Monday, November 17, 2014

Helicopter Living

“Peter…said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘…what is that to you? You follow Me.’ —John 21:21-22 It’s amazing that Jesus had the profound ability to know everything, yet He was limited by His humanity. How those two factors blended into the personality of Jesus, I have no idea. But I do know that in God’s plan, He meant for Jesus to be human, that He might be able to relate to us. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” In His humanity, Jesus chose to submit to the will of His Father. He calls us to do the same- to let go of control and submit to His plan and will for those we love. One of my favorite writers, Oswald Chambers, addressed this issue of submission: “One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.” We become “helicopters” when we hover over our kids, employees, friends or parents and become what Oswald called “amateur providences.” We attempt to control so that people or circumstances will turn out the way we desire. We control so that what they do will look good on our resume. We hover over people and when we see a problem, we quickly land the helicopter and fix the situation to our liking. What’s the motivation for all of this? It’s our old friend PRIDE and when pride rules, it demands results and I can only control the results when I take control. Thankfully, Jesus would have none of that. His life was ruled by HUMILITY. Phillipians 2:6-8 reminds us that Jesus … “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He came to do the will of the Father and left the details in His Father’s hands. We tend to grab the details and determine that a problem for someone we love needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Our motives are right but our hearts are interfering in God’s plan. He knows what’s best. He knows whether pain or relief is necessary. He knows what course is best. He has a better plan. Yes, we’re called to reach out and love, but not control. Our role is to land the helicopter and focus our dependence on Christ. We’re at our best when we let go of control and latch on to His Spirit. Then we’ll be used as God intends… …and have our feet back down on the ground. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” -Gen. 9:16 Jeanie and I walked out of a restaurant a few weeks ago, looked up and a phenomenal rainbow consumed the evening sky. People were pulling out their cell phones and snapping (pressing?) pictures like crazy. It was beautiful and perfect and amazing. A woman in the parking lot commented, “We’ll all have good luck now.” Good luck? The rainbow promises more than luck. It assures us that when we’re at our worst and we turn and run, God will never run the other direction. Rainbows are sweet and pretty and nice, but they are serious business as well. They are God’s created promise that He will stay with us. Rainbows are God’s reminder that He will never break His covenant with us. I read about rainbows tonight. The world of science has always marveled at rainbows. The rainbow is not located at a specific distance, but comes from an optical illusion caused by any water droplets viewed from a certain angle relative to a light source. Thus, a rainbow is not an object and cannot be physically approached. Indeed, it is impossible for an observer to see a rainbow from water droplets at any angle other than the customary one of 42 degrees from the direction opposite the light source. Even if an observer sees another observer who seems "under" or "at the end of" a rainbow, the second observer will see a different rainbow—farther off—at the same angle as seen by the first observer. Amazing. When sunlight encounters a raindrop, part is reflected but part enters, being refracted at the surface of the raindrop. When this light hits the back of the drop, some of it is reflected off the back. When the internally reflected light reaches the surface again, once more some is internally reflected and some is refracted as it exits the drop. This forms the rainbow. Lot’s of detail, I know. But God is a God of detail. Just read the Old Testament description of the building of the temple, for instance. Second Chronicles lists all of Solomon’s intricate details regarding his building of God’s house. He set up ten basins, ten golden lampstands, bronze altars, etc. The list goes on and on. We tend to fast forward through all the specifics. But there’s a point to it all. God knows what He’s doing. He is a perfect, detailed God. He is a God of design and order. He does everything perfectly. He does everything exactly right. He does everything in intricate detail. He is the definition of exact. When He created the earth and animals, he had it all set up without blemish. Scripture tells us in Genesis, “He saw it all as good.” But one thing was missing: man. So God invented man and God’s “perfection” has been tested ever since. As sin entered the picture, Man rebelled. God had enough and wiped the slate of His creation clean but left the legacy to Noah to start again. He didn’t have to do that. He could have cancelled His “experiment” here on planet earth and moved on to Pluto or Mars. But His grace prevailed. God was and is perfect, but He is also graceful. Perfection plus grace always equals love. So God acted. He first set up the system of sacrifice, that man might be able to earn his place with God. But ultimately He set up the better system of grace. He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for that sin so, by His grace, man might have everlasting life with Him. I would imagine that if someone had looked up on that terrible yet beautiful day of crucifixion, he might have seen a rainbow off in the distance. It would have been God’s reminder that He would not abandon His people. It’s why He sacrificed His Son Jesus. May we all remind each other of His grace and love. May we all be reminded whenever we see a rainbow, that God has made His ultimate move of grace. The next move is the responsibility of every man to confess his sin and yield to the love of God. Don’t get lost in the storm of life… …but, instead, get caught up in the rainbow. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Faithful Wounds

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” - Prov. 27:6 “A good friend is someone who is willing to stab you in the front.” Yikes! That sounds painful. But a true brother or sister is willing to speak the truth to us and loves us enough to tell us what we don’t want to hear. Those kinds of friends are rare. One of those friends to me is Donny Mason. We met at a Young Life camp back in high school. We roomed together in college, were in each other’s weddings and our two oldest kids, Elizabeth and Mark, ended up marrying each other! Crazy! Donny and I have been through so many seasons together- up’s and down’s-and trust each other enough to be truthful and honest. I am simply a better person because of Donny and I love him dearly. This past weekend we drove to Amarillo to spend time with Donny and his wonderful wife Lisa. They are going through some trials in this season of their lives and there’s nothing like being with grandkids to bring encouragement. So, we loaded up Elizabeth, and the grandkids, Reese and Lucy, and made the haul to West Texas. Mark, wasn’t able to pull away from work. Of course, the drive to and from Branson included watching everyone’s favorite movie, Frozen. We have watched the DVD ten thousand times I think, but I always enjoy it. Reese and Lucy simply cannot get enough of Anna and Olaf. I can’t either. Olaf is my favorite character. He is the simplistic, almost neurotic optimist snowman that loves a season he’s never experienced, summer. As he sings his song “Summer,” he’s dwelling on how wonderful this season is that would most certainly end his existence. He doesn’t understand the implications. He doesn’t understand because no one has ever explained it to him. People don’t want to hurt him. People don’t want to embarrass him. After all, he’s so excited about it. When Christof attempts to explain it to Olaf, Anna exclaims, “Don’t you dare!” In the car, I said to the DVD player, “Tell him.” He needed to hear the truth. He deserved the truth. We all need to hear the truth. We all are blind to so many things in our lives. We need friends who are willing to tell us what we don’t want to hear. We need true friends who are willing to wound our spirits to reveal the truth about situations that harm us. After all, wounds heal. We are all blind people. None of us see it all correctly. We think we do, but we don’t. God created us to need each other. God usually chooses to extend His own hand of love through brothers and sisters in our lives, if we’ll let Him. Be a true friend to others and “speak the truth” in love. Allow others to speak the truth to you as well. You probably won’t like it- who likes to be wounded? But we are set free by the truth. Jeanie and I have this “deal” with Elizabeth that any time she sees something in our house that looks outdated are old (yes, we’re getting old!) she’s to be honest and tell us. We don’t want a house with “weird” items still sitting on the counter that have been there forever. Why couldn’t we just do the same? Because we live there. We’re desensitized to so many things. That’s true in our lives as well. We leave on the ugly wallpaper of our lives. We just don’t notice it anymore. We need a voice to say, “Uh, it’s time to remove that old wallpaper and paint the living room!” This morning I was hurrying out the door for a run and Jeanie stopped me, “Don’t you have an 8:00 appointment?” “Yes,” I said. “You may not have time for a run,” she said. She was right. Normally, I would have been a bit defensive. But I looked at the clock and chilled. I spent time with the Lord and had a good breakfast and relaxed, I made it to the office in plenty of time. I needed to hear her wisdom. I get going so fast sometimes, that I’m my own worst friend giving poor advice. We all need to heed the advice of those special people God has surrounded us with to keep us going. I am so thankful for Donny and the life-long friendship I have with him. Our friendship is solid because we are honest and real. Let the Olaf’s in your life know the truth. Be honest. Share your heart in love. Be willing to let others share with you as well. It might just help produce a solid life… …instead of one that’s melting away. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, September 28, 2014


“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” -Gal. 5:1 I do not know Lo Lo Jones. But I do know she is a world-class track athlete who was an All-American hurdler at LSU and an Olympic runner. I had read she was a Christian and heard that she would be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. Usually, Jeanie watches the “dancing show” upstairs while I watch Ice Truckers or some other nonsense downstairs. As with any competitor, Lo Lo has had her victories and defeats. But when she was voted off the show the first night, I’d heard she was visibly upset. Bottom line: losing, at anything, is hard. If who I am depends on how I perform, then I’m left to have to earn my significance. But Lo Lo made it right. She posted the comments below on her blog the next day: “My prayer tonight is for God to soften me and my heart. When you go so many times rejected in public you put walls up. When I was dancing last night and messed up I had flashbacks of the three Olympics and that people constantly tease me about. I thought oh no here it comes again. People are going to ridicule me. I'm so tired of feeling embarrassed. I joined the other competitors upstairs and I couldn't force a smile on my face. I felt like vomiting and in between the other dances I went in a back room and fought back tears. I felt so broken. So unlovable. Embarrassed. My brief time on #DWTS was a lasting lesson. I really wanted to stay on the show and have the layers of hurt wash away by showing the public how hard I work. I wanted to come away a victor for once. I wanted to do so good performing in public that the haters would stop teasing me. But that is my way of thinking. Not God’s. Instead I need to trust God that he would heal my heart. That I would not work so hard for the world to validate and redeem me but know that God already conquered that for me on the cross. My time was brief but the lesson is lasting. Thank you everyone who wrote me kind messages. You were helping me not fall into darkness. Love ya guys (see I'm getting softer) My prayer for tonight is Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Wow! To me, Lo Lo Jones is more than a winner. Many wear the medals around their necks like a ball and chain. The weight of the pressure to have to succeed can ruin the joy of victory. It is amazing to me that Lo Lo sees herself as a rejected! I bet she has a house full of trophies and medals. But to her, they must not be enough. It’s s bit like the anorexic who sees themselves as overweight when in reality they are dangerously thin. The reality for a Christian is grace: unmerited (unearned) favor from the God of the Universe, period. It’s just hard for us to fathom, but it’s true. When we grasp the reality of His grace without having to earn it and then go to work, we work in freedom and joy. If we win, great and if we lose, that’s okay too. Either way, we’re a winner. That’s what Lo Lo learned and what we all need to grasp as we begin each day. Especially parents, in our sports crazed world, need to teach this freedom to their kids. We need to work, compete, and live in His peace and grace… ...whether we’re still dancing or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, September 1, 2014

Growing Old

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” -Prov. 16:31 Someone said to me the other day, “I’m not sure how I’ll handle it if I ever get old.” Surely he meant WHEN he get’s old. One thing is for sure- if we’re fortunate enough to wake to another day, we just got older. We are ALL growing older every day. It’s important that we teach our kids and grandkids how to age with dignity and respect. We teach the best (or worst) by being who we are, not by what we say. How we live out our days with grace and treat our elders makes all the difference. I read some amazing news about Daniel the other day. Perhaps when you think of Daniel, you think of a young man. But the Book of Daniel covers at least seventy years in the life of this amazing prophet. According to the best estimates, Daniel was 76 years old in chapter 4; 86 years old in chapter 5; and an energetic 93 years old in chapter 6! No matter his age, Daniel’s faith shines brightly, whether interpreting a king’s dream, reading the “handwriting on the wall,” or taking a stand for his God. Did you know at 90 years old, Chagall became the first living artist to be exhibited at the Louvre museum; Pablo Picasso was still producing drawings and engravings; Chemist Paul Walden was still giving chemistry lectures; and American composer Elliot Carter wrote his first opera (at 90) and he published more than 40 works between ages 90 and 100. Perhaps you have heard it calculated that John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and traveled 225,000 miles (his horse had never heard of kilometers). Did you realize these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 36 to 88? I was impressed; until reading George Muller’s figures. He is said to have traveled 200,000 miles, using his linguistic ability to preach in several languages to an estimated three million people. Now admittedly, Muller traveled extensively overseas. But here’s the best part: Muller’s statistics only began after his seventieth birthday and continued for the next 17 years. Yes, age is all relative. Eighteen is old to a ten year old; when we turn 21, 30 seems ancient; when we turn 30…and so on. We need to embrace our age. Around 400 B.C., Plato wrote, "He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden." I think what he meant was there isn’t a temperament that awaits us in old age. We are simply who we are today. And the way we are today is mostly the way we’ll be tomorrow. A Godly life resting in the hands of Jesus isn’t an easy life, but a secure life. And it’s that very security that leads to the peace we all desire. No health insurance coverage, 401 K plan or retirement village can provide that security. Don’t let the commercials convince you otherwise. What was true when we were ten is still true when we’re 100- a life hidden with Christ brings peace. God is not finished with us yet. Let Him have his way. Corrie Ten Boom said, "The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation." What donation will we make today? Perhaps it’s a call of encouragement to a family member, maybe it’s a heartfelt prayer for a missionary overseas, or it’s a visit to an ailing friend. No matter your age, make this day count. Let this “growing old” day be a day that matters. Let us be respectful to our elders, embrace life today… ...and maybe write a few operas. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Help for the Hurting

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” -Matt. 7:21 As you have no doubt heard, Robin Williams died yesterday. I know a lot of people die everyday, but we wake up and notice when a famous person or someone close to us passes away. We all struggle to make sense of the fact that he died by killing himself. Unfortunately, thousands of people are dying in Africa as well, but that doesn’t hit us quite so hard. It seems when it’s close to home, we wake up to the reality of death. People comment about “raising the awareness of mental illness.” Apparently, Williams’ struggled with Bi-polar disorder. There is always an outcry when the illness affects us. But it’s not about being aware. Most people are clearly aware that people have mental struggles. This side of heaven, we all are “damaged goods.” The real question is what are we doing to help those with debilitating mental illness? Being aware of a problem is worthless- helping someone with their problem is priceless. People comment about Williams going to hell. I firmly believe that there is a heaven and hell. We will all live for eternity either in the presence of God or separate from God. We are brought into the presence of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is available only because of His death on the cross as a bridge between sinful man and perfect God. But we are never instructed to judge anyone. That is God’s business. We simply do not know. Salvation is a decision of the heart that no one sees. We use the “I don’t see any fruit” device, but again, we don’t know. When I was a teenager at a youth summer camp, we received word that a classmate of ours had died back in Fort Worth in a motorcycle accident. We all grieved his loss because he was a “partier who probably didn’t go to heaven.” Our leader rebuked us. “We have no right to judge,” he said. “Respect his loss,” he instructed us. I’m convinced we’ll all be surprised at the finish line of life. People we thought were “lost” will be winners and people we thought were “spiritual” will be left behind. The point is, we should focus on ourselves, our obedience to share our faith, and our responsibility to love those around us. Jesus said as much in Matthew. Check out the verse at the top. The judging is up to God- not us. Our call is to care, bear and share the truth of God’s love. People comment about how someone so funny could kill himself. People commit suicide more often than we would like to admit. Thousands die everyday. It’s the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Most have been severely depressed. Most are stuffers. Why? Because we like to hide our struggles. We cover up any deficiencies and flaws because pride wants to rule our hearts. Behind too many shaky smiles is a hurting heart. And hurting hearts can only be helped by being open, vulnerable and trusting. Hurting hearts are only truly healed by the touch of a loving God though loving friends. Robin Williams died, never to return. But many are still alive. Let them be our focus. We are all aware of mental illness- now let’s step out of our comfort zone and help someone through his or her struggle. Give them a ride, take them to lunch, be there to listen. Reach out in love. Let’s not be shy about sharing our faith. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. Exclusive, yes, but wide open to everyone. May we all be willing to be used. May we all be open to loving the hurting in this world. And may we all be open to being loved by others. Robin Williams played the therapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He commented to his client, Will, one day, “You don’t know about real loss because it only occurs when you’ve loved someone more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.” Robin Williams is gone. But if you’re reading this, you’re still here, for now anyway. As Jesus did, dare to love others more than yourself… …and then you’ll truly live. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Trip, part 5: the End

“This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it- Psa. 118:24 After our wonderful trip to Washington D.C., we turned north to Pennsylvania to our last major stop, Gettysburg. It was amazing. As we drove north, we realized that our trip was coming to an end. After weeks and months of planning and expectations, only a few days remained. But that’s the story of trips and life. If we’re not careful, we spend all our time planning for tomorrow and little time focused on today. Yet today is all that matters- tomorrow may never come. I’m reminded of an outstanding article by Oswald Chambers: “We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end. What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God. God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end. God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.” Wow! Oswald always seems to get it so right. What a wonderful week of travel and as we focused on each stop along the way, we had a great time. Every stop was our first visit to that site. The excitement of each unique spot grabbed us for the day. Andy Griffith’s hometown, the places where the Civil war began and ended, the White House, and more consumed us. These were once-in-a-lifetime visits and we weren’t about to miss the moments. But what about places we’ve been before. What about our families, our hometowns, our workplace? When we’ve “been there and done that,” we can easily look too far down the road and lean on tomorrow. These crucial areas need all of us today. Yes, the trip was awesome. We’re back home now and we smile when we think back on the journey and our future trips together. But mostly we’re excited about today… …and all the God has in store. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gracefully Speeding

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” -Eph. 2:8 First Baptist Church in Branson, the wonderful church where I serve, is in the same neighborhood as the Catholic Church. I love the church next door for one reason: it’s bells. The have an amazing tower where the bells chime hymns throughout the day. My favorite is “Amazing Grace.” As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this, Amazing Grace is playing across the parking lot. It always moves me. Every time I hear it, it stirs my soul. Grace is like that. Any time we’re given something we don’t deserve, it settles our soul. Twenty years ago, we were driving to Fort Worth to visit my mom and were making our way through Ft. Smith Arkansas on Interstate 40. The kids were young and playing in the back of our mini-van and I was cruising along at the posted speed limit, 70 miles an hour. As we neared the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line, a highway patrolman pulled me over. “I need to see your license please sir,” the patrolman said. As I handed it to him, I commented, “I really think I was going the posted speed limit sir.” “No sir, I clocked you at 72 miles an hour”, he responded. I had just noticed the “speed limit 70 miles an hour” sign and at the bottom of the sign it read, “strictly enforced.” Wow. I had no “come back” for the officer. He was 100% correct. I wasn’t speeding by much, but I was speeding. He walked back from his patrol car and said, “I’m giving you a warning today, but slow it down and have a great day.” “Yes sir”, I responded and drove away. I was relieved and frustrated at the same time, but he was right. I was speeding. A few weeks ago, we were in Fort Worth headed to our favorite Mexican food restaurant, Joe T. Garcia’s. I was talking with my brother in the front seat and the ladies were in the back of the car. I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see a patrol car behind me. “He’ll probably pass,” I thought. But he turned on his lights and I pulled over. “You were going 48 in a 35” he said. I couldn’t believe it, but radars don’t lie. “I had no idea,” I said. He ask for my driver’s license and went back to his car. I was hoping for a warning, but he was in the patrol car for over 5 minutes before he returned. I knew I would be paying a huge fine. “Today is your lucky day,” he said. “My ticket writer isn’t working, so I’m giving you a warning.” He drove away and I sat there in shock. Twenty-five years ago, we received a letter in the mail from our bank here in Branson. As we read it tears came to our eyes. Our car note had been paid in full and they thanked us for doing business with them. We thought one of our parents or a friend had paid it for us. We were overwhelmed with gratitude until the call came from the bank the next day. “We made a mistake,” the vice president explained.” “That letter went to the wrong person and we apologize.” We were stunned and disappointed but understood. The common theme in all three stories? Grace. I got what I didn’t deserve. In both speeding stories, I deserved to pay a big fat fine. Sure, I was barely speeding in the first story and really speeding in the second story, but in both situations I was guilty. In story three, I received a gift, but only for a day. Then I was brought back to the reality of my debt. God’s gift of grace trumps any speeding ticket or paid off loan. God offers us His love, period. It’s a free gift. Grace is super complicated in it’s origin but is meant to be super simple in it’s application. We simply accept it. We simply walk in His love. God, through Jesus, tells us we are free. Jesus says to put our faith in Him, accept his free gift of grace, let him love us, then drive away in peace. We should try not to speed because living without boundaries is dangerous, but we need to enjoy the ride as well. Is grace a bit enabling? Yes. Is grace a bit naive? Yes. Is grace real? Yes. Try it on this week. Wear it around for a while. Let it fit who you are. And enjoy the ride… …as it settles your soul. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Trip, part 4: Washington D.C.

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…"-Psalm 33:12 As we neared Washington D.C. we all felt the adrenaline rush. We had been visiting Virginia battlefields and landmarks for several days where the Confederates had won most of the battles. At our last stop, Manassas, Lee troop’s won the field and seemed poised to march on Washington, but of course, that all changed. Thankfully, in God’s providence, the United States prevailed. But we tend to take the liberty for granted. We need to remind ourselves and our children that freedom isn’t free- it came and comes with a price. And Washington D.C. is a memorial to that cost. As we crossed the Potomac River, we looked up to see the D.C. skyline and eventually the silhouette of the Capital building. We made our way to the Residence Inn across from the Pentagon, where we would spend the next two days. We paused in front of the hotel and stared at the Pentagon. We tried to imagine the scene, thirteen years ago, when the terrorists flew an airplane straight into the Pentagon. The country persevered the 9-11 attacks and the nation moved on. We are a country that seems to thrive on adversity. We are at our best when we are dealt the worst. The next morning, we boarded the “Metro” (subway) and made our way to Arlington National Cemetery. We had been to the huge Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, but as we walked through Arlington, we realized the size and enormity of it all. We were truly on hallowed ground and we were in awe as we toured the vast rolling hills. Kennedy’s gravesite was particularly moving. We travelled on to the Capital area where we took a guided tour of the Capital building. The power in the air was as thick as the marble staircases and decorated ceilings. We were reminded that the White House and Capitol are ours, the property of the people. We are the government. As much as we feel separate from it all, we are a government of the people and by the people. We walked to the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the World War Two Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial. They were all reminders that so many have given so much so that we might be able to walk in freedom. Nearly every carved inscription on every monument mentioned our everlasting and eternal God. Before we left, we went back to Arlington to watch the changing of the guard to honor the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We crowded around the site and stood silent as the soldiers went through their solemn routine. It was another reminder of those who have anonymously given the ultimate price for our freedom. As we waited to board the bus, a funeral motorcade passed us. We all stood at attention with our hands on our hearts in honor of the grieving family. The widow mouthed “thank you” as the limo passed by. It was a sacred moment. The next morning, as we left Washington, we departed appreciating the privilege of being citizens of the United States. We have our problems for sure. But the scope and message of Washington reminds us that liberty is not easily broken. As a country, we might bend and sway, but our foundation of freedom is sure. As Lincoln said, “This nation, under God, will experience a new birth of freedom.” Our prayer is that even with all our diversity, we would remain under God. Thousands of years of world history reminds us that the health of any nation is contingent upon allegiance to its Creator. We are truly at our best when we’re dealt the worst. We’re at our best because a loving God watches over us… …and may He shed His grace on us forever. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The World Cup

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” -1 Cor. 9:24 For most Americans, the World Cup ended last week. After all, we lost. But it’s not really over. The field has narrowed down to four teams all vying for the title as the best team in the world. But for most of us living in the U.S., when our National team loses, we move on. We simply will not tolerate a “loser.” And it’s that definition of loser that could use an overhaul. When the World Cup takes place, it exposes us Americans and our interesting perspective on competing. Our diligence keeps the country strong but can keep the people discontent. Let’s teach our families to enjoy the journey as well as the final score. It takes four years for more than 250 national teams to narrow down to 64 teams that qualify for the “finals” of the World Cup tournament. Four years!!! What we call the Super Bowl and the World Series are small when compared to the entire world involved in the World Cup. For most of the world, soccer is the most popular if not the only significant sport available to their people. It is easily the most popular game in the world, but not in the United States. There are several reasons why. We like action. Americans like lots of points. We prefer a high scoring NBA game where each team nets 100 plus points. Soccer is referred to as “the beautiful game” because of the art displayed in ball control. For most soccer “purists,” the score is secondary to the strategy. Good soccer requires patience. The build up to a strong offense is similar to a game of chess. Early moves lead to counter moves and finally an attempt at scoring. Of course, the irony is that the average NFL game has a total of 11 minutes actual action; a baseball game an average of 14 minutes but soccer games have 90 plus minutes of action with no timeouts. Soccer teaches us that good decisions take time. Soccer teaches us to slow down and enjoy the journey. We like to keep score. A friend of mine from Africa was a professor at the local college. When he came to the States, he organized a soccer club for the students. He told me he was surprised to hear the students’ preoccupation with the score of the game. “Let’s just play,” he would tell them. We are obsessed with comparison. Attend any T-ball game for little kids and you’ll see what I mean. There is no scoring in T-ball. The kids hit off a “tee” and it’s simply a game of fun. But invariably there is a helicopter parent in the stands marking down the score of the game. We keep score because we judge how we’re doing by how well the person next to us is doing. Soccer teaches us to measure the quality of the game by how it’s played, not by the score. We like to win. Soccer games end in ties. If it’s a championship, there is extra time or penalty kicks to determine which team advances. But for most soccer matches, the game is recorded as a tie if the two teams play to a draw. Americans want a winner. Some games are truly a draw. Both teams play a level game. But we simply have to have a winner. Someone said that a tie is like “kissing your sister.” I’m not really sure what that means, but sometimes a tie is warranted. Soccer teaches us to redefine winning. It is more than the score on a scoreboard. Winning is doing the best that we can while using our talent to the max. We are obsessed with all sports. In America, we have so many major leagues. Between the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and NASCAR, there is hardly room for soccer. The best athletes in the United States are spread out into many sports while in most countries the best athletes only play soccer. It amazing that we field teams that compete at such a high level. So, in a week the World Cup will be truly be over. I’m still predicting that the host country, Brazil, will win it all. I do hope you watch the final game in a few days. Sit back, relax, and appreciate the game itself, not the score. Teach your kids and grandkids to embrace the journey as well as the final destination. Don’t miss the “beautiful game” as you’re waiting on the final score. God has numbered all of our days. Each day is a wonderful gift to enjoy. Please don’t miss this beautiful life… …as time winds down for us all. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Trip, part 3: the War

“…a time for war, and a time for peace” –Eccl. 3:8 As we left Mayberry whistling the “Fishing Hole” song, our tune changed to “Dixie” as we ventured into Virginia. The second phase of the trip would be a focus on the amazing struggle that took place in our country over 150 years ago, the American Civil War. No state suffered more than Virginia. There were more crucial battles fought there than any other state in the Union. Winston Churchill commented in his famous book about the history of mankind, “Thus ended the great American Civil War, which must upon the whole be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was record.” Maybe it wasn’t avoidable and maybe it was noble, but I think one word describes the war best: terrible. Those of you who know me know I’m a history fanatic. History was ingrained in the four Staples boys at an early age. On the many trips we took from Texas to Georgia, where my parents were born, we stopped at a lot of battle sites. Most significant was the Battle in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was the half way point on our trip and we always spent the night at the Holiday Inn in town. We visited the Vicksburg Military Park, the memorial to the twenty thousand Americans, north and south, who gave their lives for our country. It seemed new every time we visited. I would have studied toward a history degree at Baylor, if the Lord had so led. Instead, I took as many elective hours in history as I could. I loved it, especially a course on the civil war. For my freshman English course, I wrote my huge compositional paper about “Texas in the Confederacy.” I made a good grade and loved the research, but my professor commented, “You might have written about a famous English author, like everyone else.” Baylor just happens to have the largest collection of Texas history documents in the world. I wasn’t about to pass that up and this paper was a good excuse to delve into the research! So, we set off to conquer Virginia. We visited Appomattox, the court house where Lee surrendered the largest army in the Confederacy to U.S. Grant; we spent time in Richmond, the Confederate Capital, touring the White House of the Confederacy and the Museum of the Confederacy; we toured the battlefield at Fredericksburg and stood on the famous “sunken road,” and we walked the battlefield of Manassas, the first major battle of the war. We saw sites and places I had only seen in pictures. We stood where soldiers had died: fathers, husbands, sons that had given their lives for our country. But, the experience that touched us the most was the most unlikely. We were on our way north to Manassas when we came upon a simple sign that read “Stonewall Jackson’s Shrine.” We’d been passing a lot of historical signs, but this one tugged us to pull off and explore. We made the short drive to the site where Stonewall Jackson had died from the wounds he received at the battle of Chancellorsville. The site wasn’t anything special but the tour guide who explained the story brought it to life. Jackson died as his wife and newborn son lay at his side. Right before he died he said, "It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday." He was a Christian and rejoiced in life with Christ. As we heard the park ranger tell the story, it all became real. All the statistics and battle plans we had seen boiled down to a family suffering through death. We were touched. And we were disgusted with war. Perhaps the war was chivalrous and noble and gallant. But the war was horrible, and sad and terrible as well. People died. People were maimed and scarred physically and emotionally. Our nation survived and we are now truly united. The late historian Shelby Foote noted that before the Civil War, Americans used to say, "The United States are...," and after the War, the phrase transmogrified to "The United States is...". A terrible price was paid but here we are, walking in freedom. We turned north again to Washington D.C. where we would spend the next three days. There we would visit most of the landmarks of our “nation’s cap-i-tall” (as Forrest Gump would say). We quit whistling Dixie… …and started whistling Yankee Doodle. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Dad's Legacy

"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” –Joel 1:3 I sure do miss my Dad today. He would have been ninety-five years old on this Father’s day. He died in 1988 but he never passed away. He will never pass away. He will always live in my heart, the hearts of my brothers, in the hearts of my kids and in the hearts of their kids. He legacy will go on and on. A legacy of faith. As was true of most of the early Staples’ family, he loved God and was dedicated to the Methodist church. The Methodist church in Roopville, Georgia still stands today. I have copies of his Sunday school notes that he used as he taught class for many, many years. He was far from perfect, but his faith grew more and more as he grew older. His faith mattered and he passed it on. A legacy of integrity. Honesty mattered to my dad. He put coins in the parking meters and he paid all of his taxes. “I have no problem paying taxes,” he would say, “It’s just what every man should do.” Having a good name made a difference to him and he elevated honesty and truth as he dealt with people. He was the same man in private as he was in public. As his son, I saw him lose patience and get angry frequently, but he knew how to say “I’m sorry” and I watched him settle differences quite often. A legacy of simplicity. My dad was absolutely at his best with those who had the least. He could mingle with the “high-falutin” physicians, but enjoyed the blue-collared folks the most. My dad kept things uncomplicated. His favorite ice cream was Blue Bell Vanilla. Boring maybe, but it was all he needed. He never forgot his simple Georgia roots. Though, as a physician, he had the choice to be proud, he preferred not to elevate himself above others. He was humble. As a goofy teenager, I was often embarrassed by his faded jeans and suspenders. I sometimes wanted a “cool” dad. But I came to realize that my dad was more than cool: he was awesome. A legacy of hard work. My dad didn’t mind breaking a sweat while doing a long project. After he retired, I remember trying to keep up with him as he tended to his garden in the back yard. He could work me into the ground. I remember appealing to my dad one Sunday afternoon. I was a freshman in high school and after watching football on TV, I had run out of time to mow the yard. It was 5:00pm and I needed to be at a Young Life event at 5:30. “Dad, I won’t have time to cut the grass. I’ll do it later in the week,” I said. “Well, you should have done it earlier today. I guess you’ll have to miss youth group,” he said. “I can mow it later this week,” I appealed. “Nope, it needs to be today,” he replied. I wasn’t happy about it. After all, I was going to youth group- the Christian thing to do. But he wouldn’t budge. I mowed the yard and learned that keeping a promise trumped any Bible study. My dad was an awesome man. I only hope to imitate a little of his character and life. He loved my mother, Mildred, so, so much. And he loved and nurtured his four sons with everything he possessed. I am honored to have had Pelham Porter Staples Jr. as my father and I will always be thankful that I had thirty-one years with him. I too am thankful for his legacy branded into the Staples family. Thank you Lord for a my dad and for his powerful, simple life… …and for his beautiful faded jeans and suspenders. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Trip, part 2: Mayberry

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…”1 Timothy 4:4 With our plans all settled and our tank full of gas, we prepared to set off on our adventure. But first we enjoyed some excellent time with Eric and his wife Jennifer, in Nashville. They have been married seven months now and are a beautiful couple, inside and out. After that, we headed east. The first stop of the trip would be a walk back into the world of Andy Griffith. In between Nashville and Virginia, we drove a bit off the main highway to extreme northern North Carolina. We stopped in Mt. Airy, North Carolina to pay a visit to Andy Griffith’s hometown. It was the backdrop and storyline to Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show. The Andy Griffith show is simply a marvel of the entertainment world. It originally aired more than 50 years ago, but is still broadcast today on multiple television stations. Thousands and thousands of television shows have come and gone, but the Andy Griffith show continues to capture the hearts of America. Why? Like any “legend”, it had multiple ingredients that made it special: it was produced by then star Danny Thomas, its cast was an all-star team of experienced actors, it had a tremendous group of writers, and it appealed (and still does) to the best values of America. The show taught us that everyone is important, whether they’re the sheriff or the town drunk. The same is true of each of us. God does not create junk. Without exception, He creates people of worth and use. Each one of us do best when we’re true to who God created us to be. Like someone once said, “Don’t live out someone else’s dream for your life.” Be who you are and let God use you. Andy Griffith's hometown is truly a "Mayberry." Virtually the whole town has been transformed to look like Mayberry did in the TV show. Of course, some of the places were originals, like "The Snappy Lunch" known for it’s great pork chop sandwich. Andy based most people and places in the show on those from his hometown. I can picture Andy sitting in on the writing sessions, giving his suggestions on ways to make the show authentic. Apparently, they needed his southern “flare.” Of the producers for the show, Andy was the only one from the south. While Danny Thomas, the original producer, hailed from Toledo, Sheldon Leonard, who ran the show, was born in NYC. Another Griffith Show producer, veteran comedy writer-director Aaron Ruben, was a Chicago native. By the way, while working on the series, Ruben gave young Ron Howard an 8mm movie camera that piqued Howard's interest in cinematography, probably one of a number of things that fueled his move into directing. In Mt. Airy, there's a Bluebird Diner, Wally's Service Station, Floyd's Barber Shop, and a replica of the Mayberry courthouse that you can go inside. You can take a tour of the town in a sheriff's car just like the one from the show. If you're lucky, you'll get D.C. as your driver. He was a childhood friend of Andy's and adds a special touch to your tour. We didn’t take the tour, but we drove through most of the town. We did take the time to visit the Andy Griffith museum. There were so many memories from the show. You leave with a really good feeling, like you've gone back in time to the 'good ole days'. At the end of the day, we continued our drive to Virginia, but not until we soaked in Mayberry and the simplicity of a peaceful and gentle life. After all, that’s what God’s intends for us everyday. Life will always have its problems, but we can find comfort knowing that a loving God has it all covered. We left Mt. Airy smiling, relaxed… …and whistling the Mayberry “fishing hole” song. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Trip, part 1: the Beginning

“And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while…’” -Mark 6:31 We just returned from a marvelous ten-day, nearly three thousand mile trip through Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It had been a trip in the making for a long time. Joining us were our favorite traveling buddies, Holly (Jeanie’s sister) and her husband Trent Hallum. But the trip never would have happened if I had not started. Hum. That may seem obvious, but many a trip never happens because it never begins. The beginning of any worthy journey in life- marriage, family, or whatever-needs a good beginning. The credit goes to my sweet Jeanie who dreamed up the idea years ago. “Instead of going to the beach with the family (which we love and will visit in August), we ought to take a trip to the battlefields and DC.” “Ought to’s” can pile up if we’re not careful. Like good intentions, “ought to’s” take us nowhere. John Dewey said, “One lives with so many bad deeds on one's conscience and so many good intentions in one's heart.” The more famous quote describes “the road to hell being paved with good intentions.” I’m not sure what that means exactly as the road to heaven and hell has nothing to do with intentions, but a choice to let Jesus rule or not rule. But one thing is for certain in life: if we never act on our convictions and intentions, we’ll stay stuck. If we act, then we move and then we go. This particular “ought to” developed into a “we’re going.” But not without initial reservations. There are always obstacles to maneuver in any journey. Concern #1: “What about the rest of the family? How will they get along without us?” Answer: “They’ll get along just fine- we’re not needed as much as we think we are –ha!” Concern #2: “What about our responsibilities at work?” Answer: “There are incredible teachers and mentors and employees that will step in to fill the gap (and they did- thank you!)” Concern #3: “What about all the unknowns?” Answer: “What about them? Let’s act on what we know and not react to fear. We all need a break and vacation. Let’s trust the Lord to cover the bases.” The obstacles were cleared (as far as we knew), we set a date and made all the necessary reservations. We quickly discovered that there would be a pretty significant price to pay for the trip. A lot of the historical sites we would visit were free, but lodging and food were not. We added up the projected mileage for the trip and considered flying. But we decided that, while flying would be expedient, we would miss all of the sites along the way. Our goal for the trip was to slow down and enjoy the journey. Every trip comes with a price. We would have to give up time and money to make it happen, but it would be worth every penny. So, with all the scheduling conformed, we began the trip. The four of us are very close and the time traveling in the car would be as valuable as the time seeing the sites. Someone defined true success as “the ability to enjoy the journey on the way to the destination.” We were determined to not be determined to just see the sites. I guess you could say we wanted to “chill.” And so the trip began, the good intention became reality and we hit the road. The journey began… …and the odometer would get a workout! By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Missing Maisy

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him” -Gen. 2:18-20 We had to say good-bye to our precious lab, Maisy, today. She had become very sick. After her blood work, it became evident that the culprit was chronic kidney failure. The Vet wasn’t sure why it developed. “It was probably genetic and she was probably born with it,” he said. Though she was only four years old, she had become a big part of our family. She joins the spirits of our previous three wonderful labs: Josie, Kipper, and Maggie. We will miss her. Maisy was a good friend. Some say dogs are “man’s best friend.” You may not remember, but in Genesis Chapter two, after God created man, He acknowledged, “It isn’t good for man to be alone.” So God said He would “make a helper suitable for him.” We presume he is describing Eve. He first creates the beast of the field and brings them to Adam to name them. One of those animals was certainly a dog. But God observes that none of the animals was “a suitable helper for him [Adam]. So God fashions a woman to fill the void. The animals came close, but Eve was the missing piece. Still, dogs and cats and guinea pigs fill a huge void. Maisy filled a huge void for us and her absence has left a hole in our family. I remember one afternoon I was finishing up a backyard project in the rain. Maisy was always involved in every outdoor activity. I had to run back and forth to our storage building and was getting soaking wet. Maisy ran every lap with me, back and forth from the garage to the storage building. She was soaking wet herself. I remember thanking her for staying beside me. Maisy was a real mess. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a lab who got into more trouble than Maisy. As a puppy, she was into anything chewable in our garage and yard. One night, she chewed all the wiring for our garage door opener. Another night, she chewed the brake lines on my Chevy. I had the lines replaced and sprayed them with a special “keep dogs away” product and, a week later, she chewed them again. Any plant in the yard was fair game to dig up and deposit in the far reaches of our backyard. She chewed all the telephone lines under our deck and even found time to leave her mark on our deck railing. As she got a bit older, she settled down, but her marks are still all over our house! She definitely brought life to our home, even though she drove me crazy. Maisy was intensely loyal. Every morning, rain or shine, hot or cold, she stood at attention by the back door, ready to begin the day. Like all the labs before her, she loved to go on walks with Jeanie. She was never much of a squirrel chaser, but she had a great bark that alerted everyone to her presence. One of my favorite times with Maisy was leaving the house for work and returning home after a long day. She was always there as I left the house and walked me to my car. And as the garage door went up on my returning home, she would squeeze under the door to hurry out to greet me. I will miss her greeting. We do miss our sweet Maisy. I don’t miss her destruction of our yard, but I do miss her. On second thought, maybe I do miss her mess. I miss everything about her. But I’m glad she’s not in pain anymore. And I’m glad we got to have a season with her. We’re not interested in another dog right now, but as we’ve done four times before, I’m sure we’ll be looking for a pup in the near future. After all, though Jeanie and I have each other… …it’s not good for us to be alone. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Out With The Old And In With The New

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” -Jer. 29:11 It’s hard to let go of things. We are all “creatures of habit,” so we like to hold on to things as long as possible. We like consistency. We favor familiarity. We lean on structure. But only one thing is certain: things will change. I have said “goodbye” many times over the years. I said goodbye to my dad in 1988- I love him very much; last year I said goodbye to my oldest brother, Pelham- I miss him dearly; I said goodbye to three labs- Jose, Maggie and Kipp- all awesome dogs; I said goodbye to a job- I loved my years with Doulos Ministries; and I said goodbye to my boss and mentor Richard Beach- I think about him every day. There have been a lot more “goodbyes,” too many to list here. Months ago, a friend at church asked me, “Would you ever be interested in selling your car?” I drove a Chevy Trailblazer. “Sure,” I told him, and the search for another vehicle began. I narrowed the field to three SUV’s and had three dealers looking for me. Last week, we located the vehicle not far from home and I purchased a Honda Pilot over the weekend. As I drove the Trailblazer to the new owner this morning, I reflected over my years with the vehicle. Sure, it’s just a car, but I reminisced on the season I had with the car. The Lord provided the vehicle in a tough season and it drove Jeanie and me all over the country to visit family. But I’m excited about the new season with the Pilot. Again, it’s just a car, but a gift God will use to transport us to family and friends. It’s the reason they christen ships. They are just boats, but they are special as they transport us to special places. Just this week, I met with dear people struggling with letting go of jobs, kids, teenagers, health and other major life areas. This time of year, seniors are letting go of the high school years and moving on, sons and daughters are moving out of the house and moms and dads are saying “goodbye” to their beautiful young adults as they go off to college, jobs and careers. All the goodbyes involve grieving. We all find freedom in “letting go, trusting and moving on.” That’s what healthy grieving is all about. We appreciate where we were as we celebrate where we’re going. Perhaps you’re holding on to something today that you need to release. Don’t grab it tighter but instead, let the change begin. Acknowledge the pain of the separation, but embrace the change as well. Through it all, God is there. He never leaves us alone, even when we feel lonely. Admit your pain. Embrace the change. Let it go. Make the jump. Let it be. Every season has a reason. People, jobs…. …and even an SUV. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Post Easter

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel…” -2Tim. 2:8 By now, the Easter decorations are put away and the candy is long gone. You might still find a few Easter egg remnants around the house but, for most, Easter is a faint memory. But a week ago, Sunday, we were dressing in our best to head out the door to a beautiful Easter service. The day to celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead had arrived. But have we have already forgotten? It is absolutely crucial that we never forget. We have a tendency to forget. In the spiritual realm, a place where we seldom camp, the evil one is fast at work in the cessation of a positive thought life. We remember the bad and forget the good. We will overly dwell on a past mistake but quickly forget a past success. In the Old Testament, that’s why God instituted so many feasts and celebrations: so the nation of Israel wouldn’t forget His blessings. That’s why we need celebrations like Easter: so we will remember that Jesus is alive. And that’s why we have church- whether Sunday, Saturday or whenever- so we will remember Jesus’ resurrection every week. And it’s not just individuals who forget, it’s churches as well. We have to be careful, as a body of believers, to remember the origin of worship. We meet as a church every week specifically so we will remember Easter. Most denominations do not worship on the Sabbath, which according to Jewish law is the last day of the week (Saturday), when God rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3). Most churches worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday); the day when God said "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3); the day when Christ rose from the dead; the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles (Day of Pentecost). The actual day of worship is not important. Paul said, ““Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). The point is that when we gather as believers in Christ, whatever the day, we celebrate Easter all over again. We’re to celebrate Easter every week. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Every week? Most churches focus more energy on Easter. Special music, videos and a take-home souvenir highlight most church services on Easter. The budget for most Easter services is twice that for the “regular” service. It is the highest day of attendance for churches across the land. Why? Because the spectacle of Easter attracts the masses. Oh, that the “spectacle” would continue the other 364 days of the year, not just in churches, but in the hearts of us all. Jesus’ death and resurrection were not just a historical event, but an every day privilege to enjoy. We wake every day to the reality that our redeemer lives, not on a distant planet somewhere, but in the hearts of those who, by faith, have confessed their belief in Jesus Christ. Remember Easter every day. Remind your kids of Easter every day. Reach out to Jesus as your risen Lord every day. Reflect on His tremendous love for you every day. Relax in His awesome peace and love others with His strength. Enjoy Easter every day of the year… …and the chocolate Easter eggs as well. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter: More Than a Holiday

“…and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” -2Cor. 5:15 Easter. This season stirs up so many emotions. Or, it doesn’t stir up much at all. Our society is so desensitized to holidays that they come and go without much fanfare. But Easter is different. It’s more than a Holiday- it’s the absolute, once-and-for-all proof that Jesus lives. It seems that every day is a holiday to somebody. Every greeting card marketing firm has made it their goal to produce more and more holidays thus increasing the need for their product. Let’s take this next week, for instance. You may not have known that April 18th is “High Five” day, April 19th is “Garlic” day, April 21st is “Bulldogs are beautiful” day, April 22nd is “Jelly Bean” Day, April 23rd is “Talk like Shakespeare” day, April 24th is “Pigs in a Blanket” day, and to finish off the week, April 25th is (my favorite) “Hairball Awareness” day. It seems that anyone that has enough money and influence can create a holiday. So, how did Easter become a holiday? Certainly, as the liturgical early church grew in power, tradition set the stage for Easter. Even the alternating timing of Easter each year reflects its importance. "Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.” Hum. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what that means. But apparently the early church fathers wished to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated subsequent to the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. But much like Christmas itself, the actual date is really not that important. What’s important is that it happened. Easter itself was designed by none other than God Himself. By grace, God the Father sent His Son to be born. By grace He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as a substitute for our sin. And then, by grace, He allowed Jesus to rise and live again to prove that he had defeated death. Easter isn’t just a holiday. It is a statement shouted out from God Himself that He is alive and well and still rules all creation. And it’s a reminder that in all His majesty, He desires a personal relationship with His most precious creation, you and me. So have a wonderful Easter celebration. Enjoy the Easter egg hunts and the chocolate bunnies, but don’t forget the real meaning of Easter. As you gather with your family and celebrate the holiday, be reminded of the meaning of “holiday” itself. It means “holy day” or “days set aside to be holy.” May we let this Easter be “set aside” as a time to thank God for His greatest gift of all…a risen Savior who is alive and well and desiring a relationship with us all today. What a beautiful and special day for us all to be more aware of His presence… …and less aware of hairballs. by Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, April 13, 2014


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” -Matt. 23:27 The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word hypokritḗs. It literally means “a judging under,” like a performer acting under a mask (i.e. a theater-actor). It figuratively means a two-faced person; a "hypocrite," whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who "says one thing but does another." It works well on the stage, but not so good in real life. Jesus condemned the hypocrites and today, we don’t like anyone who is “two-faced” either. We prefer someone who is genuine. The recipe for being genuine hasn’t changed much over the years. It calls for a willingness to be real and honest. It requires us to reveal ourselves with all our strengths, weaknesses and faults. Most people aren’t secure enough to display who they really are. But when who we are matches what we are, life is lived in true freedom. Otherwise, we have to wear masks. The masks cover up that part of us that we don’t want others to see. Someone told me the other day that, as a salesman, “It’s absolutely a necessity that I always be at the top of my game when I’m with clients. I can’t be having a tough day. I have to be positive and perfect to make the sale.” Most of us begin our days with that dilemma. We wake sometimes with hearts clogged with issues- unresolved relationship issues, past hurts and misgivings, or fear of the future. The day begins and our personality splits between who we want to be and who we are. Thankfully, God has provided an integrity plan. 1 John 1:9 outlines the phenomenal system designed by God to keep our hearts clean and who we are matching what we are. It’s called forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Our awesome God forgives us and our hearts are cleansed. If we accept Jesus as our Savior, no masks are required. We are children of God, broken and humble and able to live lives of integrity. In Christ, we obtain the security to live honest lives, where our inside and outsides match. We don’t have to be hypocrites. We don’t have to wear the masks. We can be genuine. What we say can match what we do. But sometimes Christians practice mask-wearing more than non-Christians. Kenneth Wuest said, "Christianity requires that believers should be open and above-board. They should be themselves. Their lives should be like an open book, easily read." That’s the catch with being a Christian. We have admitted and confessed our need for a loving God. Through brokenness and humility, we have seen the need for Jesus to mend our broken hearts, but we have to live in the reality of the control of the Lord in our lives. Otherwise, the drama begins. The curtain rises on our day, we put on our mask, and the disparity begins. Who we are doesn’t match what we believe. We don’t have to “fake it till we make it” because we’ve already made it. We don’t have to be someone we are not- wealthier, prettier, or stronger- we are simply children of God. And that is enough. What you see is what you get. In his classic The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” No mask is necessary when we are children of the living God. May our security be found only in Jesus and His power and might. May we shed the masks and reveal only one true face… …conforming to the image of Christ. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Growing Goldfish

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” -1Cor. 3:7 Did you know that goldfish can grow up to fifteen inches when they’re released into the wild? Fifteen inches! That’s huge. Did you also know that kids, when they’re properly released, can grow as well? Those cute little goldfish bought at Wal Mart seemingly morph into monsters when released. And this is presenting a problem in lakeside communities where the little darlings are disposed of in the public water system. Officials at Lake Tahoe say the giant goldfish are increasing at an alarming rate. The lakes are filling up with these oversized beauties. Give them warm water and a limitless food supply and they just keep growing and growing. Kids grow when they’re released as well. Of course, it’s how they’re released that matters. When raised with the ability to grow and search out the right environment, most kids absolutely thrive. But they have to be given the chance to leave. Most people love little goldfish. They’re pretty and simple. Sprinkle a few specks of food on the top every day and clean out the tank occasionally and the maintenance is low. Have you ever tried to maintain a lake of fish? It’s a whole other matter. I spent a few summers at my Uncle Donald’s home in rural Georgia. He had a lake stocked with fish. I loved to go with him to feed the fish. As we’d deposit the bucket loads of food into the lake, the fish would crowd around the boat trying to get a bite. It took a lot of food and a lot of algae maintenance to keep the lake livable for the fish. Let’s face it- it’s easier to take care of a fish bowl than a lake. Little fish are easier to care for than big fish. But fish like to grow. Fish need to grow. There is a fish hatchery near Table Rock dam, not too far from our home. Fish are raised in controlled tanks, up to a certain size, then they’re released into Table Rock and Taneycomo lakes to grow and thrive. As parents we’re not called to cultivate a healthy fishbowl. We’re called to teach our kids how to live in the lake. Parents are called to operate a healthy “catch and release” program- to let their kids go. While we’re raising our little fishes, we need to teach them to lean on the loving God who wants to care for them, how to avoid the lures that seek to entrap them, and where to find the food that sustains them. Then, we release them. It’s scary. Lakes are big and dark and risky. But it’s the place where they can grow and thrive. Let them go. Let them grow. Let them know that they can lean on a loving God. He’s much more secure than any parent can ever be… …and more secure than a fishbowl. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dog Days of Winter

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 I know, I know…the phrase “dog days” refers to the sultry days of summer, not the cold days of winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, the dog days of summer are most commonly experienced in the months of July and August. In the Southern Hemisphere, in January and February. They are hot and humid and sticky. The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius, the “Dog Star". It is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). The Romans also sacrificed a red dog in April to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. Poor dogs. Dog Days of summer were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813. Most of us in the United States have been experiencing the bitter cold called winter. I consider myself a positive, half-full person, but my cup has been empty this winter. Cold after cold and snow after snow has worn out the most ardent of winterized Americans. As we endured yet another cold front coming through the Ozarks, I glanced out in the front yard and, to my surprise, our young lab, Maisy, was sound asleep in the front yard. The weather was freezing and the light snow fresh, but our Maisy was totally out- snoozing in the winter air. She was content. She was happy. She was ASLEEP. But how? I don’t doubt that Seasonal Affective Disorder is legit. When less endorphins are secreted and the level of sunshine is decreased, our mood can become melancholy. It’s difficult to be positive and optimistic when the weather is cold and snowy. But I wonder if it’s mostly a matter of chemical levels or making the choice to be happy? Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” In their great book “Happiness is a Choice,” Minirth and Meier addressed this supposition. “We couldn’t agree with them more. Lincoln should know. He went through much anguish in his life- the death of his fiancée, lost elections, the Civil War, and other major disappointments. At one point in his life he was so depressed he considered suicide. But Lincoln chose to overcome his depression. He chose to be happy and obtained inner joy and peace in those last years before he fell victim to the bullet of a hostile fellow man.” So, how do we make the choice to be content? How can a lab be perfectly fine sleeping in freezing weather? It’s tough being OK when the circumstances are less than desirable. But I think Maisy knew something most of us struggle to grasp. “Leaving well enough alone” means we play with the “cards dealt to us.”Maisy’s logic: “I can’t change the weather, I’ve got food in my bowl, the sun is out, and I’m tired, so it’s nap time! I choose to chill.” Making the choice doesn’t mean we deny the difficulty in our lives, but it does mean we choose to work past the issues that keep us down. It means we go to Jesus and choose to live in the rest He provides. May we all choose peace in the midst of the pandemonium. May we all choose rest in the midst of the restlessness… …and may we all choose to snooze in the snow. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Blessing of Pain

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope - Romans 5:3-4 Rarely do I post someone else’s words, but a friend gave me this article by Priscilla Shirer and it hit the nail on the head. So I yield to the Lord’s words through her and present it to you to read. Enjoy. A jovial rosy-cheeked young girl bounded across the set of a widely popular television talk show. Her proud mother and father made room for her on the sofa next to the show’s host. They’d already been on for quite a while talking about their precocious youngster. Their description of her sounded much the same as any adoring parents yet their stories of normalcy were peppered with eerie tales of an uncommon disorder. It’s a rare disease, one most of the viewing audience might never have heard of until this moment – I certainly hadn’t. But its effects couldn’t be missed as the girl stepped from behind the curtain and into public view. Her chubby smiling face seemed a bit weathered. There were some bruises and scars, patches and bandaging. Her right eye was covered and several gashes on her arms were dressed. Then, she smiled and her infectious grin revealed an endearing yet toothless grin. I felt my blood pressure rise as she walked across the stage. How could this much damage be done to a child? My heart ached and pulse raced as I folded a pile full of clean laundry during the commercial break. My body was busy but my mind had slowed. I was consumed with thoughts and questions, eager to have each one of them answered. My internal conversation was interrupted when the commercial telling me I’d used the wrong detergent ended and the talk show host welcomed me back to the program. I sat down on the edge of my bed, my husband’s crumpled t-shirt in hand, and listened. The parents explained. Their daughter couldn’t feel pain. They’d noticed it soon after her birth. A scraped knee on the playground or burnt tongue on a cup of hot soup would go unnoticed by her nerves - deadened and unresponsive. The news stunned her parents at first but gave them a sense of unexpected elation. Their daughter could never be hurt. She’d never feel pain. Seemed like a dream come true for a protective parent. This father and mother admitted to feeling blessed. Yet, their enthusiasm soon cascaded into a pool of despair. First, some hot coffee spilled, burning their 3-month-old’s baby soft skin. The overturned carafe leaked steadily from a coffee table but she didn’t feel anything as her flesh scalded. Later, when she discovered the fun of using her hands, she began to pry at her eyes, freeing the one on the right from its socket. When her teeth came in she began to unknowingly bite through her own lips and tongue, leaving her parents no other option than to have all of her teeth removed. Without the built in boundary that pain provides, there was no threshold that couldn’t be crossed, no boundary that couldn’t be broken and no need to request help instead of risking injury. Tears streamed down this loving mother’s face as she stroked her daughter’s blond hair. Above all else, she wished for her daughter the blessing of pain. Job hated it and David despised it. Abraham hesitantly forged through it while Habakkuk tried to escape it. And you and I – we do the same. We don’t like pain. Who does? From the beginning of time humanity has gone to great measures to avoid the discomfort that accompanies the meeting of our bodies or souls with anything that causes hurt. Except for the occasional exercise poster exclaiming “No Pain, No Gain” the vast majority of our thinking is trained to steer clear of anything that will cause us discomfort. Pain is the arch-enemy of happiness, right? So, why – why – would any parent want it for their child? Wouldn’t life be better without it? Maybe Hannah has the answer; her soul ripped and torn under the weight of a barren womb and the constant taunting of her rival. . . . . she was greatly distressed and prayed to the Lord . . .- 1 Samuel 1:10 Or possibly Job, his heart frayed at the loss of his family and livelihood, his body sore from top to bottom with oozing boils. . . . . .I had heard of Him but now my eyes have seen Him . . .- Job 42:5 Perhaps David’s poetic heart song can give us the hints we need . . . .. .I would have despaired unless I believed . . .- Psalm 27:13 Or maybe Jeremiah, weeping and wailing, his heart and soul in deep anguish at the thought of the destruction of his beloved people and nation . . . . . .there is a balm in Gilead . . .-Jeremiah 8:22 What about Stephen, his body snapping like a twig under the weight of the boulders being sent crashing down on his limbs . . . . . .I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing. . . – Acts 7:55 And of course there’s Paul and Silas; shackled to the walls of a rusty Roman jail, backs freshly bruised from the beating and skin on their ankles blackened from tightly strung chains . . . . . .about midnight [they] were praying and singing hymns of praise . . .Acts 16:25 Or maybe. . .just maybe. . . the message is just as clear; the mystery as easily unraveled when no words are spoken. She never spoke. The woman, painfully embarrassed and humiliated, having been caught by the Pharisees in the very act of adultery. She just looked into the soft, caring eyes of the One who didn’t throw a stone (but had every right to) and heard: . . .just go and sin no more . . . She said nothing; just sat in the fresh wound caused by humiliation of the worst kind and listened. . . . . .then left His presence brand new. Mysteriously there seems to be a blessing in pain. It causes us to check the barometer of our activities and clearly see the reality of our circumstances. It forces us to seek refuge and protection, safe harbor and retreat. Pain is. . .well. . . painful. But ironically it is the gift that keeps us from further discomfort. When we feel it, it becomes a teacher pointing us to the only correct answer there is. And so, our Father, like any loving parent, desires for us the blessing of pain because, mysteriously, it keeps us, comforts us, humbles us, teaches us and drives us back to safety. Hurting? In spite of it all, bolster up the courage to see beyond. Then whisper “thank you” to the One who loves you most.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Frozen, Part Three: The Thaw

“…let your heart take courage” -Proverbs 27:13 “Conceal, don’t feel.” Queen Elsa sang those words when she was closing herself into her ice castle. She hid after abandoning her kingdom when her magical ability to create and control ice was discovered by the public. Up in the mountains, away from confused and suspicious onlookers, she realized that she no longer needed to hide her abilities, and declared herself free from the restrictions she had to endure since childhood. She rejoiced in finally being able to use her powers without fear, manipulating snow and ice to generate a magnificent castle for herself. But one thing was missing: relationship. Being made in God’s image, everyone desires and needs relationships. No matter the size of the castle or the illusion of freedom, without people, we are all frozen. As a therapist, I have the wonderful privilege of helping people work through their issues everyday. It is amazing to watch people make the decision to feel and reveal their inner hurts and needs. It’s wonderful to see the load lifted as people open their hearts to healing and to a loving God who cares deeply. As Anna made the difficult quest to love and rescue her sister, Queen Elsa’s heart was changed. Peace was restored and the sisters bond was rekindled. Elsa responded to Anna, “We are never closing the gates again.” She was referring to the kingdom’s gates, but she was also referring to her heart. Along with Elsa's rebirth comes the entire kingdom's thawing as Elsa realizes that love is the key to controlling her powers. That’s how healing works- it effects not only the individual, but everyone in relationship with that person as well. Healing is contagious and lasting. Elsa even conjures up a snow cloud for Olaf to survive all year long, including summer. Once again, the ice is melted and Arendelle is restored to peace. Elsa is again accepted as queen, with everyone finally understanding that she's no monster, but a creator of beautiful magic relationships at last. It snowed over the weekend here in the Ozarks. But today, being close to Spring, the wind shifted out of the south and the temperature climbed well above freezing. In just 24 hours, most of that snow is gone. All because of one object: the sun. Sure, the temperature was above freezing, but the cloudless day allowed the sun to do its thing and the snow and ice vanished. Love, like the sun, in time, always melts the hardest of hearts. Later on, to celebrate the joyous day, Elsa turns the castle courtyard into an ice rink with the entire kingdom joining in on the festivities, as the queen vows never to close the gates again, much to Anna's joy. The two sisters then begin skating with all their friends, rekindling their bond. You might think Elsa and Anna would turn the kingdom into a Caribbean resort, with no hint of winter. After all, it was the ice and snow that created the problem, right? Wrong. It’s wasn’t the presence of ice and snow that created the problem. It was Elsa’s misuse of her gift to create the ice and snow. As the snow thaw took place, Elsa’s heart thaw happened as well. Love was the catalyst and the kingdom was saved. When God’s love takes over a heart, the seasons change and life becomes abundant. Relationships are restored and life becomes meaningful. As Richard Beach used to say, “The sun shines on clay and hardens it but the sun shines on butter and melts it. The difference is the condition of the material.” May we all allow God’s love to melt any area of our heart that is hardened. May we live in the freedom God desires… …and dwell in His kingdom forever. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Frozen, Part Two: The Rescue

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” -Rom. 5:8 When someone we love is headed the wrong direction, we’re left with a choice: do we stand idly by or do we jump in to help? Idle is always easier. But true friends come to the rescue of true friends. We should all certainly be thankful that our loving God didn’t stand passively still while we wasted away. He lovingly provided a way of freedom for us. So, with Elsa locked in her own private ice castle, Anna, her sister, made an important decision to act. She wouldn’t leave her sister alone to live out her years secluded. She loved her sister and wanted to bring her out of the cold. Elsa later commented to Anna, “What power do you have to stop this winter…. to stop me?” Anna’s only power was to love and it made all the difference. Princess Anna of Arendelle was the fearless, spunky and innocently awkward younger sister of the powerful Snow Queen Elsa. Anna is loosely based on Gerda from "The Snow Queen,” a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. And she is also loosely based on anyone, propelled by love, who is willing to jump in for the good of someone. That’s exactly what our loving God did when He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our cursed sin. As Disney Wiki says, Anna is more daring than graceful and, at times, can act before she thinks. But she's also an optimistic and caring person. She longs to reconnect with her sister, Elsa, as they were close during their childhood. When Elsa accidentally unleashes a magical secret that locks the kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter, Anna embarks on a dangerous adventure to make things right. Armed with only her fearlessness, a never-give-up attitude and her faith in others, Anna is determined to save both her kingdom and her family. Paul Briggs, one of the writers of “Frozen”, said, “Anna is a character who is willing to stand beside you and stand up for what’s right. Her sister was born with a condition that’s shaped a world where Anna doesn’t belong.” And so Anna is determined to do something about it. She’s determined to help her sister be more than her sister thinks she can be. Though she values romance greatly, it's clear Anna's most valued treasure is her relationship with her sister. Since childhood, Anna's been attached to Elsa, and always leaped at the opportunity to spend time with her. As the years passed, and the sisters grew apart, the heartbroken Anna continued to try time and time again for some quality time with the one she loved most. Throughout most of the film, Anna was also the only character to have faith that Elsa was no monster. The Duke of Weselton was notably against her because of that very theory, Kristoff feared her, as did the other citizens for they were oblivious of who Elsa truly was. Even so, despite their separation, Anna knew her sister was far from vile, and put it in her hands to bring her home, not only for the sake of the kingdom, but in hopes of reattaching their formerly close bond. powerful sense of hope, as well as her love for her sister. That’s what true friends do. They see the best, not the worst, in those they love and they act on that love, even if no one else follows them. That’s what God did with us. He reached out to us when we were at our worst. And He’s still reaching out. In the end, despite her numerous flaws, Anna is an extremely sweet, selfless, and loving character. Throughout the film, numerous times, she puts the safety and well being of others before her own, showing great loyalty and admiration for her friends and family. This is most notably seen with Elsa. Some examples of this can be seen when she purchased the items and food Kristoff couldn't afford in Wandering Oaken's Trading Post and Sauna, prevented Kristoff from spoiling Olaf's dreams of living in summer, and most significantly and importantly during the climax where she saves Elsa from death at the hands of Hans, despite knowing she'd inevitably lose her life in the process. That’s always the ultimate test of love: a willingness to lose one’s life for someone else. Paul said repeatedly in his letters, “I die to myself for you.” Not literally, though he would have been willing, but more importantly to die in life. That’s called selflessness and always produces fruit in the rescuing. It was God’s plan through Jesus Christ, it was Anna’s plan with Elsa, and hopefully our plan with those we love… …and desire to see fully alive. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Frozen, Part One: The Curse

“…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” –Romans 3:23 Several people have asked me, “When are you going to comment on the movie Frozen? My response? “As soon as I see it.” I’d heard it was a fun movie for kids, but also a movie with an important message for us grown-ups as well. Last weekend, we travelled to Des Moines to spend the weekend with Elizabeth, Mark and our two grandkids, Reese and Lucy. Our best friends Donny and Lisa, Mark’s parents, were there as well. One of the highlights of the weekend was going to see…you guessed it…Frozen! It was adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Snow Queen. I have no idea what message the producers intended (I probably don’t want to know), but it did speak truth to me as it’s spoken to so many. The original premise of the movie is the “curse” that the older sister, Elsa, the princess of Arendelle, possesses. Technically, she has cryokinesis, the magical ability to create ice and snow. It’s not explained why she was born with the curse, but her inability to be rid of her icy powers forms the plot of the movie. In any early scene, her ability to form ice and snow injures her younger sister, Anna. So her parents decided to isolate Elsa and her powers to her room in the castle where she is banned from involvement with her sister. Her private life shields the world from her powers, but creates a closed and lonely Elsa whose only view of the world is cold and cruel. But it makes sense: if one possesses the ability to hurt others, just cover it up, “Out of sight, out of mind.” That same premise forms the plot of our lives as well. We are all born with a curse called sin. Our recognition of that curse and its solution has everything to do with whether we live a full or empty life. Some psychologists and scientists have attempted to deny that humanity is inherently sinful or ‘bad.’ For example, the founder of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow, said: “As far as I know we just don't have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” Agreeing with Maslow is noted psychologist Carl Rogers who stated, “I do not find that…evil is inherent in human nature.” Both Maslow and Rogers dismiss sin and instead say if a person is committing evil acts, then the “patient” is psychologically ill and must be brought back to mental sanity through medication and therapy. However, history has shown that the evil actions of humanity transcend mere mental disorders. We all are born with a sin nature. It only requires working an hour in any nursery to see that everyone is innately self-centered and self- focused. We are all products of the fall of man and have a void in our hearts at birth. Elsa eventually retreats to her own ice castle to live out her life of seclusion. But her little sister Anna is determined to rescue her sister. Elsa will eventually deal with her curse, but only after she deals with her cursed nature. We void our curse by recognizing the curse, our inability to fix it on our own, and surrender to a loving and “curse destroying” Savior, Jesus Christ. As John Calvin put it, “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.” May we all face our curse and surrender ourselves to a loving God… …to melt our frozen hearts. By Eric Joseph Staples ©