Friday, June 27, 2014

God Isn't Done With Us

 Perhaps the greatest gift of being a pastor is the beautiful people with whom we get to share the journey.

One of them, now well into her eighties, is a person of deep conviction and commitment. In fact, when I came to serve her congregation, she promised to pray for me every day. And she did. Every day, for 15 years, she prayed for me, my family and my work.

When I left that congregation, she said that since she’d been praying for me every day for 15 years, she saw no real reason to stop and promised to pray for my ministry at Covenant every day. And I know she has.

This lovely woman had plenty of strong convictions about social justice, but she could not bring herself to agree with the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. When the Presbyterians started debating the idea 20 years ago she studied, read, prayed, sought different opinions, did everything she could, but she just couldn’t change her mind.

I talked to her recently about another matter, and, as you might expect, the subject of same-gender marriage came up. I inquired gently how she was processing the new guidelines that allow it in the Presbyterian Church. Her answer couldn’t have surprised me more:

“I’m ok with it,” she said. “I can’t say I really like it, but I am ok with it. I’m not sure why. I guess I grew. Imagine that … growing and changing at my age. I suppose God isn’t done with me after all.”

Of course God isn’t done with her, or with any of us. We can be grateful, should we choose to be, even if it means loosening our grip on old certainties, blurring comfortable boundaries, and humbly embracing a new and even uncertain future. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Local Option

"Do you have five minutes to explain something to me?" asked a familiar voice on the other end of the line.

"Sure," I replied. "What's on your mind?"

"Somebody wants me to explain this Presbyterian decision on marriage ceremonies … allowing ministers to do same-sex weddings … and whether we're going to do them in our church. Tell me what I need to know about that."

It was a fair question, some would say an important question, but it was not an easy question, especially since for years the answer has been an unequivocal "No, we cannot and will not have same-gender wedding ceremonies in our church."

I explained that for those of us in North Carolina the answer is the same now as it has always been: We cannot perform same-gender marriages in our church. Period. End of discussion.

"But, I thought the New York Times reported that you could? Which is it? Can you perform same-gender wedding ceremonies or not?"

"Do you mind my asking if you're a Republican or Democrat?"

"Yes, I do mind," he said. "Why does it matter?"

"Because the best way to explain this is in terms of states rights. Up to this point,  local congregation have enjoyed no 'states rights" on this issue. All congregations, ministers, and elders in all states, no matter their personal preferences or convictions, had to follow national law. Beginning today, however, some local rights are available. In other words, if you're Republican, you'll probably like this change, favorable as Republicans are toward states rights."

"Explain this a bit more, please."

"OK. In states where same-gender marriage is legal, the local minister is now allowed to conduct a same-gender wedding with the approval of the local Session."

"But I thought the Session already had to approve every marriage ceremony," he said.

"They do."

"So the only thing different is that now the Session can approve conducting a same-gender wedding?"

"That's right," I said, "but not in North Carolina. It has to be legal in the state. So, our Session cannot approve them."

Then he got to the point: "What do you think about all this?

I said, "It boils down to this: I trust our elders. In 25 years of ministry, I've seen elders make wise, spirit-led decisions time after time. I think they should have the autonomy needed to make faithful decisions according the Spirit's leading, but I'm a 'states rights' kind of guy. I don't need -- or want -- a cumbersome national bureaucracy to tell me the right thing to do in my local context. Does that help?"

"Some." he said," But I may need more than five minutes next time." 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Political Statement?

"Does my wedding have to include all those political statements?" she asked after the rehearsal.
This was nearly seven years ago, and I had no idea what she was talking about.
"I'm sorry. I don't understand. What political statements?"
"All those political statements you started the rehearsal with. They make a lot of folks in the wedding party uncomfortable, including me."
I still didn't get it and asked her to be more specific.
"I can't quote exactly what you said, but all that language about marriage being "between a man and a woman..., a gift of God in which a man and a woman..., where a man and a woman mean to make a life together..." It's all so political. I'd like my wedding to be about God and the love that brought me and my fiancé together. Can you just leave that other stuff out?"

I was taken aback and a touch defensive. After all,  I was just saying what I'd been saying for twenty years, what they taught me to say in seminary, what the Book of Common Worship prescribes. I had no intention of making a political statement. Yet this earnest request: Could you please take out all those political statements?

Since then, I realized that our culture had changed dramatically while I was too busy raising children to notice.. That happens you know. The hour hand moves, the calendar flips, the millennium shifts and before you know it what you said before means something entirely different now. Ask someone whose last name is Gay. Tell your young adult children you went hiking on the "Old Negro Bill" trail. Inquire of a teenager what 'ginger' means to her. The meaning of language changes according to context. My earnest bride knew her context and was simply asking me to be attentive to it as well.

I did, of course, refine my use of language in her wedding ceremony and nearly all ceremonies since. It was a simple fix: wherever the Book of Common Worship mentioned "man and woman" I simply replaced the words "two people." Marriage is a 'covenant between two people…, a gift in which two people…, where two people mean to make a life together…." Those for whom these things are extremely important found the change to be a God-honoring act of respect and consideration. Those for whom marriage is designed as a covenant strictly between a man and woman found the change  so insignificant as to be nearly invisible.  Sometimes it is pretty easy to please nearly everybody!

 I'm glad our General Assembly has taken he first step to change the Book of Common Worship to say 'two people." Because the hour hand has moved, the calendar has flipped, the millennium has shifted, and it's time for us to return the wedding service to its original intent, a worship service honoring our God who gives two people the gift of love.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Refuse to Be Enemies

A general feeling of malaise tends to overtake me regarding denominational matters.  For my personality, it's just too many meetings with too few outcomes, too much peace/mission/worship/ talking and not enough doing. One friend, a seminary president, even called our denominational headquarters a "tired cul-de-sac where all good ideas go to die." 

In recent years, however, I have developed a deeper appreciation of our denomination (PCUSA) and its work in the world. Look across Africa and you'll find hospitals, universities and other great social institutions planted and sustained by denominational missionaries for more than 100 years. Glance across the Middle-East -- Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, and even Iraq -- and again you'll  find long-standing educational and vocational missions that honor the dignity and value of all people. By working together for many years, we have engaged intractable social problems with careful thought, resilient hope and the moral force of faith.

In my lifetime our denomination has made headlines primarily through defection, decline, and conflict, yet something of our large vision acting as God's people in this world remains. In particular, this week's General Assembly will vote on a matter of morality and conscience that has the potential to bear  important witness to the world. Today, the assembly will vote on a carefully considered recommendation to divest from three American companies that profit from the military occupation of Palestine. Nearly every mainstream Christian leader in both Palestine and Israel has encouraged members of our assembly to vote in favor of this divestment option. Faithful efforts at other options have failed to change the actions of these corporations, and now we have the opportunity to engage intractable social problems with the moral force of faith. I sincerely hope our General Assembly honors our long-standing history and once again bravely acts upon a gospel vision for this world.

I didn't go to this year's General Assembly, but for the first time in my life wish I did. Had I been there, I would have proudly joined our ministers, elders and scholars in the written document you'll find pasted below. It captures well the essence of why I'm in favor of the recommendation to divest from these three companies. I hope you'll take the time to read the letter and be as proud as I am to be associated with these Christian leaders. And, if you'd like to understand something of the urgency around the issue, I invite you to watch this painful video recorded this week by Christian Peace Making teams. Yes, three Israeli settlers have been kidnapped and yes kidnapping, regardless what violence these settlers have wreaked upon the Palestinians, is always wrong. But home demolition upon children whose families have no proven -- or even broadly suspected -- culpability in response?  

Please note the weaponized Caterpillar tractor. Then you'll know why it's time to decide and declare, time for peacemaking instead of merely peace-talking..

We Refuse to Be Enemies 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sisters and Brothers,

We are deeply concerned about the Open Letter sent to General Assembly Commissioners by John Buchanan and twenty-eight of his colleagues on Friday, June 13th.

We consider the signers of this letter our friends. Together, we have been allies and colleagues in our shared work of reclaiming a vibrant church. However, we disagree sharply with their critique of the recommendation that the Presbyterian Church (USA) divest itself from the stock of three corporations that are doing business in a way that supports or benefits the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

You have already been inundated with diverse opinions about many issues facing the General Assembly. While this may seem to be in opposi­tion to the Reformed tradition’s understanding that “God alone is Lord of the conscience....” we believe that in order for all of us to engage in measured and faithful discernment, we must be aware of the diverse opinions and perspectives that exist within our Presbyterian family. We share our conviction with passion, just as we trust our colleagues with whom we disagree will continue to do so.

We offer the following, three fundamental ideas that we find compelling, and a suggestion about how the General Assembly could move for­ward with the greatest possible integrity and commitment.

This is a matter of conscience. It is a reasonable thing – and a moral obligation – to assure that our financial investments reflect our core values as followers of Jesus. Our Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee has done due diligence over the course of the last ten years in engaging these three corporations. It is entirely clear that these companies are profiting from business that is counter to our social witness policy.

This is a faithful, principled response to a call for nonviolent resistance from the Palestinian people. Palestinians – both in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine, and including the Christian leaders who signed the Kairos Palestine document in 2009, have called on us to embrace the principled use of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as a nonviolent strategy of resistance to the continued expansion of illegal settlements and the occupation of Palestine. Simply put, they have asked us to stop funding their oppression.

Our witness matters. No one cared what the Presbyterian Church (USA) believed about the evil of a decades-long occupation until we began to consider selling our stock. The reason we are struggling about this matter is because it is the only thing we have contemplated that actually has the potential to help change the reality of the occupation. This decision will lay the groundwork for peace with justice and genuine security for all who live within both Israel and Palestine. As we strive with our sisters and brothers across the church to be faithful in this difficult matter, our sense of conviction about the critical need to divest is shaped by the powerful words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regret­table conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a posi-tive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constant-ly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

When we choose to honor our conscience and follow our legacy of social corporate engagement, we actually claim the moral authority to stand against all instances of anti-Semitism, or Islamaphobia, or any act in which people really are targeted because of their religion or ethnicity or race – or for any other outrageous reason that people are discriminated against and targeted on a regular basis.

We Propose “Divestment Plus”:

Adoption of the divestment recommendation should push all of us to a more spiritually-grounded and faithful place – a more Holy Ground. As we take this option, let us publicly commit our church to the work of defending the rights of all people – starting with our sisters and brothers in the Abrahamic traditions – wherever and whenever we can claim the power to do so. Let us work with colleagues in all religious traditions from around the world to reclaim our sacred texts from those who would steal them for purposes that are antithetical to our fundamental val­ues of peace and harmony with one another.

In the end, we trust that God will be at work in this assembly and in your deliberations. We will hold you in prayer as you discern together how best to help all of us to be obedient to our call as followers of the Risen Lord.


Herb Valentine, Moderator 203rd General Assembly
John Fife, Moderator 204th General Assembly
Patricia Brown, Moderator 209th General Assembly
Syngman Rhee, Moderator 212th General Assembly
Jack Rogers, Moderator 213th General Assembly
Fahed Abu-Akel, Moderator 214th General Assembly
Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator 216th General Assembly
Bruce Reyes Chow, Moderator 218th General Assembly
Jerry Pillay, President, World Alliance of Reformed Churches
Rifat Kassis, General Coordinator, Kairos Palestine
Bruce Gillette, Moderator, 2004 PCUSA General Assembly Committee on Peacemaking
Jim Brown, Executive Director, General Assembly Council 1992-1996
Michel Nseir, Programme Executive for the Special Focus on the Middle East, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland.
Marilyn Borst, Former Executive Director, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer, Associate Professor of New Testament, The Interdenominational Theological Center
Yusef Daher, Jerusalem Inter-Church Center
Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor, Bethlehem University
Nahida Gordon, Former Moderator, National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus
Walt Davis, Professor Emeritus, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Education Co-Chair, Israel Palestine Mission Network
Elaine Johnson, Christians Witnessing for Palestine, Rochester, NY
Carolyn Harris, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Synod od SoCal and Hawaii
Rev. David F. Johnson, Retired General Assembly Staff
Marietta Macy, M.Div. , Israel Palestine Mission Network Steering Committee
Terra Winston, Candidate, Presbytery of the Western Reserve, former lecturer at the Near East School of Theology
Rev. Ron Shive, First Presbyterian Church, Burlington, NC
Rev. Lisa M. Lopez, Member, Middle East Task Force, Presbytery of Chicago
Rev. Anne M. Ross, Pastor, Elkton Presbyterian Church, Elkton Virginia
Rob Trawick, Moderator, Hudson River Presbytery
Mark C Johnson, Executive Director, The Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice
Rev. Dr. Lois A. Aroian, Retired Foreign Service Officer, Moderator Elect, Presbytery of South Dakota
Rev. Steven W. Plank, Stated Clerk/Communicator, Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Chair of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary Decatur, GA
Megan McCarty, Inquirer for Ministry, Mission Presbytery, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Rev. Raafat Zaki, Synod Executive, Synod of the Covenant
Dr. Pauline Coffman, Middle East Task Force, Chicago Presbytery
Rev. Aric Clark, Pastor, United Presbyterian Church of Fort Morgan, CO
Rev. Darrel Myers, Friends of Sabeel North America
Emily Brewer, Candidate for Ministry (East Tennessee), Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Rev. Katharine Cunningham, Moderator, Israel Palestine Mission Network
Cat Dodson Goodrich, Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta GA
Melinda Thompson, M.Div., Chair of Middle East Committee, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Addie Domske, TSAD, McCormick Theological Seminary
Bob Ross, Assist. Professor of Global Cultural Studies, Point Park University
Laura Newby, Special Projects Director, Church of All Nations
Don Mead, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Michigan State University
Rev. Geoff Browning, Peacemaking Advocate, Presbytery of San Jose
Ben Snipes, Inquirer for Ministry (Whitewater Valley Presbytery), McCormick Theological Seminary
Bill Plitt, Executive Director, Friends of Tent of Nations North America
Rev. Chad and Johanna Collins, Valley View Church, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Theodore Settle, Former Volunteer, Pilgrims of Ibilin, Palestine
Rev. Kathleen Day, Campus Minister, Northern Arizona University
Rev. Matthew Johnson, Pastor, Aldrich Church, Minneapolis
Dylan Rooke, Ruling Elder, Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, Pittsburgh, PA
Rev. Dr. Pat Youngdahl, Downtown United Presbyterian Church, Rochester NY
Rev. Joo Kim, Parish Associate, Church of All Nations, Minneapolis
Colleen Earp, Young Adult Volunteer, New Orleans, Louisiana
Rev. Roger Powers, Co-Chair, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Pastor, Light St Presbyterian Church, Baltimore
Abbi Heimach, Candidate for Ministry (Whitewater Valley), McCormick Theological Seminary
Rev. Katie Mulligan, Chaplain, Rider University
Dean Lewis, Former Director, Advisory Council on Church and Society
John Morgan, Former Chair, Joining Hands for Justice, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
Rev. John Kleinheksel, Honorably Retired PCUSA, Moderator, Friends of Palestinians and Israelis, Holland Michigan
Rev. Jin S. Kim, Pastor, Church of All Nations, Minneapolis Minnesota
Rev. Paul Palmer, Former Moderator, Chicago Presbytery
Luke Rembold, Youth Director, First Presbyterian Church, Baker City, OR
Rev. Jeff DeYoe, Advocacy Chair, Israel Palestine Mission Network
Rev. Libby Shannan, Co-Chair, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Associate Chaplain, Eckerd College
Fern Brown, TSAD, McCormick Theological Seminary
Rev. Winston A. Lawson, Honorably Retired, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.
Mary H Smarr, Chair, Joining Hands for Justice in Israel & Palestine, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
Rev. Kori Phillips, Associate Pastor, Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church
Margaret Woodcock, Student, Willamette University
Rev. Jan Orr-Harter, Aledo, TX
Kevin Moran, Coordinator, GA Peace and Justice Coalition
Rev. Mitchell Trigger, co-pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Rockaway, NJ
Rev. Paul Hoang, Pastor, Korean Young Nak Presbyterian Church of Houston

Organizations listed for identification purposes only.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Beauty

The day wound down like so many others -- in my office with one group entering as another was leaving -- making plans for this worship service, that mission trip. We consulted calendars, created communication plans and confirmed our to-do's.  After three straight hours, the heat of logistics evaporated any sense of the sacred.

 When the last group left,  I stole a glance out my window to discover a gentle snowfall, the refracting light suggesting a moment to pause and appreciate the beauty. As I glanced across the hushed cityscape, I remembered our Room in the Inn guests, chronically homeless members of our community,  gathering in the Fellowship Hall for a meal and warm shelter. I offered a quick prayer of gratitude  that our congregation would take in these guests and decided to see if they needed any extra volunteers.

I approached the Fellowship Hall, glanced through the window panes, and was struck by another picture. A passel of  young adults -- most of them new to Charlotte and Covenant --  were sitting at round tables, sharing a meal, engaging in conversation, and enjoying our guests. The menu that night reflected the demographic: Bojangles instead of meatloaf, Trader Joe's ready-to-eat in place of casseroles.

It was a remarkable sight for many reasons. Young adults with a multitude of options giving of their time and energy to serve the homeless of their new city. Faithful young professionals braving poor driving conditions, last-minute shopping lines, and traffic jams to make their way to church to serve with others they barely knew. Nearly all of them came straight from work, and they did it all with a spirit of joy and humility.

As I left that evening, I did so again amazed a the quiet ways of God, the only one capable of orchestrating such a sacred scene. Homeless members of our community -- certainly in need of shelter and food -- but needing even more  someone with whom to share a meal, sitting at round tables with young adults new to the community, away from their families, also in need of table fellowship. As a rare winter snow brought a thriving city to a standstill, two disparate segments of the same community discovered God's subtle provision in each other. 

Winter beauty indeed.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Angel Makers

Angel Makers

Something about Christmas puts me on spiritual notice. I suppose if God can show up in a stable, there's no telling where the sacred might show up…. a family meal, a hospital room, a child's laugh, a walk around the block. Who knows, God might even show up in church! Most often,  God shows up when I'm not really looking, as if to keep me guessing, and I only catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. 

Truth be told, I sort of expect God to show up in church on Christmas Eve. The carols, scripture readings, a piece from Handel's Messiah (thank you, choir), and a highly artistic rendition of  Little Drummer Boy (thank you, worship team) seem to increase the likelihood.  Yet, once again, God showed up in the most surprising way. 

This time it was through the angel ornaments, a new tradition for our Christmas Eve services. Unbeknownst to most in the congregation, small groups of friends had been gathering for months to craft exquiste handmade angel ornaments (fine satin and lace, hand-cut and sewn) to be given to all in attendance on Christmas Eve.  These 'angel makers" met quietly, worked diligently, and prayed faithfully that their gift would bring healing and hope, not only to their lives (many of whom had suffered loss recently) but to all who attended our Christmas Eve services.

We sweated the details of how this would work out: counting angels, sizing baskets, sleeving each angel in a protective sheath,  timing music, and carefully mapping an "angel ornament" distribution plan. In worship, we introduced the angels by asking everyone to take "one ornament per family, however you define family" and sent the ushers down the aisles armed with baskets overflowing with angels. Grace prevailed and somehow it all worked with minimal chaos. Each family received an angel ornament.  The ushers took up the offering and exited the sanctuary in their allotted time. We exhaled and a new tradition was born.

Then  God -- who is able to do far more than we could ask or imagine -- started to show up in the most (extra) ordinary ways. After the service I was greeted at the door by two elementary school-aged sisters, each with an ornament. With tears in her eyes, their mother hugged me and whispered, "Their dad and I just separated, and they wanted one for his home as well. I hope that's ok." I wanted to say "No. It's not ok; it's beautiful and lovely, exactly what we want this church to be about." Imagine that,  God using the church to help children build a bridge between two homes saddened by loss.

 A few moments later an elderly woman exited with her daughter in-law and grandchildren. Her son was absent due to an array of high-consequence decisions. She held the angel tightly and said, "I'm putting this on my bedside table to remember the promise of good news. God knows could use some right now."
Then she reached out her hand to her granddaughter, steadied herself, and walked arm in arm toward a Christmas Eve dinner very different than any of them expected.

Another woman let me know she hadn't set foot in a church since her husband died. But she'd heard that others who experienced loss like hers had decided to honor their loved ones by making and giving angels, and she wanted an angel to help her journey toward healing.

The stories have continued almost every day since, convincing me that God showed up on Christmas eve pretty much the same way God shows up every time,  not in the fanfare of trumpets and choirs, nor in the well-spoken word or careful choreography of worship, but through the humble, anonymous, prayer soaked offering of servants who hoped their efforts would serve God's purposes in ways beyond anything they could ask or imagine. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Reading

The mere utterance of 'summer reading' has elicited eye rolls and heavy sighs in our home in recent years. I can't really blame them. Who wants to engage The Scarlet Letter when the fifth season of "Gossip Girl" has just been released? Besides, with the advent of Snapchat and Vine technologies, who has time to let a plot line unfold? Extended time for reading is a quaint idea, akin to eight track tapes and tail fins.

Yet this summer -- more than any in recent memory -- has allowed me time (most of it on the way to and from Kenya) to engage some wonderful works.  Perhaps the most important book I've read in recent years is Eboo Patel's Sacred Ground. If someone wants to make an important investment in our world, get in touch with me about bringing him to Charlotte. His work with young people through his Interfaith Youth Corp is the most hopeful  way forward for our world, and especially for our nation. We'll study the book at Covenant in the fall, but I encourage all readers to pick up a copy now and enjoy.

I also branched out a bit this summer and enjoyed some surprising works. The first surprise was The Untethered Soul, an explicitly Buddhist book about centering our hearts and minds. At times the concepts are a elusive to my western mind, but for any who over-invest in people and causes, who ruminate and obsess over  children, and suffer other inward challenges, it offers sage advice.

Years ago I swore off the whole genre of church leadership books, but like a lover with boundary issues, I took up two books on organizational and church leadership that were so compelling they kept me up at night. First was Blue Ocean, a book on how to transcend the typical turf wars of competing entities. They principles within apply to churches, educational institutions, and businesses. I plan to study it with some staff members in the fall. The most surprising book I read -- one which is almost embarrassing to admit I've devoured -- is Andy Stanley's Deep and Wide. If you haven't read it, don't laugh. He's a thinker, analyst, communicator, and motivator. Dismiss his ideas to your own peril (I'm talking to you, my Presbyterian minister and elder friends).

Finally, I substantiated my reading by finally taking on William Placher's Essentials of Christian Theology. I've meant to read this compendium for years and am sorry to have waited. Many of my classmates have entries, and I commend it to those who long for substantial Christian theology. I especially like LeAnne Van Dyke's entry and remember fondly her contributions during theology class over twenty five years ago.

I'll offer an update a few weeks from now but hope to tackle a few other works. Feel free to suggest your favorites.