Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hunter's Annual Remembrance 2019

The following are some of my notes from Hunter Funeral Home's annual remembrance service here in 2019.
  On behalf of the family at Hunter Funeral Home, I'd like to welcome you to our annual Remembrance time.  I'm Topher Wiles, minister at Central Church of Christ.   The invitation we all received said at the top, "Someone is missing at Christmas."  Those words right there bond us all together in this community.  We've all experienced the loss of someone important in our lives.
This year, there were memorial services for around 150 people here ranging from infants all the way up to 101 years old.  And it doesn't matter, whether young our old, whether you've made a trip to the funeral home 1 time or 10 times this year, when you lose someone special, they are missed throughout your life, but especially this time of year.

The Telling of Three Tree Ornaments
    Grandma Nell was so sweet when she gave us her tree about 16 years ago.  That Christmas tree has seen a lot of years and we were happy to keep putting it up year after year when she no longer could.  As our first Christmas tree in the Wiles family, our ornaments took on the personality of the tree.  We began decorating with mostly hand-me-down ornaments donated by Grandma, my mom, sweet friends, and dirty-Santa game winnings.  Now that old tree is completely filled with memories of sweet times and sweet people long past.  I’d like to tell you about three of our ornaments that will bless some families this year who may find some struggling moments during the Christmas holiday season.
     One of my favorite ornaments to put on the tree makes me laugh out loud as it comes with a story.  As we pull this delicate ornament out of the box my kids wait expectantly on the edge of their seat for the coming hilarity of the story.  During our first Christmas together as husband and wife, my Ashley decided to cheaply make ornaments for our tree.  Her chosen materials for the ornament were cinnamon and apple sauce.  Did you know you can bake them together to make a cute star shape, bell, or heart through which ribbon can be threaded?  Yes, we have cinnamon based ornaments that have been on our tree for 15 years.  And they taste horrible.  I would know, because 15 years ago I took a bite out of one of those ornaments.  They may smell sweet, but they taste like dirt.  My kids laugh every year as I tell the story of my ornament tasting time.  Some ornamental memories make us laugh.
      I have another ornament that I alone get to hang on the tree near the top.  It’s a little blue plastic star framing a nativity scene.  It’s not anything special, but with a family that doesn’t profess or practice a lot of religious faith, my late Grandma Marge’s makes me smile as it signifies her own belief in Christ.  She hung it every year at the top of her tree, and that ornament is one of the few things I have left from my grandma who passed away 24 years ago.  When I hang the ornament I remember the sweet times of eating chicken pot pie at the bar in her kitchen or visiting the humane society where she worked.  Some ornamental memories make us smile.
     There is another ornament that completely caught me off guard.  My mom was always crafty and handmade so many things for us kids through our years.  Annually, my mom would handmake a few new ornaments on our tree, most of them were odd, like crocheted lollipops or paper stars, but I kept them every year anyway and dutifully hung them on the tree.  When mom passed away in May a couple years ago, I didn’t think a thing about those Christmas ornaments until I started hanging them on the tree six months later.  I pulled out the pink crocheted lollipop and was surprised as tears started welling up in my eyes.  I had cried little over mom’s passing, as I’ve been a minister and hospital chaplain for years, often comforting others in the passing of their loved ones.  Yet here I was six months later breaking down in tears remembering mom and all her handmade ornaments.  Some ornamental memories make us cry.
     Laughing, smiling, and crying are all perfectly normal emotions during the holiday season as we remember the good times, the sweet people, and the lives that we miss.  If you are struggling through missing a loved one this Christmas season, I want you to know that it is perfectly ok to experience all of those emotions.  There is a song on youtube from the Piano Guys and Craig Evans called “The Sweetest Gift” that will help you in expressing all those emotions.  Simply search for that song title and artists and you’ll be blessed with a song that expresses some of our tough sentiments. 

There's a stanza I love in that song. 
The memories flood my mind
As I place your ornament upon our tree
Although this year I have a broken heart
It gives me hope and joy as I remember where you are

One of the best services I attended this year was simply a service of remembering.  It was for an older fella who played a joke on my family one time with his brother.  That service of remembering was for Joe Pat Clark.  Oh, it was funny, it was heart warming, it was endearing.  We all left grateful for investing time there to honor Joe Pat and his family.  What I'll remember most about Joe Pat is how he looked like Santa Clause at the Holidays. 

What you remember about your loved ones at the holidays?
     I remember my mom buying me a nerf gun every year for Christmas even when I was an adult.  
     Remembering the good times while we acknowledge our grief can be very healing. 

I think David had Jeduthn do just the same thing in Psalm 77:1-13a as he laments the tough times, but ends on remembering the good times God has given. 
I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
Beyond simply recalling a memory, what else can we do to honor a loved one this time of year?  Here are a few ideas.
What you can do:
  • Serve others in their name
  • Make a donation to their favorite charity in their name
  • Set a vase of their loved one’s favorite flowers in front of an empty chair
  • Share a memory of their loved one and observe a moment of silence before enjoying their holiday meal. 
  • Prepare your loved one's favorite dish from their recipe for the holiday meal.
  • In our church, we purchase poinsettias in honor of those who have passed as a reminder of special memories with them.
  • Create a scrapbook of items that remind you of your loved one.
  • Visit the grave-site
  • Watch their favorite movie or TV show or listen to their favorite song. 
  • Now, What are some of your ideas to honor your loved one?

One of the best ways we can honor them is to live a life they would be proud of.  Linda Ellis expresses that well in her 1996 poem titled, The Dash. 

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
           about how you spent YOUR dash?

Linda  Ellis captures one of the best ways we can honor someone else, through how we live our lives.

I believe the person we should strive to honor most of all is Jesus Christ.  John 14:1-6a expresses well what He's done for us that is worthy of honor. 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life."

Jesus has provided us a way to the Father's house.  May we remember Him and honor Him with our lives this holiday season.
In honor of those who have passed away, here are my screenshots set to background music of 3 songs.
Supermarket Flowers - by Ed Sheeran
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven
Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

You can probably find Hunter's professional video by clicking the link here: https://www.hunterfuneralhome.net/

My prayer for you this holiday season is that you find God's peace during this season as you remember those you miss.  God bless you.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Family Forte: Missing My Mark

By: Topher Wiles

It was one of the most exhilarating moments in life, followed by three hours of disappointment.  Yet, that moment illustrates perfectly our battle with sin. 

I was fully prepared for the task before me.  Since it was below 20 degrees that morning, I was completely covered head to toe in the warmest and most flexible gear I had.  I’d spent weeks sighting in my bow from standing on the bed of my truck down at a target on ground level.  My arrows were straight and true, ready to follow wherever I pointed the peep sight. 

That hour in the deer stand at sunrise was pure bliss. That peaceful hour was suddenly interrupted by rustle in the woods beyond my vision. I grunted on my deer caller and was rewarded when a decent sized buck appeared in the woods before me. 

For those who don't hunt much, there is a specific area of vitals we want to hit that brings about a quicker harvest and less suffering for the animal.  Shooting a deer isn’t the toughest job in the world, because it’s a relatively big animal and those who bowhunt aren’t there just to “shoot an animal,” we’re out in the freezing cold reenacting a time-honored hunting practice that the world has enjoyed for a few thousand years for one purpose, to hit within our 8” diameter mark. 

The buck came within 40 feet, and when I made a little noise, he turned to give me the perfect broadside shot.  I pulled the bow back excitedly, but momentarily forgot how to aim!  I realized I wasn't laying the bowstring on my cheek, I wasn't looking through the peepsight, and I wasn't sure which pin to use to line up my distance!  In my excitement, I forgot how to hit my mark!  I released the arrow and immediately knew I hit him (I could see the point of impact) but knew I missed his vitals. I shot too high and toward the rear of the animal, missing my mark.

Over three hours and a half mile of tracking later, my church buddy and I had to call off our search.  We had lost the blood trail and had no deer meat for the freezer.  Missing by 6-9 inches of that "bullseye" mark was enough to give me guilt in knowing that the deer went through extended suffering that I didn't intend or want. It gave me guilt in know that I spent over 4 hours away from my family with nothing to show for it.  It gave me grief knowing that in that moment of testing, there were no excuses, I ... missed ... my ... mark.

If you’re not up on your church lingo, there is a word we use that simply means, “to miss the mark.”  That word is “sin.”  In my handy dandy Greek dictionary, I am given a few definitions for the way this word is used throughout the Bible. 
1) to be without a share in the prize,
2) to miss the mark,
3) to err, be mistaken,
4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong,
5) to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law.

It’s important for us to understand this concept of sin, not as a fancy church word that gives people a license to be judgmental, but as a word that helps us describe what happens when we miss the mark God intended for our lives and for humanity.  When the hunter misses his mark, he misses out on the desired prize, he loses precious time on the hunt, wastes precious resources, and causes unnecessary suffering.

Like missing the mark for a hunter, when we humans sin, it also leaves us without a prize, losing precious time in life, wasting our precious resources, and often causes unnecessary suffering for ourselves and others.   Consider when a man commits adultery in his marriage, which God defines in the Bible as a “sin,” a missing of the bullseye God intended for humanity (Hebrews 13:4).  What follows is time lost, resources wasted, unnecessary suffering for all parties involved, and the people involved missing out on one of God’s best prizes in life, the wedded bliss that comes of a happy and healthy marriage.  In one moment of missing the mark, sinning, a person can destroy years of preparation, of time investment, and of love.  Whether we’re talking about adultery, drunkenness, gossip, or angry words, each of the sins misses the mark for what God intended for humanity.  When we allow our families to indulge in “missing the mark” we’re setting them up for a similar disappointment that I experienced when I sinned from my deer stand in the woods. 

This is partly why I continue to daily read the Bible with my children, involve them in Christian based activities, surround them with positive Christian influences, take them to be part of an active church, and discipline them in small areas where they miss the mark.  It’s an effort to strengthen my family by preparing them for a life to routinely hit the bullseye. 

Now that you understand sin from a hunter’s perspective, please understand the core of Christianity and why Jesus came.  Just as no trained & disciplined hunter can hit the bullseye of a target perfectly every time he shoots every day of his life, so too do we often miss the mark in life. 
Romans 3:23 tells us that all people have missed the mark and Romans 6:23 tells us there is a stiff penalty for our sin.  Yet God, in all His great providence, gave us Jesus who paid the price for our missing of marks, so that we can enjoy the prize anyway. 

Friends, whether hunting or raising a family, may your aim be true this season so that you hit all your marks.  Also let your heart be grateful for Jesus who not only straightens our aim but gives us hope of eternal life even when we miss.  Thank God for Jesus.
"The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Family Forte: Feeding A Starving Family

by: Topher Wiles

My boys were starving and needed nourishment from me.  As I overheard their argument pushing their tones to get higher pitched, their volumes louder, and their reasoning to falter, I knew they needed life giving nourishment that a father can provide.

Our world is starving for something of which you and I have a potentially unlimited supply. You can get it by simply deciding to have it. You can give it away freely to thousands of people and still have plenty to give yourself. In fact, the more you give away, the more you will be surrounded with it. This elusive, yet potentially unlimited substance is simply “a positive encouraging word.”

So, why is encouragement in such short supply? We live in a society where people gravitate toward the bad news; the shocking, the fear-inspiring, and the awful. Too many of us are constantly on the look out for something negative or shocking to talk about or promote. The news media is too often a prime example of the focus on the negative (although I’m excited that the Expositor is one outlet seeking something different!).  This influx of negativity leaves us like the child who eats only bacon and twinkies.   Their appetite is satiated for a while, but their body is mal-nourished.

Even though there exist unsung heroes doing their best to share goodness in the world, statistically, it rarely is reported in the news and our social media.  Families as a result of our cultural consumption are drowning in the flood of negativity and unless we as individuals and a community take immediate action, we too will drown in this world’s negative onslaught.   Yet, there is hope and we can provide the poisitve nourishment needed.  Our families, our friends, and our neighbors are starving for positive encouraging words that you and I can give. 

The argument was strengthening between my sons as I rounded the corner into the room wearing my “serious” face. A stern look was all it took to gain the attention of my boys and stop all bickering.  They expected me to lower the boom and bring a fiery wrath that any dad is capable of.  What came next from my mouth shocked them in a new way and completely changed the direction of our day. 

“You are loved,” were the first words I spoke after a long moment of silence.  Then, I followed with encouragement, sharing with them the care I believe they were capable of, the level of respect I thought they deserved from each other, and how much their brothers, their mother, and I really loved them.  We wrapped up our correction by having the boys share heartfelt compliments to each other and stories of when we felt loved by each other.  The boys needed no negative consequences this time to remind them of the lesson, they only needed encouragement. The hugs and smiles that followed the escalating argument reminded me how nourishing encouraging words can be. 

Photo Credit: CrackerBarrel.com
As you gather around the table this holiday season greeting loved ones with bellies full of turkey, stuffing, and potatoes, remember that they may still be starving for something more than food.  Too often, tables are filled with sweet food, but the air is soured by harsh sentiment and negative news.  Your family needs you to be a source of the positive, encouraging, and loving nourishment.  You have the power to feed starving families.  

Recently I was writing about the nourishment of positive words, when words of poetry began to flow from my pen.  The following is an original *Shakespearean-styled sonnet that you may need to hear or share, titled, "You are Loved."

Ever and anon, be sure; you are loved.
For as the Son rises, one realizes.
This awesome truth remains; It is not shoved,
But gently trickles into the wisest.

You are loved, by the great Father above,
Through whom is every good and perfect gift,
By Spirit who showed in likeness of a dove,
Whose blessed peace and comfort kindles so swift.

You are loved, by the Sacrificial Son,
Who dared care not if you were rich nor poor,
By His blood your full salvation is won.
This loving effort stands forevermore.

So share your love, due to the gift granted,
And watch love grow by the seed you planted.

"Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." - Hebrews 3:12-13

*(A Shakespearean sonnet contains 14 lines of 10 syllables following the rhyme scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.)

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, November 13, 2019

Family Forte: Lasting Gratitude - More Than a Re-tweet

by: Topher Wiles

     Has it really been 5 years since David Letterman retired from Late Show entertainment? 
Recently, Dave was on the Ellen Degeneres show chatting about the era that ended in 2015 when he finished his 33 years in nighttime TV with a simple, "That's pretty much all I got ... thank you and goodnight." When we look back through social media at the moment, some fans responded with tears, others offered  jokes, and a few responded with thanks.  I am particularly struck by Conan O’Brien’s tweet (did you know he still has a show?), which sums up much of how our culture has shifted in the post-modern era. 

"It's absolutely absurd to thank David Letterman for all he's done in a tweet.  But that's the world we live in now. #ThanksDave" – Conan O’Brien

     That tweet was retweeted 2,900 times.  Yes, “retweeted”.  That means some people were too lazy to write their own 20 second grateful tweet and just clicked the retweet button on Conan’s.  Conan, true to form, was making commentary and his followers illustrated well “the world we live in now.”  It’s a world of fast tweets and short-lived gratitude, trending today and retreating tomorrow. 
     Yet there are some who choose to be different than “the world we live in now.”  Last week I received a special treat in the mail, a handwritten “Thank You” card from my friend John.  Sure, I catch the occasional text, tweet, snap or email in my inbox after serving someone but none of them feel the same as reading that handwritten note from John.   I don’t save screenshots of text message gratitude, but I have a box full of handwritten thank you cards from the last 20 years of serving others, and I’m grateful for them. 
     Who have you thanked lately?  I am convinced that the mayor, secretaries, firemen, law enforcement, coffee baristas, county commissioners, newspaper editors, ministers, librarians, social workers, church elders, teachers, janitors, physical trainers, principals and more deserve greater thanks than a text message.  Those who serve us on a regular basis deserve our long-lasting gratitude.
     I believe this strongly enough that I’ve changed my own habits to strengthen myself and my own feelings of gratitude.  If you are like me, fully immersed in the digital age, then you are familiar with project and time management apps like Google Calendar, Reminders, and Tasks.  At the top of my daily digital to-do list every Monday through Thursday (my traditional office days) is the task, “Write a Thank You Note.”  Conveniently located next to my desk is a stack of my own custom designed thank you cards (thanks to designer Chelsea Hilton & Brady Printing).  Next to that stack is a roll of stamps.  It takes me merely 5 minutes a day to snag a notecard, write a personal thank you to a friend, and drop it in the mail. 
     How does this translate into Family Forte (family strength)?  First, by training yourself to be more grateful your gratitude will rub off on others, including your own family.  Moreover, you can also intentionally train your family to be more grateful with just a few small efforts such as:
  • ·         Putting a pack of “Thank You” cards in your kids’ Christmas stockings each year;
  • ·         Counting your blessings together before bed every night;
  • ·         Making a “Turkey Ticket” for Thanksgiving, a receipt roll that is one centimeter long for each year of their life, that they must fill up with things they are grateful for as an entry ticket to your Thanksgiving meal;
  • ·         Creating a “Thankful ABC’s” chart to fill out every Sunday night before bed as a family, naming 25 things you’re thankful for from the previous week (we’ll give you a pass on the letter “x”);
  • ·         Giving your family a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt during warm weather in which your family members walk the neighborhood (individually or in teams) and take photos with specific listed items or neighbors to be grateful for.

I’m convinced that developing gratitude in myself and my family is some of the best invested time of my day, only to be topped by the time I invest in prayer in which I always thank God first (Prayer is also good to put in your daily task list!).
Our Holy Scripture handed down from the Father through His Spirit gives us a view of gratitude that is much more than a retweet or social media post.  Read the following “Text Messages” from Scripture about gratitude.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” -  Colossians 3:17

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:16

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
 – Psalm 50:23

Gratitude can be practiced in many long lasting ways.  It can displayed by doing something in someone’s name (Col 3:17).  It is done by praying for a person (Eph 1:16).   It is shown by sacrificing for someone (Ps 50:23).  If you’re thankful for someone today, how about doing something to honor them, praying for them, or sacrificing five minutes for them by writing a note.  A retweet is a start, but real gratitude is more – it is the calling of the community of Christ. 

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
” – Ephesians 4:1b

    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.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sunday Morning Word Search

IronMan 4
This Word Search helps us focus on key words in our scripture text for our sermon.

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slaveof all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Mark 10:41-45

Enjoy our online sermon notes here: 


Did you know that we live stream our AM services every Sunday on Youtube, Twitter, and our Website? You can also catch it in replay on each of these platforms later in the week!
Youtube: https://buff.ly/2ZIaTyk?
Twitter: https://buff.ly/2BMK3H4
Website: https://buff.ly/2PT7UOU

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Family Forte: Grateful for Your Toilet

     Consider what the words in this list have in common: health, money, friends, food, spouse, faith, weekends, grace, bed, education, laughter, and toilet.  At this point you’re thinking, “Topher, the last one, toilet, just doesn’t fit with the others.”  Au contraire, mon frère!  If you think about these words as a list of things people are, or should be, grateful for, you’ll see that it fits right in.  If you’ve ever been in a situation where one was needed but not available, you learned to appreciate them very quickly!
Ethan enjoys the fresh mango juice in Cuba.
    We were travelling down a long country road toward third-world airport when disaster almost struck.  My 10-year-old, Ethan, had been outstanding on the 9-day mission trip to Cuba with Central Church of Christ.  His heart, body, and bowel system had stayed strong through the days of grueling heat, change in diet, and hard workload of constructing a kitchen on a farm serving the elderly and orphans in the impoverished country.  Here we were, just hours away from flying home, when Ethan whispered in my ear in the back of the van bouncing down the remote road, “Dad, I have to go to the bathroom.”

     Eyebrows raised I asked, “Number 1 or number 2, son?”
     “Number two.”
     “How soon?” I asked.
     “Very soon.”
Ethan under the mango trees in Cuba
     I yelled to the driver, “Perdon por favor, necesitamos un baño pronto!” (Translation: “Excuse me please, we need a bathroom quick!”)   The Cubans thought it funny when they pulled over to the side of a forested patch and said in English, “Welcome to the Cuban bathroom.”  With toilet paper in hand Ethan exited into the dense trees and returned very “relieved.”
Wary for signs of illness, I asked, “Is everything ok?”
     “Yes,” he replied.  “And now I’m really thankful for toilets!” 
     I’m frequently asked in life, “Why do you smile so much?”  My answer is so simple that anyone can do it.  I try to find something in every situation and setting of life to be thankful for.  My prayers to God always start with thanks.  Every meal I receive, I strive to thank my waitress, cashier, or my wife.  Even if I’m in the worst of moods I can turn that frown upside down by following the sage advice of the old hymn, “Count Your Many Blessings.”  
“Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done."

     Simple gratitude can change not only your mood, but the course of your actions and your entire day.
     Recently I was meditating on the scripture from Colossians 3:15-17 which deals heavily with gratitude in each verse.  While cleaning a toilet one day and meditating specifically on giving thanks in whatever I do, these silly words started flowing as if they had suddenly been flushed down the heavenly drain straight to my head. I hope they make you laugh as you strive to feel and show more gratitude in your life.

"Are you thankful for your toilet?" by: Topher Wiles
Are you thankful for your toilet? Then give thanks while you clean it.
Are you thankful for your food? Then say "Grace" and really mean it.
Are you thankful for your sports? Then have integrity while you play 'em.
Are you thankful for your home? Then those bills you timely pay 'em.
Are you thankful for your family? Then to them let kind words be spoken.
Are you thankful for you wife?  Then let her heart not be broken.
Are you thankful for your life?  Then honor parents who made you.
Are you thankful for forgiveness?  The bless those who betrayed you.
Are you thankful for your Jesus?  Then obey Him as your Lord.
Are you thankful for your God? Then always let Him be adored.
As you strengthen yourself and your family, may you find gratitude in all things great and small.

     "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." - Colossians 3:15-17
     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, November 5, 2019

Metal Building Revision Idea

Our church has an old metal building on the rear of our property that we're in the process of re-visioning for God's glory.  Here's a preliminary idea of mine for it's usage.
(After you click the image, it may take up to a minute for your computer to download the rendering of the 3D model.  You can easily zoom and pan with the mouse on a computer.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Patiently Pulling to a Runner’s High

by: Topher Wiles
G&E enjoy my race swag after the
St. Jude's Marathon in 2014.
     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. 
     After multiple races totaling hundreds of miles since 2014, I’ve only been able to duplicate that feeling one time, and it was last weekend.  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.
Indy Half Marathon with Don
 and Chipper in 2016.
     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. 
     This last weekend, I was able to duplicate that lighthearted feeling that lasted all day and well into the week, except this time, it was me who crossed the finish line two steps behind a runner.  My friend John had never run more than a 5k before I convinced him to attempt the Cookeville Haunted Half Marathon.  He was so worried about being able to survive his 3 hour run that he made sure his life insurance policy was up to date.  Like me, John professed, “I’m not a runner and I don’t like to run.”  Still, every week I checked on John and his progress while sharing little tips that I have learned in my years of running.  When we ran together, John 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 feet. 
I finished two steps behind John
but still on a runner's high!
Cookeville Haunted Half Oct 2019
    On race day last weekend, John was visibly nervous about his first ever 13.1 mile run, but our prayer together at the starting line lowered his heart rate and helped set the stage for one of his biggest achievements in pursuit of his health.  Like my training partner had done for me years ago, I stayed two steps ahead for the first 12.5 miles.  Then, as we crossed the finish line, my smile lengthened and my heart skipped a beat as I watched John two steps ahead of me, accept the cheers, hugs, and high fives of family and friends.  My achievement in the Cookeville Haunted Half was not a personal record (I finished last in my age division) but that I finally duplicated that amazing runner’s high of 2014.  This time however, I wasn’t the one who crossed the finish line first.  Thanks Don, for showing me how to coach.

     Friends, we may not all be called to run the road, but we are called in this life to be 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.spartacoc.com.