Friday, December 15, 2017

A Bitter Sweet Christmas

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” -Matt. 5:4 I absolutely love bittersweet chocolate. I am a recovering chocaholic for sure. Okay, to be honest, I’m not recovering very well! The two flavors mix well and taste SO good. But this Christmas season, I am struggling between the clash of bitter and sweet. Bitter, as I process through losing my mom and missing my dad and two brothers. And sweet, as I celebrate the birth of our wonderful Savior, Jesus. These two emotions just don’t fit very well. It’s oil and water for sure. Family seasons like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are all about stuffing. We stuff the turkey for sure, but we tend to become “unstuffed” ourselves. Emotions and feelings that were nicely tucked away during the year come flooding back to us. Though painful, it’s actually a good and healthy thing. It‘s good to be honest with ourselves about our feelings. Big boy’s DO cry and being honest about what we feel makes a huge difference. Why? Because being honest about what we feel allows us to be real with ourselves and with those we love. We don’t need to fear what we feel. Being real about loss allows us to grieve over what we miss. It allows us to heal and move on. It allows us to feel and struggle and step into pain. God wants to comfort those who grieve, but He can only comfort those who acknowledge that they have lost something. Grieving allows us to face the loss, process through it and move on. There’s no time frame in grieving. It takes as long as we need to say “good-bye.” I lost my dad 29 years ago. I’ve lost my two oldest brothers in the last ten years. And I lost my mom after Christmas last year. My brother Bob and I are the two remaining members of the family. I’d love to have our family picture complete again, but life moves on. And we move on as well. Death stinks. Losing a loved one is bitter for sure. As Christians, we do have life beyond the grave. That’s what Christmas is all about. But the losses still hurt. It was not a part of God’s original plan. Sin did and does its damage. I know every time someone grieves over the loss of someone they love, it grieves God’s heart as well. Of course it does. He Himself knows the pain. After all, He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sin so that we might have eternal life. As God watched His beautiful baby, Jesus, cuddle in the manager, He knew that death would be His lot. He knew that His precious Son would die a horrible death. It was bittersweet for Him as well. Sweet because He knew that Jesus’ death would bring us life. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Where are you Christmas” sung by Faith Hill. The song begins with these words, “Where are you Christmas, why can't I find you, why have you gone away? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me, why can't I hear music play? My world is changing, I'm rearranging, does that mean Christmas changes too?” The song goes on to highlight the reality that Christmas never goes away, but perseveres as we make the move to come back to celebrate the coming of Jesus. The song addresses both the joy of Christmas and the pain of Christmas. It highlights the two realities: that Christmas is alive and well but that life’s losses require us to rearrange and change and adapt to life’s seasons. I pray this Christmas will be a wonderful one for all of us. May we be willing to “rearrange and change” to find a place for the truth of the birth of Christ to be made new to us all over again. May we be able to embrace the losses but embrace the gains as well. We all are missing loved one’s this Christmas. Let’s not miss the reality of Christ as well. May we all have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the lives we are missing. May we embrace the bitter… …as we taste the sweet. By Eric Joseph Staples©

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Which Season Is It: Summer or Fall?

“…be ready in season and out of season...” -2 Timothy 4:2 It’s late October 2017 and the expected high today is 82 degrees in the Ozarks! It’s supposed to be in the upper 20’s this weekend. What? Where is that coming from? It makes no sense. We’re all a bit confused, as are the trees, flowers and animals. The leaves are falling and it looks like fall, but it feels like summer. So which is it? I’m so thankful that our faith in God isn’t built on how we feel but on the truth. He is our mighty and sovereign God, whether we feel like it or not. I can climb to the roof of our home and decide that if I jump off, it wont hurt me. I can feel like I’ll be fine. But when I hit the ground, I’ll meet the reality of gravity. It’s not dependent on how I feel. It’s just true that I’ll probably get hurt. The same is true of God. He is: Omniscient- He knows everything Omnipotent- He has no limits Omnipresent- He is present in all places at all times Immutable- He is unchanging Holy- He is pure Righteous- He is truth Sovereign- He is in control Love- He desires a personal relationship with all He creates Merciful- He gives us the grace we don’t deserve Trinity- He manifests Himself in the Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit We all know that God is really, really big. Are we truly living in the reality of who we are and who He is? Are we living in the reverence and awe of His might? As children of the living God, are we walking in the peace and security that He provides for us today? Like gravity, we can deny that God exists or we can make God really small. But He is still very, very large! I spoke with a dear lady this week that is experiencing some heavy trials with her family. She loves her family so much and prays daily for her kids to be delivered from the trials they are enduring. But, like she said, “The storm seems to just continue on.” She is losing her trust in the Lord as He seemingly sits out of her precious son’s anguish. I spoke with a best friend in Houston who is in the middle of recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. His faith and family are safe and well, but in his tears, he expressed his exhaustion, “We are just so tired.” Sometimes life makes no sense. Sometimes life is very hard. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God is around. But He is. The Matrix was a popular movie in the late 90’s. The plot is kind of confusing, but simply put, machines had taken over the world and had put mankind into a virtual reality, orchestrated by the machines. One human broke free and attempted to bring the human race back to reality. There is a power, controlled by the evil one, on the planet earth who wants us to live in the allusion that what happens here is it. That “power” wants us to believe that money and power and control are to be won at all costs. Our amazing God reminds us of reality. He is God and we are His. We’re at our best when we’re living in obedience to Him and carrying out His plan for our lives. That blueprint may not make sense to us, but it does to him. Good or bad, sunny or cloudy, we thrive when we’re active participants in His plan. How do we do that? We make the choice to live in the season God grants us, in peace and security. We choose not to live by how we feel but by who we are. Sure, grief and tears are a part of the seasons, but deep down, we live on the Rock. Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”. So, enjoy the sultry season of fall. Don’t jump off roofs, but live in the reality of God’s love and will. He will always be faithful… …in every season. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Dove Hunt

“…make the most of your time…- Eph. 5:16 Every September 1st, dove season begins in most states. Dove are the most populous game bird in America. They are fast flyers and hard to hit, but are a blast to hunt (pun intended). This past September 1st, my son Eric, Brian my brother-in-law, and I packed up the shotguns and camo and went on a hunting trip up to Bois D’Arc Conservation area, west of Springfield. We had a great time and even got a few birds. The morning of hunting stirred up more than just the birds- it stirred up my soul. My dad loved hunting. I think it tapped into his rural, farm upbringing, and he was an excellent shot. Mostly, I think he just loved the time with his four boys. No sports, no pagers going off (remember those?), no phone calls, no TV. It was just raw, beautiful time well spent with a dad and his kids. We knew we had each other for most of the day. Mom never did join us. She stayed home to do the cooking when we returned. If we brought back birds, she cooked the dove and we had a feast. That Friday with Eric, I found myself teary-eyed several times as I reflected back on those hunts and times with my dad and my brothers. Growing up, we never went hunting on our own. In between all the sports and business, we always made time for hunting together. I remember Dad waking us up Saturday morning to go hunting and my wanting to stay in bed. Most of our Friday nights were late following our football games. But once we got to the hunting fields, we were ready to go. I miss those times. I miss my dad. I miss my mom. I miss my oldest brother Pel. I miss my second oldest bother Marc. I miss my family (though I am so thankful for my brother Bob). These “every Saturday morning” hunts were so much fun for little brother Joey. I felt so secure and solid spending the day with my awesome brothers. As the youngest, I hunted with a .410 shotgun. My brothers had started with the good ole .410 as well. It used s smaller load and had a smaller pattern. It’s already tough to hit the fast-flying dove, much harder with this small shotgun. But my dad wanted us to learn to hunt slowly and safely. What we learned was that it took a very good shot to hit a dove! Eventually, we all became pretty good shots and we all graduated to larger guns. The beauty of those hunts was in the time together. It was in cleaning the dove when we were finished. It was in eating sandwiches out in the field. It was in swapping stories (mostly true) of our exploits on the hunt. Those were the times I was missing. As I was reflecting back on those days, it hit me: let the new hunts begin! I glanced over at Eric, so thankful for my son. I thought of Mark, my son-in-law (who I went hunting with the next weekend). I thought of their sons, James and Griffin. One day they will take their boys hunting. And the legacy will continue. It will continue because the hunts have never really been about the birds. Many times the Staples boys would drive home from the hunt empty-handed. Dove are very finicky. Sometimes they don’t come out. But the family time was solid. It was bonding time for us- time to just be together. May we all cherish the times we have with family. Time passes so quickly. May we make the most of every opportunity. May we relish in the hunting or shopping or mealtimes… …as we embrace out beautiful families. By Eric Joseph Staples©

Thursday, September 7, 2017


“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 The idea of rest is definitely not over-rated. As a matter of fact, it’s way under rated. Worst of all, it’s under emphasized in me. In the Staples family genetic make-up, the “rest gene” is definitely lacking. But I won’t blame it on genetics. It’s the choice that I make. But every once in a while, the door opens to an almost surreal time of rest and relaxation. And most importantly, occasionally, I choose to walk through that door. We just returned from a wonderful trip to the west coast, specifically, San Diego. The beach and surroundings were beautiful. The past year has been challenging, to say the least. Jeanie and I needed a time to get away and rest. We spent the week with my big brother, Bob, and his wife, Lisa. Yes, the door opened and we walked through, but we had to be intentional. Several “voices” discouraged us from going. “It costs too much.” Rest always comes with a cost. Flights to the west coast are not inexpensive. But the cost of not seeking rest is higher. We always pay a price for staying busy and that currency is our neglected families, friends and our own contentment. In the end, we spend our money on our most valuable commodities and our rest is well worth the price tag. The results of a healthier marriage, a stronger family and a healthier me are invaluable. Someone said, “We work hard our whole lives to make money to spend on our families but not with our families.” Being at rest for and with those we love is worth every penny. “I don’t have time.” Time is indeed an illusive, funny thing. Sure, we need to honor our vacation priorities where we work. But most of the time, we make time to do the things we really want to do. As is often quoted, “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” The truth is, we make time to do the things that are important to us. We have time, it’s just a matter of moving it up in the priority list. And we’ll always be glad we did. “Things won’t run well without me.” We feel a sense of guilt that if we go and leave the business to others, it will all suffer. We would all be surprised at how well things really do run when we get out of the way. The world was spinning before we were born and will continue when we leave. Pride wants us to think that what we do is more valuable than it truly is. Humility wants us to realize we are not what we do- we are who we are. For me to be the best Joey I can be, I need rest and recovery. And I need to trust those on the mission with me to run the show. Perhaps, just perhaps, things will run even better when I’m gone! “It’s too much trouble to travel.” Sure, going from here to there involves movement and energy. Moving is never easy. The hardest part about rest is getting there. Getting off the treadmill can be difficult. If it’s all we’ve ever known, then change is a challenge. But we need to take the journey from A to B, from heavy to light. Ralph Marston said, “Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” Someone said, “A field that has rested yields a bountiful crop.” Take the time to chill out. Take your wife on a trip, load the family in the car and go camping, go for a walk by the lake, spend some time on the back porch reading God’s Word. Be intentional about your rest. Let the Lord build you up…. …so that He can produce that beautiful crop of peace in you. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Therapeutic discipline

“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” – Heb. 12:6 Of course, Barney Fife called it “therapedic,” but if something is truly therapeutic, it is something that cures or treats disease. We all like to take medicines that taste good. I used to love having “fever” when I was a child because I loved to chew ‘aspergum.’ I loved the orange flavor. Yes, I even faked having fever a few times to get to chew it. But truth is, most medicines taste terrible. Most things that bring healing happen to hurt. But in the end, they cure. God is the ultimate physician. He knows exactly what we need. Someone said, “Discipline yourself so someone else won't have to do it.” God knows when we need to be disciplined and exactly what medicine we need and how much and when to take it. There is no area in need of healing more than pride. Example: Uzziah was 16 when he became king of Israel and he was awesome. He reigned 52 years. The writer of 2 Chronicles recorded in 26:5 that, “He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him. ” Wow! Uzziah prospered because he sought God. No therapy needed for him. He was seeking God and all was well. A few verses later, in 26:16 the writer describes King Uzziah again, “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.” What? How did the humble, seeking Uzziah become the proud, unfaithful Uzziah? He simply quit seeking the Lord. Chapter 26 in 2 Chronicles records that Uzziah contracted leprosy and died of the disease. Pride replaced humility and Uzziah went from prosperous to leprous. We all have that tendency to drift away from the Lord. The old hymn records “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Sin keeps us wavering on this side of heaven and it often takes God’s discipline to keep us on track. Someone said, “Drifting away from God is usually not a blow out but rather a slow leak.” It happens so subtly. It happens so passively. It happens so discreetly. Yep, the evil one knows what he’s doing. But the Greater One, our Lord, knows when to step in and produce circumstances to bring us back on track. He’ll never force us, but that atmosphere toward humility points us back to God. We have to believe that “God loves His people when He strikes them as much as when He strokes them.” As God orchestrates trial in our lives, he isn't just trying to mess with us, He’s trying to make us better and teach us how to depend on Him alone. God’s discipline is always therapeutic. It’s always for our best. And it’s always right. So, let the medicine go down. As hard as it is, swallow the whole tablespoon. It’s worth enduring the bad taste… …for the goodness of His grace. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Staples Family Legacy

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” -Psa. 127:3-4 For many years, the Pelham Porter Staples Sr. family tree gathered in Roopville, Georgia, at the “old home place,” and celebrated the legacy and heritage of the Staples family. I remember attending those reunions as a kid and then as a young adult. I loved meeting and seeing the “legends” of the Staples family. All the “old” people told stories and I listened and took mental notes. I sensed that those times were special. I could feel the roots going back for generations. But soon the aunts and uncles began to pass away, the old Roopville house was sold and the reunions ceased. But the seeds remained. This past weekend, we had the Staples’ reunion for the branch of one of Pelham Staples Sr.’s sons, Pelham Staples Jr., my dad. Thirty of his son’s, grandkids and great grandkids gathered in Branson, Missouri for a great time together. We came to celebrate the legacy and heritage of the Staples family and the roots continue to grow. I teared up several times over the weekend just watching all the great-grandkids being themselves. They were happy and secure and free. And while the Staples family is far, far from perfect, it is mostly healthy. It was a special time for lots of reasons: We saw loved ones in the great-grandkids. The Staples’ have a Scotch-Irish heritage. The tendency toward blond hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones and fair skin has left sunburns on the Staples family for generations! Watching the family interact was amazing as so many of the clan looked like each other. It was beautiful. We needed to visit about what we were missing. Most of us are good stuffers. We all have a tendency to take our hurts and tuck them away. But we truly shared the weekend together. Dad passed away in 1988, Pel in 2013, Marc in 2015 and mom this past January. We have been through a lot of loss as a family. Being together and telling stories helped us all. We mourned the losses but embraced the gains, especially in the faces of the eleven great-grandchildren. We had fun. We spent a lot of time swimming, diving, riding roller coasters, playing in forts and sitting outside. Though we all came from different parts of the country, there was ease in being family. It was just good to sit on the back porch and chill out together. And to eat and eat and eat some more! God was present. The Staples’ certainly have varying views on God and denominations. The early Staples clan had roots in the Methodist church. The old Methodist church in Roopville has the Staples name written all over it. But the Staples worship the God of all the churches, Jesus Christ. My dad, Pelham Jr., passed away in 1988. He has two symbols on his tombstone, the caduceus, representing his medical career and a cross, representing his faith in Jesus Christ. Definitely not in that order, because God was important to my father and is to the family as a whole. This past weekend, we certainly validated our “Staples pass.” We’ve all signed an unwritten agreement to pass on our heritage. Sometimes, family members decide they are “disqualified” to pass on the legacy, but we all have something to offer. It’s not about what we do, but who we are. As we talked and hugged and loved on each other and our kids, we renewed our commitment to family. I think everyone was glad they made the long trek to the Ozarks. I encourage everyone to take the steps to initiate family time. The weekend was precious and will never be forgotten. As is written in “Dixie” - “old times there are not forgotten.” They are not forgotten if we choose to remember. Let’s all be advocates for family- for reaching out and loving those who share our DNA. Thank you Lord for the Staples family… …and may we never forget. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tribute to Papa Beadle

Papa Beadle went home to be with the Lord a few days ago at 96 years old. As “I Can Only Imagine” played in the background, he took his last breath. He is surly not imaging now. He is in the wonderful presence of God Almighty. We will miss him, but no one is more deserving of heavenly rest than Mr. B., our precious Papa. This is a re-posting of an article from a few years ago. It describes well this amazing man named Burt Beadle Enjoy, Joey “in love…show yourself to be an example” -1 Tim. 4:12 Jeanie’s father, Burton Beadle, has been my father-in-law for 29 years. He is 89 years young and is a tremendous man for a lot of reasons, but mostly because he is a gentle man who loves deeply. Many say they love, but Papa Beadle puts action behind his love and care for family. When Elizabeth was a freshman in high school, she went out for track that Spring, like most of her friends. She jumped hurdles in junior high and was pretty good, but after the first meet of her freshman year, coach had heard she was a gymnast and asks her to try pole vaulting. She caught on quickly, and the next thing we knew, she medaled at district’s and sectional’s and earned a trip to the State meet in Jefferson city. Now Papa loves Elizabeth and loves track (himself a decorated senior Olympics track medalist), but I think there was a scheduling conflict with the State meet. But I’ll never forget the call the week of the meet when Papa let us know he’d be coming anyway. Granny, Jeanie’s mom, had to stay in Baton Rouge for a previous engagement, but Papa jumped in the car by himself and made the long drive to Branson to go to the meet with us. But we all knew he came for one reason: to show Elizabeth how much he loved her. He didn’t just say he loved her, but he showed it by his actions. The attached picture is of Papa and Elizabeth hugging after Elizabeth received her All-State medal. I always thought Papa deserved a medal too that day for making the long drive and for putting love into action. He has repeated that scenario over and over through the years, driving up with Granny for Eric’s State Golf tournament, numerous events, Eric’s graduation from college, etc. He’s shown that same love for his other kids, and grandkids, giving selflessly over and over again. He simply makes the choice to love. Growing up in a large family in Lafayette, Louisiana, Burt Beadle learned early the importance of faith and family. After serving his country in the United States Navy, he became an engineer by trade. He spent his life working with Kaiser Aluminum/Chemicals and being a loving husband and father to his family. During Jeanie’s gymnastics career, Mr. Beadle traveled to most of her meets all over the U.S. In California, Connecticut, and Colorado, he was her rock during many stressful gymnastics meets. Jeanie recalled many special trips that they took together. Like most men of integrity and truth, loving is a lifestyle, not just a choice made for the big trips. I’ve observed Mr. Beadle living out the choice to love day-to-day in teaching Sunday school for 50 years, volunteering for various events and being quick to help a brother in need. Even at 89 years old, he continues to be other-centered, devoted to God’s will in His life and devoted to family. Thank you Papa for your example. I was fortunate to have a father that I loved very much. He passed away 22 years ago. But I’m doubly fortunate to have another father that I respect and love deeply. Thanks for your example to all of us. As we raise our families, may we make the same choices to put our love into action. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, June 15, 2017


“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” –Phil. 4:13 Suddenly it’s summer! All of the best seems to pop up in spring and summer in the Ozarks. That yard that was ugly and needing sod is suddenly beautiful (weeds and all). Those barren trees are now large and full (and dropping pollen). And the electric bill is smaller (though the flower bill is larger). I know I’m weird, but one of my favorite summertime jobs is mowing the lawn (or for us southerners, “cutting the grass”). I love my job as a “people-helper,” but in helping people, it’s difficult to measure success and failure. Unlike a baker or factory worker, I don’t often see the good result of my work. I think that’s why I enjoy seeing the lawn mowed and groomed and perfect. So, last weekend, I experienced a relative disaster. Sure, bombs explode and earthquakes quake, and fire’s burn. But when my lawn mower malfunctions, the earth stands still. My aging mower lost its self-propelling capability. And with the crazy terrain of my yard, self-propelling is a must. Truth is, the self-propelling system on my mower had been failing for a while and I didn’t even know it. I discovered that, even though I pulled the lever to engage the drive, it wasn’t working. I was actually applying all the power to move the mower. So, I made that wonderful trip to Lowes and looked over their beautiful (and expensive) mowers. Shiny and new, they all looked great. But my eye caught the wonderful Husqvarna-Honda rear-wheel-drive mower and I was sold. It cost a little more, but I was in love (sorry Jeanie). I took it home, unpacked it, filled it with oil and gas, and let her rip! It was amazing and so easy. I could have cut every yard in the neighborhood! The greatly improved self-propelling feature was nothing short of amazing. It’s a feature provided on nearly all mowers. Of the ten mowers I looked at in Lowes, nine had the self-propelling feature. Why? Because it’s too much work to push the dead weight of a mower up and down hills. When I finished the yard, I cleaned my new mower and put it back in the storage shed. A question hit me, “Why would I purchase the self-propelling feature but elect not use it?” I could only think of one reason: control. When the self-propelling drive is engaged, the semblance of control is lost. It’s harder to turn and maneuver - but well worth the loss. It’s true of our lives as well. When we surrender our lives to Christ, he provides us with a self-propelling feature (and it came with a price). If we pull the lever, God, via the Holy Spirit, provides the very power and strength we need. He powers us up the hills and navigates us through the struggles and blessings of life. But we have to pull the lever and leave it engaged. The lever of God-dependency requires us to yield to His will and way. God-dependency moves us in the ways He desires. God-dependency requires us to let go of our need to control. God-dependency requires us to yield to His results. What a wonderful blessing. We weren’t designed to navigate through life by ourselves. As Bill Gillam once said, “We’re God critters. We’re at our best when we’re under the Lord’s control.” We’re in sync when we’re allowing God to be the self-propelling power of our lives. Sure, we can push and pull. We can strive and work to get our “mower” from here to there. We can even push the lever without letting it actually engage the drive. But we’ll end up frustrated, tired and directionless. Let the Lord be your drive today. No matter the course or topography of your yard, He is more than capable of being your strength. No matter the circumstance, settle in His might. Let go of control. Let Him have His way and you’ll be at rest… …and the yard will be beautiful. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, May 11, 2017

James and Mom: a Beautiful Contrast

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” -Job 1:21 Something wonderful happened yesterday: a beautiful baby boy named James Wylie Staples was born to Eric and Jennifer Staples. And he is perfect. He has all his toes and fingers. He weighed eight pounds and fifteen ounces and is twenty-two inches long. Eric was almost identical when he was born. Mom, Jennifer, did a great job and she is resting well. James is such a wonderful blessing. And I am a blessed Papa Joe. A contrast is defined as “a comparison in which differences are demonstrated or enhanced.” About four months ago, something else wonderful happened: my sweet mom, and James’ Great Grandmama, went home to be with the Lord. She wasn’t nearly so perfect. Her body was worn out and failing after eighty-nine years of being a mom, friend, and wife here on planet earth. But she too did a great job and she is resting well. She was a wonderful blessing. While I am tremendously blessed to have my grandson, James, this Mother’s Day, I’ll be missing my sweet mom. It’s quite the contrast. We embrace and marvel at birth but we shy away from death. This morning I had multiple texts from friends and colleagues expressing their joy at the birth of James. “Precious and congrats,” “So Sweet,” “How awesome.” There’s just something about a sweet baby that we want to embrace. The joy and blessing of a new life grabs us. After all, it’s life. Not so true with death. Though I had a few close friends call me, the texts were few and the comments awkward. We’re just not sure how to respond to death. In a world that values and craves control, death is the ultimate lack of control. We can exercise and eat right to add a few years to this life, but in the end, we all die. But as Christians, that’s OK. There is wonderful, eternal life beyond the grave with Jesus. In one of my favorite John Wayne movies, The Shootist, Wayne plays an old, sick gunfighter, John Books. In a key scene, Books goes to visit his doctor. Books is clearly depressed when Dr. Hostetler tells him his cancer is fatal. Books responds, “You told me I was strong as an ox!” Dr. Hostetler responds, “Well, even an ox dies.” We all are born and we all die. And while it’s OK for us to rejoice when a beautiful baby is born, we can rejoice when a life ends as well. I’m sure not knocking grieving. It’s a God-given necessity for us to say “good-bye” to someone we love and will miss. And I’ve sure been in the midst of grieving the loss of my mom for months. We need to experience sadness and emptiness and struggle. But the sting is turning sweet. It just takes time. I’m so excited for Jeanie and me to get to go to Nashville in a few days and celebrate the birth of James. I can’t wait to hold him and hug him. While my mom has moved on, James has arrived! It’s the circle of life. God does give and take away. As James grows up, I’ll always think of the wonderful legacy that my mom left behind: a legacy of integrity, faith and family. Let’s choose to embrace life. Death is a necessity and we all have our time. But let’s choose to embrace our time of life. It’s a wonderful gift and beautiful in the eyes of a newborn. May our sweet James grow up in every way… … in the legacy of his sweet Grandmama. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Happy Birthday Mom!

“We give thanks to God always for you…”– 1 Thess. 1:2 We lost our precious mom a few weeks ago. We had moved her from the town she loved, Fort Worth, to Branson, barely six months ago. Living at the house in Fort Worth became too difficult for her. Though her spirit was strong and encouraged while she was here in Branson, her health continued to decline. She died just a few weeks short of her 90th birthday, which we’ll celebrate tomorrow, February 20th. What better birthday present than to be in the arms of the Lord! But I am missing her today. They say, in grieving, that eventually “the sting turns into sweet.” I’m still stinging these days. It will just take time and being patient and waiting has never been a strong suit of mine. The truth is, she’s doing great. We’re the ones who are missing her. I keep thinking of what I could have done. I keep thinking of ways I could have loved her more. I keep thinking of her frailty and pain. I keep wondering if I could have made her life better. But I also find myself focusing less on what “could have been” and more on what “was.” What “was” was awesome. The Staples family lived a wonderful life of adventure. From Georgia to Ohio to Washington D.C. to Germany to Texas to Alabama and finally, back to Texas, my parents assured that we experienced the world. My mom and dad gave us the “OK” to risk and search. I cried as we watched the new movie “La La Land.” I was reminded of the precious gift my parents gave to us boys: permission to pursue our dreams. My mom allowed us boys to “give it a go.” “Better to be starving pursuing our dream than to be fat and bored settling for life.” As one older man once told me, “How sad to get to the end of your life, look back, and discover you have lived out someone else’s dream.” If you looked at the resume of the four Staples boys, it would definitely include some failures. My former mentor and boss, Richard Beach, used to encourage me to “risk.” “If something didn’t work out”, he’d say, “Chalk it up to R and D” (Research and Development). What he meant was that it was OK to risk and fail, because somewhere in the failures come the huge successes. My mom’s greatest legacy is her boys. She selflessly gave all for her kids. Her sons and now her nine grandkids, carry on the legacy. Some might say she was too consumed with us. In the end, she didn’t have garden club plaques but she had love. The greatest investment she could have made was locked in and passed on. I’m already missing all those fun things about her, but mostly I’m missing her smile at a pretty sunset, her compliment of a job well done, her encouragement on a hard day, her stories about her childhood, her stories about my Dad. In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul said, “I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith.” Mom’s race is over and she finished well. She fought a great fight. We will miss her, but all is well. We love you mom. Oh, and happy birthday! By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Journey

“…I’ve learned the secret of being filled and going hungry…” Phil. 4:11-13 Today we’re flying to Arizona for my nephew’s wedding. It’s been quite a journey already, from the parking garage to baggage check, late arrivals to turbulence, the journey has been difficult. But the time with family and the wedding will be awesome. Journeys worth taking are usually difficult. Life takes us on such multiple walks- most not of our choosing. And that’s okay if we remember that the worth of the walk depends on our willingness not to waiver. We all just finished another walk called 2016. All of us experienced ups and downs. Some days we rejoiced on the mountaintops. Other days we struggled in the valleys. Some days we got ahead and other days we fell behind. Of course, we all love easy days when everything is just clicking. But there’s no growth when times are easy. Mountaintops are great- but nothing grows above the tree line. We learn little when we win. We learn so much more when we lose. Someone once said that “trials don’t produce character, they reveal it.” I think they can do both. Trials send us one of two directions: growth or grouchiness. The sun shines on butter and melts it, and that same sun shines on clay and makes it harder. Same sun but different material- different substance. It’s what James meant when he wrote James 2:1-4 “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result…” We’re all going to encounter trials but we choose whether the difficulty will do us any good. We have to “let it” help us grow. A hard heart grows bitter in trial- a soft heart grows better in trial. A soft, teachable heart is willing to learn and grow. Only a heart that is pliable and flexible can see the purpose in difficulty. I’m hearing the passengers in the seats behind me in the plane describe their “horrible day” and how life has just been “terrible.” They are frustrated about the “airlines not caring because they lost my bag.” They concluded, “We just didn’t have good luck today.” They are like so many of us who define our days by our circumstances. If we’re slaves to the “luck” in our lives, then we’re like a roller coaster- up and down and up and down. But life is more that our circumstances. 2016 was not defined by events. It was defined by how well we let the loving, awesome God of the universe have His way in our lives. It’s why Paul could say, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in.” (Phil. 4:11) How about we make that our goal for 2017: to live above our circumstances instead of underneath them. We can’t do that on our own. Paul goes on to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Let Christ have His way in your life this year, whether the flight is on time… …or delayed. By Eric Joseph Staples ©