Archive for July, 2010

A Recent Article

On Monday afternoon I went down to fetch my mail and I was delighted to see the August edition of Christianity Today at the bottom of the pile.  Brushing off the junk mail, I saw that my Mom was on the cover.  I already knew she was going to be featured in one of the coming editions but I’ve found there is very little by way of preparation for a moment like this one.  It is difficult to describe to you the feeling of seeing the face of the one who bore you on the cover of a magazine.  I do not mean this in a pompous way because it is not a feeling of pride.  It is a feeling of great sobriety.

During that moment the butterflies in my stomach were akin to the ones fluttering around on the day my Mom spoke during chapel hour when I was a sophomore at Baylor University.  Or the evening Mom spoke at Founder’s Week during my first year as a transfer student at Moody Bible Institute.  I have, on numerous occasions, watched Mom speak in venues with 20,000+ people and it not even fazed me but these two gatherings were different. The events at Baylor and Moody were composed of a whole bunch of people I knew, people I loved and respected.   Mom’s been in a bunch of magazines over the years.  But Christianity Today is the one and only Christian magazine I actually read.  Although “they” don’t know me from Eve, I feel like I know them.  I laugh with them, cry with them, “amen” with them, and I even argue back and forth with them.  These folks are supposed to be my friends, right? So this time when I picked up the magazine it was a little bit different.  It hit closer to home.

It was a little bit more vulnerable.

You may think that it is the fear of criticism that is so sobering about a moment like this one, yet that is not exactly true. Sure, criticism is tough but far worse is the momentary thought that, for better or worse, I sit as a passive observer while my Mom’s value is being weighed under the critical scrutiny of a bunch of my peers and professors.  Please understand what I am saying, even if the responses are exuberant and laudatory in nature, it is the careful scrutiny of a parent that is the rub.  It is, of course, also a significant part of the life God has graciously and providentially given to me. And His tenderness never fails me in moments like these.

As I held the magazine in my hand, the daughter in me said, “Proceed with caution. You might get hurt.” But the student in me said, “Come on, Melissa. There are no questions that are off limits. No one is above question, observation, or criticism.”  Eventually I mustered the courage, put on my cloak of “objectivity,” and took the plunge.

As I made my way through the first article, I found I could understand or identify with the bulk of it.  I saw my Mom represented on the pages in more than just photographs, and whether the words were kind or critical, I found them to be fair. Again, no one is above careful observation because we all err in many ways.  We all need each other to get this thing right.  Even I, the biased observer, can recognize that much.  Christianity Today’s ability to represent a diverse set of viewpoints is the primary reason I read their work in the first place. There are very few voices left out of their articles and conversations and that spirit of diversity contributes, I think, to an overall appreciation of the richness and variety in the church, even if it is mostly the evangelical church that is represented.

So as I finished the last sentence of the first article I took a deep breath.  “It’s over and I’m still alive,” I thought.

Just kidding. It really wasn’t all that rough.

But I had yet to read the second article.

As I began to read the second article entitled “First Came the Bible,” some things started to become a bit opaque for me.  I do not want to get too pedantic and I certainly do not want to bore you all to tears, so I’ll get to my point.  And at this point you’re hoping I have one, right?  Wink. What troubled me most about the second article was a paragraph that purports the following (again, this can be found in the August edition of Christianity Today on page 27):

Moore is truly a Bible teacher.  Her teaching is rooted in her strong affinity for Scripture.  She does not show much interest in theology or tradition, distrusting the way the academy has, at times, handled the Bible. “Godless philosophies have not been my temptation,” Moore comments.  “In my life experience, the most dangerously influential opinions have been those held by intellectuals and scholars who profess Christianity but deny the veracity and present power of Scripture.”  Although Moore believes that seminaries are necessary despite the “stunning arrogance” and “theological snobbery” that reside in them, she argues, “Psalm 131 reminds us that [the Scriptures] are not primarily for seminaries, dissertations, and theological treatments.  They are primarily for everyday living on the third rock from the sun (27).

As I began to read through this paragraph, something just did not sit right with me.  The first half sounded sort of like Mom but the language was peculiar and the harsh indictment against seminaries took me by surprise. I assumed that if Mom said such a thing about the pride and arrogance of the theological and/or seminary world, she was most likely speaking about me.  And frankly, it would have been warranted.  I was one single theology class into my education when I began anathematizing every Christian I knew, including my Mom, Dad, Pastor . . . And I could go on.  So, in light of my own interests and experience, I began to wonder where these quotes were pulled from and the context in which Mom stated them.

Even though I am intimately acquainted with Mom’s writing and speaking, I still didn’t know where exactly these quotes originated.  I came to find that, to the best of my knowledge, the various pieces were pulled from Believing God (the trade book) and Stepping Up (the bible study).  The first quote, “Godless philosophies have not been my temptation. In my life experience, the most dangerously influential opinions have been those held by intellectuals and scholars who profess Christianity but deny the veracity and present power of Scripture,” was pulled from Believing God. Although the quote is fairly clear in isolation, when you read the immediate context carefully, you find that Mom has tempered her claim by statements such as “Thankfully, many churches and Christian institutes of higher learning teach the God of Scripture, but why do so many others default to a lesser-God theology?” and even stronger, “Flawless churches and Christian universities don’t exist because they are full of flawed people just like me.” Should you be interested in reading further please look in and around pages 47-50 of the Believing God book, not the bible study workbook.

I think you will find that Mom is not writing about her hostility toward “the academy” (a term that needs to be clarified in the article itself) but the tendency in all of us to minimize God in our pursuit of the knowledge of Him.  Mom presents academic institutions as the most influential place where this minimizing can be found, but very clearly acknowledges that the tendency is not to be limited to the academic world, or even descriptive of the academic world.

The second quote is far more bothersome because it implies that Mom only reluctantly admits that seminaries have any value. After a bit of searching I made my way from Believing God to Stepping Up because of the author’s mention of Psalm 131, a Psalm of Ascent.  None of these sources are referenced in this particular paragraph in the article, by the way, which made these “quotes” really *fun* and convenient to track down.  Please raise your hand if you think magazines should abide by Turabian! Thank you, nerds of the blogworld.  I’m going to quote the second part of the paragraph from the article “First Came the Bible” again:

Although Moore believes that seminaries are necessary despite the “stunning arrogance” and “theological snobbery” that reside in them, she argues, “Psalm 131 reminds us that [the Scriptures] are not primarily for seminaries, dissertations, and theological treatments.  They are primarily for everyday living on the third rock from the sun (27).

First, the way the author has set up the quote is nothing short of misleading.  Mom has never said that she believes seminaries are necessary despite the “stunning arrogance” and “theological snobbery” that reside in them.  Instead, the author has combined snippets of three different portions of text from Stepping Up. When the order has been changed and all three snippets are worded together, they, at the very least, produce an exaggerated claim. At the very worst, they produce a disfigured one.

If you would like to see this clearly for yourself, you can consult Week 5 Day 3 of Stepping Up and make your own conclusions about the way the quotes were construed.  For those of you who do not have the workbook, I have also typed a large part of the text myself and included it here so that you can get an idea of what is going on.   There are various breaks in the text because I don’t have time to type all of Day 3. I have, however, typed quite a bit of it. I figure the more context I can give you, the better. You can tell where the author of the magazine article is drawing the quote by the text I have in both bold and italics.  Week 5 Day 3 is entitled “Things Too Great” and it is a study of Psalm 131, one of the shortest of the Psalms of Ascent:  A Song of Ascents, of David. O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.  2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.  3 O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.

I am now going to begin quoting Mom starting from the top of page 131 in Stepping Up:

“Like so many in the Gospels, the metaphors of the psalms came from common scenes and experiences in the daily lives of God’s people.

  • Psalm 126 pictured seeds watered by tears turning to sheaves of joy.
  • Psalm 127 sketched sons, like arrows in a quiver, defending their father.
  • Psalm 128 centered on the family table with moms like fruitful vines and children like olive shoots.
  • Psalm 129 drew us the unforgettable picture of plowmen leaving furrows on the backs of the oppressed.
  • Psalm 130 painted the image of a night watchman on a city wall.

God drew each metaphor from a common sight seen by a common people. Perhaps no sight was more ordinary than the one etched in Psalm 131, particularly as throngs of Israelites made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. It’s the same common sight I see every time I go shopping: a child in a mother’s arms.

Psalm 131 reminds us the words of God are not primarily for seminaries, dissertations, and theological treatments. They are primarily for everyday living on the third rock from the sun. The words of God are for people who run late to work, hop out of the car, and spill coffee on their crisp, white shirt. It’s for people who run to get their trash to the curb before the garbage truck comes and end up strewing it all over the driveway. It’s for people who need to change the litter box and who realize something green and furry is growing in their fridge. The words of God are for people whose neighbors drive them nuts. And mainly, I suppose, for people who drive themselves nuts. Like me. Maybe like you.

If you’ve concluded that Scripture is for how you do church, teachers like me have failed you. Scripture is for how you do life, whether at home, at work or on a date, at a baby shower, at a funeral, or at church. Scripture is for servicemen defending their nation and for mothers nursing their babies…if they can keep their eyes open. Today we will be wholly preoccupied with the first verse of Psalm 131, and actually, we’ll have to work diligently to limit ourselves to this space.”

[Break in text & some interactive questions]

“The term ‘haughty comes from the word high’ and in the context of eyes it describes people who look down on others. Of course, none of us is going to immediately admit, ‘That’s me!’

We recognize snobbery and pride pretty easily in others and despise nothing more. Somehow when we are the snob, however, the thin air at the altitude where we keep our noses impairs our judgment. The Bible tells us that God abhors pride and probably for no few reasons. Both you and I have had tug-of-wars with God – however ridiculous and futile – that revolved around our pride.”

[Break in text for an interactive question]

“Since I made you answer such an exposing question, I’ll offer a few reasons of my own. I am convinced that my pride over a specific matter was a tremendous contribution to the horrifying sifting season God put me through a few years ago.

I also think God cannot bring the kingdom increase to our harvests that He desires (John 15:7) until our egos decrease.

Finally, I think our pride is a strobe light flashing how ignorant we are about God, despite our lengthy quiet times and in-depth studies. Above all things besides love, humility is the truest sign of intimacy with God. Like little else, a humble spirit says we really do ‘get it.’

Though Psalm 131:1 certainly applies to haughtiness and pride in general, when we consider the congregational aspect of the Psalms of Ascent, I think a tighter interpretation may be what we could call theological pride: arrogance regarding God, His words, or ways.

Stunning arrogance slithers down the halls of many academic institutions of theology. Thankfully, some professors are wise enough to slam their office doors and refuse to let the snake bite them, but they must be overtly intentional to resist a lure as old as the garden.

I wish the problem of theological snobbery only resided at institutions of higher learning, but it doesn’t. Every one of us, until life pummels us into knowing better, is drawn to things that feed our flesh and make us feel smart.

Reflect on the words of Psalm 131 again: I do not get involved with things to great or too difficult for me.”  I think this verse could very well refer to times when we get our big heads into matters we know nothing about- times we have the gall to speak for God or explain His actions when a wiser person would have kept their mouth shut. God has a fitting expression for it.”

[Break in text for interactives, etc]

“Obviously God is not saying that we are never to offer possible explanations for the deeper things of Scripture and its divine Author.  Furthermore we most assuredly need higher institutions of theology and well-trained professors.  And a good debate between them can be tremendously insightful.

So, where’s the line?  How do we know when a matter is too great for us? Deuteronomy 29:29 may offer the best example.”

[Break in text for Interactive and several paragraphs]

“Over and over Scripture attests that God can do no wrong.  It also blatantly assures us He is sovereign and could stop any  ill.  How can I make those ends meet?  I can’t . . . but God can and one day will.  Between His arms that seem at times outstretched in opposite directions, you will find His heart.  Out of the ashes of the unfathomable, sooner than later Lazarus-faith must rise from the dead- questions still unanswered- or the Devil has won.  Perhaps Anselm, an eleventh-century English monk, voiced an approach that draws today’s lesson to the best conclusion:

I do not seek, O Lord, to penetrate thy depths.  I by no means think my intellect equal to them: but I long to understand in some degree thy truth, which my heart believes and loves.  For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.”

End of quote.

Please note that the chunks of text the author pieces together are not in consecutive order and her summary does not include the necessary qualifications to do honest justice to Mom’s writing.   One primary example is that she pulls the phrase, “theological snobbery” from its immediate context where Mom has clearly qualified her statement to encompass not just institutions of higher learning BUT “every one of us.” This is a very real misuse of Mom’s work.  Again snippets of quotations from Stepping Up have been combined to create a new meaning, one that Mom herself does not support.  Various qualifications that Mom made in the text have been ignored or left out of the article.  Another example is the author’s use of the word “despite” to head the sentence.  Although the word “despite” is not in quotations (signaling that Mom herself did not say or write it), it is misleading as a header for the entire quote.  On the contrary, when Mom wrote, “Furthermore, we most assuredly need higher institutions of theology and well-trained professors.  And a good debate between them can be tremendously insightful,” her words are accompanied by an enthusiastic tone, not a reluctant one like the author inserts.

While Mom’s use of biblical and theological scholarship may fail to meet this author’s standard, it does not necessarily follow that Mom’s voice echoes Tertullian’s famous cry: What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?  What communion is there between the academy and the church?” The chasm between Mom’s faith and intellectual inquiry is surely not as wide as this author asserts.  If you read the text from Week 5 Day 3 that I recorded above, you might have noticed Mom’s quotation of Anselm at the end: I believe, that I may understand.”  Anselm’s maxim is a basic motto in many Christian academic institutions, for it has often been identified as the appropriate bridge between the church and academic inquiry.

I would hardly find it significant enough to mention this misuse of Mom’s work, if I did not also think that it misrepresented Mom’s heart on the matter. Unlike Amanda, I was never interviewed by the folks who wrote these articles. So in brief, I want to say what I would have told them if I had been:  Mom has, more than anyone, stimulated my passion for academic study of the Bible. I will never forget the day she called me from Oxford University in England.  I could hear her voice breaking over the sea that stood between us as she described to me how inspiring it was to walk on a campus that had been a home to so many great minds.  She has been a constant support during my entire theological education- spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

From the semester I first learned about the JEDP theory in my Old Testament class at Baylor, to my transfer to Moody Bible Institute’s Bible department and even on through my days as a little metaphorical P.O.W. in the Biblical Exegesis Program at Wheaton Graduate School.  When I hadn’t slept forty eight hours straight because I was up late writing yet another exegesis paper or reading Calvin’s Institutes, she reminded me why I was going to school in the first place- in her words, “ to get your feet planted firmly on the ground (biblically & theologically), with your hands raised straight up in the air.”  She was also the one who taught me my first great piece of hermeneutical advice, “If you’re completely alone in your interpretation of a certain verse, then you’re most likely wrong.”  Apparently her mentor, Buddy Walters, had passed that one down.  I’ve never forgotten it all these years. Even more stunning and meaningful to me has been Mom’s love and support for me over this past year when I completed a Th.M. in New Testament at a PCUSA seminary that assumes a completely different doctrine of Scripture than she does.  She has been my primary dialogue partner in this quest and brave enough to support me in my theological journey even when it has gone beyond her own theological comfort zone.  Now, Mom is certainly not an academic in the technical sense, but equally true is that she is no mocker or skeptic of the academic world. Mom not only rests on the work of many academics in her research, but she goes to great lengths to express her great indebtedness to them along the way.  Academics who spend each day in the pedantic little details of exegetical methodology and at the same time love God with all their hearts are Mom’s heroes.

Well, as you can imagine I called Mom to speak with her about the article as soon as I closed the final page.  I said, “So what did you think?”  She replied, “They were kinder than they had to be.  And I learned a lot.” I said, “You learned a lot? Seriously?”  Apparently she learned a lot.  Now that is just vintage Mom.  I told her that although I was moved by her humility, I was also troubled by this little paragraph in the second article. While, I too, think being teachable is a virtue, I also wonder if there is not an appropriate time to express some concern about what may appear to be a misunderstanding of Mom’s work.  Only once someone is properly understood should he or she be criticized.

It seems to me that for the most part using criticism constructively would imply that the criticism is legitimate and in this particular case, I do not think it is.  Even if I got this all wrong and Mom very coincidentally said these exact words in another work or speaking engagement, I would not find them to be warranted in a discussion of the four fundamental themes that are threaded throughout all of Mom’s writing.  The reason I felt burdened to write this blog for you is that I think you deserve to know that Mom, and so also Living Proof Ministries, tremendously respects and makes regular use of trustworthy biblical scholarship. Now, I, would argue until my dying breath precisely what Mom said about Scripture being for everyday living and not primarily for the academic world.  But does that undermine my passion for biblical and theological scholarship?  I don’t think it does.

We love you and esteem you enough to carefully walk through something that could be confusing.

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A Really Fabulous Teacher

Every now and then I know that a blog post is going to have such fun comments, I am almost giddy writing it. My “french tipped nails” (I saw that somewhere recently) kind of skip across the key board like a jackrabbit across a dewy pasture. Yesterday the Wednesday crew of the Living Proof staff went to lunch at a Salada not far from our office. (Salada is the Luby’s Cafeteria of salads. I just rolled my eyes. Of course, I’d rather have Luby’s. Seriously? But, as sprouts and spinach go, Salada will do the trick but it can be pretty pricey for those on a ministry celery. Now, lettuce get back to the story at hand.) We’d just had a seat at a long table with our sprouts when my eyes wandered to a table across from us and a woman I could only see from the back. You know how you get that feeling sometimes, “I know that back”?

I knew this one.

I’d seen that very back saunter down the aisles of my classroom at Northbrook High School in Houston, Texas, about three hundred years ago. I stared at her until she turned to a profile. About the time I jerked forward with recognition, one of my coworkers asked me what I was distracted by.

“That is my high school English teacher. I had her for two years straight. Junior and Senior year. She was the best teacher I have ever had in my life and the very reason why I minored in English.”

“You’re kidding!” my coworkers chimed in.  “Are you going to say something?”

Just about that time, my person of interest and her friend reached over, grabbed their purses on the floor and prepared to get up.  That’s when I knew I only had a second to move on it.I hopped up from my seat, darted over to her, knelt down on the floor by her and said, “Mrs. Fanett, it’s me, Beth.”

(I don’t know why but I have tears in my eyes. I’m really in a silly mood but for some reason recounting this moment is touching a tender place in me.)

She responded just like you’d hope. She stood straight up from that chair, hugged me and sort of cupped my face in her hands, searching to find that seventeen year-old again. (OK, I’m really about to cry now. GET A GRIP. This isn’t Kleenex fodder, Birdbrain.)

After we greeted each other with equal warmth, I turned to my staff at the adjacent table and said, “Ladies, this is Mrs. Naomi Fanett. She is the best school teacher I have ever had.”

And for just a split second, we were no longer at Salada. Somebody grabbed the remote and pushed rewind and there all of us were, even my coworkers, in bell bottoms and short skirts in a classroom in Northbrook High School. Mrs. Fanett was teaching us how to appreciate a word fitly spoken, a word fitly written. She used her hands a lot and her eyes danced as she taught. There was something poetic about her. Something that made high school girls that hadn’t smoked a lot of dope want to grow up and teach English just like her.

I’m not sure why, but she liked me and, better than that, I knew it. It’s such a waste when you don’t. I don’t mean she seemed to like me more than the other students because she didn’t. She was too professional to show a lot of favoritism. She just had a natural affinity toward the kids that actually stayed awake in class and raised their hands for more than permission to go to the restroom. Of course, not many students had the gall to sleep in Naomi Fanett’s English class. It wasn’t that she was as strict as it was that she’d be so appalled. She commanded respect somehow and I never remember a single football player ever even belching in there.

When Mrs. Fanett searched my face for that high school student yesterday, I thought back to what she would have imagined. I had only moved from our beloved home state of Arkansas to the biggest city in Texas the year before. I’d gone from a 2-A school to a high school population a third the size of my entire former town. I had an accent as thick as the piney woods staring down on my tiny childhood home out in Ouachita Hills. My wardrobe was the only thing vaguely big-city-fied, thanks to the employee discount I got through my part time job at J.C. Penney’s. Despite all attempts to sound like I belonged, I only had to open my mouth and yawn for someone to say, “Where are you from?”

But I had a romance with English. And sometimes when Mrs. Fanett would pass out our graded papers, she’d lay mine on my desk, glance at me with the quickest smile and tap the red grade at the top of the page.

Approval.

It wasn’t that I was good at English. It was that Mrs. Fanett was good at English. She excelled at what she did. She acted like teaching high school students was the most important profession on the planet. She fascinated me way back then. She fascinated me yesterday. Before we parted, she told me that she’d recently retired and that she and her husband (also a teacher) were traveling now.

And suddenly I had an uncontrollable urge to go somewhere like Tuscany.

With Mr. and Mrs. Fanett.

There ain’t nothing like a good school teacher. Tell me it ain’t true.

OK, I’m dying to hear about your favorite teacher. Bring it, Sisters. I’ll watch this baby all day.

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All About Vangie

*** Hey ladies, this is Melissa . . . I added a couple of additional pictures to the bottom of this post.  My favorite is obviously the one where the entire Living Proof Staff is throwing up gang signs . . . I mean, A.A.V. (All About Vangie) Signs. Classic LPM ***

Hey, Siestaville! How are all of you? We have had quite the whirlwind weekend! Hawk (Michelle) and I had the great joy of serving at the Desperate For Jesus women’s conference at Dr. Tony Evan’s fine church in Dallas alongside speaker Tara Jenkins. (Oh my word, I loved getting to know her. God is raising up such wonderful and powerful young women to serve this and the next generation. We’re in good hands, Sisters.) My dear friend, Priscilla Shirer (Dr. Tony and Dr. Lois Evan’s daughter and one of our favorite Bible study teachers/writers on earth) emceed the event and I love any time I get to spend with her. I had a blast with the women who attended just like I knew I would. They don’t just listen to the Word around Oak Cliff. They participate in the Word. Groups don’t get better than that one.

I finished my second session late Saturday morning, threw the baton into Tara’s able hands and took a run for the airport. Hawk and I had a huge event to attend back in Houston and we’d make it by the skin of our teeth. Even the least weather delay would have caused us to miss it. When we got to DFW, the Houston flight prior to ours was delayed and the one after ours was canceled but we sailed out of there on the everlasting arms of God and made it to the church on time.

Since you got to meet my dear friend and coworker, Evangeline Harris, a few weeks ago on our second SSBS video greeting and knew we had a wedding on the horizon, I thought it was only fair to let you know that our Vangie is now (drum roll please) Mrs. Darren Williams. (I think I heard trumpets in the distance just then.) The wedding was BEAUTIFUL! Our bride was an absolute vision and her groom was so handsome. The chapel was full of family and friends who cheered them on to the altar after a courtship fit for a Lifetime movie. Both of them have long histories with God and each loves Jesus more than anything on earth. Isn’t that the ultimate? It was truly the culmination of two great stories into one fabulous book.

Evangeline has nine – count them, NINE – brothers and sisters and, yes, all from the same set of (courageous…and maybe tired) parents. She honored me so much by asking if I’d take part in the ceremony. As I addressed them both during the service, I told Darren that he had no idea what all he’d inherit when he fell in love with Vangie. Not only did he instantly have 11 in-laws and all their spouses. He had all of us at LPM who are as thick as blood with his new wife. I told him he’d just inherited 15 lily white women, some of whom attempt to take the edge off with self-tanner. But I’ll not say who. Let me just say I was among the tanner ones at the wedding. Thank you, L’Oreal.

Needless to say, the LPM staff was there with few exceptions and in rare form. (Curtis graciously babysat so Amanda could come without a preschooler and a toddler who would have added considerable color and volume to the whole affair). Both Diane and Kimberly on our staff were bridesmaids alongside other close loved ones of Vangie’s. Both of them bawled their heads off during the ceremony. It was emotional for all of us because we’ve all been on hand every single day of this sweet romance since their Sunday school teacher, Lisa Weir (also a good friend of ours),  introduced them at our church last year. Our Vangie had held out for the right man for 20 years of adulthood and I don’t mind saying it paid off.

Nancy, another of our LPM sisters and my close friend of 20 years, did a Scripture reading so she was sitting on the pew beside me, right by the piano. (Do you guys like these kinds of details?? Sorry if you don’t. You can proceed right to the pictures if you’re rocking back and forth with frustration.) Right before I went onto the platform to speak over the couple, Nancy leaned over to me and said, “We’ve done a lot of things together at LPM but this one may have to be at the very top.”

I looked at her and said, “Yes, indeed.” This was the first time we had actually ever married someone off. Michelle (AKA Hawk) better run for her life before we start thinking we’re on a roll. I told you several weeks ago in the greeting where I introduced the bride that we made up hand motions to “All About Vangie.” And, yes, we did them 100 times at the wedding. That morning, all of us traded texts that had just three letters in them: “AAV!” I don’t think it would be all that hard to change the hand motions from AAV to AAM. Be afraid, Michelle. Be very, very afraid.

OK, OK, I’ll shut up and let you see some pictures Amanda snapped at the wedding for our LPM photo library. She didn’t take many so she wouldn’t impose on the professional photographer but I think you’ll enjoy the ones we have.

I’m thinking she must have taken this one before the ceremony while everybody was waiting and I was already in the Greenroom with Vangie. This is my man and our Bible study/event coordinator Jennifer Hamm’s man, respectively Keith and Chad. Yes, Keith has on Wranglers. He wore Wranglers to Melissa’s reception, too. Vangie didn’t care. She loves that Keith Moore.

This was one of the best wedding cakes I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t get a chance to ask Vangie who baked it. She was pretty busy.

The foyer at our church had been transformed for the reception into Vintage Vangie. Her good taste was everywhere. Honestly, I’ve never seen the foyer more beautiful. Everything was either white, black or hot pink. Here are some goodies:

A little wider shot so you can get the idea:

Yours truly with the bride and groom! I love them both so much. (That’s a side clip of sorts if you’re wondering what’s going on with my hair. I tried something new. Not sure it works out of the context. Maybe not even in it. If you weren’t wondering, forget that I brought that up. It was otherwise a very Spiritual evening.)

The B and G cutting that gorgeous cake:

Vangie and Lisa Weir.

Stunning Bride.

Living Proof Staff with the Bride.  Again.  It’s ALL. ABOUT. VANGIE.

Vangie and Darren are off on their honeymoon in San Diego for the week. You can imagine how abuzz LPM will be when she gets back to us. She only had one request of us when she left: “Don’t talk about anything fun till I get back!”

Oh, Vangie. We talked about something fun today all right. We talked about YOU. We just can’t help ourselves. We’re AAV.

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Thinking About Stuff

I just have a few minutes to climb on here before my staff (and BFF’s) and I head to lunch. I just got a text saying we’re going to Luby’s Cafeteria so I’m already thinking about what I’m going to get. You’ll be happy to know after a year of being unhealthy and underweight and in bad need of surgery, I am back to my normal size and feeling ten tons better. (I am still dealing with some physical pain but I think it’s my trust from God right now. You’ll never waste a prayer on me but that’s another story for another time.) Anyway, the only unfortunate part about being physically healthy again and back to my real weight is that I can’t really get chicken fried chicken for lunch anymore. Grin.

Last night my man and I had the neatest experience and it’s on my mind so I think I’ll share it. We were invited to the 30th birthday party of a young woman we’ve known all her life. Kay’s parents and Keith and I have been dear friends since our early 20’s. Many years ago we served together in our young marrieds’ Sunday School department. Kay’s Dad, Roger (one of the finest men I’ve ever known), taught the men’s class and I taught the women’s. Each set of couples had 2 daughters almost exactly the same age. They grew up together at the same church and have known each other all their lives. We have vacationed together a number of times as families and as couples and leaned on each other more times than I can count. During difficult seasons, we have wept together and in times of victory, celebrated like wild people. Our oldest daughters served in summer missions together and met and fell in love with two guys from Missouri who were best friends. They each married those guys and were in each other’s weddings only two weeks apart.

We got invited to Kay’s birthday party because Roger and Mary Ann (one of the finest women I know) would be the only other older couple there. The rest were all in their late 20’s or early 30’s. As we sat at that table with our life-long friends right beside us, I looked around at those young people and remembered just yesterday when it was us sitting in their positions. We had so much life ahead. So much joy. So much victory. So much defeat. (I’ll just apply that part to Keith and me) So much need. Life – and marriage, for Heaven’s sake – is flat-out HARD. But you really couldn’t tell it last night. It was a celebration and time to put our troubles aside and boast in the graciousness of our God. And we did.

I thought last night how much God used that band of married couples so many years ago to keep Keith and me together through hard times and how much sweeter they made the good times. Many of us from that original young marrieds’ group at our church are still friends today. All but two couples have stayed together (no condemnation to those who haven’t – the devil is relentless) and through many very difficult times. None of us are without scars. None of us are as full of ourselves or as sure of ourselves as we were back then. We’ve been broken over and over and sometimes to pieces but last night there we sat, telling some of those people our stories and hearing a few of them say,

“That’s pretty cool.”

The way God ordained it, we don’t just need our vertical relationship with Him to make it in life and marriage. We need one another. We need Hebrews 10:24-25 kind of people. We need folks around us to cheer us on and even to question us and hold us accountable. We need people who will not only pray for us but laugh with us and cry with us. Eat Mexican food with us. Live life with us! We need more than Facebook and blogs and tweets, as much as I enjoy them. We need real people and real face-to-face, life-to-life relationships. Last night when Kay’s husband, Jerrell, prayed over her before we sat down to the birthday feast, for some reason Mary Ann, Roger, Keith and I grabbed onto each other for dear life and hugged each other with all our might. We are still standing after the enemy has done you-can’t-imagine-what to try to destroy us. Not one of us would take an ounce of credit. Jesus. It’s all Jesus. He’s been so much better to us than He had to be. He did not let the devil bring the destruction he wanted.

It seems only yesterday we WERE those young couples. In the blink of an eye those young couples will be our age, having endured what they were sure they couldn’t and having celebrated more than they deserved.

God is so good.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore we do NOT lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-8, 16.

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Siesta Summer Bible Study: Gathering Three!

Hey, Siestas! How about this summer Bible study? Is it fabulous or what?? I pray you are getting as much out of Kelly Minter’s “Ruth” as we are. My group of 8 is totally engrossed in it. We can’t get out on time to save our lives but that’s a good problem to have.

It’s time for our third gathering and we will discuss Weeks Three and Four or in the book’s terminology, Sessions Three and Four. As usual, I’m providing you a written version of what I share in the video greeting in case you have trouble playing it. We will have five interactives this time around: two based on Week (or Session) Three, two based on Week (or Session) Four and the final one will tie together both.

Summer Siesta Bible Study – Ruth Session 3 from LPV on Vimeo.

Based on Week (or Session) Three:

1. Turn to p.68 and review the first segment “For Discussion”: Describe a time when you were overcome by a man’s kindness. In keeping with the example of Ruth and Boaz, try to think in terms of an unexpected kindness.

2. Read Ruth 2:19-20 and review the climactic revelation in this Book of the Bible. After you read those two Scriptures, turn to p.85 and review the first couple of sentences of the paragraph in the middle of the page as follows: “It’s interesting that up to this point Naomi knew she had a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz but had no idea Ruth knew him; Ruth knew Boaz but didn’t know he was a kinsman redeemer. Suddenly these two pieces of information collided to potentially change the course of history.” Our divinely ordained collisions may not change the course of human history but they certainly change the course of our own personal history. Can any of you think of a time when God orchestrated an encounter or experience where you (or perhaps both/all parties involved) could say, “Only God could have known”? If so, share it. These would be really cool to hear in your blog comments so consider sharing one of the most meaningful examples.

Based on Week (or Session) Four:
3. Turn to p.95 and, if willing, share your answers to the “Personal Response” section at the very bottom of the page: “Describe a time when you’d done everything you could do and then had to wait for someone else’s response.”

4. Turn to p.108 and review the answer to the question in the middle of the page: “What did Boaz promise to do if the nearer relative chose not to redeem Ruth?” Then, share your responses to the discussion portion just below it where we were challenged to put ourselves in Ruth’s place. What kinds of feelings and thought processes would you have had in her exact situation?

Don’t conclude this portion of the Bible study without one of you reading the final paragraph on p.108 aloud to the rest of the group. (“If Ruth slept at all that night…) Those of you going solo can simply read it again and let it go even deeper.

5. Ask if one person wants to share a brand new insight she’s gained from this study regarding Christ as her Redeemer. (For those of you going solo, consider that I’m asking each of you the question.)

For our next gathering in two weeks, do Weeks (or Sessions) Five and Six. In other words, let’s finish up! And while we’re at it, Sisters, LET’S FINISH STRONG! You will feel such joy in your soul if you’ll see this to the last page. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if just as many women signed in at the end as in the beginning? Let’s make our goal 100%, Sisters!

For those of you joining in on the meals, consider the recipes on pages 88-89. The Grilled Chicken Salad with Strawberries sounds perfect for summer. Lord, have mercy on us, so does the pie!

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Hello Saturday Off! (And a Little Announcement)

Hey, You Darling Things!

I’ve had the best week because Melissa’s been in town since Monday. We’ve been together with the Joneses a ton of times and having everybody together brings me so much joy. I’ve told you before that my girls make me laugh like nobody else on earth. We just sat at FreshBerry and laughed until we nearly threw up our FreshBerry tart. (Are you guys into that yet? And, yes, I already know it’s a knock-off of Pink Berry but, since we don’t have Pink Berry in Houston, uh, we’re just going to knock it off. You just can’t be cooler than you are.)

These were our choices today. Amanda got Fruity Pebbles on hers which was a throw back to her childhood and reminded me of her little sister who tends to have the taste buds of a first grader. She also got blueberries and strawberries so that, true to form, her fruit could stay in the same color palette. Melissa is our riskier one with a menu but it doesn’t always pay off. (For instance, she’ll try the club sandwich at a Chinese restaurant or pasta and marinara at some place like Chili’s.) This time she tried the Key Lime Chiffon with graham crackers because the guy at the counter said it tasted just like the pie and, even though it was good, it was not as good as my traditional fare and she mostly assisted me in scraping the bottom of my cup. (I think I also licked it.) I got three fruits (mango, kiwi, and strawberries) but I also got granola which is like 70 cents extra (the fourth topping is extra) but there’s a reason why my name is still Moore and theirs is not. I was addicted by my second trip to FreshBerry and have sworn there is some kind of drug in it that drives you back. Of course, that’s a lie, lest I start a rumor.

Since many of you have commented along the way how close we seem (not me and FreshBerry but me and my girls although FreshBerry and I are moving forward in our relationship), I just want you to know, we don’t laugh together and get such a big kick out of each other because we don’t have problems. We each have a full plate of them. We just laugh because we might as well. Life’s just funnier that way. We also get a lot of satisfaction out of making fun of each other. If we cross the line, though, we apologize profusely and feel like dogs and tell the other one to say something mean to us, too. If they won’t, we’ll say something mature like, “Well, hit me then!”

Melissa’s been in town this week for us to start a very special project together. I would be so blessed and thankful for you to stop a split second and pray for us. We have just begun research for the next in-depth Bible study, God willing, and it will totally preoccupy us for at least the next full year. (She actually started on it months ago but I’ve just turned my attentions to it in the last seven days.) This will be a seven week, eight session study on the life and Book of James.

This time, instead of contributing through research alone (which she does masterfully and like no one else I know), I’ve asked Melissa to write brief segments from her own perspective and research each week throughout the workbook. I will write the main body of the lessons like usual and, unless the plan changes, she will have a box in each lesson where she brings her own voice. I will do the lecture sessions as usual, too, but she will also probably be in some of the cutaways or what we call “outros.” All of this is what we believe we’re sensing from God right now but it will no doubt develop as we go. We’re super excited and yes, nervous as always, but we feel like we’ve got a window of opportunity for a little co-writing and we’re going to jump through it. Amanda has already been right in there with us helping us shape the concept but, as you know, her hands are full with small children right now and this is not her season for this kind of titanic undertaking at work. She is my favorite editor and I so hope she’ll be able to look over some of the lessons along the way as her schedule permits. In one way or another, our lives are always intertwined. Amanda may not co-write but goodness knows she has provided a preschooler and toddler who, in turn,  provide no few illustrations.

Anyway, thank you for caring about what’s brewing around here at Living Proof. I am never more stressed or overworked than when I’m in the middle of writing an in-depth Bible study but I am also never more fulfilled. It is the work I love best because it immerses my poor brain in the wealth of Scripture day after day after day. Hour after hour after hour. Some people’s brains simply need washing. God is gracious beyond comprehension to allow somebody with my kind of past to serve people like you.

Which reminds me, yesterday Hawk and I taped my SSBS greeting for you. (It will be your post on Tuesday as we launch our third gathering.) I thought you might get a kick out of how professional we are around here. This is our camera set up.

No one can say we don’t keep up with all the latest technological advancements here at Living Proof. No sir. (In case you can’t see that tiny camera at the top of the tripod, that statement’s a bit of a joke.) We tape in one of the offices right on the second floor where a bunch of the staff works and Hawk and I love to shout, “Quiet on the set!” (By the way, they’re usually not.)

I hope you guys have a great weekend. Work a whole lot of Jesus into it and maybe a little frozen yogurt…and find somebody in your neck of the woods to laugh with. It does a body good.

I love you. That’s the honest truth. You are the FreshBerry Tart of the Blog World. I just keep coming back.

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VBS!

This summer I did something I never thought I would or could do. I’ve had many opportunities to be involved in youth, college, and women’s ministry, but there is one big area of church life I’ve never ventured into – Vacation Bible School! The thought of working with kids has always made me really nervous. Last summer I was asked to help, but Annabeth was only four months old and I wasn’t ready to be a part of something so involved. God gave me a passion to pray for my friends who were teaching and I realized what an incredible mission field we had inside our own church. I secretly hoped I would have another chance to say yes. Sure enough, this year I was asked to help in the kindergarten classroom that several of my close friends were helping in. It was a definite yes!

As soon as I said yes, the insecurities and worry set in. Do I really know how to relate to school age children? How am I going to get myself and the kids ready and make it to the church on time five days in a row? What is my role going to be? What if I’m terrible at it? My fleshly mind and the mind of Christ were at war in my head. I resolved that it was going to be an incredible lesson in living beyond myself! Amen?

It ended up being a great week. Praise the Lord! I did not know how we were going to get everything accomplished, but we saw Him do it! Our kids were wonderful and the other teachers amazed me. I’m so thankful God made me get out of my comfort zone and serve at VBS. Our church did LifeWay’s “Saddle Ridge Ranch” and it was great. Being a horse girl at heart, the theme wasn’t that much of a stretch for me. I was in charge of the “dramatic play” rotation, so I got to pretend to camp out and roast marshmallows, paint “gold nuggets,” act out a Bible story, and decorate post cards. It really was a lot of fun. Although I want to give every school teacher a big hug and say God bless you!

These are my Top 10 VBS Memories:
1. My friend My-An wearing a costume to teach about the feeding of the 5,000.
2. When the kids took a package of dried fish from My-An’s lesson and made it our class mascot. They insisted on carrying it to recreation, music, and crafts that day.
3. Being the Minister of Squeeze Cheese during snack time.
4. Feeling like it was 5 p.m. every day when I got in my car.
5. Walking 21 six-year-olds from the gym up to the third floor. C-R-A-Z-Y!
6. Trying to make myself do the motions during music. Ha! That was so hard for me! Also, hearing from the music teachers how enthusiastic Jackson was when his class was in there.
7. Enjoying the relative independence of kids a little older than my own.
8. Sneaking off to the break room for a Dr. Pepper.
9. Sweet little snaggletooth mouths saying their memory verses.
10. Seeing the body of Christ work together to create an amazing week for these kids. I was in awe of what God can do with all of our different spiritual gifts and talents.

Were you and/or your kids involved in VBS this summer? If you have a story or a Top 10 list to share, please do!

We proclaimed him, admonishing and teaching our kids with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end we labored, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully worked in us! (From Col. 1:28-29.)

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Veggie Tales.

Howdy blogworld.

I’m so pleased to be greeting you from way down deep in the heart of Texas.

The last time I was in Houston, my parents and grandparents had just planted a garden.  I wasn’t all that impressed, really, as it just looked like a bunch of dirt and seemed like a kinda boring hobby to me.  Over the past few months, Mom has been sending me photos from her cell phone of some of the new growth but the pictures haven’t been of stellar quality so I could not believe it when I saw the garden with my own eyes!  It still has a way to go but I cannot believe it is already bearing some fruit!

I’m so excited for my parents and grandparents to have this new little garden! My grandparents, who are in their mid to late seventies, tend to the garden every single day. Each time the four of them grow something new they quarter the vegetable and eat it together, even if it’s a tiny little Roma tomato. I’m also pretty floored. I do not have a green thumb. A few years ago Colin gave me his cactus plant to take care of for a few months and I killed it in record time. I’ve even been known to starve a variety of bamboo, which, according to Colin, is pretty impressive. And please do not get me started on the rosemary I tried to plant during my cooking craze.  The death of the rosemary plant was the final straw, not to mention a prophetic foreshadowing signifying the doom of my overall Betty Crocker agenda.

Do you have a garden?  If so, what kind of fun stuff do you grow?  If you’re like me and you don’t have a green thumb, what is your latest hobby? My latest hobby is photography.  I can’t get enough.  I’m driving my entire family bonkers.

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LPL – Irvine, CA Recap

Living Proof Live – Irvine CA from Rich Kalonick on Vimeo.

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Home From California!

Hey, my dear Siestas!

I hope you are well and blessed in an acute awareness of the presence of Jesus with you this Lord’s Day. Hawk and I are sitting on the plane heading back to Houston from Orange County, California. I am writing to you from an altitude of about 30,000 feet and there is nothing but a carpet of cottony clouds as far as I can see outside my window. The pilot just came on the speaker to tell us that we have thunderstorms ahead and that it could really be bumpy for the next 20 minutes (the mere suggestion to keep our seatbelts fastened always makes me suddenly die to go to the lavatory) so if I have a sudden lapse in my spelling or judgment, perhaps you’ll kindly attribute it to turbulence.

We’ve had such a great time this weekend with the people we were graced to serve. Our Living Proof Live was in a church this time – Mariner’s Church – and we were so incredibly happy to be back in a house God frequents. They were so kind to us. The sanctuary is very close to the size of mine back home (theirs around 3200, ours ever so slightly larger) so it was a size that feels homey to me. (I know that’s so odd for you guys that have never attended a mega church. It’s not what I would have chosen for myself years ago either but it was God’s will and, this many years later, a joy.) I told this group first thing that it’s always a relief not to feel like we have to get to that city arena as fast as we possibly can and ask God to sanctify it from God-only-knows-what-was-in-it-last. I say that with a smile and not with self-piety as I really do know that we, too, along with every environment of every gathering, can only be sanctified and prepared by God. We’re not one bit worthier of His gracious presence without Him making us so. In fact, I’m fairly certain from the Gospels that He’s more grossed out by a gathering of sanctimonious, self-righteous, proud Christians who presume He’s there than He is by a group that desperately needs Him there. He’s funny that way. I’m not saying He always attends the latter’s gathering, especially if it’s downright sacrilegious, but that He might be apt to zoom there a little quicker if asked.

I love the team I get to work with so much. You surely know after all this time and all these mentions that I love Travis Cottrell (if you want to say the last name right, put the accent on the first syllable) I guess as much as I would if I’d had him (really young). I hate for him to even read that because he gives me such a hard time. Then again, he doesn’t really like to read anything much longer than a tweet (Oh, it made me so happy to say that. It will temper the nice thing I said about him) so there is every possibility he’ll never make it far enough into this post to hear me say publically that I love him. But I do. I also love the rest of the praise team. Generally speaking, they are not as much a part of my life away from the events as the Cottrells but many of us have been together a number of years and we’re close. This weekend in Irvine, we really missed our buddy Seth (who is working on his masters and had a school thing he had to attend). If you’ve ever been to one of the other LPL’s, he’s the other male vocalist on the praise team and so much cooler than the rest of us that we can only stand back slack-jawed over his coolness. I’m smiling because I know he’s going to hate that I said that. He’s not trying to be cool. He just honestly can’t help it.  In his absence, however, we got to have Daniel, a worship leader at another great California church and another of Travis’s really good friends (he’s got a million in case any of us regulars turn against him). We loved him! (Daniel is who I’m talking about now. Try not to lag behind here.)

Now, if we could only get both Seth and Daniel up there at once, it would be almost more than the rest of us could bear. They’re both incredibly gifted. I’m so crazy about the women on the praise team: Lici (to help you picture who’s who, she’s the one who knocks it out on that lead in Travis’s version of “Victory in Jesus” and the one with the darkest tan unless I’m trying a new Sunless and it’s gone awry, which does unfortunately happen from time to time) and Julie (“Revelation Song “ and “How He Loves”) and Angela (oh, good grief, she leads on more than I can list but for a few, “Mercy Seat” and “El Shaddai”).  I am no less crazy about the guys. Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, there are both Kevins (one on bass and one on the drums) and Alexis (who is Angela’s man and who plays the keyboard with such glad worship that I almost can’t take my eyes off of him, especially if he’s playing while she sings) and then there’s Wes.

I have to stop for a moment and smile about Wes. I love him so much. He’s one of our shier ones so you can imagine what a hard time everybody gives him. This weekend I nearly busted out laughing during the last segment of praise and worship (when it was really upbeat or I wouldn’t have felt the freedom to be laughy) and the camera got right in his face and he turned his (hair-free) head the other direction so they couldn’t capture his expression. You know how guitar players sometimes have to make certain faces to play really well? (I do it myself when I’m playing air guitar at home in front of the bathroom mirror.) He preferred not to be caught with one of those. And I understand and not just from playing the air guitar. From speaking and getting my picture taken or video frozen in the least possible flattery. But I don’t want to talk about it. And don’t you think for one minute I haven’t seen y’all talking about it in your comments to the video greetings so I know for a fact y’all make fun of me, too. Your very own Siesta Mama! Honestly, is there no dignity to be had around here???

Laughing.

OK, well, we’re about to begin our initial descent into the Houston area so I’m going to have to close and put my seat back and tray table into their upright and locked positions. For Heaven’s sake, I meant to get on here and say something of value. Instead I have just invited you into the mindless musings of my bleached blond head. I’ve bored you to sobs. I’m sorry. But I really have good highlights right now.

The real reason I started telling you about the weekend and everybody on the team is because I’m just in a really grateful mood. I even got to stay after the event with a dear friend of mine and go watch her 11 year-old daughter play basketball at the YMCA. All these things together in one weekend was almost more  joy than I could stand. I texted a picture of the game and scoreboard (we won) to AJ and Melissa and they both texted back with, “You are in your element, Mom!”

My heart is mush before the Lord right now. He has again answered the most important petition I ever place before Him: that He’d cause me to love Him and to love His Word and, secondarily (and scarily), to put me in whatever circumstances are best suited to set me up for those things. I say this just for today as I could wake up tomorrow and feel stale and stressed and numb and maybe even a tad ticked and not even sure at whom. I have no guarantees for tomorrow where my fickle emotions are concerned. We learned this weekend, however, not to worry about tomorrow so I can thank God with all my heart that this present day I feel love toward the One who loves me first.

From Charles Spurgeon this morning: Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock!

Please, Abba Father.

PS. As only God could possibly have timed (perhaps He’s getting back at them for making fun of me), when I landed, I received a text with this picture of three of the guys from our praise team dressed to go…well, I guess, snorkeling. (They’re still in California.) I pray this is not their new singing ensemble but it does not look that unlike some of their other suits. Oh, that Trav would have been in this picture too!!

Kevin (drums), Kevin (bass) and, yes, my dear Wes.

I am so happy right now.

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