GP: The Root of the Issue posted

June 30, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

The Root of the Issue

Earlier, you investigated the issues that are causing stumbling blocks in your life.  I’m sure you are eager to get to work on those.  So am I.  Let’s not waste another moment.

It does not matter which issue you’re concerned about, the root of that issue is a fundamental flaw in your beliefs, which leads to a flaw in your thoughts, which leads to flaws in your feelings and your actions.  Remember Event (A) > Thought (B) > Feeling (C) > Action (D).

To change your life, to change an issue to a challenge and a challenge to a triumph, you must start at B, the Thought phase of the cycle.

Read More at the God Positive Blog.


A New Plan

June 29, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

In May, when Dennis was going to be gone for a few weeks for knee surgery, we talked about how to fill in for the days he would miss on the blog.  I chose at that time to set up a parallel blog, “Spirit Light Works” so that I could publish some things there (a whole never-before-published novel) without taking up space over here.  Dennis was very encouraging about doing this and even had some interest in doing it as well when he came back.

At the time, I thought, “A couple months of doing this tops.”  I was sure he would be back, and Spirit Light Works would either morph into something new or die altogether.

Well.  Here we are a short five weeks later, and everything has changed.

I have to be honest about this.  When Dennis and I started this blog, I did it as much to help Dennis out as anything.  He wanted to start a blog, but his web skills were… um, how shall I put this nicely…  not that terrific.  🙂  So, we set up a plan whereby I would write columns on Monday and Thursday and he would take Tuesday and Wednesday.  In addition to writing columns, I would help him learn to post a blog in case he ever wanted to branch out on his own and do his own thing (when didn’t he want to do that?!).

Alas, I think Dennis liked this set-up.  It gave him an outlet and a reason to write SOMETHING every week.  We enjoyed being partners on this blog very much, and I never felt the burden of keeping the blog going all on my own.  It was nice and has now gotten to be something of a habit for me.

So, now I find myself in a new place, with no partner to write on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a second blog that I’m excited about but not sure how to manage, a habit of writing this blog that I really don’t want to leave, and a swirl of “where do I go from heres”?

Over the course of the last couple weeks I have been weighing my options, looking at what makes sense for me to do, what time is available, etc.  God and I have talked about it, and I think we have come up with a workable solution.

The first piece of this puzzle was laid in place the day after Dennis passed away (nearly a week before I knew I was now on my own).  A good friend of mine agreed to help me post my other writing to the other two blogs.  This will help with the time crunch in that I won’t have to be trying to publish the other two while keeping up with this one and writing new material.  That means, I can still just concentrate on this one on Mondays and Thursdays.

The New Plan is this (and I’m sure will be revised as we go along).  I will continue to post inspirational articles here on Monday and Thursday.  The other two blogs will be posting as follows:

Spirit Light Works: Tuesday and Thursday

God Positive: Wednesday and Friday (until the entire book has been posted, which will take a little over a year)

On the Spirit Light Works blog I will be posting whole books–Bible Studies, Novels, and things that I’ve written that are more Inspirational Life-Building books than anything else.  My plan at the moment (as God has laid it out for me to see so far) is that each month on Spirit Light Works, I will post ONE book in its entirety.  So one month will be a Bible Study, the next a novel, the next an inspirational life-building book, etc.

I have set up subscription options on both of these sites, so you can subscribe to them directly.

I will also post here on Tuesday the newest links to the Spirit Light Works site, and on Wednesday the newest links for the God Positive.  I will try to put in the subject line, “SLW: ” and “GP: ” So that you will know without opening them that those are links if you wish not to have that notification.  This means you will not be getting more emails than you were before from Spirit Light Books, but hopefully you will have access to MORE information and inspiration.

In any case, I want to sincerely THANK YOU for your support and for reading this blog.  You will never know how much it means that someone is on the other side of this modem, listening… even when I ramble.  🙂


Who Do You See?

June 28, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I’ve been reading Joyce Meyer’s book “Approval Addiction.”  In it, there was a quote I will get to in a minute.  Before I do, I want you to think for a moment about this:  If I asked you to describe yourself, what words would you use?

Most of us go to the tried-and-true.  Things like wife, husband, father, mother, daughter, son, brother.  Or maybe we define ourselves based on our career.  I’m a teacher, an accountant, a secretary, a nurse.  Maybe we define ourselves by our religion.  I’m Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian.  Or our politics.  I’m a Republican.  I’m a Democrat.  Or maybe by our geography.  I’m a Texan, an Iowan, an American.

We define ourselves in many ways.  Other words might be even more personal.  I’m a cancer survivor or a veteran.

But even these are on the surface of who we are.  Yes, they are a part of us, but most of the time they are not the real us.

In the book, Joyce gives this gentle challenge, “Let me see the picture of yourself that you carry in your heart.”

Now that strikes at the core, does it not?  Basically she’s saying, “I don’t want to see all the outside stuff that you use to cover up who you really are.  I want to know who YOU are, how you see yourself.”

Tragically, many of us see ourselves in ways others would never guess.  We see a successful businessman while he sees someone who is one deal away from losing it all.  We see a successful father; he sees a man who doesn’t know how to relate to his children and is terrified he will fail them.  We see a mother who loves her children; she sees someone who feels trapped by the life she is living and just wants out.

No.  Most of the time who we think we see is not who that person sees at all.

I spoke recently about geodes and how the students that I teach, I see as geodes.  Yes, they may be rough and bumpy and difficult on the outside, but inside, I know there are beautiful crystals if I could just get in there to see them.

I believe that we as Christians are called to see others as geodes, that we are called to bring out the understanding even in that person that they have worth and value just the way they are.

In thinking about this quote, “Let me see the picture of yourself that you carry in your heart,” I can FEEL how very frightening doing so is for the picture I carry of myself in my heart is very different from the one you see on the outside.  Truthfully in the past five years, the two have gotten much closer, but there are still things… things I tell myself, things I think, things I feel that color the picture of me in my heart.  And I’m not totally sure I want to let anyone see that real picture.

However, I think one of my strong suits is coaxing others to at least be honest about that picture in their hearts.  They might let me see, or they might not.  But being honest about what that picture says is a very good first step in understanding that you are a geode.  Because as you become honest about how you see yourself, you have the opportunity to deal with the things that are coloring or discoloring your picture, maybe even distorting it.  You have the chance to begin to be gentle with yourself on those points that maybe you’re not living up to what you think you should be.

Like that businessman.  Maybe he can see that the deal he is more than just the next deal.  And the father.  Maybe he can see that giving his children his time is enough.  Or the mother.  Maybe she can see that giving herself the opportunity to get out more would help her feel less trapped.

The problem too many of us have is that we never take the time (or have the courage) to face that picture that we hold in our hearts about ourselves.

So, today, “Look for a moment at the picture of yourself that you carry in your heart.”  Who do you see?  Are you the inside or the outside of the geode?  What changes need made?  What places need some gentle healing?

Who do you see?  It’s a great place to start.

Farewell to a Friend

June 24, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I love beginnings.  Maybe that’s why I write romance.  Beginnings are so very hopeful.  They hold so much promise, and often so much joy.

I’m not so big on endings.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I love it when a book comes together just so.

But life endings are much, much harder for me.  They always have been.

It is hard for me to relegate things, especially wonderful things, to the space of only existing in my memory.  In short, it is hard for me to say good-bye.

Today I come to say good-bye for now to a friend I never saw coming but one who changed my life for the better in so many ways I cannot count them all.

It has been almost 2 weeks since I found out about the death of my dear friend, Dennis Bates.  It has been nearly three since the Lord saw fit to take him home.

I’m sure Heaven has not been the same since.  I know I haven’t.

Dennis, as those of you know who met him through the blog know, was one-of-a-kind.  He was a lawyer by trade and probably by temperament as well.  He could argue you under the table, and he always had the last word because it usually left you speechless.  For me, he was a unique challenge–one part curmudgeon, one part teddy bear.

We first met after I had entered a contest (something I never do, but something God suddenly said He wanted me to do).  I did not do well in the contest, and many of the judges’ comments I received were frustrating and at least to me, nonsensical.  So I wrote to a writer’s group of mine.  Dennis wrote back, agreeing that writing is 10% literal and 90% word art.  He argued (and I agreed) that saying Shakespeare could not get published today is not a knock on Shakespeare but on the transient nature of what we as authors are encouraged to write to get published today.  After all, Shakespeare has been around for hundreds of years.  How many of even the best books today will be around in ten?

As we conversed, an unlikely friendship was born.

“Unlikely” because we were about as different as night and day.  We were different religions, different politically, different genders, different ages, different outlooks and perspectives.  We even had different views on how to get well when we were sick.  We had different sports teams and different styles of travel. There was not one thing we agreed on–save the incredible, wonderful love of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Everything else was pretty much up for grabs.

We even had different views of romance.  Dennis had this thing about wanting to write about what happens AFTER two people get together.  I was much more into the getting together phase.  But somehow our divergent philosophies of life meshed, and not only did we become friends, but we became writing partners.

After Dennis’s death, I struggled to explain even to myself the depths to which this change shook my life.  I mean I’d only met Dennis once for three days.  We had talked once on the phone during a conference call with 15 other people listening in. Other than that, we connected only through writing.  So the depth of the connection on the surface was a little bizarre.

But I finally came up with this analogy.  Dennis and I were like skating partners.  Now really good skating partners must be good at their craft as individuals.  One really strong and one weak will not work very well.  Further, the trust level between partners must be extremely high as if it is not, they will crash and both get hurt.  Finally as the trust builds and they work together, learning strengths and weaknesses, learning new skills, they begin to challenge the other and stretch not just as individuals, but as a team, becoming eventually something that neither could be alone.

In writing, trust is paramount.  When you write, you put you on the paper–your dreams, your hopes, your loves, yourself.  First drafts are particularly tender as are pieces that are “just for you” kind of pieces (not written for the public to ever see, but so you can get the story that scratching and aching in your soul out so you can go on to other projects).  I’m sure some writers never find that someone they can share these pieces with, and so they sit in diaries and on computer discs gathering virtual dust.

I think for the two of us it was having someone to share these types of pieces with that solidified our friendship into something more than just friends.  We became partners in publishing and in writing.  Dennis was never afraid to take a writing risk.  He would write and write and then smash whatever he’d written to bits and put the pieces back together just to see what new thing he could come up with.

And he pushed me to expand and write and try things I never would have given myself permission to write.  I remember one such book.  I’d been working on it in my head for quite awhile.  In fact, I’d told Dennis about it and how I was so stuck at the ending that I couldn’t even start it.  So he did something totally bizarre.  He told me to write the scene I was stuck on.  So I wrote part of it and sent it to him–so I could convince him it was hopeless.  However, instead of writing back to give me advice, he wrote a scene for MY book as if it was from the hero’s point of view.  I thought that was weird, but I took the bait and wrote the next part of the scene from the heroine’s point of view.  He wrote back.  I wrote back.

It’s funny now, looking back on that, because the central theme of those scenes could be encapsulated into the two words Dennis taught me:  Trust me.  In the scenes, the heroine was terrified of trusting again because she had been so hurt.  Dennis was just the guy to write the hero–a good guy with a heart  for those who seriously needed someone solid and who would never hurt a wounded soul.  He helped me have the courage to write that book.  And I think now it was one I was destined to write… for me.  So I would learn to let go and really trust.

My writing changed some after that.  I became freer with letting go and letting the words come instead of judging them and holding back.

Now Dennis would probably argue (when did he not?) that letting go was always my forte much more than his.  The thing is, letting go was never so much an innate quality of mine until Dennis came along.  He just never saw me BEFORE he came along!  🙂  In fact, his favorite words for me were “high maintenance.”  Never, ever before Dennis did I ever once consider myself high maintenance, but after he was gone, I could see where he got that.  You see, with Dennis, I could be REAL–no putting a good face on something… when I hurt, with Dennis, I really hurt.  When I was frustrated, I just let my frustration out.  When I was angry or unsure or scared…  Well…

One of my favorite Dennis stories was when I went to Iowa to visit him.  I already had the plane tickets and travel plans had all been made.  He emailed to say that the drive to his house from the airport would be short, and he would ride with me so I wouldn’t get lost even though it was “just over the river.”  Now I don’t like water unless it’s in a drinking glass, and I sure don’t like “rivers.”  So I wrote to ask, “Just how big is this ‘river’ we’re talking about here?”  “Oh, it’s fine.  It’s just the Mississippi.”

Only Dennis could get me to DRIVE ACROSS THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER!  It’s quite the metaphor for how daring he helped me learn to be.

Now, when you know that no matter what the other person is going to catch you–even when you do an impossible triple flip in the air with all the world watching–you learn a trust that you never knew existed.

For me, that has translated into trusting in what God is giving me and trusting God to catch me because I’ve seen that that kind of friendship is possible.

I could write forever about Dennis and probably never run out of words.  I may write more as the days between the end of that chapter and here stack up.

For now, I simply want to say:  I miss you, my friend.  You will be in my heart forever.  Thanks for the lessons–the fun ones, the hard ones.  Thanks for teaching me I could jump and not be afraid.

Thanks for being my friend.  You will never be forgotten.

Last Chapters of If You Believed In Love

June 24, 2010

Final chapters are now available at:

And for those of you who were waiting for the whole thing to be posted, now’s your chance!

Here’s links to all of the chapters:


Do THIS in Remembrance of Me

June 21, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

There are times I really wish I had a photographic-auditory memory.  That is, I wish I could remember verbatim and without glitch, important things I hear.  Like tonight’s sermon.  The overarching theme was what did Jesus mean when He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”?

The priest named seven specific texts of which Jesus was speaking.  I remember six of them.  Figures.

But I think those six important enough to share them with you, so here goes.

The first text was that of the call of Levi.  Strangely, this is one of our VBS stories, so I’ve been studying it.  Now Levi (later named Matthew, the writer of the first Gospel) was a tax collector.  That was code for sinner and cheat in Jesus’ day.  Tax collectors literally collected taxes for the Roman empire, but the way they got paid was by taking a “share” of the tax they collected.  Now there was a fair percentage, but many if not most tax collectors charged more than what was considered fair.  So the job of tax collector became synonymous with someone who was going to cheat you.  Even if they didn’t, it felt like they did.

Levi was at his collecting table one day when Jesus passed by.  Jesus called him, and Levi, now Matthew, came.  He left his old life behind and became a new man in Christ.

So our first “do in remembrance” is to call people to a new way of life in Christ. (Or if we are the ones being called, to leave our old life behind and step into what God’s asking of us.)

The second story was the woman who came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.  The point of that story from Jesus’ perspective is forgiveness, rather than condemnation for those in sin.  We are called to ask forgiveness, and we are called to forgive, to raise up, to allow others’ tears to cleanse.

What we are not called to do is what those around Jesus did… whisper, criticize, condemn, trash, antagonize.  You get the idea.

“Do THIS in remembrance of Me.”  Forgive someone who is truly sorry.

The third story was that of the feeding of the multitude on the hillside.  You probably remember it as the loaves and fishes.  I noticed something tonight as they were reading this text that struck me differently than the other times I have heard it.  Notice, Jesus did not tell the disciples what He was going to do.  First, He told them, “Have the people sit down.”  Now “sit down” is a passive posture.  When you “sit down,” you’re not in active mode, you’re in waiting on someone else to do something mode.

I remember a long time ago, I heard a preacher talking about Moses and the whole parting the Red Sea thing.  He said that in the movie, Moses was up on the hill and he stretched out his hand.  But he pictured it more with Moses LEADING the people through the sea, i.e. walking in first on faith that God wasn’t going to let him drown.

That’s what I see the disciples doing here.  Jesus told them to do something that to the natural eye makes no sense.  “Have them sit down.”  But the disciples had to take a step that made no sense (like Moses walking into that water) ON FAITH before the miracle happened.

I think the “Do THIS” is giving others who are spiritually hungry Jesus’ Body and Blood, leading others to Jesus physically.

Now, I was doing really well remembering and keeping up to this point, but after this, things get a little fuzzy.

One of the next stories was Martha and Mary, and showing others that the best attitude is a posture which looks only to Jesus rather than us trying to do everything FOR Him.

The sixth story was of Jesus at supper on the Sabbath, and people came to be healed.  The Pharisees went nuts because He was healing people on the Sabbath.  But the point of God is to bring people TO Him, not make rules to keep people away.  Do THIS… bring people to Me.  Don’t keep them away.  Don’t set up life so that people want not part of Me.  SHOW them that living with Me is really living.

The final story has always been one of my favorites.  It features a guy who knew he wasn’t worthy, but whose curiosity couldn’t be quelled.  A guy who couldn’t “see” because he was vertically challenged, but may also have been spiritually challenged.  A guy who threw all societal rules to the side in exchange for a glimpse of the One thing–the One Man who really mattered.  Zaccheus.   And Jesus said to him, “Tonight I shall dine in your home.”

Do THIS… invite people in.  Dine with them.  Get to know them.  Make it a point to spend some time with them.

I sure wish I remembered what that other story was, but I’m glad I remember these.

Older Brother Syndrome

June 17, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

One of the lessons I caught in the Guilt book that I never got a chance to enumerate here is the concept of the Older Brother Syndrome.  He never called it that in the book, but I came to use that phrase over and over again as I read.

This syndrome derives from the story of the Prodigal Son.  In that story, the youngest son goes off, takes his share of the inheritance and squanders it.  When all the money is gone, he takes a job feeding pigs and is reduced to trying to eat from their slop.  After awhile, he realizes this is crazy and decides to go back home.  He’s got this carefully planned apology about how he doesn’t even want to be a son anymore, just a servant… But his father sees him coming from a long way off and runs to him, restoring his sonship to him.

The older brother is not happy.  He’s hacked.  He won’t even go into the feast when his father comes out and asks him to.  No, this boy’s got a chip on his shoulder, and he’s not about to celebrate his brother’s homecoming because he’s hacked at what he didn’t get in the deal.  “I did all of this for you, and yet you never even gave me a goat for my friends and I to have a party.”

Let me see if I can explain some of the symptoms of Older Brother Syndrome as a way of explaining what it is.

A hard heart.  You compare what you’re getting to what everyone else is getting and come up short.  You feel vindicated in being angry and resentful of what others have because you’ve busted your butt for God and what’s He done for you lately?  You do not realize that you SHARE in God’s wealth, that He doesn’t withhold anything you really need from you, that His mercy extends to you in your willfulness and spite.  You withhold love from those you deem unworthy and lavish it on those who you think can help your station in life.  When you see someone who is sinning, you feel perfectly justified in condemning them–if not outwardly than at least in your heart.

Do not be deceived, Older Brother Syndrome is deadly.  It kills your spirit.  It kills relationships with others.  It convinces you to remove yourself from relationships, to condemn others, to act out of selfishness rather than love.

Understand, the older brother was in as much emotional need of the Father’s forgiveness, mercy, and love as the son that physically sinned.  The older brother was in emotional sin, and it’s just as deadly though more insidious.

See, we tend to be shallow thinkers and even shallower judges.  We see what others DO and judge them for it.  The problem is, sometimes the sin lies beneath the actions.  The actions may look right on the outside.  i.e.  “I did everything you asked me to do.”  But they were done with a heart full of self-righteousness and a warped sense of justice.  “I did all of this FOR you, and what did you ever do for me?”

Those suffering from Older Brother Syndrome are hard to take.  They are often bitter and judgmental.  They criticize and demand and demean.  They hold themselves up while judging everyone else.  They may do a lot of good works, but they do them to impress others, to gain approval, and as a bargaining chip with God.

None of these work.

Moreover, they are not very attractive… except maybe to others with this syndrome.

I can say all of this because I was once afflicted with a bad case of Older Brother Syndrome.  I had a quiet case than some, maybe because most of my judgments were never put to voice, only whispered in my heart.  But oh, I felt them… deeply.  I watched.  I analyzed.  I judged what others did versus what I was doing, and ONE of us was always lacking.

It was a horrible way to live.

Older Brother Syndrome is a spiritual disease that will poison your relationship with God and with others.  It will leave you sad, scared, angry, and alone.

If you have any latent symptoms of Older Brother Syndrome, now is the time to start reevaluating and repenting (rethinking) what you’re doing and why.

The truth is that we are all filthy sinners in need of a Savior.  Big or small, our sin is enough to keep us out of Heaven and away from God.  Whether our sin is in the physical realm or the emotional realm, the only way we get back is to fall on the mercy and grace of God.

When we begin to understand that the older brother needs the Father’s forgiveness every bit as much as the Prodigal Son did, we begin to understand how far away we’ve gone and how very much we need God to say, “Welcome home.  I’ve been waiting for you.  You have a place in My house and in My heart.  Come share My joy!”