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  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,, or through our website,

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,, or through our website,

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Family Forte: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Basketball

By: Topher Wiles
                Do you remember Robert Fulghum’s ideas from his book “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”?  These great tips inspire, remind, and redirect us to some of the most important concepts in life.  Some of those worthwhile truth tidbits include: “Share everything,” “Play fair,” “Say you’re sorry,” “FLUSH!” and “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”  Since I’m nearing 40 years old and can’t remember the deep truths of my kindergarten years, I have to work with what is nearer in my addled memory; the Championship tournament game in Vision basketball league.  In my 25 seasons of coaching, I’ve never personally witnessed a climatic movie-style moment like this.
                If the Vision League is new for you, here’s a little info.  Imagine a normal basketball game where the parents aren’t allowed to yell obscene comments to the referees.  Picture hoops where opposing teams go out to eat ice cream together afterwards.  Consider a game where each player gets the same amount of periods of play every time.  Meditate on basketball where each game and practice includes a spiritual devotional from coaches and parents.  Imagine a league where the most desirable award isn’t an MVP, but the “Christ Like” award. Now you have the backdrop for the Church of Christ sponsored Vision Basketball League and our monumental moment.
                Our team with bright orange jerseys had a lot of heart but got off to a slow start.  While other teams focused in on specific plays in the first practices, because of our lack of raw talent, we needed desperately to work on the fundamentals.  Passing and dribbling, dribbling and passing, over and over again became the thrust of our practices.  Even though we lost a tight first game, it paid off because we could proudly proclaim that all of our players were credited with an assist.  It was a proud moment for a coach.  Yet an even prouder moment would come.
                It was the last game of the regular season, and after going through the stats, our coaching staff realized only one player, we’ll call him “Paul”, hadn’t scored throughout the entire season.   He had a few opportunities, but it seemed the foul shots always fell short, the defenders were always too quick to block, or the rim was just too unforgiving for Paul to get his first ever bucket in the Vision League.  We were blessed with a sizable half-time lead, and the team agreed on one primary strategy: “Get Paul the ball!”  Try as he might through two periods and an overtime, Paul just could not get that orange ball to fall through the hoop. 
                Tournament time came around.  Again and again our point guards passed to Paul.  Over and over our forwards set screens for Paul.  Time and again Paul’s shots just wouldn’t fall.  We were pulling out the wins, but there was a growing sense on the team that time was running out.  We were working so hard to give Paul his shot, but the clock was working against us.  The final championship game saw our fundamentally-sound but underdog team compete against a physically bigger and talent-superior team, and Paul still didn’t have a bucket.  Halftime saw the score tied at 13-13 due to the physical stamina and heart of our little underdogs.  Our boys fought hard deep into the game, but we saw the opponents build an insurmountable lead going into the final period.  It was our point-guard, a kid with lightning-fast handles from Sparta, who said, “Coach, do you want me to get ‘Paul’ the ball?”
                That last period was rough.  Paul tried shooting repeatedly only to have bricks rebound to the other team, shots blocked by players a head taller than him, and his screens knocked over or avoided.  With 1.1 seconds left on the clock, losing in the final period, and our team being awarded an inbounds pass near our basket, the hopes of our team rested on one final chance.  Yet our players, most importantly Paul, never gave up hope.
                The referees, opposing coach, and parents in the stands had caught on to what we were trying to do.  All eyes were focused on Paul on the final play of the game.  It was as if all the collective hearts in the gymnasium were bonded together, willing him to success.  Tension was building.  Moms were wringing their hands.  Parents were shouting words of encouragement during the timeout.  Coaches gave knowing glances.  Referees nodded in approval.  The play aptly named “The Wall” was called.  A triple screen of our tallest players was set at the edge of the paint.  Paul found his position 15 feet from the basket near the baseline.  Our point-guard put a perfect bounce-pass into Paul’s hands right at his chest.  Legs flexed.  Wrist snapped.  The ball arced high. Nothing but net as the buzzer sounded.
                Paul was humble as the entire gymnasium erupted with cheers.  The better team won the championship last week in the Vision Basketball League, a recognition they rightly deserved.   Yet the kids with the bright orange jerseys won admiration from their peers, coaches, parents, and referees for their unselfish play.  Every team member scored, assisted, rebounded, and stole a turnover this season, which draws a big smile on my face as I look back.  More importantly, I learned some deep truths about life and church this basketball season.
  • Playing games is best when you’re playing with friends. That’s why God gave us the Church.
  • There is no “I” in TEAM.  That’s why God’s Church gives everyone a role.
  • Sharing is still the best way to build relationships.  That’s why the early church “had all things in common.”
  • Until the clock runs out, keep shooting toward your hopes, your dreams, and your goals.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

Life is bigger than basketball, but I’m grateful God uses games to teach us so much.

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,, or through our website,