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Save The Date

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 1 Corinthians 15:12-13

Among your friends and family there’s probably an atheist, fence-sitter, and a fog dweller.  While you might understand the first of these two, let me explain the “fog dweller.”  Someone who goes about their life not seeking answers to the big questions, not thinking about creation or death, not pondering if there is a heaven. Just getting by day to day.  And if you don’t have some of each of these in your life, you might want to take up Jesus’ admonition to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  Because when you do your own faith will be tested, honed and hewed.

Each of the letters in the Bible by the disciples gives us examples of believers struggling to define their faith and the true meaning of the gospel.  The planted churches all were in places hostile to the message of Jesus – whether by Jews or pagans.  So, developing believers that understood and stood firm in their faith was crucial. 

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1 Cor 15:14

Ouch!  That’s a pretty bold statement.  And Paul had the experience to back it up.  He himself saw the risen Jesus!  And while the members of the church in Corinth believed in Jesus’ resurrection, they were surrounded by a culture that almost celebrated death.  The Greeks of that time saw the body as a prison and welcomed death to escape from it.  They laughed at the idea of resurrection. And friends, there’s people around you that believe the same thing today.

While sitting bedside of my quickly waning mother-in-law who was on hospice, I had to ask myself, do I really, I mean really believe in, not only Jesus’ resurrection, but the resurrection of the entire body of the church?  Do I believe that Bev will be resurrected one day?  And therefore, I should only mourn this time “in between” and find joy in the “not yet.”

A friend of mine shared with me once how her son came to her with horrible news about an acquaintance of his.  Their newborn baby had unexpectantly died.  Her son, of course, was distraught for his friend.  And although the death of any loved one can bring so much pain, the death of a child seems doubly so.  My friend contemplated how hard it must be to experience so much pain without a belief in God.  Her son, a non-believer, was apoplectic.  “How could a god do such a thing?”  The great “why?”  He doesn’t believe the promised hope for the future and therefore doesn’t enjoy any of the comfort God can provide.

19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15:19-20

You see friends, if I don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead then what’s really the point of ever quoting in John 3:16?   True belief in a resurrection redemption is what brings true comfort.  And times of great pain, especially death, are the ultimate opportunities to show the world we live as saved and redeemed people trusting wholly in the stated promises by Jesus.

I realized while in my Cherith I was a fog dweller when it came to the resurrection.  I hadn’t thought a lot about it, mostly because I haven’t had many people around me pass away.  But as God has fed me the solid food of His Holy Word, I’m coming to understand the whole picture.  The beauty of living in the “between” of Jesus has come and is reigning and the “not yet” of the promised resurrection and the new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). And while Elijah didn’t have the comfort of knowing the risen Christ he surely contemplated his death during those two years in the ravine. Thank God we have more than just the Old Testament prophets to lean on! We have the truth, the proven, historical truth of a risen King!

I recently was listening to an episode of The White Horse Inn podcast — which for those of you interested in getting some solid Christian food I highly recommend it.  They’ve been discussing what “the good life” means to Christians.  They describe us as living in the “here and not yet.”  I love the analogy by one pastor as like the marriage steps.  We once were single, now we are engaged but not yet married.  We shouldn’t act like single people because we have a commitment to Christ.  But the marriage isn’t yet consummated and we need to stay in the preparation stage until the date arrives.  So, we work with our Holy Spirit wedding planner in inviting friends and family to this holy event.  The guest list is expansive but yes, limited to those willing to come. We live for our betrothed, His thoughts and ways becoming our ways. And we dream of the day we are sure will arrive.  When all those friends are gathered up and Jesus is waiting at the altar for us.

As the hours wound down to when I knew my last goodbyes to Bev were near, I found I could look at her with sadness and with joy in knowing not only was she going to a place far more glorious than here, but that one day we would be reunited at a party for all the ages.  A party that is to come.  A party that I want you all to be at – so will you RSVP today and yes, you can bring a friend or two.

Do you truly believe in the resurrection of the dead?

Are you living a life preparing for the New Eden, living a life of a bride in waiting – excitedly planning, preparing, inviting? 

Speaking of heaven — please enjoy this beautiful poem my daughter, Madison Dooley, wrote and spoke at her grandmother’s funeral.

To See What She Sees

For Grandma Bev

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees

To see you face-to-face, shining with glory.
To grab your hand and feel it wrapped around mine. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To be clothed in robes of white. To be completely whole, totally fulfilled. To be without sorrow, want, or pain.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To feel roads of gold under my feet and see angels above.
To look ahead and see you seated on the throne, pointing at the open seat next to you, for me. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mountaintops glistening with glory. To hear the angels and the saints singing Your praise, oh what a melodious sound it must be.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the faces of those who have gone before me, shining with glory.
To see the colors in all their vibrancy, the flowers in all their brilliance.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the brokenhearted, the disabled, the outcasted – healed and totally restored. To feel anew again.
To dance freely to the songs of heaven.
To know the true meaning of Paradise.
To look upon life on Earth and finally see the masterpiece you are sewing.
To feel your presence wrapped around me like a tight hug.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the river of life flowing from your throne, glowing like a crystal.
To see the tree of life towering over me, boasting its healing fruits.

To have no need for the sun, or even a lamp, because darkness is no more, there is no night.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mysteries of heaven unfolded before my eyes.
To look down and see cosmos swirling beneath my feet, looking small compared to You. To experience the love of the Father for all that it was, it is, and is to come.

To be without sin.
To be exactly who You created me to be.

Oh, to see what she sees.

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The First 3,000

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

My husband and I are back in the process of a church search.  For some of you, your church has been your lifelong home.  For others, you know all too well the difficult path of church searching.  We spent the last seven months trying out a church and realized it just wasn’t the right fit.  Great preaching and friendly people but there were a number of pieces missing that we didn’t see being resolved any time soon.  We left on friendly terms as we began our journey to the right home.

And this search led me to think about the first church.  That fateful day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls turned their hearts and lives over to Jesus when the Holy Spirit was delivered to Earth.  There could’ve been more.  Others stood in the temple that day and heard the sound of the violent wind.  They heard the Jews from every nation speaking to each other in their native tongues.  But they hardened their hearts.

Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  Acts 2:13

The 3,000, selected by God, were urged by Peter to recognize what had just occurred.  He quoted the prophet Joel in explaining how the Holy Spirit would be poured out just as it had happened.  He reminded the Jews of David’s words when he spoke of God’s promise to fill them with the joy of God’s presence.  When Peter had his brief history lesson the 3,000 asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

He answered with the message of the Gospel.  And he went on to plead with them to abandon their corrupt generation.  Imagine.  3,000 people all at once starting on their new beginning.  It must’ve been glorious!

But their baptism wasn’t the end of their stories.  What came next was an intense learning period.  They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” (v2:42).  They ate together, worshipped together, studied together, prayed without ceasing, worked together to help those in need.  And they multiplied.

You don’t get the impression from reading about the first church in Acts that a bunch of individuals were saved then when to their own homes and began an intensive self-realization study.  Or went about their work day as though nothing spectacular just happened.  No, their common goal was to spread the news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  Remember, they spoke in many different languages.  So, they were preparing to go back home to make even more believers.  Preparing to go do difficult work.  That first church was all about discipleship.  I wonder how many of our churches can truly say the same?  I haven’t been a member of one yet.  But it’s what I’m looking for now.

The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.

Henry Martyn

The act of baptism, confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is typically a public affair.  It’s the starting point of our new beginning.  But after that one time event we call on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to fill us continually for one mission – to be in service to God.  Those first 3,000 believers would need the Holy Spirit to continue on their mission.  They would most likely encounter adversity, opposition, violence, and yes, success.  Beautiful success.  

We should all celebrate the day of Pentecost, which comes on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after Easter Sunday (June 5, 2022). For the Old Testament Jews, it represented the giving of the Law to Moses.  But the new covenant, for all the world to partake, saw Jesus enter our lives.  And after Jesus’ foretold crucifixion He gave us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  On that day 1000s of years ago, yet another promise was fulfilled by God.  His Spirit came to live in all of us, permanently.  And we were commissioned into His service.

As my faith and biblical knowledge has matured, my list of “must haves” for my new church has been honed.  I want a church that is biblically strong, always pointing me to Jesus, a joy-filled body of believers, and one whose primary goal is to create well-versed and confident disciples.  I hope you will pray for us in finding such a place.  

The modern church itself needs a new beginning.  As individuals, may we be spurred to greater expectations of our Christian communities.  And may we seek out ways to draw each other together in unity as our forefathers in Christ did on that day of Pentecost.

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Holy Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

About 10 years ago the church I attended began a series about the Holy Spirit.  I was fairly new in my walk with God and didn’t realize what a big deal this series was for this church.  As the pastor began his first sermon, he kept taking care to deal with the congregation’s feeling of discomfort.  And I kept wondering what the issue was. So, I finally asked someone.  I learned the Holy Spirit just wasn’t something this denomination talked about, ever.  I’ve also since learned other denominations avoid teaching about Holy Spirit out of a fear of being too “charismatic.”  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19

Oh, we crazy Christians.  How often is our religious life marred by fears of how we will be seen or downright lack of knowledge of biblical truths?  Christians who consider themselves “proper and dignified” because they don’t acknowledge the gifts of the spirit are denying Jesus’ own words.  But to deny the Holy Spirit as an equal part of the majestic trinity is very unbiblical!  Jesus, Himself, told us He would send another in His place to guide us.  If we deny this great gift from God what else are we prepared to deny from Him?  On the flip side I know of a young woman whose church taught that everyone has the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.  That also is denying biblical truths and the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our individual lives.

In the past I’ve described hearing from the Holy Spirit like a tap on the shoulder.  A whisper in my ear which spurs me to either act for God or to stop in my tracks for Him.  To keep my mouth shut when needed and to speak when the spirit puts the right words in my mouth.  I’m so thankful I know the Holy Spirit and love when the spirit weaves throughout my day.  I can’t do this thing called “life” alone; and I don’t want to. 

The Holy Spirit helped breathe life into us during creation.  It was the Holy Spirit that brought so many to Jesus at Pentecost. It speaks to us and guides us in Jesus’ stead. If you don’t know about the Holy Spirit, call on Him in your prayers.  Read what Jesus and the disciples said about Him. I, for one, am so thankful we have this Helper to bring us through our days until Jesus’ return.

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The Bible

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

As I’ve progressed in the study of the Bible, I’ve learned that the entire Bible teaches us about one subject – Jesus.  From beginning to end Jesus appears.  He is part of the creation team, the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar, the prophecy of Isaiah, and so much more.  So, when Jesus, after His resurrection, reminds the disciples that His death fulfilled all that the Old Testament taught us we should be spurred to investigate further.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

You can buy a Bible that only includes the New Testament.  But that would be like getting dropped into the middle of a battle not knowing why it started and which side you should be on!  And while there are so many great lessons and the message of salvation in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the full weight of those gifts lies in the cornerstones set in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and more.

It’s believed the first book of the Bible written was Job, around 2000 BC. After that the 10 Commandments and then the Book of the Law were placed in the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC.  The New Testament books were written about 50 AD.   Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, considered the original entire Bible, in 312 AD.  And in 1381, John Wycliffe defied church authority and began translating the Bible into English and distributing handwritten books to laypeople.  With the advent of the printing press in 1455, the Bible began its journey to being one of the most popular books ever printed.

I’m so thankful God took His Word and through man put it in this book we call the Bible.  With it we can learn about His character, His promises and fulfillment of them, His expectations, His plans for us.  My Bible sat for years gathering dust, not respecting its long history and those who died to make it accessible to all.  It seemed unwieldy and confusing.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, teachers and the fellowship of Christians I’ve come to see the beautiful story, the amazing truth of Jesus, Son of God.  The Bible is a living document, one which grows with us as we dig deeper into our faith.

Today on this great day of Thanksgiving in the United States I want to spur you to open your Bible.  To read the history of our broken world.  To read the entire, true story of a God who loves us.  Of a God who never leaves us.  Of a God who promises to deliver us from our sins.  Of a God who sent His son to be sacrificed so that we will be brought home, cleaned and forgiven.

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Celebrations

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  John 2:1-2

Today is my birthday!  I’m not embarrassed to say I have reached the ripe age of 57 because, to be honest, it’s with the grace of God I’ve made it this far.  I love birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Valentines’ Day, baby showers, you name it.  If it’s a celebration I’m in.   

Maybe it’s that my fellow celebrators have decided, like me, to take a few hours off from the trials and tribulations of the world.  For our annual celebrations, it’s also a way of thanking God we’ve made it through another year with His grace and provision.  

God certainly made us a people intended to celebrate.  In the Old Testament there are seven major festivals for the chosen people to celebrate.  That didn’t even include weddings and births. On top of that, the Sabbath, was in effect, a weekly celebration to take time and honor God.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

If you’ve never watched the show, The Chosen, you should definitely check it out.  There are so many great episodes but one of my favorites is the famous wedding in Cana.  To watch what Jesus would have been like at such a blessed time and see his disciples join the celebration really brought home the human side of Jesus.  

It’s unfortunate there are Christian sects who consider celebrations sinful.  They certainly haven’t read the same Bible I have which as we progressed through the events of the New Testament, we were given the opportunity celebrate our Lord’s birth, Easter, Pentecost, and baptism.  

Today I will rejoice that God took good care of me this last year.  I will celebrate in the knowledge that He is good and considers me one of His own. And I will thank Him that He is a God who loves to celebrate with His people the joys of life.

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Resolute In Christ

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Hi Friends!  It’s been a while since my last post – which ended the 30 More Days of Praise series.  I’ve been praying for some time for direction about my next series.  And I finally received a push a few weeks ago to write about standing strong in our faith, in the face of adversity.  There’s a lot going on out in our world that pushes back against the message of Jesus.  From twisting God’s view of agape-type love to seeking comfort from our fears through worldly means, we Christians are in a tough battle.  Tough, but not a new one.

When we read the New Testament books, a common thread throughout is adversity.  The saints were constantly up against the threat of death, torture, and imprisonment.  Much of Jesus’ time here on earth was pushing up against, not the political world, but the religious one.  It was the supposed followers of God who called for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And it was his supposed loyal followers that abandoned Him at the time of His greatest need.

And once the twelve received the Holy Spirit and realized their holy callings it only got worse.  As word spread and followers grew so did false teachers and strife amongst congregations.  And each apostle either found themselves facing a murderous mob or a lonely prison.  Yet the Word endured. 

On the face of it all it seems improbable.  How could a tiny group of men (and a few women) from thousands of years ago be the ones who today help us to know and understand our glorious God, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  How could the Word of God have been passed down through the ages with only slight changes in translations?  Because God is God.  And, because God is resolute in His love for us, He has made sure His message continued and will continue to educate, inspire, and comfort us for all time.

And that brings me to where I am today.  In a recent visit to my mother in law, I mentioned how I haven’t been writing lately.  And she said, “Oh how I miss my Emboldened each day.  I just am amazed at how much and what you write.”  It made me realize there are real people out there behind my computer screen reading my messages of God.  And I owe you an apology and explanation. 

You see, as always, God put on my heart just the right message at the right time.  To be Resolute in Christ.  To stand firm in His promises.  To be assured that He loves us.  To know without a doubt that He is with us, through thick and thin.  I need that message right now.  For the last two months I’ve been suffering through a medical condition that perplexes my doctors.  My ears are under extreme pressure and I’ve lost much of my hearing in my left ear.  I am in constant pain and so often can barely focus on the basic work I need to accomplish – much less sit and write.

I have pleaded with God to relieve me.  I have cried to God.  I have argued with God.  I have questioned God – even just today after yet another fruitless doctor appointment.  I’ve been so weak at times I’ve wanted to turn my back on Him.  But He pulls me back each day.  He is resolute and I need to be the same.

So, this is my first step to working through my pain, my brain fog and to be honest my self-pity.  I am a Jesus follower, just like the early disciples, who needs to trust God and obey His Word.  He has given me my marching orders and I choose to engage in the battle for the saints.  I am resolute.  

Join me September 20-October 22 as we explore the many passages in the Bible that show us how to be Resolute in Christ and to live an uncompromising Christian life.

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Welcome The Stranger

Lesson #1: Show hospitality to strangers, they may be God’s heaven-sent angels

Dear friend, you are faithful in 
what you are doing for the brothers 
and sisters, even though they are 
strangers to you. 
3 John 5

The saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.”  And we might add to that, “surrounded by a deep moat, protected by a closed drawbridge.”  At least that’s how it seems so many have come to treat their abodes.  But the concept of hospitality has a long history for us Christians.

The two angels arrived at Sodom in 
the evening, and Lot was sitting in 
the gateway of the city. When he saw 
them, he got up to meet them and 
bowed down with his face to the ground. 
“My lords,” he said, “please turn 
aside to your servant’s house. You 
can wash your feet and spend the 
night and then go on your way early 
in the morning.”

"No," they answered, "we will 
spend the night in the square."

But he insisted so strongly that 
they did go with him and entered 
his house.  He prepared a meal for 
them, baking bread without yeast, 
and they ate.
Genesis 19: 1-3

In Leviticus we are admonished to treat the traveler as one of our own family.  And throughout the New Testament we see the kindness of various townsfolk welcoming Jesus and the disciples along the way.  Without these strangers’ help they would’ve found themselves hungry and without a bed on which to lie their head.

And in our smallest Bible book, 3 John, we see the work of a church elder named Gaius.  The news of his hospitality and kindness toward fellow Christians reached John who noted how it brought him “great joy.”

But why is hospitality a life lesson?  The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos from the two words philos (friend) and xenos (stranger) and it means to show proper warmth or friendliness to strangers.  It also means to have the readiness to share our home and other treasures.   So often when we think of hospitality in our home it means inviting friends and family for dinners and parties.   But strangers?  Pull up the drawbridge and release the piranhas into the moat!

So what is Christian hospitality?

  1. Answering calls from the church to hosts missionaries and guests
  2. Inviting church elders over for meals
  3. Hosting church activities such as Bible study in our homes
  4. Reaching out to our unfamiliar neighbors and inviting them over for coffee
  5. Being a welcoming face at church – not just a smile but showing a genuine interest in a new face

I wonder how many of us (I raise my hand) have read in the church bulletin about a visiting missionary needing a place to stay for a week or a car to borrow and we thought at best “Yea, I don’t feel comfortable with that” and at worst didn’t think about it at all?  

I have a friend who has always held her Catholic priests in very high honor.  It borders on being afraid of them.  And when a friend of hers invited her to have a private gathering with a local priest she was aghast that it was all so, well, normal.  It reminds me of when my kids were in elementary school and they thought the teacher didn’t have a life outside the classroom.  But church leaders are people in addition to their divinely appointed roles.  They enjoy fellowship just like you and me!

What hospitality is not.

  1. Allowing situations in our home where guests openly sin
  2. Inviting guests out of a sense of obligation, not love
  3. Feeling the need to have our homes be perfect before inviting guests

Let’s look at number 1.  Many years ago, my husband and I invited his brother and his brother’s girlfriend out for a visit.  They couldn’t afford to travel so we let them stay at our home.  Under one condition.  They’d have to sleep in separate rooms.  As a fairly new Christian, this was the first time I really stood my ground as the “new me.”  Initially, my brother-in-law took issue with this.  He commented that my husband and I had lived together before marriage so why should we now place this restriction on him – wasn’t that hypocritical?  Friends, let’s be honest.  Before we were made new in Christ, we did a lot of stupid, dangerous, sinful things.  It’s ok to now say those things were wrong.  And being that our house is our castle, you can make any rule you want.  We didn’t place judgement on what he did outside our home,  we just drew a line as to what was going to happen in our home, around our children.  Our hospitality included the use of our home but not the erasure of our morals.  The result?  They both came and had a great time plus we were able to witness to my brother in law the changes Christ had made in our lives.

Number two seems obvious but when people take action out of a sense of obligation rather than love, the road can get bumpy.  I read the story of a pastor who was invited to speak at a church.  The host family welcomed him in, showed him his room and then preceded to tell him they didn’t feel it was their responsibility to feed him.  They also worked very hard to completely ignore him over the course of five days.  They did their “Christian duty” in their eyes.  But can we really call that true Christian hospitality? I hope not.

The key to good hospitality isn’t found in the externals, like linen tablecloths and exquisitely furnished guest bedrooms, but in qualities like servanthood, a listening ear, and an encouraging word.

Max Lucado

When I was involved in PTA there was a chair position called “hospitality.”  What that entitled was setting up a beautifully appointed table of yummy food at various events.  Shouldn’t a church body’s goal be more of the philoxenos version?  How many times does your church have to beg people to be greeters or to host a home Bible study? Our church volunteer coordinators should be overwhelmed by the requests to be able to say “hello!” and shake hands with new people.  We should have too many homes (large and tiny) from which to choose for Bible study. We may not be the Hospitality Chair but we should all be committee members!

We ought therefore to show hospitality
to such people (the faithful) so that we
may work together for the truth.
3 John 8

A Christian who lives with an active approach to philoxenos brings God a lot of joy, just like Gaius did for John.  We are reminded in the Old Testament that at one point in our lives we were all strangers.  Strangers hoping for someone to reach out and say “hello.”  Strangers hoping someone would show us God’s love.  We need to assume that person is us.