The Dwelling Place on the Move

I’ve been alluding to this for a few weeks now, but our church, The Dwelling Place* (where I am the facilitator) is moving (<-- we love old buildings). Actually, it is the first of several changes as moving presents an opportunity to re-examine, re-tool and re-focus what we do and what we’re about. For the last year or so, I’ve felt like we’ve been locked in a prevent defense, playing not to lose. It’s easy for churches to become too inwardly focused, trying to prevent folks from leaving rather than boldly moving forward. So I think it’s important to periodically ask some questions as a continuation of any church’s cultural/attitude shift: -what do we want to do (what do we say we’re about and how are we carrying that out)?
-what are we impacting the community?
-how are we going to disciple/mentor others?
-what is our vision with our small groups/house churches/do the internal care-taking?
-what do we want our children’s ministry to cover and do?
-how can we continue to use our gathering to draw people nearer to Christ?

Here’s the short version of what we’re up to: We’re moving into a new building owned by another congregation, New Paradigm. We always knew we wanted to be in an arts district here in town, ideally Broad Ripple, and Broad Ripple is where we’ve landed. We’re switching to a Saturday evening service.

It’s sad that our usual church experience has involved worrying about stepping on another church’s toes, how we get so territorial as if there’s not enough work to go around. We’ve been in conversation with several churches in the area and have formed a cooperative, a fellowship of churches all working in the same area; four expressions of the body of Christ. While we’ll be located in one church building, our offices will be in another church’s building. In fact, all of the churches in the area will have their offices there. It’ll make it easier for us to coordinate our efforts. Do we all agree on every point? Not at all. Do we do things similarly? Not at all. Do we agree on the big things and agree that there is room to debate the minor things? Yup. Do we recognize that the Church looks kind of ridiculous if we spend all of our time dividing from one another rather than working with each other to be a blessing to the community we’re called to? Absolutely.

Will we be stretching each other? Well, they said they want to help co-host Mo*Con IV, so, yeah, there will be some stretching.

As we’ve sat down with our new church partner, we’ve already seen how our ministries line up and can be augmented by the other, from our ministry to the arts community to our work with homeless/youth.

A new chapter in the adventure begins, but the mission remains the same: Be a blessing to each other and to the community as we advance the kingdom of God.

The Dwelling Place/New Paradigm Christian Church Building
6202 N Carrollton Ave
Indianapolis, Indiana 46220

*The web site is almost done being re-tooled. We had to wait until the details of everything had been finalized, so give me a couple weeks.

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Creative Space Summer – A P.S.

One of the things we say we’re about is being a missional church. Being missional can take on many different ways of being lived out. Sometimes they will be ministry opportunities within the Dwelling Place. Sometimes it will be service opportunities with neighbors or otherwise reaching out to our neighborhood. Sometimes it will be partnering with groups who don’t necessarily claim the Christian story. My co-leader in the Big Kids Class has become a one woman idea factory. I just got this e-mail after telling her about my Creative Space Summers idea/experiment:

Hey Friends,

In thinking about the arts program for this summer and even craft stuff for Sunday school, I’ve been trying to think of ways to use the arts/crafts. In the book I have been reading, “Jesus for President,” Shane Claiborne tells how their church practices the resurrection by taking old “dead” things and uses them, like using an old fridge for a compost bin or planting flowers in old toilets (that grosses me out). He also talks about how they see making beauty where there was nothing or ugliness is practicing resurrection….bringing life to the dead around us. SO…I was wondering if we could pray and talk about ways to use the arts program to bless not just the kids, but the community.

Amber makes cards. She said she is willing to teach a class on how to make these really cool cards. Now, here is the question…who could the kids bless with the cards? The homeless? Outreach kids or workers?

[He Who Would Be Head Pastor], I wanted you to be in on this email so you know what kind of stuff is going through my mind. See what you have done to me?!? Actually, I feel more like I am practicing the presence of Jesus in my life now then in all the years of Awana, VBS, and a myriad of other activities combined. Thanks to all of you! Cindy P.S. Another “marginalized” group we could bless with our artsy craftsy kids stuff is the people in nursing homes. When my mom was dying, we were told over and over again by hospice care how blessed she was to have us…her family. They said there are so many people out there dying alone.

Like I said, it’s an ongoing experiment, but I love it when people take up the reins and fill out what being missional means rather than waiting for the “leaders” to do the imagining for them. He Who Would Be Head Pastor sent the following note to her:

Hey, I am all for you – keep dreaming and thinking big – I have a real heart for these things as well. This actually fits well with the series we are doing. I am trying to give people a bigger theology and a bigger understanding of the gospel than ‘Jesus just comes to save your guilty ass and forgive you’ to more of a wholistic understanding that God is healing the entire cosmos – he will not just wad this wicked earth up and throw it away, but he will redeem, reconcile, renovate, restore what he originally made and and and and he invites us to partner with Him in the healing of the cosmos. All these social justice issues that fundamentalits pushed to the side because they were to busy ‘winning souls’ are now very central to the gospel when we understand a big gospel that includes even the healing of the globe. I pray that God continues to stir your heart with these things and together we can do our part and partner with God. What a great and glorious calling – could there be anything better in the world than to partner with the Creator in bringing about His glorious end for all things when He will eventually fill everything with His presence. I look forward to partnering with you and God in bringing about His redemptive purposes in our time and place.

Sometimes I love this job.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Creative Space Summers

I refer to most things that go on at the Dwelling Place (heck, the Dwelling Place itself) as an ongoing experiment. This is because when it comes to starting a ministry or running with an idea, well, you can’t be afraid to fail. Helping to run the “Big Kids Place” inspired me to tweak a few things about Creative Space.* Now, Creative Space was tweaked last year to incorporate our work with some of the homeless teenagers from Outreach Inc. This summer, since my kids will be home for the summer, and likely driving me nuts (and I mean that in the most deeply spiritual sense), I was trying to figure out what we could do to stretch ourselves creatively and occupy our time. But let me back up.

The Sunday after Easter, instead of having the kids back in our classroom, I had them stay in with the rest of the congregation, in the back. He Who Would Be Head Pastor was doing a sermon examining how the Resurrection changes everything in our lives. I was having the kids draw pictures to describe what the Resurrection means to them. I was so impressed with what they came up with (and what parts of the Resurrection story captured their imagination – without realizing it, they essentially covered all of the stations of the cross). I then spread the pictures along the communion table so that the congregation could have images to think about as they took Communion. With that, I had my inspiration for Creative Space summers.

Basically, we’d have a series of structured projects:

-Collage Art: the kids will interpret themselves through pop culture, using magazines and newspapers to cut out images.

-Art Journal: this is a four week project where they will craft their own journal. This will be a mix of crafts and words as they will take turns describing: 1) themselves 2) their friends 3) their family 4) their beliefs

-StoryTeller Sculptures: will be a two week project where we will sculpt the main story teller in our lives. We will then write a story that the storyteller has told us as well as a story about the story teller.

-Photography week: I’m letting the kids loose with cameras.

-Scrapbook week: we’ll be scrapbooking the images captured the previous week.

-Comic Book weeks: we will be telling a story using pictures (and some of the photos).

I was definitely not encouraged to pursue this by my son’s suddenly taking the arts seriously (and having a piece displayed at his school). On the positive side, this will double as a pilot project for a larger arts ministry that a few of us around the city are working on. And I’m following my own advice: I might as well keep experimenting … my dating life alone inured me to the prospect of failure.

*Not that writers are superstitious or anything, but all of the stories except one that I’ve written at Creative Space have sold. And my friend and I just finished the first draft of our movie script. So as far as getting actually projects completed, I’d consider that part of the experiment a success.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

I’m Sending Emerging Kids to Hell

Don’t ask me how I ended up helping with the kids ministry at our church.

Our overall philosophy was that we wanted everyone as much a part of our main gathering as possible, figuring that we all learn from each other, grandparents, parents, and kids. Practically speaking, we ended up having a nursery but that left us with the question “what do we do with our 6 – 12 year olds?”

A guy who was visiting one of our elder meetings talked about a kids class where the kids essentially taught themselves. They speak each other’s language, pay attention more, and even handle keeping order in the class. They lead the songs, lead the prayer, prepare lessons, and prepare activities to flesh out the lesson.

Now, bright though our children may be, I don’t think they’ll be setting the stories they are learning within the context of the greater story of the Bible or tying everything back to Christ and kingdom work/living. So adults would be needed to help facilitate the discussions. Plus, I know our kids and left to their own devices, this would quickly turn into “Lord of the Flies … In Jesus’ Name” (replete with images of a lone adult tied up in a corner while the kids plotted).

This sounded so good in theory.

Still wanting to keep them in the service as much as possible, we stay in for the music and prayer, but when He Who Would Be Head Pastor begins speaking, we go back to our room. The first day’s class was made up of my two boys, my sister’s two kids, and one of our elders two kids. Maybe I shouldn’t have made the observation that I have license to beat two-thirds of the class. When it came to opening us in prayer, I turned to my eldest son, my name sake, jewel of my crown who comes back with “I don’t know how to pray. You never taught me.”

So after a rocky start (come to find out that some of our kids have some real control issues), we’ve been falling into a nice rhythm, to the point where my kids drag me out of bed to get to church on Sunday mornings. I’ve always wanted the kind of kids ministry where kids can ask any questions they wanted and the teachers would serious wrestle with their questions. So here’s the question of the day for my theologically minded friends (because no one warned me that our kids were so bright):

We’ve spent the last month or so going over the story of the Ten Commandments (we’ve spent three weeks on what “honor your father and mother” means). Anyway, the following discussion breaks out:

Emmi: Well, our baby sister died last year and she’s in heaven. When you’re a kid, God doesn’t hold you responsible for not knowing and obeying the Ten Commandments.

Me: You’re not seriously bringing up the age of accountability issue, right? How old are you?

Ian: Wait a second. If we’re not accountable until we’ve been taught the Ten Commandments and you’ve just taught us the Ten Commandments, if I die today, I could go to hell?

Me: This is your take home lesson? How old are you?

Maggie: I’m telling my mom you just taught us into hell.

Luckily, I have a co-conspirator in this (the elder/mother of the other two kids). I most certainly almost made He Who Would Be Head Pastor pull his sermon over to come back and talk to the kids. How would you answer this question?

(I actually did come up with something, after I let the kids wrestle with answering the question themselves–“That’s a good question. We’re going to go over it some more next week. Try not to die before then.”–then being frightened at how smart they are. We discussed how best to live rather than living to stay out of hell. Each week is a reminder that we start asking very real and very important questions early on and that it’s good to have folks who not only listen and take you seriously, but wrestle with the questions alongside you. I STILL need that.)

There’s probably a book idea in here somewhere.

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Living the Dream – The Growing Place

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

It’s easy to sit back and criticize what folks should be doing or how they are screwing up what they are doing. It’s easy to complain and be disappointed in folks. It’s another thing to become involved and participate in being a part of the solution. So we at The Dwelling Place Faith Community have encouraged our people to dream big, to try and find ways to be a missional blessing to the world. The strategy is simple: find what you are passionate about, what you are gifted at doing, and then find either what is not being done or not being done enough. For me it meant the on-going experiment known as Creative Space. My sister had other ideas.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

In light of it being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ro Griffin (ne Broaddus) and Laura Garcia found it appropriate to launch The Growing Place. They simply wanted to continue to live out his legacy. Demonstrating more faith than I have, the two quit their day jobs to pursue this endeavor full time. They worked with several families in their careers in the public school system, but saw far to many people falling through the cracks and even more disconnected from the system, but couldn’t find a way within their vocations to do anything about it. Laura put it this way: “God has given me skills and gifts and I want to use them.”

Though they had a dream of one day launching such the kind of ministry they had in mind, the timing never quite worked out. Now, it was time, they said, and their jobs were the final tie they had to cut in order to jump into this. Ro said, “I’m finally listening to God and myself rather than listening to everyone else who said I can’t do it. They want me to be safe, but there are no guarantees in life.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Growing Place is a multi-faceted ministry that will roll out in several phases. The first phase involves teaching English, Spanish, and offering tutoring. They break up the days with scrap-booking lunches and Saturday nights offering “parents’ night off” babysitting. Then comes the pre-school, GED, and citizenship classes.

They are also working with The Dwelling Place and Outreach Inc, organizing a thrift store/pantry, by being a care package distribution point on the northwest side of the city. Pure and simple, there are a lot of poor families in our community and not enough laborers. These ladies continue to impress me.

“Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.” Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measures of Man, 1959.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Mo*Con II: The Intersection of Faith, Race, and Art (Updated 4/5/07)

Yes, I’m doing it again.

Featuring Guests of Honor:
Wrath James White
Brian Keene
Gary Braunbeck & Lucy Snyder

with a very special guest appearance by Chesya Burke.
(seriously, she makes me do this sort of stuff)

The mission statement of the Dwelling Place states that we exist to help people resist empty ways of life by becoming fully human in the way of Jesus. We desire to be a refuge or sanctuary, a place of rest and freedom for people to be themselves, where we connect with God and one another by joining Jesus’ mission to bless the world. To that end, we believe art is an important part of who we are and should be valued.

Just as each one of us is a masterpiece in progress and creation is continuing in us, so we desire to keep generating new creative possibilities. We long to be students awakened to the process of learning to create in the way of the Master Artist, Jesus, who saw lilies, children, mustard sees, plowing, vineyards, and housework as indicators of a wider truth. Art is never for its own sake, but people’s sake. We believe that art should be engaged with and in its own way explores truth – and we shouldn’t be afraid of truth. Another thing we want to be is a safe place for folks to work our their spirituality and ask questions.

About continuing conversations. Which brings me to Wrath James White and Brian Keene and our continuing mission to test the boundaries of what we say we’re about.

Regular readers of my blog may be familiar with Wrath James White. He has guest blogged for me, I have reviewed him, and have interviewed him (part I and part II). His blog has opened up a new audience for him. And folks who know us or are aware of our blogs, style, politics, and personalities are stunned that the two of us are friends. I explain it to them in one word: respect. We don’t try to convert each other and we don’t have the arrogance of certainty about our positions. In a nutshell, we believe what we believe, we can argue why we believe, but we’re open to the possibility that we may not be right and are willing and able to listen and learn from each other.

Adding to the conversation will be Gary A. Braunbeck and Lucy A. Snyder. Those familiar with their backgrounds will know exactly why I want them added to the conversation (and note that I used the word conversation: Gary and I know better than to argue with Wrath and Lucy).

Keene’s determined to see us all go down in flames, serving as Moderator and general provocateur.

The overall weekend will look something like this:

Saturday, July 28th
The Dwelling Place
7440 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Starts at 10:00 a.m.

Will feature discussions on faith perspectives, writers discussing their craft, and a book launch party for Dark Dreams III (that, coincidently, Wrath, Chesya, Lawana, and myself are in). Lunch will be hosted by the Indiana Horror Writers and (due to the amount of trash talk done at the 2007 World Horror Convention) will feature a chili cookoff between myself, Wrath, and John C. Hay. Dinner will feature authentic Jamaican cuisine.

10:30 am – Dwelling Place Service
Will feature “sermons” by Brian Keene and Gary A. Braunbeck, followed by a Guest Farewell Luncheon.

Cost: Nothing. Donations appreciated.

Hotel Information
Here’s the deal: I tried to schedule Mo*Con around the other major cons going on (sorry those going to the San Diego Comic Con instead). Unfortunately, I paid no attention to events going on in my own city, namely, the Brickyard 400. So hotels in the area are filling up fast. We however are using

Hampton Inn
7220 Woodland Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46278
(317) 290-1212 (or 1-800-HAMPTON)

Mention The Dwelling Place or Mo*Con when you book your room. Right now the rates are $199 + tax per night (two night minimum) full deposit required at time of booking (non-refundable after 5/28/07). If enough rooms are booked, the room rate will be discounted. We will also have a few spaces available at Chez Broaddus plus some members of our congregation are opening up their homes for some folks to stay at. They are going on a first come, first serve basis. If you have any questions, or need to be picked up from the airport, write your host at Maurice [at]

Other confirmed guests include:
Wayne Allen Sallee, Steve Shrewsbury, Jason Sizemore, Debbie Kuhn, John C. Hay, Lawana Holland-Moore, Taylor Kent, Gary and Nancy Frank, Lauren David, Carrie Rapp, Tracy Jones, Steve Savile and Alethea Kontis. You can let me know if you are coming by leaving a note here.

Hosted by The Dwelling Place and the Indiana Horror Writers.

This page will be updated as more guests and details are confirmed.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

The After Party

People have all of these ideas (prejudices and preconceptions) of what an “emergent” church looks like. Even I once wrote about how I was glad that some of the leaders in the movement were done emphasizing the cosmetic changes. “Ooh, look at us, we’re so edgy. We have services in the dark, lit only by candles.” “Let’s ride our bicycles for Jesus as a form of meditative prayer.” “Let’s have the DJ spin an ‘I love Jesus’ re-mix for 11 minutes.” I’m all for creativity, but sometimes I got the feeling that they were doing “new” things simply for the sake of being creative, without any real purpose or meaning.

I’m afraid most of our critics would be frankly disappointed, even possibly bored, by our services. Our typical Sunday morning gathering has three phases:

1. The worship gathering – our typical time together is fairly relaxed, slightly improvised, and more interactive than the “sing for 30 minutes/hear preaching for 45 minutes” model of church. However, it also features liturgical elements and whatever bit of creative engagement we’ve come up with that week. [NOTE: For those wondering what I do during this time, I’m usually on speaking probation during this phase of the service]

2. The fellowship meal – we have a community meal that we share every Sunday. Think of the fellowship that often surrounds the act of eating, be it with family or with friends, even co-workers. Think of how much more food is enjoyed when done in the company of people you love. Meals have a way of conveying both hospitality and friendship. Meals have a way of leveling the playing field, of signifying equality, by taking a rag tag group with little in common and binding them in fellowship.It’s a great time for folks to break out of their clique circles and get to know each other.

This also serves as a way to continue the conversation begun during the worship gathering, as people flesh out some of the ideas presented and ask questions. And, on the real, we have a lot of singles in our church. We don’t have a “singles ministry” per se because we aren’t treating singles like second class citizens within the body. But I also know, since many of our singles drop by the Broaddus household at all hours, that they ain’t cooking. Quit trying to tell me that Ramen noodles with hot dogs chopped into them counts as cooking. [NOTE: I organize this meal and do some of the cooking for it]

3. The after party – this is something that we never saw coming, nor could we have planned for this if we tried. [NOTE: It’s not my fault. I take no responsibility for this.] What started happening is that after the worship gathering, some people’s idea of what church is, some folks left. After the meal, another wave of folks left. However, those that lingered ended up having what I dubbed “the after party.” It is a more … relaxed time, where everyone, and I mean, everyone, lets their hair down. It was at the after party that “the voice” was born (um, the “preacher” voice that usually only comes out after I’ve had a drink or two).

It is during the after party that the important questions and issues of the day are discussed: whale night at strip clubs, our “six quick ones” discussion, eating delicacies such as tiger penis, how much beer to buy for our New Year’s Eve party, whether or not hair laws were applicable to pubic regions, whether our pastor should streak at the Colts game.

People tend to put pastors on pedestals. They’re “up front”, do the teaching, they’re the leaders. Because they are held to a higher standard sometimes that translates into held in higher regard. Some pastors foment this. We have found that the “after party” destroys any chance of a cult of personality developing. It reminds everyone that we are no different than anyone else, that we walk along side them, not above them. And frankly, the “after party” gets past the pretending that so often gets done at church. All those nice church personas can’t be sustained for too long.

Maybe this isn’t everyone’s idea of moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxis, but this is where we are. It might not work for everyone, but it works for us. Plus, it gives me a chance to end the after-service the same way since I have to lock up the building: “Jesus loves you. Now get the hell out.”

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Creative Space: Lessons Learned

Sometimes we have to go with an idea, run as hard and as fast as we can, spend whatever resources we have in order to find out we’re wasting our time that much sooner. We have to experiment … and fail. Learn and start again, and not be afraid to fail. Realize that something is not working and not be afraid to shut it down, even if a remnant is still benefitting from it. Or that could be me rationalizing why I shut down Creative Space for the summer.

Officially, it was on hiatus, I simply had no intentions of starting it back up. I figured if God wanted it, He’d provide the people for it. Actually, it isn’t what I figured. I was a little bitter that my vision hadn’t taken off and was off pouting in silence. One of the things that I realized was that Creative Space, the first go around, was my vision. It went exactly as I envisioned and planned it … and flopped on its face. Thus, any pride of being able to say “I did it” or even “We (the Dwelling Place) did this” was gone. That was one of the lessons I learned in its down time.

However, some folks started whispering in my ear that we ought to start the ministry back up. Which was fine, I just wasn’t going to be the person leading it. You quickly find out who was serious about it by putting the burden of starting it on their shoulders. Once I started hearing “how can I help?” I was ready to start seeing about putting together the structure – one that could run without me. That was lesson number two, allowing the right people room to come in and do what they are passionate about.

My next step was to talk to people. People inside the Dwelling Place and outside (as a couple of the voices prodding me didn’t even go to my church, but wanted to see a ministry like it take off). Lesson number three, if you want to be able to best use your people, find out what they do and what they want to do. I only pursued as step as I found people interested in helping with it.

With that in mind, here’s what the overall plan currently is:
-Creative Space will start back up in January of 2007 (January 9, 2007 to be precise)
-it will meet Tuesday nights at the Dwelling Place starting at 6:30 pm
-we will be working with some of the teens from Outreach Incorporated. What we’ve seen is that art speaks right to where they are and cuts through the crap of life. We will be acting as mentors for them to help them express themselves (however that may be) as well as collaborating with them on a few projects.
-in addition to the loose format of an open gym night for projects, there will be six areas of interest:

1) Film. We will be working on creating a movie for our Christmas 2007 service. We like the idea of using people’s artistic gifts to do a production, however, to be honest, I hate cantatass. The movie will be written, directed, and filmed by the folks at Creative Space. We may even do the next Outreach documentary.

2) Writing. One of our projects will be a book/photography project with the working title “The Face of Homeless Teens.” We will be helping the teens tell their stories alongside photo essays of them.

3) Art. Artists from creative space will be doing a series of paintings, poems, and photographs so that the story of the bible will be told around the main room of the Dwelling Place.

4) Music. Some of our people will be helping the kids lay down tracks and helping them fulfill their music vision. We’ve even made contacts who would be willing to sell the CDs. Others under this area of the ministry will be helping score the movie or documentary projects.

5) Dance/Drama. We have people who want to be able to express themselves through dance. Also, these will be the people who will act in the film.

6) Individual projects. This was our sole area of interest the first time around and this will still be a place for artists to come and encourage each other. We have free wireless at the Dwelling Place, so bloggers can blog and other writers can research. In addition to the other artful expressions, folks can scrap-book (okay, that’s actually a concession for my wife).

Our goal is to eventually be able to do a once a month a gallery showing/open mic night, complete with a coffee bar. We’re partnering with other churches, too. Helping them where we can in doing what they do within the arts community; why reinvent the wheel? It’s not about who gets the credit, but getting the work done. That’s where we are – we’ll see how it goes.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.