Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Family Forte: For Love and Adventure

by: Topher Wiles

The slicing hard steel blade was mere millimeters away from my fumbling fingers.  How did I get in this position of dicing pecans while blindfolded?  It all comes down to two words: love and adventure. Today I’m praying that readers actively instill both in their marriage.  

Love is what attracted me to Ashley nineteen years ago.  No, it wasn’t love at first sight. (Truth be told, she liked me months before I knew it; I’m a little slow sometimes.)  Yet love grew from a loving friendly relationship in which I tried to serve and help her with her schooling at Lipscomb University, to a loving intimate and exclusive relationship where I chose to sacrifice for her to give her the life of her dreams.  Love is the primary reason we chose to have those four beautiful children that we invest so much of our lives into now.   Love is still growing in our marriage relationship today as she and I both choose to learn how to better serve, help, and encourage each other toward God.  After taking a little look at our marriage relationship, it was love that motivated me to strive to do better in our dating life. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, county storm damage needs, and general increase in church work, I realized that I was investing so much time in meeting the needs of others that I was failing to invest time in my wife.  Sure, I worked on her car, mowed the grass, helped her with dishes, swept the floor, played tennis with her, and ticked marks off my honey-do list, but for months I hadn’t done anything fun with my wife.  That’s right, I had forgotten to “date” my wife.  That longstanding part of a loving relationship in which you go do adventurous things together was gone, replaced with responsibilities at home and service to others. 

That’s where love comes in.  Back in the Biblical Hebrew culture, love wasn’t merely an emotion or a mental exercise, it was a choice and an action.  If I was going to honestly tell Ashley, “I love you,” each night before bed, I needed to choose to be loving and follow it up with an action.  Love is why I purchased “The Adventure Challenge” book.  Now, I’m not going out on a limb to say that I recommend The Adventure Challenge to you yet at it’s $40 price tag, but our first experience was a blast!

There are three versions of The Adventure Challenge book available for purchase online, one for families, one for friends, and one for couples.  https://www.theadventurechallenge.com/  The Adventure Challenge for couples serves as a catalyst for meaningful, fun, and adventurous interactions in a marriage, much like we had when we were dating.  In our younger years (pre-kids), Ashley and I would take last minute trips, go rock climbing, visit flea markets in little towns, and attend social spectacles like the RC Cola & Moonpie Festival in Bell Buckle.  Alas, with life changes those adventurous moments have declined.  The Adventure Challenge for couples contains 40 PG-rated entertainment ideas in a fun and mysterious scratch-off format.  That’s right, you take a coin and scratch away that familiar gray film to reveal your next couples adventure.  The rules of the book state that you have to do whatever it says; no backing out.  Out of love, I purchased The Adventure Challenge book for our marriage and an adventure is exactly what we had! That’s how I found myself blindfolded chopping up pecans!

Our first scratch off together was titled, “The Helpless Baker.” The surprising instructions read like this: “Make a homemade pie together! One of you must mix all the ingredients by yourself…BLINDFOLDED, while the other person gives instructions by leading with their hands.” Baking a pie sounded mundane, with a chess pie or fudge pie being too easy, so we settled on an adventurous Kentucky Derby Pie. This deliciously mouth-watering dish proved tougher as it combined the following ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, coconut, chocolate chips, two eggs, and chopped pecans.  There was nothing mundane in this adventure as it proved quite the challenge to do blindfolded!  Ashley is a marvel in the kitchen and she was patient as she guided my hands and tapped out “yes” and “no” on my skin when I asked questions.  I was excited after cracking the eggs (yes blindfolded!) on the rim of a bowl to hear Ashley clapping and letting me know I spilled lost no rogue egg shell into the mixture.  Then the chopping pecan challenge came.  Ashley shared that she was nervous at first as I used my left hand to slowly feed individual pecans into the slicing and dicing knife wielded in my right.  Deciding that method was too slow, I put both hands on top of the knife and attacked a pile of pecans on the cutting board, only shooting a few across the counter. With the chopping finished and mixture poured into the awaiting crust, she guided my oven-mitted hands holding the prize into the pre-heated oven.

Blindfold removed, we laughed and talked about that 30 minute adventure for the next couple hours as we washed dishes together, ate delicious pie, and wound down for the night.  It was love that caused us to actively seek new ways to date in our marriage relationship.  It is the new and unexpected adventures like The Helpless Baker that give us memories to share. 

Love truly is an amazing choice that brings so much joy into the life of a marriage, a team, a church, a business, and a community.  I share my experience in Family Forte in hopes that you will choose to lovingly seek ways to take your relationships into ever growing adventures together. May your Family Forte be blessed as you choose to love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14

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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Family Forte: The Distracted And Distressed

by: Topher Wiles

I felt like a heel when I realize my parenting hypocrisy.  As my 3rd born son, six year old Micah is irresistibly adorable.  His bright blue eyes that he inherited from me were perfectly framed by his freckled face and sandy blonde hair when he looked up and asked one of his many daily questions. This query was one of his easier ones. “Dad, will you play basketball with me?” 

Look at Micah's
adorable blue eyes!

To my credit, ever since the tornado of March 3rd, storm damage of March 29th, and the shutting down of Central’s traditional church services in April, my time has been slammed, especially in the evenings with meetings and Bible studies on Zoom.  Many of you parents are going through the exact same situations in the last few months.  Our time is stretched to the max right now as demands increase! 

At the time Micah asked his question at 7pm in the evening, I was sitting on the living room couch staring at my phone.  I was involved in a text message thread with the elders from our church, Godly men that are a high priority in my life, but not as high as my children.  So what was my answer to adorable Micah’s question?  “Not now Micah, I’m responding to messages.”

To his credit, he didn’t backtalk, throw a fit, or even complain.  Yet his downcast gaze, slumped shoulders, and slow pace walking away let me know how disappointed he was and I immediately realized I made a mistake.  It was time to repent.  That’s right, that “churchy” word fits perfectly in this situation.  It was time for me to apologize, turn my actions around, and do my best to make it right.  By God’s grace, I sat the elder’s message thread down along with my cell phone, hugged Micah, and had a raucous basketball game with him on our 8’ goal.  Smiles and sweat abounded for the next 20 minutes, a time well invested in my children’s lives.  

The next day I received an e-mail from “All Pro Dad” which is a marvelous digital content provider that I subscribe to.  To tell you how good it is, Tony Dungee (former coach of Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts) is one of the primary contributors.  Their daily email described the “5 Dangers of Distracted Parenting.”  Since author Matt Haviland does a masterful job of describing the dangers of parents like me who are often distracted from higher priorities, here is a direct quote of the dangers from his article by his permission.

“1. Distracted parenting stunts your child’s emotional growth. When parents are distracted and unengaged with their children, those children miss out on a crucial buffer to help them express emotions through healthy outlets. This void can potentially create behavioral issues. Dad, get in the game, literally. An actively engaged father helps relieve his children of stored-up energy in a positive way and helps set boundaries when physical play becomes too aggressive.

2. Your child feels insignificant. Think of the silent message distracted parenting sends to your kids. For a child whose dad is constantly on his phone, it’s easy to believe that “something else is more important than me.” Failure to fully engage in your children’s lives robs them of any experiences that prove they are worth somebody’s undivided attention, thus reducing self-esteem and confidence. And it robs you of invaluable opportunities to be fully present in moments that only happen once.

3. It delays your child’s brain growth. I will not deny we all have important obligations. What I will refute is the use of devices as a form of babysitting, which can seriously inhibit brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months and only two hours a day for children over the age of five, including teenagers. Are your children on screens for beneficial reasons, or just so you can do your own thing? Also be wise to the behavior you model to your child through continual personal screen time.

4. Your child does not develop communication skills. It is not possible for a distracted parent to hold authentic dialogue with a child. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and conversational skills children will need to function as adults are drastically hindered when families are not actively communicating. Around the dinner table is one of the top examples of where dialogue can occur, but do not underestimate car rides, before and after school, and even at parks, libraries, and social gatherings.

5. Your child doesn’t develop empathy.  I once saw a toddler tip over backward in her chair at the library. Coming to her mom crying and looking for comfort, she was met with resistance. The reason? Mom was too busy on Facebook. Whether two or twelve, when our children continually receive the message that their problems are not ours, they struggle to develop empathy because they rarely received it themselves. That spilled cup, lost item, or botched school project may not seem like a big deal to us—but it is for them.”
(Read the full article here.)

Friends, I have a little bit of experience with youth.  I was a 6 year youth minister, a 3 year public school teacher, a coach of at least 18 youth sports teams, and I have 4 children with one as a teenager. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that youth need your attention for good development.  I’m more important to my kids than I am to this world.  If I died today, some of the world would miss me yet  would largely be unchanged. However, my absence would change my children’s lives forever.  Dads, be there in the moment with your kids and not on your cellphone.  The Maria Edgeworth quote is true, “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

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, July 8, 2020

White County Covid-19 Graph

Update: As of 8/6/20, I have changed the beginning date from June 1, to July 1 because the data labels were becoming too small to read. 

I couldn't find any charts for our county, so I began creating one. 
Updated today 8/12 from the TN Department of Health Website: 

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 8/12/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 8/10/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 8/06/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 8/03/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 7/31/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 7/28/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 7/22/2020

Click the image for the larger view - Updated 7/16/2020

Click the image for a larger view - Updated 07/13/2020

Coronavirus Chart
Click the image for a larger view - Updated 07/09/2020

Updated 07/08/2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Family Forte: The Strength of Waiting

by: Topher Wiles

In September 1992, Alabama expressed well the sad sentiment of our culture when they sang the song, "I'm in a Hurry (and I Don't Know Why)".  It seems like much of the world is enslaved to the impatient mantra of our times. On top of our work calendars, sports schedules, and community services, we are so busy in life that it puts us into an “I can’t wait” type of mindset that affects our families in deep ways.   

The impatience has grown during the Covid-19 pandemic that even Jimmy Fallon has created a hashtag of things people can’t wait to do when lockdowns are over: #FirstThingImGoingToDoWhenThisIsOver.  Here are a few reponses of things people can’t wait to do as listed on Chron.com "I can’t wait to change out of my pajamas." "Teepee my own house just because I have an unnecessary abundance of toilet paper." "I'm going to give a bear hug to all of my close friends!” I don’t know about TPing my own house, but that bear hug sounds fun.  Radio Station 106.5 of Buffalo, NY shares more realist things people can’t wait to do as: travel, see live music, hug, eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, get a haircut, go camping, play sports with people, go to the gym, and get married.  https://wyrk.com/11-things-we-cant-wait-to-do-once-the-quarantine-is-over/

That last one really got my attention as I consider things that our culture is in a hurry for and things worth waiting for.  Marriage.  I did a little research into how the pandemic has affected marriage and I saw that nearly every major news outlet predicts a baby boom in the coming year as happens after every major catastrophe. Additionally, I learned there are many, especially women, who feel pressured during the pandemic into sex before marriage as attested to by Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive health.  She encourages ladies especially in this time, don’t let yourself be pressured into what you’re not ready for.  The marriage blog for Focus on the Family agrees with waiting as it says, “In addition to the risk of contracting STDs and AIDS or getting pregnant, premarital sex leads to emotional distress, distrust, regret and emptiness.  In his podcasts about Financial Peace, Dave Ramsey frequently mentions the benefits of waiting till marriage for sex, having kids, and house buying for couples stating that waiting for marriage brings about much more financial freedom. 

While our world may say the words “I can’t wait,” especially during the pandemic, we simply want to say, “Yes you can wait, and marriage is certainly worth waiting for. 

Ashley and I have been taught a few things about waiting from those who are wiser than us. We even took the challenge and agreed to NOT kiss on the lips till the day we said, "I do."  I can attest, that was an amazing and memorable first kiss!  We believe there are blessings that come from waiting; not knowing everything immediately, not having sex before marriage, not peeking at Christmas presents, not purchasing a car until you can pay for it in cash, not knowing if your baby is a boy or a girl, not indulging in many other instant gratifications.  From my perspective, things are more enjoyable when you let the anticipation build for that big surprise, waiting till you can buy the car outright and have no loan, and when you wait to start a family until you are married.  You may call us old fashioned,  and maybe we are out of touch with the times about car loans and kisses, but at least on some family topics we aren’t alone as we affirm that with many things in life, it is better to wait.

Patience is such an integral part of the Christian life.  Maybe God purposefully chose to make us wait for Heaven and has only given us a limited description so that the surprise isn’t ruined.  Yeah, people will play with our impatience and write many fake stories about heaven like Alex Malarkey's book, "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven." (He admitted years later it was all a farce.)  Yet David says that waiting is a must to enjoy that blessed land of the living.

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" - Psalm 27:13-14

So we urge you, if you really want to wait, you can!  Don't rush into everything.  Don't be anxious to know everything.  Don't believe you have to peek.  You have a choice.  Good things really do come to those who wait, especially when waiting on the Lord!

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Monday, June 8, 2020

Topher's Fasting Resources

Thank you to those who have requested more information on the spiritual topic of fasting.  I can share my experience, my commitment, and my research. 
In the last twenty years, I've participated in several organized 24 hour fasts, a couple of 3 day fasts, and one 5 day fast.  For about a 3 year period I also fasted every Friday as well.  Ashley also participated in regular fasting with me.  When I use the word fast, I'm referring to a time period where one goes without food, only taking in water.  Of course, the word fast in today's religious culture has a much broader definition and you're welcome to use it in that way. 
I'm committing to 40 Days Fasting in 2020 between now and the end of the year.  It will begin with a 5 day period on 6/7 and then also  every Thursday in 2020 (that is my personal preference at this time.)
My five days this week that I've committed to fasting are focusing on:
  • Sunday - praying for mercy for the families of George Floyd & Derrick Chauvin.
  • Monday - prayer for safety of peaceful protestors and stoppage of violence & looting
  • Tuesday - prayer for police officers working in Minneapolis and all over the country with the protests.
  • Wednesday - Prayer for our minority groups in White County, especially Oakwood St. and Roberts St. Church of Christ.
  • Thursday - Prayer for our local city and county police as they too get affected by the backlash of national displays of unrest.
Email me, call me, message me, if you're fasting and what you're praying for.  I'll keep it confidential.  
If you would like to see the dates that I've committed to fasting, you may view it here or even subscribe to my calendar: https://calendar.google.com/calendar?cid=bTEza2d2MWY0cnR1bHNobGJldXV1YTU0NmtAZ3JvdXAuY2FsZW5kYXIuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbQ

The best resource I can give you on fasting is one chapter from Richard J. Foster's "Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth"  This book was a required reading in my college Spiritual Formations class and the 15 page chapter on fasting is marvelously concise and easy to understand. You are welcome to borrow my copy from my office.  Here's a quote from Foster "In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times... in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861-1952.  More recently a renewed interest in fasting has developed, but we have fart o go to recover a biblical balance."  Here also is an Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CRKXMB7

Here is a link to 71 different scripture relating to fasting in the Bible. It's the best list I've found so far. 

Here is a great outline on the Biblical Purposes of Fasting found on Bible.Org

1.       As a Sign of Sorrow

a.       For tragic events (Judg 20:261 Sam 31:13/1 Chr 10:122 Sam 1:12, 3:35; Esth 4:3Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

b.       For personal sorrow (1 Sam 1:7-8, 20:34; Job 3:24Pss 42:3, 102:4, 107:17-18).

2.       As a Sign of Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness

a.       National or corporate sins (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Sam 7:6Ezra 9:1- 10:17; Neh 1:4-7, 9:1; Dan 9:3-14Jonah 3:5-9Zech 8:16-19).

b.       Personal sins (2 Sam 12:16-231 Kgs 21:27-29Ps 69:10Acts 9:9?).

c.       As an opportunity for public exposure of sin (1 Kgs 21:9-12Isa 58:1-5Jer 36:6-9).

3.       As an Aid in Prayer to God

a.       For others (2 Sam 12:16-23; Neh 1:8-10; Ps 35:13Dan 6:18, 9:15-19).

b.       For self (1 Sam 1:7-11; Neh 1:11; Ps 109:21-24Dan 9:3, 10:1-3).

c.       For success in battle (Judg 20:261 Sam 7:62 Chr 20:3) and in other endeavors (Ezra 8:21-23Esth 4:16).

d.       For relief from famine (Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

e.       As a means of personal or group devotion (Matt 6:16-18Luke 2:37Acts 10:30, 13:2-3; 1 Cor 7:5).

4.       As a Part of Experiencing God’s Presence

a.       Supernatural sustaining by God (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Kgs 19:8).

b.       Reliance on God in times of temptation or spiritual warfare (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Matt 17:21/Mark 9:29).

c.       Reflecting the reality of the absence of Christ’s immediate presence with his followers (Matt 9:14-15/Mark 2:18-20/Luke 5:33-35).

d.       Going without food to remain longer under Jesus’ teaching (Matt 15:32/Mark 8:3).

5.       As an Act of Ceremonial Public Worship (Neh 9:1; Esth 9:31Isa 58:3Jer 36:6-9Zech 7:3-5, 8:19; Acts 27:9).

6.       As Related to Ministry

a.       Preparation for significant ministry (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Acts 9:9, 13:2-3, 14:23).

b.       Specific command of God while prophesying (1 Kgs 13:1-22).

c.       Suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor 6:5/11:27).

After of the New Testament, we also find early church leaders writing about fasting
  • Clement of Rome shared these thoughts to the Corinthian Church in about 96AD " Almsgiving is therefore good even as penitence for sin; fasting is better than prayer, but the giving of alms is better than both; and love “covers a multitude of sins,” but prayer from a good conscience rescues from death. Blessed is every man who is found full of these things; for almsgiving lightens sin. "
  • Polycarp of Smyrna wrote the folliwng words to the Philippian Church in about 108AD "… let us turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning, “watching unto prayer” and persevering in fasting, beseeching the all-seeing God in our supplications “to lead us not into temptation,” even as the Lord said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  • The Didache (Writing of the Twelve) that originated in the first centrury while John was still alive references fasting three times: for enemies, before baptism, and on different days than the Jews.  Here is one reference: Now, the teaching of these words is this: “Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?” But, for your part, “love those that hate you,” and you will have no enemy.
  • https://bible.org/seriespage/chapter-3-fasting-through-patristic-era  

Thank you for reading so far.  I hope you are blessed by the "Thank You" and the sharing on fasting here.  If you'd like to chat about it, please, give me a call.  In the end, I hope God blesses you and I with a more peaceful 2020 from here on out.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Family Forte: Teach Family the Importance of “DO”

by: Topher Wiles

Gary shocked me and complimented my Tennessee roots; here’s the story about how he did it.  Recently when I was out of state, my vehicle picked up an unfamiliar passenger, a middle aged man with that common name of Gary.  When Ashley spotted him, good ole Gary was stumbling and staggering around worse than a teenager waking up for school the morning after summer break.  While Ashley has never graced a bar with her presence or ever been drunk herself, the signs of inebriation were so obvious to her she knew the man to be in great need of getting off the roadway.

Gary was skeptical as he quickly interrogated me as to the purpose of my stop.  I tried explaining that we just wanted to help and when he found out I served as a minister in a church he proudly declared, “I’m a religious man!  I have crosses and Bibles all over my house.  I’m a religious man!”  His declaration caused me to wonder, “I have crosses and Bibles too.  Does carrying a cross or possessing a Bible on the shelf declare one as religious?”

Gary unknowingly answered the question himself after my family taxied him the final mile to his home. My new middle aged passenger made the rather astute evaluation when he said, “You’re not from here are you?”  I confessed my middle Tennessee boy origins which prompted his reply, “I thought so, nobody from here would DO what you just did.” 

While I disagree with Gary’s evaluation of his local populace around him, he did draw a very distinct difference between us and the cross and Bible owners he’s used to.  The difference is in what we DO. 

Right now, my social media feeds are still filled with people promoting lots of opinions and agendas.  Right now, many of them sound right and righteous in nature.  How do you and I determine who is worthwhile to listen to, to model our lives after, to go to for guidance when the world around us seems to crumble?  I submit that you and your family should follow people who are DOers.  I have learned this truth in life that I also teach my family.  It’s not what you say in life that changes people, it is what you do that makes a difference.  As a guy that invests inordinate amounts of time crafting what to say, these words about focusing on DOing are extremely important.  I’m not the only one that believes this way. 

Fred Rogers is often attributed with pointing others toward the DOers, or the helpers in life.   He said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” 

Jesus said much the same thing.  My morning Bible reading chauffeured my mental travels across Luke 10 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Remember, this parable was given as a response to when the expert of the law asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After the expert summed up the law with “Love the Lord your God… and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied with “DO this and you will live.”  Then Jesus gave this parable about a priest, Levite, and Samaritan who walked by a broken man, with the hated Samaritan being the only one who did something to help.  At the conclusion of the parable the expert declared the one who had mercy was the neighbor to the hurt man.  Jesus taught him to be more than just an “expert in the law.” Jesus instructed him to “Go and DO the same.” 

What separates us from the rest of the “experts” of the world, whether religious, political, or social?  What makes us and our families different from those who claim to know scripture, claim to know the police force, and claim to know how to respond to racial tensions?  What sets you apart is not what you believe or what you say, but what you do.  Jesus, police forces, minority groups, and even my passenger Gary would all agree.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Do something to show you care.

What have you DOne?  What are you DOing?  What are you and your family planning to DO to love God and your neighbors?  Really, spend time thinking about those questions for you and your family.  Formulate a reply to them.  After answering those questions, go and DO in the name of Christ.  You’ll be glad you did. 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:22-25
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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Family Forte: An Ace You Can Keep

Kenny Rogers passed away on
March 20, 2020.

Thinking about Mother’s Day reminded me of a sad song my late mother used to sing along with on the car radio that was released the year I was born.   While I don’t agree with much of what’s stated in the song, late Kenny Roger’s (died March 20, 2020) pensive lyrics about winning and losing hold a valuable truth.  

The Gambler’s well known 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 is our focus as Kenny Roger’s sings, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser…”

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 41 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 when a pandemic will hit or where a tornado will strike.  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).  It is your attitude that determines if the hand dealt that day is a loss or is something that “works together for good” for your growth and those around you. 

Our area has seen its share of mishaps lately with storm damage, tornado fatalities, property tax increases, and coronavirus closures.  Yet, in all of it we’ve witnessed the goodness of our community coming together to love and serve each other in new, unique, and unprecedented ways.  Even though the cards we were dealt look rough, we look at it and think that God has given us a winning hand. 
Remember, the true game is not your job, your sports, or your awards.  The true game is life.  You can’t control the hand you’re dealt, but winning or losing with your hand depends on you.

“Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser
 – Kenny Rogers in “The Gambler”

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)  Friends, that’s an ace that you can keep.

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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Family Forte: Travelling During the Pandemic

by: Topher Wiles
     I admit, my family has done a lot of traveling during the Coronavirus Pandemic.   This weekend my family visited together the ember green forests of the Great Wood with Pickett, Heather, Emma, and Smalls.  Not long before that we visited the beautiful farms, mills, and forests of Connecticut.  It was the New York subway station and a special musical cricket that drew their focus previously.  Before that it was Central America that held my children’s awe as they followed a Spanish conquistador in his hunt for gold.  Some of our best journeys have been to Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, Ireland in the days of St. Patrick, Britain during its early Roman occupation, and the magical land of Narnia whenever Aslan paid a visit.
     We are deliberately a reading family.  As you can imagine for a guy with my energy level, slowing down, sitting in a chair, and reading a book are all challenging tasks that rub the wrong way against the grain of my temperament.  Much like eating vegetables, we know reading is good for the kids, so Ashley and I choose to slow life down to read books to our children.  Also, much like eating veggies, if you keep doing it, you eventually learn to like it.  So our time frequently finds the Wiles family travelling through India, braving the rough seas in the new Americas, or travelling west in pioneer caravans as we read aloud.
The Green Ember Series has been our
favorite read aloud of 2020!
     Reading to your kids has been proven to be a big benefit in their lives. In a 2018 New York Times article titled “New Guidelines From Pediatricians,” doctors of medicine found that parents reading to children is a valid way to help kids with their behavior and attention span issues, and it’s as cheap as a library card.  Researchers shared, “The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.”  I struggle with attention deficit and we know a lot of families with kids struggle too.  Focus on the Family researchers tell even more bonuses in their aptly title article “The Benefits of Reading to Your Children.” Children that are regularly read to at home generally:
·        “Read better, write better and concentrate better.
·        Are quicker to see subtleties.
·        Have an easier time processing new information.
·        Have a better chance for a successful, fulfilling adult life.
·        Have many interests and do well in a wide variety of subjects.
·        Develop an ability to understand how other people think and feel.
·        Acquire the ability to sift information and to understand how unrelated facts can fit into a whole.
·        Tend to be more flexible in their thinking and more open to new ideas.
·        Weather personal problems better without their schoolwork being affected.”

    I know it’s hard.  I’m a sporty, outdoorsman who would naturally rather put a hammer, baseball, or fishing rod in my kids’ hands than a book, but even I see the big benefits of book-time for my kids.  I’ve witnessed so much good for my children and wife, that I’ve even increased my quality reading consumption by joining a book club at the White County Public Library.  The Wiles family has been blessed to organize our schedule to include ample amount of book-time, and we hope your family will experience the benefits too.  Here are a few of our suggestions as you and your children digest regular reading together.
·        Kids react differently to reading.  Gabriel could sit perfectly still and listen while Ethan struggled.  Putting a hot wheels car in Ethan’s hand and letting him lay on the floor to play with it made a world of difference in his attentive abilities.
·        Make time for reading before bed.  Yes, we have hard and fast lights-out times for our kids, but those deadlines aren’t as important as ending the night on a positive connection. 
·        Involve mom, dad, older siblings, and grandparents in the reading repertoire.  You will all choose different book subjects, giving the kids a variety of adventures, relationship connections, and funny voices to imitate.
·        Be patient with your kids learning to read.  One of our boys learned to read chapter books at 4 years old.  Another struggling with dyslexia and didn’t pick it up till 6.  Now, they are both voracious readers!
·        Keep reading.  Our eldest is thirteen, and he still enjoys being read to!
·        Force yourself as an adult to read a book, too.  It helps my mood, attitude, & blood pressure!

If you’ve got questions or are looking for tips for reading lists, the internet has a wealth of information on the topic, but we’ve found that our local White County Librarians are very well-versed in this area of study and are happy to help.  Go ask them for age appropriate suggestions and you’ll be amazed at the variety of fun titles they’ll offer!
Here’s a few of the Wiles family book recommendations for reading aloud to children 13 years old and younger.
·        The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
·        The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith
·        The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, even my sixyear old loves it!)
·        The Boxcar Childrenseries by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the originals are best)
·        The Cricket in TimesSquare by George Selden
·        The Russian Saga (or anything else) by Gloria Whelan (best for older elementary/middle school)
·        The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
·        The Roman Britain series (good for middle school age) by Rosemary Sutcliff
·        The Mercy Watson Series (great for younger kids) by Kate DiCamillo
·        The Beginners Bible (for young kids) and the NIrV (for older kids) all inspired by God. 

We saved the best for last in our list; we’ve been blessed to spend Bible time together every single day of our kids’ lives.  We hope reading is a blessing to you too.  Even while social distancing, your family can still travel the world! 

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4

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.