. God is such a perfect Father that He knows we’re the happiest and most content when we’re depending on Him. So, He produces circumstances in our lives to cause us to depend on Him. Romans 5:3 says, "we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance proven character and proven character hope." Not health, not wealth, not prosperity, but dependence on Christ alone. Not “Godly men, therefore no trials, but great trials, therefore Godly men." Howard Hendrix said, ”God uses much whom He breaks much." God loves to use broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to produce rain, broken grain to produce bread, broken bread to give strength, it’s the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume, it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than before. Can parenting be a breaking time? Oh yes. Difficulty. Struggle. Trial. Is there the option to be angry? Yes. Is there the option to blame? Yes. There always is in any trial or difficulty. But God trumps anyone’s attempt to take control and claim responsibility. It’s why Joseph could say in Genesis 45 and 50, “It was not you who sent me to Egypt, but God. You meant evil, but God meant it for good.” He knew the brothers literally sent him to Egypt, but he submitted to God’s plan. A soft heart credits God, good or bad. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. We either buy in to that or we don’t. So, the next time you or someone you love is going through a drought or a trial, pray for the soaking of God's grace. It will bring a beautiful season of peace. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, March 22, 2013


“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” –Mark 11:26 Someone said, “There is no better freedom than forgiveness.” Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to a vibrant and growing life with Christ. Jesus taught in Mark 11:26 that if we harbor resentment towards a brother or sister, we cannot have a healthy relationship with our loving God. Of course, we are forgiven, once and for all, when we confess our sins and acknowledge Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. But we cannot experience that forgiveness when we do not forgive. I was reading about David this morning and how he repeatedly had the opportunity to rid himself of his greatest problem (by killing Saul) but instead he chose forgiveness. I wasn't thinking so much of David as I was thinking about his men watching him. I wonder how his stance to forgive rubbed off on them? I know our kids watch us like hawks. They mimic and justify their own actions by copying ours. It's a great responsibility being parents. Is it difficult for you to forgive? Do you have trouble in letting the past be past? It can be very difficult. Steve Goodier tells the story about an elderly Virginian woman who lived to see her beloved Richmond occupied by Union troops after the American Civil War. The matron was walking down a Richmond street when she tripped over a step and fell. A Union soldier courteously helped her up. “How very kind of you, young man,” she said acidly. “If there is a cool spot in hell, I hope you get it.”
Maybe it was still a bit early for her to let go of those deep-seated resentments. Angry and bitter lives are never happy lives. A beautiful legend tells of an African tribe that ritualizes forgiveness. When a tribe member acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is taken to the center of the village. All work ceases and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then the tribe bombards the rejected person with affirmations! One at a time, friends and family enumerate all the good the individual has done. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with some detail and accuracy is recounted. All their positive attributes, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. Finally, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the outcast is welcomed back into the tribe. What a beautiful ritual of restoration! They replace hurt with happiness; pain with peace. Once again they are family. The rejected one is restored and the village is made whole again.
 Paul Boese has said, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” As brothers and sisters in our global village, is letting go of those resentments really an option? Pray for a heart that forgives. Don't let the “sun go down” on your anger today. Like Paul said, “put it away.” Maybe you have good reason to be angry (like Joseph, which we’ll discuss another day), but let it go. Practicing forgiveness allows us to experience the forgiveness of Christ- and there is no better freedom. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leaving and Cleaving

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife…"Gen. 2:24 "Leaving" is defined as "removing oneself from association with or participation in." "Cleaving," means to "adhere closely." It's not so difficult to cleave to something, but it sure is difficult to pull away- just ask any mom and dad dropping their kid off at the bus, camp or college. I know the passage above is describing marriage, but the "leaving and cleaving" begins much earlier. A healthy progression of "letting go" of our kids is absolutely crucial to good parenting. Earlier in Genesis, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now, most parents would say, "Wait a minute, my precious little baby has me as his helper- he is not alone." It's true that our God-given role as parents is to raise our precious kids, protect and nurture them. But from day one, our role is to teach our kids to fly on their own. We, as parents, are so good for our kids, but we are not the answer to their loneliness. Parenting is tough business. From the moment we have children, we're walking a tightrope. We're "hands on" protecting and nourishing our kids while "hands off," we're letting them experience life on their own. If we're not secure in our own sense of worth, then we run the danger of living out our lives vicariously through our kids. Not good. Why? Because when we're on the basketball floor with them, then they have to play perfectly; when it's us taking that test with them, then they have to make an A; when it's us choosing a career through them, then they have to choose what we think is best. It's easy to forget that it's our kid's lives to be lived and not our own. Like someone said, "I don't want to look back and have lived out someone's else's purpose for my life- I want to live out God's plan for me." The other day I heard a mom say, "It's been harder to raise my kids now that they're adults." Sure it is, because they're raised. Do they still have a lot of life to learn? Yes, of course. We never stop the learning process. But we need to respond correctly to our kids as they're growing up. Before our kids marry, we need to let them live life on their own. As parenting experts Dr.'s Cline and Fay reinforce, we become consultant parents, always available to support and love our kids, but letting them make their own decisions. It's as much about us taking the initiative to "back off" than it is about them "pulling away." I remember asking my dad questions during college and his standard comeback was "I'm sure you'll make the right decision and I'm here to help you." I wanted to say, "If you really want to help me, then make the decision!" But he knew he wouldn't be around one day (he passed away in 1988) and that I needed to learn to make my own decisions. Even if our kids make poor decisions (which usually just means they're making decisions different from ours), we must let them live and learn and that begins by backing off. After our kids marry, we need to let them live life with their spouses. Hopefully, we've already "left" them to grow up before they're actually joined to their other half. If not, we run the risk of short-circuiting the new relationship by meddling in territory that isn't ours. The "helpers" are suitable for one another and need to be left to help themselves. In-laws that are too involved have compromised many a marriage. Parents need to "leave" and let the couple "cleave." The initial degrees of "cleaving" are directly proportional to the degree the in-laws let go and "leave." We need to show our kids we love them by "leaving" them to "cleave" to God and eventually to their spouses. Simply put, we have to let them grow up. Trust them and let them learn in the process. But, like my dad said, "Always be there for them." By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, March 11, 2013


“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” - Acts 24:16 I love to sail. Well, I used to love to sail. It’s been a while since I’ve hit the water and raised the canvas. But I remember the sound of the silence on the water as the vessel clicks along. I remember the simplicity of the wind and the sail. And I remember the beauty of the challenge of the tacking- the art of trimming the sail to just the right point to max the winds without tipping the boat. I’ve never had a boat of my own, but my kids, Elizabeth and Eric, took care of that a few years ago. For Fathers’ day, they gave me a 20-foot 84 Starwind sailboat! And it’s awesome. Eric had a friend that wanted to get rid of it so they bought it for a song and gave it to me. So, have I been sailing every weekend ever since? Nope. There are a few…well, challenges that will have to be overcome before the boat sails. First, the boat has a hole in the bow. It got hit by a fallen tree and has a foot wide hole in the fiberglass that needs to be patched. Secondly, the boat is missing a main sail and boom. They were never found when we picked up the boat. So, the sailing waits until the repairs are made. Of course, I don't have to wait. I could tow the boat to the lake, ease it into the water and set sail. But the boat would eventually sink and it wouldn’t move without a sail. That would be ridiculous. But isn't that what we do in our walks with the Lord? We take off “sailing” through the day unprepared and poorly equipped and then act shocked and angry when we’re sinking. We cry, “God, why would you allow me to sink? I thought you loved me!” We cry, “Rescue me” to the Lord instead of recognizing our lack of obedience in letting him prepare us to sail in the first place. Too often, we create the very crisis we secretly blame on God. Sailboats are awesome when they are correctly equipped to do the thing for which they were created. Just like any moving thing, the boat requires maintenance and upkeep to stay true to its purpose. The Christian life is just like that. We require maintenance to stay true and honest in our walks with the Lord. Sure, we’re saved once and for all when we come to know Jesus, but as long as we live in the flesh, we require the regular maintenance of forgiveness and fellowship. Just like that sailboat, we’re at our best when we’re patched and possessing the right equipment. Paul said, in so many words, “Keep your heart clean.” And then in Ephesians he reminded us to, “put on the right equipment.” They are choices we make every day. Sure, we need to pray about those decisions, but mostly we need to choose to do the repair work. As parents our kids are watching and imitating the way we live our lives. The way we walk with God sets the pattern for the way our children follow God. It's a huge responsibility. I can't wait to hit the water in my patched and mended sailboat. But I have some repairing to do first. And you know what? I’m looking forward to the work too. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reese and Lucy

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" -Prov. 17:17 Big sisters and big brothers are the best! I have three older brothers and though we're different in many ways, we love each other dearly. We're family. Recently our first granddaughter, Reese, officially became a big sister to Lucy Katherine. Last week, they, along with their mommy (which is always a good thing), came for a weeklong visit to our home in Branson. We had so much fun. It was a blast to watch Reese takes care of her little sister. Siblings are just another way that God provides love and care for his children. And Reese shows her love to Lucy in many wonderful ways. Reese loads Lucy's bed with her best. Several times during the day, Reese brings all of her favorite toys and surrounds Lucy with her greatest treasures. Of course, she could give Lucy all the toy box rejects, but instead, she wants Lucy to have her best. Why? Because she loves her sister and love always pulls out the fine china when loved ones arrive. That's the way brothers and sisters show their love. Reese speaks Lucy's language. When Reese is communicating with Lucy, she speaks in kind of a high cute voice. She obviously is mimicking the way she hears her mommy speak to Lucy, but the soft and gentle voice is not the way Reese usually speaks. She is a very precocious two and a half year old and can be very loud. But she loves her sister and speaks in a respectful way. They say, "blood is thicker than water." I think that means that when someone is family, there is a tighter connection. It's that inexplicable bond that is formed for no other reason than they are our kin. Someone said, "a sister is a friend given by nature." Reese didn't choose Lucy as her sister, but it truly makes no difference. The bond of love is sealed and set. In Norman Maclean's classic "A River Runs through It," he quotes from one of his father's sermons about family: " Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding." May we love our brothers and sisters like Reese loves her sister Lucy. May the simplicity of their relationship, without the obstacles that can come between families, be our guide. Like our loving God loves us, may we "love completely without complete understanding." That's called unconditional love and it's hard to do. But it's the kind of love meant for a family and it's a great blessing. Just ask Reese and Lucy. By Eric Joseph Staples ©