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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Family Forte: One Year Effects of Isolation

by: Topher Wiles

One year later we’re feeling the effects that isolation has had on our community members and families. While some haven’t changed routines during the pandemic, many others have undergone massive restructuring of social habits which have left more people increasingly isolated. That isolation has had increased mental and physical affects. From Medical News Today we learn that depression has increased by huge amounts from 2019 to the end of 2020. “According to a December 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42% of people in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression that month. This was a huge increase from the 11% they recorded in 2019.”


One year ago in March 2020, I wrote about the effects of isolation that would come through the “next few WEEKS of lockdown.”  After 12 months of the pandemic have passed with some families still self isolating, we are seeing a rise in the challenges from isolation.   I have had more people with depression, stress, and anxiety issues call my office than ever before. I’ve had to refer more families going through intense marital struggles to professional Christian counselors in Sparta and Cookeville than I’ve ever had in the past. Don’t get me started on the physical struggles that have come from the stresses of the last year!

In May of 2019 the American Psychological Association gave this warning about isolation in American society.  “Loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated. Such numbers are alarming because of the health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder or obesity.”

Wow, social isolation can have inherent health risks just like smoking, alcohol use, and obesity! The CDC’s recommendations of self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic were great for limiting the outbreak but we’re looking at some challenging side effects that are harming our families now. The good news is, there are ways God has given us to combat isolation issues.  These are suggestions I researched a year ago that still hold true today. Here are a quick four suggestions for your family. 

Begin a small group study – Last year our government administration advocated for limiting group interactions of ten people or less in March. We encouraged then and encourage you now to pick a family from church or the community and meet together once a week to study a subject. Pick a book of the Bible, a popular best seller book, or a documentary series to discuss. Maybe you and a friend can finally work on that car, bathroom, or landscaping project you’ve been putting off. Who knows, you may continue that small group effort beyond to a time with the pandemic is a distant memory. Small group interactions help families combat the challenges of isolation.

Get regular exercise – Don’t sit in the recliner all day watching the news like some have done for the last year.  As the weather gets nicer, go for morning walks with a friend, learn to swing a tennis racquet, or hit the treadmill with a friend on Facetime.  Likewise, encourage the same for your kids with some of their friends.  Enjoy those exercises that limit personal exposure but still give you social time and exercise together.  Just as you would combat the effects of depression with exercise, use exercise as your tool for benefiting yourself and your family. 

Get outdoors – Here in the Upper Cumberland we are blessed with some of the best outdoor features to brighten your day and give you a little social time.  Be inspired along with your family as you hike the scenic Black Mountain overlook in Crossville.  Go play outdoors as you hike around the top of the Ozone Falls State Natural Area. Stretch your legs on the beautiful pioneer trail at Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville. Enjoy the wildlife along the Collins Nature Trail near Rock Island.  Personally, I think it’s hard to beat the glorious rim trails at Fall Creek Falls and Savage Gulf State Natural Area near Spencer and McMinnville.  Go see every major waterfall within an hour’s distance in the next four weeks.  Get outdoors with your family or with another family to beat the negative effects of isolation.  

Use that technology – Facetime on iPhones and Macbooks, Google Duo on Android devices, and Skype on PCs, and Zoom are still wonderfully easy ways to connect with your friends and family from the comfort of your home.  Set up a regularly scheduled time to have video conferencing conversations with friends and family who are still isolating at this time.   Make it a point to encourage others through technology and you’ll be blessed as a family too. 

As the physical and mental strains increase on families from a year of this pandemic, remember that you have resources to help your own family as well as those neighboring in your community.  God has blessed those of us in the Upper Cumberland with so many wonderful resources and neighbors that we can truly make a difference in helping families combat the effects of isolation. As always, contact us with concerns at topherwiles@spartacoc.com with suggestions, questions, or concerns.  May God continue to bless you and your family with faith, hope, and love. 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-39

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, March 9, 2021

Family Forte: The Struggle with Depression

by: Topher Wiles

Depression.  It was the topic of one of my 20 page research papers at Lipscomb University from my pastoral care and psychology classes.  It's also an issue that Ashley and I have personally struggled with from time to time.  It is so common a struggle for families that it gets a full chapter in one of my valuable books, Christian Counseling, by Gary R. Collins.

According to renowned psychiatrists Frank Minrith & Paul Meier, the majority of Americans suffer from a serious, clinical depression at some point in their lives. Most people never seek help, but battle this struggle on their own.

Dr. Gary Collins lets us know that even Christian families experience this challenge, describing it this way. "The Christian experience has three levels.  First there are mountaintop days when everything is going well and the world looks bright.  These experiences are temporary: they can't go on forever.  It is unrealistic to expect, as many people do, that we can spend life leaping from one mountain peak to another as if there were no plains or valleys in between.  Instead, most of life consists of ordinary days when we work at our usual tasks, neither elated nor depressed.  The, third, there are dark days when we trudge heavily through confusion, doubt, despair, and discouragement.  Sometimes these days string out into months or even years before we begin to experience a sense of relief and victory.  When they persist, dark days are days of depression."

A friend of mine and fellow preacher, Jeff Strite, pointed out that Elijah in 1 Kings 19 is a surprisingly perfect case study of depression and how to help someone struggling with through the trials of it.  Elijah ran for his life, wished his life would end, slept for days, felt alone, and felt rejected.  He experienced these feelings often associated with depression for weeks on end.

Previously, this righteous prophet had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they really were. Due to Elijah’s faith & obedience God literally sent fire down out of heavens to consume the sacrifice he’d placed on the altar and then provided a long overdue rain to end a drought.

Why would a man who preached an impressive message and experienced some of the most powerful displays of God’s power suddenly be crippled by fear, hopelessness, and despair? I’m not sure the exact reason, but the truth is, even God’s most dynamic and faithful servants can suffer from depression. Depression is such a challenge for family members in all walks of life especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, God doesn’t leave moms, dads, grandparents, teenagers, nor prophets in the midst of depression.

Long before psychiatry was ever thought of, long before depression help could be bought in the little purple pills, and long before we had professional counselors, God brought help and healing to Elijah. Here’s how.

First, God gave Elijah a restful time of meditation in a holy place at Mt. Sinai. (1 Kings 19:5-8) This place of rest for Elijah was the same place God delivered the 10 commandments centuries before to Moses. These meditative and restful spiritual experiences have been proven by science to be helpful in healing from depression. As posted on ScienceDaily.com, a 1999 Duke University study of nearly 4000 older adults revealed a surprising conclusion.  “Attendance at a house of worship is related to lower rates of depression and anxiety."  Giving our depressed family members space and meditative time is one of the best therapy tools we possess to start the healing process.

Second, after the prophet rested, God let Elijah talk while the Lord listened. (1 Kings 19:13-14) Obviously God knows all about what Elijah is thinking or feeling already, but God asked Elijah some questions that allowed Elijah to open up about his hurt and struggles. Even though he was mistaken in his thoughts, Elijah shared how alone he felt in the world. God listened, knowing that simple listening can be therapy itself.  Giving an ear to family members struggling with depression is a great tool we can use to help them heal.

Third, after rest and listening, God began to deal with the false ideas rolling around in Elijah’s head. (1 Kings 19:18) He reminded Elijah of his worth and helped him understand that he was not alone in the world, but that there were many more just like him. Helping our family members understand that they are not alone but are valued and supported can be a major change as they continue to heal from the effects of depression.

Finally, as part of the healing process from depression continued, God gave Elijah an appropriate task that he could complete. He told him to go meet with other righteous people and help them in their journey. (1 Kings 19:15-17)  Family members struggling with depression often need us to give them some appropriate direction as they continue to heal from this common mental malady and to connect them to other positive and motivated people in life.

God provided Elijah rest, meditation, listening, gentle correction, direction, and connection as the Lord helped the prophet overcome depression. We can provide the same for our family members too.

Remember, that depression is a common and strong foe gripping families in America, especially following the pandemic. Yet family members don’t have to struggle through this mental challenge alone because God has put us in biological and spiritual families to help us combat these very real trials.  As always, if you are looking for help or guidance in combating depression, you can always contact me at Central Church of Christ (931-836-2874) and I’ll be happy to listen and love in these challenges. If you’re looking for professional counseling services in Sparta to combat depression, we’d be glad to recommend the counseling services of Warrior Counseling with Natalie Whorton (931-510-8365).  May God bless your family with health, hope, and family forte.

To view the whole sermon I gave on the topic of depression, click here: Let's Talk About It: Depression.

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 grow stronger.  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, February 16, 2021

Family Forte: Bumpers May Hold You Back

 Family Forte: Bumpers May Hold You Back

by: Topher Wiles

Micah enjoys his birthday at Bowling World!

Bowling is one of the few active indoor events we’ve gotten to enjoy as a family during the pandemic. For both Micah and Gabriel’s birthday this winter, the Wiles family has made our way up to the uncrowded lanes in Cookeville to knock down a few plastic coated wooden pins. Maybe my past coaching of high school bowling teams has filled me with positive feelings toward maple board planks and crashing pins.  But not everyone shares that love. One time, Ethan wasn’t too happy about the bowling prospect at all. 

Walking up to the lane, I didn’t notice that the bumpers were down.  Ethan carefully selected his 7lb ball while I tied my bowling shoes and dutifully put our initials into the electronic scorecard.  I looked up from toweling my bowling ball, and Ethan’s orange polyurethane projectile was already making its way down the lane to find four pins.  “Nice job big man; you did that without a bumper,” I offered as casual encouragement.

Immediately he froze and asked, “Dad can you put the bumpers up?” I could see his growing wide-eyed fear of throwing a gutterball once I pointed out that he wasn’t using a bumper.

It took several minutes to calm him down saying, “I think you’re fine without bumpers.  I’ll teach you how to keep it in the middle of the lane.  Try and roll another one straight, and we’ll see how it goes.” 

Reluctantly, Ethan threw his next ball.  To his surprise, my second-born picked up two more pins and a slowly big grin emerged on his face.  For the rest of the hour, we worked on a consistent starting spot, a smooth approach, and a solid follow through while using no bumpers.  While he only scored 74 with one spare in that game, I made sure to congratulate him on leaving no open frames, having knocked down at least 1 pin each of his 10 opportunities.

Later he thanked me, and to my surprise, Ethan shared, “I liked knocking over 74 pins without a bumper!” I was proud of Ethan, and it had nothing to do with the score.  My pride swelled because of my son’s willingness to trust and his joy at overcoming a challenge.  

I like bowling without the bumper’s too.  As a bowling coach, I purchased my own shoes, my own rolling bag, and my own bowling ball drilled perfectly to fit my hand.  I learned to throw a nice hook that swung out wide to the edge of the lane and then broke back toward the right pocket of the headpin for a strike.  My scores were great, averaging in the 180’s… except when I went bowling with my young children and shared their lane with the bumpers.  When the bumper was up, I struggled to break 100.  Why was that?  With a bumper up, I couldn’t throw my ball out wide across the boards for a hook, maximizing the potential of my game. It gets so bad that the bumper messes with my head and I frequently jerk the ball left to avoid sliding against that guard rail.  The bumpers hold me back.

What bumpers are holding you back from enjoying the best God has for you in life? For some of us, we have these imaginary bumper guard rails we put up in life to protect us from throwing a gutterball, but they end up holding us back instead.

Perhaps you struggle with the “perfectionism bumper.”  This is the bumper that hinders us from enjoying some of the best people or the best moments in life.   Waiting for the “perfect person” or the “perfect moment” with no imperfections causes us to miss out on the good things around us.  American psychologist Ann Schaef said, “Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” Maybe it’s your time to grow by putting down the perfect bumper that’s been protecting you from the occasional gutterball so that you can throw more strikes in life.

Maybe you struggle with the “worry bumper.”  Some people put this bumper up as a defense to protect from the uncertainties of money, relationships, and even faith experiences.  For instance, some people struggle to step foot in a church because they worry what everyone will think.  Don’t let the worry bumper cause decision paralysis where you fail to even roll a ball down the lane of life.  Learn and grow as you put the worry bumper down, knowing that the occasional gutterball won’t sink your score.   

Could you struggle with the “predictability bumper?”  That is the bumper we put up whenever we fear changes in life.  Some people avoid college, marriage, or a new job because they fear the unknown in the changes of life.  They settle on the predictable if it is uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s time for you to put the predictability bumper down to enjoy the beautiful new and growing experiences God has to offer you in life. 

Sometimes we need to put down the bumpers of perfectionism, worry, and predictability for our ball to cross the most and best boards that a life in Christ has to offer.  Enjoy the abundant life promised in the Bible (John 10:10) by growing, learning, and embracing the joy of overcoming exciting challenges in life.  I was proud of Ethan for meeting the challenge and growing from it when he allowed the bumpers to stay down.  Your heavenly Father will be proud of you, too.    

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18 


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, February 2, 2021

Family Forte: Saving Society by Building Family Unity

by: Topher Wiles

A bizarre couplet of communications happened only moments apart this week, inspiring this article about family unity. I was walking to the Coffee Collective for a standard cup of joe when a 75-year-old friend texted me the following message.

“The country has never been this divided, even during the 60’s. I’m seeing long time friendships fray because of political differences, to the point of obscuring the true reasons for bonds that had lasted for years. Not too many things bother me, but this is disturbing for our children. Now is the time for all of us to appeal to better…”

Moments later, a 19-year-old barista was on break and shared, “Topher, what worries me most is that people are so often divided and mean to each other. It boils down to respect and taking time to understand people with a different point of view. The best thing you can do is be nice to people.”

Denny and Malee, I couldn’t agree more. Even though you both come from different backgrounds, perspectives, and generations, you both have voiced a true illness plaguing our society. The Pew Research Center backs your observations with statistics in a November 2020 piece titled, America is Exceptional in the Nature of it’s Political Divide.  Pew sums it all up saying, “America has rarely been as polarized as it is today.”  
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/13/america-is-exceptional-in-the-nature-of-its-political-divide/

I believe the best changes that can be made in a person’s life start early with the first organization God ever created, the family.  The Wiles family is far from perfect in regard to divisions, squabbles, tiffs, and tears, yet we are actively promoting a few premises in our children’s lives to help them overcome the plague in this current generation. Here are a few ideas that work to build our Family Forte that may help yours as well.

  • Teach the idea of “Honor all people.” This mantra is more than a trite saying, it’s a way of life that needs to be repeated often, shouted from the rooftops, and shared with your children.  Most people don’t realize that this is a command handed down through the last 2000 years by one of the most prideful and impetuous disciples of Jesus. In the middle of a discussion about relationships between wives and husbands, slaves and masters, government and citizens, Peter says these direct words, “Honor everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a. Jesus sets that exact precedent when he chides the religious elite for hypocrisy saying, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:31-33.  Purposely set this command as one of your primary family rules and remind your children of it often.
  • Display the positives and negatives of unity. Years ago my beautiful bride made a poster from a photograph of young Gabriel and Ethan walking down the road together holding hands. She captioned the bottom with “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brother’s dwell together in unity.” Psalm 133:1. Her goal was to remind our growing boys that the best moments of life come from their common bonds rather than their divisions. In contrast, whenever she questions the kids after a squabble, she has this perfect method for displaying the negatives of division. She asks, “Ethan, how does Clara feel right now? What emotion is on her face? What thoughts are running through her head?”  Invest time with your children in the midst of triumph and trial to reflect on the positive and negative displays that come from unity and division.  
  • Train Complementors, Not Competitors. Boys have this ingrained sense of aggression, competition, and war that starts ooze out of their pores at an early age fueling many fights in families.  When left unchecked it can build into unbridled resentment causing fissures in families many decades later. That innate childhood aggression can be good when turned the right direction, so Ashley and I redirected it. When they were young our boys were not allowed to wrestle, spar, or box with each other, but only with me.  The result was that Gabriel often used his height to attack my upper body while Ethan’s complementary shorter, stockier build to take out my legs! The boys learned the deep abiding truth that they are stronger together than apart. Today, in sporting events such as ping-pong, basketball, and tennis, we still teach them that their job in head-to-head play is to train each other for success against other opponents. Over time their play takes on a new complementary height when they realize they are complementary and not competitors.
  • Model unity at home. Parents, children will do what you do before they do what you say. Do your absolute best to be kind to your wife, in-laws, boss, and community leaders in all moments, especially inside the four walls of your home.  You can voice differing opinions and be strongly opposed to a platform without using inflammatory words or unkind actions.  Your children will see the union you have with others despite your differences and they will follow your example. When they see and seek unity, your family will be blessed for generations to come.  

It was Jesus who taught us a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Mark 3:24. Our Lord didn’t direct us to lose our identity, forget our opinions, or quietly submit to every whim of society. Instead, Jesus modelled for us how to honor everyone and live together in unity despite the differences. Friends, the cure for our divisive illness was shared long ago and it is best administered through the family. May you be blessed with unity, peace, 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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Family Forte: Leave it Better Than You Found It

by: Topher Wiles

Dads are known to have some rotten advice sometimes. Those little nuggets may sound like they contain good wisdom, but on closer inspection reveal awful precepts to hand down. I’ve heard men share some one-liners such as: “Be good, and if you can’t be good, don’t get caught!” “If you do it bad enough the first time, you won’t be asked again.” “Don’t break two laws at once, that’s how you get caught!”  Yet, for all the awful advice out there, some dads excel in giving down to earth practical wisdom that sticks with you for years to come. My dad shared one when I was a teenager that has filtered its way into every facet of life. 

“Leave it better than you found it.”

Photo Credit: Amazon Shopping

At 16 years old and newly drivers-licensed, I was looking forward to hitting the road on my own, but I didn’t own a car yet. My loving father didn’t believe in buying a kid their first car when they got their license but letting kids borrow for a while to see how this whole driving thing worked out. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, he did offer to let me use his 1973 ¾ ton Chevrolet stick shift rust bucket of a truck whenever he wasn’t using it. That old truck came with one caveat: leave it better than you found it. 

Dad expounded on what he meant by telling me to always make sure there is more gas in the vehicle when I park it than when I first turned the ignition on. Whenever possible I was instructed to completely fill up any gas tank of any vehicle I borrowed or rented. Also, I should make sure the trash is always picked up, vehicle gets vacuumed out, and windows get cleaned. If I completed any of these tasks when borrowing his vehicle or anyone else’s, it would ensure they would have a positive feeling toward me should I ever need to borrow it again. 

After years reflecting on it, practicing it, and now repeating this mantra to my own children, I’ve learned that my dad was exactly right. “Leave it better than you found it” is a great way to live. It teaches our families that we are not simply consumers in the world by  taking what we want and using a resource up until it no longer has any value to us. This dadism reveals that we’re part of a much bigger community and that we have a social responsibility to those who come after us in this world. The idea of social responsibility holds true in all walks of life, big or small.   

In Our Environment – In late December my boys and I held to our annual cold-weather backpacking tradition, hiking hard through some majestic terrain during the day and burrowing in our sleeping bags at night in an effort to experience God’s beauty. When we stopped at the primitive campsites on the Caney Fork near Virgin Falls, we found no sign of trash, the fire ring scooped out, and a stack of wood nearby, which was perfect after a long day’s hike. As we left, we tried to do the same as well as hike out other trash we found in the woods nearby, leaving the area better than we found it. Camping is a great way to begin practicing “Leave it better than you found it” with your family.

On The Job – It’s very rare today for people to stay in one position for the entirety of their career. A 2012 article on Forbes.com about “job hopping” shared that the average length of stay for an employee at any one job is down to 4.4 years. So the odds are, your teenage child, niece, nephew, or grandchild is not going to stay at that first job for long. Teach them to value their time in the position by making small improvements in the work environment so that the next worker will have a better and easier entry into the same position.

In Relationships – Few friendships/relationships that we enter into will be life-long, meaning that we often play a part in someone’s life for a short time before handing them off to someone else. Teach your children to make sure they enhance the lives of their friends through encouragement, thoughtfulness, and dependability rather than being that friend that is a constant drag on life asking more from all relationships than they ever put into them. When the time comes to leave a relationship due to moving, graduation, changing careers, or any other life circumstances, teach your family to leave the relationship better than they found it.

In Church – Pre-pandemic Barna studies showed that church hopping and shopping is definitely increasing while actually placing membership to settle in with a body of Christ is declining among protestants.  Model a “leave it better than you found it” mentality for your family by investing your time and energy into a church ministry by placing membership, asking “What can I do to help?”, and investing into other church members with the love of Christ. No matter how long or short your stay with that local church, you know you will have benefited the people and the cause of Christ in word and deed.

Parents, this world is stacked with plenty of consumers on the roster. Let’s turn the tide a bit by giving our families a producer mindset of social responsibility by striving to leave every area, every job, every relationship, and every organization better than we found it. After all, you would want someone to do the same for you.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:3-4

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.