Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Family Forte: Every Hand's A Winner and a Loser


by: Topher Wiles

My mom used to sing along with a sad old Kenny Rogers song on the car radio that was released the year I was born.  This morning I woke with those pensive lyrics on my mind about winning and losing.  The Gambler’s chorus reads like this:
“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done”

The chorus is easy to sing, but one line of the song jumps out at me today, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser…”


(personal disclaimer: No, I don't condone gambling or drinking alcohol.
I participate in neither in my life.) 

Perhaps it was my dad’s racing team that got me focused on winning and losing.  At three days old I was at the dragstrip as that 1968 royal blue Chevy Nova careened down the asphalt.  When I was big enough, dad put me in charge of pulling a water sprayer in my red Radio Flyer wagon to cool off the radiator after every run down the track.  Then I began to win and lose myself.  Bridge building, speech, glider flying, math bowl, science quiz-bowl, mechanical drafting, spelling bee, baseball, tennis, basketball, wrestling, and bowling are just a few of the events I competed in during my adolescent years.  Add to that the twenty-five seasons that I’ve coached athletic teams and you can tell I’ve won and lost a lot of games in my 40 years. 

One of the most important concepts that keeps me competing is what Kenny Rogers summed up when he sang, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser…”

At first read, this line sounds like a logical contradiction.  I know parents who believe a pretty saying like this can’t possibly be true.  I know players who find it too confusing to have any merit.  It’s true that for many of my opponents over the years who have such a short-sighted view of competition, this verse remains an enigma.  For people who only care about the physical scoreboard when time runs out, this line makes no sense.  To truly understand the deep and profound wisdom of “Every Hand” from The Gambler, you need to know these three fundamental truths. 
  1. The true game is life.  The way some people lose their religion when competing makes it appear that trophies, rings, and scoreboards are all that matter.  Jesus didn’t sum it all up by saying, “Win competitions and bring home some hardware.”  The Lord of all Creation knew that our competition is beyond the ball field when He shared His winning strategy, “Love God and Love your Neighbor” (paraphrase of Matthew 22:36-40).  Winning at life is the only thing that matters.
  2. You can’t control the hand you’re dealt.  Just like any gambler will tell you, we can’t control what cards are laying on the table of life.  You can’t control where you were born, the social class you were born into, the skin color you were born with, or the parents you were given.  Jesus, in sharing wisdom about life said it this way, “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and unjust alike” (Matthew 5:25b).  Each event contains the potential to win or lose toward the game of life.
  3. Whether each hand is a win or a loss is determined completely by you.  Every hand truly is a winner or a loser based solely on your perspective of sunlight and rain.  Paul shared the winning perspective this way to Roman Christians who struggled with bitterness in life, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28a).

Yes, I took this photo on our
baseball diamond!  Clayton
was safe! 
Coaching Little League baseball has been a great reminder that we need for positive life perspective.  Our 9-10 year old team is made up of undersized (almost all 9 year olds), under-experienced, and underage players compared to the other three teams.  In our 10 straight losses the scoreboard has always been set against us, whether it was the three times we lost by one run in the last inning or the three times we’ve been run-ruled.  It is easy for parents, coaches, and players alike to see that scoreboard as the determination for winning and losing if we forget our three simple rules. 

1) The true game is life, not baseball.  Each game with our pint-sized players is just a small hand in the game of life.  2) We can’t control the team we started with as we drafted blind, the player that broke his hand mid-season, or the kid whose bat just got hot.  3) Whether each game is truly a win or a loss is completely up to how we decide to keep score. 

I’m blessed with a coaching staff who puts a higher value on physical, mental, and spiritual growth than on the actual scoreboard.  We consider each game a win when the players choose to lead a group prayer before the game.  We consider those games a win when our players choose to get on the fence to cheer on a teammate rather than sulk after a strikeout.  We consider each game a win as the kid with the broken hand feels like a needed part of the team.  Combine those scorecard metrics with the fact that our players are progressively getting better at the skills of baseball itself and you see that we are consistently producing winning hands in the game of life. 

The great wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes went through all the high and low hands in the game of life and at the end he concluded with a winning strategy and perspective that we’ll be blessed to learn. “The end of the matter; after all has been heard is this. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13

"But in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep.
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done” – Kenny Rogers in “The Gambler”



The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Family Forte: Kryptonite, Patience, and Hope


by: Topher Wiles
Kids aren’t naturally patient.  Patience must be taught. 

Yes, those are
rubber boots! 
     Picture this.  You’re arriving at home for a bite of lunch on a quick stop between errands.   You do a headcount of kids and find 3 of the 4 reading books in the house.  When you pose the inevitable query to your wife she responds with, “Just look out the window.”  There’s Micah dressed in full catcher’s gear (that is too big for him) running laps around the back yard barking orders to imaginary friends like “Shoot two, shoot two!”  When he finally sees my truck Micah runs inside, throws off his mask to reveal a sweat drenched head, and proudly proclaims, “Dad, I’m ready to play baseball!”
Kids aren’t naturally patient.  Patience must be taught. 

     If Micah was a superhero, patience would be his kryptonite. Our third-born son is a normal five year old with an active imagination and indestructible mindset that leads him to believe he can do anything.  He sees his 12 and 10 year old brothers participating in karate, baseball, and music lessons on a regular basis, so naturally, he thinks it is his turn for them as well.  As both elder sons are getting dirty on the diamond a couple times a week Micah struggles with why it isn’t his time to don the cleats and swing a bat. 
Kids aren’t naturally patient.  Patience must be taught. 

     Each family has to make their own decisions on how to manage their time, priorities, and abilities. When it comes to league sports, we chose a different route than many of our peers, embracing a play-at-home mindset rather than running the hectic, divide & conquer, fast-food-for-dinner-every-night-under-the-lights-lifestyle.  Based on research, we’ve decided that our kids are allowed one league sport per year starting at 10 years old.  Don’t let our self-imposed limitations fool you; we are active!  Our family regularly plays basketball, wiffleball, and freeze-tag together with church friends and neighbors outside.  Rather than tie up 30 evenings in a 3 month period with a league, we have our kids jumping in 1 mile mud runs and 5k’s with us in their preschool years.   During the summer, family tennis days are weekly regulars in our schedules, even putting a racket in the hands of our 2 year old daughter, but no early-age leagues.  Since we have chosen a schedule plan that affords our family more time at home around the dinner table, more date nights for mom & dad, and more vacation adventures, our children have had to wait longer to play in schedule-crushing multi-league sports like other kids.   With our personal family choices, 5 year old Micah struggles with why he isn’t allowed to be on a league team. 


Kids aren’t naturally patient.  Patience must be taught.

      The Good Book is littered with wisdom on counter-cultural patience such as the following.   But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:25).” “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7).” “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).” “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).”  
Yet, the Bible verse that tips me off onto how I can best build patience for my child is Paul’s words in Romans 5:4, “Patience produces character, and character produces HOPE.”

     HOPE is the key to avoid frustration when delayed.  For Micah, when he begs to be put on a league team that we know will limit our volunteerism or decrease our quality family time together, we respond gently with our plan of hope.  I say, “Micah, remember, when you are 10 years old you will get to play baseball.  Until that time, let’s keep playing together in the back yard.  Why don’t we take a minute right now to throw you a few pitches.”  Instantly Micah smiles as he grabs his bat to smite the leather ball as a caveman would with his club.  To curb frustration, Micah gets little tastes of the hope to come.  Wiffle-ball with mom, catcher drills with brothers, and special trips alone at the ball field with dad are fun little tastes of hopeful things to come. 
Kids aren’t naturally patient.  Patience must be taught.

     Every family life plan is different, yet we each decide our priorities in life for our family and we must be ok with removing the things that distract us from those priorities.  We must be resolute in saying, “No” or “Not yet” to our children, all while we give them taste of the hope to come.   Here are some other ways you can build patience in your children.

  • Small Doses Starting Young – As toddlers teach them patience in a positive way.  Ask them to calm down before you fulfill their request.  Have the wait quietly for 1 minute before you put more milk in their sippy cup.  It’s not much but it’s a start to build on as they get older.
  • Purposeful Delayed Gratification – In a world where everything is instant, make them wait.  You might want a new puppy just like they do, but make them wait for a birthday or till Christmas to get one.  To build hope, write little notes telling them how excited you are as well.
  • Make Them Pay For It – They want a new Nerf gun don’t they?  Make them save up the money with extra chores to pay for it.  Resist the urge to front them the money; make a special trip later for them to bring their own wallet to pay for that N-Strike Elite Strong Arm Blaster.

Yes, patience is kryptonite to a kid. However, exposing them to small doses of patience with hope when they’re young will later turn them into a superhero in a culture struggling with character.  Kids aren’t naturally patient; it must be taught.  So decide your family priorities and invest in building patience coupled with hope.  You’ll be glad you did.

“Patience produces character, and character produces hope.” - Romans 5:4

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Family Forte: The Best Views and Their Boundaries

by: Topher Wiles

     Golden Corral was where I received one of the biggest shocks of my life, but it had nothing to do with the food.  Here I was, as usual, finishing off too much of a meal at the delicious dessert buffet when I was approached by an acquaintance in the community.  I knew little of this 16 year old girl and her values when she approached me with a smile on her face.  My greeting to her was the same as I would offer any other teen that I met through church student ministry events.  After exchanging pleasantries, she made the bold proclamation, “My aunt sitting over there thinks you’re hot and wants to go out with you.”  A quick glance in the direction pointed confirmed this wasn’t a joke and I quickly replied by holding up my left hand, pointing to my wedding band, and saying, “Thank you for the kind words, but I’m very happily married.”  Yet it wasn’t the solicitation that shocked me; it was her next words that opened my eyes when the teenager quickly countered with, “Your wedding ring doesn’t matter; my aunt wants you.”  Dessert forgotten, I made it clear that I was not interested and high-tailed it out of there!

     While some of you fellas might smile at the thought, I was shocked as I came to the startling realization that not everyone shares my boundaries.   Recently, another teenage girl shared with my wife and I the struggles of high school dating, saying that other girls believe no guy is “off-the-market” regardless of how serious of a relationship they are in.

     In a world in which boundaries, borders, and limitations are increasingly viewed as hindrances to be grayed, blurred, or removed, I believe our families are suffering. 
An early warning sign at the Grand
Canyon on PublicEditor.com

     Appropriate boundary setting is a good thing.  Consider what happened at the Grand Canyon on Tuesday of this week.  An elderly woman plummeted to herdeath, marking her the third fall victim in the area this year alone.  In each case, it appears those involved ignored obvious warnings and boundary signs.  Can you imagine the grief of the families affected by the tragic losses?  Those of us living near Fall Creek Falls understand the need for boundaries and limits.  If you’ve ever stood at the top, you’re grateful for the rock pillars with timber fencing that keeps most of us from straying too close to the edge of the falls overlook.  Just think back to the sad news story in 2017 of the 10 year old girl who fell over an edge, and you’ll realize the need to observe appropriate boundaries.  Boundaries keep us safe from potentially harmful situations, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Photo Cred: BusinessInsider.com
     Our changing culture tends to scoff at boundaries.  Remember March of 2017 when Mike and Karen Pence were ridiculed by our culture for theirrelationship boundaries?  Twitter users brewed a storm at Mike’s personal rule to never eat a meal alone with a member of the opposite sex, but rather invite a third person.  Culture commentators were outraged that our VP wouldn’t allow a female aide to work late hours alone with him.  Sarcastic jabs at Karen were levied as Mike described the measures he would take to avoid even a rumor of marital infidelity.  

    Of course, I agree with those boundaries as I have kept similar rules through my 15 years of marriage.  My beautiful wife and I agree that I won’t counsel a female behind a closed door, but rather in a public place, even often preferring to find another female to aid in her counsel.  I won’t ride alone in a car with another woman unless she is old enough to be my mother.  My wife and my elders at church each receive a message if I’m called to work in a close situation with a female (again, never behind a closed door).  I agree never to share my personal marriage struggles secretly with a female friend, but approach my male mentors for advice.  I let females know that Ashley is usually involved in the message responses I give to women who text me for counsel.   My wonderful wife has all my passwords to all my media accounts, open access to my cell phone, and the ability to GPS track my cell phone.  

     All these guidelines sound extreme to many people, but for us, they’re essential.  Boundaries not only keep me from metaphorically “falling over the edge”  but keep my reputation intact and above reproach.  We haven’t set these rules because we’ve ever had a question of cheating in our relationship; rather, older and wiser couples we respect have shared with us what has given them the most peaceful and joyful relationships at home, at work, and with friends.  Some of our friends now have shared the temptations that led them into infidelity.  We've tried to learn from others' triumphs and mistakes.  Our marriage keeps getting better through the years and these boundaries are a big part of improving our relationship and avoiding trust issues.  Our boundaries aren’t limitations, but they are the fences set inside the danger zone that let us enjoy the overlooks of life without the fear of falling over the edge.  

     Our Family Forte advice to you teenagers is to seek out the wisdom of respectable, joyful people as you learn to set boundaries in relationships, time management, and money.  For you parents, please be vigilant using positive communication as a tool to help your children establish life-giving boundaries at young ages.  We encourage you, the gray-haired generations, to stay positive and engaged in the lives of youth in our community as you help them navigate and set appropriate boundaries so they can enjoy the best views of life.  Set and maintain appropriate boundaries; you’ll be glad you did.

“…I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10a

For more reading, stats, and surveys on relationship boundaries, click the recent New York Times article HERE.

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family Forte: The Ups and Downs of Emptiness in Life


by: Topher Wiles
     What do cereal boxes, bank accounts, and toilet paper rolls all have in common?  They are all disappointing when you find them empty!  Think back to that fateful moment you’ve reached into the pantry to quickly nab that scrumptious dessert in a box for breakfast.  Do you remember your shock when you found the amount of cereal left in the cardboard would only fill your spoon?  Can you remember a time you filled your bowl of cereal only to find your milk jug with an eighth inch of liquid in the fridge?  Do you remember how you could have throttled someone at that moment in the morning?  Heaven help that dastardly person who neglected to throw the empty box and jug away before I found them!  Oh, and we’ll never forget that moment we realize we overspent an empty bank account resulting in extra fees!  That same emotional disappointment is what my 5 year old Micah felt at a recent Easter Egg Hunt because his dad forgot the disappointment of emptiness.

     As a dutiful dad attending to my tiny tot at Central Church of Christ’s egg hunt, I worked diligently at pointing out all the stray eggs in the grass that older kids missed, or so I thought.  After ensuring the little kids area was cleared, we strayed toward the big kids side and were surprised to find so many eggs left in the tall grasses in the middle of the yard.  I understand that sometimes our older kids’ hunting practices take after me in my hunt for my car keys; I can’t find anything when it’s left in the open in obvious places.  Yet I was puzzled at the bountiful amount of eggs the more mature hunters left laying in the grass.  Micah was excited at the “eggstravagant” booty he pillaged from the older kids, until we began opening eggs. 
     Many of Micah’s eggs were empty!  I chuckled as I realized what had happened.  Some older kid was immediately eating the chocolate and then snapping the eggs closed and dropping them for an unsuspecting hunter!  The realization gave me a giggle but gave my 5 year old a frown.  (I fear I’ve given some adult readers a diabolical prank for this weekend’s egg hunts!)

     Emptiness hurts.  Many of us have experienced that truth the hard way in life.  In our daily lives we often find empty things around us that disappoint us.  God knows that empty people will disappoint us as well when he warns of the following empty things. 
  • Be cautious with people who don’t do what they say and disappoint us with their empty words.  “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” – Ephesians 5:6
  • Be wary of those who put on a show of religious piety, but are unwilling to give in helping others.  “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place He chooses … they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed, every man shall give as he is able.” – Deuteronomy 16:16-17
  • Be mindful of those who pretend to know the depths of the will of God but disappoint us with their empty-headed shallowness.  “For an empty-headed man will be wise. . . when a donkey’s colt is born a man. – Job 11:12

     Yet there is one empty item in which we can rejoice, and because of it we don’t have to be disappointed by emptiness any more.  The empty tomb of Jesus Christ changes our perspective.  We rejoice with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James as they reached the tomb with spices and anointing oils only to find no body inside (Luke 23:55-24:10).  We praise God for the angel who rolled back the stone and said, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)  We marvel along with Peter as he “rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, saw the linen cloths by themselves.” (Luke 24:12)  Paul praised the emptiness of the tomb when he said “If Christ’s tomb is not empty, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty!” (1 Corinthians 15:14)  We exult in the Lord Most High that finally, we can find peace and joy in something that was empty:  the empty tomb of Jesus! 
     Yes, life may bring you empty cereal boxes, empty people, or even some empty Easter eggs, but we can bear it all because God has given us the Spirit of a man who rose from the grave, leaving an empty tomb!  May you be blessed because of the tomb’s emptiness this Easter weekend!

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here!  See the place where they laid him!”  – Mark 15:6

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Dropping 7 Truth Bombs on Prom


By: ChrisTopher Wiles
     A shepherd was out with his flock on a peaceful night and said, “This is nice.” 
“Not for me,” said one of his sheep, “all you do is boss me around all the time!”
“What did you say?” asked the shepherd.
“You herd me.” 

     I wish someone would have herded me, bossed me, or at least given me a set of rules to live by for my Senior Prom, because under my own guidance, it was awful. Yes, I was a straight “A” student.  Yes, I had been going to church for a year and was a born again Christian.  Yes, my teachers, coaches, and parents thought I was reasonably smart and could navigate my life since I would be turning 18 just a few days after prom.  Yes, they were all wrong.  My prom was awful.  I was an idiot.  I needed guidance and here’s why. 
     Mediocrity summarized what I brought to the relationship table in high school.  I was a good athlete, but not stellar.  I was an “A” student, but not the top of the class.  My family wasn’t rich, but my job at the pharmacy gave me some coins in my pocket.  My car wasn’t loud, raised, or lowered, but at least I had one.  Being a new Christian, I was kind of in between social networks, so I was still finding my way within a new group of friends.  Spring of 1997 saw this middle of the road kid in between girlfriends before prom. 
     Dana was a good girl (names changed for anonymity) in my senior class who also found herself dateless before prom.  I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I remember a mutual agreement that would go together, enjoy one of the big nights of our senior year, and the rest would be history. 
     RULE #1 – Don’t dump a friend right before prom.   Along came Amy (name changed).  She was an eye-catching freshman who suddenly showed a lot of interest in mediocre me.  Just a couple weeks before the big dance, Amy turned the flirting on.  Girls, you know you can nab most guys by laughing at all their jokes, giving well-timed hand touches in the hallway, and dropping sweet little notes in their locker.  Long story short, I dumped my senior friend Dana for this freshman fox who was infatuated with me.  Just…a…week…before…PROM!  
    Ever the “gentleman,” I dropped the $40 for Amy’s ticket, took my date to a nice dinner, and whamo… pretty much didn’t see her the rest of prom night.  She ran off with a group of girls and never even danced with me.  Yup, Amy never wanted to be with me in the first place. As a freshman she just wanted to go to Prom, and I was her vehicle.  Anger, hurt, and resentment are the feelings I still remember 22 years later.  I’m sure Dana felt the same toward me since she ended up with her older brother escorting her to senior prom.  I admit: I was na├»ve, I was a bad friend, and I was an idiot.
     I needed a mentor.  I needed a shepherd.  I needed someone to lay down some guidelines for me at my Senior Prom to steer me toward having a great night with good friends.  For those seniors in White County and beyond, here are a few guidelines from me to help you have a great Prom night. 

  • RULE #1 you’ve already read.  Don’t dump your friend right before prom.  Enough said.
  • RULE #2 – You don’t have to go to prom.   I’m over 20 years past my junior and senior proms and no one really cares if you were or weren’t there.  Life in Christ doesn’t revolve around Prom.
  • RULE #3 – If you go, set a reasonable budget.  Due to the magazine hype and media frenzy, people spend as much as they would for a wedding on this night of senior year.  Trust me, you don’t have to have that “Dress So Hot It Sizzles,” that coveted Stretch Limo, or a $100 meal.  Set a budget you can enjoyably afford and stick with it.
  • RULE #4 – Men, dress respectfully.  Ladies, dress with class.  The classic tux/suit and modest gown never go out of style.  The best part is, you can enjoy the pictures 20 years later without cringing.
    from scribol.com
  • RULE #5 – If you’re dancing, groups are the best.  Especially remind the young ladies that touches beyond their normal personal boundaries aren’t allowed from boys just because it’s prom night.
  • RULE #6 – Curfew will curb a few problems.  It also gives teens a way to tastefully decline a party invitation by saying, “I just can’t come; I have to be home by curfew.”
  • RULE #7 – Parents must OK any after Prom activities.  With the heightened excitement of prom night, teens don’t always make responsible decisions.  Since prom is touted as a time to self-indulge by media, risky behaviors may be harder to resist.  The grim reality is that over one-third of all alcohol-related traffic deaths among teens occur during the prom/graduation season (from focusonthefamily.com).   As a parent, it is still your responsibility to know where your teen is after the prom. Ask the following questions, “Is your party/event/activity supervised by an adult?”  “Will there be drugs/alcohol present at this event?”  “Is your date going to pressure you into doing something we don’t approve of?”  Set the expectation for behavior from your teen and stick to it.

     “You herd me,” said the sheep.  In our teenage years we all need “herding” and guidance.  A good mentor or guide could have helped me and “Dana” enjoy our senior prom much more.  Teens, follow these  simple rules and ask your parents and mentors if they have any guidelines to add to it.  If you don’t have anyone else you feel comfortable asking your questions to, then email me with Family Forte at topherwiles@spartacoc.com.  Class of 2019, enjoy your senior year! 

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31



The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Family Forte: Hicks, Homes, and Hope


by: Topher Wiles

     “What the hick?” is a question that caused me to face-palm at 2am.  At this moment, you might be wondering the same thing as me.  What did my two year old girl say?  Ashley had asked Clara to repeat that utterance and sure enough, “What the hick?” is exactly what my sweet little girl meant to exclaim.  After being positive of what she said, as parents, we began our super-sleuthing role of ascertaining the origin of her words.  We have no problem with any of the three words.  “What?” is an interrogative question that we generally encourage.   I’ve already used the definite article “the” five times in this writing.  And let’s face it, I’m a Tennessee boy who has at times epitomized the word “hick.”  We don’t have a problem with the words themselves, but where did Clara learn to string them together into this specific usage?  
     “Where did you learn to say those words, Clara?” is the question my darling wife asked.  Immediately her blame was leveled at her five year old brother, Micah, who was sleeping soundly in the recliner, waiting patiently on me to come home from baseball practice. My interrogation of Micah would be postponed due to my five year old not being able to stay awake past 9pm.  Thus I headed to bed with the puzzling questions on my mind, “Where did he learn it and why would Micah think that phrase is appropriate to share with his sister?”

     While I fell asleep quickly, my mind continued its detective style work well into the dark recesses of the night, waking me when with a fuzzy dreamy image of a red-bearded guy wearing a “DP” t-shirt yelling, “What the hick!” in my face.  That’s right, I awoke dreaming of Tyler from the hit Youtube channel, “Dude Perfect.”  These trick-shotting sports junkies are so popular that you can buy their brand specific football at Walmart.  My boys and I have been following the five man Dude Perfect crew for about five years, ever since their hit video, “Pickup Basketball Stereotypes” saw me laughing hard enough to spill milk from my nose.  Yes, sometimes these goofball guys get a little crazy with their antics.  Yes, their funny usage of odd words gets a little more colorful than I want for my two year old little girl.  Yes, it is my own desire to watch Dude Perfect videos that allowed the phrase, “What the hick?” to creep into Micah and Clara’s vernacular.  Thus my 2am face-palm. 

     Please understand that I don’t blame Dude Perfect for their influence on my little girl.  Their crazy antics and colorful wording reaches their target audience of 13 to 35 year old males very well.  It isn’t their fault that I have seen every single video on their YouTube channel, all 202 of them.  It was my desire for something a little more mature that influenced my young children.  This isn’t the first time we have had to reassess our pleasure watching habits and the influence they have on our family. 
Thirteen years ago, we gave up our TV.  That’s right, we cleared the spot on our living room tv-stand around the time Google bought Youtube, Nintendo launched the Wii, and Barry Bonds broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.   It was my beautiful bride who first suggested we unplug as our evening viewing pleasure consisted of a steady diet of “Friends” reruns and the hot new show, “How I Met Your Mother.”  Ashley’s question, “What do you think of getting rid of the TV?” was probably met with a responding question similar to “What the hick?”  I’m grateful I followed my wife’s suggestion (admittedly after much initial protest), and we’ve never looked back. 
     Plenty of others have questioned our sanity.  Some people thought we were crazy when they heard we were TV-less in our home.  “How will you get the news?”  “How will you know the weather forecast?”  “If tornados come, are you going to be safe?”  Even at church, people were concerned with our decision to get rid of the TV.  Some well-meaning friends claimed we’d be sheltering our kids too much without TV.   If making sure our children’s role models aren’t Joey Tribbiani and Barney Stinson is “sheltering”, then I think sheltering is a wise choice. 
     What did we do with the five+ hours of TV watching that the average American loses from their day in front of a screen?  We reinvested our time into tennis, books, hiking, chess games, Bible study, piano playing, volunteering, and more.  People have often asked how we are able to accomplish so much in any given day, to which we usually respond, “We just don’t own a TV.”
     Unfortunately, with the rise of personal mobile TV screens called SmartPhones, I’ve seen some of my valuable time waste away and some of the cultural influences creep back in.  According to www.recode.net, the average person is spending over four hours a day on their smart phones, and I’m probably one of them if Dude Perfect’s influence on my 2 year old is any indication.   With all the current data documenting the negative influence of screen time on physical, emotional, and spiritual health, it’s time to reassess my time investments.   I think I’ll start making my changes by deleting the Youtube app.   With all the recent international buzz over the creepy and suicidal “MoMo” influence on our children today, deleting Youtube from my personal mobile device may be one of the best things I can do for my family. 
     Whether it’s the influence the world is having on your precious children or an honest self-assessment of how you’ve been investing your time, I invite you to join me as together we strive to invest the best in our families.   E-mail me at topherwiles@spartacoc.com if you’ve got a idea for wise time investment suited for a hopeful hick like me.

“Act like people with good sense and not like the unwise. These are evil times, so make every minute count.” – Ephesians 5:15-16

For further reading check out the New York Times article: How to CutChildren’s Screen Time? Say No to Yourself First.   

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Family Forte: Bringing Out The Best Ogre In You


     “Ogre” is Cameron’s nickname, affectionately given by his teammates on the White County High School Warrior baseball team where I’m honored to serve on the coaching staff. Why “Ogre?”  It could be the 6 foot plus frame that looms at you from first base or it might be the no-nonsense scowl he wears consistently on the field.  Yet I think he’s given the moniker “Ogre” because everyone knew he had the potential to blast two powerful homeruns in one game, wielding his bat like a deadly caveman club.  Thus we witnessed the heartwarming progress toward the potential of Cameron Beasley on Tuesday night in Crossville as the Warriors trounced district opponent Stone Memorial Panthers by a score of 11-0. For a full recap of the game, visit the news section at www.wchswarriorsbaseball.com.  But this message isn’t about baseball. It’s about the need for teachers, coaches, and fathers to understand the often overlooked concept of development.  

     Like many other men and women in my life, I’ve been guilty of stifling development of young players like “Ogre”, students in my classroom, and even my own children as I let my perfectionism and anger rule.  Too often we adults get caught in poking, prodding, and pushing children toward 100% achievement, acting as though anything less than perfection is a failure.  I vividly remember standing in mom’s kitchen at 11 years old beaming with joy as I proudly presented my report card filled with straight A’s.  Back then, you had to achieve a 95% to gain that prized letter grade, which is exactly what I received in math during that 6 week period of grading.  Mom’s reply quenched my proud fire and my intense desire to achieve when her only response to my Dean’s List score was, “You can do better.” 

     Unfortunately, at times I’ve fallen guilty of expecting the same perfection out of my own children.  Even more depressing is that I’ve witnessed my older children struggle with the same perfectionistic treatment of their siblings.  We’ve all seen that teacher who is impossible to please unless you are hitting a perfect test score.  Coaches consistently berate players, as they “just want them to reach their potential.”  Parents give no praise for development but only criticize performance, making that car ride away from games seem like forever in the eyes of a developing child. 

     I wonder what would have happened to Peter, the great church leader of the first century, if Jesus hadn’t recognized him as a developing disciple in his three-year earthly ministry?  Would Peter have preached that life changing sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) if Jesus would have scowled and berated him when he looked that the wind and the waves and fearfully began to sink after walking on water (Matthew 14:30)?  Would Peter have faithfully healed the lame man in the temple (Acts 3:7-11) if Jesus had severely punished him for his denials (Luke 22:61) instead of using those mistakes for his development (John 21:17)?  Would Peter have chosen to be something different than the peaceful apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1) if Jesus had disavowed him rather than developing him for Peter’s passionately mistaken rebuke of Jesus (Mark 8:32)?  Yes, Peter made some big bumbling errors as recorded in history by multiple witnesses, but Jesus knew how to best develop Peter into the future church leader that has changed our lives today. 

     Here are a few development-focused ideas from the heart of a father, teacher, and coach who is still developing toward my own potential. 
1)      Just as Jesus knew that people are imperfect, so we too need to remember that our young learners will make mistakes.  Often we forget that we too missed some easy problems on our math tests.  Our vision of days past are foggy as we forget that we were also kids who struggled with our anger, our words, and our work-ethic.  Our remembrances often dwell on our glory days smacking homeruns, rather than on our many groundouts, pop-flies, and strike outs that led to the monumental moments.  Don’t expect them to be perfect, but do give them attainable goals of developing from their mistakes.
2)      Just as Jesus knew how to give appropriate praise for small successes (remember Peter’s proclamation in Matthew 16:16), so we too need to weigh carefully our criticisms and praises.  The Harvard Business Review found that the highest performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every criticism levied on a teammate. A wizened older teacher once gave me the wisdom of the “sandwich method” ahead of my first parent-teacher conferences when she shared, “Always begin and end your conference with a praise of student’s success while sandwiching the constructive criticism in-between.”
3)      Just as Peter has patience with erring Christians who are struggling in their faith (1 Peter 2:1-6), so we also need to be patient with the ups and downs of the progress of our learners knowing that patience, rather than expecting perfection, is one of the best tools we have in our progress toward maturity (James 1:2-4).

     I thought about these things when I witnessed senior Cameron “Ogre” Beasley hit his first homerun of his high school career on Tuesday night in his first at-bat.  He then walloped his second homerun on a 0-2 count in the top of the third.  His third plate appearance, though, saw a strikeout that might draw harsh criticism from others.  “Ogre” if you’re reading this, know that the WCHS Warrior Baseball staff is proud of you and the progress you’ve made.  You’ve come a long way from the one-dimension frustrated hitter you used to be.  That strikeout is evidence that we’ve got some work still to do, so continue to learn from it and grow.  Your future looks bright in baseball, in life, and in heaven as you continue to develop toward your potential in Jesus.   

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in trials, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:12



The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Family Forte: Fertilizer and Stethoscopes


Fertilizer and Stethoscopes For Growing Love
by: Topher Wiles

     Life with four children and multiple volunteer committments can be a little hectic and tiring, but absolutely wonderful if we keep our focus.  This past Saturday leaped off the blocks with a blazing start.  The Warrior Senior Project 5k Run with Gabriel and Ethan became my first hurdle toward the main event for the day.  The rain let up just enough for me to exhaust my legs on White County hills in an effort to support our seniors and earn some new hardware to hang around my neck.  From there I dashed over to our church for Central’s children’s ministry event, Pancakes and Pajamas.  While I stuffed my belly with pancakes and filled my heart with children’s conversations, my legs were growing sore.  When the pancakes were gone, field maintenance and throwing batting practice with the Junior Varsity Warriors Baseball Team  left the rest of my body stiff and feeling done for the day.  However, I still had an errand run in Cookeville with Micah before the focal point of my day.  By the time I was getting dressed for the Daddy Daughter Dance with Clara hosted by the Sparta Rescue Squad, my legs were screaming at me and my throwing arm was protesting while tying a tie.  The rest of my body agreed, it would rather have gone to bed than to have this date.  
     Yet, this date with my daughter was worth it all as she melted my heart and we grew our love for each other.  How can you grow your love?  Here are two quick ideas that worked for this dead-tired dad. 

     1)  DISCARD DISTRACTIONS - Like herbicide sprayed on a prized petunia, distractions can kill the growth of love with your child.  The Daddy Daughter Dance began with a long line for photos and meal.  While waiting in line with Clara I took out the cell phone to snap a couple quick photos of us in our masquerade attire when she started spinning her dress to the music.  After a short video to show her mother, the cell phone went in the diaper bag slung over my shoulder.  After all, I was there to have a date with my daughter, not focus on social media.
Sadly, some of the dads in attendance didn’t get the memo.  I witnessed some fathers thumbing through social media while their daughters ate their meal in silence.  I saw dads gathering around the water cooler like break time at work while their dearests earnestly watched and waited at the table for their return.   I looked on as men moved through the motions of a date while their daughters dreamed of having their full attention.   
     I’m grateful to say that the majority of men in attendance were active participants in growing their love by putting away all distractions and focusing their conversation, attention, and efforts toward their darling daughters.  That daddy attention acted like fertilizer in the relationship.  Growing love toward your child involves putting away distractions that act like an killing spray to a blossoming flower.

     2)  LISTEN AND WATCH - Growing our love takes a focus on our listening skills.  As a doctor focuses his listening skills through a stethoscope, so we focus our attention on the desires of children’s hearts.  For tonight, my stethoscope was watching Clara’s eyes.  When her eyes darted toward cupcakes I let her know that it was ok for us to eat dessert first on our dinner plates.  When those beautiful blue eyes wandered to the dance floor, I knew it was time to be finished with food, and wander along with her.  After an hour of dancing (my legs were still screaming at me, my throwing arm still protesting), her gaze fell on the balloons being bounced around the floor by the other girls.  I knew it was then my time to play “bounce the balloon” with my giggling daughter.  When her weary eyes finally shifted toward the door, my listening stethoscope told me my two year old darling had enough energy for one night and was ready for winding it down at home.   Listening to her heart by watching her eyes helped grow our love as I was able to continually give her the attention and activities she desired. 

     THE RESULTS - I was blessed by discarding distractions and listening to her heart through a night filled with unforgettable smiles, sweet butterfly kisses on the cheek, and those special “I love you” words dropped in at the most opportune of times.  I vividly remember spinning Clara with her flaring dress around on the dance floor while her head was tilted back, eyes closed, and that beautiful smile beaming bright.  You might say, “She’s only two – she won’t remember the date later,” and you’re right: she won’t remember the specifics of our evening a few years from now.  But what she will know is that her daddy loves her and cherishes her and treats her with care and respect.  Winning her heart now lays a firm foundation for the sometimes shaky adolescent years.  Even when she faces changing hormones and sometimes-fickle peer groups, she will have the safe sturdiness of her father’s love to support her.
     Fathers, it isn’t always easy (especially in the midst of a full schedule and an aging body) to take the time now to show your children that they are important and loved, but you can still do it by discarding distractions and listening to their hearts.  Strive to let them know that your love is gentle and tender as well as dependable and strong.  You’re laying the groundwork now for a strong future for your children.


“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” – Malachi 4:6a



The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at CentralChurch of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.