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,, or through our website,

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:
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 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,, or through our website,

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,, or through our website,