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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Family Forte: Staycation with Sweat, Stars, and Smiles

by: Topher Wiles
     Last week I looked up to thank God for our family’s unexpected blessings when a shooting star flitted across the northern sky.  My gratitude and my smile grew bigger.
As a dad with four kids, I have plenty of opportunities to be proud and an abundance of moments for correction.  Many of them come when, like many of you, I’m coaching my kids in their sports teams.  Pride wells up in me when my son drives the lane and finds the elusive layup to take the lead.  My chest puffs up when my kid rockets that red seamed missile at a short stop who tags out the offending runner at second base.  My ego swells when my progeny rips a backhand crosscourt for a winner in a tight match.  Yet that moment of gratitude was a different kind of pride from the normal kid achievements.  It was one filled with joy and thankfulness; I believe you can enjoy it too.
     Allow me a moment to share how the gloriously gracious experience arrived.  It all started with a different kind of vacation, or rather a “stay-cation.”  For those who are unfamiliar with how one of these breaks work, you basically take a mental hiatus and stay home.  We were grateful to enjoy a week of rest, something our family had been looking forward to for months.  Yet this time, instead of the usual adventure camping, beach-bumming, or family visit trip, our car stayed in the driveway.  No, we didn’t stay in bed and sleep the week away; instead we picked a rather large project and worked together on it as a family at home for the entire week. 
     Cell phones were shut off and congregation members were in the dark as to our where-abouts, so very few people knew that we were still located in Sparta for the whole week.  We ordered a big pile of lumber and several buckets of screws/nails to be delivered by a local building supply company.  Then we began work on our pole-barn.  Yes, it was hot.  Yes, we were sweaty.  Yes, it was work.  And yet, my soul found peace as I traded counseling, organizing, and teaching for swinging hammers, cutting with saws, and lifting lumber for a full week.  I won’t stretch the truth:  the first couple days of sunrise to sunset work was tough for my kids and more times than one saw me correcting their work-ethic, but it was worth it. 
     It was Friday night when the joyously grateful shooting star moment was gifted to me.   The day had seen many sights on the Wiles family property.  Gabriel at twelve years old was taking great pride in being the “chop saw” operator for the day.  Ten year old Ethan was proud of his steady hand and fast pace as he felt the automatic bounce of the roofing nailer in his hands.  Micah was happy as a lark as his five-year old hands grasped a hammer to pound nail heads, countersinking them into the soft Tennessee pine.  Even Clara broke into a smile as her three older brothers cheered her on while she swung the mini sledge hammer at the concrete that needed adjustment.  The day was made even sweeter as my lovely bride brought out the fizzy root beer floats for our afternoon siesta in the shade.       As I stood alone on top of the pole barn at the end of the night with a splinter in my thumb and a stiffness in my back, I had a deep sense of joyful pride in my heart as I reflected on the memories of the week.   When the shooting star passed, I simply thanked God again.
     Families need regular time to work together, to cooperate, to encourage each other, and to cheer each other on as they complete a goal.  It is essential that children and adults alike find time to look back over a project and be grateful for what they were able to achieve together.   Fathers find contentment when they know they’ve passed down a skill to their sons.  Mothers find fulfillment when they’ve invested time working side-by-side with their daughters.  For me and my family, much our focus in the last couple years has been on my professional work, our hectic sports schedules, or our busy destination style vacations that often left me needing a rest when we returned.  It was a surprise at the end of the week to feel so rested and joyful even though our family had worked so hard on our stay-cation. 
     I wish someone had told me about the benefits of family projects years ago when we started our family.  Just Google the words “family project ideas” and you’ll be amazed at the variety of websites packed with ideas to enjoy together as parents invest time with their children.  You can rebuild a lawnmower engine together, build a treehouse, lay a brick sidewalk, make a family tree, paint a mural on a bedsheet, plant a flower garden for the nursing home, paint the bedrooms a new color, and so much more.  Your idea may be a challenge, but with a little patience and caring correction, you and your kids will look back on your time invested, your goals achieved, and your cooperative success with a joyful and grateful smile too.  May you be blessed in all your family adventures as you train up your children in the way they should go. 
     “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

     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, September 11, 2019

Bible Class Angels Tonight

For anyone following along in our adult studies class tonight on Angels in the OT, here are a few scripture to enjoy! http://bible.com/events/688002

Remembering People on 9/11

by: Topher Wiles

What do you remember from 9/11? I remember a lot as I met my wife that day before taking an immediate trip to help at the gates of Ground Zero.  Here are 6 peoples I remember from that fateful week in 2001. 


  1. My wife. I met Ashley shortly after the planes hit on 9/11/2011. While many others were crying and weeping, she was reading her Bible calmly from 2 Corinthians 4 finding peace in the Lord. (See that passage below.) 
  2. Three Lipscomb University classmates. (Michael, Jon, & Paul) Two days after they plane hit, 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, September 13th, 2001. 
  4. The Franciscan monks who humbly bowed in prayer for us as we entered the smokey dark gates to Ground Zero as part of the rescue efforts on Friday, September 14th, 2001. 
  5. The elders of Manhattan Church of Christ who let us exhausted Tennessee college boys sleep on their floor. 
  6. The K9 units who worked tirelessly to find survivors, in traumatizing situations for humans and dogs. I wrote a short article on them here in 2015. http://www.topherwiles.com/2015/09/remembering-those.html

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?

Family Forte: Unused SuperPowers and Men that Crave Them

By: Topher Wiles
The strongest thing in that moment wasn’t my bulging muscles swinging a sledgehammer; it was her kiss, her look, and her words.  It’s hard for her to understand the power that she wields over me.  I’m convinced most women never understand the superpowers they possess over their husbands, nor do they know how and when to use those powers.  For all the ladies out there who want to get the best out of their husbands, to see that sparkle in his eye, to hear him profess his undying love for you, here’s a story from this past weekend to help you understand the power of affirmation.  
The moment began with a simple Sunday text message that read, “A woman just slashed her tire pulling into the park.”  Mind you, Sundays are my busiest days.  There’s no need to drone on about the amount of classes & sermons, meetings & counselings that go on any given Sunday.  Since I am a preacher, that day is always busy from sunrise to well past sunset, so squeezing in a little vehicle repair was a tall order.  Nevertheless, I arrived at the beautiful little Carter St. Park within minutes to see a young lady outside her car, with a rim sitting on the ground.  She was not the first person to fall prey to the sharp rocks bordering the park entrance waiting to ravage the tires of anyone making the mistake of turning too sharp.  Using the 12v air pump we keep in every vehicle (seriously men, go invest $15 at Walmart for one), I searched for a leak in the tire to no avail. Having no jack or spare tire in her car, she was at a loss for resources, so we began grabbing ours.  Once we had her lugnuts off and tire in hand, we found the source of deflation, a bent rim.  Mind you, this one wasn’t just a small dent from when you scuff a curb, this was the type of gap on the inside of the rim through which you could stick your finger.  No tire was going to reseat itself on that rim.  
To make matters worse, neither of our vehicles’ spare tires would fit this young lady’s car.  Remember, it was a Sunday afternoon, when tire repair businesses are generally closed in small towns.  Her car was sitting at the park with one side jacked up, with no spares available, and she was running out of options.  Well, this son-of-a-mechanic with a never-quit mentality wondered, “Can bend that rim back into shape?”  A ball peen hammer, two sledgehammers, and a lot of sweat later the rim was round and the tire was holding air.  That’s when my wife used her power of affirmation in just a few short words.  
“Is it fixed?” 
I responded, “It sure is.” 
“You’re a beast,” she said.  Then she gave me a big smile and a lingering kiss on the cheek (not lingering too long, we were in a public park on a sunny Sunday afternoon!)  My chest puffed out, my posture straightened up, and I was walking on clouds for the rest of the day when my wife powerfully and sincerely boosted my ego with words of affirmation. My wife admired me and I knew it.
Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs shares this nugget of wisdom.  “Men NEED to feel admired by their spouses, so let him know that you love him for his many admirable qualities. Say, ‘I love you for all the ways you care for me and our family’ or ‘I never doubt you give your very best because you love me as much as I love you.’ Compliment him for being a good provider, loving husband and father, thoughtful man and one who tries his best to understand you. Ensure that you add an affectionate hug, kiss or a gentle touch on his face or arm. Your love will come through.’”  Gary Chapman, famous marriage counselor and author of The Five Love Languages, agrees with Harley and offers a little more when he shares the following, “Snuggle up next to him and let him know he’s tops with you for taking out the trash or bathing the kids while you clean the kitchen. Whisper how loved you feel when he changes the oil in your car or calls to see if he needs to pick up anything on his way home.”
There you have it: expert tested and husband approved.  Women, your words and accompanying actions have the ability to instantly change a moment in a man’s life.  He can go from cursing the fates for a string of bad luck to a beaming smile as he’s riding an emotional high from sincere compliment you gave him.  Your husband wants your admiration, and the expert research shows that he needs your words of affirmation. 
Ashley’s Add-On Note: Ladies, you have power, but understand that this is not about manipulation or getting what you want.  Words of affirmation are a great tool for encouraging your husband and building up your marriage. I am naturally reticent and reserved, so I have to work on being more intentional with my words to my husband.  Some of you may be the same, or some of you may be struggling in your marriage and find it difficult to think of finding anything positive about your spouse.  Pray about it.  It can be as simple as, “You’re good at mowing the lawn,” or, “I admire how you’re on time to work everyday.”  Set a goal to say one intentional, kind thing to your husband everyday.  Set a calendar reminder if you need to!  You and your husband will be glad you did.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” - Proverbs 16:24

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, September 4, 2019

Family Forte: Pushing vs Supporting Toward New Heights

By: Topher Wiles
Our hearts were pounding so hard, we could both hear them in our ears.  In spite of my nerves, my heart was welling up with joy. Could my smile get any bigger in this moment ?  Ethan beamed at me, and I grinned right back at him as our eyes locked about 10 feet apart with nothing in between us but sunshine filled air.  
Gabriel works his way up the wall!
At one point, I had wondered if this moment was ever going to come.  You need to know that I don’t have a lot of fear when it comes to heights.  Growing up in middle Tennessee, I had plenty of tall maple trees to climb, lots of cliffs to jump off of into the water below, and many rock climbing opportunities to ascend and rappel.  Since my kids have joined me on adventures since they were little, one would think they would love to climb the highest heights as well.  
When our boys were young, I took them rock climbing with our church youth group at Black Mountain, a quaint little spot east of Crossville, TN.  To my surprise, the boys didn’t want to go over 3 feet off the ground. “No big deal. They’ll conquer their fear of heights soon enough,” or so I thought.  Time continued and they never did go high in trees, nor did Gabriel and Ethan ever enjoy helping me work on the roof of the house. Earlier this year, I was disappointed when 10 year old Ethan and I travelled to the Nasa Space Museum in Huntsville and he was overcome with fear about 15 feet up the indoor Mars Wall.  He was so scared that he was shaking as he clung for dear life to the wall. I wondered if my two oldest boys would ever join me in my love of climbing and rappelling.  
Ethan smiles as he begins his descent!
As a dad, I want my boys to be everything I am and more.  I desire for them to be as brave as me and braver, strong as me and stronger, adventurous as me and… you get the point.  We all want our kids to be better than us. We want it so bad that we often push our kids too hard, too far, too fast. Psychology Today says that researchers have realized pushing kids too hard comes at a high price.  Premature burnout, unrealistic fear, and feeling like a failure are often the results of this parental pushing style.  Dr. Kyle Pruett describes the cultural shift this way, “Waiting for a developmental skill to emerge in its own time seems just too passive in the 21st century. It leaves many parents today to conclude that pushing will work better than supporting. They wonder only how hard to push, not whether to push at all.”  Bob Cook, a youth sports writer for Forbes.com describes a remedy this way, “But there are also times that we need to back off for our children's physical and mental health. That can be hard to do, but a little rest can go a long way. And if you're pushing that hard, maybe you should think about whether your child is really interested in whatever you're pushing.”  
I’ve always struggled with the balance between pushing and supporting.  I’m not alone as a parent. Remembering my own well-intentioned parents takes me back to 1990, when I scored a 95% on my report card in 6th grade math (in those days a 95% was only good enough for an A-).  That A- was the lowest grade on my report card that year, and my mom seemed furious that I would score so low.  There were some hurtful words said, and I recall slinking to my room to study with my tail between my legs. Here I am nearly 30 years later still remembering those negative emotions as I felt like the biggest disappointment on the planet for the woman that I wanted so desperately to be proud of me.  In that moment, I think mom made the mistake of pushing too hard rather than supporting me toward higher success. I bet some of you parents reading this article have struggled with the same balance my parents years ago and I am working through today.
Here's a map from Sparta
to Black Mountain.
That’s why the smile Ethan gave me last week on the 40 foot rock wall of Black Mountain was so sweet.  All these years, I’ve chosen not to push the kids into rock climbing or heights. I’ve only offered them opportunities and encouragement along the way.  My own emotions and words have been carefully measured out so that I didn’t make them feel like a disappointment for not learning this non-essential skill.  All the encouragement and offerings paid off as both Gabriel and Ethan “topped-out” on that special day. There were no harsh words, guilt trips, and disappointing feelings.  Both my boys finally succeeded at what most people never achieve. They reached new heights because they desired to and because they were ready.  
A few minutes later, when Micah (5 years old) and Clara (3 years old) put on the climbing harness and only reached a height of five feet off the ground, Ashley and I praised and supported them for these small steps in conquering fear.  One day, whenever they are ready, they’ll have that chance to reach for the sky, too.  
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

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, August 28, 2019

Family Forte: Cruising the Challenging Changes of Life

by: Topher Wiles

     Horrible.  Horrendous.  Heinous. Those were the words ripping through my head when the stuff of nightmares became reality.  No, it wasn’t a Freddy Krueger type of moment.  It was my first day of school, and I was late!  As a second year Algebra teacher at McGavock High School, I was rehired only 5 days before the school semester began (a result of my type of licensure), which meant I had little time to get my new room ready for my 150 new students.  I was teaching 5 preps that year (high school teachers cringe at hearing this thought), sponsoring a new club, and coaching a sport.  There was entirely too much on my to-do list before the first day of school.  Maybe that’s why I had been working in my classroom at 1am before the first day of school.  Maybe that’s why I overslept my 5am alarm! 
Despite my rough first day, I had a great
year teaching students in McGavock!
Even named Teacher of the Week
on 107.5 the River!

     Panic set in when my blurred vision found focus on the red digital display of my alarm clock.  My 1st period algebra class had begun 45 minutes ago!  Like a fall Tennessee tornado, I ripped through the morning routine, only allowing time for the bare essentials, calling my principal in the process.  He said, “Don’t worry Wiles, you weren’t the only one.”  My principal was full of forgiveness and flexibility as I arrived in time for my 2nd period Honors Algebra 2 students.  As it turns out, I certainly wasn’t the first who struggled through the transition back to school, and I won’t be the last.

     This year, I’ve already worked through multiple text messages, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings helping students and parents through the new school year changes.  From challenges of affording school supplies, to rising tensions in homes, to trouble understanding advanced math, the new school year brings many challenges with the changes. Through our church family, Ashley and I have been blessed with opportunities to counsel and care for several students this year, from kindergartners to college students, and they all agree on one thing:  change is challenging. 
By God’s grace, though, we can tackle those challenging changes with a joyful heart and the hopeful expectation that we can not only survive but even thrive through change.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare yourself and your students for the tough transitions of life. 


Credit: ShutterStock RoyaltyFree
Start Preparing Young for Change – According to Psychology Today, flexibility is a must-have skill to learn as we deal with change.  That’s right, I said flexibility is LEARNED.  Researchers state that we begin teaching the skill of flexibility right out of the womb.  In her article titled, “Our Thriving Children,” Dr. Tovah Klein says it this way:  Neuroscience and developmental research repeatedly show that the early years before age five are foundational for setting up optimal lifelong development. Facing transitions is a daily dilemma for young kids even as it presents the opportunity for lifelong skills to grow.”   We begin teaching our children flexibility by modeling it at home.  If we handle change with anxiety and stress, our kids likely will too.  Be aware of how you deal with life’s transitions in front of kids.


Credit: Health Magazine
Start Preparing Early for Change – Nothing is as anxiety-inducing as the sudden change from a normal 8am summer wakeup time to a 5am alarm clock.  Establishing routines early can help mitigate the misery of change.  When we began preparing our kids for the new school year, even though it was still summer, Ashley began enforcing earlier bedtimes and setting morning alarms, gradually changing those times to match school year needs. If you know change is coming, prepare early in your time management, finances, and routines.  Even as adults, this strategy is a valuable asset in our ability to be flexible.  Whether you are starting a new job or taking over the care of aging parents, begin new routines early with your time, money, and energy to make a terrific transition for life’s changes. 

Start Preparing Now for Change – Whether you’re reading this as a student, working adult, or aging retiree, there are a few things you can do now to help prepare for inevitable change.  

  • Allow more room in your schedule by planning in “relax” or “buffer” time.  Change adds stress to over-filled schedules; adding margin allows you to more easily absorb any extra time commitments needed. 
  • Start a savings account now to anticipate needed money later.  If your car is on its last leg and you know the next repair is going to cost more than the car is worth, begin saving now so that you aren’t put out having to walk or take the bus to work/school.  
  • Add things into your life that bring you peace, such as prayer, singing, Bible study, a walk in God’s nature, and church services.  When your thoughts and emotions are filled with peace, you’re better able to handle the stressful transitions in life. 


     It’s been over a decade since that horrible, horrendous, and heinous first day of school, and yet I still find thankfulness and joy when I think back to how my principal handled my mistakes in transition.  When I walked into the school on that first day, I was met with a smile, a handshake, and a heartwarming, “Welcome back!”  We would do well to remember that transition is tough.  Let’s strive to be flexible and forgiving with others through life’s challenging changes.  Let’s also be grateful for the One whose mercy never changes.   


“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

Students, we hope your new school year is blessed with joy and peace as you continue to grow. 

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, August 21, 2019

Family Forte: Sharing the Daring is Caring

by: Topher Wiles

Teens at Welch's Point for a Sunset

     That deep orange circle of sun rapidly disappeared underneath the canopy line of trees.  The edge of dark chasm between us and the sun only added to the gravity of the colorful spectacle before us.  So much joy filled my heart as I watched these teenagers quietly stay in awe of the sunset view from Welch’s point.  My heart was full. 
     I’ve listened to too many men share that life seems meaningless, empty of joy, devoid of passion, or lacking in purpose.  Yet, these exciting men are doing daring things.  They are fishing aficionados, drag racing darers, metal-working masters, tennis terrors, Zumba-aholics, and rock climbing rockstars.  How can a man enjoy such marvelous adventures, yet struggle to find fulfillment in life?  I think solution lies in the old mantra, “Sharing is caring.”
     No, I’m not talking about taking a photo, posting it on Facebook, and clicking a share button.  Sharing is connecting intimate time, moments, and memories personally with other people.  If you want to upgrade to the next level of fulfillment in life, there are four peoples you may want to share your life adventures with.   

Share Level 1 – Your spouse.
Climbing at Vertical eXcape
in Bowling Green
     As a minister, I counsel too many men who complain about losing the “spark” in marriage as husbands and wives live in the same house with their lives moving different directions. Regularly sharing adventures with my wife has brought us to a higher level of intimacy and fulfillment in our marriage.  
     Recently Ashley and I shared an inexpensive trip to southern Kentucky where we enjoyed indoor rock climbing and a butterfly sanctuary.  Our hearts that are often tugged in different directions by hurried schedules were rekindled as I encouraged her up a 30’ rock wall.  Our closeness increased as together we marveled at the soft kisses of butterfly wings as they fluttered all around us.  While butterflies are not my first choice of adventure and rock climbing certainly isn’t hers, the sharing of simple adventures together rekindled a fire and sense of fulfillment in our marriage.  If you find your hobbies unfulfilling in your life, consider sharing them with your wife.
Charlie Miller Butterfly Habitiat
Bowling Green


Share Level 2 – Share with your children
July 2019 at Welch's Point
     Some of my fondest memories of childhood are from my times drag racing with dad.  No, I couldn’t drive the 1969 Camaro, but he made sure I had an important job on his racing team. My little red radio flyer wagon was the perfect size to tote a big water sprayer which I dutifully used to cool down the car’s radiator after a run down the dragstrip.  I know I slowed down his daring dragracing, but it brought him a sense of joy knowing that his son was sharing in the adventures with him.  Likewise, there’s little I enjoy more today than when one of my kids gets up to preach a sermon with my help, navigates the rapids in a kayak beside me, or fires the .22 rifle as we target practice together.  To find more fulfillment in life, share in your adventures with your children.


Share Level 3 – Share with community kids
We kayaked to a cave
and got wet inside!
     Tim was good at making and flying model planes.  He loved the high-flying fun and sunk a lot of money into his immaculately made airplanes.  When I was 17 years old, I remember watching him as he met once on month on Tuesday nights with his “Airplane Club,” a group of kids in the community who built and flew airplanes with him.  Maybe it was his training as a preacher that gave him so much patience with the kids, because it took a lot when they crashed the creations they had made together.  Tim was a good example for me. As I look around the community in White County, I witness many kids that don’t have active parents in their lives sharing adventures with them.  No, not every kid likes to kayak, hike, and play tennis like I do.  Yet when we are willing to offer and share our adventures with others, I’ve found no shortage of kids willing to be in my informal “kayaking club.”  You’ll find me sporting a big grin as my sons and their new friends shout and yell their way down the rolling waters of the Caney Fork next to me.  Share your daring deeds with other kids who desperately need it and your heart will continue to be filled up.   

Share Level 4 – Share with another adult
I'm grateful for the many
gray haired men in my life!
     They had more gray hair than me, but I was blessed years ago to join with a group of adventurous men in church.  These old codgers taught me a lot: how to run a marathon, win a 5k, cycle 60 miles, catch the biggest bass, shoot pool, bow-hunt a deer, and much more.  Unbeknownst to me, this group of older fellas at church were training me in daring adventures which in turn, I would share with my sons. While I never intended to be a “dad-trainer,” now that I have a few more gray hairs, I now find myself in that same informal position, and I love it. It brings me great joy to take a young father running on his first half-marathon, give him his first tennis racket as he steps on the court with me, or guide him into his first cave exploring adventure.  My smile broadens as I watch him share the same daring adventures with other children as the process repeats itself. Share your adventures with other adults, and you’ll find no lack of fulfillment in all you do. 

     Welch’s point was beautiful the other day as I took those teens on a trip to see their first sunset from that high cliff precipice. Yet the greater joy came a few days later as photos popped into my Instagram feed of my first-timers now taking others to enjoy the same awe-inspiring experience.  Sharing truly is caring.  My heart is full. 
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16

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.