Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Family Forte: Taking Off Training Wheels

by: Topher Wiles
*Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Micah's first ride*
     Micah made his bold and resolute proclamation at the dinner table Monday night stating, “Dad, I would like to ride my bike without training wheels tonight.” 

     Children often look forward to the next rite of passage; that moment that marks a transition from one stage of life to the next.  It could be getting to start kindergarten, putting on makeup for the first time, receiving a first cell phone, going on a first date, or taking that driver’s test.  The striking way my five-year-old distinctly made his proclamation let me know this rite of passage needed my full attention and it needed to happen soon.  Around the dinner table, the family changed plans for the night intending to see this monumental achievement in the life of a child done properly in a sloped parking lot.
     We arrived at the White County High School parking lot about 7:30pm.  If you haven’t parked there yet, I’ll let you in on a bicycling tip, the hill the school is built on makes the parking lot perfect for coasting.  That’s right, I said, “coasting.”  The act of gliding on a bicycle without pedaling is key to riding a bicycle and leaning into turns without training wheels.  Many parents get frustrated with their children when trying to teach them to ride without training wheels by going straight into pedal power.  
     A youth minister years ago told me the secret truth to removing training wheels:  remove the pedals first and focus on coasting. 


     Gabriel (my eldest son) snagged the 16mm wrench, and we removed pedals while raising the training wheels.  Micah, who’s been pedaling for years on trikes, big wheels, and his “big boy bike” with training wheels, didn’t understand why we removed his pedals and placed his bike at the high end of the parking lot.  “Get on and coast” was the only instruction we gave.  Micah studied the situation, looking down at his pedal-less bike then up at the parking lot.  His eyes lit up bright as the mental light bulb turned on.  With both feet on the asphalt, he pushed forward and began to pick up speed with me jogging along beside.  “Coasting is fun dad,” Micah yelled as he flew down the hill for his fifth time, learning to lean into the turns.  We put the pedals back on and Micah was a blur of smiles and speed the rest of the night as the entire family cheered him on. 

     Helping Micah achieve the next step of cycling prowess reminded me of a fundamental principle of child rearing. To give your kids the most freedom they can safely enjoy, we need to purposely give them safety nets and training to help them on their way.

     Before you turn your daughter loose with that pursuing young man, consider the “training wheels” you can use to help stabilize her till she’s ready to coast and pedal.  Ensure that she’s got the proper expectations of how she should be treated by giving her regular dates with her dad, uncle, or grandpa.  Consider keeping the training wheels on as first dates in public places can chaperoned by mom or an older sibling.  While you give her freedom to coast, make sure safety devices are in place, such as a fully charged phone, curfew, and “code emojis” so that she can send a quick message to get her out of trouble.  Training wheels and coasting practice will go a long way to ensure she isn’t scarred for life from dating disasters.

     Before that first cell phones hits his fingers, consider training your son on proper internet usage by keeping a desktop computer (I know, ancient right?) in a public place in the house for early internet usage training.  Make sure to openly put safety apps on the cell phone such as time limiters and internet accountability apps to give them an extra safety net when the temptation to access unsafe material arises.  Consider having a “cellphone cabinet” in the kitchen or living room where kid’s cell phones get charged and stored during bedtime hours.  As studies show the potential pitfalls and dangers for young kids and teenagers, proper training and coasting practice will pay big dividends in your teens’ development.

I’m fond of the current tiered driving regulations in Tennessee and I’m a big fan of parents keeping kids accountable to them.  Before a teen is turned loose with a car and no restrictions, they must follow the training wheel/coasting regimen which is as follows: 1)  Pass a road knowledge exam to get the learners permit; 2) Keep a learners permit for 180 days, have 50 hours of driving experience with a parent or instructor, and pass a road skills test to receive an Intermediate Restricted License; 3) Hold an Intermediate Restricted license for one year without having accumulated more than six points on driving record before obtaining the Intermediate Unrestricted License.  If you’ve completed these three milestones of training safely by the time you’re 18, then you’re ready for the Class D regular driver’s license.  Tennessee is getting better at providing training and safety nets when kids get behind the wheel.

     Wise King Solomon shared, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)   To enjoy the most freedom in life when we are older it takes purposeful incremental training when we are younger.  Pray for wisdom, do some research, and ask other parents how and when to take the pedals off and let your kids coast on the path of life.  May you find success as you as you learn to train your family to enjoy the freedoms life has to offer. 

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11



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, June 5, 2019

Family Forte: The Pitfalls of Hungry Shopping


by: Topher Wiles

Fifteen years!
This week marks my 15th anniversary with my darling Ashley!  As I survey all the success God has given us raising four wonderful kids and enjoying wedded bliss, I wonder, “What advice can I give others to help them enjoy the same and more?”  There’s a lot I could share.  Praying together is a big deal.  Put your spouse ahead of your kids and your work.  Don’t give up on dating your spouse.  Talk openly and honestly with your kids.  Quality time comes with quantity time.  Be flexible so you won’t get bent out of shape.  The list of family learning could go on and on, but I’ve got one piece of wisdom that has stuck in my head recently.

Never go shopping while hungry.   

We’ve all felt that nagging feeling in our stomachs when we head to the grocery store.  We enter inside and our bellies start growling at the delightful colors and enticing smells all around us. It’s at that moment we realize that we’ve forgotten to eat lunch or chosen to shop right before dinner time, a disastrous mistake.  While our main mission may have been a list of five items, due to our hunger, we snag an extra candy bar and sugary drink at the cash register.  For those of us who are especially impulsive, we dish out the cash for many impulsive purchases sometimes doubling and tripling our list, all because we were hungry.  Hunger distracts us from our main mission while shopping.  To curb the hunger, always invest time in a healthy snack from home before you go shopping or shop after a meal.  Problem solved, no impulsive shopping distracting you from the mission. 

You’re probably asking, “Topher, what does shopping and hunger have to do with Family Forte?”  I reply, “Shopping while hungry is exactly what weakens the strength of the family.”


In young families, that marriage relationship is such an important bond that needs to be protected, nurtured, and given a firm foundation to grow and flourish.  For example, I chose during my first year of our marriage NOT TO SPEND ONE single night away from Ashley.  Unfortunately, many young couples invest their primary time and energies into their work and their hobbies, neglecting those helpful dating and early marriage habits they once held so dear.  When couples within a young relationship stop feeding the relationships with quality time and quantity time, in effect, they are starving it.  Too often in my profession I see the results of those hungry marriages that get distracted by their main mission while their spouses are away on business or pleasure trips.  I’ve counselled through many tears and heartaches over wandering eyes, adulterous mistakes, and broken relationships.  If you are regularly feeding time and energy into your young marriage in purposeful ways, the relationship is less likely to be distracted by enticing smells and colors in other markets.   Investing your time in your spouse helps them to avoid the impulsive hungry shopper syndrome.

I’m excited to see the rise in Daddy/Daughter & Mother/Son date nights within our culture because it seems as though someone has grasped the concept of hungry shoppers.  According to Focusonthefamily.com, a daughter learns what it is to be cherished and affirmed for who she is most from her father.  The protection and stability a son needs for confidence and self-esteem is typically given by time and attention invested by his parents.  Our girls learn what appropriate physical touch and boundaries are from spending quality time with that man she trusts, her dad.  Our sons learn how a woman should treat a man and vice versa by observing quality time invested at home with mom and dad.  Sadly, too many families are sending their young men and women into the world as hungry shoppers.  Rather than being fulfilled with a solid lasting relationship with their parents, they crave attention in many inappropriate ways.  Like the hungry shopper who will grab a candy bar off the shelf on impulse to satisfy a craving, we see young adults entering many destructive short-term relationships because they were unfulfilled.  We, as parents, can help guide our young adults into positive and beautiful relationships as they mature by continuing to give them the affirmation, stability, and attention they need and thereby avoid the pitfalls of hungry shopping. 

Churches have a large role to play in this department of strengthening families.  People in our culture are seeking purpose, meaning, and deeper relationships in their lives.  Sadly, too many churches only see it as their role to only spout religious dogma and send families on their way.  Shepherds must have the vision and goals of filling those needs for purpose and cravings for relationships with God’s Truth and with God’s people.  Otherwise, our church families become just like hungry shoppers, buying into the latest self-help book, investing in destructive friendships, or investing all their time into the latest consuming hobby. 

For spouses, invest quantity and quality time together before you send each other off into the distracting situations life offers.  For parents, invest purposeful energy in your kids quenching those desires for attention, stability, and nurture so they can develop appropriate relationships with positive peers.  For the Lord’s Church, invest your focus into the life affirming words and actions of Jesus Christ giving people the purpose and relationships they crave as they grow in loving God and loving their neighbor.  To keep to your missions and goals in life, send your spouse, child, or family into the world satisfied and fulfilled.  Never go shopping while hungry. 

Ashley, thank you for being my wife for the last wonderful fifteen years.  Here’s hoping for a fun and fulfilling fifteen more!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

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.

*Special Note* We don't want you to get the wrong idea, our lives are far from perfect!  This recent photo reminds us of the chaos that often ensues in our house! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Family Forte: The Thorny Side of Life

by: Topher Wiles

What keeps you on your toes?  While I was out for a sunrise run recently, I was shocked when I planted my heel firmly on the concrete sidewalk to hear a CRUNCH and felt a mild discomfort in my left heel.  The remnants of a glass bottle had conveniently decided to take up residence in my shoe, pricking the sole of my foot. I was only a quarter mile from home with the glass firmly lodged in the heel of my shoe, so like any silly guy would do, I kept on running.  Since putting weight on my heel wasn’t an option, I leaned forward in my stride and made sure every footfall contacted the pavement on the forefoot. I ran the rest of the way home on my toes.

According to the professional running websites, contacting the ground with your mid-heel or forefoot is much more efficient and produces less injury than running on your heels.  Up to this point, I had always been a “heel-striker” as evidenced by all my shoe tread wearing out on the rear first. This time, however, due to the glass shards lodged firmly in my shoe, I enjoyed running with proper form all the way home.  I noticed that my knees were taking less impact, my footfalls were lighter, and my pace was quicker as I focused on running on my toes. I was somewhat thankful for the little intruder in my shoe as I realized I learned a more valuable lesson than just proper running form. I learned the lesson of the thorn in the flesh.

Thorns in our lives can often spur us on toward better things.  Those thorns come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, depending on the lesson God desires us to learn.  For instance, at the end of Judges chapter two, the Lord informs readers that He let some small Canaanite nations remain unconquered so that Israel could be tested and learn from their mistakes.  The result of these thorny countries antagonizing Israel was the appearance of faithful judges who would call Israel to repentance.

In James chapter one, the brother of Jesus encourages those who were being persecuted to take joy in their troubles because they would be more complete with patience and perseverance in the end.  Their persecution was much harsher than the minor discomforts we are accustomed to today. Many of them were homeless, jobless, and displaced from their normal support network - rather large thorns if you ask me.  Yet God allowed this situation for them to develop a level of richness in faith that money couldn’t buy.

Paul even admits in his second letter to the Corinthians that he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being proud and boasting.  Some have named his thorn blindness, while others have theorized it as another bodily illness. Whatever the thorn was, Paul asked the Lord three times for this nuisance to be taken away.  It’s tough to understand that it was out of wisdom and goodness that the Lord refused to remove Paul’s thorn, but Paul understood well what the score was. Here’s what he wrote.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.  

Your thorn could be different from Paul, James, or the Israelites, but don’t doubt for a minute that God can use it to help you learn and grow in life.  It could be the sudden loss of a job that challenges you to go back to school for more learning, thereby bettering the world and your future. Perhaps your thorn is a sports injury that has humbled you when you became a little too proud and boastful of your abilities.  Is it possible that God has allowed an illness to persist while you learn to appreciate the friends and family who have loved and cared for you? Maybe it’s just a small one, such as a little glass in the shoe which provokes one to pause and meditate on the spiritual truth of thorns.  

Whatever your thorn is, strive to see it as a blessing rather than a curse.  May we learn to take joy and appreciate the little thorns in our lives knowing that our Father allows them to make us stronger, healthier, and better runners in the race of life.  Be open to God’s goodness and He’ll always keep you “on your toes.”

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:1b-2 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 22, 2019

Family Forte: Yoda, Obi, and Grieving Children


by: Topher Wiles

     I was born in 1979, and Star Wars played a big part of my childhood.  With Ewoks on my lunchbox and and Yoda on my shirt, I was a total Star Wars nerd.  That nerdiness expressed itself a few years ago when we adopted a sweet old hound dog from the shelter and named him “Obadiah Juan.”  My three boys enjoyed the “Obi-Wan” Star Wars pun, and I watched my kids share lots of love with this aging dog.  We joked that our mission in Obi’s life was to give him a good retirement home, kind of like the peaceful place Yoda enjoyed before his passing in Return of the Jedi. 

     Last week was tough as we saw Obi take a quick downward turn.  The day he stumbled around looking for a place to hide let us know the end would come soon.  Sure enough, Obi found his final rest in the front yard underneath the cedar tree.  Gabriel (12) and Ethan (9) understood well, having lost pets before.  It was Micah, our loveable giant of a 5-year-old, who struggled the most with grief.
 
     As any dad would, I considered sheltering Micah from the sights of his dead dog lying in the front yard.  I contemplated burying Obi by myself while Micah was sleeping that night just to ease his pain, remembering the old adage, “Out of sight; out of mind.”  As a dad, I was tempted to protect my child from painful sights and memories that might produce grief.  I myself was struggling with my own grief for our loveable little Obi and his passing.  Yet it was Micah himself who reminded me of the need for us all to work through our grief when he said, “Dad, make sure I’m there when we bury him; I want to put flowers in his grave.” 

     Current research on children suggests that their needs to process grief are often at odds with our protective nature as parents.  Sometimes we avoid taking them to hospitals and funeral homes for fear of overwhelming them with grief.  Sometimes parents avoid telling about the death of a family member because of the fear of traumatizing a child.  For our family, holding a small burial ceremony complete with flowers in the grave was just what our Micah needed to work through the grief he was experiencing at the loss of his first dog. 

     Kids will experience trauma in life and we as parents can’t protect them from it all.  What we can do is give them opportunities to grow and work through grief in a safe, loving, and stable environment when they are young.  Even Jesus knew He couldn’t protect His disciples from pain when He said, “In this world you will have trouble…”, so He taught and prayed for them.  Like Jesus, we can help prepare our little loved ones to handle the tough trouble that comes their way. 

     Whether it is the loss of a beloved pet, a tragic natural disaster, the sudden loss of a family member, or the gradual decline of an aging church member, we can help our children be prepared.  Here are some ideas to implement in your own life:
  • ·        Don’t shelter a child from ALL trauma in life.  Strive to override that protective parental nature by exposing your children to manageable doses of life’s trials as they come.  Having a small funeral ceremony for a pet is a good way to give them manageable doses of loss.
  • ·         Don’t dismiss the emotions accompanying a grieving moment; instead, validate the healthy expression of emotion during a loss.  Let children know that it is ok to feel sad, cry, take a break to rest, or even feel angry as they experience grief.  Take time listen to them while they express sadness and give them a shoulder to cry on should they need it. 
  • ·         At the same time, don’t be surprised if children seem unbothered at first, only to later be struck with sudden, strong emotional responses. Adults who have experienced grief know that it can be a complicated emotion, and in children it can be especially unpredictable. The unexpectedness of a child’s response to grief doesn’t make that grief any less real. Be there for them when the grief surfaces.
  • ·         Offer them ways to process and record their grief and memories.  For older kids, giving them a chance to journal or create a photo book can be very productive ways of moving them through stages of grief.  Give younger children a tangible way of processing emotion, such as putting flowers in the grave or allowing them a chance to do their own little eulogy at the graveside.
  • ·         Allow them to express grief the way you do.  When Micah asked one of our church elders to pray for our dog Obi in his passing, the elder did an excellent job of not dismissing this prayer request for a dog.  Instead, he shared with Micah his own heart at losing a pet and offered a beautiful prayer of thankfulness for all the loving moments we enjoy with our pets.   
  • ·         During holidays or in poignant locations, give the child a way to honor the loved one they are missing.  Give them the responsibility of decorating your pet’s grave, or involve the child in leading a special new tradition at Christmas, such as hanging a new ornament in memory of their passed family.  This can help your child can process their grief over time in a healthy way.

We will miss Obi.  Micah especially will be working through that grief for a little while yet to come, and even though it is hard for him, it is a growing time for him.   Let’s give our children the opportunity to experience and express their grief in healthy and productive ways as they mature.  May the Lord bless you and your family in your times of grief.

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

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 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.