Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Family Forte: Fertilizer and Stethoscopes


Fertilizer and Stethoscopes For Growing Love
by: Topher Wiles

     Life with four children and multiple volunteer committments can be a little hectic and tiring, but absolutely wonderful if we keep our focus.  This past Saturday leaped off the blocks with a blazing start.  The Warrior Senior Project 5k Run with Gabriel and Ethan became my first hurdle toward the main event for the day.  The rain let up just enough for me to exhaust my legs on White County hills in an effort to support our seniors and earn some new hardware to hang around my neck.  From there I dashed over to our church for Central’s children’s ministry event, Pancakes and Pajamas.  While I stuffed my belly with pancakes and filled my heart with children’s conversations, my legs were growing sore.  When the pancakes were gone, field maintenance and throwing batting practice with the Junior Varsity Warriors Baseball Team  left the rest of my body stiff and feeling done for the day.  However, I still had an errand run in Cookeville with Micah before the focal point of my day.  By the time I was getting dressed for the Daddy Daughter Dance with Clara hosted by the Sparta Rescue Squad, my legs were screaming at me and my throwing arm was protesting while tying a tie.  The rest of my body agreed, it would rather have gone to bed than to have this date.  
     Yet, this date with my daughter was worth it all as she melted my heart and we grew our love for each other.  How can you grow your love?  Here are two quick ideas that worked for this dead-tired dad. 

     1)  DISCARD DISTRACTIONS - Like herbicide sprayed on a prized petunia, distractions can kill the growth of love with your child.  The Daddy Daughter Dance began with a long line for photos and meal.  While waiting in line with Clara I took out the cell phone to snap a couple quick photos of us in our masquerade attire when she started spinning her dress to the music.  After a short video to show her mother, the cell phone went in the diaper bag slung over my shoulder.  After all, I was there to have a date with my daughter, not focus on social media.
Sadly, some of the dads in attendance didn’t get the memo.  I witnessed some fathers thumbing through social media while their daughters ate their meal in silence.  I saw dads gathering around the water cooler like break time at work while their dearests earnestly watched and waited at the table for their return.   I looked on as men moved through the motions of a date while their daughters dreamed of having their full attention.   
     I’m grateful to say that the majority of men in attendance were active participants in growing their love by putting away all distractions and focusing their conversation, attention, and efforts toward their darling daughters.  That daddy attention acted like fertilizer in the relationship.  Growing love toward your child involves putting away distractions that act like an killing spray to a blossoming flower.

     2)  LISTEN AND WATCH - Growing our love takes a focus on our listening skills.  As a doctor focuses his listening skills through a stethoscope, so we focus our attention on the desires of children’s hearts.  For tonight, my stethoscope was watching Clara’s eyes.  When her eyes darted toward cupcakes I let her know that it was ok for us to eat dessert first on our dinner plates.  When those beautiful blue eyes wandered to the dance floor, I knew it was time to be finished with food, and wander along with her.  After an hour of dancing (my legs were still screaming at me, my throwing arm still protesting), her gaze fell on the balloons being bounced around the floor by the other girls.  I knew it was then my time to play “bounce the balloon” with my giggling daughter.  When her weary eyes finally shifted toward the door, my listening stethoscope told me my two year old darling had enough energy for one night and was ready for winding it down at home.   Listening to her heart by watching her eyes helped grow our love as I was able to continually give her the attention and activities she desired. 

     THE RESULTS - I was blessed by discarding distractions and listening to her heart through a night filled with unforgettable smiles, sweet butterfly kisses on the cheek, and those special “I love you” words dropped in at the most opportune of times.  I vividly remember spinning Clara with her flaring dress around on the dance floor while her head was tilted back, eyes closed, and that beautiful smile beaming bright.  You might say, “She’s only two – she won’t remember the date later,” and you’re right: she won’t remember the specifics of our evening a few years from now.  But what she will know is that her daddy loves her and cherishes her and treats her with care and respect.  Winning her heart now lays a firm foundation for the sometimes shaky adolescent years.  Even when she faces changing hormones and sometimes-fickle peer groups, she will have the safe sturdiness of her father’s love to support her.
     Fathers, it isn’t always easy (especially in the midst of a full schedule and an aging body) to take the time now to show your children that they are important and loved, but you can still do it by discarding distractions and listening to their hearts.  Strive to let them know that your love is gentle and tender as well as dependable and strong.  You’re laying the groundwork now for a strong future for your children.


“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” – Malachi 4:6a



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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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


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


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


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


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Family Forte: Learning the Dreaded “S” Word


Family Forte:  Learning the Dreaded “S” Word
By: Topher Wiles

My eyes still get misty when I see a
Camaro racing like this one I spotted
in Bowling Green!
                At a whopping three days old, I was at the Union Hill drag strip in Nashville as my dad and uncle raced their 1968 Nova and 1969 Camaro.  It’s hard to express the emotion I have toward those cars.  I know, I shouldn’t get that attached to inanimate objects. I know, it’s weird that I can just see a royal blue ’69 Camaro and my eyes get misty.  I know, my attraction to the sound of a revving and unmuffled 454 Chevy big block borders on being an unhealthy obsession.   I was heartbroken as a twelve year old testosterone-driven boy when my family sold both cars. I cried when both the beloved Camaro and Nova were loaded on trailers and hauled away.


SACRIFICE

                My seventh grade maturity certainly didn’t understand what a sacrifice my dad was making for me, and for a time, I resented him for it.  My dad and I had spent each warm Friday night at the Clarksville Speedway, each Saturday at the Music City Raceway, and each Sunday morning at the Crossville Dragway.  Those weekends had rapidly dwindled as I turned 10 years old and became interested in baseball, tennis, and basketball.  Saturdays throughout the years changed from watching dad burn rubber to him watching me pitch on the diamond.  No longer were Fridays spent tuning up the engine in the garage.  Now we were spending money tuning up my hitting technique in the batting cages.  When dad made that huge sacrifice of selling the cars that had been such a big part of his life, I was understandably grief-stricken at losing the cars I had hoped to drive myself.  Little did I know that dad sold the cars to pay for my hotel rooms at all-star tournaments, my pitching lessons with famed coaches, and my desire for higher caliber baseball bats.  Sacrifice was a word I understood so little about. 

                Fast-forward to 2016.  The Wiles family was nestled into a small community in southern Indiana.  They still said “yall” and served good sweet tea, so we felt right at home.  I was finding great success serving as minister for a congregation in need and as a leader of several community organizations.  Our family was deeply involved in the local homeschool group,  enjoyed a vibrant social circle, and had just bought our first house. We were enjoying God-given success in many areas when we encountered that dreaded word:  sacrifice.

                Merriam-Webster’s definition of sacrifice reads this way: “the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.”  My wife, kids, and I felt the pain of uprooting the life we had built when we moved back to Tennessee.  Gabriel and Ethan took it especially hard as they traded their comfortable home with so many friends, neighbors, and church family for living in an cramped RV in unfamiliar Bear Cove.  The move would prove to be tougher than we knew, but it was all worth the sacrifice.

                What would make us uproot and move our family to unfamiliar territory?  It was sacrifice.  The man that sacrificed his dragsters for his son’s baseball was now in need of my sacrifice.  My mother had just died, and my dad had suffered a stroke.  The neurologist said those dreaded words: “He’ll likely never recover from this one to regain full functionality in life.”  My dad was in need of someone to help take care of him and keep him living independently in his own home.  Thus my family chose to “surrender” our success for the sake of my father’s livelihood. 

                Yes, it was hard.  Yes, we were uncomfortable for a while.  Yes, my pride was blown as I went from being the well-known, well-loved, leading minister of one town to being the untrusted new-guy in White County.  Yet we don’t regret that decision one bit.  My dad thanks me every time we have lunch together, whenever I’m repairing plumbing leaks, or when we stand outside to chat at the top of the handicap ramp we built on his house.

                Sacrifice.  It’s a tough word, but it is essential that all members of a family become acquainted with it.  In moments of sacrifice that we see the truest expressions of love.  Whether it is sacrificing a dream car for your child’s hobby or sacrificing your dream lifestyle for your aging parents’ livelihood, your sacrificial acts build a relationship bond with others that are hard for any of life’s trials to break. 

                What do you need to sacrifice?  Could it be that you need to give up some time at the office to coach your kid’s sports team?  Do you need to let go of a hobby for a time so that you and your wife can have date nights again?  Are you willing to spend time in rehab to break an addiction that is tearing your family apart?  Do you need to choose between your dream home and caring for your elderly parents who sacrificed so much for you?  If so, I encourage you to sacrifice for the sake of someone else.  Sacrifice for love.  You’ll be glad you did.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:12-13

                Epilogue: By God’s grace my dad has surpassed the neurologist’s predictions and over time has returned back to a normal lifestyle in his home.   Our family is developing friendships through local sports teams, the homeschool co-op, and the YMCA. God has gifted me as I now find myself surrounded by good people and supporters through various servant-leadership opportunities in White County.  Best of all, God has loved my family so dearly that we now feel right at home with the wonderful saints who worship with Central Church of Christ here in beautiful Sparta, TN. 


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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Whoa Video! Character Coaching with Me

Character Coaches are a growing trend in the athletic world as an additional layer of support and resource for our players.  Here is a video produced by the Upper Cumberland FCA in February of 2019 highlighting character coaching.


I hope this video does three things for you.
1) Educates you to what an FCA Character Coach does for athletic teams.
2) Makes you smile because of these great kids from our church who share their story.
3) Causes you to give thanks to God for how God uses various members of our church.
"If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 4:11b

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fathers and Fighting for Focus


Family Forte:  Fathers and Fighting for Focus
By: Topher Wiles

     I admit, I struggle with focus.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that my eyes now need a higher prescription contact lens (these things come with turning 40 right?).  By my focus struggle I’m referring to my difficulty in giving my priorities adequate time and attention.  Too often in life I find myself chasing white rabbits down tiny holes even though I don’t care anything for rabbits and I feel anxiety attacks in tight spaces.  In other words, I have to invest brain power to purposefully redirect my attention to what matters most.  I also know, I’m not alone in this struggle.  

     In a well-written article on www.inc.com I learned that 70% of our workforce feels distracted from their job, thereby reducing productivity and job satisfaction.  If you think it’s just a Millennial or Gen-Z problem, you might be surprised that the same survey of workforce found the younger generations only slightly more distracted at 74%.  What does all that mean?  According to the ancient Greeks, it was the human condition that caused us mere mortals to suffer with focus struggles.  You and I, unlike fabled Zeus and Hermes, are mere mortals and humans in a general struggle with distraction.  I bet Socrates and Aristotle would have struggled too if they had to resist binge-watching “Game of Thrones.” 

Welcome, mere mortal, to the human struggle. 

     Just as Dug the dog got distracted at the thought of a “Squirrel” in Pixar’s Up, so you and I are daily doing battle with forces that distract us from our priorities.  Yet, even mere mortals have weapons we can use as we go on the offensive against the distractions that wage war against us.  While there are many books written on the subject, let me just give you a rare dad moment of triumph to illustrate one weapon in our focus-finding arsenal.

     The moment ended with Micah, my energetic 5 year old, sweating, breathing heavy, and beaming a wide smile for hours.  The moment began on Saturday morning with me in a whirlwind frenzy getting ready for the day’s adventures.  Coaching a double-header basketball game in Cookeville was the start of the day.  I knew I had a meeting with a church member at lunch, a couple items to fix at the house, and a 5pm kayak rolling class back in Cookeville.  Combine that packed schedule with my meeting filled agenda from the previous Tuesday to Friday and I realized I hadn’t spent any time with Micah since Monday.  Yes, in five days, I really only saw my son in passing.


     Let’s get back to that childish beaming wide smile.  The only thing I really did to achieve that sincere broad grin that is blazoned in my memory was simply this.  I put away all distractions.  For one hour on that Saturday, I turned off my cell-phone, agreed with my wife that repairs could wait, then engaged in an hour of jovial focused frolicking with a boy who wanted nothing more from his dad.

     Our time at S. Carter Street Park in Sparta was awesome.  Micah squealed with joy as we played tag all through the play equipment.  He laughed as his small frame ducked under the bridges while my aging body had to run around to catch him.  He giggled as he zipped down slides with me tumbling after him.  He hugged me hard when I finally, sweaty and out of breath, touched his shoulder, yelling, “Tag, you’re it!”  For an hour, we played whatever Micah wanted.  We ran the trails, threw sticks off the bridge into the Calfkiller River, and bounced from one piece of play equipment to the other.  The best moment may have been when Micah kept shouting “Faster Daddy!” as I spun him on the single seat twisty pole in the middle of the playground.   I’m surprised he didn’t lose his lunch from all the laughing, sweating, and spinning he was doing.


     It wasn’t until a little five year old girl named Bella joined us that I realized how powerful a distraction-free focused moment can be.  The playground was full of beautiful fun-loving kids like Bella.  The playground was also surrounded with parents on benches thumbing through their cell phones, distracted from the beautiful opportunity that lay in front of them.  Bella, like other kids, began joining in on my play with Micah.  They jumped in on tag, rushed down slides, and giggled their way to fun with us.  It was when Bella asked me to help her on the zipline-ish apparatus that her dad on the bench finally took notice.  Moments later, my heart was glad as he too had put away his distractions and was frolicking on the playground with his little girl.
     If a satellite could make a heat map based on the glowing hearts of people that day, then S. Carter Street Park would have surely been the brightest spot on the map that hour as several teens, parents, and precious children all joined in the raucous play.  There is power in distraction-free focus on your priorities.

     I admit, I struggle with focus.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that my eyes now need a higher prescription contact lens (these things come with turning 40 right?).  By my focus struggle I’m referring to my difficulty in giving my priorities adequate time and attention.  Yet, I can tell you that even a mere mortal like me can battle back against the distractions of the human experience and enjoy the blessings that a corrected focus brings.  It doesn’t matter your age, gender, race, or ability, you too can start correcting your focus.   Begin with simply identifying where your priorities lie in life.  Then, make a purposeful decision to put away all distractions until your priority is clear in your view … and get ready for smiles that follow.  As always, let us know if we can lovingly help you correct your focus.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33


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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Awful Arugula and Failing Focus


Family Forte:  Awful Arugula and Failing Focus
by: Ashley Wiles – member of Central Church of Christ

                I love working with my husband, Topher.  While there are situations he doesn’t share with me due to minister confidentiality, often we find ourselves combining our hearts, minds, and skills to help other families heal from the wounds that cut deep.  Those scarring wounds are sometimes caused by spitefulness, self-centeredness, pride, neglect, or a combination of those hurtful situations.  I would love to help other couples avoid the negative influences that encroach upon a marriage.  I would be elated if I could give one piece of advice that can aid a couple in keeping that wedded bliss fresh and alive in the duration of their marriage.  I would be joyful if just one couple could find peace in their soul from the healing that can come after deep wounds.  Maybe you, dear readers, are that couple.  It is my prayer that this story about finding focus in your relationship will inspire you. 
                The other day I found myself alone in Kroger with a long list. My ravenous family of six really needed fresh produce, but, as is usual for moms of big families, there were quite a few other things I decided to pick up while I was there.  The store was crowded, but I was blessed on this occasion to be shopping solo (a treat sometimes for a mom).   In the clogged aisles I frequently had to park my cart to the side unattended and walk a good distance to retrieve my items.  An hour and a hundred dollars later, I had a cart full of items to unload in the checkout lane.
                Then, the weirdest thing happened.  From the very bottom of my cart I pulled a plastic clamshell of… arugula. I don’t like arugula.  I’ve never liked the green leafy waste of salad space.  I thought I had picked up spinach, our family’s go-to for vegetation.  Normally I would try to make the best of it, but I was pretty confident that my family would overthrow me in a child-led revolt if arugula was found on their plates, so I asked the clerk to put it back. I prepared to pay as he scanned my last few items, and I realized that he was scanning a bag of Red Delicious apples. “That’s weird,” I thought.  “I was sure I had picked up Topher’s favorites, Gala apples.”   My husband would have to suck it up this time and eat the Reds, because I was pressed on Mommy time.  I then handed over my coupons.  The  “40 cents off a bag of baby carrots” coupon beeped – “Did you buy carrots?” the cashier queried. “Yes, I bought two bags,” I replied, so he obediently pushed it through. I finished my payment and went home with bountiful bags of harvest from Kroger.
                At home I unpacked and quickly became more confused. No avocados. No garlic. No peppers. No carrots.  What in the world was going on here?  It’s like someone else did the shopping for me.  Was I suddenly possessed by some alter-arugula-eating-ego that swapped my list for someone else’s?
                Then it hit me.   Somewhere after the produce aisle, I had lost focus and swiped a stranger’s shopping cart instead of my own.  The cart had enough similar items (container of greens, bag of apples) that I didn’t even notice that it was missing the most important items on my shopping list.  My precious produce was lost and I paid over five Andrew Jackson’s for food I didn’t want.  On top of it all, not only was I guilty of theft but also lying (about carrots, of all things) and committing coupon fraud.
                How did this happen?   Distracted by the hustle and bustle of the store, I thought about all the other items I could buy and sales I could seek out.  My attention stayed on coupons and cream cheese, discounts and dairy, markdowns and meats so that I lost sight of the primary produce goal.   If I had been really focused on my main purpose of replenishing our produce, I think I would have realized that I had the wrong cart.
                Focus.  Let’s talk about that in the context of relationships.  What was the main focus of your marriage in the days, weeks, and months immediately following your wedding?  Hopefully it was your spouse. You worked together to create a new home with traditions and routines of your own. The two of you laid the foundation for a strong partnership and team that would be invincible when life’s challenges came. That time was nearly 15 years ago for us, and a lot has happened in those 15 years: four beautiful children, several job changes, five different homes, two out-of-state moves, and the death of a parent. Today we find ourselves working with a wonderful church, homeschooling our two oldest, developing relationships in our community, managing our kids’ athletics, and working on building projects around our home.  That’s a lot of hustle and bustle and a lot of distractions.
                If we’re not careful, we can easily walk away from our cart full of marriage building produce to chase items down other aisles that look appealing.  Maybe you’re being tempted by a job promotion requiring years of long hours in the office.  Perhaps you’re eyeballing that neighbor’s fancy new car that doesn’t fit your family’s budget or plans.  Maybe it’s seeing others’ Disney trips, fitness routines, or home d├ęcor that has you losing focus on the most important relationship in your cart – your marriage.
                Focus on what was originally in your cart, building and keeping your strong marriage.  Too many people realize late in life at checkout that they have a shopping cart full of items they didn’t intend to pick up.  Even worse, they’re missing what they started out with in the first place.  If you find yourself at this place in life, there is hope if together we return to our original focus.  God can redeem even the most challenging of relationships if we are willing to return to Him.  Contact me or my husband at Central Church of Christ in Sparta if we can help you get your cart back.  
“Let marriage be held in honor among all…” – Hebrews 13:4a
Now, I wonder what the other shopper thought of my spinach and carrots.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Difference Pizza and Proposal


Family Forte: The Difference Between Pizza and Proposal
By: Topher Wiles

Love is in the air!  With Valentine’s day fast approaching everybody is talking about love.  Love is a pretty regular topic in our culture and it’s used to describe more than just our relationships.  People often talk about loving pizza, loving pets, loving presidents and loving presents.  I’m willing to bet you and I have been guilty of throwing the word “love” around as carelessly pennies in a Walmart parking lot. Could it be that our haphazard tossing of the word “love” about is hurting our families by watering down the deep bonds we desire to convey when we say “I love you”? 

It is true, we have confused “love” with the word “like”.  To strengthen your family, allow me to help you distinguish between the two words.   “Like” is a word we use to talk about something that serves us or something that brings us joy.  Pizza is a great example here.  It brings me a lot of joy to bite into that gooey cheese, crunch onto that salty pepperoni, and chew through that delicious crust.  I like pizza because it does something for me.  Yet I don’t do a thing, give anything, or sacrifice anything for pizza. 

Your love involves less of what something or someone does for you, but is instead more tied to what you do or give to someone else.  I have a tool that can help us keep on the straight and narrow concerning true love.   Let’s look at love through the lens of one of our most ancient written languages.  Some Jews & Christians consider Hebrew to be the first language through which God spoke in creating the world.  Here’s the skinny about love from Hebrew. Please pardon me while I get a little nerdy for a moment from my years of translating Greek and Hebrew in college.   Our English word “Love” is in Hebrew “ahavah” which is made of four basic Hebrew letters “AHVH” (aleph-hei-vav-hei). I think it is possible the root of the word of “ahavah” is the simply the two consonants “HV” (hei-vav) which mean “to give”.  This comes from Strong’s Concordance number H3051 “YHV”, but the Y drops out in the imperfect tense when and you put an “A” in its place to make “AHV” (Qal imperfect 1st common singular).  

 If all of that made no sense, it’s ok, just know the two following concepts.
·                     The word “AHAVAH” is used over 40 times and often talks about sacrificial, giving love.  
·                     When you add the “A” (aleph) on the front of "HV" to make it “AHV” you get the phrase, “I WAS GIVING” or “I AM GIVING.” 

Thus, from my word studies, I believe the word "love" in one of our oldest languages originally has roots in the phrase “I give.”  You can find this word used in Genesis 29:20 after Jacob has “given” seven years of his life for Rachel, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the LOVE (AHAVAH) he had to her.”  You can also find it in 1 Kings 10:9 stating “The Lord LOVED Israel forever” and “Hatred stirs up strife, but LOVE covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12) 

As you can see, love in ancient language seems to be regularly connected with sacrificially giving to others as Jacob did for Rachel, as the Lord did for Israel, and as Jesus does for us in our sin today. 

My very relationship with my wife is evidence of that giving type of love.  Seventeen years ago I had the perfect setting to propose.  A blanket in the park, comfort food, mood music, a bouquet of roses, and a ring hidden inside one of the flowers.  While the sappy music about love was playing, I dropped to one knee, grabbed the rose with the ring…. and panicked!  The ring wasn't in the rose!  She saw the look on my face and knew I had botched this one.  I intended to give her a gift of love, but I lost it.  I began frantically searching the grass around us looking for that precious symbol of love that had fallen out of the rose!  For what seemed like an eternity we hunted through the grass, the flowers, and the trunk of the car.  Eventually, I found that precious gift of love, got down on one knee again and at sunset, she saidYes!” 

How did I know I loved her?  It was because I was willing to give her my hard earned pay, my time, my effort, and my heart all symbolized in that proposal.  I also know I was willing to continue giving those things to her for the rest of my life.

How do I know she loved me?  Jesus spoke of love this way in Luke 7 when talking about a woman who was a sinner, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

The best evidence of my beautiful bride’s love for me is what she gave this blundering idiot that evening in a Nashville park.  Even though I had botched the perfect proposal, she gave me her gifts of forgiveness and then gave me her heart forever.  

True love is different from intensely liking something.  We like things because of pleasure they give to us.  Yet, true love is deeper, connecting more to the choice of sacrificial giving you do for them.

What does that mean for us in our families?  As leaders, it is up to us to set the proper standard for what love is.  Perhaps our kids would best be served if we use our word “LOVE” when we are talking about giving to someone rather than just enjoying something.  This Valentine’s Day, give a gift to someone you love, whether a spouse, friend, child, or neighbor.  You’ll be glad you did.  “We LOVE because He first LOVED us.” - John 4:19

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Family Forte: The Power of Remembering


Family Forte: The Power of Remembering
By: Topher Wiles 

                Get ready husbands, because Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away!  While it may not be a high priority on your list, and she may say it isn’t important to her, I want you to remember the beauty of your bride anyway.  Remembering her, honoring her love, celebrating her beauty is a choice you can make that will strengthen your marriage, your family, and really up your Valentine’s Day game.  Remembering my wife has changed my life, and I think it can change yours too.
                Now, I’ve got a lot of moments to remember in life.  It was through tear-filled eyes I've seen the amazing births of all four of my children.  I remember throwing a no-hitter, winning tennis tournaments, and besting every adult in a 5k race.  I've completed a Tough Mudder, a Spartan Race, and a 26.2 mile marathon.  I've jumped from an 83 foot waterfall near Sparta and spelunked in the deep dark recesses of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee cave systems.  I've seen rainbows in Siberia and sat in solitude on mountain tops in Honduras on a star-filled night.  It’s true, I’ve been blessed to remember some of life’s great moments.
                Yet I can't remember any one of those experiences generating as much excitement, passion, and an overwhelming sense of joy as one special moment.  In June 2004 the doors in the back of the auditorium opened at a sweet church in Franklin, TN.  The sunlight danced and radiated around my soon-to-be wife as she was revealed to my eyes for the first time in her wedding dress.  She was stunningly, weak-in-the knees, take-your-breath-away gorgeous.  I couldn’t stop smiling at her through the entire ceremony.  Not a one of those amazing experiences mentioned earlier compare with the vision God gave me of my bride beautifully dressed for her husband on our wedding day. 
                Perhaps it was because we had anticipated and prepared for the wedding for so long, since the moment we started dating.  Maybe it was because we had saved physical intimacy for the wedding night.  Maybe it was because it was at that moment in the wedding that I was about to kiss Ashley on the lips for the very first time ever.  Yes, you read that right, we didn’t kiss till our wedding day!   Whatever the reason, I was ecstatic and exuberant at the sight of this woman as she floated up the aisle to stand hand-in-hand before me.  I've smiled a lot, but I don’t remember ever smiling bigger than that moment in life.
                Why is remembering that special moment important?  It is remembering her beauty that carries my marriage forward when the days seem long.  Remembering her till-death-do-you-part commitment re-energizes my commitment to her.  Remembering our vows compels me to make the move to work things out after a disagreement.  Remembering her radiating smile beaming back at me reminds me to work hard to keep that smile of hers shining.  Remembering the love and passion on our wedding day motivates me to celebrate with my bride on Valentine’s Day, on our anniversary, and throughout the year.
                Husbands, I stumble through life and marriage often, tripping up due to distractions and mistakes.  Let’s face it, not every day is fun, exciting, passionate and wonderful.  There are moments when you get sick of her morning sickness.  There are times that you fall into a heap physically exhausted because you worked so hard to give her the best of her dreams.  There are periods when the kids’ schedules take such a prominent priority in your life that you find you and your wife running different directions every night of the week.  Taking time to remember her is one of the best tools I pull from my relationship toolbox that keeps my 15 years of marriage fresh and on the right path. 
                As it turns out, I’m not alone in remembering.  Wiser and better men than me have used the remembering resource for motivation in life.  Wise King Solomon shared this wisdom too when he wrote, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  (Prov 5:18)  That great motivator, Paul the apostle, reminded men when he wrote, “Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the church.” (Eph 5:25a) Even John, the author of Revelation, connected to this special moment when he compared Heaven to a wedding ceremony.  "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband."  (Rev 21:2)  
                Husbands, if you want a stronger family, a better life, and a refreshed soul, you can start any day, but especially use this Valentine’s Day to remember your bride in all her beauty. 

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22


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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Family Forte: How Moosetracks Helped in Moving



Family Forte: How Moosetracks Helped in Moving by Topher Wiles

                “Variety is the spice of life,” William Cowper cheerfully penned in 1785, but I have to wonder if he ever picked up his family to move from one state to another.  Had he counseled anyone through the loss of a loved one or a divorce from a spouse?  Had he ever tried to calm a young adult starting a new job or a child going to kindergarten?  Although some may wax poetic about change, the emotional toll of change is undeniable.  Anxiety, fear, and stress are all too common as we ride the emotional roller coaster associated with changes in our lives.   
If variety is the spice of life, then I believe life changes are more like cayenne pepper – we want to use it rarely and sparingly.   
                Yet we do know that change is inevitable.  How do we help those in our families who are struggling with a change?  How do we bring peace to the family whose quality of life has been robbed through an illness?  How do we help an athlete bounce back from a career ending injury?  How do we calm the anxieties of great-grandma when she needs the specialized care of a rehab or nursing facility?  I pray that the following story helps your family through the many changes that come your way.
                Look, Dad! There’s Scoops!  I think those words are forever seared in my memory because of the peace it brought us during a change.  It was a bright spot in an otherwise uncertain time.  
                We were moving to back to Tennessee.  My mother had passed away, my father had a stroke, and Ashley’s grandmother had passed, all while we were living our six years in Indiana.  We knew that we were needed back in Tennessee closer to our families, yet our purpose for moving didn’t make the transition much easier.  There were too many uncertainties.  Will we find an affordable house?  Will our new church family like us?  Can we find a place to serve in the community?  Will the homeschool community accept us?   My worry list was long, even for this optimistic and ambitious guy.  As a dad, it’s not just me anymore making these big changes.  I’ve got four kids and a beautiful wife that I’m dragging through transition as well. 
                Micah didn’t want to leave his firefighter friend at church, Mr. Steven, who always gave him a mint on Sunday mornings.  Gabriel was loathe to leave his homeschool class, a well balanced group of boys he could always find an adventure with.   Ethan didn’t want to leave his favorite small business, Scoops, which was a little locally owned ice cream shop where we celebrated special occasions. 
                As we drove through Sparta after my job interview and thought about all the unknowns, the cry of, “Look, Dad! There’s Scoops!” sounded.  The Scoops sign was more than an advertisement for an ice cream shop; it was a blessing, a “God-send”, a familiar sight in a foreign land.  We pulled in for a cone, and we all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief  and settle into process of change. 
                Familiarity is the key to making change easier for anyone.  If you can help your family connect to something familiar while other things change, it helps aid them through the transition.  For a child, it may involve carrying that comforting blanket with them on the first day of school for nap time.  For our loved ones moving into a nursing facility, make sure to hang familiar photos from the past on the wall to bring  peace in a trying time.  For the young professional starting a new job, you can urge them to continue in their same morning routine just like they did in school, with an alarm, shower, coffee, and reading to bring the familiar back to their schedule.  For the family moving, try to find a similar park, restaurant, or sweet treat stop that is similar to one back home.  You may be surprised at how powerful and comforting these small familiarities can be. 

                For those of us of faith have been given an extra familiarity tool in our tool box.  It’s a tool that never changes, never leaves us, and never forsakes us.  Our belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ, in the providence of our immutable God, in the divine presence of the Holy Spirit, is a gift that can see us through the toughest of times.  When our families continue in these beliefs, from the time we are wrinkled and red fresh out of the womb till the time we are wrinkled and gray from age, we are comforted by the consistency, stability, and familiarity of those beliefs.  Seek the familiar and seek God, and your changes will be blessed.

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” – Deut 31:6 & Heb 13:5

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