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Entries in Choices (23)

Tuesday
Aug202019

I Don't Like Correction, but It's Good for Me

Kathy Collard Miller is a wise woman. She writes much about the heart and how to please the Lord. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to see God's correction through a biblical grid.

“If we can see the value of being corrected by God,” Kathy says, “we will be much more receptive to receiving His love through it.”

I (Dawn) have never much liked being corrected. It was a pride thing. But shortly after I became a Christ-follower, I learned about the love motivating my Heavenly Father whenever He corrected me. In a life story, Kathy writes about how the Lord helped her understand His loving correction.

Kathy continues . . .

Years ago, I remember feeling guilty about not giving my toddler daughter enough attention, but I didn’t know how to change.

Then one day the water bottle man dropped off a five-gallon glass bottle for us to use later. As I watched a soap opera on TV, I looked over at my two-year-old daughter who played near the bottle. I thought, “She can’t possibly be strong enough to push over that bottle.”

Then she pushed on it.

Over it went and the bottle shattered, spilling five gallons of water onto the carpet.

For once I didn’t get angry at my toddler. I realized I had the problem, not my toddler, and God was gently correcting me about my lack of attention to my daughter.   

In the future, when I was tempted to watch television at the exclusion of my daughter’s needs, I remembered that glass bottle. I also reminded myself God wasn’t wanting to punish me but teach me how to be the good mom I wanted to be.

The Bible tells us a lot about being corrected. We can learn He intends our good.

1. Receiving correction shows you are smart!

I don’t like to be thought of as stupid. I’ve been bothered by that since childhood mainly because being stupid seemed to get me in trouble. I concluded, “If I’m not seen as stupid, I won’t get in trouble!

Interestingly, Proverbs 12:1 tells us,

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”

I didn’t know that principle when I resisted anger after the water bottle incident. Now I see God was showing me my sinful escape method of soap operas! I was smart to learn to pay more attention to my daughter.

2. God corrects us in many different ways, even painful ones.

God’s correction may not always seem evident, because we can interpret His loving action as harmful.

He can correct us through the words of others, through unwelcome circumstances, or as He gives insights into our past wrong choices. Correction might be involved anytime we stop and evaluate: “Is my response godly and glorifying to God?”

James 1:2-3 tells us,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

We may not like that verse because trials are not fun, but God intends to use something difficult to bring the good results He wants—our holiness for our good.

3. Being corrected is a gift from God offering a sense of love.

Children rarely say, “Thank you, mom, for giving me that correction. I’ll be happier because of it.” But that is exactly what God wants to hear from us.

We may not see it at the time, but God's correction helps us feel loved and valued.

Hebrews 12:5-6 assures us,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

The next time you recognize God’s correction, you can actually tell yourself, “God is loving me!"

4. Correction helps us see when we are at fault.

Every one of us has a tendency to blame someone else for why we were unloving, unkind, unwise and a host of other ungodly reactions.

A miserable person is one who never takes responsibility. She never learns to make better choices resulting in her own joy, peace, patience, and self-control, and the good of others.

Proverbs 19:3 verifies that.

“When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.”

Let’s stop blaming God for our own choices. You will better know how to change and avoid ruin.

Being corrected doesn’t seem positive at the time, but as we change our attitudes about it, we will:

  • gain wisdom,
  • value God’s involvement in our lives,
  • feel more loved, and
  • take responsibility for our actions.

Those choices will result in our good and the good of others.

What lie have you believed about being corrected? What truth would you like to replace it with?

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent is Heart Wisdom: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her website.

Graphic of water jug - 20 Canada Drinking water jug - offered at Wayfair.

Thursday
Aug082019

Joy, the Key to Peace

Pam Farrel knows more about joy because she's made it a focused choice in her life. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to discover more peace as we pursue biblical joy.

"We live in a world where people are struggling with stress and discouragement," Pam says. "In a recent, Fox News poll, 65% say they are stressed daily and 52% of Americans say they are worried daily."

I (Dawn) see this stress and discouragment all the time. There is little peace in our world. But Pam says joy is the key to peace!

Pam continues . . . 

The good news is, researchers who wrote for Time magazine’s The Science of Happiness say that happiness is made of from 50% DNA, 10%Circumstances, and 40% CHOICES we make.

“We make our choices and our choices make us!” That's a mantra that those in my world have heard my husband, Bill, and I say for several decades.

During one particularly challenging and strenuous circumstance in my life when EVERYTHING seemed to be unraveling, my friends kindly reached out and inquired about my wellbeing.

I didn’t know how to answer them. The answer was too personal, too long and too depressing, so I prayed and asked God, "How do I answer?”

The Holy spirit impressed a question on my heart, “Pam, what kind of person do you want to be?”

Lord I want to be the kind of person that can choose joy no matter what life sends my way. Your Word in Neh. 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and this family needs strength, so I choose You, Jesus, I choose joy!”

From that point on, when people ask, “How are you doing?” my answer has been, “Choosing joy!”       

Yes, our life is the sum of our choices and God’s loving sovereignty.     

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I share a word study where I add the synonyms to help define the key words in this verse with a vital key choice:

The choice to rejoice! 

REJOICE (lean in and delight in God’s grace) at ALL times, I repeat, REJOICE (choose to be glad and joyful because of ALL God gives us!) (Philippians 4:4).

God graciously gives the “how to” rejoice in Phil 4:6-9

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God doesn’t want us to be anxious (worried and loaded down with cares). The solution He provides can be illustrated as a word picture of wrapping a gift into a gift bag:  

Think of your cares and anxieties (your “supplication”) that you desire God to answer, as the gift; wrap them in the tissue paper of prayer, which Strong’s concordance explains is “to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes....”

Drop your cares in the gift bag of thanksgiving, gratefully thanking God by faith for what He will deliver as an answer for your eternal good and His Eternal Glory.

As we ask, request and petition God, the confidence comes in believing you are giving this “gift” to the ONLY ONE who has the REAL POWER to answer—The Almighty GOD!   

And as we make this transaction, God gives us a gift back—peace (harmony, tranquility and sense of security) that is beyond comprehension! And that IS a great reason to REJOICE!

TRY THIS EXERCISE to apply this illustration to your life today:

  • Imagine your greatest stress is placed into your right hand, wrap your fingers around this anxiety.
  • Now lift it heavenward; open your fingers and picture presenting it at the foot of the throne of heaven.
  • Leave your care there, but keep your hand open.
  • Now, think of a name of God that would be best to hang your heart on to find hope, joy and peace. If you struggle to pick which trait, choose the name or trait of God that would be opposite of your stress. For example, if you care is your anxiety, trade it for the peace of God.
  • Follow up by looking up verses about God being peace and giving peace.
  • Then string your favorite verses together, put your name in the series and personalize God’s Word to your life.

Remember: Joy is the Key to Peace.

How can you apply this scripture to your life today? "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, relationship expert, and author of 48 books including her newest, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministries.

Graphic of key, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun272019

Fears, Fears ... Go Away!

Dawn Wilson is the creator of Upgrade with Dawn. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gets honest about her fears and how the Lord has encouraged her to confront them with His truth.

I argued with the Lord a bit.

“I’m not a fearful person; I know better than that.”

But the Lord pressed a few examples into my thoughts and I had to admit, I was filled with more fears than I thought.

When my children were small, I feared for their safety. Then they grew up and I found out—once a mama, always a mama—I still had fears for their safety. And I added my grandchildren to that fear list too! I was afraid of my husband’s safety in his many travels too.

Many fears have come, but I’ve suppressed them all rather than dealing with them biblically.

Then, this past January, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Talk about fears!

Somehow, that first day in the hospital, I kept repeating a verse I learned long ago: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

Still, my mantra from February through late April was pretty much, “Fears, fears… go away!”

All that time, my cancer treatment wasn’t working, and I became anxious and afraid.

Maybe I going to only live a year, I thought. I started downgrading my priorities list to something simpler and more manageable. What would I want to accomplish if I only had one year to live?

I started developing a plan, and the only time I cried was when I thought of leaving my family members.

Thankfully, in early May, my oncologist decided to upgrade my cancer treatment. He prescribed a super-expensive drug, which the Lord graciously covered for almost five months through a nonprofit grant.

But my fears that the drug wouldn’t work—or that it would tank my hemoglobin, one of the oncologist’s concerns—continued.

Beneath the surface ... subtle fears. But fears that still had a grip on my heart.

In many ways, I was trying to trust the Lord through all this. I chose to praise and worship Him. I wrote about my struggle on Facebook. I tried to be honest about how I was trying to overcome my fears; and many friends—I call them #TeamDawn—encouraged me.

  • "You're in God's grip."
  • "I'm praying God will completely heal you."
  • "Keep trusting!"

Most people praised me for being a good example. They recognized the battle, but also some of my victories in trusting God.

Yet the toxic thinking continued. Especially in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.

And then around Mother’s Day, one of my daughters-in-love, Tracy, gave me a book. Switch on Your Brain by cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf,* who is also a Christian. It's heavy-duty science, but fascinating to realize how science is catching up with the Bible!

The book affirmed me in all that I’ve taught for many years: As we think, so we come to believe, and so we choose. My ministry, Heart Choices Today, is built on that simple-yet-profound concept.

We build our thoughts, choices and habits based on what we’re thinking.

As I read the book, the Lord began to speak to me about my toxic thinking and the fears and anxieties that wouldn’t seem to go away no matter how I wished them to leave.

There was a lot at stake! And Dr. Leaf made a strong case:

She wrote that fear alone triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses in our bodies, activating more than 30 different hormones.

Left unchecked, toxic thoughts (like fear) create ideal conditions for illnesses.

I figured "unchecked" fears weren't going to help me battle my illness!

So I decided to do what the book recommended. I'm a writer, but I don't journal. Yet using Dr. Leaf's processyou'll have to get the book to read about that—I began a 21-Day Detox to confront my anxious thoughts and fears. I chose scriptures to study and I am memorizing key verses to make them a deeper part of my life—replacing toxic thinking with strengthening, biblical truth.

It's an ongoing process, but here are some things I've already discovered during my Detox from the scriptures I'm studying.

  1. Fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7). It is a learned response.
  2. God gives me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (also 2 Timothy 1:7). A sound mind is right thinking!
  3. It is possible to be in “bondage” to fear—or any other fleshly attitude (Romans 8:15). This verse is talking about fear we suffered before knowing Christ, but now we have a Heavenly Father, and the Spirit does not make us “slaves” to fears.
  4. God’s presence, strength and help allow us to not be fearful (Isaiah 41:10). He’s got a firm grip on me!
  5. Whenever we are afraid, we can choose to trust the Lord (Psalm 56:3-4). That was the only verse I could remember in the hospital in January—but it was enough!
  6. God will never leave or forsake me, and because of that, He wants me to be “strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  7. I can cast all my burdens, including fearful times, on the Lord, and He will sustain me— strengthen, support and encourage me, and cheer me up! (Psalm 55:22).
  8. I don’t need to be afraid of bad news (but instead need to live in light of the “good news”); and when I think rightly, my heart will be firm and steady, not afraid (Psalm 112:7-8).
  9. I don’t need to be fearful or anxious about anything, but instead, I can pray about everything, with thanksgiving, and God will give me His peace… and He will then guard my heart and mind in Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
  10. Like a loving father with a trusting child, God holds my right hand; and He is the One who helps me (Isaiah 41:13).
  11. The peace Jesus gives us is not like the world’s concept of peace (John 14:27). Though some of the world’s solutions may work if they are based on biblical truth—whether they give God credit or not—Jesus’ peace is a gift from Him, and an answer to my fears.
  12. When fears and anxiety arise in me, I can turn to the Lord and His consolation (comforting) will restore my joy (Psalm 94:19).
  13. God expects/commands me to “be strong and courageous” and not afraid (Joshua 1:9)—because He is with me.
  14. God redeemed me and I am His. Like the children of Israel, I never need to fear that I am forgotten (Isaiah 43:1).
  15. Anxiety and fear is like a heavy weight in the emotions, but a “kind word” of encouragement from God (or others) can cheer the heart (Proverbs 12:25). (I am so thankful for my #TeamDawn prayer warriors and encouragers!)
  16. I don’t need to worry or fear about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34); I need to live in day-tight compartments. God is already in my tomorrows.
  17. I can cast (throw) all my fears and anxieties on the Lord, knowing He cares about me and what I’m going through (1 Peter 5:7).
  18. Even if I must walk through the darkest valley—the “shadow of death”—I do not need to fear, because God is and will be with me to protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
  19. The Lord is my light and salvation, my stronghold—whom (or what) shall I fear (Psalm 27:1).
  20. God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1); and verse 10 says, “Be still and know that I am God….” I am challenged to be still and know my “refuge more.”
  21. When I seek the Lord, He responds; and He wants to deliver me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
  22. When I call out to God, He answers and He is with me in my troubles (Psalm 91:15), rescuing me and honoring me (for trusting Him).
  23. The Lord doesn’t want me to worry about the details of my life (Matthew 6:25), but He is concerned about those details. He will provide, but He wants me to know there is more to life than what’s going on with my body.
  24. I can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)—and He gives me the tools for standing strong (the Armor of God, vv. 11-18).
  25. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart (Colossians 3:15). I will subject my fears to His control and be thankful for His loving Lordship in my life.

Obviously, I’m going beyond the recommended 21-Day Detox. I want to continue building positive reinforcement thoughts into my life. I want right thinking, godly thinking about my fears, to become my new habit of life.

This is what Paul means when He writes of “renewing the mind” (Romans 12:2) instead of following the unhealthy “pattern” of this world. Scientists are finally beginning to see the brain as having "renewable" characteristics. Biblically, a renewed mind is a Word-founded, Spirit-controlled mind—and from our mind, our thoughts, come our beliefs, choices and habits.

It's the best way I know to make the fears go away ... or at least to confront them God's way.

Is fear a biggie in your life? Or is it something else? Begin now to replace toxic thinking with biblical thinking.

(*NOTE: You might want to read the book I recommended, Switch On Your Brain—there is also a workbook if you want that—to understand how the brain works from a scientific viewpoint, and rejoice that science is finally catching up with God’s truth about our thinking!)

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts, and a writer at Christianity.com (wiki posts) and Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of M. McKein at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts  and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov132018

Tough Choices to Live a Life of Integrity

Becky Harling is funny, insightful, and intensely passionate that women learn how to live in emotional and spiritual freedom. In this Character UPGRADE, she writes about the choice to live in integrity.

"We’ve all experienced the crushing disappointment of Christian leaders that we’ve admired who have failed morally," Becky says. "What exactly is a life of integrity and how do we insure that we live a life of integrity and finish well?"

I (Dawn) am heartbroken to know of Christian friends in places of leadership who chose sin over a life of integrity; but Becky's words of warning and encouragement aren't just for leaders—they are for all of us.

Becky continues . . . 

Steve’s parents came and visited us this past summer. Now near 90, their lives have been marked by steadfast integrity. As a result, the generations after them have been blessed.

As I’ve was thinking about how God has used their integrity, I read Psalm 101.

In this delightful, short Psalm, David gives us very specific choices we can make to live a life of integrity.

Now I have to warn you, some of these choices are TOUGH!

Honestly, they go against the grain of our human sinful nature; and at times, they’re downright inconvenient.

But, the payoff is the legacy of integrity that’s left for those who are following behind. I know that’s what I want to leave behind. What about you?

If you want to leave a legacy of integrity to those coming up behind you here are three choices from Psalm 101 that you can make now!

1. Praise God for His love and goodness continually.

“I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1).

The Hebrew word for praise that’s used here speaks to a celebration, praising God with song. Every day should be a celebration of God’s amazing love and goodness, but often that’s not the case, because we focus our thoughts on what we don’t have or what we wish we had.

What if you began every day by thanking God and praising Him for His love and goodness in your life? My guess is that you would live a more positive life, and you’d definitely be on your way to a life of integrity.

When we focus on God’s love rather than on all the things that go wrong in life, we’re more likely to make positive decisions. We’re not as grumpy and cranky.  

The next time you’re tempted to complain or gripe about something, shift your focus to God’s faithful love. Watch how your spirit grows more joyful almost instantly.

I’ll never forget when my friend, Jill’s, dad was admitted to assisted living. Often during that season of life, folks become cranky and resentful. But not Jill’s dad!

When Jill called Ed to ask how he was doing, he responded exuberantly, “Jill! This place is awesome! It’s like a cruise ship. I love it!”

Every time, we went to visit Ed, we left encouraged. Even during the last months of his life while he was enduring pain, Ed talked about the goodness of God and nurtured a thankful spirit.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the way I want to be, and that means I have to nurture a thankful heart now!

2. Be careful what you set your sights on. 

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (Psalm 101:3).

Immoral choices don’t just happen. They usually start with lustful thoughts that have been nurtured.

We need to be careful and exercise a heart of discernment about what we gaze on and fill our minds with.  Sometimes even the news is so graphic and argumentative that we need to shut it off.

When you’re watching T.V. or a movie, ask yourself,

“Is this helping me follow Jesus more closely, or is it creating anxiety, worry, fear or lust in me?”

3. Walk away from gossip and dissention. 

"Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate” (Psalm 101:5).

It’s so easy—you’re having coffee with friends, and one friend starts to “share” how frustrated they are with a different acquaintance.

They need to process. So you listen, and soon you’re drawn in to something more deadly than just processing a frustration.

Here’s the thing: we’re called to not have any part in slander.

So, what do you do? You could say something positive and walk away. You could change the topic. Or you could say, “I’m not comfortable cutting that person down. I don’t have all the facts, and I don’t want to be guilty of gossip.”

Friend, these are sometimes hard choices. It may seem that they’re not very big choices, and what do they really matter?

But they DO matter.

By making choices after God’s own heart, one choice after another, you’ll be building a life of integrity. 

Which of the three tough choices do you struggle with most? What can you do to upgrade your level of integrity?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of qimono at Pixabay.