Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Family Forte: Five Ways to Unplug from Technology

by: Topher Wiles

Technology detox.  Have you ever heard of it?  Neither have I.  It was an unexpected yet welcome gift last week when friends invited us to Lincoln State Park in Indiana to enjoy tent camping.  The weather was clear, the mornings brisk, and the break therapeutic for my family and my soul.  Let me explain how it helped with a tech detox.

As a church minister over the years I’ve seen ministry communications shift drastically.  As a youth minister in 2002 I had an office landline for calls during regular business hours  with email for less pressing needs.  My Nokia cell phone had 180 minutes of talk time per month during peak hours and a whopping limit of 50 text messages per month.  Fast forward to 2020 where my landline is of little use, emails are a hassle, and unlimited data plus text messages reign supreme.  No longer do people expect to call me between 9-5pm in the office; my cell phone is a mobile office where most people regularly text me (and expect a reply) between 5am and 11pm. 

Throughout the day my cell phone stays on vibrate in my pocket and probably buzzes at least once per minute with social media notifications, new emails, text messages, FB messenger requests, snapchat replies, and the occasional phone call or voicemail.  Sadly, I’ve developed the habit of grabbing my phone to check messages even when it hasn’t vibrated, sometimes during family times or first thing in the morning when I wake up.  I’m showing the signs of being addicted to my technology. From Addiction.com we learn that 13% of Americans struggle with serious technology addiction and 84% of cell phone users say they can’t live without their phones for a single day. 

Camping at a park that had no cell phone service was a blessing in disguise.  After the initial drive through the park revealing zero signal for the next four days, I put my phone in airplane mode and for the first time in at least a year, I went the whole day without a cellphone in my pocket.  On occasion I noticed my hand compulsively drifting to my pocket to check updates but was relieved when I couldn’t access my phone.  The emotional and physical results were wonderful.

A photo with the Swartzentrubers is the
only photo I took on this camping trip!

Every time my children asked me to play frisbee, I played.  Whenever they wanted to go on a bike ride, we hopped on those two-wheelers together. Whenever my wife wanted to cozy up in the tent to stay warm, she didn’t have to compete with my cell phone for my attention.  My family received my undivided attention and I enjoyed a low stress detox time.  Going camping was a benefit for me, but how do we unplug from technological dependency without taking vacation time off work?  Here’s five tips I’ve gathered from across the internet and from friends.

  • Leave Work At Work – When your cellphone is your mobile office, it’s hard to set boundaries on work.  When you’ve finished your work for the day at 5pm (or any time you set), put up an auto-away message that states, “Thank you for your email. I’m away from my desk, and I look forward to responding to your message upon my return.” Then, forward your calls to voicemail. Facebook Pages also have an instant-reply option. By eliminating the temptation to check your emails and messages after work, you’re helping yourself unplug from technology and the job.
  • Schedule Downtime - Create a specific time each day that you will completely power down. Leave your phone in another room, close your laptop, and turn off the television. It’s time to go old school. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Page through some cookbooks and find a dinner recipe. Play a board game with your spouse or children. Go for a walk and listen to the sounds around you.  I highly recommend the hour after dinner to be a tech-free time.
  • Create A Technology Bedtime - Establish a time that you’ll unplug from technology for the day. This might differ from day to day, or you might have a strict 9:00 p.m. technology bedtime each night. Either approach is great. The important thing is actually sticking to that bedtime. Whether this means putting your phone on “do not disturb,” physically turning off your computer, or putting all electronics in a different room is completely up to you. Find a strategy that works, and go for it!
  • Create a Tech-Free Zone - Establish a tech-free zone somewhere in your house — like a tech-free bedroom, living room, or kitchen table.  The point is this: whatever place you choose, stick to it. A tech-free zone means no phone, no tablet, no laptop. Ever. Period. You'll be surprised how quickly this space becomes your go-to relaxation haven where no distractions are welcome. 
  • Replace the Habit - If the first thing you do in the morning is check your social media, or it's the last thing you do before bed, it’s time for an intervention. You could replace scrolling through social media with reading a book or going for a walk around your neighborhood. You could kick your late-night email habit by doing some gentle stretching or Bible reading (with a paper Bible).  Or, if you must use technology to wind down, use it in a more productive way like to plan your schedule, reflect on the day in a digital journal, write a to-do list, or listen to a calming podcast. Start and end your day with something positive!

If you are like me, feeling like a slave to your technology, take a bit of time for rest and respite by setting appropriate boundaries for a tech detox.  You and your family will be glad you did.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not because of him that prospers in his way, because of the man that brings mischievous devices to pass.” – Psalm 37:7 


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

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Family Forte: Navigating the Differences

by: Topher Wiles

Photo Credit: Closer Magazine
How do you navigate the myriad of family differences that exist in the political realm, the pandemic viewpoints, the religious spectrum, and more?  This important query stems from a middle-aged friend of mine whose child has a vastly different political viewpoint, bringing them to ask me how to handle this challenging family dynamic.  That is a big, messy, tough question that I’m scared to answer. Yet, as I dwell on this challenging situation longer, I think the answer to the question is simple and it was modeled by a wise man known in history as Jesus of Nazareth.  

In families, you value others by making time to dialogue with them and ask questions. 

Author Marvin B. Copenhaver states, “Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers 3. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings.”

As I’ve been reading through the book of John I notice many different types of people that Jesus gives value to through dialogue and questioning.  Obviously they didn’t view religious, political, & life situations the same way as Jesus did.  Yet this wise man whose time was heavily desired by all invested time in listening to others. 

Consider Nathanael the honest skeptic in first chapter of John who himself asked the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet Jesus valued this honest skeptic and his belief by investing time in dialoguing with him.

Take a look in the third chapter of John’s book that details a lengthy conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and religious elitist. Jesus asks him a though provoking question about understanding heavenly things before blasting Nicodemus with an earth shattering quote for this pious legalist when Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Pharisees struggle with the concept of God loving more people than just their chosen group so Jesus invests more time valuing Nicodemus, the religious elitist, by unpacking that statement.

Do you remember the Samaritan woman at the well in the fourth chapter of John’s writing?  Yes, as a Samaritan female growing up in a patriarchal society, she was likely the outcast, the oppressed, the outsider compared to a Jewish rabbi like Jesus. Yet Jesus values her when many would not by entering into a challenging question and answer period that resulted in many lives being changed.

The Jesus even shows us a completely different type of person He valued when He spoke with the Roman official at the end of John 4 about the healing of the official’s son.  If you were a Jew at this time, a Roman was basically your sworn enemy!  Yet Jesus gave value to the enemy of the state in dialogue.

Jesus even values the youth in his time.  There is a strong argument that many of the disciples were teenagers when they began following Jesus.  It’s possible that the writer and disciple, John, was only 13 years old when he began following Jesus. At the time of the Last Supper in John 13, we find this young disciple sitting in the place of authority at Jesus’ right hand as the group chatted about the upcoming betrayal.

As you read this great book of good news, I’m sure you’ll find more, but I bet you’re starting to get the point.  If Jesus values so many different people in dialogue, the honest skeptic, the religious elite, the outcast, the enemy of the state, and the youth, I know that you can value them too.  How do we handle differences of opinion within a family?  We give value to the people and we enter into dialogue with them just like Jesus did.

Might I suggest a few ground rules for family discussions that may help?

  • Begin by asking for a deliberate time to discuss your difference of opinion. Say, “Susie, can we carve out some time at dinner tomorrow night at dinner from 6-7pm to discuss our differing opinions on the upcoming presidential election? I would be glad to listen to you.” Asking permission as a parent gives them the opportunity to back out if feelings are already hurt and wounds are too raw to deal with right now. Setting up a specific time, such as a meal, can ensure the discussion has a beginning and an end. Value them by letting them know you will listen.
  • Set a rule that you will only discuss one topic at a time and give opportunity for everyone to share opinions on that topic before moving to the next. For example, do not start with discussing the pandemic then move on to debating nuclear warfare before both people have had the opportunity to share their viewpoints on the first topic. Value each other by sticking to one topic at a time.
  • If things get “too hot to handle,” anyone can call for a break in the discussion. Take a break for perhaps 15 minutes, or whatever time is needed, before discussing again.
  • Agree on the outset that you don’t have to agree to love each other. Their value to you is not dependent on them agreeing with everything you say. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is one of the most intrinsically valuable rules you can have.

Friends, we know that families struggle and differing viewpoints often bring discord and stress.  Remember to be like Jesus in valuing the differing family member by listening, asking questions, and engaging in healthy discussions with them.  You’ll be glad you did.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 


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 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.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Family Forte: Brothers Handshake, Help, & Hug

by: Topher Wiles

     As I pen this Family Forte article I find myself sitting at the table in an RV parked in Jamestown, OH, a bustling cornfield metropolis of less than 2,000 people.  How did I wind up here?  The story begins with an oft repeated dadism, “Brothers don’t hit or hurt each other, but brothers handshake, help, and hug each other.”

Even in 2013, you could see the difference in personalities!

   About three years into my foray as a father, I was thrown a curveball with my strapping young second son, Ethan.  Being two years younger than Gabriel, his secondborn nature showed a stronger and dominant demeanor.  As the two boys grew, they would often get into tussles with Ethan showing physical dominance over Gabriel who showed restraint.   Many scraps would end with the younger hurting the older and I realized my challenge as a dad was to teach these boys that they were not competitors, but that they were cooperative teammates. So as a father I laid down two ground rules to aid in the development of our family.

     The first rule was that the boys were never allowed to wrestle or box with each other, but only cooperatively against me.  Having been a high school wrestler and taekwondo student, I could allow the boys to test their physical strength with me in ways that challenged them but didn’t hurt them. Our wrestling matches on the bunk beds were epic events that often left my wife laughing over the organized chaos that ensued. A marvelous result of these cooperative wrestling matches that pitted Gabriel and Ethan against me was that they decreased their striving against one another focusing instead on working together toward my demise. We liked the result of the first ground rule and simplified it to, “Brothers don’t hit or hurt each other.”

     The second rule that I laid down from dad authority was that the boys were to focus their lives on agreement rather than differences, aid rather than aggression, and encouragement rather than trash-talking.  As they learned to compete with me, I directed them to focus their energy on encouraging one another on their successes, helping each other learn from mistakes, and ending each competition with respectful handshakes and hugs all around.  I distinctly remember one meaningful moment when this rule played out. 

     For a few years in sparring matches the boys were never able to land a single strike on me so I never wore a helmet even though I required protective gear for them.  My unprotected head learned a valuable lesson the day our sparring session ended with me blocking Gabriel’s roundhouse kick to the ribs followed by Ethan executing a textbook spinning backfist to my left temple, surprising me by the blow and bringing me to a knee to recover. As I shook my ringing head clear, I was blessed to witness Gabriel jubilantly high-fiving Ethan and hugging him all while verbally praising him for his deftly delivered shot. In return Ethan congratulated Gabriel on the perfectly planned roundhouse that caused me to drop my high guard for the session ending blow.  It was a proud dad moment for me seeing our second rule play out.  We simplified the rule to the short phrase, “Brothers handshake, help, and hug.”  FYI, I now wear a helmet when we spar.

     Brothers don’t hit or hurt each other, but brothers handshake, help, and hug each other. This engrained mantra has grown beyond my now 11 and 13 year old boys to include the church in my life as well. 

     I believe that church is not an event but the church of Christ is a family.  That makes the men and women who are fellow believers and followers of Jesus Christ my brothers and sisters. The Bible is very purposeful in describing how church family should treat one another when it sums our conduct up in Peter’s first letter.  “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” – 1 Peter 1:22-23. 

     While the world struggles with complaining, grumbling, and nefarious methods of treating others, the family of Christ has demonstrated to me what true brotherly love looks like. When my children were born, Godly brothers in Christ were at the hospital to hug, handshake, and high-five my moments of joy.  When an acute back injury saw me struggling as my family moved to from Washington, IN, it was the brothers in Christ who showed up as working army helping move all my belongings into our new home in Sparta, TN.  When I made mistakes in life, my true brothers weren’t quick to deride or trash-talk me, but they strove to direct and guide me back toward God’s lighted path.  My church brothers don’t hit or hurt each other, but my brothers handshake, help, and hug each other.  

     Thus I find myself in a motorhome parked in the middle of the cornfields of Jamestown, Ohio awaiting the outcome of a brother’s nearby back surgery.  This believer in Christ was quick to aid the Central Church of Christ family with many hours of volunteer labor in 2020. But life changed and his back necessitated a surgery in central Ohio. Our family in Christ responded by driving a motorhome with a comfy and safe bed for prone transportation of our recovering brother from the Ohio hospital back to Sparta for his continuation of recovery.  In life we’ve learned that the size and type of family does not matter, but what does matter is that brothers don’t hit or hurt each other, but brothers handshake, help, and hug each other through life's challenges.  As you strive to build your family’s forte, may this dadism bless you as it has me. Sparta, we'll see you soon.

     “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:50


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



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Family Forte: For Love and Adventure

by: Topher Wiles

The slicing hard steel blade was mere millimeters away from my fumbling fingers.  How did I get in this position of dicing pecans while blindfolded?  It all comes down to two words: love and adventure. Today I’m praying that readers actively instill both in their marriage.  

Love is what attracted me to Ashley nineteen years ago.  No, it wasn’t love at first sight. (Truth be told, she liked me months before I knew it; I’m a little slow sometimes.)  Yet love grew from a loving friendly relationship in which I tried to serve and help her with her schooling at Lipscomb University, to a loving intimate and exclusive relationship where I chose to sacrifice for her to give her the life of her dreams.  Love is the primary reason we chose to have those four beautiful children that we invest so much of our lives into now.   Love is still growing in our marriage relationship today as she and I both choose to learn how to better serve, help, and encourage each other toward God.  After taking a little look at our marriage relationship, it was love that motivated me to strive to do better in our dating life. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, county storm damage needs, and general increase in church work, I realized that I was investing so much time in meeting the needs of others that I was failing to invest time in my wife.  Sure, I worked on her car, mowed the grass, helped her with dishes, swept the floor, played tennis with her, and ticked marks off my honey-do list, but for months I hadn’t done anything fun with my wife.  That’s right, I had forgotten to “date” my wife.  That longstanding part of a loving relationship in which you go do adventurous things together was gone, replaced with responsibilities at home and service to others. 

That’s where love comes in.  Back in the Biblical Hebrew culture, love wasn’t merely an emotion or a mental exercise, it was a choice and an action.  If I was going to honestly tell Ashley, “I love you,” each night before bed, I needed to choose to be loving and follow it up with an action.  Love is why I purchased “The Adventure Challenge” book.  Now, I’m not going out on a limb to say that I recommend The Adventure Challenge to you yet at it’s $40 price tag, but our first experience was a blast!

There are three versions of The Adventure Challenge book available for purchase online, one for families, one for friends, and one for couples.  https://www.theadventurechallenge.com/  The Adventure Challenge for couples serves as a catalyst for meaningful, fun, and adventurous interactions in a marriage, much like we had when we were dating.  In our younger years (pre-kids), Ashley and I would take last minute trips, go rock climbing, visit flea markets in little towns, and attend social spectacles like the RC Cola & Moonpie Festival in Bell Buckle.  Alas, with life changes those adventurous moments have declined.  The Adventure Challenge for couples contains 40 PG-rated entertainment ideas in a fun and mysterious scratch-off format.  That’s right, you take a coin and scratch away that familiar gray film to reveal your next couples adventure.  The rules of the book state that you have to do whatever it says; no backing out.  Out of love, I purchased The Adventure Challenge book for our marriage and an adventure is exactly what we had! That’s how I found myself blindfolded chopping up pecans!

Our first scratch off together was titled, “The Helpless Baker.” The surprising instructions read like this: “Make a homemade pie together! One of you must mix all the ingredients by yourself…BLINDFOLDED, while the other person gives instructions by leading with their hands.” Baking a pie sounded mundane, with a chess pie or fudge pie being too easy, so we settled on an adventurous Kentucky Derby Pie. This deliciously mouth-watering dish proved tougher as it combined the following ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, coconut, chocolate chips, two eggs, and chopped pecans.  There was nothing mundane in this adventure as it proved quite the challenge to do blindfolded!  Ashley is a marvel in the kitchen and she was patient as she guided my hands and tapped out “yes” and “no” on my skin when I asked questions.  I was excited after cracking the eggs (yes blindfolded!) on the rim of a bowl to hear Ashley clapping and letting me know I spilled lost no rogue egg shell into the mixture.  Then the chopping pecan challenge came.  Ashley shared that she was nervous at first as I used my left hand to slowly feed individual pecans into the slicing and dicing knife wielded in my right.  Deciding that method was too slow, I put both hands on top of the knife and attacked a pile of pecans on the cutting board, only shooting a few across the counter. With the chopping finished and mixture poured into the awaiting crust, she guided my oven-mitted hands holding the prize into the pre-heated oven.

Blindfold removed, we laughed and talked about that 30 minute adventure for the next couple hours as we washed dishes together, ate delicious pie, and wound down for the night.  It was love that caused us to actively seek new ways to date in our marriage relationship.  It is the new and unexpected adventures like The Helpless Baker that give us memories to share. 

Love truly is an amazing choice that brings so much joy into the life of a marriage, a team, a church, a business, and a community.  I share my experience in Family Forte in hopes that you will choose to lovingly seek ways to take your relationships into ever growing adventures together. May your Family Forte be blessed as you choose to love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14


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

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Family Forte: The Distracted And Distressed

by: Topher Wiles

I felt like a heel when I realize my parenting hypocrisy.  As my 3rd born son, six year old Micah is irresistibly adorable.  His bright blue eyes that he inherited from me were perfectly framed by his freckled face and sandy blonde hair when he looked up and asked one of his many daily questions. This query was one of his easier ones. “Dad, will you play basketball with me?” 

Look at Micah's
adorable blue eyes!

To my credit, ever since the tornado of March 3rd, storm damage of March 29th, and the shutting down of Central’s traditional church services in April, my time has been slammed, especially in the evenings with meetings and Bible studies on Zoom.  Many of you parents are going through the exact same situations in the last few months.  Our time is stretched to the max right now as demands increase! 

At the time Micah asked his question at 7pm in the evening, I was sitting on the living room couch staring at my phone.  I was involved in a text message thread with the elders from our church, Godly men that are a high priority in my life, but not as high as my children.  So what was my answer to adorable Micah’s question?  “Not now Micah, I’m responding to messages.”

To his credit, he didn’t backtalk, throw a fit, or even complain.  Yet his downcast gaze, slumped shoulders, and slow pace walking away let me know how disappointed he was and I immediately realized I made a mistake.  It was time to repent.  That’s right, that “churchy” word fits perfectly in this situation.  It was time for me to apologize, turn my actions around, and do my best to make it right.  By God’s grace, I sat the elder’s message thread down along with my cell phone, hugged Micah, and had a raucous basketball game with him on our 8’ goal.  Smiles and sweat abounded for the next 20 minutes, a time well invested in my children’s lives.  

The next day I received an e-mail from “All Pro Dad” which is a marvelous digital content provider that I subscribe to.  To tell you how good it is, Tony Dungee (former coach of Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts) is one of the primary contributors.  Their daily email described the “5 Dangers of Distracted Parenting.”  Since author Matt Haviland does a masterful job of describing the dangers of parents like me who are often distracted from higher priorities, here is a direct quote of the dangers from his article by his permission.

“1. Distracted parenting stunts your child’s emotional growth. When parents are distracted and unengaged with their children, those children miss out on a crucial buffer to help them express emotions through healthy outlets. This void can potentially create behavioral issues. Dad, get in the game, literally. An actively engaged father helps relieve his children of stored-up energy in a positive way and helps set boundaries when physical play becomes too aggressive.

2. Your child feels insignificant. Think of the silent message distracted parenting sends to your kids. For a child whose dad is constantly on his phone, it’s easy to believe that “something else is more important than me.” Failure to fully engage in your children’s lives robs them of any experiences that prove they are worth somebody’s undivided attention, thus reducing self-esteem and confidence. And it robs you of invaluable opportunities to be fully present in moments that only happen once.

3. It delays your child’s brain growth. I will not deny we all have important obligations. What I will refute is the use of devices as a form of babysitting, which can seriously inhibit brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months and only two hours a day for children over the age of five, including teenagers. Are your children on screens for beneficial reasons, or just so you can do your own thing? Also be wise to the behavior you model to your child through continual personal screen time.

4. Your child does not develop communication skills. It is not possible for a distracted parent to hold authentic dialogue with a child. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and conversational skills children will need to function as adults are drastically hindered when families are not actively communicating. Around the dinner table is one of the top examples of where dialogue can occur, but do not underestimate car rides, before and after school, and even at parks, libraries, and social gatherings.

5. Your child doesn’t develop empathy.  I once saw a toddler tip over backward in her chair at the library. Coming to her mom crying and looking for comfort, she was met with resistance. The reason? Mom was too busy on Facebook. Whether two or twelve, when our children continually receive the message that their problems are not ours, they struggle to develop empathy because they rarely received it themselves. That spilled cup, lost item, or botched school project may not seem like a big deal to us—but it is for them.”
(Read the full article here.)

Friends, I have a little bit of experience with youth.  I was a 6 year youth minister, a 3 year public school teacher, a coach of at least 18 youth sports teams, and I have 4 children with one as a teenager. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that youth need your attention for good development.  I’m more important to my kids than I am to this world.  If I died today, some of the world would miss me yet  would largely be unchanged. However, my absence would change my children’s lives forever.  Dads, be there in the moment with your kids and not on your cellphone.  The Maria Edgeworth quote is true, “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

“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, July 8, 2020

White County Covid-19 Graph

I haven't been able to find charts and graphs of Covid-19 data in White County, so I began creating them on June 1st. Here's the latest as of 09/11.  All data is taken from the Tennessee government health site. https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/health/cedep/ncov/data.html
Since June 1st - Click image for larger view.  Updated 9/11



Since June 1st - Click image for larger view. Updated 9/8

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Coronavirus Chart
Click the image for a larger view - Updated 07/09/2020

Updated 07/08/2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Family Forte: The Strength of Waiting

by: Topher Wiles

In September 1992, Alabama expressed well the sad sentiment of our culture when they sang the song, "I'm in a Hurry (and I Don't Know Why)".  It seems like much of the world is enslaved to the impatient mantra of our times. On top of our work calendars, sports schedules, and community services, we are so busy in life that it puts us into an “I can’t wait” type of mindset that affects our families in deep ways.   

The impatience has grown during the Covid-19 pandemic that even Jimmy Fallon has created a hashtag of things people can’t wait to do when lockdowns are over: #FirstThingImGoingToDoWhenThisIsOver.  Here are a few reponses of things people can’t wait to do as listed on Chron.com "I can’t wait to change out of my pajamas." "Teepee my own house just because I have an unnecessary abundance of toilet paper." "I'm going to give a bear hug to all of my close friends!” I don’t know about TPing my own house, but that bear hug sounds fun.  Radio Station 106.5 of Buffalo, NY shares more realist things people can’t wait to do as: travel, see live music, hug, eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, get a haircut, go camping, play sports with people, go to the gym, and get married.  https://wyrk.com/11-things-we-cant-wait-to-do-once-the-quarantine-is-over/

That last one really got my attention as I consider things that our culture is in a hurry for and things worth waiting for.  Marriage.  I did a little research into how the pandemic has affected marriage and I saw that nearly every major news outlet predicts a baby boom in the coming year as happens after every major catastrophe. Additionally, I learned there are many, especially women, who feel pressured during the pandemic into sex before marriage as attested to by Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive health.  She encourages ladies especially in this time, don’t let yourself be pressured into what you’re not ready for.  The marriage blog for Focus on the Family agrees with waiting as it says, “In addition to the risk of contracting STDs and AIDS or getting pregnant, premarital sex leads to emotional distress, distrust, regret and emptiness.  In his podcasts about Financial Peace, Dave Ramsey frequently mentions the benefits of waiting till marriage for sex, having kids, and house buying for couples stating that waiting for marriage brings about much more financial freedom. 

While our world may say the words “I can’t wait,” especially during the pandemic, we simply want to say, “Yes you can wait, and marriage is certainly worth waiting for. 


Ashley and I have been taught a few things about waiting from those who are wiser than us. We even took the challenge and agreed to NOT kiss on the lips till the day we said, "I do."  I can attest, that was an amazing and memorable first kiss!  We believe there are blessings that come from waiting; not knowing everything immediately, not having sex before marriage, not peeking at Christmas presents, not purchasing a car until you can pay for it in cash, not knowing if your baby is a boy or a girl, not indulging in many other instant gratifications.  From my perspective, things are more enjoyable when you let the anticipation build for that big surprise, waiting till you can buy the car outright and have no loan, and when you wait to start a family until you are married.  You may call us old fashioned,  and maybe we are out of touch with the times about car loans and kisses, but at least on some family topics we aren’t alone as we affirm that with many things in life, it is better to wait.

Patience is such an integral part of the Christian life.  Maybe God purposefully chose to make us wait for Heaven and has only given us a limited description so that the surprise isn’t ruined.  Yeah, people will play with our impatience and write many fake stories about heaven like Alex Malarkey's book, "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven." (He admitted years later it was all a farce.)  Yet David says that waiting is a must to enjoy that blessed land of the living.

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" - Psalm 27:13-14

So we urge you, if you really want to wait, you can!  Don't rush into everything.  Don't be anxious to know everything.  Don't believe you have to peek.  You have a choice.  Good things really do come to those who wait, especially when waiting on the Lord!

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31


Monday, June 8, 2020

Topher's Fasting Resources

FASTING RESOURCES
Thank you to those who have requested more information on the spiritual topic of fasting.  I can share my experience, my commitment, and my research. 
Experience
In the last twenty years, I've participated in several organized 24 hour fasts, a couple of 3 day fasts, and one 5 day fast.  For about a 3 year period I also fasted every Friday as well.  Ashley also participated in regular fasting with me.  When I use the word fast, I'm referring to a time period where one goes without food, only taking in water.  Of course, the word fast in today's religious culture has a much broader definition and you're welcome to use it in that way. 
Commitment
I'm committing to 40 Days Fasting in 2020 between now and the end of the year.  It will begin with a 5 day period on 6/7 and then also  every Thursday in 2020 (that is my personal preference at this time.)
My five days this week that I've committed to fasting are focusing on:
  • Sunday - praying for mercy for the families of George Floyd & Derrick Chauvin.
  • Monday - prayer for safety of peaceful protestors and stoppage of violence & looting
  • Tuesday - prayer for police officers working in Minneapolis and all over the country with the protests.
  • Wednesday - Prayer for our minority groups in White County, especially Oakwood St. and Roberts St. Church of Christ.
  • Thursday - Prayer for our local city and county police as they too get affected by the backlash of national displays of unrest.
Email me, call me, message me, if you're fasting and what you're praying for.  I'll keep it confidential.  
If you would like to see the dates that I've committed to fasting, you may view it here or even subscribe to my calendar: https://calendar.google.com/calendar?cid=bTEza2d2MWY0cnR1bHNobGJldXV1YTU0NmtAZ3JvdXAuY2FsZW5kYXIuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbQ

Research
The best resource I can give you on fasting is one chapter from Richard J. Foster's "Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth"  This book was a required reading in my college Spiritual Formations class and the 15 page chapter on fasting is marvelously concise and easy to understand. You are welcome to borrow my copy from my office.  Here's a quote from Foster "In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times... in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861-1952.  More recently a renewed interest in fasting has developed, but we have fart o go to recover a biblical balance."  Here also is an Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CRKXMB7

Here is a link to 71 different scripture relating to fasting in the Bible. It's the best list I've found so far. 
https://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-2-fasting-scripture  

Here is a great outline on the Biblical Purposes of Fasting found on Bible.Org

1.       As a Sign of Sorrow

a.       For tragic events (Judg 20:261 Sam 31:13/1 Chr 10:122 Sam 1:12, 3:35; Esth 4:3Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

b.       For personal sorrow (1 Sam 1:7-8, 20:34; Job 3:24Pss 42:3, 102:4, 107:17-18).

2.       As a Sign of Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness

a.       National or corporate sins (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Sam 7:6Ezra 9:1- 10:17; Neh 1:4-7, 9:1; Dan 9:3-14Jonah 3:5-9Zech 8:16-19).

b.       Personal sins (2 Sam 12:16-231 Kgs 21:27-29Ps 69:10Acts 9:9?).

c.       As an opportunity for public exposure of sin (1 Kgs 21:9-12Isa 58:1-5Jer 36:6-9).

3.       As an Aid in Prayer to God

a.       For others (2 Sam 12:16-23; Neh 1:8-10; Ps 35:13Dan 6:18, 9:15-19).

b.       For self (1 Sam 1:7-11; Neh 1:11; Ps 109:21-24Dan 9:3, 10:1-3).

c.       For success in battle (Judg 20:261 Sam 7:62 Chr 20:3) and in other endeavors (Ezra 8:21-23Esth 4:16).

d.       For relief from famine (Jer 14:1-12Joel 1:14, 2:12-15).

e.       As a means of personal or group devotion (Matt 6:16-18Luke 2:37Acts 10:30, 13:2-3; 1 Cor 7:5).

4.       As a Part of Experiencing God’s Presence

a.       Supernatural sustaining by God (Exod 34:28/Deut 9:9, 18, 10:10; 1 Kgs 19:8).

b.       Reliance on God in times of temptation or spiritual warfare (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Matt 17:21/Mark 9:29).

c.       Reflecting the reality of the absence of Christ’s immediate presence with his followers (Matt 9:14-15/Mark 2:18-20/Luke 5:33-35).

d.       Going without food to remain longer under Jesus’ teaching (Matt 15:32/Mark 8:3).

5.       As an Act of Ceremonial Public Worship (Neh 9:1; Esth 9:31Isa 58:3Jer 36:6-9Zech 7:3-5, 8:19; Acts 27:9).

6.       As Related to Ministry

a.       Preparation for significant ministry (Matt 4:2/Luke 4:2Acts 9:9, 13:2-3, 14:23).

b.       Specific command of God while prophesying (1 Kgs 13:1-22).

c.       Suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor 6:5/11:27).


After of the New Testament, we also find early church leaders writing about fasting
  • Clement of Rome shared these thoughts to the Corinthian Church in about 96AD " Almsgiving is therefore good even as penitence for sin; fasting is better than prayer, but the giving of alms is better than both; and love “covers a multitude of sins,” but prayer from a good conscience rescues from death. Blessed is every man who is found full of these things; for almsgiving lightens sin. "
  • Polycarp of Smyrna wrote the folliwng words to the Philippian Church in about 108AD "… let us turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning, “watching unto prayer” and persevering in fasting, beseeching the all-seeing God in our supplications “to lead us not into temptation,” even as the Lord said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  • The Didache (Writing of the Twelve) that originated in the first centrury while John was still alive references fasting three times: for enemies, before baptism, and on different days than the Jews.  Here is one reference: Now, the teaching of these words is this: “Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?” But, for your part, “love those that hate you,” and you will have no enemy.
  • https://bible.org/seriespage/chapter-3-fasting-through-patristic-era  

Thank you for reading so far.  I hope you are blessed by the "Thank You" and the sharing on fasting here.  If you'd like to chat about it, please, give me a call.  In the end, I hope God blesses you and I with a more peaceful 2020 from here on out.