Thursday, October 29, 2020

What is normal prayer?

 When I served as a high school Algebra teacher, I knew I needed to understand where the learner was in their math skill before I could guide their learning to a higher level.  I feel like prayer should be the same way. Can you help connect me to what a normal prayer life looks like?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Family Forte: Gasoline, Weights, and Fatherly Influence

by: Topher Wiles

To all you dads who are still influencing me and have modeled fatherhood for me, I thank you.  Keep up the good work!

I was surprised at their attitudes.  Really, it was no big deal to me, but for some reason a simple act of service meant the world to them.  I want to know why and what that means for my family.

TAXI SERVICE.  Running on my way to the gym early in the morning while the dew was still heavy on grass and the sun had yet risen, I found a couple in their forties walking with a gas can in hand.  Even though they assured me they could make it on their own, I ran straight back home to get my minivan.  After purchasing their gas and morning caffeine, I enjoyed getting to know Kevin and Stacey while taxiing them back to their vehicle.

I share this story simply to set the context of their reaction.  They both repeatedly emphasized that my helping behavior was very abnormal and strange.  They used words like weird and crazy in describing it, and then profusely thanked and proclaimed rewards in heaven on my behalf.  When I got home and shared the story with my wife and kids, it was as it should be, no big deal but a good smile-worthy story.

Why did it seem so strange to spend a few minutes and $20 to help a stranded couple?  Shouldn’t that be normal life expectations?


LITTERED WEIGHTROOM. When I arrived at the gym for my workout, the floor was especially littered with weights.  Dumbbells and plates were laying all over decorating the floor like dilapidated cars decorating a redneck junkyard.  This, friends, is where I struggle to be nice and kind.  For some other people, you need to know not to talk to them before their morning cup of coffee.  For me, you better stand your casual conversation down until we get that mess cleaned up or I may come unhinged!  Dad always taught me to pick up my tools after working on my car, I guess that’s why I expect weights to be picked up.

Why is it so difficult for people to spend a few minutes to pick up after themselves? Shouldn’t that be normal life expectations?


WHERE DID IT COME FROM?  Friends, I didn’t grow up in church. I didn’t have these great elders and deacons modeling the ways to pray, the ways to study, and the ways to serve.  Yet I was blessed with a dad who served everyone.  Dad didn’t make a lot of money as a machinist or as a mechanic, but he took pride in his work and helped everyone he could.  I can still hear his favorite saying, “A job worth doing is a job worth doing right.” 


I remember when my baseball coach’s old car was turning into a rust bucket and coach needed a hand.  My dad spent all day Saturday sanding that blue Chevrolet down and patching holes.  By sunset, my dad looked like a Smurf from the 1990’s cartoon as he was coated in so much blue dust. When they finished that car up, it was a beautiful work of art that my dad was proud of.  I thought sanding was boring, but dad made me take it up and turn a few shades of blue too.  I also remember when he refused to take coach’s money as payment, knowing that coach had fallen on hard times.   


I think we dads have more influence that we ever realized.


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.  It doesn’t matter if it’s $20 in gasoline, 20 minutes of your time, or picking up 20 lbs. of weight, if you are a dad, your kids will see and remember the service that you do.  In 2002, Indiana Purdue University and Indiana University did a study on the family impacts of volunteering and service.  (Email me for the .pdf file if you want it.)  In that lengthy thirty-two-page paper, one of the key benefits in a family of volunteerism was “transmission of values.”  No, we’re not talking about a car transmission but the concept may work well for an explanation.


Much like your car’s transmission funnels appropriate power directly from the engine to the wheels of your vehicle, service and volunteerism, especially when a family does it together, transmits much needed values from one generation to the next.  Values such as altruism, work ethic, neighborly care, and community responsibility aren’t learned from a textbook.  They are passed from parents who serve, volunteer, and help to their children who watch and model the same.

So why does it seem so rare today for people to clean up the community weight room or strange to help stranded motorists with a little gas?  Could it be that we are seeing the effects of the broken family culture that is promoted in the United States?


Fathers, we’ve got to do better for our families.  Dads, let’s commit to letting our children see us washing dishes for and with our wives.  Let’s take our children along as we help fix someone else’s car or build someone a handicap ramp. Let’s put down the video game controllers and take up a hammer and nails to patch a hole in someone’s roof after a storm.  Let us resolve to be the transmission that passes the good values of work ethic, community service, and civic responsibility to our children.  Resolve to build your Family Forte by modeling what they need.  The next generation is depending on you.   


“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6    

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,

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Family Forte: Build Romance by Asking These Questions

 by: Topher Wiles

The woman on the opposite bench was barking orders on her cell phone loud enough for five counties to hear, all while parking herself 30 feet away on this perfect starry night.  If she had not been so focused on her phone call at 8pm in Dogwood Park of Cookeville, she might have noticed six empty benches farther from us, but instead chose the closest one, nearly interrupting a delightful question and answer time.  Perhaps it was the relaxing smell of the Butternut Pumpkin candle that drew her in.  Maybe she wanted to be near smiling strangers to cheer herself up.  Perhaps God wanted her to hear the meaningful conversation a married couple was having after 16 years of marital growth. Despite the cellphone interrupting bystander, the candle and question night was a success for our marriage and our lives.

The Adventure Dating Book for Couples has been pointed ammunition in my quest to enhance our married dating life which had digressed to stale and stagnant.  Many of the scratch-off ideas would not be anything I would have chosen, but they have been reinvigorating for our romance.  Every Monday evening my beautiful bride and I conquer the adventures together and we always enjoy the results.  This week’s quest instructed us to shop for a favorite candle, which is a challenge since neither of us are candle people.  We laughed as we dismissed many lemony pine scents as cleaning products; so strong they cleared out our sinuses. Others reminded us of sweet times with grandma but were definitely not date-worthy. After 20 mask-wearing & despairing minutes of shopping the Home Goods store of Cookeville, we settled on a winner: Butternut Pumpkin by Red Leaf Home.  

Our final date night task challenged us to find a serene setting, light the candle, and ask two questions to each other.  Dogwood Park after sunset was a relatively peaceful location dotted with the occasional skateboarder, Subway sandwich eater, and dog walker.  The benches were dimly lit providing perfect ambience for a single candle between us on this gentle breeze evening. The questions were simple with Ashley knowing both my answers, that I’ll keep only between us.  Yet Ashley’s answers provided ample conversation and sharing, answers I admit, I had never dreamed up.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning.” – Proverbs 1:5a

Counselor Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family gives the following ideas on how to listen to your spouse better.

  • ·         Turn toward your spouse and look him or her in the eyes.
  • ·         Resist distractions, such as your phone or the television.
  • ·         Pay attention to your spouse’s nonverbal cues and body language.
  • ·         Don’t think about rebuttals or whether you agree.
  • ·         Let your husband or wife finish talking. And, when it’s appropriate, repeat what you hear your spouse saying for clarification.
  • ·         Pay special attention to your spouse’s feelings.

When the Doobie Brothers sang their 1972 hit “Listen to the Music” they were hitting on truth when their lyrics sang, “What the people need Is a way to make 'em smile; It ain't so hard to do if you know how; Gotta get a message; Get it on through…”  When we actively listen to our spouse, the by-product is better than listening to Tom Johnston’s lead vocals; we often receive long-lasting heartfelt smiles and a deeper romantic connections.  The value of listening is a message of care that desperately needs to get through in our marriages and questions are a great way to start.

One of my favorite blogs for self-improvement, All Pro Dad, offers the following 10 questions to ask your spouse regularly to build deeper connections and spark fruitful conversations.

  1. What do you think is going right in our relationship?
  2. Where would you like our relationship to be this time next year?
  3. Will you please marry me, all over again?
  4.  I’d love to hear about your dreams for the future
  5. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit this coming year?
  6. Do you think we’re doing OK financially?
  7. How are you doing health-wise?
  8. If you could change one thing about our priorities as a family, what would it be?
  9.  Is there anything I devote regular time to that you see as a possible threat to our family or our relationship?
  10. Are you happy?

Just for fun, I’m throwing in five funny questions that may lighten the mood on your date nights:

  • What actor or actress would play you in a movie about your life?
  • What was your first impression of me?
  • If you woke up tomorrow as the opposite sex, what would be the top three things you’d do?
  • If I let your dress me, what would I wear on our next date?
  • What memory do you have of me that always makes you laugh?

Our conversation lasted well past loud cell-phone lady, Dogwood Park, and even our car ride home.  The woman I know so well taught me a few new things about herself that night, even after 16 great years of marriage.  The night was so wonderful that we have now purchased a second Butternut Pumpkin candle to keep the romance burning.  I hope questions and candles help you build your Family Forte with many more years of adventures.

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,

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Family Forte: Art's Word Replacement Program

by: Topher Wiles

Sometimes I hate it when she’s right.  At least, I dislike it in the short moment my heart is convicted and I have to apologize.  Yet, I am grateful for my wife’s perspective, especially when she politely corrects my speech. That’s right, even preachers need correction.

Dawn dish soap tasted terrible in my 10-year-old mouth. After yelling a certain four letter euphemism while running through my boyhood home, my mother washed my mouth out with soap.  I was incredulous as I remember thinking, “You and dad say it all the time, why am I in trouble?”  Over the next few years my language got fouler and my mom stopped punishing me even though it progressed to more colorful utterances than simple words.  A sailor would blush at the phrases, stories, and jokes that came out of my mouth before my Lord and Savior, Jesus, changed me.   In my late teens I remember digesting a verse from Paul’s letter to Ephesus, a verse that would tame my tongue and make me reconsider the words I offered the world around me.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

From the reading of this verse I was changed.  If Jesus could sacrifice his life to bring grace to me, the least I could do in appreciation is watch my words to give grace to others.  Ever since that day, I’ve not uttered a cuss word, thereby removing all need for Dawn dish soap in my life.  Yet, removing a few choice words doesn’t mean my speech builds others up or gives grace to hearers, as my wife as dutifully noted.   Recently the struggle gripping me revolved around what I say at the dinner table and what I say to my sons.  Too often the words “knucklehead” or “nimrod” color my speech when I relay frustration at other people’s mistakes.  Sometimes I even feel entitled to utter those derogatory words after long hard days “being good” at work, like I’m owed a verbal vent for my frustration.  My sin deepened one time when a son made a mistake on a project around the house and I allowed my mouth to turn one of those words on him, resulting in my wife’s gentle correction. 

She said, “Christopher, please don’t use those words anymore, especially toward our children.”  I love my wife and I knew my frustration had stepped over a line, one that she was gently but firmly redefining for me in that moment.  I’m thankful that she remembered the instruction of Bible verses even when I forget.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1

Even though I may not like it in the moment, I’m gratefully for my wife’s perspective and correction.   I’m also grateful for the older men in my life that seem to timely reorient my mouth in the right directly.  My friend Art Kixmilller, an older servant in the church, reoriented my speech as he shared with me six statements that we all need to say more to be positive, build others up, and give grace to those who would hear.  Here is Art’s word replacement program in a nutshell, strive to say the following statements more.

#6 "I admit I made a mistake"  

#5 "You did a good job."

#4 "What is your opinion?"

#3 "If you please..."

#2 "Thank you."

#1 Anything involving the word "WE".

 Then Art shared with me his own verbal shortcomings and how replacing a few negative sayings with these positives changed his life and relationships.  Science backs up what Art says, our words directly impact our lives in a major way!  From Peter Himmelmann’s 2018 Forbes magazine article titled “The Power of Positive Speech,” we read the following.

“The research that’s been done on the use of positive language to change mood, behavior, and physical well-being is abundant —and abundantly clear. When we regularly use a more buoyant language to describe our lives we stimulate frontal lobe activity. This includes the language centers such as the Wernicke's area and Broca's area, parts of the brain considered vital for human communication. Those are regions of the brain that link directly to the motor cortex, which is responsible for getting us to take action.

When there is a substantial increase in the use of positive language, functions in the parietal lobes begin to shift. Those shifts are responsible for creating more positive perceptions overall. It’s also believed that the structure of the thalamus —which is thought to be partly responsible for the way we perceive reality—can actually be altered in response to positive words, thoughts and emotions.”

Armed with Art’s six statements, my wife’s gentle correction, and a general mindfulness of my words, I’ve seen a few changes.  My relationships with my boys have improved, with them wanting to spend more time with dear old dad.  I’ve witnessed my feelings toward challenges with work and life grow in a more positive light.  I’ve seen a decrease in my own stress and an increase in my productivity.  In short, giving grace to those who hear me blesses me, my family, my church, and my community.  Art is right, our words matter.

May you be blessed today to find people who gently correct you and reorient you to more Family Forte too. 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

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,