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,, or through our website,

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!

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.

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,, or through our website,

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 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,, or through our website,