Tag Archive | Lent

Love One Another – Reflections from Jail

Love One Another HANDSOne of the Bible readings in church yesterday was from the book of John.  Jesus said,

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

 (John 13:34-35 NRSV)

But what does it really mean to love one another? Paul addressed this question in I Corinthians 13, a passage frequently read at weddings.

Love is patient;
Love is kind;
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.

[I Corinthians 13: 4-7 NRSV]

But even this reading is somewhat abstract. Tanya, one of the inmates in the county jail, wrote her own poetic reflection on what it means to her when Jesus says to love one another. I talked with Tanya last Thursday after the women’s worship service, and asked her if I could use her reflection in my blog sometime. She was happy to give me permission, although she prefers that I not identify her by her full name.

First, let me describe the context of Tanya writing this reflection. Several weeks ago, during Lent, in one of the worship services, the chaplain gave us about 15 minutes to do something creative to express our feelings. A couple of the women drew pictures. One young woman drew a picture of herself giving a birthday present to her little boy. She said she hoped to be out of jail in time to be home for his birthday. I played the piano – whatever hymns and spirituals came into my mind. One of the women told me she recognized every song I played. Tanya wrote a reflection on what love means to her. That 15 minutes was probably the most peaceful part of the day for all of us.

After listening again yesterday in church to what the Bible says about loving one another, I think now is a good time to share Tanya’s reflection on love.

Love is praying for my enemies –
In the same way I pray for my family

Love is growing in God –
Every day in every way

Love is not only knowing that angels are near –
But feeling them touch my soul

Love is willingness to give all –
And at the same time receive none

Love is a trust that never wavers –
No matter what stands in your way

Love is loving more than you know how –
Yet expecting nothing in return

Love is the melting of your soul –
In the coldest day you’ve known

 Tanya, 2013

Love in action: Mim's mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten that had been dropped off at the farm.

Loving one another in our home 20 years ago:
Mim’s mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten dropped off at the farm.

Do This in Remembrance of Me

Mint-CandyI think I was four years old the first time I wondered about what was going on in church when my mom and dad left Danny and me in the pew with strict instructions to “sit still” while they walked up to the front of the church in an orderly line with all the other adults. I tried to see what was going on up front, but we were sitting in the back pew, and I really couldn’t see anything except the heads of all the people in front of me. In a couple minutes my mom and dad came back and my mom gave me a few of those little pink and green and yellow pillow mints – the kind you used to get at weddings. Oh, that was it – they went forward to get some candy, and my mom brought some back for Danny and me.

That’s my earliest memory of what “Holy Communion” was all about. Communion didn’t happen very often in our church back then – maybe three or four times a year. It took me a while to learn that “communion” was about something other than getting candy, but I eventually caught on, especially when my mom stopped bringing back those pillow mints, and she looked for whatever candy she could find in her purse to reward me for “sitting still.”

When I was a kid, we didn’t take communion until we were confirmed, which was in eighth grade. By that time we had learned that communion was a time to remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, a time to remember how much Jesus loved us.

One of the most memorable times I took communion was when I was in high school. I was with a group of ten kids and a youth pastor (my brother-in-law) in Mexico at the jungle base of the Wycliffe Bible Translators Missionary Training Camp. We were on a week-long trip to learn about all the different kinds of jobs missionaries held. We happened to be at the jungle base on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. For our communion service we sat on stumps in a small clearing in the thick jungle growth. For the bread and wine we had tostados and grape Kool-Aid. It was a very moving experience. I thought about God’s love for all people, including people all around the world, some who lived in the jungle and didn’t even have a written language – which meant they had no way of reading the Bible, or anything else. What was God like for them?

More recently, I’ve been thinking about communion from a little different perspective. For the past thirteen years I’ve been a church organist. In the Presbyterian church, we had communion once a month. In the two Lutheran churches where I play now, we have communion every Sunday. Usually I’m “working” (playing the organ) during communion, and the main thing on my mind is: How can the music I play prompt people in the congregation to think about how much God loves them? Sometimes it’s by trying to set the right tone and tempo for a reflective hymn that the congregation is singing. Sometimes it’s by playing an old familiar hymn that has words that might bring Jesus’ love and suffering to mind.

holy-communionThis Thursday is Maundy Thursday, the day we commemorate the original “Last Supper.” I’ll be “working” double duty that day. I’ll play the piano for the women’s worship service at the county jail in the afternoon, and I’ll play the organ for the Maundy Thursday service at East Koshkonong Lutheran Church in the evening. I’m looking forward to both services. This is my first year playing at East, so I don’t know quite what the service will be like, although I expect it will follow the traditional Lutheran liturgy fairly closely.

I know what to expect for the service in jail. Based on my experience the last couple years, I expect the service will be quite informal and very meaningful for everyone involved. There will probably be about ten of us sitting on wooden chairs arranged in a circle in the jail chapel. After the chaplain explains what communion signifies, she may invite us to share with the group what communion means to each of us personally. After this time of sharing, the chaplain will bless the bread and “wine” (grape juice); we will pass the cup and bread around the circle; and we will offer communion to each other. As the inmate sitting next to me holds the bread and cup for me, she may say, “The body of Christ, given for you; and the blood of Christ, shed for you” – or something similar. I will pick up a small piece of bread, dip it in the cup of juice, and eat it. Then I’ll take the bread and cup and hold them for the inmate sitting on the other side of me and offer the bread and “wine” to her. The process will continue until everyone has offered and received communion. Then I’ll go back to the piano and we’ll sing a hymn.

Of all the weeks of the year, this is the one to especially remember how much God loves us. Jesus gave us an important tip when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The important thing that happens whenever we take communion is that we are prompted to remember how much God loves us – even more than my mom loved me when she showed her love by giving me pink and green and yellow pillow mints.

Attitude

In today’s reading of “The Monastic Way” Joan Chittister, OSB, said, “The attitude we bring to every day will determine the character and quality of that day.”

For me, that’s a timely statement to read on a Monday morning. That’s when I look ahead to everything on my calendar for the week and everything on my to-do list, as I try to plan my week. That’s a task that really needs to be done with a positive attitude.

starry skyChittister continued today’s reading by quoting Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

As I look at my calendar for the week I see three significant days coming up – Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and a “play day.” Regardless of what’s on my to-do list, this should be a very special week. I can see “the stars.”

Last year before Ash Wednesday I took a dozen hymnals down from the shelf and played through all the Lent sections to remind myself of the wonderful church music that has been written for the Season of Lent. I created a songbook consisting of 83 of my favorites from among these hymns and gospel songs and named it, “Songs about the Love of God.” I’m going to add the following item to my to-do list for this week – play through “Songs about the Love of God.” I expect I’ll keep that item on my to-do list for the next six weeks – not because I won’t get it done, but because I’ll want to keep doing it.

Valentines DayValentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays when I was in grade school. Every year we decorated a great big box and set it on a table in the front of the classroom. On Valentine’s Day, everyone brought valentines for all their classmates and dropped them into the box. In the afternoon we had a Valentine’s party with cake, cookies, and candy. A few students were selected to distribute the cards from the box. We all opened our cards, and then I realized that every single classmate really liked me enough to give me a card. I guess everyone in the class realized that. It probably helped that our teacher had sent a list of classmate names home with us the week before. I remember going through that list and selecting just which valentine I wanted to give to each kid.

Valentine Candy BoxIn addition to the party in school, another thing that made Valentine’s Day extra special was that my brother and I pooled our money to buy our mom a beautiful, heart-shaped box of chocolates – which, of course, she shared with us. I have lots of happy memories of Valentine’s Day.

“Play Day” is something new that Mim and I have started doing a few times a year, when it looks like we both may be having a completely open day on our calendars. Since we started doing assisted living in our home over ten years ago, we are responsible for care giving 24/7. To give ourselves a break, we occasionally schedule at least a six-hour stretch that someone else will be caring for our residents so that we can “play.” That may be going out for lunch, seeing a movie, or shopping for fun (not just for groceries). From 9:00 to 3:00 this Friday is our planned “play day.”

This should be quite a week! In many ways, a mid-winter gift from God.

One more thought to share. Yesterday I read the book, “Great Quotes from Great Women” (compiled by Peggy Anderson, published by Simple Truths, LLC, ©2010). One quote stayed in my mind, and it relates to both attitude and God’s love, apparently the themes on my mind this week. Mother Teresa said,

I am a pencil in the hand of a writing God 

who is sending a love letter to the world.

That quote is packed with meaning. It provides an image that I am going to try hard to remember for Ash Wednesday and for Valentine’s Day, and for many other days, especially days when I need to see the big picture of life, and to think about how I fit into it.

Pencil

Here’s my 2-cents worth on working

I guess I was a little older than this when I started working, but not much. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t work.

The earliest job I can remember having was before I started school. My Mom hired me to do two jobs – clean the bathroom and dust all the furniture in the house. Each job paid 2 cents, and each job usually took me about half an hour. (I wasn’t fast, but I was pretty thorough.) I was expected to do both jobs every Saturday morning, and I was given 4 cents for my labors.

I received a big promotion and a slight raise when I turned 5 and started kindergarten. Instead of being paid each time I cleaned the bathroom and dusted, I received a weekly allowance of a nickel. In exchange for that allowance, I was expected to clean the bathroom, dust, and do whatever other jobs my Mom occasionally asked me to do, like scour the kitchen sink, or carry the trash out to the burning pile.

A couple years later I got another promotion and a really big salary bump. My weekly allowance grew to a dollar, but I was strongly encouraged to give 10 cents to Sunday School, put 75 cents into my plastic bank to save for college, and use the remaining 15 cents for spending money. With this promotion, I was also given more responsibility. I had to do dishes every day (shared responsibility with my brother), and help with more house cleaning.

Growing up on a farm, I also was expected to do lots of other jobs, especially in the summer. My favorite job was baling hay. It was always a beautiful, warm, sunny day. I sat perched on top of the red “H” tractor, and slowly drove the tractor around the field, pulling the baler and a wagon behind. My dad stood on the wagon, pulling the bales out of the baler and stacking them on the wagon. My instructions were to steer the tractor so that the baler would pick up all the hay, and to drive smoothly enough that I didn’t throw my Dad off the wagon. (Unfortunately, that happened a few times when I stopped too abruptly or turned a corner without slowing down enough.) Other than the noisiness of the tractor and baler, and the hay dust in the air, it was a beautiful place to spend a summer afternoon.

Obviously, that’s not me on the tractor – but that’s the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had.

By the time I graduated from high school, I knew how to work. Some of it I enjoyed. Some I didn’t. In college I had a variety of jobs, from doing dishes in the dining hall, to doing clerical work in an office, to being a church organist. But my real reason for being in college was to figure out what kind of work I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and to get prepared to begin my career.

Reflecting back over the past 40+ years, I realize now that the basic premise that I would have one career in my lifetime was wrong. After college I was a high school English teacher for a couple years, then an editorial researcher for a couple more years, and then I got into business – earning an MBA and working for a large corporation in downtown Chicago. As I moved through these post-college jobs, working became mostly a means of paying my bills rather than actually doing something meaningful with my life. That was a frightening observation! If that was true, was there really any purpose to my life? The only areas of my life where I felt I was doing something that could possibly make the world a better place was in my volunteer activities – serving on the boards of a couple not-for-profit organizations.

It really wasn’t until I became self-employed – first as a business consultant, then as a B&B owner, assisted living provider, church musician, writer, and retreat coordinator – that my life calling seemed truly related to the work I did for a living.

Sr. Joan Chittister talked about finding purpose in your life work in her book, Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy, with these words:

We need to ask ourselves again why we were born. What is it that we have that the world needs and is waiting for us to provide? That is the star we must follow to its end. Then we will not only hear the silent applause of all those who benefitted from our having lived but we will find the whole of ourselves now wholly developed, waiting for us, as well.

For some people, and for some parts of their lives, the work they do for a living is the fulfillment of their purpose in life. For these people, you might hear comments like, “he’s a born teacher” or “it’s obvious she was meant to be a pastor.”

For others, the labor they do for a living is just that, earning money to pay the bills. Doing the jobs that need to be done.  These people still have a purpose in life that God has called them to. They just don’t receive a paycheck for fulfilling their life purpose.

So, what’s my 2-cents worth on working this Labor Day weekend? Not all jobs reflect our life purpose. Some do. Some don’t. But we were all born with a life purpose. Discovering how to fulfill that purpose is the most important job of our life. Frederick Buechner gave us a clue about how to discover our purpose in his book Wishful Thinking. He said, The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

“Emma” and the Love of God

“I love you. I’ll be leaving soon. I’ll be good.” Those were Emma’s last words to me. She told me those things Tuesday as I was sitting beside her bed, holding her hand. On Wednesday afternoon Emma passed into her next life.

[Note: I’ve changed the name of our assisted living resident to “Emma” to protect her privacy.]

Emma’s last few weeks had been hard. She was 91 years old. She suffered from severe arthritis that was very painful, especially in her knees. She had somewhat advanced dementia which made it difficult for her to say what was on her mind. But Emma still enjoyed life. She didn’t want to die yet. She had a loving family – daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren – and friends who visited or called her often. She fought death as hard as she could. But by Wednesday she was ready to be born into her next life. She was ready to be held “Safe in the arms of Jesus” as the old Fanny Crosby gospel song describes.

As Emma’s life transition occurred, and as we’re moving into Holy Week, I’ve been thinking about how much God loves us and cares for us. Not only did Jesus suffer and die on the cross for us a couple thousand years ago as we remember particularly during Holy Week, God is still with us today – helping Emma through her life transition, helping us through our grief, and blessing us with many gifts including the gift of love.

One song that my mind has been singing a lot this past week is “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman. This song tries to answer the question “How much does God really love us?” In the third verse, Lehman paints a word picture that I really like.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

Forty-two years ago when I graduated from college, I moved to Connecticut and was a high school English teacher for a couple years. My favorite thing to do in my spare time was to drive an hour to East Matunuck State Beach in Rhode Island and walk to the tip of the breakwater. That took 45 minutes of scrambling over huge rocks, occasionally getting sprayed by an extra big wave crashing into the breakwater. By the time I reached the tip, I felt that I was completely surrounded by the vast ocean. On one of these mini-pilgrimages to the furthest boulder of the breakwater, the ocean looked different. It was the beginning of the hurricane season, with some activity along the Mid-Atlantic coast. As far north as I was, the ocean was churning more than usual, but not threatening any hurricanes locally. The water wasn’t blue or green; it looked black – like an ocean filled with ink.

That’s the image that comes to mind for me when I sing this song. Could we with ink the ocean fill … To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry…

How did Lehman think up that image? He acknowledges that it wasn’t original to him – he just wrote down some of the lines he recalled hearing in a sermon, and made it the third verse of a song he had already written. He tried to find the source of the lines. What he learned was that it was written on the wall of an insane asylum by an unknown inmate. However, more recently, the lines have been traced back further to an eleventh-century Jewish poet in Germany named Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai.

Obviously, we aren’t the only ones pondering the vastness of God’s love for us. This image alone has been helpful to our catching a glimpse of God’s love for a thousand years. From a medieval poet, to an inmate of an insane asylum, to a 19th century writer of gospel songs, to becoming a theme song of a 20th century evangelistic crusade ultimately reaching hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people – all wanting to understand and express their appreciation of God’s love. Last week I was able to understand a little more about God’s love as I saw Emma comforted and at peace as she passed from this life to the next.

There are several different versions of “The Love of God” on YouTube. This song was one of the signature songs of The Billy Graham Crusades. Below are two links to the song, both performances from Billy Graham Crusades.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=dzDLLSTR9yY
This video begins with about half a minute of Billy Graham preaching about God’s love. His words are immediately followed by a group of Christian musicians singing “The Love of God.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKgIb5g21Eg
The second video is from an earlier crusade (1983) and features George Beverly Shea singing the song.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure –
The saints’ and angels’ song!

More from the Goose Family

Gilbert and Gloria Goose

The Goose family has been faithfully practicing over the past few weeks for the hymn sing coming up this Sunday. Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I decided to walk out to the pond to talk with them. There were robins and finches in the trees around the pond, so the gospel quartet of geese had grown to a full choir. The beautiful sounds of spring!

As soon as the geese saw me they stopped singing and swam over to me – all four of them, Gregory and Grace, Gilbert and Gloria. Gilbert asked me, “Who is that woman staying at Whispering Winds? She’s been watching us a lot, and she seems to be enjoying our singing.”

“Oh, that’s Lynn,” I said. “She’s a writer who comes here several times a year for three or four days at a time to write. This time she’s taking advantage of our $149 Lenten Special. She really likes to go for peaceful walks to take breaks from her writing. She’s probably gone down the road to watch your cousins, too, at CamRock Park.”

“She seems to enjoy the peacefulness here as much as we do,” Gilbert added. “I’m glad.”

Gregory Goose changed the subject. “How’s the songbook coming along for the hymn sing? It’s this Sunday, you know.”

“Oh, I know,” I replied. “It is so hard to narrow down the selections to a reasonable number. There are so many great songs about God’s love.”

“That’s for sure,” chimed in Gloria. Our ‘practicing’ can hardly be called ‘practicing.’ We keep thinking of different songs to sing, so we go from one to the next without perfecting the parts on any of them.”

“But that’s so much fun,” interjected Grace. “I just love remembering all the songs about God’s love.”

“That’s what my problem is. I have almost a hundred songs in the table of contents of the songbook, and I think that’s too many. I’m going to have to cut out some. This is even worse than when I compiled a songbook for Advent and Christmas.”

“I don’t envy you that task,” sympathized Gloria. “I’m sure whatever songs are left after the final cuts will form a wonderful collection.”

I explained the process I’m using. “To help me choose the best mix of songs, I’ve organized the songbook into seven sections:

  1. A call to a time of reflection
  2. The suffering of Christ
  3. Our Prayers – What do we really want to say to God?
  4. The Love of God
  5. A call to action – Invitation and Commitment
  6. Our Testimony
  7. Let’s just praise God

“And I’ve tried to select songs in each of five styles:

  1. Classical Hymns
  2. Gospel Songs
  3. Spirituals
  4. Black Gospel
  5. Contemporary Praise Songs

“Then I try to be sure I have at least one or two or more favorites for each theme and style combination. You can see why the selections have grown to nearly a hundred songs in my compilation.”

Gregory didn’t hesitate to tell me, “You’re trying too hard. I can tell you my favorites, and that will be enough.”

Grace Goose

“Oh, Gregory, you’re so self-centered,” chided Grace. “What about everyone else? What about their favorites?”

Gilbert quickly changed the subject to avoid an extended argument. “Are you going to have any food? You know, singing can work up quite an appetite.”

“I always have food,” I said with a big smile. “I’m thinking of having ham sandwiches, chips, green pistachio fluff (it will be the day after St. Patrick’s Day), green sugar cookies, and  chocolate brownies. Do you approve?”

“Why don’t you have corned beef instead of ham?” Gregory asked.

“Because I don’t like corned beef,” I said, “and I love ham.”

“It sounds like a lovely supper to offer,” said Grace. “How will you know how much to prepare?”

“Good question,” I responded. “That’s why I’d like everyone to call me (608-212-6197) to say they’re coming. I’ll fix some extra for those who just decide to come at the last minute. I want everyone to feel welcome to join us, whether they call me, or not. If I have too much food, I’ll either eat ham sandwiches and pistachio fluff for several days, or freeze the leftovers.”

“It sounds like you have a lot of work to do this week,” said Gloria, “between preparing the food and finalizing the songbook.”

“I guess I do. I’d better get back to work.”

Gregory Goose

“And we’d better get back to practicing,” ordered Gregory. “I’ve been trying to think of any songs we know that are Black Gospel. Then it came to me – Precious Lord, Take My Hand. But it’s hard for me to identify with that song. I guess we should practice it anyway. Then let’s sing, Lead Me, Guide Me. That’s a Black Gospel song I really understand.”

————————-

The hymn sing will be at 3:00 Sunday afternoon (March 18) at Whispering Winds. Everyone is welcome. Free will offering to cover our costs. Call 608-212-6197 to let us know you’re coming, if you can. Otherwise, just show up. Hope to see you Sunday!

Reflection on a Good Old Hymn

Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing reflections on Lenten hymns for our e-retreat entitled “The Scandal of Lent.”  Throughout Lent I plan to write a total of nine reflections about Lenten music, and Pastor Joan will write the same number of reflections about themes presented in the book The Scandal of Lent by Robert Kysar (Augsburg Publishing House, 1982). (For more information about the e-retreat, click here.)

One of the hardest parts of my assignment is to select which Lenten hymns to write about from all the beautiful music that is particularly meaningful during Lent. For today’s blog, I decided to write a reflection on one of the songs that I really wanted to include in the e-retreat, but there just weren’t enough sessions to squeeze it in.

Fanny Crosby

“Near the Cross”

Fanny Crosby (1820 – 1915) was one of the most prolific hymn writers ever. She wrote more than 8,000 hymns. She’s been referred to as “the Queen of Gospel Song Writers” and “the Mother of modern congregational singing in America.” In 1975 she was belatedly inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Two of her best known songs are “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory.”

When she was only six weeks old, she had an eye infection. Unfortunately, the primitive medical treatment she received caused her to go blind. As she grew into childhood, her grandmother took a special interest in helping her memorize Bible verses. By the time she reached adulthood, she had memorized the four Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs, and several other books of the Bible. This knowledge was a tremendous resource for her to draw upon as she wrote hymns and gospel songs.

The circumstances surrounding her writing “Near the Cross” were quite typical of how she wrote her songs. A friend of hers, Howard Doane, came to her with a new melody he had composed. He played the music for her. She listened and then said she felt that the tune said, “Jesus, keep me near the cross,” and she promptly wrote the words.

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain;
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory every,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and Morning Star
Shed its beams around me.
Refrain.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.
Refrain.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
‘Til I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
Refrain.

Neville Peter

Neville Peter (b. 1972) is blind pianist and vocalist who has a special appreciation for the songs of Fanny Crosby. Click this link to a YouTube video where he sings “Near the Cross.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g1EWML1tNo

PERSONAL REFLECTION:

When Fanny Crosby was asked about her blindness, she responded with this statement:

It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me. [quoted from www.cyberhymnal.org]

Think about what challenges you personally have faced, or are currently facing in life. Can you imagine any positive result from these challenges? If you were asked to share your perspective on your own personal hardships, what would you say?