Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kindness of Strangers...

My first vehicle was a 1986 Chevy S-10. A small white truck with manual transmission, it was good enough. Good enough to get me to high school and good enough to hold an old mattress in the back for months, because I was too lazy to take it to the dump when I got a new bed. This latter fact was the cause for much humor among my friends, suggesting a mystique about my love life that was out of sync with what was reality. The truck wasn't, however, good enough to make it to Oklahoma City via Wichita Falls, which landed me on the receiving end of a generous act of kindness by a stranger.

My sister had a friend in Wichita Falls, I had a friend in Oklahoma City, and my parents had a fear of us driving anywhere in that old pickup truck. But after high school, the tug to assert our independence and create geographical distance was stronger than any arguments on behalf of common sense. So we set out to visit friends.

The plan was to drive through the Metroplex and dump my sister off in Wichita Falls as quick as possible. I would then drive north toward Oklahoma City and experience my first real vacation as an adult. Somewhere around Forney, on the east side of Dallas, the little white truck began to overheat. I pulled over and waited for a mechanic to open, at which point I was advised that the truck wouldn't make it very far. This wasn't good enough for me. What this pagan didn't know was that I had the secret power of prayer on my side, and this would get me to Oklahoma and back with no problems. I would just stop every twenty or so miles to rest the engine.

And this did work, for a while. We rolled into Wichita Falls several hours later, engine puttering but still moving us forward. Yet after dropping my sister off at her friend's apartment, the truck wouldn't start. I called a garage, who sent a tow truck over to pick it up. Sitting in the lobby of the garage was like waiting for news in the hospital waiting room.

I wasn't consciously thinking this, but I was sitting there awaiting bad news because I was trying to escape. We've all been there. Adult enough at 20 to be mobile, child enough to wander, I wanted to be anywhere other than with my parents. The diagnosis would determine whether or not my escape would be complete.

I knew (and know) nothing about car language, but I knew the words "cracked block" couldn't be good. I definitely knew enough about money to understand that $1600 wasn't good either, since that's not a lot less than the actual cost of the truck.

A nervous call to my dad revealed a truth about good parents-- A concern for their children's safety is always greater than anger over poor decisions. Oh, there was anger, but it wasn't all consuming. My parents showed me more grace than I deserved (which, I suppose, is the very definition of grace) and offered to pay to have the truck fixed. And if my friend would pick me up, then they would drive to Wichita Falls to take care of the truck.

My friend, also showing more grace than my friendship probably merited, agreed to drive the two and a half hours to pick me up.

I sat in the lobby of the garage, late in the afternoon, happy that things were working out, a little embarrassed at the situation I found myself in. It was closing time and I was about to be run off. I supposed I would have to wait outside for my friend. But as he was leaving, the guy who drove the tow truck for the garage offered to take me to his house to have dinner with his family.

And so I found myself in a lower-middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of a relatively insignificant middle-sized city, eating dinner with a family who had an oversized sense of kindness and hospitality. Looking back on how I carried myself back then, I suppose I was maybe a little too interested in whether or not my hosts "knew the Lord," and probably even tried to wedge a mention of Jesus into the conversation. I presumed they had Catholic leanings, because they were hispanic, but I couldn't be sure.

But I guess how I viewed them, in retrospect, is kind of irrelevant. Looking back all I can remember is that a small blip of my life was spent with a family who took a chance on giving kindness to a stranger. The funny thing about people like this is, when you talk to them, they don't see it as "taking a chance." They are agents of grace. They don't concern themselves with accolades or praise, but they "do unto others" in ways that most of us struggle muster enough courage to even consider.

I don't remember the family's name, or even the name of the mechanic. That was so many years ago. I doubt they even think about me. But I like to think that meal, discussing life and awaiting redemption, has lingered in my being, making me a little bit more the person I'm supposed to be.
(WBG, thought you may enjoy that memory.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Save the Clocktower...

Because it took a significant amount of time to get anywhere important, other than Tyler, (that is, if you consider Tyler important,) when we went anywhere it was considered a long trip. Dallas was an hour. The great childhood Mecca of Six Flags, over an hour and a half. Even traveling to football games in other rural communities required a good chunk of your day.

Many times our excursions outside Chandler took us away until late at night. Because I've mostly been an early riser all my life, I would generally be asleep during these long trips. But strangely enough, for my entire childhood I would always wake up at the same place every single time. The intersection of Highways 31 and 315, when I was a young child, was simply a blinking red light, the kind where you wait your turn, but don't really need any more assistance than the compass of kind behavior. Later it turned into an all-out traffic signal, complete with red, green, and yellow. But as long as I can remember, at the northeast corner of the intersection a small bank has sat with a short tower perched atop the building, just diagonal from what used to be a downtown square. On top of the tower, visible to any child just waking up from a long journey, is a large clock, hands and all.

There are digital clocks spread all throughout the "new urbanism" developments springing up like crazy around the country, but those analog clocks rising above old city centers had a binding power that no amount of fancy landscaping and shiny numerical time-tellers can compete with. Of course, you can't bring these things up to many around you, especially those who worship at the altar of "progress," trading in time tested routines of work, play, and rest for a continual drive to get places faster than the next guy. If you're lucky, they'll say you are "resistant to change." Usually, though, the snickers and stares will be of a more condescending variety, with a mention of Andy Griffith thrown in or insinuated, as if that were an insult.

To those who came before me, that clock served as a reminder of where they were. Because everyone had equal visual access, it reminded them who they were with. It's location showed them where they were headed.

For people like me, as a road-weary child ready for the comforts and familiarity of that little brick house on Neches, it rang out silently that home wasn't far off. Remember the journey, celebrate the homecoming, and take a moment to look into the faces of your fellow travelers. Because time doesn't stop at the intersection of Highways 31 and 315.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Climbing Jacob's Yadder, Part 2...

Back in April, I climbed Jacob's Ladder in Cameron Park with Jude and Sutton. (It was described HERE.) Today we made our second excursion up the steep staircase made of hard concrete.

In my car on the way to get some Sno Cones, I asked the boys what they wanted to do afterward. They have somehow all of a sudden taken to conferring information to each other through whispering in each other's ear, hands cupped to prevent my eavesdropping. I've never been sure at what age this comes into vogue, but I guess five is about right. After careful deliberation, Sutton announced that they wanted to "go climb Jacob's Yadder." Only he didn't say "Jacob's Yadder." He said "Jacob's Ladder," and it was a little sad.

It's obvious that we all want the children in our lives to grow up and mature into articulate, intelligent, and caring people. But when they take those big leaps, such as pronouncing those difficult "L's," and making it up Jacob's Ladder long before you do, without the need for you to follow behind with your hands prepared to catch them, you kind of feel you have lost something.

In many ways this is true of all the seasons of our lives, with or without children. Times change, people move on, the realization that you can never go back kicks in and you begin to have the sneaky suspicion that something has been lost, never to be retrieved. History remains inside you, but doesn't allow you to remain in it's company. These transitions are difficult. But we find ourselves on the other side a little weathered, a little beat up, but ready to see what's next.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I've had the day off. Other than attending the Waco Community Race Relations Coalition dinner and quarterly meeting this evening, because I'm a social justice lovin', Community Race Relatin', fool who loves a good meal, I did much of nothing. I took two long walks with Jane, one long nap, and read a little in Dave King's The Ha-Ha. It was a well needed day off.

Perhaps you've noticed from the darkness and slight bitterness of some of my recent posts, I'm a little burned out on these days I've been inhabiting. I'm in serious need of a vacation before I really start telling people what I think. I'm hopefully taking a week off from work in late October. I'll probably be in the Dallas area most of that time, attending the wedding of a very close friend and seeing Blake, who will be coming in from Seattle.

Not much more to say. I've got a busy couple of days ahead, so it'll probably be Sunday or Monday before I have something else for you. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19...

Hello old friends
There's really nothing new to say
But the old, old story bears repeating
And the plain old truth grows dearer every day
When you find something worth believing
Well, that's a joy that nothin' could take away
--Rich Mullins, Hello Old Friends

Ten years ago September 19 fell on a Friday. Two days later, after church on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with a hint of coolness just over the horizon, I decided to take a nap in the tiny dorm room that was my home for the year I was a Resident Assistant. I've always needed some sort of music playing to help me get to sleep, so I placed in my casette-tape walkman Rich Mullins' album The World as Best as I Can Remember it: Volume 2. Somewhere along the way the tape must have ended, but I woke up confused. Evidently I had turned the switch on the radio function, and was listening to the Christian radio station, but they were playing Rich's Hello Old Friends. , which was straight off the album I was listening to. After the last line, "Knowin' morning follows evening/Makes each new day come as a gift," the DJ came on and said they were honoring the life and legacy of Rich Mullins, who had died the previous Friday.

The 90's, for me, were full of the beginnings of all-that-is-sickeningly-slick about American evangelical culture. Christian music became tolerable, thereby making the Gospel marketable, putting us all on the path to McChurch and the subsequent reactionary Emerging Church movement. Yet in the midst of all this, Rich Mullins was a true prophet. He called the American Church to remember the ancient ideals of the revolutionary simplicity of faith, hope, and love.

For many of us, Rich was the first person who ever told us that spiritual things are most often the everyday things. In an article that eerily echoed Kyle's last sermon, Rich wrote the following about those routine moments in which holiness resides:

It is for those every-once-in-a-while kind of moments - far more than for those once-upon-a-time ones - that we can be most thankful. It is in those moments that we find some sense of who we are. Regardless of how grand or how common the event of the moment is, in it we see ourselves at our absolute best - focused, poised and pure - no compromise, no ulterior motives, no self deception or pretense. We see what we are like when we have no point to prove or score, no bills to fit, no scrutinizing to endure... We meet again that child in us who stills loves to swim naked in the cold, quick-running waters of the now - the child in us who can feel in his skin and very bones the warmth and brilliance of the sun. In those moments there is that flash of astonishing recognition: this is not a child who is merely in us - this child is us.

I often wonder what camp Rich would have ended up in during the past several years of further fragmentation of evangelicals. My guess is that he would have fallen out of view to live out the rest of his days with the Native American tribe he had grown to love. There seemed to be a genuine reticence toward celebrity in his tone. Not just a fake "Aw, shucks, go on," but a genuine disdain for attention... something all of us, including me, could bear to have a little more of.

Above all us, when I think of Rich Mullins, I think of the words that have haunted me since I first heard them over ten years ago-- " took the hand of God almighty, to part the water and the sea/But it only took one little lie, to separate you and me/ Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are." What a gift to be able to package such a colossal message into such few words.

So today, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Rich Mullins' death, may we celebrate those small moments, the ones that normally pass us by. May we run headlong into the dangerous grace of a God that is often too-big-for-comfort. And may we remember the saints we are to each other, walking in each other's midst.

(If you want to know more about Rich Mullins, my favorite website that has archived his songs and articles can be found HERE.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Messy Ecclesiology...

The cover story of a recent Charisma Magazine featuring the worship band of a certain church here in Waco began by stating that the front man of this particular band is "taking Christian music to a whole new level. And he's doing it from a Baptist Church full of college students." The sentence didn't read "And he's doing it from, GET THIS!, a BAPTIST church...," but I've been around enough to know that a sense of surprise at (and a subtle disdain of) the particular denominational heritage of a church that is impacting the worship music of a generation was most definitely implied.

Unlike many of the people I know who grew up in a Baptist church, I get a little defensive when others say or imply things about Baptists out of ignorance. Most students at the small Texas Baptist university I attended took great pains to distance themselves from being identified as a Baptist. If anyone asked them about what kind of church they attended, they would say something like "Well, I'm a Christian who just happens to be Baptist." (Of course, this was before it became sexy to call yourself a Christ Follower instead of Christian.) I've always found this a little strange, because I think most people who would ask anyone about their church probably have learned sometime during their lives that Baptists are typically Christian.

But people can only speak to what they know, and what many people know of what it means to be Baptist is understandably limiting. Whether it be from experience or hearsay, most, if asked to give a description of a Baptist church, would give an array of answers on topics ranging from the abstention from alcohol, dancing, and humor to the singing of hymns written in the 40's and 50's out of hymnbooks from the 70's. The interesting thing is, pretty much everyone would be correct in at least part of what it means to be Baptist. We are much more diverse than you may think. And the great thing is that we are allowed to be.

When I was a junior or senior in high school there was a business meeting at the church I had been a part of since birth that stands out, in retrospect, as one of the greatest testaments to me of what it means to be Baptist. These meetings typically followed a standard procedure, kind of loosely along the lines of Robert's Rules of Order. We opened with prayer then heard reports on people who wanted their membership moved from our church to another. (Letters, anyone?) After a financial report there would then be recommendations from various committees of the church. Each of these segments would be followed by a discussion and then a vote. It could be as tedious as bathing a cat, as we voted from things as significant as purchasing land to the seemingly mundane and no-brainer-in-Texas decision of whether or not to fix a broken air conditioning unit.

I cannot remember what the subject at hand was in this particular meeting, but I remember two things-- 1.) It was quite contentious and 2.) Whatever it was about didn't seem like a big deal to me. It was strange seeing people who spent life together, took care of each other's children, even took turns bailing each other out of sticky financial situations, arguing like children over something that seemed so trivial.

And another interesting sight-- The pastor, who moderated these meetings, stood in front of the congregation watching his side of the discussion being marginalized, reduced to just another opinion in a room full of equals. He looked absolutely wounded. I actually thought I saw a little tear of anger flow down his reddened face. It was an extremely uncomfortable moment to be a part of. It retrospect, though, it is a beautiful memory.

After I graduated high school and left town, I also parted ways with the church whose memory I've grown to love, perhaps more than the actuality of being there. In the years that passed the tensions grew among various factions in the church. Shortly after I left, a large chunk of the church left to become a part of another Baptist church outside of town, a church that has thrived ever since the new influx of people. A few years later those who remained turned on each other, resulting in about half of the congregants leaving to form a new church, almost equidistant from the original and the destination of the first diaspora.

The pastor stuck around for a few years, eventually getting the church to "follow his vision" in constructing a much-too-large building with money that didn't exist. As is the story with many small-town congregations, after proving he could "lead," he left the church with massive debt and a building with way too many unfilled seats.

This story shows that Baptists can be petty, childish, and vindictive, like most real people. It speaks of our human tendency to take our toys and go home when things don't go our way, and is indicative of a people who have splintered too many times to count over the course of history. But it also also acknowledges a tradition that, while far from perfect, celebrates community in ways that are holy and messy and everything good about living out our faith in the midst of each other.

There are books and movements popular these days that extol the virtues of embracing messiness in our approach to church and spirituality. People are beginning to acknowledge that God's movement among us can be equally felt when all the edges don't come out clean and the loose ends are frayed as when things turn out evident and clear.

Perhaps nothing creates more messiness in church life than certain Baptist distinctives. Ideas such as Soul Competency and The Priesthood of all Believers, in flowery religious language, celebrate the ability of every person to approach God, and make religious decisions on their own without coercion from the "spiritual elite." In more streetwise vernacular, however, they are a big middle finger and a sonic-boom-loud "Eph You" to the presumption of any single person who believes their position with God and among other believers makes them better able to exercise decisions about church life than anyone else. These distinctives are why Baptist churches tend toward congregational decision-making.

I don't believe every church should be one-member/one-vote in all decision making. The way most non-rural congregations are, it's hard (and I believe unwise) to strictly define who is and who isn't a member. And, frankly, there are decisions such as whether or not to replace a broken air conditioner in Texas, in the middle of the summer, that would be foolish to wait until a business meeting to make.

But I do believe churches silence the voice of the congregation at their own peril. Sure, things run more smoothly, facades remain in place, and most people in the pews could care less. But when large decisions are made unilaterally by the strongest, or most prominent, personalities, a sense of loss is felt among those whose very lives and vitality are centered around the life of the church. Long dissertations on "community" become empty and meaningless when community is encouraged in every corner of our lives together, except where important decisions are concerned.

The irony is that when big decisions are handed to the congregation, if true life-giving community is going on, the congregation will typically look at it and discuss it reverently, give guidance, then hand it right back and say "Ok, we trust you, because we know you. We know you do not take your responsibility lightly. We know your devotion to God and to the church, and so we believe you'll make the right decision here." When this happens then value, God-given, extravagantly holy value, can be acknowledged in the lives of everyone from the biggest rock star to the lowliest person of simple faith.

Otherwise, no matter how many times we repeat the word community, we might as well just cross ourselves and face Rome.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Quote of the Day...

A little old lady walked up to the information desk at Barnes and Noble. She strained through her bifocals to see the title of a book we have featured. As many old people are prone to do, she spoke her thoughts out loud as they were coming to her, and here's what I heard under her breath...

"Bill Clinton...Giving... Huh...Wouldn't his expertise be more in GETTING?"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We are told by well meaning poets and prophets alike to look at the seasons. In their changing, in the fact of the inevitable-ness of their changing, we see a metaphor for life that reminds us that change will come regardless of our attempts to hold it back. Like the seasons, our life will go through periods of change.

Yet I find this comparison lacking. In a month or so, when the leaves change and loosen their grips on the branches, and when the air blows through town with a faint whiff of coolness, it will be something familiar. Different, yes, from the searing heat and humidity our locale affords us. But familiar all the same, for I know what Autumn feels like.

I've found that when my life goes through change, it's never something familiar. It is always foreign, the product of some distant reality that I have not been given the tools to deal with. People tell me change will come, there is a season for everything.

The bitch is that, where real life is concerned, there are an infinite number of seasons, not just four.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I had really begun to doubt Waco's commitment in revitalizing downtown. Sure, the frame of the new Chamber of Commerce building is going up as we speak in Heritage Square, but other than that things move too slow. Since I moved to Waco it's all I've heard about, but I've seen no real action.

Until Tuesday.

I was running down Austin Avenue and what glorious sight did these eyes behold? On the bottom floor of the One Liberty Place building, in the space formerly occupied by The Atrium Cafe is a sign that reads Cafe Cappuccino. Yes it's true, my favorite place for coffee, chocolate chip pecan pancakes, and reading the Waco Tribune Herald is moving from it's hard-to-reach location on Bosque to downtown.

Let the revitalization begin!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This morning Christopher Hitchens was interviewed in MSNBC about his books God is Not Great and Thomas Paine and the Right's of Man. Hitchens is about the only person in public life whose worldview can truly be refered to as unique. No one, except perhaps Laura Bush (and that could probably be debated,) is a bigger supporter of President Bush's War in Iraq. In this, Hitchens is firmly in line with about the 30% of people who support the President, of which most are evangelicals. Yet of all the atheists out there, few are more vocal about it than him. Hitchens' belief is not just that there is no God, or that a belief in God is childish, but rather that any acknowledgement of a deity by anyone is just downright dangerous.

He pulled Mother Teresa into his fold by insinuating that her recently released writings prove that she didn't believe in God. What she actually said, however, was that she went for years without feeling the presence of God, which, from the things I have read, seems to be a condition many giants of faith have found themselves in.

After the interview with Christopher Hitchens, Joe Scarborough then had on presidential candidate, and former Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee. His comments were the stuff of all-that-is-good about the Old Time Religion. He didn't try to one up Hitchens with a reasoned apologetic. Nor did he suggest that it was all ok, Hitchens' view was just as valid as anyone else's, that none of it mattered as long as we all get along. He simply said that he felt responsible to live his life for the only one who, in the end, will judge his life.

Apologetics weren't taught much at ETBU, but it was one of the favorite extra-curricular activities of students readying to enter "the world." And honestly, I don't believe there is anything wrong with that. There are those whose lives will be transformed by the Good News, and the only way they will accept the News as credible is if someone gives them intellectually viable evidence, of which I believe there is plenty.

But what most of us have to give is what people like Mother Theresa and Mike Huckabee have to give-- faithful obedience to our creator in spite of all the evidence that suggests such a way of living is foolish. On most days, especially recently, the stuff stirring within me is doubt and uncertainty and feelings that perhaps the best days are over. These are not the ingredients of what passes for a "believer" these days. But I'm not a believer because I know that I know that I know. I'm a believer because I choose to believe, even though some days the choice is harder than others.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

September 9...

Earlier in the year I took a few days of vacation with the intention of writing about my life and the life of my friends since the death of Kyle. Twenty pages later and I realized that I couldn't get past the death part. All that was there was was the story before. Here is a short chapter...

On September 9, 2005 we celebrated my 31st birthday at Ninfa’s, Kyle's favorite Mexican restaurant. It was a small affair attended by several old-ish UBC’ers as well as my new friends Josh and Lindsay. Afterwards we headed back to my place on Austin Avenue for some of the best peach cobbler in the world made by Tracey.

We sat around the table for what felt like hours, telling stories and laughing and enjoying just being with each other. At one point toward the end of the evening I went into the kitchen to refill my drink. Kyle followed and we ended up spending a few moments in the kitchen just shooting the bull. Before we headed back to join everyone else, he did something that was vintage Kyle-- He spread his arms wide in an invitation to join him in a hug, looked me in the eye and said in his high pitched sing-song voice, "Happy Birthday." We hugged for a moment and in that moment he asked, "You know I love you, don’t you?"

I did know. But I needed to hear. I placed those words deep into my being and have pulled them out continually for the past 14 months.

I think my birthday from now on will always be about that moment.

Tonight people gathered to celebrate my 33rd, and it was truly good. I left thinking about something that I remember someone saying once-- That if you make it to the end of your life with just one good friend, then you should consider yourself blessed. If this is true, then my blessings are overflowing in a ridiculously extravagant manner. I've had a difficult few weeks, weeks in which I've felt that my rope has come to the end, and there's still a lot of air between me and the ground. But I have the parachute of knowing that the love of more than a few people, who will walk with me regardless of how flat I feel, will keep me breathing and my heart pounding for the Next Day coming.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kyle Lake Foundation...

Please help me spread the word about the 1st Annual Kyle Lake Memorial Golf Tournament held at Cottonwood Creek here in Waco. Here is the website to the Kyle Lake Foundation. There is a link to the left of the page about the tournament. There are a few ways you can help...

1. Sign up to play in the tournament.
2. Become a sponsor. If you or anyone you know, such as your church, work, or
friends, have the means to help financially, there is a list of sponsorship
opportunities on the site.
3. Help spread the word. Put a link to the foundation website, and mention the
tournament on your blog, myspace, or facebook page.

Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cause for Celebration...

Let me be the first to announce over the airwaves of cyberspace that Blair Browning is now DOCTOR Blair Browning, Ph.D.

Blair is one of best, and I'm extremely happy for him.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Left Behind...

"You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin ...
Did You ever know loneliness?
Did You ever know need?
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You're up there just playing hard to get?" --Rich Mullins, Hard to Get

Last week at work a boy around nine or ten came up to the information desk to let us know he was lost. His shoulders were tense and his lips quivered, clinging tight to his teeth in a futile effort to keep himself composed without crying. The fear of being lost and the shame of feeling just a bit too old to be admitting it was painfully palpable. It's as if he was telling us to help him, but please forget he acted this way when his parents show up.

Things turned out ok. His dad showed up after taking his little brother to the restroom. But at the end of the ordeal, and over the past few days, there has been a painful realization come over me-- I am that kid. Over the past several weeks I have felt completely...Lost. From work to church to just every day living, it seems as if I've been left behind.

It all makes me think about that lone sheep that the shepherd left the other ninety-nine to go find. I wonder if that sheep found him or herself lost and was fearful at it's helpless state. Or was it like me? Did it get a little pissed that the shepherd and the other sheep didn't follow him down into the valley?

Regardless, the helpless feeling of being lost is no less painful even if you suspect your condition is all of your own making. Either way, you are still walking around in the dark, thinking that everyone else got the invitation to the easy party while you are left trying to find your way home. This feeling may not be justified, but feelings are feelings, no matter what brings them on.

Yet I suppose this is the reason Hope exists-- There has to be another option to being lost, or else the fear and shame would be nothing more than manic emotions with no root in reality. So I cling to Hope. And if Hope has taught me anything, it's that when you finally get found again, things will not be the same as before. Life becomes altered, but it becomes a little easier to walk, or at least crawl, in the New World you find yourself in.