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PAY IT FORWARD

For several weeks I’ve been mulling over how to put some old thoughts into today’s words. Finally the answer came. PAY IT FORWARD .

When an expert in Jewish law asked Jesus “Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses,” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important; Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39). In today’s language – PAY IT FORWARD.

This is similar to the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. The Lord said He would bless Abraham, make his family a great nation and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them. The last part of that covenant indicates that Abraham’s descendants would PAY IT FORWARD.

For hundreds of years the nation of Israel protected itself from other nations of the world while they looked for a Messiah to deliver them. They didn’t realize that their Messiah, one of their own, was going to PAY IT FORWARD on their behalf to fulfill that final part of God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus said in John 12:32: And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself (He was indicating how He would die.) God loved the WORLD so much that He gave His one and only Son so  that EVERYONE who believes in Him will have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT.  All nations!

Saul was an expert in Jewish law. He killed Christians and encouraged others to do so too. He didn’t understand that their Messiah had already come to PAY IT FORWARD until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and realized the Messiah had come. His life was transformed and he spent the rest of his life PAYING IT FORWARD to non-Jews (us).

The ‘church’ has not replaced Israel as the true people of God, we have joined them. To be “in Christ” means we have joined a new human race that cuts across cultural, racial and gender lines. Paul expands on that in Galatians 3:28-29: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus and now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs and God’s promise to Abraham  belongs to you.” That also means that we are to PAY IT FORWARD. “Go into all the world and preach the God news to everyone.” Matt. 16:15.

And how about the ‘love your neighbor’ aspect? In the story of the good Samaritan, the neighbor turned out to be a person from a nation that Israel despised, that they protected themselves from. There are some deep lessons imbedded in this passage for us. Any culture, ethnic group or anyone with a different sexual orientation that you despise? Jesus calls them neighbors. God didn’t tell us to join them He told us to love them. If you take food to a friend who is grieving or ill – find a ‘neighbor’ to bless in that way too. Do you shovel a sidewalk for a friend? Find a ‘neighbor’ and PAY IT FORWARD.

I heard a song the other day, new to me, but it quickly became a favourite. Love is a Verb, by John Mayor. Love is not a thing, love is a verb. The song ends with this phrase: “So you gotta show me, show me, show, me, that love is a verb.”

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FORGOTTEN COMFORT

The bottom drawer in my bedside table holds an eclectic assortment of items: my blood pressure monitor, a wrist brace, neck brace and a couple stretchy exercise bands, among other things. In the long run, there was little reason for me to even look in that drawer unless I was having a problem.

This week I was having a problem of my own making. I was attempting to watch four football games over the weekend and that added up to a painfully stiff neck. Time to dig out the neck brace. I opened the drawer and gasped. Hundreds if not thousands of dried up weevil husks littered the drawer. With much shuddering I picked up each item and shook off the debris. Thankfully I didn’t see a sign of anything still living but so far I noticed no reason for the infestation.

Then I got to the bottom of the drawer and discovered the problem: a home-made microwavable heat pack. We all have them: filled with wheat, beans, corn or rice, like mine. It had often brought comfort to a stiff neck or shoulder but It wasn’t bringing comfort to me now.

A few things I would have preferred to keep, I tossed into the garbage, tied up the bags and heaved them immediately down the garbage chute in my building. I vacuumed until not one trace of a weevil was left in the drawer, under the drawer, in the drawer above or on the floor around the area. Since my vacuum is the bag-less I washed out the container and put the filter in the bathroom sink to soak overnight, maybe even for a week or two. Wow! Did I ever learn a lesson from that experience.

Then I began to see a spiritual application in this. Psalm 19:12 says: How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?  I’m sure there are sins that I intended to deal with and forgot. Is there is someone who I try to avoid? What sin in my heart is providing fodder for that ‘weevil’? On the sermon on the mount Jesus said:  If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Matt. 5:23. But in Col. 3:13 we are told “forgive anyone who offends you”. so no matter who is to blame for the tension, I am the one who needs to make it right. I shudder to think that finding weevils in a drawer is more horrifying to me than harbouring sin in my heart. The second part of Psalm 19:12 says, Cleanse me from these hidden faults.

Psalm 19:14. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O  Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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ME, MYSELF AND I

Me, Myself and I used to be a well used statement and as I think about it,  it has to be the height of selfishness. Not long ago I heard a message on salvation and selfishness. It had never occurred to me before that when salvation enters a life, selfishness must leave because selfishness is sin.

That makes perfect sense to me now. Salvation means having Christ as the center of my life. Selfishness means I am at the center of my life which brings with it greed, self-righteousness, pride and a host of other selfish characteristics.

One of the times when I was at my most selfish was when our five children were all seven and younger. It was during a church service in our very small church and I ended up in the tiny nursery, a room with a variety of well-used toys and out of hearing of the message. I looked around and realized every child in the nursery belonged to me.

“What on earth are we doing here?” I asked myself. Without another thought I gathered up my children, left the church and walked home, carrying one and coaxing the other four along. Home was a two-mile walk on a gravel road and I had lots of time to grumble and complain along the way. Why do I even go to church? I never get to hear a complete sermon. It didn’t occur to me that the Lord was listening to all my selfish thoughts until He said to me, “Church is not about you!”

What? Once that statement sank in, the Lord had a few more comments for me. “Church (at this time of your life) is about teaching your children how to worship. It is about building a firm spiritual foundation into their lives.” I could add a dozen other thoughts that came to mind but you get the idea.

The next Sunday I was back in church with all five kids but with a changed attitude and a different focus: make church a happy place for my children. Today those busy little children are grown with children and grandchildren of their own and all active in their churches.

I won’t say that I have never had another selfish pity-party in my life, but at least now I recognize selfishness as sin and deal with it as sin. That day comes to mind when I hear people complaining about the loud worship music, the lack of old hymns, the seeming lack of respect or the casual dress code and into my mind pops the statement, “church is not about YOU.” James 4:1 asks “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires within you (selfishness)?” James goes on for several verses talking about wanting what will give us pleasure.

In John 13: 34-35 Jesus says to us,” So now I am giving you a new commandment. Love each other just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  So if I am selfish what is the world seeing and thinking?

I enjoy doing word puzzles and especially Cryptograms, where the letters are in code to be figured out. This week I decoded one that stated, “Love is what is left over in a relationship when the selfishness is gone.”

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A WORLD VIEW

Yesterday I finished a week-long Kairos course on God the church and the world. I went into the course thinking I had a great world view, I prayed for missions, didn’t I? I kept up on world affairs, I have friends of other cultures and am comfortable in their homes and with their beliefs. I even gave to support missionaries. What more could there possibly be?

What a shock to discover that I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere as far as a world view is concerned. So here are a few of the things I learned and am still trying to assimilate.

I learned that there are over 6,000 unreached people groups in the world, people who don’t even know there is a creator God who loves them and a Saviour who died for them. Why is that when we have the internet, cell phones, jet travel and lots of money in our pockets?

When Watchman Nee first heard about Jesus, he asked, ‘How long have you known this?” When the answer was hundreds of years he asked, “Why haven’t you told us before?” Nee’s father spent his life searching for that message and died without hearing it.

I learned that when Christians in our culture improve their income (myself included), we usually eat better, dress better, renovate our houses and upgrade to a better vehicle, but seldom increase our giving to missions.

I learned that the countries that I have always considered our enemies, are ones Jesus died for and wants to reach. They don’t know about the great love God has for them. They think force is stronger than love and that they will win by killing Christians but they don’t know that, “the blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.”

I learned that there are countries in the world that were once almost 100% Christian but now need to be reached again.

I learned that in our culture we separate salvation and mission but Luke 24: 46 & 47 say, “…it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem.” THAT IS ALL ONE SENTENCE.

But most of all I learned what a genuine world view means. It means seeing what the Lord sees, it means having an overwhelming love for ‘my’ enemies, it means being delivered from selfishness and greed and it means having a generous heart.

To say the Kairos course changed my life may be a bit of an understatement. It changed my way of thinking, my emotions, my ambitions, my goals. In short, it changed my ‘Christian’ beliefs. It will take time to transform my selfish ways but at least now I know what the Lord expects of me.

There is more to prayer than, Lord bless them. There are things I can pray that will change the world. I can pray for wisdom and revelations for Christians working with refugees around the world, with Ebola patients in Africa or working with aid groups to people in crisis around the world.  I can pray that the Lord will give the Christians in refuge camps, in prisons, in dangerous situations, an overwhelming love for their fellow refugees, prisoners, sufferers and boldness to share God’s love.

Most of all I can pray that our affluent Christian culture will recognize that WE are the ones the Lord wants to use to accomplish His will.

 

 

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COMING UP THE ROAD

         The story of the prodigal son is one we have heard so often that it is easy to tune it out. But one day while reading the story in Luke 15, 11-31 the Lord stepped in. The last half of verse 20 jumped out at me. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.

            Two things struck me. First, the father was watching the road, and second, he was obviously watching in faith. It’s easy to slide into a feeling of hopelessness, to doubt the Lord’s ability to change our prodigal’s mind. I had to seek the Lord; confess my sin of doubt and ask Him to increase my faith. Then I began watching the road again, in faith, and I began see tiny little things happening. I learned to silently say thank you to the Lord and step back to let Him work. I had planted enough land mines on that road and I needed to stop.  

            Sometimes a prodigal quits phoning because they know they’ll get a sermon. We had to stop talking and start listening, not just to them but also to what we said to them. When our loved one asked a question, we learned to give a simple answer and then rejoice in private. If an unexpected Happy Father’s or Mother’s Day card appeared, a simple thank you was sufficient without any snide comment thrown in. When they let slip that they had gone to church or chatted with a Christian we swallowed our comments.

            The worst thing we can do is to think they’re standing on our doorstep, when really they are barely visible on the horizon. Hosea, chapter two, became my reference point. In verse 6 (speaking about Hosea’s unfaithful wife), the Lord fenced her in with thornbushes, blocked her path with a wall to make her lose her way…but then in verse 14 He says I will win her back again.” We must ask the Lord to put a hedge around our prodigal and let Him do it; allow the Lord to work until they come to the end of themselves and even then, only the Lord can win them back. If we silently watch, peeking out from behind the curtain of faith, we will see them slowly coming up the road.

     Too often as parents we bail them out of tough situations, cover for them or allow our minds to think up an alibi for them when what we really need to do is admit they need the Lords help. We need to give the Lord permission to deal with them, even if it seems harsh. He loves them more than we do and He knows where they are. He is also the only one who can disintegrate stumbling blocks and heal bruised emotions. That’s why Christ came.

     Put them in the Lord’s hands today.

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INTIMATE ALLIES

Intimate Allies, written by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman II, is the BEST book on marriage I have ever read. It was published in 1995 before we got married. A marriage covenant between a man and a woman, made in the presence of God, is meant to reflect the perfect relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As His image bearers a marriage should also reflect the covenant between God and His creation. Marriage involves ‘leaving, weaving and cleaving’. I love that statement.

In recent sermons we learned that selfishness and a fear of death are the two biggest issues in our lives. We are called to love one another, be kind, faithful, forgiving, righteous, holy, in short, the opposite of selfish. Dealing with our selfishness is the evidence that we have been reconciled to God. Dealing with our selfishness is evidence that we are committed in our marriage too.

It wasn’t always the case in our marriage. Both of us were headstrong, rebellious and selfish at age nineteen and twenty. Yes, Christ was a part of our marriage and prayer was important but it was a work in progress. This past year, from July 2013 to July 2014, we had five family weddings and although I planned to give that book as a wedding gift to each couple, I only got my act together once. I’m sorry about that,

The main idea of the book is that, united together as one, we reflect the glory and diversity of God. Marriage is not about you (single). It is about putting your spouse first, loving, respecting and encouraging them to be everything God intended for them. Intimate Allies is a book that helps couples work through that process.

Years ago, as we were being interviewed for a pastoral position, my husband was asked, “What would you do if your wife’s ministry became greater than your own?” Bless his heart, he replied that it would be fine with him. Not to worry, that never happened. But in some cases it does. If the wife does have the stronger ministry it is the husbands job to love, encourage her to be all that God wants her to be and protect her. A wife’s job is also to love her husband, respect him and encourage him to be all that God wants him to be, NOT making him into what she wants him to be.

It is probably safe to say that if there is trouble in a marriage it is because one or both parties have not dealt with their selfishness. In that light we can understand how the solution to problems in a marriage is to deal with our own selfishness. Sounds a little too simple? It’s not but Jesus offers us His resurrection power to overcome death AND selfishness.

Jesus spurned selfishness and embraced death. If we are His image bearers we have a lot to live up to.

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EVERY KNEE WILL BOW

I have never had any doubt in my mind that at some time every knee will bow before Christ, our Saviour, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord but when and how it would happen wasn’t so easy to figure out.

Everyone has the inner longing to worship, to reverence and pay homage to a greater being. God created us to have fellowship with, and worship Him but when sin entered the picture we became separated from our Creator and thus began the practice of worshipping someone or something else.

Some people worship the sun god or the moon goddess. People who have placed their belief in the stars follow Horoscopes. Those who have set their affection on the rain forest and the environment have made gods out of those areas. Many make their own idols out of wood or metal.

Then there are those who worship the body, beauty and strength and spend all their money on spas, exercise, tanning salons, health foods, tattoos, jewelry and designer fashions. Lets not forget the worship of money, possessions, the car, the boat, the big house, the cottage at the lake.

The act of bowing the knee is an indication of respect and reverence. People bow to royalty, whether they are actually loyal subjects or not. The bridegroom, traditionally kneels when he proposes, as a token of respect. These are only an image of what will happen when every knee bows before Jesus Christ. It will happen. People will have no option because one by one all objects of worship will disappear.

At death we leave behind all our wealth and possessions. Ecclesiastes 5:15 says we came into this world with nothing, we will carry nothing with us when we leave.
But there is an even greater event talked about in Matthew 24:29. “The sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Sad news for those who have spent a lifetime worshipping the sun or moon and following the stars.

Revelation 7:14 also tells us that “The sky was rolled up like a scroll and all the mountains and islands were moved from their places.” Revelation 8 describes the end of the trees, grass, the sea and everything in the sea. No more fighting to save endangered species, no more protests to save the rain forests, no more worry about keeping the water clean. People who have committed their lives to nature will face the one who created it all, the one who should have been worshipped all along.

You can choose now to worship the Eternal God or you can wait until you have no choice because some day there will be nothing and no one else left to worship. “Every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

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CONTENDING – PART TWO

I started Bible School three months after I became a Christian. I was hungry for truth, soaking up the Word of God like a sponge. I was taught the truth from the word but at that same time another issue was being debated in the churches. Healing in the Atonement was logical truth to some Christians, heresy to others. I believe in divine healing and have seen some amazing miracles but it has taken me fifty years to sort out in my own mind, the issue of ‘healing in the atonement’. If you believe in healing in the atonement, I love you. If you do not believe in healing in the atonement, I love you too.

When I shop for panty-hose I pick up the one-size-fits-all package. It doesn’t take any thought on my part and always fits. I do not believe healing is a one-size-fits-all ministry. God has limitless resources and every healing is unique. I do believe that healing is only possible because of Christ’s death and resurrection and I encourage people to ask their church elders for prayer for healing as James instructs us to do. God still has the prerogative to say yes, no, or wait.

When I was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) eight years ago there were many people who would have argued with me that it was an attack of Satan or it was discipline from God but not one person suggested it might be to glorify God. Not all sickness comes from Satan nor are all sicknesses or diseases contrary to the will of God. If they were, there would be no divine chastisement for God’s children. God had already told me He was calling me to the rigorous life of an Olympic athlete. I quickly realized that not every difficult thing in my life, not even illness, is evil. When the disciples asked Jesus who sinned, the blind man or his parents, Jesus’ answer was, ‘neither, but that the glory of God might be revealed’.

Why are we so quick to blame Satan for anything negative in our lives before we ask God what He is doing in the situation? Satan loves to be blamed for things like that. On the other hand, we could rejoice in the situation and glorify God.

When my ALS was declared benign five years later, I rejoiced, even though my speech was not restored. In some way the Lord will be glorified, maybe in an unusual way. One young lady, who is a hero in my sight, sought the Lord for healing from MS. God did not give her physical healing but instead He healed her spirit. Within six months, sixteen of her extended family came to the Lord. My goal is to glorify God in every situation and Christ is still my Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.

Another huge issue in the church is speaking in tongues. Since I can’t speak at all, this isn’t an issue with me. I believe tongues is one of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to God’s people. If you speak in tongues, I love you. If you do not speak in tongues I love you too. Tongues will probably always be a topic of discussion but if the tone of the discussion is not mutually congenial then the gift is not tempered with love. I Corinthians 13 tells us that if speaking in tongues is not tempered together with love it is an annoying clanging noise.

Paul lays out a test, in I Corinthians 12: 29-30, to help us sort out our thoughts about the gifts bestowed on God’s people.
Are all apostles? Answer: no.
Are all prophets? Answer: no.
Are all teachers, workers of miracles or have the gift of healing? Answer: no.
Do all speak with tongues? Answer: no.
Do all interpret? Answer: no.

If the question about tongues is the only one answered with a yes we need to re-check our doctrine on all spiritual gifts.

I close this blog with the following disclaimer: No one is always right and no one always wrong. But we are instructed to be always ready to give an answer…of the hope that is in us. I Peter 3:16.

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CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH

I love to argue. As a child I argued with my teacher about whether Alaska was frozen twelve months of the year. I knew vegetation grew in Alaska but my teacher also knew there were parts of Alaska that were frozen all year. I also argued with my Sunday School teacher that if Christ died for the sins of the world, all sins were forgiven. In my defense, when I was a child I thought as a child and I spoke as a child, (I Corinthians 13:11) but that verse also assumes that I grew up…wait a minute, is that verse suggesting that arguing is a childish thing? Busted!

When you finish reading this post you might hate me, you might never want to talk to me again but I guarantee some of you will want to argue with me. So I will tell you right now that there are some things I won’t argue about.

Many years ago I took a job as full time camp cook at a camp in Alberta. The previous cook was locally born and raised and I was an outsider. It didn’t take long to realize that no one could bake buns like the previous cook (PC) and no one could make taco sauce like the PC’s original sauce. That was all right with me, I wasn’t in the running for best bun-maker on earth. In fact, I am not in competition to be the best at anything and it pains me when people compete with me. It often takes a long time for them to realize I am not in the running.

So what is this issue about contending for the faith? At one time I was part of an inter-church prayer group. We prayed against strongholds in our city and we prayed protection for the spiritual gates of the city. Our main objective was to work together with God on behalf of His will for our city. I was surprised when the Lord gave me a vision. I was even more surprised when I shared the vision but it didn’t make any difference.

The vision: God was knocking on the door of our city, wanting to come in and pour out the blessings we had been praying for. In my visions, all the churches were like little children, excited to hear Him knocking, and like little children we rushed to the door, each one wanting to be the one to open the door. The result was, we held the door shut as we wrestled with one another. End of vision!

We continued on contending for the Christians who moved from church to church but is that really contending for the faith? Meanwhile, there were spiritually hungry people who didn’t know the Lord yet.

What does it actually mean to contend for the faith? Contend means to strive, struggle, argue, maintain. There are a lot of areas of contention in the church: the resurrection of the dead (a huge issue years ago); healing in the atonement; speaking in tongues to mention a few. This blog will give you my view of each issue. It pains me to think of all the days, months and years of debate, the hundreds of books and articles that have been written about these issues while the lost still wait for salvation.

I settled the issue of the resurrection of the dead years ago. If you are pre-millennium, I love you. If you are post-millennium, I love you too. Exactly what is the issue here? Who gets to heaven first? Be my guest. Sorry, I won’t be looking for you because I want to see my Saviour first of all. I am not pre-millennium, nor am I post-millennium, I am pan-millennium – it will all pan out in the end.

Titus 3:9 tells us to avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 6:20 to keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and in II Timothy 2:23, avoid foolish and unlearned questions that generate strife. I am sure there are people who have been gifted by God to maintain certain doctrinal issues but if the church as a whole gets pulled away from our ultimate goal of reaching the lost, then it has been taken too far.

We have five kids and when they were young it was sometimes difficult to know ‘what hill to die on’. We came up with this: Does it make any difference to your salvation? Ask yourself that when you begin to debate.

As I was writing this I realized the subject of contending couldn’t be dealt with in one post. So watch for Contending – part 2 where I will deal with healing and the tongues issue.

My main ministry is in prayer. You know what it means to be in cahoots with someone. Spelled kahootz – it is an internet term for ideas stored in ‘the cloud’ which is like a vault in cyber space to keep things safe for you. I thought it was a great application of the fact that I am in kahoots with you in prayer in heavenly realms, for whatever is on your heart. Send me your prayer requests via e-mail or fb message. Meanwhile – kahootz/w/u

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HOW FAR WILL YOU GO?

The recent news about forest fires in the north has brought back a lot of memories of the years we lived in Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta. We were there to share the message of salvation and that meant getting to know the people. So my husband, Dick, went to Hinton, Alberta, and trained to fight forest fires. During fire season the men in town were recruited to fight the fires and Dick volunteered. It was hot, hard, gruelling work and he would come home with huge carbuncle’s on his neck from the dirt and ash. But it was a small price to pay for the privilege of being with the men.

I have always been impressed with the story I heard of a Chinese Christian who stated that pastor’s in China did not cringe away from prison. They found it a place to commune with the Lord and also a place to tell other prisoners what Christ did for them.

It is easy to carry on with our everyday lives and hope that an opportunity will someday drop into our lap. But how far would you go to make it happen? One of the most moving accounts I ever heard is the story of a young couple we knew. Their church took on a new ministry and started a class for children with Down Syndrome. The response was amazing but this young wife realized there was another opportunity that went along with it. She started a Bible class for the mother’s who brought their children to the class and waited to take them home again.

It wasn’t long before she came up against a problem. “You don’t have a child with Down Syndrome, so you don’t understand our needs,” was what she constantly heard. She took that problem to the Lord. “Lord, open a way for me to reach these mothers,” was her prayer. Not much later she became pregnant. When their baby was born and the pediatrician came to her bedside regretfully telling her that her baby had Down Syndrome, her reply was, “It’s Ok.” The Lord had answered her prayer.

She went back to teaching the mother’s and they were ready to listen to what she had to say. Extreme? Maybe, but how far are you or I willing to go to reach someone with the gospel? That couple even went one step further. They adopted another baby with Down Syndrome.

We sing songs of worship telling the Lord that we give Him our heart, our soul and that we want every breath we take to glorify Him. But how far are we willing to go to make that happen? Christ gave His all to provide salvation for us. How much are we willing to do to for Him?

Our answer should be, “Whatever it takes, Lord, whatever it takes.”

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