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The Millenials

2017 August 3
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Bishop David Epps

Written 20 July, 2017

Much has been made about the generation known as “the Millennials,” those born between and including 1980 – 2000. They are the most studied generation in history, the largest generation and most educated in Western history, are technologically savvy, and are interested in purpose rather than perks. They are also found to be civic-oriented, socially, environmentally, and economically conscious, and see themselves as global citizens. They are entrepreneurial, pragmatic idealists, more liberal than most other generations, compassionate, confident, progressive, diverse, and results oriented. Additionally, they are team oriented, non-religious, multi-taskers, nomadic, impatient, and adventurists.

Some of these characteristics are worrisome to the older generations, particularly, the liberal and progressive aspects. It is true that millennials in general are more accepting of same-sex relationships and the legalization of marijuana. Also troublesome is that many of this generation are less religious than previous generations, and more demanding, which is where the impatience come in.

But many of these other characteristics are also quite desirable. And, it must be kept in mind that millennials are relatively young. They range in age from 17 to 37. Life has a way of modifying views over time. But, like other generations, they will have to make their own way in an increasingly complicated and hostile world.

Last week, my wife and I made our second visit to Parris Island, SC in three months. We went there each time to watch two of our grandsons graduate from Marine Corps Recruit Training. This time, as I sat in the stands, I noted the literally hundreds of young men and woman, millennials all, who had enlisted to serve their country. Even the drill instructors for the most part, were millennials too. This graduation process goes on nearly every Friday morning. I also thought about the tens of thousands in the other military services who were doing the same.

All of these men and women are offering themselves to a great cause, a cause bigger than themselves. In that way they are similar to the World War II generation. These millennials know that, for the last 16 years, our nation has been in a war against terror. They are aware of the dangers and the risks. Some, perhaps, are looking for a job or educational benefits. Others for adventure. Some wish to challenge and prove themselves. But so it has been throughout the nation’s history.

When I was a teenager, my father looked at me one day and said, “I fear for this country when I realize that, one day, your generation will be in charge.” Well, the baby Boomers haven’t been perfect but the nation still stands. This current generation is different than mine but they are also very similar in many ways.

Of my four oldest grandchildren (out of 11 with another to be born this week), two are U.S. Marines, one is in college and works part-time to put himself through, and another is training to be a high school chemistry teacher. They are all preparing for their future. They are all millennials and the country is full of such young people.

Here is where my late father and I part ways. I do not fear for my country when these people get to be in charge. I think, as a whole, they will be just fine. I think they have what it takes and that life will rub some of the rough edges off—just like it did for us. As far as the religious disinterest goes, that, too, often changes as people get older and realize that there is something beyond themselves that they can’t fully explain. And, even if I didn’t trust this generation, I do trust God with their futures. And ours.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

Living with Danger

2017 July 28
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsI used to wonder how the citizens of Israel functioned day to day. There was a time when bombings, terrorist attacks, and rockets aimed at residential areas were routine. One could be sitting at an outdoor café one minute and be maimed or dead the next. “What would it be like to continually live under this cloud of danger every day?” I thought.

In 1998, I traveled with a team to Kenya and Uganda for about three weeks. We arrived in the capital city of Kenya just a short time after terrorists had blown up the U. S. Embassy there. The State Department advised against travel to Kenya (a fact I did not know at the time) as there was no official American presence and the country was considered extremely hazardous for Western travelers. The FBI was there in force and, even in Uganda, the Embassy was closed.

For the first several days, I walked on pins and needles, anticipating that danger was everywhere. That was not an idle fear and the mission team hired body guards to provide a measure of protection. We had to secure our door at night, go nowhere alone or even in a small group, and the vehicles were checked each morning for explosive devices. Then, after the first three days, all that just felt normal. It didn’t take as long as I would have thought to just accept what was and push on to do the work at hand. In retrospect, was it a dangerous place to be? Absolutely! But I began to understand, on a very small scale, how Israeli citizens coped with the threats.

Currently, the world, in my view, is as dangerous a place as it has been in the last seventy years. Some would say that the Cold War years were more dangerous but I disagree. The possibility of assured mutual destruction in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union kept the peace, for the most part. “Yeah,” someone might say. “What about the Cuban missile crisis.” Actually that strengthens my argument. Neither the USA nor the USSR wanted war so a back door compromise was reached. The missiles were removed from Cuba and we quietly agreed not to invade the island dictatorship and gave some concessions in Europe.

Today, the rogue nation of North Korea, led by an unpredictable megalomaniac, has nuclear weapons. They nearly have the capacity to deliver such weapons to our shores and they openly scoff at any attempts to reign then in. Iran, committed to the destruction of the West, particularly Israel and The Great Satan—that would be us—is nearing the acquisition of its own nuclear arms. The FBI reported several months ago that investigations into terroristic activities are occurring in real time in all 50 states in the USA. And all that doesn’t include terrorist organizations who would love to launch more 9/11’s on our soil.

So what do we do? We go to the mall, post on Facebook, read Twitter, work out at the gym, go shopping, go to work, to the ball game, to the movies, we go out to eat, travel on vacations…we just go about our business as though the world—our world—were safe. Those who point out the dangers, whatever they may be, are thought to be fanatics, paranoid, or deranged. Like the man who sits in the café on the street in Jerusalem, we chose to be oblivious, think about other things, and go about our day.

My father, who served during World War II, used to warn me that the world was a dangerous place. He lived through Nazism, Fascism, and Imperialism. He saw the world erupt in flames and he knew it could happen again. But, like my Africa trip, we press on anyway. We do our jobs and live our lives and assume that, even if there is danger, we will be okay. And perhaps we will. But history is a harsh teacher. Perhaps that is why we ignore its lessons so easily.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

Dr. Judy Massey to Speak at Christ the King

2017 July 25
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Dr. Judy MasseyDr. Judy Massey, Peachtree City, will share about an upcoming mission to Albania at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 13, at Christ the King Church in Sharpsburg, GA. Dr Massey is a Commissioned Minister of Evangelism and Missions in the Diocese of the Mid-South and has ministered in several nations including Mongolia.

The trip, which will take place August 31st to September 9th 2017, will involve approximately ten highly experienced Christian elementary and high school teachers and a lesser number of school administers spending these days in Albania, at the express invitation of the Albanian Ministry of Education, conducting a week-long Convocation and In-Service Training Program for a select group of over one hundred Albanian teachers. Being invited to attend this event by the Education Ministry is a great honor and opportunity for these teachers since little if any such teacher training programs on this subject have been held in this country. Elbasan, where the convocation will be held, has never had a convocation before.

Albania is a small country directly East of Italy. The two countries are separated by the Adriatic Sea. To the south of Albania is Greece. Albania, with only 2.5 million people, is by far the poorest country in all of Europe. It is only just now beginning to emerge from the result of over fifty years of harsh communist rule under the Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha.

The country is approximately 60% secular Muslim, 30% atheist, and 10% Christian. The Convocation will have larger sessions for all of the participants, plus smaller break-out sessions with one of our group individually training around ten or so Albanian teachers. The Convocation theme/title is “Dream Makers.” Much of the thrust will be “how to get your students to reject unmarried sex, drugs, alcohol and crime … and instead follow their ‘dreams’ to a more wholesome, happy and successful life.” The teachings of Christ will be the central core of how “Dreams” can be possible for every Albanian boy and girl…and teacher.

The trip is sponsored by The International School Project, a division of Campus Crusade For Christ.

Dr. Massey has been a significant leader in many outreaches and organizations, including an outreach during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Women’s Aglow. Dr. Massey attended Carson-Newman College in Tennessee where she received a B. S. in and taught in the Atlanta Public Schools. In the summers she worked for the Foreign Language League and was the Director of the Atlanta YMCA camps. She completed a Master’s degree from Georgia State University. She continued her teaching career in the Douglas County Schools where she was named Teacher of the Year and piloted the county kindergarten program. She helped start a Christian Day School where she wrote part of the curriculum and was a member of the Junior League in the community. From there she became an adjunct professor at Mercer University

Massey received a Doctor of Ministry in 2001 from Regent University in Global Evangelization/Leadership. She has also taught and written manuals on Spiritual Warfare, Islam, Prophecy and Prayer Walking, and Sex Trafficking.

She is married to the Rev’d Canon Paul Massey and is a mother and grandmother.

The Roads Less Traveled

2017 July 15
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsWhen I first began in the ministry, there was a generally accepted path to success accepted by most of the other clergy I knew. The path was simple. One paid their dues by serving at smaller, poorer churches, probably in rural settings, and then, having done a good job, the reward would be accepting the position of pastor at a slightly larger church and so on. By the time one achieved middle-age, the pastor might find himself (or herself) in a relatively comfortable position for the remainder of his/her career. Some would go on to greater successes and much larger churches, but few would drop back to the small, rural (or sometimes inner-city) settings. Mixed in with this path to success might also be stints as an associate minister at a very large church and the obtaining of an advanced degree.

The alternative, and less traveled, path was to stay in one church for a lengthy amount of time, perhaps decades, and become part of the community and enter into the lives of the members of the congregation. It was certainly possible that the church would grow and provide upward mobility for the minister but it was also possible that the church, and thus the salary, would remain small as well. If the church prospers, the pastor prospers (if it has an ethical governing board). If it doesn’t, then the pastor shares that burden as well.

For the first part of my ministry, I was on the first path. I started out in youth ministry, then became the pastor of a small rural church. After that came the opportunity to move to a different county with a larger rural assignment. Later, I was back to a smaller city church and then as an associate at a church adjacent to a university. Finally, I became an associate at a quite large downtown church out West. And here is when the switch was made to the alternative path. It wasn’t a conscious thing, in the beginning. But it was a definite change in direction.

In 1983, I returned to the south to become the pastor of a then-smallish church in Georgia. Somewhere along the way, I wanted to put down roots and allow my children to experience a more stable life. I also desired to be part of the people’s lives, not just the guy who came and went. I decided to abandon the upward mobility pathway and opt to be part of the community. I received several offers to go to bigger churches—especially since the church I served had some dramatic growth—and though tempted, I stayed with it. It was a good group of people with excellent lay leadership.

I was there for over thirteen years when I left, it was not for money or status, but to plant a different kind of church with a different type of emphasis. Truthfully, if prosperity was my goal, I would have stayed where I was—and it was difficult to make the decision to leave. But I did leave and, along with my family and eleven other folks, a new church was established. Something like 80% of new churches fail within the first five years. In the first 10 years, that percentage rises to 90%.

For me, it has been well worth the financial sacrifice. In a couple of months, I will have served this congregation for twenty-one years. I have been in the hospital waiting room when almost all of our church children have been born and prayed the first prayer over them. Now, I am marrying some of these very same children or am watching them go off to college, the work force, or the military. It was announced a few weeks ago that two of our young women are engaged to be married. I have known them both since they were eight years old. There is a great deal of joy in a long pastorate.

There is also sadness. There has been a fair share of funerals of people I have known and loved during these past twenty-one years. There have been still births and miscarriages, weddings and divorces. People have lost jobs and sickness has been part of the lives of more than a few. Sometimes people move away due to job changes or promotions. Sometimes people leave for unknown reasons or reasons which I cannot fully comprehend. It has all been part of the cycle of life. Joy, sadness, laughter, tears…a season for everything.

In the early part of my ministry, I learned, sometimes the hard way, not to get too close to people. At the very least, I was going to be leaving them at some point in the near future. These last two decades, I have been a spiritual father…now, I suppose, a spiritual grandfather. I have ceased to be an ambitious, upwardly mobile professional, and I have chosen (or perhaps have been called) to be a simple shepherd. I have had the opportunity to see people grow, develop, mature in their life and faith, and I have learned to not give up on any of them when they take a path that is not in their best interest.

Like all pastors everywhere, I want our church to grow, to have more money, to increase ministries—but, mostly, I want to be a good father and shepherd. And, for the most part, I am content to leave the ambitious things to God.

The great poet, Robert Frost, wrote:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.”

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

My Grandfather’s Cane

2017 July 9
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Bishop David Epps

Written 26 June, 2017

I missed doing an article last week. During the last 1,065 weeks, or 21 ½ years, of writing for this newspaper, I have missed only three weeks. One of those weeks I was out of the country in Africa. The other, I experienced last minute computer problems and the article, that I did have ready, failed to send. The third was last week. I could say that the deadlines changed but that wouldn’t be the reason. The reason is that I had total knee replacement surgery and, even though I thought I would be able to submit an article in plenty of time, my thinking was wrong.

I really need both knees replaced, something my orthopedist has said for years. We’ve tried a number of treatments, but the results, though good, have always been short term. I first started having knee problems in my mid to late 20’s. I was jogging on the high school track after work one frigid winter day in northeast Tennessee. The temperature was about 20 degrees and a strong wind was blowing. I heard a popping sound and tried to figure out what it was but gave up and continued my run.

Once I returned to the car and turned on the heater, I began to thaw out and my knee began to hurt intensely. So much pain, in fact, that I drove myself to the emergency room where, after examination, the doc said that I had almost no cartilage in the knee and that I needed surgery. He said that, whether I did or didn’t have the surgery, I would probably never do anything athletic again. With that diagnosis, I declined the surgery and went home.

Things did, however, improve and I eventually took up martial arts studies and practice again. I continued to compete in tournaments for another ten years and continued to teach well beyond that. Playing pickup basketball was out, as was bowling. So, I took up pool and became reasonably competent at that. But the problem never went away.

Sometimes, in church, I would literally stand on one foot because one or the other of my knees would be so painful. This condition lasted, literally, for years… maybe a couple of decades. So, finally, a few months ago, I agreed to have the knees replaced, beginning with the left one. I spent three days in the hospital and came home to a walker. After about ten days post-op, I graduated to a cane… my grandfather’s cane, as it turned out.

Progress is slow, painfully so… figuratively and literally. I have missed the last two Sundays at church and have had at-home rehab several days a week. We have lots of stairs in our house so that has been a challenge. All the folks I know who have had this surgery say, “You’ll be so glad you did.” Well, I’m not there yet. I still have 21 or the 42 staples sealing the wound, the other 21 being removed last Friday. I can get around better than I did a few days ago, so that’s something.

I had intended to have the right knee done in October but I may push that into next year. Maybe I’ll give up my right knee for Lent. We’ll see. In the meantime, my wife, recently retired, is looking after me and, as a life-long nurse and nursing professor, is not letting me get by with much. I did have someone ask a few days ago, “You are getting the other one done, right?” That’s a bit like asking a woman who delivered a baby three hours ago, “So, when are you having the next one?” Bad timing. Ask her later. Ask me later.

On a bright note, I have started re-reading the “Jack Reacher” series of novels by Lee Child. I have discovered that is almost nothing on daytime TV worth watching. And, maybe most importantly, I have learned anew that healing takes as long as it takes. One can cooperate with the process and move along or not cooperate and impede the healing. All healing—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, relational—takes what it takes.

My grandfather died in 1973. In about 2006, I inherited his cane. I have thought about him every time I try to get to one place from the other with it in my right hand. I am reminded of frequent fishing trips, dinner at his house with all the family (especially Christmas Eves), the perpetual pipe in his mouth, his like-new 57 Buick that was two-tone blue, his Democratic leanings up until George McGovern ran for President, and other memories too numerous to count. So, in a sense, the surgery that led me to this cane also led to happy and priceless memories of a man I loved dearly.

Forty-seven years after his death, my hand goes where his went, in the curve of the cane, as I struggle, as he did later in life, to get from place to place. It’s one of the unintended and unexpected surprises of this surgery. Perhaps I should have had this surgery in my 20’s. If I had I would have, doubtless, purchased a newer, “cooler,” more modern steel or titanium cane. But this one will do, this simple wooden cane.

I’m going to try to be in church Sunday and possibly preach from a stool and let our ministers do everything else. With the help of my grandfather’s cane, maybe I’ll make it down the aisle.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

The Greater Cause

2017 July 6
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Bishop David EppsJuly the Fourth has come and gone this year but this past celebration was memorable for me for a couple of reasons. It’s the first Fourth that two of my grandsons spent Independence Day in the United States Marine Corps. Forty seven years ago, I spent July 4th at the U. S. Army Quartermaster School in Fort, Lee, VA. I had graduated from Parris Island in May and several Marines were assigned to the school. I held the rank of Private, E-1.

Lance Corporal Isaac Epps is in San Diego, CA having recently arrived at Camp Pendleton from Camp Lejeune, NC for additional training. Recruit Tristan Epps is in Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, SC and, God willing, will graduate on July 14. Someone said, “You must really be proud.” And I am. But I am also concerned. We live in a dangerous and violent world and, throughout the nation’s history, the Marines have been the point of the spear.

And these young men are not alone. When I attended Ike’s graduation, there were four battalions of men and women who were graduating with them—who were putting all on the line for their country. Sometimes people lament the condition of youth in the nation. It depends on which youth you are talking about.

I have never been a fan of college fraternities. I know that some people swear by them but, to me, it’s always seemed like an extension of high school tribalism. When I got out of the Marines and went to college, I had several fraternities that asked me to pledge. I politely declined. Later I lived across the street from one of these organizations and the behavior I witnessed and the disregard that the frat had for its neighbors only solidified my feelings on the matter.

Someday, the frat kids will be running the world. Someday the current generation of Marines and other military personnel will also be running the world. I’m sure that, together, they will do fine, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the men and women who know something about self-sacrifice, working for a greater cause, knowing and appreciating the history of this land, and who have had serious responsibilities thrust on them. A 19 or 20 year old college student is learning to be an adult. A 19 or 20 year old Lance Corporal is likely a fire team leader who has responsibility for his team in combat.

I’m not disrespecting those who choose not to serve in the nation’s military. But I am saying that, in four years, there will be a profound difference in the two groups’ life experiences and their maturity. Frankly, I think everyone, male and female, ought to serve the nation’s military for two years. If there are religious objections, fine, then serve two years in the Peace Corps. But serve a greater cause. Be part of something bigger than yourself. So, yes, I favor a draft for a variety of reasons.

I am proud that all three of my sons have served a greater cause at some point in their lives. Jason, the oldest, served as a police officer and detective for 20 years. He is now a priest. The next oldest, John, served as a police officer for several years. My youngest son, James, served a 5+ year enlistment in the United States Air Force and came out a Staff Sergeant. He now serves as a Management Analyst for the U. S. Forest Service and is a firefighter trained to battle those forest fires out west we hear so much about.

Anyway, self-sacrifice, a greater cause, putting one’s self on the line—that’s the back story of July 4th. One third of the early colonists wanted to remain loyal to England. One third wanted to just be left alone. One third wanted independence and a new nation. Those are the people who made the difference. When the chips are down, when the nation needs them, they still make the difference today.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

A Matter of Desire

2017 May 14
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Bishop David EppsAt the present time, the tuition for in-state students at the University of West Georgia is about $4,080 a year. The tuition is scheduled to increase slightly in the coming year but, when compared to many others schools, and especially private universities, it’s a steal. Still, to me it seems like a lot.

When I first began my collegiate life, tuition for in-state students at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., was $85 a quarter for a full-time student. That translates to $285 a year, excluding books and minimal fees. The two schools are, or were, about the same size, as far as student population goes.

When I began, I frankly had no money and my parents didn’t seem to have any either. Maybe if I had bothered to ask them, they could have come up with the cash but, for some reason, I thought that part was my responsibility. I didn’t know about Pell Grants, there were no HOPE scholarship programs, I certainly didn’t qualify for any scholarships, and I didn’t know about student loans — or if they were even available back then. So I went to the bank.

I made an appointment with a bank loan officer to request that I be allowed to borrow $100 on a 90-day signature note. I was all of 18 years old. The loan officer asked the purpose of the loan and I told him, “Tuition and books for one quarter.”

“And how will you pay it back?” he inquired.

“I have a part-time job, I live at home, and I will save the money and pay you back.”

“And what about next quarter?” he asked. “How will you go to school?”

I replied, “Having established myself as a good risk, I will borrow another $100 from your bank.” I got the loan and fulfilled all my obligations.

It wasn’t easy. Minimum wage at that time was $1.60 an hour and, although gas was cheap compared to today, I had that expense as well. The minimum wage hasn’t increased that much in 48 years but tuition has.

At some point, I dropped out, did a stint in the Marine Corps, and came back with my earned GI Bill benefit and was able to finish college, although I still had to work to make ends meet.

Sometimes, high school students will say, “I can’t afford to go to college.” Well, yes, you can. For one thing, state schools are still a good deal, community colleges and technical colleges are often even a better deal, and there are a plethora of grants and scholarships if you didn’t loaf in high school.

You may not be able to go to Harvard or Emory and you may not get to live on campus and live the fraternity or sorority high life, but college is within your grasp if you want it badly enough. There are jobs to be had on campus and off.

Some people see university as a sort of “finishing school” for those who didn’t gain their maturity in high school. It is not. It is a pathway to a more successful life and a prosperous career, assuming you don’t waste your time majoring in Byzantine literature with a minor in Aboriginal languages.

The purpose of college is to get a job; to be able to have a family and not have them starve or live in poverty.

So, while college is not free — and by the way, it is never free — if you don’t pay the tuition, say, as in New York, then the taxpayers have to absorb that load while you go to school on their dime — college is within the reach of nearly every capable person who qualifies for admission.

Besides, one can always go part-time and take a little longer. Again, it depends on how badly one wants it.

Not everyone wants to go to college nor should everyone. There are plenty of well-paying skilled jobs that often pay higher than one can make with a degree. Still, it is all about education. There are some exceptional people who can make a fortune without schooling or formal training, but those people are uncommon.

Yet, it is still America and the opportunities are still there. One can still succeed — if one wants it badly enough. It’s a matter of desire.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.