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: 

https://bible.com/events/5503712


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.

Friday, October 18, 2019

SOC: Fall Retreat



Welcome to my adventurous collection of Bible Trivia, Life Lessons, and Family Adventures!  If you're looking for Message Notes, you can easily follow along in your Bible app by clicking here: 


http://bible.com/events/3254262
Thanks for joining me! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Family Forte: Taking Voyages that Last a Lifetime

by: Topher Wiles
     Last night my family visited the beautiful farms, mills, and forests of Connecticut.  It was the New York subway station and a special musical cricket that drew their focus last week.  Before that it was Central America that held my children’s awe as they followed a Spanish conquistador in his hunt for gold.  Some of our best journeys have been to Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, Ireland in the days of St. Patrick, Britain during its early Roman occupation, and the magical land of Narnia whenever Aslan paid a visit. 
     We are deliberately a reading family.  As you can imagine for a guy with my energy level, slowing down, sitting in a chair, and reading a book are all challenging tasks that rub the wrong way against the grain of my temperament.  Much like eating vegetables, we know reading is good for the kids, so Ashley and I choose to slow life down to read books to our children.  Also, much like eating veggies, if you keep doing it, you eventually learn to like it.  So our time frequently finds the Wiles family travelling through India, braving the rough seas in the new Americas, or travelling west in pioneer caravans as we read aloud.
     Reading to your kids has been proven to be a big benefit in their lives. In a 2018 New York Times article titled “New Guidelines From Pediatricians,” doctors of medicine found that parents reading to children is a valid way to help kids with their behavior and attention span issues, and it’s as cheap as a library card.  Researchers shared, “The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.”  I struggle with attention deficit and we know a lot of families with kids struggle too.  Focus on the Family researchers tell even more bonuses in their aptly title article “The Benefits of Reading to Your Children.” Children that are regularly read to at home generally:
  • ·         “Read better, write better and concentrate better.
  • ·         Are quicker to see subtleties.
  • ·         Have an easier time processing new information.
  • ·         Have a better chance for a successful, fulfilling adult life.
  • ·         Have many interests and do well in a wide variety of subjects.
  • ·         Develop an ability to understand how other people think and feel.
  • ·         Acquire the ability to sift information and to understand how unrelated facts can fit into a whole.
  • ·         Tend to be more flexible in their thinking and more open to new ideas.
  • ·         Weather personal problems better without their schoolwork being affected.”

    I know it’s hard.  I’m a sporty, outdoorsman who would naturally rather put a hammer, baseball, or fishing rod in my kids’ hands than a book, but even I see the big benefits of book-time for my kids.  I’ve witnessed so much good for my children and wife, that I’ve even increased my quality reading consumption by joining a book club at the White County Public Library (this month we’re reading a horror book!).  The Wiles family has been blessed to organize our schedule to include ample amount of book-time, and we hope your family will experience the benefits too.  Here are a few of our suggestions as you and your children digest regular reading together.
  • ·         Kids react differently to reading.  Gabriel could sit perfectly still and listen while Ethan struggled.  Putting a hot wheels car in Ethan’s hand and letting him lay on the floor to play with it made a world of difference in his attentive abilities.
  • ·         Make time for reading before bed.  Yes, we have hard and fast lights-out times for our kids, but those deadlines aren’t as important as ending the night on a positive connection. 
  • ·         Involve mom, dad, older siblings, and grandparents in the reading repertoire.  You will all choose different book subjects, giving the kids a variety of adventures, relationship connections, and funny voices to imitate.
  • ·         Be patient with your kids learning to read.  One of our boys learned to read chapter books at 4 years old.  Another struggling with dyslexia and didn’t pick it up till 6.  Now, they are both voracious readers!
  • ·         Keep reading.  Our eldest is twelve, and he still enjoys being read to!
  • ·         Force yourself as an adult to read a book, too.  It helps my mood, attitude, & blood pressure!

If you’ve got questions or are looking for tips for reading lists, the internet has a wealth of information on the topic, but we’ve found that our local White County Librarians are very well-versed in this area of study and are happy to help.  Go ask them for age appropriate suggestions and you’ll be amazed at the variety of fun titles they’ll offer!
Here’s a few of the Wiles family book recommendations for reading aloud to children 12 years old and younger.
  • ·         The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • ·         The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, even my five year old loves it!)
  • ·         The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the originals are best)
  • ·         The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  • ·         The Russian Saga (or anything else) by Gloria Whelan (best for older elementary/middle school)
  • ·         The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • ·         The Roman Britain series (good for middle school age) by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • ·         The Mercy Watson Series (great for younger kids) by Kate DiCamillo
  • ·         The Beginners Bible (for young kids) and the NIrV (for older kids) all inspired by God. 

We saved the best for last in our list; we’ve been blessed to spend Bible time together every single day of our kids’ lives.  If you’d like to ask more questions or make more suggestions to us, please email us at topherwiles@spartacoc.com or call the office at Central Church of Christ at 931-836-2874.  May you have many years of happy reading!
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4

     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, October 9, 2019

Tornado Time Before Hospitable Hosts

by: Topher Wiles
     We call it “Topher’s Tornado Time.”  I realize that one word, tornado, may elicit fear and trepidation during this upcoming fall season, but it is still an accurate description of what happens when we prepare to host people in our homes.  It begins when I ask Ashley, “What do you need me to do?”  It follows with a list, an elevated voice volume, and a flurry of activity.  Our pre-hospitality routine might sound stressful, but when my inner tornado comes bursting out as I organize last minute preparations and cleanings ahead of the visitors to come, our family is always blessed.
     One of the lost family-strengthening arts of this new millennium is the learned skill of hospitality.  It’s like the paintings of Bob Ross; hospitality is easy enough that anyone can do it, but rare enough that it is a joy to behold.  Our family has found a high value in sitting around the table to a simple meal with guests, sharing a board game in the living room with friends, and laughing over stories while we enjoy ice-cream and a brownie.  Each of these activities is easy in its own right but seems to be a rarity among people in our generation.  When we invite a family over, we benefit in several ways.
     First, as the “Tornado Time” illustrates, our house gets cleaned!  We try to have families over to our house about once a month, which means I must pick up all my “I might use this next week” tools, file the piles of mounting paperwork, and clean up my rancid shoe area.  Ashley and I don’t have a mansion compared to most and you can tell that every inch of our home is well used, but we do reach a better level of livability once we’ve been motivated to pick up and clean for others.
     Second, we’re given the gift of deeper intimacy with friends and family when we sit around the table at home together.  Yes, restaurants are nice to enjoy with others, but conversation flows so much easier and freer when you’re in the safety of a home.  When people see pictures of your children on the walls, scripture that inspires, or marks on the door denoting children’s height as they grow, your guests will open up about their own experiences, memories, and funny moments.  Some of our best moments in life have been shared in conversation around a table at home.
     Third, our kids make better friends. Sports, clubs, and classes are decent for friend making, but nothing fosters friendship faster than when another child sees our tote of Nerf guns sitting right by the back door and the inevitable Nerf war follows.  Children of all ages enjoy our Lego loft, our sandbox, and the magnolia climbing tree in the front yard right alongside our own kids.  We’ve seen our kids’ sports, clubs, and class experiences enhanced because they have enjoyed relationship building moments with friends in our home. 
     If you’re interested in showing hospitality to another family, here’s a couple of our top hosting tips.
1)      Your home doesn’t have to be grand, perfect, or spotless.  Work through your OCD and perfectionism. Don’t spend all your time making apologies for your home, either. Do the best you can to prepare and then move on with enjoying your evening.  Hospitality is not a burden but a joy.
2)      You don’t have to have the most amazing meals.  Hospitality is not a baking contest.  Grilling is great in the summer and soups are great in the winter.  Trust me, nobody will turn down an easy “breakfast for dinner” complete with pancakes and bacon. 
3)      You don’t have to be an extrovert or even a people-person to enjoy hosting.  Introverts often do best in the comfort of their own home and flourish within the safe feeling of their own walls.  People of all types can host an enjoy each other’s company in the ease of your own home.
     This summer we hosted a friend from Indiana along with her four children, for five days.  Did we mention that there are already six of us, our home is 1100 square feet, and we have only one bathroom?  You might think that eleven people in a modest home would be a recipe for disaster, but we had such a great time, better than we ever expected!  We enjoyed renewing our friendship, going on adventures together, and sharing meals.  Our kids have talked for weeks about the fun we had together.  We can’t wait to do it again.
     Like any skill, hospitality becomes easier the more you practice it.  Years ago, after moving to a new area in northern Tennessee, we began visiting a new church.  We were just a young married couple with a toddler when Harold and Dorothy Trammel invited us to their home for supper.  The Trammels were in their 80s (quite different from us!) but their hospitality helped us to settle in and made us feel like family.  They had a routine menu used when they invited people over and you could tell that they had practiced hospitality so much that they easily went about their respective task.  We felt loved and their hospitality gave us such a strong point of connection with them and the church.  The Trammels are gone now, but we will always remember them with love because of the hospitable welcome they gave to us.
     You might not need to experience the flurry of cleaning activity that comes with a “Topher Tornado.”  In reality, I hope you get so good at hospitality that your process is much more peaceful like the painting of Bob Ross.  Yet, I believe that if Bob Ross can make a comeback (check out the Halloween section at Walmart), then the lost art of hospitality can too.  Now, just let us know when you’re coming over.  We’re happy to have you.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” – Romans 12:13
     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.