Sunday, July 10, 2022

Mountain Top Experiences

     What is it about mountains that invoke a spiritual or religious response from us as human beings? Maybe the thinness of the air, the lack of oxygen, or the exhaustion when we finally reach the top? This past week the boys and I enjoyed a days with about 200 other brothers and sisters in Christ with Short Mountain Bible Camp. The sunrises from the porch were heavenly and the sunsets from the pavilion were divine. Thank you for praying for us as we joined College Side Church of Christ to invest time and energy into the faith of the next generation. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” was a perfect theme message playing off the Toy Story movies to encourage kids to live out the relationship goals of Romans 12. It was a great mountaintop experience!  

     Scripture gives us stories of literal mountain top experiences that color our expectations for what it means to encounter the divine - Abraham and Isaac climbing together in an act of extreme devotion to God and experiencing the mercy of God at its apex. Moses climbing Mt. Sinai again and again to commune with God and to better understand not just the essential laws for the life of the community, but the rhythms and cycles of what their covenantal life together will be like in the Promised Land. Jesus climbing to the top of a mountain not to receive, but to give a new interpretation and understanding of those laws shaping our communal life together as Christians through the Sermon on the Mount. Mountain tops were certainly reminders of God’s great goodness!

     The words of Psalm 121 came to mind as we gazed upon other hills from the peak of Short Mountain every morning and evening. May they inspire you as well as they remind you that the God of all creation watches over you whether you find yourselves in the mountains or in the valleys of life.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.From where does my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.








Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Proud Dad

For over a decade Gabriel was my waterboy for marathon training, tough mudders, and triathlons. Now that he's on the cross country team and running faster than me, I am relegated to be his waterboy. The high elevation and dry air of Devil's Tower, Wyoming really dries the moisture out of you. This morning he ran 6 long miles around this wondrous national monument while I parked the van and water bottles in strategic locations. He's also trained by running lots of stairs at Mount Rushmore and running sprints in the Badlands. I've never been so proud to be the slower runner, supporter, and waterboy as I am today. #DadLife #QualityTime #WaterBoy #DevilsTower

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Simply Effective Church Websites

 Click here for the entire Powerpoint Deck on Google Drive: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1UWEWVgaSw_anwYLC3ZdckT7lcVQOM0kO/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=110624967174873690415&rtpof=true&sd=true

Wiles will bring you hope and a laugh as he guides you through simple effective website platforms and the “must-haves” for your church’s online identity.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." – Colossians 3:23-24

Worst Websites! You have got to see these!

Bad church site:   http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/

Bad Non Profit Website: https://www.art.yale.edu

Bad Business Website: https://www.lingscars.com

Worst Navigating Site & Mobile: https://arngren.net

CofC Networks Polled

Harding’s Preacher Stuff: DWilliams@Harding.edu

http://www.thejenkinsinstitute.com/

Facebook Private Group: Compadres





Most Used Platforms

·     39% - Wordpress

·     11% - Squarespace

·     8% - Cloversites

·     5% - Wix

·     5% - Weebly

·     5% - Congregate

  • 5% - Dreamweaver
Most Valuable Website Parts

  • Contact & Address Info – 119 Pts.
  • Media Page with Video or Sermons – 98 Pts.
  • Leadership Info of Elders, Deacons, etc – 97 Pts.
  • Worship Expectations & Experience – 87 Pts.
  • Theology & Beliefs – 81 Pts.
  • Updated Calendar – 71 Pts.
  • Online Giving – 68 Pts. 

Legit Book Resources

Available on Amazon for Kindle Download

A Simplified Guide to Church Websites

by Brian Jaeger in 2015

WordPress All-In-One for Dummies

By Lisa Sabin-Wilson in 2019

Building Websites All-In-One

by David Karlins in 2012

Web Design Platforms and Content Management Systems

  • 39% - Wordpress
    • $300 per year to get plugins.
    • Or $96 annually for basic website
    • Can host in multiple places like hostgator.com
  • 11% - Squarespace
    • $144 annually for basic with 2 contributors
    • $216 annually for donation or selling add-on
  • 5% - Wix
    • Tons of templates
    • Easiest to edit
    • $168 per year
  • 5% - Weebly
    • Choose professional package - No Ads & unlimited storage
    • $144 per year
    • Beginner Friendly
  • 8% - Cloversites
    • Designed Just for Churches
    • $1000 website migration fee at Central in 2016, YIKES!
    • $408 annually
    • $500 setup fee
  • 5% - Congregate
    • More than a website - It's a directory, website, messaging service, all rolled into one.
    • $240 annually for most basic (storage at 5GB)
    • $540 annually for Classic (Storage at 25GB)
    • $499 setup fee
  • 5% - Dreamweaver
    • Professional Designer Software - $232 annually for design
    • Does not include hosting fees

Topher’s Other Tech Tools

      Sharefaith.com – Website, Graphics, Giving, Curriculum, App

      Text-em-all.com – Mass Texting & Phone Calling

      InstantChurchDirectory.com – I found out about it at Harding Lectureships 2015!

      Buffer.com – Post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest

      Boxcast.com – Livestreaming Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

WC Cross Country at the Voyles Classic


Junior Evan Ferris leads freshman
Gabriel Wiles in dynamic stretching
When our runners began arriving at The Hermitage Voyles Classic at 6:30am, the air was already thick with humidity and heat, yet the sun was smiling on White County Cross Country team. As our squad gathered under the tent for a quick fill of bananas, clementines, and water, we discussed our priorities for the first 5k meet of the season: testing our bodies, getting rookies adjusted to the race format, and enjoying our Warrior teammates. Three of our veterans runners, Dean Limper, Abigail Welch, & Evan Ferris lead dynamic stretching and a race-course walkthrough. Although a very hilly course with some tight bottlenecking turns, we were grateful that The Hermitage course was absent of muddy bog spots, deep holes, or other trip/slip hazards. Before the start the Warriors took a moment to remember the race's namesake, Markie Voyles, a former White County runner who passed away tragically in 2008 from a car accident. 

Senior Abigail Welch gives starting
line encouragement to freshman
Gabriel Wiles, senior Dean Limper,
& junior Evan Ferris
For this first race, both the men's and women's teams chose to line up on an outside starting block to avoid the mass of runners in the middle. With about 300 runners in both the men's & women's varsity heats, we knew there would be a lot of elbows and shoe spikes in the middle of the mob at the start as runners merge from a 200ft wide starting line to a 15ft wide running lane within a short 300ft distance.  The outer block served us well as all eight of our runners got off to a great safe start choosing their own determined paces rather than the mob starting sprint that causes many athletes to burn out early well before the 5k race ending. 



The men's heat started first at 8am, with our Warriors testing their bodies in different ways. The first mile marker, a hairpin turn, saw junior Evan Ferris running a quick pace in the low 6-minute range in the lead pack of the race. As we set a priority of testing and listening to our bodies early in the season, Evan made a wise move to head to the relief tent in the second mile as breathing challenges would make finishing this race difficult. We look forward to seeing some great times in future races from this 11th grader as he pushes hard through the season.  Next around the 1st mile marker was senior Dean Limper, keeping his form very compact and controlled in the 7-minute per mile average pace range. Dean maintained smart paces and controlled passes throughout the race. He would finish this race with a very respectable 25:01 total time for a strong 8:04 per mile average pace. Freshman Gabriel Wiles was third around the hairpin turn early in the race setting a negative split strategy, where the runner begins at a slower pace and gradually increases it through the race to save just enough energy for passing flagging runners in an extended sprint at the end. While he admitted that the last uphill to the finisher's chute was a brutal sprint, Wiles would finish strong for a new 5k personal record and a team leading 21:51 time for a 7:03 average pace per mile. Wiles crossed the line 293rd out of 538 male finishers.

Junior Evan Ferris

Senior Dean Limper

Freshman Gabriel Wiles

As the women's heat lined up in an outer block, senior Abigail Welch led the ladies on a warm-up sprint from the starting line followed by a circling up for prayer before the starting pistol. You could see the bonds of camaraderie growing for the ladies as they approached the starting block with smiles on their faces. Welch lined up first in the small 4ft wide starting block with returning runner McKenzie Tuck and rookie Luci McKee in the second positions. Freshmen Breanna Powell and Poppy Shank took the third positions behind Tuck & Mckee. 

The ladies get ready for the starting line: sophomore
McKenzie Tuck, senior Abigail Welch, freshman
Breanna Powell, freshman Poppy Shank, and
freshman Luci McKee.
(Photo Credit: Crissy Shank)
The White County runners again wisely avoided the massive mob sprint, elbows, and spikes by sticking to the outside in the outset. Welch kept a very measured 9 minute flat pace in the first portion, displaying her practiced and compact racing form early in the season. Following shortly behind was McKee, occupying the outer safe lane in a group of Stewart's Creek & Riverdale runners. Just seconds after, Tuck was pacing and pushing along close behind Shank in the first mile giving the rookie a boost in the early part of the race.  Powell stayed steady about 30 seconds later looking very composed and confident as well.  The women's race finished with all five lady Warriors crossing the finish line with strong times, well underneath the 37:30 minute course cut-off for women's varsity.  Senior Abigail Welch took the lead in 28:12 with a 9:06 pace. Freshman Luci McKee finished firm at 31:54 with average pacing of 10:17 per mile. Sophomore McKenzie Tuck crossed the line in 32:48 for a 10:35 pace. Freshman Breanna Powell picked up her pace to finish in 33:24 in a 10:46 average per mile. Freshman Poppy Shank held her head high with a solid 33:58 at a 10:57 per mile pace.  Welch finished 285th out of 424. 
Senior Abigail Welch

Freshman Luci McKee

Freshman Poppy Shank followed
by Sophomore McKenzie Tuck

Freshman Breanna Powell

After the race, which saw over 1,000 runners begin, the Warrior Cross Country team gathered together for a post race chat at their tent while stretching legs and eating bananas to reduce inflammation and replenish muscle glycogen stores for faster recovery. This proud Warrior running squad was smiling and already making preparations for the upcoming and challenging meet in Cookeville on Thursday. Join the White County Cross Country team as ladies starting off at 5pm and the men at 5:30pm on September 2nd. 

There were about 1000 runners in this race!

To keep up with team rosters, results, and schedules, check out the White County Warriors Cross Country Team here: https://tn.milesplit.com/teams/7610-white-co-high-school#.YS5Z745KiUk


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Family Forte: Focus on People not the Prestige

by: Topher Wiles

It’s really easy to get caught focusing on the gold, silver, and bronze medals decorating the elite at the Olympic games.  Take a good look at the medals coming out of Tokyo this year.  They are a marvel of intricate metal machine work with ribbons of chemically recycled polyester fibres and hardwood cases.  Obviously a lot of thought and care has gone into the metal tradition that was started in 1896 at the Athens games.  (Click this for more info and a 1 minute Youtube video.)

https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/en/games/olympics-medals-design/

(photo from Olympics.com)

While the detail, materials, and thought behind the metals has changed much over the years, some traditions have changed little.  Take into account the symbol on the front of the medal, the Greek goddess, Nike, who was the symbol of victory and often prayed to in battles of war and sports alike.  Nike is not known for mercy and cooperation in Greek mythology, but was a sentinel of Zeus’ throne.  Homer even calls her the daughter of Ares, who is the God of war.  Here is a snippet from a prayer to Nike in from www.goddessnike.com 

"Charge our chariots strong & sturdy.

Vanquish without any mercy

Enemies of our valiant army

And give to us a divine glory

Furnished with medallions & jewelry

Everything that is worldly

Is only ours by your decree

We worship thee on bended knee."


The Goddess Nike is an ancient tradition of war & games victory which lacks mercy & compassion. It’s an interesting modern choice for the medals at the largest worldwide competition existing today because so few believe in the ancient Greek pantheon.  "Hellenism" may have as many as 2,000 legitimate adherents today according to archeology.com, and Nike isn't even one of the twelve main gods/goddesses worshipped in Greek culture.  (http://archive.archaeology.org/0501/abstracts/letter.html)

 

Why has the world kept this tradition rather than honoring a diety that much of the world follows today?  Why not make the medal symbol one of the Jesus, since approximately 32% (2.4 billion) of the world claims Christianity as it's religion?   He also symbolizes victory and peace at the same time.  I surmise choosing to honor Christ on the Olympic medal could usher in boycotts from the world's 1.8 billion Muslims, or 1.1 billion Hindi's, or 1.2 billion unaffiliated. The Olympic committee would likely be unwilling to alienate so many using an Olympic symbol from a modern religion, even if it did promote more better the Olympic mission (to build a peaceful and better world) than NIKE. (https://olympics.com/ioc/beyond-the-games)  

 

Perhaps we should focus more of our time and attention on the people on whom the medals hang rather than the image on the prestigious medals themselves. I’m so grateful for Olympic medal winners such as Caeleb Dressel (attends Campus Church of Christ, Gainesville, FL) who chose not to honor and thank goddess Nike for his wins and abilities, but chose to honor God for the opportunity to represent Him to the world.  Consider how much more merciful our God is than that of Nike, as evidenced in this prayer, recited by 2016 Rio Olympian Sarah Scherer whenever she gets nervous.

 
"Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil." - Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

 

(https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/olympics-thy-will-be-done-is-shooters-prayer/)

 

The symbol on the prestigious medals may not be anything we want to model our lives after, but some of the people are worthwhile examples of faithful and compassionate victors on the world’s greatest sporting stage.  May we give the God of victory and compassion all the honor & praise for the triumphs of the athletes and for our triumphs as well.  

To follow more believers in Tokyo, consider reading in The Gospel Coalition’s about Sydney McLaughlin, Kyle Snyder, Helen Maroulis, Micah Christenson, Michael Andrew, and Melissa Gonzalez. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/christian-athletes-tokyo-olympics/

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.christiscentral.org.

topherwiles@spartacoc.com







Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Family Forte: Invincible Love & Saving Marriage

 by: Topher Wiles

How many of you were like us?  I thought that we would tie the proverbial knot, carry Ashley over the threshold, and as the fair tales say, “live happily ever after?” We dated for two years, were engaged for one, and had a beautiful wedding.  Now after 17 years of marital ups and downs, we discovered that a good marriage is so much more than a loving feeling, a lavish ceremony, and having a lot in common. I wish we had gone through some sort of organized premarital counseling. 

If we’re being truthful with ourselves, that whole “till death do us part” in the marriage vows is increasingly ironic.  According to Les & Leslie Parrot (authors of “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”) things are changing. In the 1930s, one out of seven marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960s, it was one out of four. On survivedivorce.com, that figure is now around 40 percent of marriages today ending in divorce. That tells us that so many couples toss the bouquet, return the tuxedos, and assume they’re heading for marital bliss while their ship is really sailing toward wedded disaster.  

We believe God has more in store for your family forte than what our current culture provides.

Here at Central Church of Christ, we believe God has set the standard on what a loving relationship is and we are preparing ourselves to help members in the community get ready for the best marital relationship possible. That’s why I and others at our church have gotten certified to offer pre-marital counseling through the SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) system to our community. This 30 minute pre-marital assessment tool and five accompanying counseling sessions are designed to give couples the following: healthy expectations of marriage, a realistic concept of love, a positive attitude and outlook toward married life, a better way to communicate feelings, an understanding of gender differences, the ability to make decisions and settle arguments, a common spiritual foundation, and a deep and abiding commitment to the bonds of marriage together.  This is the broader concept of what invincible love looks like day-in and day-out in a marriage.

Tennessee understands the value of pre-marital counseling as our state offers a $60 discount (from $97.50 to $37.50 in White County) on marriage licenses to couples who obtain pre-marital counseling within a year before the marriage.  For couples choosing pre-marital counseling with us here at Central, we ask that the couple cover the $35 assessment fee, and we will provide 5 free counseling sessions directed by the findings of the assessment. All told, you’ll come out of this saving $25 in Tennessee and saving your marriage before it starts!

 It doesn’t matter if you go to church or not, you are welcome to enjoy premarital counseling with us at Central Church of Christ as we strive to strengthen families in our community through the SYMBIS assessment and premarital counseling. If you’d like to learn more about marriage and more, just contact me, Topher, at topherwiles@spartacoc.com or call our office at 931-836-2874.  

Marriage doesn’t have to be a gamble. Your lifelong partner is better than a roll of the dice. Your marriage can be better prepared to weather the storms that will come. You can enjoy “invincible love.” We’re here to help.

Hang my locket around your neck, wear my ring on your finger. Love is invincible facing danger and death. Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. The fire of love stops at nothing— it sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. – Song of Songs 8:6-7

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.christiscentral.org.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Family Forte: Marriage from a Nazi Prison

 By: Topher Wiles

 Last week my wife and I celebrated our seventeenth anniversary with one of our kids duly noting, “Your marriage is old enough to drive and almost old enough to vote!”  Ashley and I have celebrated this momentous occasion by eating out, watching our wedding video & vows that I converted from VHS, and taking a marriage assessment test (I know, fun right?). One of the greatest blessings in our marriage has been to listen and reflect on the inspired wisdom of others concerning love and marriage.  


Instead offering my own marriage experience for your inspiration, I want to share with you thoughts on marriage that inspire me from a collection of letters from another's extraordinary life.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German protestant minister who wrote from prison before his 1945 execution at the hands of Hitler's Nazis.  On May 15th, 1943, approximately 6 weeks after his arrest and missing the wedding ceremony of close friends due to being held in prison, Dietrich wrote these thoughts on marriage to the newlyweds.

 "Marriage is more than your love for each other.  It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time.  In your love, you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of generations.  In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.  Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal.  It is marriage and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.  Your love comes from you, but your marriage is from above, from God.  As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love.  It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." 


Today, I find Dietrich Bonhoeffer's letter writings on marriage from a Nazi prison to be refreshing and empowering.  I believe the modern view marriage has often been reduced to an extravagant party or a temporary civil union. Bonhoeffer’s marital declaration bolsters my resolve to care for the marriage God has given me with my wife.  It reminds me of my marriage's purpose as a practical use in humanity but also as an example of God's designs for others.  Bonhoeffer's writings echo the strong sentiments of scripture about marriage such as these writings from other letters:

 "Let marriage be held in honor among all." - Hebrews 13:4a


"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." - Ephesians 5:31-33

 Ashley and I want marriages in our community to not only survive, but to thrive.  We know that families thrive best when marriages are healthy.  Kids tend to be happier and well cared for when mom and dad are enjoying a loving and trusting relationship. (for more on the effects of a happy marriage, visit the Huff Post article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/happy-marriage-happy-kids_b_828370)  

If we can help you strengthen your family by encouraging your marriage relationship, offering marital resources, or by praying for you to our God, please let us know.  May your family be blessed with fortitude through marriage!

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Patiently Pulling My Son to the Prize

by: Topher Wiles

     Sweat was dripping everywhere from my aching body as my legs screamed at me.  Then, the cheering erupted.  High fives and hugs dominated the moment as the gracious volunteer hung the heavy metal around my neck and wrapped me in a “space blanket” on that cold December day.  My feet felt like weighty concrete but my heart was as light as a feather.

     Perhaps it was the five caffeine laced gelpacks I consumed in my four hour 26.2 mile marathon run that kept my heart racing.  Maybe my heart was light because, unlike the first unfortunate marathoner who died after his run, I knew had successfully survived the brutal assault on mind and body.  It’s possible that the light feeling was the result of the St. Jude’s cancer patients and survivors showing signs in the last mileage that read, “You’re doing this race for me!”   Yet, I believe the biggest motivator was the accolades and praises of my training coach that made my runner’s high continue from the Memphis St. Jude’s Marathon all the way home.

     Sure, Tough Mudders were a blast, half-marathons were fun, and sprinting 5k’s to a gold medal win was exciting, but they weren’t the same as that Marathon with Don.  My friend Don was at least 10 years my senior and has run in the Boston marathon, which means he is a high level runner.  His wife was also a cross country coach while he raised four cross country running kids.  This guy knew how to train me to run a marathon.   Back in the day when I would proclaim, “I’m not a runner and I don’t like to run,” Don took me under his wing and educated me on all things running.  I still don’t like to run, but I’m a proud runner today because Don’s patient training pulled me along to the prize and that amazing runner’s high.

     Don’s secret training methods weren’t about buying Eliud Kipchoge’s record breaking shoes or the latest breakout training routine.  Don simply pulled me along and encouraged me every step of the way.  For months he texted me frequently to coordinate running schedules together.  He helped me rehab through injuries and gently corrected my form offering little tips along our journey together.  During the long runs, when Don could tell my body was starting to give up, my training partner would always run two steps ahead of me, shielding me from the headwind, pacing me with his time, and constantly encouraging me with his words.  Even during the race, Don would pull just a couple steps ahead of me, challenging me to quicken my pace all until the last half mile, when he shifted behind me encouraging me to take the lead and the photo finish glory in the home stretch.   I was ecstatic crossing the finish line because I had reached not only my goals but I made my training coach proud.

After multiple races totaling hundreds of miles since my marathon run of 2014, I’ve only been able to duplicate that runner’s high feeling a couple times, with one happening a few weeks ago.  That lighthearted feeling lasted all day after the race and well into the week, except this time, it was me who crossed the finish line a half step behind a runner.  My son, Gabriel (8th grade), had never run more than a 5 miler before he expressed interest in running the Sawbriar half-marathon in Jamestown, TN.  I was worried about whether or not a 14 year old could accomplish this extensive distance, considering there just aren’t any real middle school cross-country options nearby to train him. So every week I monitored Gabriel and his progress while sharing little tips that I have learned in my years of running.  When we ran together on long runs, Gabriel was silently conserving every breath for his lungs and legs while I chattered away about life, running, and God to keep his mind from focusing on his aching legs and burning lungs.

    On race day Gabriel was visibly nervous about his first ever 13.1 mile race, especially since it was rainy and cold, but our prayer together with church elder Ty Webb at the starting line lowered his heart rate and helped set the stage for one of his biggest achievements in pursuit to date.  Like my training coach had done for me years ago, I stayed two steps ahead for the first 12.5 miles.  Then, as we sprinted to the finish line, my smile lengthened and my heart skipped a beat as I watched Gabriel out run me by a half step, accepting the cheers, hugs, and high fives of family and friends.  My achievement in the Sawbriar Half was not my personal record, but I finally duplicated that amazing runner’s high of 2014 as Gabriel lifted his award for first place in the under 18 division. 

     Friends, we may not all be called to run the road, but we are called in this life to be like a training coach like Don, patiently pulling other people to the prize.  You may be called to focus on your family as you help a child set and reach their goals in family, education, or their career.   Your calling may be toward a young person at church as you pull, train, and cheer them to reaching spiritual milestones.   A struggling family in the community may be your aim as you patiently guide them through the trials of life.  Whoever it is, remember that reaching those same milestones you’ve already eclipsed takes patient time in training, helpful and positive tips from your experience, and a lot of encouragement along the way.  There are few greater joys than helping others succeed.

Now, who are you going to patiently pull to the prize?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1

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.christiscentral.org.