Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Family Forte: Learning the Dreaded “S” Word

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Whoa Video! Character Coaching with Me

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fathers and Fighting for Focus

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

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

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

Welcome, mere mortal, to the human struggle. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Awful Arugula and Failing Focus

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Difference Pizza and Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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