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Okay for throw back Thursday we are going to throw it way, way, back! Its 1975 at Tulsa Adventist Academy . Oklahoma City is not known for the Thunder but it has a nice zoo. John Erling is waking Tulsans up every morning on KRMG, telling them to ski the Tulsa mountains. We are having our classes in the Sabbath School rooms in the church across the parking lot, while new classrooms are being built along with a new gym.
On this particular morning, I am sitting with my third and fourth grade class, listening to a lecture given by our teachers, Mrs. Sharon Krueger, and Miss Peggy Fisher. I don’t really remember what we did wrong this time. I vaguely remember it may have had something to do with, where did we all hide the score sheets, or chalk and erasers or Jimmy Hoffa. Actually there is only one thing that I remember vividly from the lecture, as if it was yesterday. While Miss Fisher was trying to set us all straight, she told us,
“If you only learn one thing from us this year, we want you to always remember that we love you.”
Funny. I remember that! Actually that is the only thing I do remember from that talk that day or even the whole day itself. In the fourth grade I was already clamoring for acceptance. I really knew nothing about football at that point, but all the other guys in my class were all talking football so I wanted to join in and sound cool. “I can’t wait for this Sunday” I said. “Why?” The other boys asked. “Because the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Oklahoma Sooners!” I answered, not thinking ahead on how quickly that lie would be found out. I just made it up to have something to add to the conversation. Of course the other boys made me feel like a fool when they quickly told me they are not even in the same league or level. A lie I thought would get me “in” just made me look stupid and ignorant.
Welcome Back Kotter, was a popular sitcom at the time, and at the end of each show, Kotter, played by Gabe Kaplan, would tell a joke to his wife. I decided I was a comedian, and announced to Miss Fisher that I would have a joke to tell each day at lunch. Problem is I didn’t know any jokes, and making them up as I went along did not amuse the kids or the teachers.
So you can imagine, what good news it was that I was loved. I didn’t have to make up lies anymore to be accepted. I didn’t have to make up witty jokes to be liked. I was loved. I was accepted just the way I was.
Miss Fisher taught me more than just that I was loved, but that is the one thing I remember. By being loved I did not have to spend all my time thinking of silly jokes and lies to tell, and I could now focus confidently on my school subjects. I hated diagramming and structuring sentences back then. How was I to know back in 1975 how important that would be, and that I would be writing sermons and blog posts and lessons and devotionals for a living? How was I suppose to know that I would be substitute teaching at another TAA, Tampa Adventist Academy 40 years later, and would meet a kid like me, who really did not want to spend their time structuring sentences, but I would assure them how important it is. How did I know back in the fourth grade that one day I would be teaching my regular weekly Bible class at Tampa Adventist Academy, and would meet students who’s greatest need was knowing that they are loved and accepted so they can behave and learn?
In Miss Fisher’s 40+ years of teaching and working in the education field, I am not the only young person she has mentored. In addition to Tulsa Adventist Academy, places like Parkview in Oklahoma City, and Gentry, Arkansas, and Philadelphia, PA and Valley Grande Academy in Wesleco Texas benefited greatly from her teaching and mentoring. She has also served as educational superintended in New England and the Rocky Mountain SDA conferences, among other places. Later she returned to where her passion lies, in the classroom, at Gold Coast SDA school in Oregon.
Its teachers appreciation week, and I want to thank all of my teachers for mentoring and teaching me. I realize now, as a teacher-Bible Instructor, that teachers get paid regardless if the kids learn or not. The passion teachers pour into their jobs and into their kids is not for a paycheck. They could care less and still get a check. Teachers go the extra mile and often times make themselves unpopular in doing so because they care. They care so much, that their popularity and approval rating does not matter to them as much as making sure students succeed. If you have to occasionally make a student or even parent dislike you in order to make them successful then so be it!
In the fourth grade I had Miss Fisher pushing me and encouraging me to do my best, all the time assuring me, no matter how bad my test scores were, or corny my jokes were, or how little I knew about football, I was always loved and accepted. Today she is on my Facebook cheering me on, liking all my corny comments, and sending me notes on how proud she is of me.
Well today Miss Peggy Fisher, we want you to know, from Philadelphia, PA to the Gold Coast of Oregon just how proud we are of you! For over 40 years you have taught and prepared us for practical living by teaching us Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, as well as preparing us to thrive emotionally, by stressing while you were teaching, that you really did care. Today I know even more just how much you care. You don’t get paid to care about me anymore, but You still do in every conversation or email that we share.
Auto correct can fix misspelled words but it can’t make a kid feel special. Google can give you facts and information, but it can’t make you feel accepted, and give you a sense of belonging in the world. Thank God for teachers who do more than just teach. They care!
Miss Fisher, I know you are retiring from the classroom, but your passion for learning and mentoring continues. Its not your job. Its you. Enjoy your retirement and THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES!
In light of recent debates on creation or the existence of God, here are my thoughts, I am sharing simply because I have not seen them shared anywhere else and I believe they are important.
Its infinitely impossible to believe we came from a big bang or just evolved. Its infinity times infinity impossible to believe that we just evolved or came from a big bang, and oh by the way, we just happen to be able to reproduce with each other.
If the Biblical guidelines for sex are not real, then why does sex outside of those guidelines leave us with emotional scars that can only be healed by the forgiveness and agape love found in the Bible? (An unbeliever may say the scars come from our man made “religious hangups” about sex, yet unbelievers are scared by immoral and sexual abuse too, so it has to be more than just our own man made “hangups.”)
At creation we were given the Sabbath and marriage/sex. Satan has done his best to make us forget we have a Creator by making a counterfeit Sabbath and counterfeit (immoral) sexual relationships which lead us back to number 2.
Sometimes we think something is over when it hasn’t even begun yet.
Texas has some beautiful sunsets. I don’t know why I didn’t get any pictures of them while I was living there. I wasn’t really a photographer back then, and didn’t realize how few pictures I had of my life in Texas until I got ready to move. I wanted pictures to take with me, so my good friend and photographer Danielba, started taking all kinds of pictures of my friends and myself so I could take the memories of Texas with me to Florida.
As a child we often took vacations to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida, and also the Pacific and Atlantic. However as an adult I did not have much opportunity for travel. I remember living in North Texas, and seeing a picture book someone had of ships, and thought to myself that I probably won’t ever see any ships again like I did when I was a kid. Finally in the fall of 2003 I had a weekend where I was not scheduled to preach anywhere. I decided that was my chance, to finally see the Gulf of Mexico again, so I drove down to Galveston and spent the weekend. I thought I better take advantage of this opportunity because it had been so long since I had seen the gulf I did not know when and if I would get another chance. In the fall of 2003 I had no clue that the spring of 2004 would find me living in Tampa, Florida just minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and just over a couple hours from the Atlantic Ocean.
The last few years of my life in Texas I worked in the middle of the night to early morning at UPS and then went to my day job, where I got off work just in time to go home to bed and start all over again. Often I would get home from my day job late, and would hurry from my car to my apartment just so I could go to bed and get up at 2 AM to go to work again. As I walked briskly to my apartment I would pass my neighbors sitting on their patios barbecuing, or just enjoying a lemonade (yeah I’m sure that’s what it was) and a sunset. I thought to myself, that I am so busy working all the time I will never get a chance to just relax and see another sunset. I was too caught up in my daily routine to realize it was only temporary.
After moving to Florida, while I still work hard and long hours for God, He blesses me with moments, when He calls me to relax with Him for a while and enjoy some sunsets, that at one time my overworked and fatigued mind thought I would never see again.
Here are some of my favorite sunset pictures I have taken over the years here in Florida.
This picture is one of the first I ever took, and hundreds of pictures later, is about my favorite. I like the way the sun and colors reflect off the clouds. I love being on the beach at sunset, as an eerie calm, seems to quiet and still everyone on the beach as they watch the sunset. A timeless feeling creeps over everyone as the same sun that set over the waters six thousand years ago completes another circuit.
Daytona Beach is a sunrise picture of course. A few days after buying my brand new 2007 Hyundai Accent, I woke up one morning at 3AM. As I laid in bed wide awake, it dawned (pun intended) on me that if I left right now I could get to Daytona in time to see the sunrise. So I did. Then I had breakfast at McDonald’s and drove back home and went to work.
I bet you’ve seen enough so I will stop there. Thanks for letting me share my pictures and memories with you. I know God has more wonderful memories and scenes of His majestic grandeur to come for both you and I!
So after working so many 16+ hour days, with no time to even pause to watch a sunset, God knew the desires of my heart, and has blessed me with many memorable sunsets. God knows the desires of your heart too and loves you just as much!
I have always found cemeteries to be intriguing places. No, I am not morbid or obsessed with death. I am a people person, and people’s biographies interest me. I like reading the information on people’s gravestones and putting their stories together. When I was 14 my family visited Washington D.C. and Arlington National Cemetery. While there I somehow made a wrong turn, and lost my family for a while, causing me to roam the cemetery, contemplating the sacrifices represented by all the grave stones, as I wandered alone, lost in my own thoughts. Looking back, I think I got more out of the visit by being alone for a while. I also published a blog post a while back about another encounter I had, while exploring a cemetery. When I have time, I enjoy going to the Find A Grave website and reading people’s biographies. It is not about their death it is about their life.
Late this afternoon I visited the Oak cemetery in Fort Smith Arkansas, and solved an old mystery. When I was a kid I would go with my parents to see my maternal grandfather’s grave. While there I ran across another grave stone which became a perplexing mystery to me. As I remembered, the tombstone had two pictures, one each of twin boys who both died on their 16th birthday. It haunted me, how they died and why they both died on their birthday? Did they get a new car for their birthday and have an accident? A swim party turned tragedy? I knew there was a story. Sometimes I feel sad, because I don’t have my own kids to tell my life story to. Everyone deserves to have their story told, and I wanted to know their story. Why did they both die on their 16th birthday?
Decades after last visiting my grandfather’s cemetery, I was on the Internet one night and decided to try to find their story. I did not remember their names or any dates, so I just tried Googling search terms like, “Twins die on their birthday Fort Smith” and so forth but found nothing. I then decided I had to return to the cemetery, find their gravestone, get their names and Google them to find their story. While spending time in nearby Tulsa, Oklahoma this week, I decided now is the time. My mother graciously agreed to make the 100 mile trip, just to search for a tombstone and get the names off it. Well, that is not all we accomplished. My aunt Mary from Gentry Arkansas and her daughter Eva, who both used to live in Fort Smith agreed to meet us in Fort Smith, along with a couple of my mother’s cousins still living in Fort Smith, so we could go to dinner tonight, after visiting the cemetery.
Driving down I was sure we would find it, as I remembered it being near grandpa’s grave. But I had no way to be sure of that. We arrived at the cemetery and started looking around, finding nothing. Then my mother’s cousins arrived. Jeannie, one of her cousins, thinking we were there to find a family grave, told us we were looking in the wrong place. I then told her about my mission, only to find that she had the answer to my age old mystery all along. I didn’t even need Google. I should have just asked Jeannie decades ago.
I told her I was looking for a grave stone for two twin brothers who both died on their 16th birthday. “The Bull boys?” Jeannie asked. “There is a picture on their tombstone.” “Yes!” I said, “That’s it it had pictures on it!” She marched me right over the their grave, which was nowhere close to where I remembered it being. This is where I am now realizing how much I can forget or not remember exactly right after a few decades. On the way to the grave, she told me, they were not twin brothers, they were cousins. I was not sure we were talking about the same boys until we came to the grave and I immediately recognized the pictures. The picture on the left looked very familiar, almost exactly as I had remembered as a child.
It was the same grave but the facts are not exactly as I remembered them. Imagine that! Things are not exactly as I remember them decades later. They were not twin brothers. They were not even brothers, they were cousins. However one of them did die at 16, and the other one did die on his birthday, and they both did indeed die on the same day. No wonder my Google searches were futile. However I did not even need Google to find their story. Cousin Jeannie remembered the grave from her youth, when her and her cousin would explore the cemetery, as it was right by her house. She knew the story too. Donald Joe was in the military and during a leave came to visit. He picked up 16 year old Thomas during school, at Fort Smith Central High School, so he could play hooky, and they would spend the day together. Sadly, after Donald helped Thomas escape from school, their car was hit by a train and they both died. Jeannie was in high school at the time, and while she did not know Thomas personally, she did remember all the other kids talking about it.
So tonight I finally got the story that had been haunting me since childhood. I learned some more valuable lessons in the process. With modern technology and the Internet being a wealth of information, nothing beats people knowledge. Of course the Internet only knows what people tell it. Google is no substitute for people knowledge. The wealth of information on the Internet is no substitute for the wealth of knowledge and experience in the people who are all around us, if we just take the time to talk to them. I did not need to wait for Google to solve this mystery. All the time my cousin Jeannie knew the story, and lived her whole life right there in Fort Smith. All I had to do was ask. (Though to my credit I had mentioned it to my mother and aunt.) The amazing thing is, the gravestone was nowhere close to my grandfather’s grave, so I must have been doing some real exploring when I found it as a child. I never could have found it on my own tonight, but once I mentioned the story to Jeannie, she knew exactly what I was talking about (Even with my misinformation) and marched me right over to the grave. Jeannie knew the grave location and story. I didn’t need Google. (Come to think of it, Jeannie remembered exactly where the grave was, based on her memory as a youth. She must have a better memory than me.)
I learned my memory is not 100% accurate. The information on the tombstones was not exactly how I remembered it as a child, and as I said earlier, the grave location was nowhere near where I remembered it. I remembered it being much closer to my grandfather’s grave. Now I have to be more careful declaring things are exactly as I remember. Though I did remember enough over the last 38 years or so for my cousin to know what I was talking about. Also after all those years the pictures were exactly like I remembered. Especially the one on the left of Thomas.
So the mystery has been solved. Neither Thomas or Donald probably had children to tell their story to, just like I don’t have any children to tell my story to. But tonight we got to share their story. I guess the good news is you don’t have to have children in order to share your story.
Thanks to all you who read my blog and let me tell my stories.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13 NLT
So there you have it. Herod the great ruler is so intimidated by a baby that he tries to kill it! In church have you ever been intimidated by a young person who shows some potential and promise? Do you shun younger people, for fear they may take your place? What about in the work place? Do you encourage your co-workers and help them advance, even if it means jeopardizing your position? Or do you protect your own position even if it means “killing” someone else’s career?
Those who are secure in Christ build others up and help promote them. Let’s not let the spirit of tearing others down to protect our own standing, rule in our lives like it did in Herod’s.
While this post is intended to be lighthearted, it does concern me to see young and old people pressured by society into marriages that are not healthy. We live in a culture that seems to think that a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. This simply is not true. It also concerns me that many people spend more energy trying to find a spouse instead of finding God! Now onto the lighthearted (yet true!) stuff……
Most of my friends are married. I don’t do singles groups for the simple reason that I don’t think of myself as a “single person”. I think of myself as a “person”, and I hang out with married and single people who think of themselves and me as people, and not labels. A lot of singles, like myself enjoy mainstream life because we don’t make a big deal about being singe. We just live our normal lives. My church is a multi-racial church and we all get along great because we simply don’t think of each other as a certain race. We just think of each other as people. I not only worship with other races, I work with and play with people from all races and cultural backgrounds. We don’t ignore our differences. We just don’t label each other anything other than “people.” To me, having a singles social is about as silly as having a white peoples social. Why don’t we forget our skin color and marital status and just have a people social? Well by George that’s what we do. I don’t think a lot about being single. I don’t run home from work each night and pray, begging God to send me someone. Instead I just live a normal life with normal friends.
After all, if I do find a wife I want her to be normal, and what better place to find a normal mainstream woman than in mainstream society, instead of a group of singles trying to avoid mainstream life?
Now even though most people can live normal mainstream lives in a multi-racial culture, you will still occasionally hear people say silly things about other races. They are not so much racist as just ignorant. Likewise, while I enjoy living my single life with normal married and single people I have still heard some silly things over time.
Anyway all this is just an introduction to my personal top ten list of things I have actually heard married people say over the years. Please remember these are all exceptions to the normal mainstream things I hear from normal mainstream people. I want to stress again that I live in a mainstream society that treats people like people and does not label them, single or married, black or white, rich or poor, Yankees fan or Rays Fan. Okay maybe we isolate the Yankees fan, but everyone else gets treated normal. What makes the list below so funny is that it is so non-mainstream, random and just plain weird!
Top Ten Darndest Things I Have Heard Married People Say.
10. “How can you preach about sex while you are single?”
This was a comment from a lady about my blog post about sexual purity. Apparently the lady commenting did not realize that single people are sexual. Yes, celibate people are still sexual. You don’t have to be sexually active to be sexual. Therefore, any person who is either male or female has a gender, and is authorized to preach about sex. After all, I am a sex.
9. “How can you be an elder since you are single?”
I was only asked this one time, but I have heard about other people being asked the same thing. 99.9% of the protestant world understands that when Paul mentioned that an elder should be the husband of one wife (See 1 Timothy 3) that he was not making marriage mandatory but was speaking against polygamy. For the other .01% let me explain it this way. When you tell your child they can go to the candy store but only get one piece of candy, you remind them as they leave, “get one piece of candy!” Now you are not demanding they get one piece of candy are you? No. You are just meaning only one. It’s that simple folks. It really is.
8. “Don’t worry, you will find someone.”
Who said I was worried, and who said I was looking, and who said “someone” needs to be found?
7. “Why have you never married?”
Possible answers to this question might be, “I guess I am too ugly” or, “I didn’t know I was suppose to get married.” I just scratch my head and wonder why they asked me that, instead of not asking me why I have never been scuba diving. Both questions are just as relevant in my mind. By the way I have never asked a person, “why are you married” or “why are you divorced?” Such questions about marital status never cross my mind. I guess it’s the introvert in me, only wanting to think and talk about important things, that are relevant to mainstream society. Instead of wondering why people are married or not, I wonder about important things, like “Why doesn’t Cincinnati have an NBA or NHL team? No seriously! I am asking! Why not?
6. “I can see why they have never married!”
This is usually said when a single person exhibits a quirk in their personality. They forget that married people have their quirks too. The saying does not bother me. Actually, single people use that same phrase all the time too. We just apply it to other singles and not ourselves. Ha ha
5. “Sure! That’s what normal people do.”
That was the response I got from a friend, when I mentioned that I heard his niece was getting married. So, was he insinuating something and I was just too dense to get it? This same friend also has the number one comment at the end of my list. By the way, while normal people get married strange people get married too, and vice versa for singles.
4. “We would like to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner if you have no place to go.”
No thanks. I’ve already had several invites from families who invited me because they like me.
3. “We would invite you, but you would just feel like a third wheel.”
Really? How do you know? And why would I feel like a third wheel? Because you all are purple and I am white? Or because you all are Catholic and I am protestant? Or because you all were born in New England and I was born in Oklahoma? Please help me with that one. I don’t know what to feel like a third wheel about. That’s okay. I’m not a wheel anyway. I’m going to go hang out with people. I’m a people.
2. “Wow! How did you know that? You’re single!”
A lady asked me this, years ago, when I asked if she was expecting. She was a casual drinker and made the comment she could not have alcohol right now. I asked if she was expecting to which she said she was and then acted shocked and dismayed that a single man would know that a pregnant woman should not be drinking. Seriously people? Do we need to go back to the top of the list? (By the way I believe in abstinence from alcohol for everyone so no need to write to me about that.)
1. “If you never get married and have kids, then when you die, it is like you’re whole life was all about nothing and you never existed.”
I was told this by the husband and father of a family I was having dinner with, in their home, at their invitation. I don’t think that one even deserves a rebuttal, but it is good for laughs whenever I remember that a real person actually said that! And no, he was not joking. It was a very serious and earnest comment.
See, married people really do say the darndest things!
“…the truth will set you free.” –Jesus Christ, John 8:32
Last week a high school friend of mine, attending a Christian non-denominational school, gave a speech on her belief of the Bible teaching of the state of the dead. She texted me for verses and ideas and used my lessons on Death in Light of the Cross. Instead of endorsing her stand, or refuting it, her teacher simply responded, “I guess we will never really know.” Seriously? For the sake of being diplomatic to other beliefs and to be politically correct, you make God look like He is not smart enough to provide us with a Bible that can be properly understood?
A while back I was watching a family sitcom, where the youth pastor came for dinner, because the family had some theological questions. The youth pastor on the show ends up explaining that the Bible can be interpreted a lot of different ways. While I know this was just an actor and not a real youth pastor, I know too that it is a popular belief. However I do not believe that is true.
We try to be diplomatic and peace keeping by saying there are many different denominations, because the Bible can be understood many different ways. While this may be partially true, we must open our eyes and realize the reason why there are so many different denominations and even religions is not because the Bible is confusing. It isn’t’. The problem is not that the Bible is hard to understand. The problem is that people lie! I hate to call people liars but I would rather call someone a liar instead of making my God out to be too stupid to provide a book that can be properly understood. Revelation 21:8 says all liars will be thrown in the lake of fire. No one will go to hell because they are confused. Those who are lost are lost because they lived on lies.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe God has His people in all different churches and denominations. There are godly people from all walks of faith who will be in heaven. My point is simply that instead of being so diplomatic and politically correct that we start accepting every wind of doctrine, we need to stand up and face the fact that someone is out-right lying!
When we don’t want to face the facts we try to confuse ourselves. The confusion does not come from the Bible. The confusion comes from mixing our own opinions and emotions with Bible truth. For example, people are quite certain that Good Friday was on the 6th day of the week Friday. They are quite sure Jesus rose on the first day of the week Sunday. Yet when you mention the Seventh-day Sabbath right smack dab in the middle, they suddenly become “confused” claiming there is no way to know for sure which day is the 7th.
What baffles me is how people will come up with lies in search of the truth! This is how conspiracy theories abound. Now no doubt there are conspiracies, but some conspiracy theorists like to turn everything into a conspiracy.
Some conspiracy theorists like to accept the darkest explanations. For example, after Kennedy’s death, Johnson wanted to be sworn in as president before leaving Dallas. As soon as the swearing in took place he told reporters to share the pictures with the world as soon as possible. Conspiracy theorists say Johnson had a big ego and wanted the whole world to know he was in charge. How about looking at it another way? Johnson wanted the whole world to know that the United States Government had a leader and was not vulnerable to attack? Now you can’t prove either theory. But you can follow Bible principle and try to see the best in people instead of the worst. We destroy a lot of reputations and relationships by looking for the worst possible motives and scenarios.
Conspiracy theorists also rest their cases on the most ambiguous facts. By proving that two people knew each other, they have a hypothesis that they both were involved in a conspiracy, just because they knew each other. Guilt by association they say. This again is a dishonest way to ruin people’s reputations and relationships. So even the truth that some conspiracy theorists have, does not have much weight, and lead to assumptions that may or may not be true.
It simply is not healthy to be thinking of all the bad motives people could have had, especially when all you have are theories. Nothing good comes from looking for the worst possible motives in people.
Fact is, if we belong to God we don’t have to worry about conspiracies. Joseph was a victim of a conspiracy. His brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt and then covered it up by dipping his coat in blood and telling his father he had been eaten by some wild beast. There you have it! A true conspiracy and cover up! No harm done though. While the conspiracy was designed to destroy Joseph, it actually got Joseph to exactly where he wanted to be! Later when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after becoming the ruler of Egypt, he shrugs it all off and tells them there are no grudges, everything worked out fine. Joseph did not need to see the worst in his brothers. He did not need to expose their evil motives and egos. Instead he proved them to be good decent men in the end. By the way, for those who think the Kennedy assassination was an inside job, Joseph’s attack really was an inside job-done by his own brothers! Still, God used it to get Joseph where he needed to be.
So when it comes to Bible truth or conspiracy theories let’s not confuse the plain facts with our own feelings and emotions. Let’s not look for the worst in others. And last but not least, let’s not worry about lies, conspiracies and hidden agendas when we know that our God is greater than any lie, conspiracy or hidden agenda, and He will take care of us just as well as He took care of Joseph.
So, a high school Bible teacher says we will never know the truth about death, even with all of the Bible evidence right in front of him. Conspiracy theorists say we will never know the truth about the Kennedy assassination while they dream up all kinds of hypothetical scenarios based on their own imaginations, emotions and opinions instead of hard facts. The truth is there. The question is will you accept the truth even though it doesn’t fit with your theories?