Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Family Forte: The Best Views and Their Boundaries

by: Topher Wiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family Forte: The Ups and Downs of Emptiness in Life


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Dropping 7 Truth Bombs on Prom


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

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

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

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

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



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

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Family Forte: Hicks, Homes, and Hope


by: Topher Wiles

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

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

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

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

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

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