Friday, January 23, 2015

Deer Dependency

“Bear one another’s burdens…,for each one will bear his own load” -Gal. 6:2,5 It’s not easy for most of us to depend on people. Truth is, it’s not easy for most of us to depend on anything. We like our independence, our control and our consistency. We don’t mind others depending on us nearly as much. But in God’s plan here on planet earth, most of the time, he chooses to meet our needs through others. We’re called to “bear one another’s burdens.” But for us to be able to bear others’ burdens, we have to be given permission. We have to humble our pride and yield to another’s ability to love. Most of us would rather gargle tomato juice than depend on another brother or sister. But in doing so, we let others love us and they are blessed besides. Before Christmas, we were driving to Des Moines to spend a few days with Elizabeth, Mark and the grandkids. We were driving after dark in between Springfield and Kansas City when out of nowhere, a huge buck, crossing the median, slammed into the side of our SUV. The side airbags deployed and we pulled over in shock. We drove to the next exit and pulled over to survey the damage. The vehicle was badly broken. I have come so close to hitting deer in the past, but this was the first time I’d had an actual collision. As my bro-in-law Brian pointed out, the deer actually hit us. It’s amazing how much damage a big buck can do when he makes contact with a pile of metal going 70 mph. But the vehicle was drivable. We still made the three hour drive to Des Moines with no problems and drove the six hours back a few days later. On the way back home, we spotted the deer on the side of the road and stopped to survey the damage. It was indeed huge and it’s rack badly damaged from the collision. We dropped the car off at the body shop in Springfield and had someone pick us up to take us back to Branson. A few days later, I had a call from the body shop that they would do the repairs and, in a month or so, I’d have the vehicle back in my possession. A month! Having no choice, I responded “yes” and the dependency began. I became a man without wheels! It’s kind of funny because most of the men in this world do not own a car. They don’t need a car. Most cultures are much more dependent on mass transit and their feet to get them from here to there. But not in America. We take pride in our independence. And that’s the problem, one that the Lord is working on in me these days. With no car, I’ve been forced to depend on Jeanie and Brian. They both have Hondas and have been generous to let me use their vehicles when needed. And Terry, a co-worker from the church, has been so gracious to give me rides to work. They have all been more than gracious. But I had to let them help me. I had to be willing to let them serve me. As Chuck Swindoll said in his classic book Improving Your Serve, “We can not be true servants if we do not let others serve us as well.” Makes sense. It’s meant to be a continuous circle of giving and being served. When we’re hyper-independent, we rob others of their ability to provide blessing to us as well as the blessing they can receive. So, be someone who helps carry others’ loads. Give someone a ride. Take a senior citizen to the grocery store. Encourage a friend. But also be willing to be served. If you have a need, reach out to a brother or sister. Ask for help. Let God provide for you through others. Thanks to Brian, Jeanie, Terry and everyone else who have helped me during this season… …and thanks to that poor deer for making it necessary. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dad and the Baylor Grade

“…to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me…” -2 Cor. 12:7 My whole life, I’d been trying to keep up with my three awesome big brothers. Everything they accomplished created a bar for me to have to jump over as well. At least that’s what I thought! They were great big brothers and were smart and athletic. I kept the pace pretty well through high school but at the close of my first semester at Baylor, I was concerned I had fallen way behind. But a loving dad and graceful Heavenly Father would teach me a great lesson. My time in high school was full of athletics and pretty good grades. My best sport was soccer, but my brothers all played football, so I did too. We lived in Texas, after all. So life in the fall for the Staples family focused on football. I had pretty good speed but was much too small to play in college. So, keeping up with the brothers in college wouldn’t include football. Ironically, I did play soccer in college, but back then soccer was kind of like being on the bowling team- not a lot of exposure. My oldest brother went to SMU and my other two brothers to TCU. I thought I was ready to try my own wings so I chose to go to college far from home- actually only two hours from home! By the time I landed in Waco at Baylor, I was a confused freshman searching for my identity and purpose. I chose biology as my major and quickly discovered that I was way out of my league academically. Truth was, I had no idea what I “wanted to be” and competing with the best of Baylor wasn’t going to go too well. By the time I finished my first semester, I changed my major to “undeclared” and waited nervously for my final grades. My grades were decent, but I had made a D in one of my biology courses. I was devastated. I’d never made a grade below a B in high school. It was a crisis as I struggled with my identity. I didn’t know who Joey Staples was. I wasn’t Joey the football player. I wasn’t Joey the smart person. I wasn’t Joey the success. And alone in Waco, I wasn’t Joey the little brother of Pel, Marc, and Bob either. Funny that I always rolled my eyes when someone called me “little Staples” but with that gone, I missed the title and the security. But God had a plan and a purpose. He always does. He was chipping away at a huge reserve of pride built up over the years in my heart. It consisted of a competitive, envious, controlling, arrogance that lent itself well towards winning games and making good grades, but not toward living in freedom in God’s grace. So, after my first semester at Baylor, I arrived home in Fort Worth and waited anxiously for my report card to arrive. I checked the mailbox and it finally came in the mail (no email back then). I opened it and sure enough, I had made the D. That night I walked back to my parent’s bedroom with the report card in hand, prepared to be rebuked. I handed it to my dad and apologized for the poor grade. His response, “Oh well, try to do better next semester. The Cowboys play tomorrow. Let’s watch the game.” What? That was it? I replied “yes” to the doing better and the Cowboy game and left the room shocked. My dad (and my mom too I guess) had just given me a huge gift. It was called grace. Truth was, I didn’t need more pressure from them. I needed grace. I already had plenty of guilt. But remorse and guilt are fuel for success when the principle players apply grace. Do you think I left the bedroom feeling like I could be lazy and make all D’s? NO. I left determined to honor my dad’s grace. I returned to Baylor and focused on school. I didn’t make a 4.0, but I graduated four years later. I was free to fail. And therefore, I was free to succeed. My earthly dad had ushered me to the grace of my Heavenly Father. It was and is a tremendous gift. I still struggle with trying to perform, with trying to “keep up.” Then I remember my loving Father and His grace toward me. I’m okay. I have nothing to prove. God has already declared me officially loved and approved. I smile and I relax and I remember… …that the Cowboys play tomorrow. By Eric Joseph Staples ©