Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Family Forte: Appreciating Bugs, Girls, and Guts

by: Topher Wiles

That year was a dogged one for me as a Rutherford County boy.  I knew by my southern roots that I was supposed to be rough and tough, but in 1989, I felt as little and lost as a spec of dust in a Tennessee tornado.  After mom had her massive heart attack that landed her in the hospital for six weeks, I did little more than lay in bed listening to the radio and wondering what life was all about.  

My older sister was in the throes of teenage life and my younger sister was the darling baby of the family soon to start kindergarten, but as the middle child struggling with a young stage of depression in a world suddenly turned upside down, I felt broken, alone, and upset with life.  I can still remember the strong grasp those emotions had on me, all until Jack talked to me about bugs. 

(Photo Credit:
Jack was a good kid, not an influential popular kid that everyone followed, but just a solid friend.  Our time together in Cub Scouts and Little League had given his family a familiarity with me, enough so that Jack knew I was hurting that summer.  Whether prompted by his mom or not, I may never know, but I’ll be eternally grateful that Jack talked to me about bugs.  His church down the road was one that I had spent time at, just not on Sundays.  (They had the only basketball goal with pavement in the entire neighborhood, so of course my friends and I invested time around the rim there.)  Jack gave me great hope, and it started when he asked me if I liked bugs.  My Cub Scout buddy proceeded to tell me all about a bug catcher they were making at VBS at his church that week.  It was formed from a coffee can with mesh covering a rectangular cutout in the lid complete with a string threaded through the sides to make an easy carrying strap, and I knew it would be perfect for summer lightning bugs.  Then Jack asked this unchurched kid if I wanted to come to his Vacation Bible School the next night to make my own bug catcher.
(Want to make your own bug catcher?  Metal coffee cans are harder to come by today, but Pinterest has got a lot of great ideas for plastic ones!

By the end of the week, I had felt loved by a lot of people, completed my bug catcher, and memorized some saying called a “Bible Verse.”  It went like this, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Life, that four letter word was precious to me as I lay in bed after VBS and prayed my very first prayer asking a God I did not know to give my mother life. 

Yes, that really is Stephanie and her piano back in the day!
Who wouldn't go to church when she invites?
Fast forward six years to when I was struggling with the deeper meanings of life and my own teenage troubles.  Mom was much healthier by this point (by the grace of God I think,) and I hadn’t stepped foot inside a church assembly since that VBS (except maybe to play basketball indoors at the Mormon church building.)  I had just begun dating this pretty young lady in my AP Biology 2, a girl who captivated my heart with her big brown eyes, her flirtatious nature, and her piano playing ability.  One Wednesday evening at her house, after we had finished a discussion on the deeper concepts of life and its struggles, Stephanie played the piano and sang for me.  I was melted butter on a microwavable plate at that moment when she looked at me with those mesmerizing eyes and asked, “Do you want to go to church with me and talk?” 

GUTS.  I’ll always be thankful for guts.  That’s the word I use to describe what Jack, the bug catcher kid, and Stephanie, the piano playing beauty, had in common.  They saw the struggles I faced as a kid and had the boldness to invite me to their churches, a place where they knew that I could find love, hope, and a few answers to the tough questions of life.  I’ll always be thankful Jack and Stephanie had the guts to invite me to share in a life in Christ with them, even though none of us could see the bigger picture of what my life would become.  Today, as a result of bugs, girls, and guts, I serve as a minister of Central Church of Christ, where we also strive to be a church where people can find love, hope, and a few of their own answers to the tough questions of life.  Friends, never underestimate the good that can be done in someone’s struggling life if you just have the guts to befriend them and invite them to find love, hope, and faith in Christ.

It just so happens that we also have a Vacation Bible School event coming up on July 21st – 24th at Central Church of Christ.  It would be hypocritical of me to not to invest a few words to invite Family Forte readers to enjoy our VBS theme of “Power Up Parables” from 6:30pm-8pm each night.  We’ll begin with a meal open to all at 6pm and then jump right into a time of praise before we separate into youth and adult learning activities.  Our Super-Hero themed VBS will focus on the deep truths that the original Superman, Jesus, gave when he had the guts to share wisdom through stories.  I invite you to join us by first signing up at:  Most of all, we at Family Forte encourage you to continue invite others as you strengthen faith, hope, and love in your families.   

“Let us then with boldness draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

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,