lifelongformation Blog

September 25, 2014

Today’s blog post is devoted to remembering the life and ministry of Janie Stevens. Janie was an early supporter of formation ministries in The Episcopal Church and friend and mentor to many of us over the years. We are all deeply saddened by her death and wish to remember the passion and joy she shared with us all. Today’s blog post is offered by Ruth-Ann Collins, who has known and admired Janie Stevens as both a colleague and a friend. You may also want to read the memorial published by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Janie

“Spiritual Formation is not about steps or stages of perfection. It is about the movements from the mind to the heart.”

Photo courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Photo courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

I know very few people who really embody these words of Henri Nouwen. My dear friend Janie Stevens was one of them – a woman of grace, courage, class, passion, and conviction. We will never know the number of people whose lives have been transformed because of Janie’s incredible and faithful ministry.

Janie and her husband, Jim, met in grammar school and whenever I was with them I was in awe of their never ending devotion and deep love for each other. In one of our last conversations Janie and I talked about our legacies. Janie’s ability to love unconditionally will be carried on by her daughters, son-in-laws, and in the lives of her beautiful grandchildren. We would talk for hours about our grandchildren, be it a simple conversation about Janie working diligently to finish embroidering Christmas stockings for each new grandbaby or as complex as the concerns we shared about the fragile world they are growing up in. We would laugh and cry and pray.

Many years ago, Janie was part of a small group of women Christian educators, who with the strength of each other and the grace of God began the modern day Christian Formation movement in The Episcopal Church. Janie was right there in the middle of the action stepping up to lead whenever called upon. Even as she struggled with her health she still found the strength to chair the Standing Commission for Lifelong Christian Formation and Education because her passion for the cause was unending.

I first met Janie at an education conference at Camp Allen where she introduced me to southern hospitality. There was never a shortage of laughter when Janie was around, even when we became the “elders” of the Christian formation community we still managed to stir up some mischief.

One of my fondest memories is of Janie sitting on the floor telling stories to the children of military service personnel who were deployed to Afghanistan. The children were mesmerized as were all the teachers, I can hear her sweet lyrical voice as she focused on each child as if they were her own, because in her heart they were.

I have so many wonderful memories, because God blessed me with my friend Janie. Those memories and the memories of all who know and love Janie make up her legacy. As I weep this day for my dear friend, I can hear her southern accent saying that’s enough, there are position papers to write, curricula to complete, and Christmas stockings to finish, so get to work and have fun doing it. As I weep this day, I am reflecting on Nouwen’s words:

“the Spirit of God within us says: ‘There is a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ The spirit of healing that makes us mourn is the same Spirit that makes us dance. The mystery of the dance is that its movements are discovered in the mourning.”

May peace be with Jim and the girls, and may we all dance in love, as Janie would want us to. I am dancing in celebration of your life my friend.

Shalom, your sister in Christ.

Ruth-Ann

Ruth-Ann Collins has been serving The Episcopal Church as Missioner for Lifelong Christian Formation since 2007  and is currently taking medical leave to tend to knee replacements. The Rev. Shannon Kelly is serving as the Interim Missioner during Ruth-Ann’s absence.  

Today’s blog post is devoted to remembering the life and ministry of Janie Stevens. Janie was an early supporter of formation ministries in The Episcopal Church and friend and mentor to many of us over the years. We are all deeply saddened by her...
September 23, 2014

Mary Perrin is the rector of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a vital, joy-filled, generous community in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Mary also serves on the diocesan Standing Committee and on The Episcopal Church’s Lifelong Formation Council.  

Generosity Leads to Joy

Stewardship is “taking care of the earth and all who live on it.
” Tithing is “sharing 10% of what God has given us.”

Tithing Halloween 2010 graphic #2“Tithing Halloween” is a fun and successful way to help parishioners of all ages understand the concepts of stewardship and tithing.

The project is introduced in the weeks prior to Halloween, and parents are asked to:

  1. Talk with their children before they go “trick or treating,” and then
  2. Guide their kids through the activities after they return home with their treats.

Goals of “Tithing Halloween”:

  • The awareness of our duty as Christians to share our abundance to do God’s work and help others
  • The practical understanding of the tithe as 10%: 1 out of every 10
  • The understanding that to “love our neighbors” includes more than the people who live next to us, and even includes people we may not know or like
  • Observing the many needs in the world around us (both near and far) and deciding how to use our available resources to help meet those needs
  • Realizing that one person cannot possibly meet every identified need, which means we have to decide where and how we will choose to give our gifts
  • Understanding that by putting our gifts together with other people’s contributions, more needs can be met, and more of what God calls us to do can happen.

We give families suggestions of how to figure out what 10% is, (view our brochure) tell them to whom the church will be donating the candy, make suggestions of other places the candy can go (if, for example, they cannot make it to church on Sunday, or if they want to give some through the church and some on their own), and invite the adults to participate, too.

“Tithing Halloween” is truly formational. It provides many opportunities for thought, discussion and learning, and it is a great way to teach and nurture generosity and stewardship. And it’s fun, too! When the candy is gathered on the Sunday after All Saints Day, it is amazing to see that when everyone’s little bit is combined with the gifts from everyone else, the resulting pile is huge!

One unanticipated benefit is that adults learn as much or more than the kids. When parents see what a difference it makes that everyone participates even if they only have a little to give, they realize that every pledge to the church makes a difference (Halloween is, of course, usually during our pledge drive); combined with the gifts of others, ministry can be funded.

Note: Another surprise was that in our first year of doing this, more than one family shared that when their kids saw how much they had left over (the 90%), they wanted to give away more to help the kids who were in the hospital and couldn’t go “trick or treating.” They took a second pile of 10%… and then a third… and a couple families ended up giving away more than they kept – and they had fun doing it.

Tithing Halloween is a wonderful example of generosity leading to joy. And, as the Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is our strength!”

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Mary Perrin is the rector of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a vital, joy-filled, generous community in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Mary also serves on the diocesan Standing Committee and on The Episcopal Church’s...
September 17, 2014

DogsLord, make me an instrument of your peace,
     where there is hatred, let me sow love;
     where there is injury, pardon;
     where there is doubt, faith;
     where there is despair, hope;
     where there is darkness, light; and
     where there is sadness, joy.
O, God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
     to be understood as to understand;
     to be loved as to love;
     for it is in giving that we receive;
     it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
     and it is in dying
     that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

- Prayer of St. Francis

The Feast of St. Francis is celebrated on October 4. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment and worship inspired by this Feast typically include pet blessings, prayers for environmental protection and conservation, and a call to a lifestyle based in simplicity and service of others.

LydiaIf you are looking for resources for St. Francis Day, please check out these resources below.

St. Francis Day Resources from Lesson Plans that Work

St. Francis Resources from TextWeek.com

A St. Francis’ life and legacy can by found on the website for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas

Downloadable Blessing of the Animals, Eucharistic Service outline, and other resources.

This Feast day is popular in many churches, and often inspires unique outreach and worship opportunities. If you are planning something creative in your faith community for the Feast of St. Francis, please share in the comments.

Do you know of a good resource that aren’t included? Leave it for us in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,      where there is hatred, let me sow love;      where there is injury, pardon;      where there is doubt, faith;      where there is despair, hope;      where there is darkness, light; and      where...
September 10, 2014

Mary Perrin is the rector of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a vital, joy-filled, generous community in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Mary also serves on the diocesan Standing Committee and on The Episcopal Church’s Lifelong Formation Council.  

Saintly PumpkinsAll Saints and All Souls Pumpkins

Halloween is not just a time to dress up and eat candy; it’s also a great time to teach the traditions of the church.

One thing we did in our parish – and people loved it so much that we did it at least 3 years in a row – was to carve pumpkins with symbols of saints for All Saints Day.

We had a Halloween party and, yes, people came in their Halloween costumes, and we had the traditional costume contests, gory food, and Halloween-themed games. But we also asked people to bring pumpkins and carving tools – and then we had a wonderful time carving the pumpkins together.

Kids helped. They helped choose the saint and symbol. They helped get the seeds and other gunk out of the pumpkins. Some, depending on age, helped carve. Most of the younger ones, though, went to the kitchen and, with help, prepared the pumpkin seeds to be baked into treats to be shared at church on Sunday and/or taken home.  (There are many recipes for roasted pumpkin seeds available on the web. Here’s one we liked.)

Saints, Signs, & Symbols #1Saints and symbols were chosen from books we had on hand.  (Again, you can find symbols many places. One of the books we used was Saints, Signs and Symbols.)  We enlarged the symbol with our copier and then people transferred the image onto the pumpkin however they wanted.  Some used carbon paper, some used poker tools to poke holes along the lines, some used pens and did it by free hand.  Then we used pumpkin-carving tools (e.g., knives, scrapers, exact-o-knives, pins, thumb tacks, small saws, drills, pokers) to carve out the images.

After the pumpkins were carved, we put candles in them, brought them upstairs, lit them, shared a few words about the saint whose symbol we carved, and then said our closing prayers looking at the flickering images.  We left the pumpkins in church for our All Saints and All Souls liturgies.

How do you teach the autumn seasonal traditions in your faith community?

Mary Perrin is the rector of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a vital, joy-filled, generous community in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Mary also serves on the diocesan Standing Committee and on The Episcopal Church’s...
August 26, 2014

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

The Church as a Place of Community

baptismEarlier this year, my city celebrated its first ever Superbowl win, with a parade in below freezing weather with more people assembled on the streets of downtown than live within the city limits. It was a wonderful day, from the people picking up others waiting at bus stops when the busses were too full to stop, to the friendliness of strangers in our usually-reserved northern city. 

It made me think a lot about community:

What is community?
Why does it matter?
Why do we seek it out?
Where do we find it?

I’m sure you won’t be surprised that it turned me to thinking about church.

Probably the number one thing I hear about church from people has to do with the desire to be in community, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. In our faith communities we find this in two ways – through communion with God, and through communion with each other. Together we can do things we can’t do alone. We can even believe things we can’t believe alone. In community we can see the needs of others, and we experience shared responsibility for each other. There is a synergy of being, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

 I want my children to experience this type of community, a community which simultaneously supports them and requires something of them – a community which helps call them into the full person that they are in the process of becoming. Not so they can be great, but so that the community can be whole.

In his book, Vulnerable Communion, the theologian Thomas Reynolds states that belonging means that we’re missed when we’re absent. He doesn’t mean that we fondly wish someone was with us. He means that we are not whole, that the community is not all it could and should be, when our individual gifts and foibles are not present.

I experience community in my congregation through leading worship with the Gallery Choir; through our gathered prayers in the 9:00 service, led by children and adults together; through the faith stories told in Godly Play and the personal stories shared in the Parents’ Gathering. Community is the Boys and Girls Choir gathered for dinner, it is talking individually with others about the day to day realities of parenting, and it is in the planning with others for how we will observe the seasons of the Christian year.  

Community is not always easy. In fact, it is OFTEN not easy. It requires showing up and being present, sometimes when I’d rather be doing something else. It means doing some things the way others have decided that we’ll do them rather than the way I prefer or find most natural. At times I feel like I’d rather be a hermit. And yet, I don’t function that way well for long. I need God, and I need others, in part because in community I often am reminded that my understanding of God is too small.

Where and how do you experience community at your church? How do you invite your children into this community? How do you know when you’ve experienced it?

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council. The Church as a Place of Community Earlier this year, my city...
August 19, 2014

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

Story is a Defining Aspect of Our Humanity

storytimeMost days I love the stage of life my children are in right now – independent (mostly), thriving, learning to live with their own choices, able to feed themselves when necessary and operate the washing machine!

But on rainy days like today, I really miss younger days, when we would curl up with a good book, and lose ourselves together in story. Or we would light a fire in the fireplace, and sit near it with hot cocoa and take turns telling our own stories – stories we made up, stories we loved, stories about our day, family stories, Bible and faith stories.

To me, story is a defining aspect of our humanity. The ways in which we share our stories and interpret and reinterpret them over time shapes the person we become. Stories help our children become resilient – through story they learn how to handle hardship, loss, setbacks. They learn in story that new endings are always being added – that how we tell the story makes a difference in where we end up.

For the past year or so, the Children’s Chapel team at Saint Mark’s has been using a wonderful online resource called “Storypath,” which helps us connect the themes from the Sunday scripture readings to contemporary children’s literature. We often (although not always) choose one of these books to share in Children’s Chapel, and send these book recommendations home for families. I commend it to your good use in your parish or your home!

What resources do you use in your community to share the Christian story?

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council. Story is a Defining Aspect of Our Humanity Most days I love the...
August 12, 2014

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

Developing a Spiritual Practice of Presence

family poloroidsI have to confess that one of my favorite parts of checking Facebook is seeing the pictures people post. Yes, even the pictures of their meals!

You see, I love the stories pictures tell, through their framing, through the miscellaneous details that appear on the sidelines, from their interaction with other pictures, and with the commentary often posted alongside them. My favorite blogs, the ones I check every day, are often populated with pictures that bring a particular focus to the words of the author.

I love taking pictures, too, and recording them in our family photo albums – paying attention to the ways in which the pictures work together to tell a story, reliving the days as I build the page, enjoying the albums again and again with my children, and loving when I catch them looking through the albums on their own. I’ll admit that I adore a good art photo. But my very favorite photos are the ones that show a slice of everyday life, ones that invite me into a moment, a story, ones that invite me to pay attention, both to the photo at hand, and to the moments of my own life.

Several years ago my family drove down Canyon Road from Ellensburg to Yakima, on a trip to visit my parents who were living on a small hobby farm outside of Selah, Washington. Canyon Road is an alternate to I-84, and follows the Yakima River down a deep gorge, providing beautiful views along the way. Hailey, about 10 at the time, was lamenting that we didn’t have a camera, with which to capture the views, when she suddenly had the idea that she could take pictures “in her minds’ eye,”  by framing the scene with her hands, focusing with her eyes and brain, and making a clicking sound as she “captured” the shot.  Soon she and her younger brother were happily taking pictures, and making memories. They were convinced that these pictures were burned into their brains, and they practiced recalling them – flipping through the scrapbooks they had created in their minds.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this story, and wondering if Hailey’s “minds-eye camera” might be a useful tool as I seek to develop the spiritual practice of being present. I don’t know about you, but I long to be more present to my own life, sensing that in doing so, I will be more attentive to the ways in which God is leading and moving.  

I’m also aware that faith formation happens in these small moments, in the interplay of my story with God’s story and the ways in which the stories are allowed to inform each other. But instead of being attentive to my own formation, I often have the feeling that my life is moving too quickly, out of my control, and that I bounce from responsibility to activity to dinner to exhaustion to sleep, only to rise and do it again the next day.

So I’m looking for opportunities throughout the day to take a picture, but not with my camera, and not with the intent of filling another album for the family shelf (alas, I’m more than a year behind on that project!), but to file away in the scrapbook in my brain, ready to pull out to place alongside the stories that I see and hear from others, alongside  the scripture that I encounter in worship and study, alongside the news as I listen to NPR on my way home from work.

What pictures are you taking? What stories do you tell yourself?  How are you present to your own life and formation?  

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council. Developing a Spiritual Practice of Presence I have to confess...
August 7, 2014

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

What did you love doing as a child?

“Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2

002846617d0c7eb0e4a665f5b49fbb39One of my favorite activities from age 8 or so was riding my bike.  I loved to feel the wind in my face, to feel the side-to-side sense of balance as I moved speedily forward.  Of course, I also loved the freedom a bike gives an elementary age child – the ability to get to a friend’s house, or to school or the library on my own!

Somehow, though, I gave up biking when I outgrew my yellow banana-seat bike, at about age 12.  I didn’t bike for years, and when I did, I was uncomfortably aware that I had never learned to use hand brakes effectively.  About five years ago now, I decided that this was something I simply had to master, and I bought my current bike  and discovered that my love of moving forward, of balancing side-to-side, of feeling the wind in my face was the same as when I was in elementary school.

Biking became a time when I could focus on what was immediately in front of me (important on a Saturday on the Burke-Gilman Trail!), when I could enjoy transporting myself by the power of my own muscles, when I had time to reflect on my week without getting bogged down to much in the “shoulda-coulda-wouldas” of my work-day self. Biking became a way of practicing being present to the current moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It became a time when I was aware of the presence of God in my life.

Today I stumbled on a spirituality blog, which recommended this very practice as a way of nourishing my soul and my passion. No, not biking itself, but rather remembering what I loved doing as a child and reconnecting with it in some way. And so today, in the middle of summer, in the middle of your lives as parents, I have this question for you:

What did you love to do as a child?
Do you still do that thing, or anything like it?

Take a moment away from noticing what it is your child or children love to do, and think deeply about this question for yourself.

Then get out and play!

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council. What did you love doing as a child? “Truly, I tell you, unless...
July 30, 2014

JoelToday’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

What Do Kids Really Need?

Last week I noticed the first “Back-to-School” ads in the newspaper.  While these ads seem to come out earlier every year, always taking me by surprise, I really do look forward to fall. It’s time for a fresh start – football games, falling leaves, and a everything new – new classes, new books, new schedules, new clothes . . .

But all this talk of “new” things raises another issue.

Fall becomes one of the prime times for me to be aware of the siren song of our consumer culture – to make everything fresh and new, just go shopping! A fresh start for the school year requires the right stuff. But a nagging inner voice counters, “At what cost?  What is the cost to me and my children?” And both as a parent and Christian educator, I begin to consider the impact consumer culture has on our soul and on our faith.

What are the consequences of consumer culture, particularly for our children?

One issue that comes to mind immediately is the conflict between what we believe as Christians about the worth of every individual, rooted in our understanding of Genesis 1, and the implicit message rooted in consumer culture that our worth is found in our ability to buy stuff. What is really communicated to our children when we say, “you are a valuable child of God, created in the image of God, and full of inestimable worth,” but unconsciously live our lives according to the principle that we are what we buy?

We know that children and adults both wrestle with existential issues, issues which are essentially spiritual, including the questions of personal worth and vocation – “Why am I here?” “What am I to do?” “What is life really all about, anyway?” as well as questions of death, freedom and aloneness. Consumer culture offers a simple answer to all of these issues, an answer simultaneously cheap and costly, an answer which really serves as an anesthetic to these questions of ultimate meaning, rather than providing any kind of an answer at all.

I have to admit that I can feel discouraged over this dilemma, because it is easy to be overwhelmed by the invisibility of our consumer culture – it is, indeed, the sea in which we swim, and therefore, not always easy to identify. It is tempting to feel that there is little families can do to offer a message that challenges this culture, to truly equip our children to face the existential issues that haunt us all, simply because we’re human.

We can find some clues to solving this dilemma from the children and youth themselves. In 2002 The Center for a New American Dream sponsored an art and essay contest, asking youth to respond to the question, “What do you really want that money can’t buy?”  The answers:  “love, respect, more free time, more contact with extended family and the natural world, and a healthier, more peaceful planet.” Betsy Taylor turned the responses from this contest into the book, What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy, in which she offers these positive family actions and attentions, as an antidote to consumerism:

  • Family Ritual: mealtimes, Sabbath, commemoration of special events and life transitions, family service to those in need
  • Silence and Stillness
  • Singing and Music
  • Compassion
  • Nature
  • Spiritual education and study.

From my own experience, primarily influenced by years of working with children through the framework of Godly Play, I would add:

  • Story: family stories, faith stories, stories which engage wonder and imagination
  • Play
  • Blessing one another and creation through intentional care of each other and our environment.

All of these actions and attentions take place in the safe space of family and are supported through our engagement as a Christian community, in and around nature, and our concern for our environment.  Paying attention to our family life in these ways challenges the ethic of consumption, and replaces it with an ethic of blessing, remembering how God blesses all of creation in the Genesis accounts, and how Jesus blessed the children and scolded those who attempted to keep the children from approaching him.

So, I need to take another look at the list of school “needs.”  Yes, my children will have the supplies necessary to function in their classes.  After all, much of it is already lying around the house, perhaps even left in backpacks from the last day of school in June.  I should probably check.   And I should probably check in with my kids, too.

Maybe time spent playing croquet or cards or sharing a story is more important than a night racing around.  And I might just discover the answer to “What do I really want that money can’t buy?” in the process.

 

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council. What Do Kids Really Need? Last week I noticed the first “Back-to-...
June 27, 2014
Tagged in: Aging

We welcome back as guest blogger Warren Frelund, who serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council and has served as a deacon in The Episcopal Church for 20 years. 

How is your church dealing with aging issues?

 

In a previous blog post I mentioned that Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe and I would be attending a meeting in Des Moines. The meeting would be sponsored by Calvin Community, which is a faith-based, not for profit retirement community. The facility is staffed by a team of professionals who deliver individualized care to older adults.

On June 3, 2014 the first meeting of a newly created Foundation Advisory Board was held. Several of the invited denominations attended the meeting.

Following a presentation by the Iowa State Director of A.A.R.P., an interesting and spontaneous discussion concerning the issues surrounding Older Adult needs. Those gathered offered very meaningful questions and answers. It soon became clear that all the churches and communities are in this together and that we need to address the issues soon.

One statement really caught my attention, “The primary source for connectedness is the church.” Several thoughts were offered in this context?

  • How can Older Adults be relevant to their community and their church?For those who are not connected to the greater community, the quality of life soon deteriorates.
  • What is a livable community that includes Older Adults? Those living in a livable community are folks who are well, engaged in their surroundings and experience authenticity in their environment.

This certainly was an important step in creating an Advisory Board which will take the time and make the effort to discuss these important questions. Our next gathering will be held in early September. I hope that more of those who were invited will be able to attend.

I would really like to hear your thoughts concerning the issues I have mentioned so that I can share these thoughts with the group when we meet in September.

Also, I would love to hear how your church is dealing with aging issues. Is your congregation really willing to discuss Older Adult issues?

Share in the comments below.

We welcome back as guest blogger Warren Frelund, who serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council and has served as a deacon in The Episcopal Church for 20 years.  How is your church dealing with aging issues?   In a previous blog post I...