Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Family Forte: Focus on People not the Prestige

by: Topher Wiles

It’s really easy to get caught focusing on the gold, silver, and bronze medals decorating the elite at the Olympic games.  Take a good look at the medals coming out of Tokyo this year.  They are a marvel of intricate metal machine work with ribbons of chemically recycled polyester fibres and hardwood cases.  Obviously a lot of thought and care has gone into the metal tradition that was started in 1896 at the Athens games.  (Click this for more info and a 1 minute Youtube video.)


(photo from Olympics.com)

While the detail, materials, and thought behind the metals has changed much over the years, some traditions have changed little.  Take into account the symbol on the front of the medal, the Greek goddess, Nike, who was the symbol of victory and often prayed to in battles of war and sports alike.  Nike is not known for mercy and cooperation in Greek mythology, but was a sentinel of Zeus’ throne.  Homer even calls her the daughter of Ares, who is the God of war.  Here is a snippet from a prayer to Nike in from www.goddessnike.com 

"Charge our chariots strong & sturdy.

Vanquish without any mercy

Enemies of our valiant army

And give to us a divine glory

Furnished with medallions & jewelry

Everything that is worldly

Is only ours by your decree

We worship thee on bended knee."

The Goddess Nike is an ancient tradition of war & games victory which lacks mercy & compassion. It’s an interesting modern choice for the medals at the largest worldwide competition existing today because so few believe in the ancient Greek pantheon.  "Hellenism" may have as many as 2,000 legitimate adherents today according to archeology.com, and Nike isn't even one of the twelve main gods/goddesses worshipped in Greek culture.  (http://archive.archaeology.org/0501/abstracts/letter.html)


Why has the world kept this tradition rather than honoring a diety that much of the world follows today?  Why not make the medal symbol one of the Jesus, since approximately 32% (2.4 billion) of the world claims Christianity as it's religion?   He also symbolizes victory and peace at the same time.  I surmise choosing to honor Christ on the Olympic medal could usher in boycotts from the world's 1.8 billion Muslims, or 1.1 billion Hindi's, or 1.2 billion unaffiliated. The Olympic committee would likely be unwilling to alienate so many using an Olympic symbol from a modern religion, even if it did promote more better the Olympic mission (to build a peaceful and better world) than NIKE. (https://olympics.com/ioc/beyond-the-games)  


Perhaps we should focus more of our time and attention on the people on whom the medals hang rather than the image on the prestigious medals themselves. I’m so grateful for Olympic medal winners such as Caeleb Dressel (attends Campus Church of Christ, Gainesville, FL) who chose not to honor and thank goddess Nike for his wins and abilities, but chose to honor God for the opportunity to represent Him to the world.  Consider how much more merciful our God is than that of Nike, as evidenced in this prayer, recited by 2016 Rio Olympian Sarah Scherer whenever she gets nervous.

"Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil." - Matthew 6:9-13 ESV




The symbol on the prestigious medals may not be anything we want to model our lives after, but some of the people are worthwhile examples of faithful and compassionate victors on the world’s greatest sporting stage.  May we give the God of victory and compassion all the honor & praise for the triumphs of the athletes and for our triumphs as well.  

To follow more believers in Tokyo, consider reading in The Gospel Coalition’s about Sydney McLaughlin, Kyle Snyder, Helen Maroulis, Micah Christenson, Michael Andrew, and Melissa Gonzalez. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/christian-athletes-tokyo-olympics/

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.christiscentral.org.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Family Forte: Invincible Love & Saving Marriage

 by: Topher Wiles

How many of you were like us?  I thought that we would tie the proverbial knot, carry Ashley over the threshold, and as the fair tales say, “live happily ever after?” We dated for two years, were engaged for one, and had a beautiful wedding.  Now after 17 years of marital ups and downs, we discovered that a good marriage is so much more than a loving feeling, a lavish ceremony, and having a lot in common. I wish we had gone through some sort of organized premarital counseling. 

If we’re being truthful with ourselves, that whole “till death do us part” in the marriage vows is increasingly ironic.  According to Les & Leslie Parrot (authors of “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”) things are changing. In the 1930s, one out of seven marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960s, it was one out of four. On survivedivorce.com, that figure is now around 40 percent of marriages today ending in divorce. That tells us that so many couples toss the bouquet, return the tuxedos, and assume they’re heading for marital bliss while their ship is really sailing toward wedded disaster.  

We believe God has more in store for your family forte than what our current culture provides.

Here at Central Church of Christ, we believe God has set the standard on what a loving relationship is and we are preparing ourselves to help members in the community get ready for the best marital relationship possible. That’s why I and others at our church have gotten certified to offer pre-marital counseling through the SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) system to our community. This 30 minute pre-marital assessment tool and five accompanying counseling sessions are designed to give couples the following: healthy expectations of marriage, a realistic concept of love, a positive attitude and outlook toward married life, a better way to communicate feelings, an understanding of gender differences, the ability to make decisions and settle arguments, a common spiritual foundation, and a deep and abiding commitment to the bonds of marriage together.  This is the broader concept of what invincible love looks like day-in and day-out in a marriage.

Tennessee understands the value of pre-marital counseling as our state offers a $60 discount (from $97.50 to $37.50 in White County) on marriage licenses to couples who obtain pre-marital counseling within a year before the marriage.  For couples choosing pre-marital counseling with us here at Central, we ask that the couple cover the $35 assessment fee, and we will provide 5 free counseling sessions directed by the findings of the assessment. All told, you’ll come out of this saving $25 in Tennessee and saving your marriage before it starts!

 It doesn’t matter if you go to church or not, you are welcome to enjoy premarital counseling with us at Central Church of Christ as we strive to strengthen families in our community through the SYMBIS assessment and premarital counseling. If you’d like to learn more about marriage and more, just contact me, Topher, at topherwiles@spartacoc.com or call our office at 931-836-2874.  

Marriage doesn’t have to be a gamble. Your lifelong partner is better than a roll of the dice. Your marriage can be better prepared to weather the storms that will come. You can enjoy “invincible love.” We’re here to help.

Hang my locket around your neck, wear my ring on your finger. Love is invincible facing danger and death. Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. The fire of love stops at nothing— it sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. – Song of Songs 8:6-7

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.christiscentral.org.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Family Forte: Marriage from a Nazi Prison

 By: Topher Wiles

 Last week my wife and I celebrated our seventeenth anniversary with one of our kids duly noting, “Your marriage is old enough to drive and almost old enough to vote!”  Ashley and I have celebrated this momentous occasion by eating out, watching our wedding video & vows that I converted from VHS, and taking a marriage assessment test (I know, fun right?). One of the greatest blessings in our marriage has been to listen and reflect on the inspired wisdom of others concerning love and marriage.  

Instead offering my own marriage experience for your inspiration, I want to share with you thoughts on marriage that inspire me from a collection of letters from another's extraordinary life.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German protestant minister who wrote from prison before his 1945 execution at the hands of Hitler's Nazis.  On May 15th, 1943, approximately 6 weeks after his arrest and missing the wedding ceremony of close friends due to being held in prison, Dietrich wrote these thoughts on marriage to the newlyweds.

 "Marriage is more than your love for each other.  It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time.  In your love, you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of generations.  In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.  Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal.  It is marriage and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.  Your love comes from you, but your marriage is from above, from God.  As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love.  It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." 

Today, I find Dietrich Bonhoeffer's letter writings on marriage from a Nazi prison to be refreshing and empowering.  I believe the modern view marriage has often been reduced to an extravagant party or a temporary civil union. Bonhoeffer’s marital declaration bolsters my resolve to care for the marriage God has given me with my wife.  It reminds me of my marriage's purpose as a practical use in humanity but also as an example of God's designs for others.  Bonhoeffer's writings echo the strong sentiments of scripture about marriage such as these writings from other letters:

 "Let marriage be held in honor among all." - Hebrews 13:4a

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." - Ephesians 5:31-33

 Ashley and I want marriages in our community to not only survive, but to thrive.  We know that families thrive best when marriages are healthy.  Kids tend to be happier and well cared for when mom and dad are enjoying a loving and trusting relationship. (for more on the effects of a happy marriage, visit the Huff Post article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/happy-marriage-happy-kids_b_828370)  

If we can help you strengthen your family by encouraging your marriage relationship, offering marital resources, or by praying for you to our God, please let us know.  May your family be blessed with fortitude through marriage!

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, June 1, 2021

Patiently Pulling My Son to the Prize

by: Topher Wiles

     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.

     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 and that amazing runner’s high.

     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.

After multiple races totaling hundreds of miles since my marathon run of 2014, I’ve only been able to duplicate that runner’s high feeling a couple times, with one happening a few weeks ago.  That lighthearted feeling lasted all day after the race and well into the week, except this time, it was me who crossed the finish line a half step behind a runner.  My son, Gabriel (8th grade), had never run more than a 5 miler before he expressed interest in running the Sawbriar half-marathon in Jamestown, TN.  I was worried about whether or not a 14 year old could accomplish this extensive distance, considering there just aren’t any real middle school cross-country options nearby to train him. So every week I monitored Gabriel and his progress while sharing little tips that I have learned in my years of running.  When we ran together on long runs, Gabriel 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 legs and burning lungs.

    On race day Gabriel was visibly nervous about his first ever 13.1 mile race, especially since it was rainy and cold, but our prayer together with church elder Ty Webb at the starting line lowered his heart rate and helped set the stage for one of his biggest achievements in pursuit to date.  Like my training coach had done for me years ago, I stayed two steps ahead for the first 12.5 miles.  Then, as we sprinted to the finish line, my smile lengthened and my heart skipped a beat as I watched Gabriel out run me by a half step, accepting the cheers, hugs, and high fives of family and friends.  My achievement in the Sawbriar Half was not my personal record, but I finally duplicated that amazing runner’s high of 2014 as Gabriel lifted his award for first place in the under 18 division. 

     Friends, we may not all be called to run the road, but we are called in this life to be like a training coach 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, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.christiscentral.org.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Family Forte: Breaking Snapchat Streaks

 By: Topher Wiles

It’s not just teenagers that get a thrill from watching the number by the flame grow day by day. People of all ages enjoy the feature that Snapchat has dubbed “streaks”. A 2017 Business Insider article gives us this information on a Snapchat streak. “A Snapchat streak is when you send direct snaps back and forth with a friend for several consecutive days. The longer you go without breaking the chain of communication, the longer your streak is. Snapchat rewards longer streaks with special emojis, such as the ‘100’ emoji for streaks lasting 100 days, or a mountain emoji for an extremely long streak.  Many teens (and adults I know) invest an inordinate amount of time keeping streaks alive. There's nothing more devastating than losing a streak you've put months of work into.” 1 (see endnotes)

photocredit: www.cyberdefinitions.com

I have an adult friend who surprised me one day stating, “I have a couple streaks that are over 400 days long.”  That means they’ve snapped someone on their phone every day for over a year straight.  As for me, I’ve explored streaks as I’ve tried to learn more about the opportunities and pitfalls of this social media messaging platform that more of our church members are using. My longest streak was 76 days, a paltry number compared to the record that suntrics.com has listed as of May 2021. That record is considered to be 2165 consecutive days and counting.2 Can you believe that Ally Zaino and Kait Bruneau have sent messages to each other every day for nearly 6 years? That’s almost as long as the streak was introduced on April 6th, 2015.

Snapchat streakers feel strong emotions when considering losing their streaks, as if they are losing a tangible commodity that they’ve worked hard for or losing an actual relationship with a friend. I know anxiety rides high for some Snapchat Streakers when friends don’t snap back in a timely fashion, threatening to reset that precious streak number to zero. 

Yet, I think it is entirely healthy to break a Snapchat streak.  We aren’t designed to be tethered 365 days a year to our cell phones.

One of the events that recently broke my Snapchat streaks was a camping trip with the boys to Standing Stone State Park.  It had beautiful trails, overlooks, a gorgeous old dam releasing water from the lake, streams to cross, tennis courts, and a live little scorpion found in a campsite by a neighboring camper.  Standing Stone was a delightful bliss of a two day getaway for my three sons and I. The park had everything we needed.  What it didn’t have was cellphone reception on my network or accessible wifi from the campsite. I was completely unplugged from the communications world, tuned into enjoying the outdoors with Gabriel, Ethan, and Micah, and I loved it. From the smiles and laughs as we sat at the Dairy Queen in Livingston rehashing our highlights from the trip while downing delicious Blizzards, I’d say the boys were glad I unplugged as well.

Sadly, I’m one of those people who stay connected as my cell phone serves as my Bible, prayer list, note taking device, to-do list, calendar, and communications hub. The boys and I were taking guesses as to how many notifications I would receive at the end of the two day camping trip when I reached cell signal again.  Gabriel won as my 2-day notification tally sent my cell phone into a vibrating spastic seizure  surpassing 300 alerts from social media platforms, text messages, and emails. Many of you are like me, tied to your cell phone with constant communications and uses.   Many of us are even addicted to our smart phones, Facebook feeds, and Snapchat Streaks. Take a look at some of the information on smartphone addiction from disturbmenot.co.

“Nomophobia is the official term for smartphone addiction—a rising issue in modern society among both the young and the old. 

·         66.53% of the world’s population has a mobile device.

·         People tap, swipe, and click an average of 2,617 times per day.

·         iPhone users unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day.

·         Users spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day on their smartphones.

·         26% of car accidents are caused by smartphone usage.

·         52% of American teens want to take steps to cut back on their use of smartphones.”3

Over half of American teens would like to cut back that smartphone usage, yet features like the Snapchat Streak count, Facebook Like, Instagram Heart, and Twitter Re-tweet are designed to keep us plugged in and addicted.  I recommend looking up the adverse effects of cell phone addictions that are listed on numerous websites, such as psychguides.com. I won’t go into detail here, but I was surprised to read that male infertility, neck strain, OCD, and depression are among issues connected with cellphone over-usage.4 

For our family’s strength, health, and relationships, I believe we need to encourage each other to break the Snapchat streaks, because being connected to your cellphone daily for 6+ years is going to have net negative consequences.  While it won’t be popular with those addicted, especially teens, (it may potentially induce short term anxiety, irritation, and restlessness) breaking cell phone streaks and addictions needs to happen from time to time for us to rest and focus on the highest priorities in life.  Take a camping trip with your kids, go on a cruise with your friends, or declare a “no-cell phone” weekend in your house while you read actual books and do things that make you feel good. Enjoy distraction free time together as a family and focus on God’s blessings around you.  My streaks are broken, and I’ve been set free. Consider how you can enjoy freedom with your family too.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12 

Check out that little scorpion from Standing Stone!


1 https://www.businessinsider.com/teens-explain-snapchat-streaks-why-theyre-so-addictive-and-important-to-friendships-2017-4

2 https://suntrics.com/tech-blogs/longest-snapchat-streak-a-brief-guide

3 https://disturbmenot.co/cell-phone-addiction-statistics/

4 https://www.psychguides.com/behavioral-disorders/cell-phone-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/

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.christiscentral.org.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Family Forte: Grace for Grumpies

 by: Topher Wiles

The tennis director and I were lamenting the challenge that preachers can be when signing up to play in a weekend tournament after I apologized for having a funeral come up on Saturday in the middle of the tournament. She said, “That’s not a problem. Schedules I can fix. What I can’t deal with are grumpy preachers.” After asking her to elaborate, she shared that the worst challenge she ever had with a preacher in her tennis tournament. It wasn’t in last minute scheduling changes, but was his poor attitude, constant complaints, and bickering with others. She admitted that this Christian preacher whined about the awful Tennessee weather and even yelled at the director about the Tennessee temperatures!

With so much to be joyful about in the pursuit of Christ (and tennis), how can the words “grumpy” and “Christian” ever go together?  Isn’t that an oxymoron like “organized chaos” and an “honest thief”?  While it’s true that scripture inspires us to be joyous and sacrificial saints, we are also Christ’s perfect imperfections (another oxymoron).  While we follow Him, we’re still plagued with our own sin and selfishness dubbed by Scripture as “the old self.” (Rom 6:6)  In our battle against Satan and the old self, even followers of Christ can have time periods of being grumpy, irritable, and whiny.  Sadly, for some who claim faith in Christ this isn’t a momentary slip, but the grumbling mentality seems to be a way of life. The God of Scripture calls us to a higher standard and dares us to accept a better way. So how do we deal with those who have fallen so far from grace and joy?

First, we need to immerse ourselves into prayer.  Even spur-of-the-moment short prayers as a normally grumpy person approaches can put us in the right mindset and involve God in the conversation from the beginning. As you pray, always thank God for the person and pray a blessing for them. Jesus went so far as to instruct us to pray for our enemies. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

Second, we need to examine our own lives against scripture to see if God’s correction applies to us. God gives a stern warning through a brother of Jesus, Jude.  “The Lord comes…to execute judgment…on all and to convict all the ungodly... These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (excerpts from Jude 1:14-16).  Then another potential brother of Jesus gets more direct, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:9)  Paul is even more succinct as he states, “Do not grumble as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Cor 10:10) We have to ask the hard question of ourselves first, “Am I a grumpy Christian?”  For an honest answer, ask your parents, spouse, or kids to get that no-holds-barred kind of truthful answer. Only by looking to remove the plank in our own eye can we begin helping another with the speck in theirs avoiding the risk of being a hypocrite.

Finally, our goal with a grumpy Christian needs to be the same as Paul’s. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal 6:1)  Focus on that “spirit of gentleness” as you correct them.  While it may seem satisfying to give them the same sarcastic high intensity verbal lashing that they give others, tit-for-tat lessons rarely have an impact other than to make them and you even more surly. To maintain a spirit of gentleness and avoid temptation, keep calm while letting them talk.  Ask questions about their feelings and emotions to get them to talk through their challenges. “I can hear that you are upset by this situation, why do you feel this way?” “Why did you choose such negative words?” “Why do you think that statement is a fair assessment?”  “What are you going to do or change in your own life to make the situation better?”  One stat I found claims that Jesus asked 307 questions in the gospels to help people find their way to His better path.  Keeping calm while listening is a surprisingly great way to quiet the grumpy Christian while also modeling a better way. Remember, some people have been allowed to think grumbling as acceptable Christian behavior for many years; it may take a lot of time, prayers, and gentle correction to change their attitudes.

In the end, when you catch someone who normally complains in the act of speaking positively, rejoice and encourage them knowing you aren’t alone in this triumph! “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10

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.christiscentral.org.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Family Forte: Do Not Disturb Mode for your Family

by: Topher Wiles

Growing up my dad had a hard and fast rule for our home outfitted with 1 cordless phone, 1 corded phone, and one answering machine.  His rule was this, do not call our home from 8pm to 8am unless it is an emergency.  That 8-8 rule was often frustrating for my older sister’s boyfriends who wanted to call at all hours, because only dad was allowed to answer the phone during that time.  Sometimes I even enjoyed listening in while those boyfriends got a verbal lashing from dad for not obeying the 8-8 rule.  

Now that I have kids, I have a similar rule, the automated “Do Not Disturb” mode on my Samsung phone. As a minister, I get calls, text messages, emails, snaps, & Facebook messages frequently through the day and night.  My phone literally stays on vibrate all day every day in my pocket because using an actual ringtone would mean it would be dinging every few minutes, interrupting important meetings and prayer time with people.  I’m content with the “on call” profession I’ve chosen and how my communications are used to serve others, but I’m especially fond of the peace and rest that my “Do Not Disturb” mode provides my family.

my Do not disturb settings
If you’re unfamiliar with the DND mode, it’s on your quick access panel when you swipe down for the Android and the crescent moon icon in the control center for the iPhone.  Its purpose is to give you some peace and quiet to recharge at night or during time off. Rather than turn my phone off at night, I have DND mode set to automatically turn on at 10pm and turn off at 7am (9 hours). Then I have also set my phone to auto-DND mode for 30 minutes in the evenings at 6pm, our regular Wiles family dinner time. Oh, and I also have it set for the one day a week (Fridays) I take off from work to invest in my family.

In case you’re worried that the world may pass you by during those times, never fear, DND mode has an exception setting that has you covered.  It will allow phone calls and text messages through only for my favorite contacts during my DND times. My favorite contacts include my wife, dad, siblings, in-laws, church elders, church deacons, local police, sheriff, fire station, & EMA.  That’s right, if any of those people try to contact me through text or phone call, it will be allowed through even when my phone is set to Do Not Disturb mode, so I don’t miss any emergency calls.  Yes, Sparta Police Chief Doug Goff, if you are reading this and call me at 2am, you are one of the privileged to get through.  (FYI, I'm hesitant to share, but my DND settings even allows the option for repeat phone calls. So if someone calls twice within 15 minutes, it will allow it through.)

Why do I go through the effort to enable all these settings on my phone?  It’s the same reason my dad instituted the no calling rule from 8am-8pm in my home growing up.  Rest is important, not just for me, but also for my family.  That has been a tough lesson to learn but one that the Bible has supported. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” – Psalm 127:2

Well meaning people forget that when they send me text messages and emails at 3:43 am “because they were up” that every message will also wake up my wife because she is a lighter sleeper.  As much as I appreciate their encouragement and Bible verse they want to share with me, my wife doesn’t appreciate it in the same way when it comes at 2am.  Likewise, my quietly sleeping household including four lovely children doesn’t need to be woken when someone in the community Facebook calls me asking for help with rent money at midnight (yes, that does happen). 

Do Not Disturb mode is a way for me and my family to find rest at night, dinner time, and my day off from all non-emergency communications.  It also means that I handle people and tough situations when I’m at my prime, rather than be irritated with someone trying to help their non-emergency urgent-to-them phone call at 4am. The DND mode ensures that I can wake up at 5:30am to get my glass of water, enjoy my Bible study and prayer time, exercise, and get cleaned up all before I start handling the requests of the day.  I’m in a much better mood every day when I consistently structure my rest routine with the DND mode.  Trust me when I say that you, my family, and the community would prefer not to deal with a grumpy Topher.

Even Solomon in the Bible wrote some basic wisdom about people’s need for mood helping rest when he shares this short and wonderful proverb, “A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!” – Proverbs 27:17.  Can you believe, in all the wise writings of the inspired word of God, that there is a verse warning you of the danger of communicating too early in the morning?  Solomon writes that wisdom because some people aren’t raised by a dad with an 8-8 No Call rule.  So there you have it friends, straight from scripture, avoid texting/calling people early in the morning unless it is an emergency.  Even well wishes will sound like a curse at 4am. 

To the rest of you who are recipients of untimely unurgent communications, for the sake of your spouse, your kids, your day off, and your sanity, institute a “Do Not Disturb” time.  This loving organizational act will provide for better health and Family Forte.  

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.christiscentral.org.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sawbriar HalfMarathon Results

The results are in. We are winners in God's sight because of Jesus!

We enjoyed the race in Jamestown today as well and I'm proud of the love and perseverance of all our runners and fans today enduring driving rain and chilly conditions. God blessed us with a lot of love today. Here are some of the results & awards of our team as every member finished their race! We had seven top 3 finishers in their age/gender categories with Lauren and Gabriel scoring the first place title!

10k (6.2 miles)
Lauren Turner - 1st Place - Female 19 & Under
1:08:32 time - 11:05 pace
Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Mary Lankford - 2 Place - Female 20-29
2:09:09 time - 9:51 pace
Topher Wiles
2:11:42 time - 10:03 pace
Gabriel Wiles - 1st Place - Male 19 & Under
2:11:43 time - 10:03 pace
Ty Webb - 2nd Place - Male 50-59
2:12:03 time - 10:04 pace
David Smith - 2nd Place - Male 20-29
2:54:38 time - 13:19 pace
Joanna Pesson - 3rd Place - Female 60-69
3:04:47 time - 14:06 pace
Les Tubb - 2nd Place - Male 70+
3:04:47 time - 14:06 pace
John Smith
3:31:56 time - 16:10 pace

Special thanks to our fans encouraging us along the way in the freezing rain! Becky Tubb (and niece), Karen Turner, April Smith, Patrick Lankford, Ashley Wiles, Ethan Wiles, Micah Wiles, and Clara Wiles!

"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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Family Forte: Looking for Peace for Stressed Families

by: Topher Wiles


Have you ever experienced stress? I know you have! Stress is something that happens to all of us. It kind of sneaks up on you, but you know when you and your family have got it when it hits.


There’s a tenseness in your body with the muscles tightening up and you struggle to find a peaceful state of mind. If this keeps up long enough, you can become irritable with each other and possibly even experienced fatigue and sleeplessness.


Stress, or anxiety, as some call it, is so common that it gets the very first chapter in mental health counseling book I rely on by Gary Collins called Christian Counseling.  Stress/anxiety comes onto us whenever we feel that we’ve lost control of a situation. Whenever we get in a hurry or worried we can’t get where we want, when we want to. Perhaps we’re under a deadline, and we just know that if we don’t put an immense amount of effort into meeting that deadline, we won’t get it done. It’s potentially when we’re threatened with the loss of something we regard as valuable and we’re not sure we can avoid the loss. Collins says the long term effects of consistent stress can even include ulcers, headaches, rashes, cardiac issues, insomnia, reduced productivity, relational volatility, reclusive tendencies.


According to a medical report back in 1998, Dr. Herbert Benson at the Harvard Medical School believed that “60 to 90 % of doctor visits are for stress related diseases – including hypertension, infertility, insomnia, and cardiovascular disease.”


Even the Bible comments in many places about stress, but nothing summarizes it better than Proverbs 12:25a, “An anxious heart weighs a man down.”


Stress comes naturally to all of us and our families; it's always been around. But in today's culture, Collins says, "Anxiety is the official emotion of our age!" If we repeatedly experience anxieties and get stressed out, these emotions can have a terrible effect upon us and our families. Can you remember a more stressful time for families than the recent pandemic period?


So how do we deal with this malady that plagues us and our families? Here’s a few practical ideas that benefit me and are recommended by experts.


Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School (mentioned above) showed through his studies that the relaxed state brought on by prayer reduced the impact of stress hormones in a person’s body. He said: "Repetitive prayer slows a person’s heart and breathing rates. It lowers blood pressure and even slows brain waves, all without drugs or surgery.” Time alone with God in prayer and thanksgiving is a great way to deal with stress. It is even an activity that entire families can take part in together. My kids, my wife, and I pray together every night before bed and often count blessings together. Paul, a guy in the Bible who saw many stressful times in life echoes what Dr. Benson said when he shares, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  So if you’re struggling with stress, doctors and theologians agree, prayer really does help!


Prayer can bring peace to stress to families, but often times we also need to learn to process stressful requests better to reduce the strain. An elder at Central, Les Tubb, said that when a new problem arises that needs taken care of he does one of four things: he can DO it, DELAY it, DROP it, or DELEGATE it!  Either way, he is going to immediately choose one of these four avenues to resolve the requirement so that stress doesn’t due to an unmet deadline. Simply memorizing and following this decision-making process has been a blessing for me in my work, my relationships, and my person growth.


Finally, I recommend that you view stress in the family as something like a smoke alarm to address priorities. When you’re in your house and the smoke alarm sounds, you immediately investigate the source to address whether to put out the fire or flee.  Either way, you jump into action at the alarm.  When you find yourself feeling stressed out or you see the effects of stress building in your families, you have smoke coming from somewhere and often stress is a result of putting time, energy, and money in the wrong places. Let stress be a reminder to examine your priorities in life. Are wasted finances causing stress? Then reprioritize getting on a budget and paying off that debt. Is lack of quality family time leaving you anxious and worried? Then consider whether you’re investing too much time in work, hobbies, or video games. When we put our main priorities as the focal point of our time, energy, and finances, often the stresses of life lessen and we find more of that gift of people that God promises.


If you’re struggling with stress in your family, take a good long look at prayer, processing, and priorities as you seek to find peace. As always, my wife and I are happy to help you increase your family forte, and if you’re needing professional help with stress and anxiety, we have some great professional counselors to recommend.  Simply reach out at topherwiles@spartacoc.com. May you be blessed as you remember Paul’s promise, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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.christiscentral.org.