Sunday, June 21, 2020

Dad


“Honor your father…” –Exodus 20:12

This Father's day, as I do every Father's day, I want to honor the wonderful legacy of my father, Pelham Staples.

My dad was born April 3, 1919 in Roopville, Georgia on a cotton farm. He was the fourth son of seven kids. After serving in World War II, he married my mom, went to medical school and practiced medicine for his whole career. But his main focus was always his four boys, of which I was the youngest. 

My dad died suddenly in 1988. He was my father, my hero and my security. When he died, my world stopped for a while. Even though it was 30 years ago, it seems like yesterday. I still miss him very much. The sting of grief has definitely turned into something sweeter than before, but I know that a part of me is gone and will never return. I also know that I have a heavenly Father that is more than capable of filling that void in my heart left on that cold December day. 

It’s funny the things we remember about those that we love. When I think of my dad, I remember things he said. He was a man of few words and language meant a lot to him.

“There are a lot of things worse than dying.” He often spoke of the sadness of lack of love within family, living a life of empty conceit and the importance of living life to fullest. I saw my dad die a lot through his giving spirit and unselfish attitude. He was a giver. 

“Worrying doesn’t stop the rain- besides the farmers need it.” Seldom did he comment on the rain-instead he rejoiced in who was receiving the blessing. My dad’s agrarian background often showed in his appreciation of nature. We’d be driving along, and he’d comment on “the beautiful crops.” 

 “Joey, I’d love to decide for you, but I’ll only decide with you.” I went to him for so much counsel. “Should I go to Baylor? What should be my major? What do I do after college? Should I marry this beautiful girl named Jeanie? Should we move to Branson?” With all the questions came that same response. He knew I needed to own my life, but he was always there for me.

After he died, as we sat at visitation at the funeral home, an old pickup truck pulled up in front and a well-dressed Mexican family filed out of the truck, 4 girls and the mom and dad. It was Gonzalo, my dad’s helper at our ranch, and his family. They had driven all the way from west Texas to honor my dad. They came over to my mom and the brothers and introduced themselves. Then he pulled up the cuff of his pants to show us his lizard skin boots. “Your father gave me these boots. One day he noticed my boots were old and worn out and right there on the spot he took off his boots and gave them to me. I will never forget Dr. Staples and I come to honor him.”

My dad would be the first to say he was far from perfect. But he was a dad that loved. I am so thankful I got to be his son, and that I can live the rest of my life to honor him and my heavenly Father.

Happy Fathers day!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©
www.Lifeaid101.com



Thursday, June 18, 2020

Reconciliation

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” -Eph. 4:32

Deep down, we all love seeing relationships healed. It’s in our DNA. We love seeing marriages, families and individuals find peace. 

It’s called Reconciliation. And seeing people reconciled is a beautiful thing, between each other, but mostly to God. 

It seems we love watching movies and reading stories about reconciliation. Who doesn’t love the Hallmark channel? Okay, there are a few grouches out there. But every story is about couples coming together and families finding peace. 

Actually living out reconciliation in our lives is a huge challenge! 

Paul wrote about reconciling in 2 Cor. 5:18. He refers to the Ministry of Reconciliation. Paul is referring to ultimately reconciling to God.  Having right relationships during this brief life we live on earth means little if we haven’t reconciled to God for eternity.

But, of course, our friendships, marriages and relationships down here are meant to compliment our standing with God. Our earthy marriages and families and friendships are meant to usher us to a stronger, healthier relationship with our Heavenly Father.

That’s what Jesus had in mind when he addressed the disciples in Matthew Chapter 5. 

He starts out with the Beatitudes; then He reminds us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; that we are to let our light shine before men, that people might see good works; and that our lives must surpass that of the Pharisees. Wow! 

Then comes Matthew 5:21-48. Not enough space to write it here, but please take a minute and read it. It is a thorough discourse and it’s all on relationships. Why? Jesus knew that the areas of relationships, forgiveness and reconciliation were where the light would shine the brightest (or be the dimmest) to a lost world. This is the area that people watch the most. 

Jesus gives us seven challenges:

1. Don’t harbor anger towards a brother (5:21-22)
The Pharisees taught that murder was taking someone’s life. But Jesus taught that it’s not just about the act but the heart behind the act. The anger behind the knife is just as wrong. Also anger behind assuming a position of superiority to someone is also wrong. It indicates a sinful heart. 

2. Remain at peace with all men (5:23-26)
Wrongful attitudes need to be dealt with and made right. Reconciliation must be accomplished, whether the “innocent” or the “offending” party takes the first step. 


3. Keep the heart clean (5:27-30)
Heart surgery is necessary to really change. Inward change is what matters. And only Christ can accomplish that through us. 
  
4. Advocate healthy marriages (5:31-32)
God hates divorce. So do people. I’ve never worked with a divorcee who thought it was a good thing. Divorce does happen and life moves on, but maintenance of the marriage is a lot less costly than ending the marriage. 

5. Be a person of integrity and truth (5:33-37)
Be a person of truth. Be a person people can trust. Have integrity before God.

6. Be a bond-slave to all people (5:38-42)
Be willing to give away what was never really yours to begin with, God’s gifts to us. 

7. Love your enemies (5:43-48)
Be a cheerleader for reconciliation. We can’t make everything perfect. Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” We are all called to be peacemakers. We are all called to practice and teach love. Don’t let a single opportunity pass you by. 

I read a story about two brothers. They lived on adjoining farms, but they had a deep quarrel. They had often shared their resources, but that practice stopped; and there was nothing left but bitterness. One morning one of the brothers answered a knock at his door. It was a carpenter. The carpenter asked if there was any work to do. 

John said that there was something he could do. He took the carpenter to where the two properties met and showed him how the other brother had taken a bulldozer and created a creek where the meadow used to be. John said, “I know he did this to make me angry. I want you to help me get even by building a big fence, so I won’t have to see him or his property ever again.” 

So the carpenter worked hard all day. When he reported back to John, John noticed there was no fence. The carpenter had used his skill and built a bridge over the creek instead of a fence. John’s brother saw the bridge and was quite moved that his brother would do such a thing. The two brothers met in the middle and embraced. They saw the carpenter packing his tools and asked him to stay a while and do more work. The carpenter replied, “I’m sorry, but I have other bridges to build.”

Be a bridge builder in your own life and in the lives of the people of around you. Be a reconciler. Pursue Christ and pursue love. 

And experience the true peace that only God can give.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©
www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, May 22, 2020

Bobbie and Blankie

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our affliction" -2 Cor. 1:3-4

From the day a baby is born, a parent's number one goal is to protect and provide. A baby's number one goal is to be provided for and protected. What a great combination! As moms know better than us dads, babies "long for the pure milk…” Most babies don’t have to be coerced into loving their security blankets, eating or being cared for by mom and dad. But the “care for” concept gets a bit complicated later on.

It is commonly believed, the term security blanket was popularized in the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, who gave such a blanket to his character Linus van Pelt. Linus called it his "security and happiness blanket," in Good Grief, More Peanuts printed in 1956. If a child has not acquired the ability to pronounce complex onsets, it may be a "Banky", a "Woopie" or a "Wink." Our kids called them "Bobbie" and "Blankie."

In human childhood development, the term transitional object is normally used. It is something, usually a physical object, which takes the place of the mother-child bond. Common examples include dolls, teddy bears or blankets.

Donald Woods Winnicott introduced the concepts of transitional objects and transitional experience in reference to a particular developmental sequence. His research showed that most children need a physical object to replace mom and dad. The blanket comes to represent the love and nurturing of mom when she leaves (naptime and bedtime). 

Research with children on this subject was performed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by Richard H. Passman and his associates. Among other findings, they showed that security blankets are appropriately names- they actually do give security to those children attached to them (what a surprise)! Along with other positive benefits, having a security blanket available can help children adapt to new situations, aid in their learning, and adjust to physicians' and clinical psychologists' evaluations. Passman's research also points out that there is nothing abnormal about being attached to them. In the United States, about 60% of children have at least some attachment to a security object. 

Our goal as parents is to do the best job we can transitioning our kids from dependence on us to independence. But that independence is actually trading dependence on us to a healthy dependence on other things, namely God. 

God is the ultimate security blanket. I've heard some people say "God is just a crutch- a security blanket. People just depend on him cause they're weak." You know what? Those people are right. But someone who isn't depending on God is depending on something else. Exercise, money, and fame are all "security blankets." As humans we were invented to depend. And our Creator is the only one who can effectively fill the void.

But we don't give up easily. According to a 2011 survey by Travelodge, many adults take comfort objects away on business trips to remind them of home. About 35 percent of British adults still sleep with a teddy bear.

During this Pandemic time, many of us dont have our usual blankets. Sports, concerts, and gatherings have all been postponed for a while. And while blankets are OK, but we need to remember and teach our kids that the only thing that brings true security is Jesus Christ. 

He is the only "Bobbie" that never wears out. 

May we all carry Him with us each and every day. 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©
www.lifeaid101.com









Thursday, April 30, 2020

Gracious Uncertainty



The book, My Utmost for His Highest, was published after Oswald Chamber’s death in 1917. His wife Gertrude Hobbs compiled the passages after his death from her shorthand notes of Oswald’s sermons. It was given to me in high school and I’ve been reading it most mornings for 45 years!

Today, my words are taking a back seat to the words of Oswald Chambers, as it relates to this season of the Coronavirus. This is indeed a strange season of isolation and fear, but as always, God is here and at work. May we all gain strength through the words of one of my heroes, Oswald Chambers.

By the way, years ago someone re-wrote “My Utmost for His Highest” in simpler language to make it easier to understand. It was given to me and it still sits on the shelf. Oswald’s words (beneath, but similar to scripture) are sometimes hard to understand. But it’s good for our lazy minds to wrestle with truth.

                                                     Gracious Uncertainty
                                                     By Oswald Chambers
                       "…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…" —1 John 3:2

•Our natural inclination is to be so precise– trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next– that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been. Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God– it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “…unless you…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “…believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in– but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.•

It is said that much of Oswald Chamber’s thoughts were molded during the hardship of World War One, as he was stationed as a chaplain to British troops in Egypt. Much like the Pandemic, the times were difficult. His dominating truth was that our wonderful God rescues us while we’re in the difficulty, not necessary out of the difficulty. Like the Apostle Paul, this was carved into the character of Chambers, in the midst of trial.

God is carving (better, is trying to carve) that into our characters during this difficult season. Might we all surrender to His providence and grace.

Thank you again, Oswald Chambers, for speaking to our hearts.

By Oswald Chambers (and a few words by Eric Joseph Staples)
www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, April 17, 2020

Loss

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” -Phil. 3:7-8 Sometimes it’s especially difficult to deal with a loss. When my grandfather died in 6th grade, it was tough. When we lost the city championship in football in ’76, I was overwhelmed. When someone stole my bike in college, I was ticked! When my dad passed away in the late 80’s, I was devastated. I’ve had lots of loses in my life: Some of my Loses 1972 Grandfather died 1975 Rusty (dog) died 1986 Miscarriage with Jeanie 1987 Todd (teen I counseled) died 1988 Dad died 1989 Josie (dog) died 2001 Maggie (dog) died 2003 Elizabeth left for college 2006 Eric left for college 2010 Doulos Ministries closed 2010 Kipp (dog) died 2010 Richard (my boss and mentor) died 2011 Pelham (my brother) died 2012 Maisy (dog) died 2014 Marc (my brother) died 2017 Mom died 2017 Papa Beadle (my Father-in-law) died Of course, I’ve had a lot of other important losses. It would fill up a book if I listed them all. Losses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some loses are even good things, even though they are a loss. In this season of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are also dealing with loss: loss of consistency, loss of health, loss of freedom, loss of community. We can rationalize and justify, but the truth is, loss is difficult. I lost something a few years ago and it really bothered me. It was small, but a loss to me. Someone brought some candy into my office. Reluctantly, I put a piece in my mouth and began to chew. Immediately, I felt a crown in the back of my mouth come loose. I felt back there with a finger and it was gone. I couldn't believe it. I was ticked. I was upset. I was surprised. I was disappointed. It hurt and it would be expensive to fix. I called my dentist’s office. They didn't have an opening until the next week. I pleaded, but they said I’d have to wait. I considered calling the dentist himself, a good friend. I considered calling another dentist. But I finally conceded that I’d have to live with the loss. Truth is, I wanted to find fault. But a person didn’t cause it. It wasn’t Bit-0-honey’s fault. My mouth didn't cause the problem. I simply lost a tooth. There were no guarantees. Maybe I’d lose another. I needed to let it go. The tooth was gone and worrying about it wouldn't bring it back. I had to let it go, I needed to let it go, and I wanted to let it go. One last time, with my tongue, I reached into the back of mouth. Maybe it was a dream? Maybe I’d only imagined the loss? Nope, the tooth was gone. I decided to let it go. There is such power in “letting go and letting God.” I’ve found that when I give it over to my loving God, He brings comfort to the difficulty. He doesn’t necessarily rescue us out of the loss, but He promises to rescue us while we’re in the loss. I wonder what you need to release to God today? “Letting go” means I truly give over my anxiety and load- I hand it over to him in prayer. No wonder we need to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). It’s not a “once and for all” deal- it sometimes requires me giving it over to Christ time and time again. May we give Him our losses and trust Him in these uncertain times. He is worthy of our load… …teeth and all. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid.com

Thursday, April 2, 2020

How Great is Our God?

Isaiah 40 In trying times, like we're in today (of course, when are there not trying times!)it’s important to remember that our God is mighty! He has proven Himself over and over! His wonderful creation is our best reminder… •Drop an anchor in the pacific Marianna trench and an hour later it will hit the bottom- 7 miles down. The oceans of the world contain more than 340 quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them in the hollow of His hand Is. 40:12, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?" •The earth weighs six sextillion metric tons, yet to God it represents but dust on the scale Is. 40:15, "Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust" •The known universe stretches more than 30 billion light years (200 sextillion miles), yet to God that great expanse represents but a “breadth of his hand” A hand’s width, 40:12 •It takes 80K years to get from one end of the Universe to another… 10 million years to get to the farthest we can see… That same Universe contains at least 100 billion galaxies, each made up of approximately 100 billion stars- yet God knows them by name Is. 40:26 "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name;Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing" HOW GREAT IS GOD TO YOU? One of these lines might look shorter than the other. But they are both the same, regardless of how we see it. God is mighty and huge, regardless of how we see it! Ask yourself these questions: 1. How do I limit the strength of God? 2. Could He really be larger than I can imagine? 3. Why do I limit His might? 4. Would it be like for me to trust in His strength today? 5. What would it be like for me to replace the fear with faith in Him? Spend some time in prayer, thanking our mighty God for His grace and love and might… “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel,“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” -Isaiah 43:1

Monday, March 23, 2020

Surviving, Part Two

“I press on…” -Phil. 3:14 Surviving is way underrated. There’s a lot to be said for just “hanging in there” in the midst of difficult situations. It depends on what we choose to lean on. As I’ve counseled hundreds of families over the years, I’ve spent countless hours with people grieving over losses: loving moms and dads going through heavy trials with their teenage sons and daughters (and vice versa!); heart-broken families dealing with the loss of loved ones; countless other scenarios of people experiencing grief over something they were losing or had lost. But they are true survivors who refused to give into the difficulty. They believed and trusted and loved, even when no one else would. They took their grief to God and found His peace. A few years ago, Jeanie and I were traveling through Oklahoma City on our way to Amarillo. We decided to stop and visit the Oklahoma City Memorial that honors all those involved in the April 19, 1995 bombing. We walked and toured the Memorial and we were touched by the tragedy. An American elm on the north side of the Memorial was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building, and commuters would come into work early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by its branches. Photos of Oklahoma City taken around the time of statehood (1907) show this tree, meaning it is currently at least 113 years old. Despite its age, the tree was neglected and taken for granted prior to the blast. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the tree ultimately survived after nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation, in order to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark. The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left of the tree. Most thought the tree could not survive. However, almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree, noticed it was beginning to bloom again. The Survivor Tree now thrives, and an intricate irrigation system keeps the tree healthy. Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing today in public and private places all over the United States; saplings were sent to Columbine High School after the massacre there, to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and various other times. As difficulty and trial come our way, may we never let go of the hand of God and “hang in there” as the battle rages. I had a dad say to me once, “Joey, no matter what it takes, I’m going to hang in there with my boy. When I look back on this life, I want to look back with no regrets. I may be broke, but I’ll know I gave everything I had to love and save my son.” All we can do is love the best we know how and survive under God’s grace. Like the Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City, you might be battered and scarred, but you can stand tall as an example of God’s strength to a struggling world. You, too, are spreading seeds of hope and love to those around you as you hang on. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Freedom or Fear?

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” -John 14:27 Fear is indeed a strange thing. When we have it all under control (or at least we think we do), life could not be better: I predicted which team would win (and they did), I got the raise at work (and I deserved it), I fixed the car (I am amazing), my health is excellent (I could run forever)…the list goes on and on. But when we lose control (or at least we think we do), all is ruined: my favorite team loses, the car breaks down and a virus hits the shores of the United States. Someone said the opposite of control is fear. Hope is handing control over to a Sovereign God. The Bible is an awesome collection of God-ordained writings and episodes about life. It’s God speaking to us about all we’ll encounter this side of heaven. It’s there for our teaching and training. Read God’s response to these amazing men of faith as they struggled with fear: Jeremiah “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord" -Jer. 1:8 Abraham "After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Gen. 15:1 Moses "But the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” -Num. 21:34 “But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; and you shall do to him just as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon." -Deut. 3:2 Daniel "Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words." -Dan. 10:12 "He said, “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!” Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, “May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” -Dan. 10:19 Mary "The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God." -Luke 1:30 Peter "…and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” -Luke 5:10 Paul ",,,saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’" -Acts 27:24 The Gospel writers tell us that even Jesus was “distressed to the point of death” (Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34) but He never lost connection with God. He always gave control to His loving Father. It’s important for us to understand that it’s not “either-or.” Trusting God and giving control to Jesus does not mean we don’t experience fear. It does mean that when the fear button is pressed, I go to my garden and give it to my Lord. I give it over. And over. And, if necessary, over again. I pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). I release it to my loving God. Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s tragic death six weeks ago shocked the world. After all, people like Kobe Bryant aren’t supposed to die in helicopter crashes. And now we’re dealing with society’s managing of the Corona Virus. After all, people like us aren’t supposed to be quarantined. March Madness is supposed to be played! The Master’s has to happen?!? Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. A loss of control. Fear. But trust, assurance, and faith are our promise in Christ. There once was this criminal who had committed a crime. He was sent to the king for his punishment. The king told him he had a choice of two punishments: he could be hung by a rope. Or, take what’s behind the big, dark, scary, mysterious door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked: “By the way, out of curiosity, what’s behind the door?” The king laughed and said: “You know, it’s funny, I offer everyone the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope,” “So”, said the criminal, “Tell me. What’s behind the door? I mean, obviously, I won’t tell anyone,” he said, pointing to the nose around his neck. The king paused then answered: “Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope” May we all choose freedom. And that freedom is a prayer away, as we give our fear and anxiety over to a lovingly controlling God. Yep, America doesn’t have its favorite analgesic and numbing device available today: sports! But God promises to be a true deliverer. He doesn’t promise He’ll deliver us out of the difficulty, but He does promise He’ll deliver us as we’re in it. That’s true freedom… …and a freedom that lasts forever. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid.com

Monday, January 13, 2020

The New Year

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” -Phil. 3:13 Welcome to the New Year! It has come again. Regardless of how 2019 went down, 2020 has arrived. Every new year God is faithful and determined to impart Himself to us. We can run, but we cannot hide. As was true for 2019, 2020 is also a year of immense potential, if we choose to tap into it. Our home sits on two and a half acres of beautiful wooded land across the lake from Branson, Missouri. Our five-year-old Lab, Sammy, owns the backyard and has a dog door into our garage. She loves to explore. When we return home and the garage door rises, it opens up the potential of a wonderful adventure for her: either hang tight in the garage and receive a delicious dog biscuit for staying put or take off for the woods to its smells and varmints and fun. The truth is, it’s much easier to just stay put. The “garage option” is simple and consistent. It’s familiar and predictable and safe. Heading to the woods is risky. It’s unknown and new and unpredictable. But it’s also an adventure that has potential. In his classic book, Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson writes that “Chasing the Wild Goose is dangerous but is also a beautiful adventure.” Sammy headed to the woods is an adventure with so much potential for her. A few weeks ago, Sammy chose to go on that adventure into the woods. She returned home with the skeletal backbone and skull of a small deer, all in one piece. As she deposited her prize in the backyard, she was SO proud! She had mastered the woods! She had seized and conquered. The alterative was to play it safe, hang in the garage and snarf down the dog biscuit. But she went for the prize in the woods! So, guess what? The garage door is up for each one of us! It’s 2020 and a blank slate lies ahead. Staying put in the garage is the safe and easy choice, but exploring the woods is the true adventure. All true adventures begin with going to God. He is the ultimate adventure guide and will lead us to amazing places. Opportunity awaits all of us, but only if we’re willing to risk and explore. Sure, some won’t like us leaving. But we can’t be found until we are a bit lost. Others will just have to adjust. Risk looks different for us all. It might mean we pursue a friendship with someone (risky); It might mean we change our major (risky); It might mean volunteering for a new organization this year (risky); It might mean we go on that mission trip at church (risky); It might mean we walk over to the neighbor’s yard and say hello (risky). The list is endless, and the opportunities only wait for the Lord’s leading. Let 2020 be a year of trust and prayer and risk. Let it be a year of failure and freedom, of dependence and success. Every truly successful person experiences a lot of failures. And it’s okay. They are not failures if God led the way. The score doesn’t determine the winner. The prize goes to the ones who give it all. Thank you, Wes Neal, for your words of wisdom years ago: “If, in the name of Jesus, we totally release our gifts and talents in what we do, we are winners every time, no matter the results.” My late boss, friend and mentor was a wonderful man named Richard Beach. He believed in me and coached me in ministry for nearly twenty-five years. I sure miss him. We were different in that he loved to take the risk. I loved to play it safe. He knew that true discipleship always includes risk taking- not on projects but on people. Actually, it involves both. People are a mess with no guarantees. Sometimes we’ll pour our lives into a Judas and he’ll sell us out. But we pour anyway. Why? Because love believes all things. Yes, it gets burned sometimes, but our Lord will accept the blow for us. May our loving God be our guide in 2020. May He will lead us to “places we never could have imagined going by ways we never knew existed,” IF (and a big “if”) we’re willing to go. People and projects really are an adventure. In this year, 2020, let’s be willing to risk… …and in the hands of God, we will always be a success. Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com