The Hospital

In the same week the pastor was summoned to the hospital to pray for Amy and Andrew . Andrew was about to have a life-altering operation. Due to the severity of the illness and neglect of the body the operation was necessary in order to save his life. Andrew would continue to have quality of life but there would be the need for physical therapy, modifications at home, a new diet and an awareness of signs that things were either progressing or deteriorating. With proper medical attention Andrew was going to be ok after a bit of time. He didn’t want to do it. It would be a hard adjustment only he knew that this was the only way to keep him alive. He called the pastor to pray for a miracle.

Amy was in the final stages of her life. There was nothing more modern medicine was able to do. The only thing left for the doctors to do was to send Amy home, make her comfortable for the time she had left. They were setting her up with hospice care. She was scared, angry and wondering why this had to happen?

The hospital is a place where you go to determine the course of treatment for your ailment. No one goes to the hospital without business to do there. You are either there to work, visit a loved one, or attend to your illness. No one goes to the hospital on a date night or to watch a movie.

So it is with the church. She is a spiritual hospital. I came to church when my life was upside down and my way wasn’t working. I came to her in hopes of finding a cure. There are some who have way more brains than I do and they come to church because they have developed a lifestyle of regular check ups and health is their way of life. Some of us just learn the hard way that life has a way of taking you off course.

It would be a waste of time to go to a hospital with a gaping oozing infected wound and be told that you’ve come to the right place without being attended to. To sit in a waiting room for days, weeks, months, and no one addresses the illness that is now taking complete hold of your life, and yet that is what we want from the church.

We want to be welcomed and told we are fine. We want the church to ignore the blood on the carpet and to pat us on the hand and give us a cookie. We want the church to be a hospice. We want the church to make us comfortable in our sin until we die as the great Pastor Tony Evans says. We do not want attendees who will tell us about the operation and diet and lifestyle changes that could save our lives. You see, that isn’t what we came for. We came to be told that we can be fixed and nothing has to change.

Of course the church must have time assess the situation. Of course we must get the choice of the course of treatment we’d like if at all. Of course nothing can be forced and just as in the hospital we have the right to check ourselves out and refuse treatment we also have that right in the church.

Only never let it be said that the church didn’t try. Above all, never let it be on the church record that the church only provided hospice care because she was too polite to tell us that our illness was leading to our death and it was totally preventable.

Supreme Court Leak

Being neither a Republican nor a Democrat I often watch with interest the politics of a society gone wild with hate and vitriol. The news that the Supreme Court had a leak, which is suspicious to me, and that Roe vs Wade may be overturned, as we round the corner to a midterm is of no surprise. Both parties begin to attack to get the voters in a panic and their candidate in office. It is business as usual to distract from the real issues but we are already fried from just coming off of a pandemic. The people of the United States go crazy. On social media the unfriending, which isn’t a word but a feeling, begins because God forbid we have a thought that doesn’t align with yours.

I don’t understand the hoopla over the Roe v Wade overturn if, in fact it happens. The genie is already out of the bottle. 60% of Americans think abortion is fine. If the Supreme Court overturns it, it doesn’t make abortion illegal, it makes it a state’s right issue. If it is a state’s rights issue then it will be on your ballot. You will get to go the polls and vote your conscience just like any other law.

I happen to live in a state where our Governor has stayed executions of criminals and promised to uphold abortions. Yes, we Californians are a little twisted but we are the model for the USA so get used to it. As you know I am a Christian and I am pro-life, even for the criminal, so that last sentence was a little sarcasm and a little truth. My state is in no danger of losing abortion rights. And now since we can have home abortions I am sure you can get a couple of pills in the mail from a state like mine.

What is at stake here is your well-being. While we fight on the pros and cons of abortion there are some real life issues happening that you need to be aware of. Please don’t get caught up in the misdirection. Just because someone yells “squirrel” doesn’t mean you have to leave your post to see if it really is there. It is coming to you sooner or later in ballot form. Get educated and exercise your rights.

Inflation is kicking in and this means more families have less to put on the table to eat. This is real.

President Joe Biden has announced that we will have a food shortage. Meaning, in a time when our dollar isn’t going as far as it could you’re encouraged to stock up. That could be a problem.

20 food processing plants have caught fire in the first four months of 2022. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but we need to figure out how to prevent them in light of a food shortage.

For every $1.00 of stimulus you received it is being reported that just over $4 was spent to give it to you. That’s a significant problem long-term and not a good business model for a country. we need to get a hold of the purse strings and ask questions.

Experts say we need to have 3-6 months worth of cash in reserve. In a time of inflation we need to understand that maybe we need to slow down the spending and tighten up our belts.

Suicides, depression, anxiety is way up. Therapists aren’t taking any more clients in my county. We have a shortage of adequate providers, and many people are being left without care. This is a great humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed.

These are just a few issues that are pressing down on us. Hopefully you get the point of my post. Don’t let someone place a fear in your heart. Since time began we humans have been a resilient bunch who somehow make it through. Just because a few commentators put out scare tactics doesn’t mean your heart has to be troubled.

My best advice is whatever side of the fence you are on, understand that you don’t have to buy in to the fear. Stay calm, pray, and trust God. Vote, kiss your loved ones, and live your life. Go to work, serve your community and keep your heart and hands clean. There is Bible for all of this.

“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you — you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭CSB‬‬

“There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him?”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭2:24-25‬ ‭CSB‬‬

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭CSB‬‬

You Are Not Them

You straighten the crowns of others.
You intercede on your knees.
You have abundant love and strength.
You are not frivolous with your words or your time.
You are not scared of the future.
You are a conqueror.
You are God’s daughter. You are a woman who walks in peace.

Let others swing at the wind.
Let others fight meaningless battles.
Let others take offense at words spoken.
Let others point fingers at you.
Let others gossip.
Let others stand in fear of inflation, and rumors of war, masks, mandated vaccines, and shut downs as if God has never done anything for them. Let others build tribes of agreement. Let others worry about who likes them and who doesn’t.

You know your arsenal is not carnal.
You know where your help comes from. You were built brave and strong.

You are not a woman with a chip on her shoulder. You are not a woman who has tell the world how brave she is. No, you look to the future with joyful anticipation. You see the darkness and command light. You are fully rested, assured of your Savior’s promise. You are beautifully loved and adored.

You are saved, redeemed, loved, and transformed. You are ready.

Indulgent

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Matthew 4: 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

I was complaining to the Lord about not being able to lose weight recently. I am glad that God gets me and that He often stays silent during my whining episodes or I’m afraid whining would become an ugly habit. This time though he answered in his quiet unassuming way.

“You’re self-indulgent.”

WHAT? WAIT! God doesn’t convict! All of his answers are LOVE, LOVE, and MORE LOVE.

ONLY WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS LOVE? 

I balked. “I give a lot of myself. I am in ministry one of the least self-indulgent things. How in the world am I self-indulgent?” I protested as the words began to swirl around in my mind.

Quietly He began to reveal to me the things that needed to be examined. When you’re overwhelmed, you go shopping or take yourself out to eat.

Yes, but I don’t always buy things for myself, I buy things for Cameron, for Erin or Doug, or friends, or family and I rarely eat alone, I phone a friend.

Then it hit me. He didn’t say I was selfish. He said I was self-indulgent. Meaning, I don’t ignore the needs of others but I don’t accept that I have a craving outside of the will of God. It becomes a behavior to examine carefully any time it promises satisfaction that can only be found in God.

Self-indulgence is a pleasure seeking mechanism where we can get stuck in an unproductive cycle of behavior. It doesn’t mean the behavior is bad in of itself but it means that it will do us no good and may even harm us long term. It doesn’t mean we’re using the mortgage money to buy shoes but it does mean something is missing in relationship to God.

We’re great at masking self-indulgence but the temptation of Christ following his baptism shows a necessary process to fulfilling our walk with Christ. After 40 days of fasting and prayer, Satan himself comes to Jesus and tempts his appetite.

Appetite

Let that word sit with you.

Whisper it. Appetite

Appetite, it was the first temptation of Adam and Eve right? Something is being withheld. Something that we crave. Something that God can’t fulfill or worse is withholding. Jesus passed the test when he answered that it wasn’t only physical bread that man should live on but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He didn’t say eating was wrong, he said it wasn’t the only thing, and more importantly, he said there was something even more important we needed.

Christianity in America is indulgent in nature and definitely requires observation and self-examination. We aren’t in a famine of things that feed the flesh, we are in a crisis of famine in regards to conviction. The question the Lord was posing to me was, “When am I enough for you?”

The tendency is to exalt yourself because the give to get mentality is so strong in America and comparisons run rampant. This leads you to believe that you may be in a place to judge me:

“Well, I don’t shop so I don’t have this issue.”

Only, if we’re honest, we often have an appetite for something.

Opinion maybe?

Workaholism? It feeds our ego.

Laziness? Oh, this is a big one. The excuses for appetite here are many.

“I work all day.” Honey, we all work all day.

“I attend a small group.” So we give to get.

“I just finished a big project.” Again, give to get.

“I teach a small group.” You got my attention but is this considered reasonable Kingdom service?

I’ll tell you when leading becomes self-indulgent though. When it’s more than you were told to do. When it violates the ministry code but feeds our ego.

One semester I taught four small groups. It meant 4 times a week I was absent from my husband. He was not happy, but people “needed me” and there was “no one else”. You already know what happened no need to guess. My work suffered because I had to study to stay ahead and tweak lesson plans if class was heading in a different direction. My marriage struggled because I was out of order and out of the picture. My ministry suffered because our church says teach one, take one leave time for your family and friends so I had usurped authority. Oh but I was taking one for the team I reasoned. Many want to teach one but don’t take one. So we burn bright and burn out. I noticed another thing too.

The heavens were brass during this period as I was self indulgent doing my own thing. Ok let’s move on.

“It’s time for some much needed self care.” Yes, you need self care but how much is too much?

“I haven’t had a slice of cheesecake in such a long time.” Maybe not, but what have you eaten a little too much of? Social Media? Don’t get mad I am in self examination mode.

“I deserve it.” Sometimes we think we have done something heroic when all we’ve done is what any other normal human being has done.

Or the easiest appetite temptation the appetite of self promotion and judgment of others,  “I can’t believe how they spend, how they think, how they live, how they exalt their life, I don’t do any of that. No sister and note to myself, facts are you sin in other ways but whose keeping score of that? Appetite for judgment is alive and well.

What the Lord was pointing out to me that day was that instead of taking my issues to God, I took them to Nordstroms or went to lunch and nursed it.

What do you do when God reveals a thing that has you spinning your wheels and going nowhere?

I’ll write about what I did in another post. Stay tuned. For now consider this question:

What in your life needs a little less you and lot more Jesus?

 

I’m Proud of TLC4WOMEN

I have taught TLC for women for 16 years now. It is not lost on me all that I have learned.

That women go through some stuff meant to take them out.

That the war on women often is waged by other women.

That no matter how horrific your life has been, someone else has been through things that would have taken you out. We all have our own giants to slay.

But Jesus….

Jesus took a walk through our life and called us to himself. Jesus invited us to a relationship where shame and pain could be healed. Many said no thanks, but you, mighty women of TLC, you said yes. You studied his word faithfully and took him up on his offer to endure the wound care, taking out any infection and stitching you back up to heal. You came to TLC and trusted women, the very ones who hurt you. You did the hard work of healing not because it was easy but because the idea of growing old,resentful, and bitter was not appealing to you. You did the hard work of reconciliation.

My heart is for you. If you are reading this, I urge you to find a solid group of women that can come along beside you and love you right where you are. The expectation is that they will lower your bed before the master physician.

My heart is for you Transforming Life Center 4 Women. You have been my teacher, my cheerleader, my safe place and my love for Jesus has grown exponentially through your leading.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Resurrection To Deception

Riu Palace Riviera Maya

Every day on our vacation I walked by her.

This faceless, right-hand missing statue.

She holds a water bucket in her left hand.

It’s rather small, I wonder how she fills it?

She is surrounded by Phoenix.

Early Christians adapted the Phoenix to signify death, burial, and resurrection after the mythology story.

It wasn’t lost on me that this statue, if it is symbolic, has resurrected without a brain, without power, unable to give the right hand of fellowship, and without rest. The right hand also signifies favor and sonship.

So it is with some who although born again are not at peace.

Can you imagine how she walks through life?

Threats real and imagined have stolen her thoughts.

These perceived threats that hold her tomorrows, steal her peace, her rest, and more importantly, without her right hand of fellowship, her power.

I begin to see her from my imagination.

Does her anxiety keep her up at night, infiltrating her every thought and conversation as she flails at the wind pretending to be strong in her own might?

Lacking in faith she runs here and there looking for a manmade solution.

Her need to be significant to a social construct is flimsy at best.

Scared of the future she is afraid to lose what little she thinks she possesses and yet she has no hand to put more in.

Here she stands.

Memorialized.

A resurrection of conflict and deception.

Adorned without the only things that make her His. His hand in her right hand.

She stands upright in declaration sure she has fooled the world. For you see, she has anointing in her left hand but can’t grip her appointment.

So she poses.

She stands sure she has it all together. She believes she is the model of transformation.

She is the new version of the emperor who wears no clothes. We smile at her because to tell her the truth is to bring wrath upon ourselves.

Without the ability renew the mind, she is lost. I wonder how long ago she lost herself?

A woman at war within herself and she can’t even see it. Vapid at best.

“You were resurrected for so much more”, I tell her as I pass her by to sit quietly on the ocean to read my book on this fabulous vacation. “I wish you knew you can create a life that is happy if you just let go.”

Then the Holy Spirit whispers:

“She believed her own press instead of pressing in.”

I answer with a deep sigh, “Nothing smacks you down quicker than the humility of the stumble when your eyes are closed and your ears are stopped up. Lord, thank you that even in the middle of a rest you allow me see visuals of what I don’t want to become.”

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 NIV

“The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Psalms 110:1 NIV

The Breaking of Day

Traveling through the sky this morning before daybreak I could not help but be enamored by the heaven above me, the ground below me, and the dawn before me. God is wondrous and is too great for me to even speak His name in this moment. He created everything from nothing and spared no detail.

My heart soars with love for Him alone and His mysteries. I may never understand the depth of His thoughtful nature toward us since His nature is too great a force for me not to believe that His everlasting love surrounds me.

He alone gives His angels charge over me and commands the beauty of His art to produce with intention. He activates His every thought meticulously forming every cloud and mountain. Could He alone have made the world plain? Of course He could, but why would He limit us in examples of the creativity that exist through Him? He admires beauty and creates a palate of sight and sound, of color and dimension.

When I look out of this plane’s window I marvel at all that I see and yet, and still, everything my eyes gaze upon in this moment was not enough for Him. He created me, He created you, in His image and called us His crown of creation.

How that is even possible I will never have any idea, but I’m grateful. Yes, truly I am grateful.

I will spend the remainder of my days in awe and wonder of His majesty. I will spend my days in surrender to His will and firmly planted in His hand.

Fully worshipping.

Fully believing.

Fully His.

Take a look around you today. Admire each and every convenience that is set before you. Look at the sky wherever you may be. Look at the trees and scenery that surrounds you and admire its beauty. God made all of that for you. Beloved, you are truly loved with an everlasting, enduring hope for your success.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭8:1-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

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Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

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If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

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So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

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Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

The Shadow Of Tribalism

When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.

Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.

So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.

Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.

Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.