Archives For Living

Don't Drift. Start Moving.

Don’t Drift. Start Moving.

I’ve never gotten anywhere I wanted to go by drifting.

Going with the flow is lazy. It’s passive. It’s the best way to land in some swirling eddy of life.

Nobody I admire or aspire to be like just sits back and lets life do whatever.

I get it. Life is exhausting. It’s tempting to just clutch out and coast. But that just leads to us landing in a place we don’t want to be.

  • Relationships don’t just get better. You’ve got to actively pursue improvement with dogged determination.
  • Finances don’t handle themselves. You tell your money where to go, or it will just go where it wants.
  • Spiritual health doesn’t “just happen”. God will always do His part (the majority part) but you have to show up too.
  • Professional development isn’t automatic. You’ve got do more than want it. You’ve got to work for it.

So if you’ve been stuck, today is the day to stop drifting and start moving.

Thomas Jefferson once said,

In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

But what does he know? All Jefferson did was:

  • Author the Declaration of Independence (secretly, as he could have been killed)
  • Excelled as a naturalist, founded the University of Virginia, sent Lewis and Clark on a little expedition, and oh yeah…
  • Became the 3rd President of the United States!

So what would he know about moving your life in an intentional direction? A LOT!

So what about you?

  • Have you just been “going with the flow” in life?
  • Are you ready to “stand like a rock”?
  • Are you ready to swim against the current?

Here’s 3 Steps to Stop Drifting and Start Moving

1) Reject Apathy.

You are not helpless. You are not a victim. Even if you were, you don’t have to stay one.

Life will undoubtedly knock you down. Obstacles are made to be overcome. Whether you’re dealing with a personal limitation, a discouraging defeat, or an utter failure, you have to make sure you don’t give up! Believe me, I’ve had more than my share of crash-and-burn scenarios.

Do not stay down. Reject the idea that you’re a loser. Losers give up, and that’s not you.

You’ve only got one life to live. So get off the sidelines and live it. Decide that you’re letting the clutch out, hitting the gas pedal, and moving forward starting NOW!

Who cares what someone else says? Just get up off your couch and punch apathy in the face.

2) Stand Your Ground.

Motivation gets you moving. Character steers you.

Activity for activity’s sake is just as pointless as apathy. Now you’ve got to decide what’s important.

Do you have your priorities in order? This post details how I’m organizing my life to win at what’s most important.

In a battle, soldiers aim their guns down range at a specific target. They don’t just sling lead all over the place, popping off shots into the air. They concentrate fire. That’s what you and I need to do. Focus effort.

  • Do you know what you stand for?
  • Are you living for what you’d die for?
  • Do your goals line up with your values?

If not, you’ve got some work to do. Do the hard work of defining who you are and what you’re about.

(Note: If you’re all about yourself, the world couldn’t care less if you win or lose. We need more people who are shaping their lives around serving others. No matter what your occupation, do the uncommon thing and put people first.)

3) Start Swinging.

You’re going to have to fight for your life. No one is going to hand you success in what matters most. Swimming against the current of laziness and apathy takes all you’ve got. But it’s worth it.

I’ve written about goal-setting and achievement hereherehere and here.

In every area of your life, you have to choose to engage, to take an active role, or suffer the consequences of being disengaged.

So what about it?

  • What do you whine about most?
  • What area of your life do you need to stop being a victim?
  • What concrete action are you going to take to stop drifting and start moving today?

Do it.

If You Don't Let Go, You Can't Hold On

If You Don’t Let Go, You Can’t Hold On

There are many things I like to hold onto.

What do all of these things have in common?

  • My wife
  • My kids
  • My friends
  • My job
  • My car
  • My reputation

What’s the common denominator?

  • There was a time when I didn’t have each of them, and there will be a time when I don’t have any of them.

Some day I will have to let go of my wife, my kids, everything that makes up my life.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe.”

Keep reading.

I used to hold onto each of these things with an iron grip. But my perspective has changed. More and more, as I walk with people who have suffered loss, I realize that I myself am not strong enough to keep a tight grip on all the good things God has blessed me with. In fact, over the years I have learned that the more I worry and stress about holding onto things, the more warped and twisted I get in my efforts to control life with all its outcomes.

Does this mean that my job, even my family, aren’t important?

Does it mean God doesn’t want me to “show up” for them?

Of course not. God calls me and enables me to be a great husband, Dad, homeowner and employee. But in all of these things I am learning that He is the owner, and I am the operator. He is the One who holds my days in HIs hands. I am the one He has entrusted with these things for a time.

This means that I need hold onto the One “thing” that will enable me to approach life with a healthy perspective.

This morning I read a quote from one of the many men I consider mentors in the faith:

God does not want people who are grabbing for what they can get. God wants people who can hold everything – their profession, their wealth, their status, their family – on an open palm. The only thing we are to clutch to our hearts is God himself. God wants us to allow him to give and take away. – Dennis Kinlaw

Above all else, we must cling to God. That requires us loosening our grip on everything else.

Sound scary? It should.

Our natural inclination is to try to control every facet of our life. But we’re not God. We are limited, finite, all too human. But God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and He exists everywhere at once. He is everything we’re not. And the best part? He loves us. He loves us with the love of a father for a child. He loves you that way. He loves me.

So trust Him.

  • Let go of your ownership of your life.
  • Let go of trying to control everything.
  • Let go of living in fear of bad things happening.

Order your life around clinging to God, and He will order the rest. If you actively pursue a full-contact relationship with Him, He will teach you how to love your family. He will show you how to excel in your career. He will teach you how to handle money, maintain healthy relationships and transform into the kind of person that only He could make you.

But if you don’t loosen your grip on everything else, you can’t hold on to the One who has the capacity and will to carry you through each and every up and down life brings. And you will never truly enjoy the peace and security that everything you hold dear is truly in God’s hands.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5-6)



You might also like this post: “Winning at Relationships”

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Dreams are Goals with Deadlines - Joe Wickman

Dreams are Goals with Deadlines – Joe Wickman

I’m fat.

Well, I’m fatter than I want to be. I have been for some time.

Saturday I’m running a 5K. It might kill me.

I hate running. I have never run a competitive race. But I finally decided that I hate being fat worse than I hate running.

I also knew that if I didn’t make a concrete deadline, injecting motivation into my workouts, I would quit as soon as it got tough. The terrible idea of running 5,000 meters was enough to get my sorry butt out on the road. I downloaded the free Couch to 5K app on my iPhone, and off I went.

The first day of running brought a violent snowstorm. I thought, “Really?” If I hadn’t committed to a terrifying goal, I would have packed it in right then and there. But the deadline looming just weeks ahead forced me to put one fat foot in front of the other. Off I went for my first run.

You know what’s funny though? I’ve been out of shape for along time, hating every minute of it, but I haven’t done anything about it until recently. I hate being chubby, out of breath and tired. I love feeling fit and having energy to spare at the end of a day.

So why did it take me years of feeling like crud before I did something about it?

I have a bunch of excuses:

Well, maybe that last one is just a matter of self control. But isn’t it always?

Here’s what I realized: I am the only one responsible for my own health. I have to determine that it’s important enough to improve.

But wanting to change isn’t enough.

I’ve always had the desire to be healthy. I’ve dreamed about it. But I haven’t followed through on that desire.

Do you know why?

I never set a deadline.

Deadlines are wonderful things. They force our brains to work backwards. They start at the end goal and reach back to where we currently are. From there, we can divide up our big goal into tiny, single-step increments. As we execute on each step, we eventually begin gaining ground.

Once we get under way, moving in the direction of our goals, hope begins to build. Even though we’ve only taken a step or two, we know we’re making progress.

Bottom Line: Goals are Dreams with Deadlines.

Without a deadline, a goal is just a fantasy.

I’ve been running 6 weeks now. I’ve also been doing push-ups since New Year’s Day. I haven’t lost a single pound yet. But my body is changing. My energy level is changing. I’m not sitting still.

I’m working toward a goal. After I achieve this one I’ll pick another.

  • What do you dream about accomplishing?

  • What has bothered you for a long time?

  • Have you done anything about it?

  • Maybe it’s time to make that dream a goal.

Pick a deadline and get to work.

Financial priorities aren’t formed by accident. Train your kids now so they’ll be able to handle money in the future.

Build in these three simple priorities at a young age, and they’ll thank you for the rest of their lives.

Give. Save. Live.

Give. Save. Live.


Giving comes first.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth; with the firstfruits of your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9)

Only one thing can come first. Second is not first. Last is certainly not first. Only first is first.

God asks for our first and our best. Why? He’s God. He knows what kind of chaos ensues when something else comes first. Money? People? Things? None of them deserve first place in our life.

God isn’t interested in getting his hands on my kid’s babysitting money. He’s equally unimpressed with your earnings. But all through Scripture He’s calling us to prioritize Him with our giving.

Saving for the future is important. Paying your bills is important. Heck, I’d say even taking your family on vacation and doing other fun things is important. But there can only be one first. That’s why we teach our kids to give the first tenth (a tithe) to God, and to occasionally give more generously, which they do often.

What’s first for you?


Giving builds your faith. Saving secures your future.

If you can discipline yourself to give to God first, you will have what it takes to discipline yourself to save. Unfortunately, personal savings has moved in a drastically negative direction in recent generations. Easy credit and expanding lifestyles have landed many families living paycheck to paycheck.

The problem with this is that just one bump in the road brings this whole house of cards crashing down. If you lost your job tomorrow, would you be able to live for a week or two, or a month, without income?

I know, that’s pretty scary. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have any savings. Just start developing the discipline. Years from now you’ll be glad you did.

“The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” (Proverbs 21:20)

For my kids this means not spending all your money in one shot. The first tenth goes to God. The next tenth goes in the piggy bank. However small, they need to experience the delayed gratification of socking away a few bucks, then discovering they have money to pay for something when they want or need it.

Are you saving for your future?


God intended for money to serve you, not for you to serve money.

However, when we don’t prioritize God first by giving, we don’t get his blessing on the rest. Then, if we don’t save, we’ll come up short when we’re in need. This scenario squeezes us into debt we don’t want and consequences we can’t carry. In short, the life is squeezed out of our living.

This is not what God intended for us. He intends for us to live a full life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

When we submit to His plan, we discover maximum freedom.

That’s why we’re trying to help our kids avoid some of the headaches often associated with money. I am sure they’ll make mistakes. I’m sure they’ll have lessons to learn. But for now we’re helping the form the foundation. We’re giving them the opportunity to build some financial muscles with the little bit of money they get from extra chores and birthday cards.

This is a training issue. I know a lot of adults who wish they had learned to order their finances through this filter.

Are your financial choices contributing to a full life for you and your family?


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Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day

Veterans have impacted our lives by their sacrifice. Their selfless example stands in stark contrast to our self-centered culture. The implications are profound, especially for followers of Christ.

All gave some.

Each man and woman who has served has put their own lives on hold for the good of others.

When Kelcy and I worked in a ministry to the military, we met hundreds of soldiers. They came from all walks of life, but they all had this in common: They gave up their own freedom to serve others. Their schedules, their choices, even their haircut became property of the United States.

They committed to selflessly serve our country, dedicating years of their life and buckets of sweat and blood to securing and maintaining our freedom. They did this for little pay and less glory.

Today, as I picture their faces, I am struck by Paul’s words.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Every day thousands of men and women get up at O-Dark 30 and do just that. They humbly travel the world, going wherever they are sent, putting aside their own desires and following orders. They deserve our respect and admiration. So do those who have gone before them.

All gave some. Some gave all.

Let’s show appreciation and gratitude to those who are still with us.

  • Thank a veteran today. Their selfless service secured our freedom.
  • Pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Pray for their safety, their well-being, and the families they often leave stateside.
  • Ask these questions: What is my response to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice? Is it changing the way I’m living? How am I putting others ahead of myself?

Also read: “Remembering my Grandfathers”

FOLLOW my blog by signing up for emails on the top, right hand corner of the page. Thanks! – Joe

3 Reasons to Go to Church this Weekend

3 Reasons to Go to Church this Weekend

Summer is roughly 8 days long here in Upstate NY, so we try to take full advantage of it. Vacations, day trips and cookouts are more fun when the sun’s shining.

But now we’re turning the corner to Fall. The kids are back in school. The weather’s cooler. It’s time to get the routine back on track. With that in mind, here’s…

3 Reasons  to Go to Church This Weekend:

  1. We miss you. Seriously, church isn’t the same without you. Worship is better with more voices. Ministries all over the church need more great volunteers like you. God has given you a story that intersects with ours, and when you’re not there, we miss out on getting to be part of it.
  2. Healthy habits grow us over time. Routine is crucial to our development in every area we want to grow. Consistency is a huge factor in growth, physically, mentally and spiritually. Weekly church attendance gives your soul fuel to keep growing.
  3. The time to start is now. If you don’t, you won’t. Even if you’ve never been to church, you need to start somewhere. Give it a try. The atmosphere is casual. You can come as you are, expecting to be accepted.

This weekend at New Life we’re starting a brand new series called, “Full Throttle”. We’ll be walking through the book of Acts, discovering God’s mission for the church. It’s the perfect time to drop in and see what it’s all about. I hope to see you there.

  • Going to church this weekend? Share it with your friends.
  • Got another reason to add? Post it in the comments!

Want to read more? Click on these:

  1. “Why I Go to Church – Part 1″
  2. “Why I Go to Church – Part 2″
  3. “Why I Go to Church – Part 3″
  4. “Why I Go to Church – Part 4″

It’s that time of year again. The kids are going back to school!

Back to School Time!

Back to School Time!

Any parents feel like singing the doxology? (sorry, church joke)

We love our kids. We love soaking up time with them all summer. But there’s a certain relief for both kids and parents when the Fall routine kicks back into place.

This Staples commercial cracks me up:


Well Moms and Dads, before you start packing lunches and shooing your kids to the curb to await the arrival of the magical yellow kid-mobile, consider this: Your family needs help to have a successful school year. Taking a few intentional steps now can make all the difference.

Here’s how you can help ensure a successful school year for your kids:

  • Cast a Positive Vision

You are the leader of your children. They look to you for direction. Give it.

Our kids watch us for cues constantly. Our attitudes about everything, including school, are more “caught” than taught.

  1. What kind of attitudes do you have about school? Are you sending them off to school like it’s a new opportunity for growth and learning, vital to their future development? Or do your words convey that your’e sending them off to the penitentiary, where they will be sentenced until they can break free?
  2. What do you expect from your kids?  This may vary from child to child, according to their gifts and abilities. Each child faces different obstacles to success. Behavior may be an issue for one. Just getting through the day without detention is a win. For another, pulling down straight-A’s is a reasonable expectation. Every kid is different. Point them to what you know they can accomplish, and then hold them to that standard.
  3. Do they know why they’re going to school? Constantly remind them that school is an opportunity, not a punishment.
  • Re-establish a Healthy Rhythm

Our family’s rhythm gets blown to pieces in the summer. Bed times push later. Wake-up is lazier.

If this creeps into the school year, we will all be miserable. Make sure you, as the parent, are kicking back into schedule as well. Stay one step ahead of your kids by meeting each day with purpose. Pack their lunches the night before. Get up before they do. That way you’ll avoid the harried mornings we all hate.

  • Plan, Promise and Keep up Connection Time

Sure, it’s fun to joke about the kids going back to school. The reality is that both kids and parents have some anxiety about being separated by the hectic school-year schedules.

Don’t let school and sports take over the entire schedule. Kids need margin, time to play and just be kids. If there is no margin in your schedule, cancel something. Be ruthless. Free time with their parents is vital to a kids’ development and sanity.

Look your kids in the eye and tell them when they’ll have some unscripted connect time with you. Whether that means time on the couch watching cartoons on Saturday morning or play time in the evenings, kids need to understand that they’re not scheduled 24 hours a day.

This school year can be a great success for your family. Taking just a few proactive steps will help make it a success for everyone.

Happy Labor Day??

Labor Day - Time to Rest

Labor Day – Time to Rest

Admit it. If you’re like a lot of Americans, you’re not really sure why you don’t have to work today.

I looked it up. (You’re welcome.) Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge, says:

“Labor Day is an American federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 3 in 2012) that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.”

So there you have it. Go light up that barbecue and “celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers”. Party time.

If you’re like a lot of Americans, you work a lot:

  • ABC Newsreports, “Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world.”
    • “And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later too.”
  • cites this stat: “In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours a week.”
  • The Fiscal Times reports that, “American families worked an average of 11 hours more per week in 2006 than they did in 1979.”

Feeling exhausted? Now you know why.

Personally, I know that as a father of 4 I work one very full-time job, plus I fill in with a second and third job at times. Like so many others, I have to in order to keep up with the costs of raising a family. That’s just how it is today. With so many out of work, I am beyond thankful to have jobs that pay the bills.

With as much as we work, we have to also be skilled at rest.

The trouble is, to many workaholics rest is a four-letter word.

  • We work so much we don’t pause to enjoy the simple satisfactions of life, like the presence of our loved ones.
  • We don’t know how to say, “Enough is enough. I’m done working for this week.”
  • We don’t dare STOP and rest.

God lays out a clear pattern to follow, a rhythm that keeps work and rest balanced. All throughout Scripture, Old Testament and New, we see Him providing for our long-term health and vitality.


Count them up. 6 days of work. 1 day to STOP. Rest. Relax. Recharge.

In the Old Testament God installed all sorts of celebrations and festivals, special “holy days” that punctuated the annual calendar with time for rest and reflection. This kept God’s people from burning out. They knew how to work, and they knew when to rest. God, who himself rested on the seventh day of creation, laid out  a pattern of self-care for His people.

Better yet, in the New Testament, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus, God in man, who was on a mission to save the world from sin, was not too busy to rest. He often pulled away with a few disciples, or by himself, to a deserted place. He stopped healing, blessing and teaching in order to slow down and rest up.

If God has modeled rest as a holy practice throughout all Scripture, maybe we could stand to learn from Him.

Today I encourage you to pause, even STOP. Sit down. Chill out. Spend some time with those people you work so hard to provide for, and enjoy time with them.

Want more help?

Read “Running on Empty

Why I'm Reading Less of the Bible

Why I’m Reading Less of the Bible

This is the time of the year I get nervous and jerky regarding my personal God-time. Let me explain.

My personal spiritual growth is a top priority. Years ago I took these words to heart:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

I’m 100% certain that, left to my own, I could and would royally dork up every good thing God is trying to do in my life. I’m just not good enough or smart enough to get out of my own way. The good news is that God is willing to give me His wisdom. All I have to do is trade my ways for His. That’s why I take the first minutes of my morning to open up God’s Word, see what He has to say to me, and pray through my day.

Paul urged us to embrace spiritual training:

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

I have worked for years to make God-time, my spiritual training, a predictable part of my day. I have disciplined myself to go to God first, spend time with Him, before I begin my day. It’s been quite a process, beginning with lots of inconsistency and false guilt, and transforming into an anticipated, enjoyable way to start my day.

I’ve grown to like the routine. I like having a plan for growth. I like clear goals that I can divide up into tasks that I can execute on a daily basis. That’s why I love Bible Reading Plans on, my favorite Bible-reading site. I can read through God’s Word at a pretty quick clip, exposing myself to huge swaths of His Word by aggressively reading a Bible-in-a-year plan. Every day it’s the same:

  • Wake up.
  • Open up the Bible App on my phone.
  • Read the prescribed chapters.
  • Pray. Then maybe scribble a few thoughts in my journal.

Days turn to weeks. Chapters read become books read. Checkmarks fill little boxes, marking completion. Just like clockwork.

There’s only one problem. God’s not a clock.

Don’t get me wrong. Reading through the whole Bible is an invaluable process, one that stretches me, gives me a well-rounded view of who God is, and reminds me of the wealth of wisdom found on every page of God’s Word. I cherish this activity and experience growth through it.

But just as I also love reading widely in God’s Word, I know I need to study deeply. Rather than just hydroplaning over the surface of God’s Word, I need to slow down, sink into it, and allow it to envelop me. I need to get over my head, plumbing the depths of His Word. That’s why every year, after I’ve read a big Bible plan, I slow down. I locate one book, one passage, or one verse to spend a lot of time in.

I hate the transition. It freaks me out. Switching from multiple chapters each morning to one verse is like training for a marathon, then entering a power-lifting competition. My spiritual “muscles” are confused. I find myself longing for the comfort of my routine, which is precisely the reason I need to switch it up.

In my next post I’ll tell you more about “How You Can Read Less of the Bible“.

Why I Do What I Do

August 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Next week is a prime example of who I am. I, along with a brave crew of leaders, will be taking 70 teens to camp for a week.

I can hear you saying now, “Are you crazy!?” Well, maybe. Pray for me.

The camp is called “Launch”. There are so many things holding down. Peer pressure to fit into the world’s mold regarding drugs, alcohol and sex are just the beginning. A fragile self-image or hurting home life is all-too-often the reality a teen comes to camp with. We want to give them an uplifting week, teaching them how to “defy gravity” in this world.

The week will be filled with some lights-out fun. Horseback riding, paintball, and of course, an epic climbing tower that freaks me out every time I try to amble up it. Sometimes I think, “I have the most fun job in the world.” Hanging around these teens keeps me young (or makes me old quickly, I haven’t decided yet).

But there’s also another component that runs throughout the week. We’ll worship God together, walk through the book of Colossians, and learn how to tap into all God has for us in a dynamic, genuine relationship with Him.

My favorite part of the week, hands down, is getting to share my experience as a Christ follower, passing it on to the next generation. This is the “lane” that, through years of experimentation, I have learned to run in. I searched through my college years for other ways to spend my life. Disturbed with the pain and suffering I saw in the world, I considered careers in medicine, education and counseling. All helping roles, I was longing to fulfill my desire to change the world for the better in some tangible way.

In the end, none of the aforementioned pursuits, as worthy as they are, captured my imagination like ministry. Teachers educate whole generations. Doctors heal the sick and broken. Counselors guide and comfort the hurting. Each of these noble professions, done well, require a calling of their own. I respect and value those who answer that call. As for me, however, I realized none of them were the appropriate destination.

I recently read a quote that encapsulated the way I feel about becoming a pastor to do my life’s work.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

Look around you. My guess is it won’t take long for you to identify hurt, evil and injustice in this world. If you’re human, you have to eventually answer the “why” and “what now” questions. How do we “strike at the root” of evil? How do we make a lasting impact that will leave the world a better place when we’re gone?

The best way I know how to help people is to introduce them to the One who has come to heal the broken, teach all who are willing to listen, and comfort the distraught. Jesus Christ, God eternal, became man in order to display who He truly is. Then, still a young man, He gave Himself over to a grisly death, sacrificing His perfect life as payment for our shortcomings.

If that’s true, that God died for us, and was then resurrected so that we could share in new life, what better message could there be?

The reality of entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ has been the single greatest change agent in my life. Simply introducing others to the God who created and loves them is my life’s mission. Next week I’ll get to do that with 70 teens. Throughout the rest of my life, God-willing, I’ll get to tell thousands of others. That’s why I write. That’s why I preach. That’s why I  train others who want to do the same.

What about you? What’s your calling? Has God designed you to influence the world through another path?

I’d love to hear in the comments.