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 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,, or through our website,

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 décor 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,, or through our website,

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,, or through our website,

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,, or through our website,

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,, or through our website,

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Family Forte: My Strong Family

“My Strong Family”  by: Topher Wiles
                “Look dad!” Micah yells as he strains, grunts, and huffs his way to a half pull-up.  At five years old, my third son carries a bulk heftier than his siblings.  If Gabriel is built for tennis and Ethan is built for wrestling, then Micah is definitely built to be a line-backer.  Being over twice Micah’s age, Gabriel recently achieved his first honest pull-up, a great achievement for a sixth grader.  Any of our readers who have multiple children know the “monkey-see-monkey-do” routine of the younger brothers and sisters.  So here we are, watching what must be Micah’s hundredth attempt at a pull-up.  Teeth are gritted.  Face is strained.  Knuckles are white.  Micah is still only halfway up when his arms finally give out.

                Why do I watch eagerly without wavering in attention?  Why do I lock my eyes on Micah’s like a heat seeker homing in on its target?  Why do I cheer, encourage, and high-five this pre-k hulk before, during, and after his inevitable failure at accomplishing a single pull-up?  Stay with me a moment while I tell you an awful and amazing story to answer our questions. 

                January of 2018 was much colder than this year.  The frigid temperatures saw me working feverishly to get my new-to-Sparta family out of our RV and into the new home we purchased.  Before we could pack up and move our belongings out of our Indiana home and into our Sparta home, I had some serious work to do.  I began to feel a small strain in my back after days of ripping carpet and pulling staples from the existing hardwood floor that lay underneath in our new home.  Yet a weekend closing date on our home in Indiana meant that I couldn’t slow down for pain or strain.  I had to get everything ready to move within 5 days since the buyers of our home up north were taking immediate possession when they signed on the line.

                It was the deadline, the long hours remodeling, and the lack of proper strengthening that landed me in Ty Webb’s office (one of our elders at Central Church of Christ), writhing in pain from my first lower back injury.  Did you know that you can be in so much pain that it induces your vomit reflex?  Yeah, I didn’t either.  I wonder what was going through Dr. Webb’s mind as his new preacher was crying like a baby, unable to stand up, and begging for a trash can to mitigate the effects of the up-chuck reflex at 7am that Wednesday morning.  I wonder what the emergency room doctor in Indiana was thinking three days later when he was told the story of my back injury and how I was writhing in pain on his gurney because I hurt it again attempting to load my recently sold house into a U-Haul. 

                I wonder at these things a year later as I enjoy one of the fittest moments of my life.  I’m stronger now in my back, arms, and legs than I’ve ever been before.  I’m stronger entering into 2019 than this time last year because of family.  It was my church family in Indiana that came to our rescue and loaded that moving truck.  It was our church family in Tennessee that moved me and my wheelchair to the front porch to let me watch as they unloaded my belongings into our new Sparta home.  It was Dr. Ty Webb, my brother-in-Christ, who encouraged me to do my first triathlon as he continued to watch over my strengthening progress.  It was my wife and kids who took up the slack to let my body rest and heal.  It was my family who continued to sacrifice time so that I could visit the YMCA every morning to get stronger, be healthier, and become a better version of my former self.  I am stronger today because of the love, care, and attention of my family.

                Why do I give my love, care, and attention to Micah even though he can’t do a pull-up?  The reason doesn’t lie in the pull-up itself.  I could care less if the boy can do 1, 10, or 100 pull-ups (although 100 pull-ups at 5 years old would be cool!).  What I do care about is Micah knowing that he has my love, care, and attention as he becomes a stronger version of himself.  That’s what God, my heavenly Father, did for me through the trials of the last year.  Love, care, and attention – that’s what families give.   

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” – Ephesians 6:10

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,, or through our website,

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nazarite Vow November

Patrick Lankford wanted us to join him in a "No Shave November."  When we upped the ante with "Nazarite Vow November," he was all in!  So, rather than not shaving or cutting your hair in fall months, let's do what "Nazarite" really means.  Devote ourselves to God!

So, what would it mean to take a Nazarite Vow today?  
Like the Nazarites we would:

  • Let no razor touch our head
  • Not touch any wine or fermented drink. (That means I have to change my mouth wash to something without alcohol). 
  • Not eat or drink anything grape related. (Except Communion on Sundays). 
  • Don't touch or go near any dead bodies. (I'll make an exception for a funeral). 
  • Consecrate or set apart ourselves and our time daily for study and service to God. 
  • Pray Daily that God would set us apart for His purposes. 
  • Offer a "sacrifice" of praise on Saturday, Dec 1st, when we shave & cut our hair. 
So, if you want to do more than "No Shave November" to consecrate yourselves to God, simply let Topher or Patrick know, we'll be happy to walk through a modern day Nazarite Vow together.  We'll talk later about what our Saturday, December 1st will look like later.

Suggested Readings
Thurs - Nov 1 - John 1:45-46 "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" "Come and see!"
Fri - Nov 2 - Numbers 6:1-21 - Amos 2:11 - Details of the Nazarite Vow
Sat - Nov 3 - 1 Samuel 1 - Samuel is born.
Sun - Nov 4 - 1 Samuel 2
Mon - Nov 5 - 1 Samuel 3
Tues - Nov 6 - 1 Samuel 4
Wed - Nov 7 - 1 Samuel 5
Thurs - Nov 8 - 1 Samuel 6
Fri - Nov 9 - 1 Samuel 7
Sat - Nov 10 - 1 Samuel 8
Sun - Nov 11 - 1 Samuel 9
Mon - Nov 12 - 1 Samuel 10
Tues - Nov 13 - 1 Samuel 11
Wed - Nov 14 - 1 Samuel 12
Thurs - Nov 15 - 1 Samuel 15
Fri - Nov 16 - 1 Samuel 16
Sat - Nov 17 - 1 Samuel 19:18-24, 1 Samuel 25:1
Sun - Nov 18 - Judges 13
Mon - Nov 19 - Judges 14
Tues - Nov 20 - Judges 15
Wed - Nov 21 - Judges 16
Thurs - Nov 22 - Mark 1
Fri - Nov 23 - John 1
Sat - Nov 24 - Luke 1
Sun - Nov 25 - Matthew 3
Mon - Nov 26 - Mark 6
Tues - Nov 27 - Acts 18:1-18
Wed - Nov 28 - Acts 21:17-24
Thurs - Nov 29 - Mark 14:22-25
Fri - Nov 30 - Luke 22:15-18
Sat - Dec 1 - Num 6:1-21

Extra info from Jewish Encyclopedia


Nazarite Laws.—Biblical Data:
Three restrictions are imposed upon the Nazarite, according to Num. vi.: he may not take wine, or anything made from grapes; he may not cut the hair of his head; he may not touch the dead, not even the body of his father or mother. If a Nazarite has become unclean by accident, he must offer a sacrifice and begin the period of his vow anew. He is "holy unto the Lord" (Num. vi. 8), and the regulations which apply to him actually agree with those for the high priest and for the priests during worship (Lev. x. 8 et seq., xxi.; Ezek. xliv. 21). In ancient times the priests were persons dedicated to God (Ezek. xliv. 20; I Sam. i. 11), and it follows from the juxtaposition of prophets and Nazarites (Amos ii. 11-12) that the latter must have been regarded as in a sense priests. Young men especially, who found it difficult to abstain from wine on account of youthful desire for pleasure, took the vow. The most prominent outward mark of the Nazarite was long, flowing hair, which was cut at the expiration of the vow and offered as a sacrifice (Num. l.c.; Jer. vii. 29).
In Ancient Israel.
The history of Nazariteship in ancient Israel is obscure. Samson was a Nazarite, whose mother abstained from wine during her pregnancy. His superhuman strength lay in his long, unshorn locks (Judges xiii. et seq.). Samuel's mother promised to dedicate him to God during his whole life, saying, "There shall no razor come upon his head" (I Sam. i. 11); the Septuagint concludes from the latter promise (to which it adds "he shall drink no wine") that Samuel was a Nazarite. Neither the nomadic Rechabites nor their wives or children drank wine (Jer. xxxv.; II Kings x. 15 et seq.).
Extent.—In Rabbinical Literature:
The Nazarite law was minutely developed in post-Biblical times and became authoritative, while the popularity of Nazariteship and the influence it exercised on men's minds appear from its numerous regulations, which form a voluminous treatise of the Mishnah, and from the many expressions and phrases accompanying the taking of the vow. If one said, "May I be a Nazarite," he became a Nazarite at once (Naz. i. 1). As a consequence of the universal custom, peculiar words and phrases, some of which are now unintelligible, were formulated for the taking of the vow (Naz. i. 1, ii. 1; p. 10a; Ned. 10a, b, et passim). "'Let my hand, my foot be nazir,' is not valid; 'Let my liver [or some other vital part] be nazir,' is valid" (Naz. 21b; Tos. to Naz. iii. 3). When the sanctuary was defiled at the time of the wars of the Maccabees the people assembled all the Nazarites before God as persons who could not be released from their vows (I Macc. iii. 49); yet when Nazarites returned from the Diaspora and found the sanctuary destroyed they were absolved from their vows (Naz. v. 4), although at the same time others took it (ib. v., end).
The expenses of the offerings of poor Nazarites were borne by the wealthy, this charitable obligation being expressed by the phrase "to have [his head] shorn"; and King Agrippa had many Nazarites "shorn" (Josephus, "Ant." xix. 6, § 1; Naz. ii. 5, 6; Acts xviii. 18; xxi. 23, 24 [Nazariteship ofPaul]). "At the time of R. Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ 300 Nazarites came to Jerusalem. In the case of 150 he found a reason for annulling their vows, but in the case of the others he found none. He went to his brother-in-law King Jannai [103-76 B.C.] and said to him: 'There are 300 Nazarites who need 900 sacrificial animals; you give one-half and I will give the other half'; so the king sent 450 animals" (Yer. Ber. 11b and parallels). Noble persons also, both men and women, took Nazarite vows. Queen Helena was a Nazarite for fourteen (or twenty-one) years (Naz. iii. 6; see Jew. Encyc. vi. 334, s.v. Helena), and Agrippa's sister Berenice was at Jerusalem on account of a Nazarite vow taken before the outbreak of the great war against the Romans (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 15, § 1).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hurricane Michael Help

Caleb and I are travelling toward the gulf on Thursday morning, October 18th at 4:30am.
If you want to help, bring tarps, cash for gas, water, baby supplies, and hygiene items, to Central Church of Christ by tonight. We'll be at the building until 8pm to accept donations.
We plan to take more trips in the future for long term recovery. Stay tuned!
Instagram: @centralchurchsparta

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pre-Season Baseball

David, Drew, Hayden, Holden, Here's a couple of items we worked on.  Proof read these two documents for me and make suggestions for edits. 

Sheet #1 - Calendar with mental training staying on Wednesdays.  It just looked balanced that way.

Sheet #2 - These are Drew's recommendations for workouts.  I have yet to put the time into comparing my sources.  Drew's had a lot of good ideas to target specific areas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What do you remember?

What do you remember from 9/11? Here are 6 peoples I remember from that week in 2001. 

  1. My wife. I met Ashley shortly after the planes hit on 9/11/2011. She was reading her Bible calmly from 2 Corinthians 4. 
  2. My 3 Lipscomb University classmates. (Michael, Jon, & Paul) They shoved life aside to drive supplies, money, and aid together with me to the Pentagon & Manhattan Island. 
  3. The Military Police and his assault rifle. He made it clear that we were not to pray on the Pentagon lawn at 1am Thursday morning. 
  4. The Franciscan monks who prayed for us before we entered the gates to Ground Zero. 
  5. The elders of Manhattan Church of Christ who let us sleep on their floor. 
  6. The K9 units who worked tirelessly to find survivors. I wrote a short article on them here in 2015.

Today I returned to the hope that is in the passage Ashley read to me on 9/11. May it also cause you to hope in Christ as you read it.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

I remember on 9/11 the way Christ was manifested in so many bodies of those who loved God and loved their neighbor. What do you remember?