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Living Well Spending Less Part III: We All Have A Sweet Spot

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

Book cover - living Well Spending Less

We All Have A Sweet Spot

This week we start on Secret #3 – We All Have A Sweet Spot.

As a starting point here is a quote from Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with youra]”>[a] faith;if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,b]”>[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We are all different.  We will achieve better in some areas of life than others or when compared to others.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  In fact it’s actually perfectly natural based on the gifts we have all received.

I’ll precursor this chapter now and personally say that it is not engaging as chapters 1 & 2.  However, it needs to be thought of as one part of a whole and collectively goes with the earlier chapters and forthcoming chapters we’ll go through later.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Where is your passion?  What do you love doing most of all? If you could do only one thing right now, what would it be?

Our sweet spot is that place where our greatest passions and our talents or abilities intersect.  Living in our sweet spot means not only taking the time to discover our passions and to realise what it is we were made to do but also being willing to take the next step.  We have to do it.

Most of us have the tendency to put our dreams on hold in favour of the practical.  the hard truth is that following your passion and living out your dream is incredibly scary. There is a huge potential  for failure. It makes us vulnerable to criticism.

It means taking a step into the unknown, where anything can happen and where we often do not have control.  It is so much easier to find shelter in the known than risk the heartbreak of failure.

You probably have an inkling on what you are best made for and what ignites your passion.  If you can incorporate your true passion in your life you can find your sweet spot and your life will be more full as you are in the right place where you need to be.

Bloom Where You Are

There are times however when we have no idea what our sweet spot is or how to find it.  As life progresses we may find that our dreams, aspirations and callings change too.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing makes us see what we truly want or need to do.

Other times we  may have to accept that we currently are not living in our sweet spot but are still called to make the most of our circumstances right now.

There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have and wanting to do something else because we know deep down it is where we are meant to be.  How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment against striving for more?

You have to try to bloom where you are.

At any given time we all have room to grow and bloom, no matter where we are planted.  No matter the season of life, we have opportunities to learn more, develop more, give more.  Our sweet spot doesn’t have to be some grand life plan.  Sometimes we don’t even know what our sweet spot is but simply need to  follow our current calling or passion.

Finding our sweet spot means listening to that tiny voice inside of us that says, Make the most of where you are right now. Learn. Grow. Develop who and what you are.  And often the sweet spot will emerge, right in the middle of living life.

Identifying Our Gifts

We all have been given our own special gifts and talents even if we do not recognise them.

There is a spectrum of gifts.  Below is just a few:

  • kindness;
  • administration;
  • communication;
  • diligence;
  • generosity;
  • healing;
  • knowledge;
  • empathy;
  • teaching;
  • organisation;
  • creativity;
  • music;
  • doing or serving;
  • stepping up when needed;
  • forging a path for others;
  • leading;
  • administering change;
  • following through.

We are all blessed with any number of special gifts and abilities.

While some gifts may be flashier than others , seem more preferable or more important they are all essential.

Gifts come from God,

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”,  1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

Individually we all have gifts.  However, we are all part of the body of Christ and we are meant to work together1 Corinthians 12:14-18 (NIV), 

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Finding your sweet spot often involves finding and then learning to embrace the God-given talents and aptitudes you already have rather than the ones you wish you had.

It means taking the time to discover what you are truly good at and enjoy then figuring out how to merge that talent and those abilities with the ideas and dreams and pursuits you are most passionate about.

Sometimes finding your sweet spot even means taking a wrong turn and failing.

Choosing The Wrong Path

Sometimes you may be tempted to go down a path not of your choosing or you think its what you want to do and yet seemingly this path is leaving you stone cold.  You may reach a point where you feel miserable or just okay.  Is ok enough?

Believe it or not, your dream may in reality be quite different from what you imagined.  Do you keep going?  Is giving up really giving up?  Sometimes it is okay to fail.

Sometimes we become fearful of making mistake, of doing something wrong, of having someone else laugh at us. However failure (in it’s most general sense) is almost never fatal.  Life goes on and sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other until a new path becomes clear. While one door may have closed, a whole world of new possibilities opens up in its place.  Quitting or changing can in fact be a bold move to try new things you would never have before.  You can find your sweet spot not despite your failure but because of it.

Jumping In With Both Feet

Some people like to take a cautious approach while other like getting stuck right in straight away.

When following our dreams and finding your sweet spot many of us prefer to slow and steady approach.  Taking a leap of faith can be all at once the most terrifying and the most rewarding thing you may ever do.

For example, you may have a dream to open a business.  You take the plunge and then soon find out that being a business owner is hard hard work.  There are setbacks and disappointments.  You don’t know if you will make it and you may even feel like giving up.  Hopefully you will find your sweet spot, succeed, keep going and pursue the path you were made for.

You may not know your sweet spot yet and you may be worried that you are not quite good enough, smart enough, organised or talented enough.  It can be awfully scary to jump into  the unknown and pursue a dream you don’t know will ever come true.  Speaking from Ruth Soukup’s own experience, it is the most exhilarating jump you will ever take.

You have your own sweet spot.  You will have to become fearless in all that you do, dare to take the plunge even when it risks failure.  Remember these words from Phillipians 4:13:

13 I can do all things through Christa]”>[a] who strengthens me.” (New King James Version).

Don’t let the possibility of fear deter you from trying.  You will make mistakes.  You will screw up along the way.  There are times that you may even have to accept defeat. Keep going.  Use the lessons as opportunities to discover what doesn’t work and always persevere.

Challenge: Identify Your Sweet Spot

Spend some time thinking about your dreams and passions.  What is it that you love to do most of all?  What makes you jump out of bed in the morning or rushing back from work?

If you could do only one thing right now, what would it be?  Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t quite gathered the nerve to try?

Next spend some time listening to the holy discontentment in your life.  Is there something in your life that isn’t quite right?  Do you have a feeling you are on the wrong path?  What would it take to make a change?  Think about the direction that you need to take or where God is leading you:

I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.”  Psalms 32:8 (The Living Bible).

Finally, consider your own gifts and talents.  What are your areas of expertise?  What are you good at?  What do you most enjoy?  What is your sweet spot?  Remember you have been given many gifts and talents for your work individually and collectively as part of the body of Christ.

Ignite that spark within you and give yourself permission to try, to leap in with both feet, even if it means risking failure.

Commit to spend time each day to pray for guidance on where you should be focusing your talents and gifts in work and at Church.

As I said earlier, this chapter isn’t as personally engaging as the previous two chapters. However, make your own assessments on what Christ is telling you and what and how you can implement any of the Ruth’s suggestions.

If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.

Living Well Spending Less: Contentment Is A Choice

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

Book cover - living Well Spending Less

Contentment Is A Choice

This week we start on Secret #2 – Contentment is a Choice.

As a starting point here is a quote from 1 Timothy 6:6 – 8.

“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”.

As Ruth says in her book, “I can see it so clearly in my oldest daughter – that constant yearning and wanting and needing something more.  No sooner than she than she gets what she wants than she is onto the next thing, constantly pining for something else that is just out of reach”.

This yearning can be so draining and worse yet, never ending.

You go out to dinner with friends and you’ve barely started your main and you are already looking at the dessert menu.  You look at what your partner is having and it looks and smells incredible and you hope they’ll share with you.

Why didn’t I order that?

You open your closet full of clothes and decide…I’ve got nothing to wear. Everything in my closet is ugly!  plus it makes me look fat!

Didn’t you just buy some clothes last weekend?

What is it you are still looking for?

You’ve been re-decorating the house.  New flooring, rugs, shelves, furniture.  Everything matches your vision.  Your partner agrees, “It’s amazing”, you briefly think its all finished and then you reconsider and think...Oh no, there’s still more to do. it can’t be finished already? When will I be done?  Or do I even want it to finish?

Ruth sees that her children can often be an honest reflection of herself.  She knows that the discontentment in her daughter is often present in her own life.  She often gets caught up in the pursuit of wanting something new, telling herself the reason she isn’t satisfied is because she doesn’t have X or hasn’t achieved Y.

These are familiar lies  that keep creeping back over and over.

Well, these lies seem to affect so many of us in the daily lives we lead.  These are the lies we need to rebel against and actively fight back against.  Defeating the lies is a conscious decision, one that requires daily effort, persistence and grace.

This is a battle we have to win on purpose; we must choose contentment.

It can sometimes feel that the world is one big advertisement.  Between books, tv, online media, magazines, billboards and even messages from friends and family it is practically impossible to escape the pressure to:

  • have more;
  • do more;
  • be more.

The idea that what we already have ad who we are is enough is rarely – if ever – promoted.  Contentment just doesn’t sell.

This leads us to a number of questions:

  1. How do we choose contentment when it feels like life throws us nothing but ways to feel inadequate?
  2. How do we find fulfillment in what we have, when we keep being told what we are missing?
  3. How can we choose to be satisfied when the yearning for what we don’t have feels so insatiable?

Knowing What Matters Most

The only real solution is to change the message in our brains.  This starts by realising our priorities.

If we aren’t perfectly clear about what is most important in our lives, it is all too easy to be swayed by anything that comes our way.

Your highest aspirations

What would happen if we wrote down our current priorities.  Would our perspective change if we took just a few minutes to determine what we want most out of life?  Do your highest aspirations really include having more things?

Taking it one step further, if you were to die tomorrow, what would you like people to remember you for?

Do you want people to remember you for your killer shoe collection or your perfectly decorated house or the great parties you held or fantastic meals you cooked.  It’s doubtful you want to be remembered for being totally self-absorbed or that you did nothing to help others. Or wow, she had a whole lot of stuff she didn’t need.

The Bible tells us to store treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

Remembering our end goal makes it a whole lot easier to set our priorities and determine what matters most.

Our Priorities

The Bible is pretty clear on letting us know what our priorities should be:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10.

Do you notice the recurring themes?  We are called to live a life of love, joy and peace. To practice kindness, patience, gentleness and self-control.  To serve with compassion and humility.

There is nothing here about having the best of everything or about taking as much as we can get or even about being in perfect fitness, beautiful or dressed to the nines.

If we look at ourselves in terms of eternity – instead of what we want right now, having a designer wardrobe, bigger home, prettier kitchen, new mobile phone or cool car just doesn’t seem so important.

Taming the Green-eyed Monster

Setting our priorities is only one step.  We have to find a way to stop being swayed by the temptations of everyday life.

We all have temptations.  You might like clothes, gadgets, material goods.  I might like camera gear or cars or chasing girls.   Our temptations might look different but chances are it leaves you feeling inadequate.

No matter where dissatisfaction strikes or where we feel we don’t measure up, the green-eyed monster will destroy us if we let it.  true contentment will never be found by looking outward.

If we struggle with wanting things we see around us we have to stop looking.  If your struggle is with certain people who bring that insecurity , that longing, youmay need to take a temporary break.

Another person’s success or talent doesn’t negate your own.  Likewise, another person’s wealth doesn’t make our lives any less valuable.  Romans 12:6 tells us “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”.

No two people will walk the exact same path and nothing someone else has will fulfill us if we are not already filled.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Discontentment can sneak up on us so quickly we don’t even know it is happening.  It can be helpful to have daily conversations about the blessings in our lives and the things we are grateful for.

Phillipians 4:4, 6 – 7 reminds us “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.

Be Intentional.

We should endeavour to bring our concerns and requests before God.  We can forget that we need to be intentional about thanking God for what he has done in our lives and in the lives of  others.

Take time to consciously list all the specific ways in which we have been blessed can help our perspective.

An attitude of continual gratitude is the fastest way to chase away the green-eyed monster.

If you are really struggling with feelings of discontentment you may not be feeling very blessed.  However, just consider the following:

  1. You are reading this blog post. According to UNESCO, 26% of the adult population is illiterate and women make up 2/3’s of this number.
  2. You are not hungry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 870 million people, 1/8 of the worlds population is suffering from chronic hunger.
  3. You have access to medicine.  The World Health Organisation estimates that between 1.3 -2 billion people do not have access to basic medicine.
  4. You most likely can drive.  If you own your own vehicle, you are in the lucky 9% of the worlds population that does.
  5. You most probably have a place to sleep tonight.  According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, there are approximately 100 million people without homes around the world. A place to call home is a gift.
  6. You can turn on the lights.  More than 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity.  Electricity is a gift.
  7. You are not thirsty.  780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Clean water is a gift.

There is magic that happens when we stop comparing our lives to those we perceive as having more and instead, intentionally begin appreciating all that we already have.

We tend to take for granted the boring and basic stuff and also forget the gifts we have been blessed with that others do not have.

When we open our hearts just enough to see the blessings we’ve already been given our worldview changes from one of longing to one of overwhelming gratitude and joy.

Turning Insecurity Inside Out

The feeling of gratitude and joy can be fleeting and so often replaced by feelings of self-doubt.  The battle to choose contentment in the midst of inadequacy never really goes away.  It’s always lurking there in the background.

One approach is to stop thinking about only yourself.  Try to find someone you can bless today and everyday.  The opportunities to mentor and encourage others are all around you if you look hard enough.

We can let our insecurities get the better of us. Because we may feel weak, we turn inward, focus on our self-doubts and fears and wish that others would reach out and provide the validation or encouragement we are sometimes desperate to hear.

But this is the wrong approach.  Contentment comes when we are able to make the conscious decision to turn our insecurities inside out.  To focus on what we have to offer others rather than on how they can serve us.

Eliminating Temptation

Sometimes finding contentment is as simple as steering clear of the things that cause us to stumble.

It means staying away from all the things that make us feel unworthy or like we do not have enough.

It may be staying away from your local mall, unsubscribing to emails, blogs and catalogs that keep tempting you.  It may mean reading less Facebook and Instagram, avoiding certain tv shows or websites.  It may even mean spending less time with certain friends.

A life of contentment is one we have to work for and one we have to actively choose.  It means:

  • Taking the time to identify our priorities and to know what truly matters in life;
  • Being intentional about desiring the things we can’t see rather than all that glitters around us;
  • Making the decision to stop looking at what everyone else has;
  • Adopting an attitude of gratitude for all we’ve already been given and being willing to turn our insecurities inside out;
  • Actively eliminating those things that tempt us most.

Are you ready to make the choice?

Challenge: Choose Contentment

Spend a few minutes thinking about your priorities.

What are the things that are most important to you?

What kind of person do you want to be?

Then take it one step further.  If you were to die, what would you want people to remember you for?

Next, think about the people you most often compare yourself to. What is it about their lives that makes you feel envious or inadequate?  Would your life really be different if you had what they have?

Now think about all the blessings and gifts that you have.  Write them down and spend some time in prayer, thanking God for all he’s given you.

Finally, think about where you can actively eliminate temptation in your life.  What stores can you stay out of? What magazines, tv shows or websites can you turn off or avoid?

Develop a concrete plan for keeping temptation at bay.

Remember what our priorities should really be in the life we live.

If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.

Trevor Bradley thanksgiving service: Footscray Baptist Church at 10.30AM on Wednesday 9th May 2018

Footscray Baptist Church is saddened by the death of Trevor Bradley on Saturday 28 April 2018.
Trevor was greatly loved by the FBC community and will be sorely missed.

Trevor served faithfully as a deacon for many years and contributed to the life of the community in many other ways.

A thanksgiving service will be held at Footscray Baptist Church at 10.30AM on Wednesday 9th May 2018. All welcome.

In lieu of flowers, friends may choose to donate to Baptist World Aid or Baptcare Asylum Seeker Project, two of the many charities Trevor supported.

Living Well Spending Less: Part I

Over the next few months I’ll be taking you through a book called “Living Well Spending Less” by Ruth Soukup.  This is a nice take on a universal theme that gets covered by so many self help books these days.  What’s nice about this book is that it includes a Christian perspective that makes it somewhat different from other books on the topic.

I’ll basically take you through the book chapter by chapter.  The book is broken into two parts:

  1. Living Well; and
  2. Spending Less.

In a way, you can treat this as a virtual study group.

Part One: Living Well

Secret #1: The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is

Matthew 6:19-21 New International Version (NIV)

19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

From a very young age we are conditioned to equate possessions with happiness. We often think that a Good Life is dependent on what we have.  The new car, new phone, home, dress, tv, gadget, job…if I can just get the right stuff, my life will be complete?

You’ve been dreaming of your new home and kitting it out with nice new furniture.  What happens when you get it?  Often it’s just a never ending treadmill.  Then the new tv, new sofa, new dinner table, new vacuum cleaner, homewares, curtains?  You can spend all your time and energy creating the perfect house you’d always dreamed of and yet your life still seems far from perfect.  You still feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied, discontent, still craving more.

More Is Never Enough

The idea that more stuff will make you happy is constantly being re-enforced at every turn in our consumer driven society.  Commercials, billboards, magazine spreads keep tempting us:

If your house looks like this, you’ll be satisfied;

If you drive this car, you’ll be successful.

If you use this makeup, you’ll be beautiful.

if you wear these clothes you’ll be enviable.

If you eat this food you’ll be skinny.

This will be the thing that fills you up.

The messages are endless.

We want more and more thinking that it will provide the Good Life but it never does.  The whispers are a lie.  The Good Life is not what we think it is.

Money and possessions on their own are not necessarily harmful or destructive.  However the pursuit of them can be.  Over and over, the Bible warns against this phenomenon:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13 (NIV)

These warning aren’t just for the rich.  The warnings applies to all of us.

It is not the wealth or the stuff that kills us; it is the wanting, the longing, the desire for wealth, possessions, power and status that can take over our hearts and mind, leaving room for little else.

Regardless of the never quite enough message society wants to give us, a life consumed by always wanting more is not the Good Life.

In Search of the Good Life

Sometimes you have no choice but to re-evaluate and stop.  You can seek a different sort of life for yourself, partner and loved ones.  A life that isn’t defined by what you have but who you are.  You can begin a quest for the Good Life.

Not Just about the Money

Discovering the Good Life is not just about learning to spend less but about changing the desire of our heart. Shifting our priorities from wanting and hoping for the best of everything in this world…to deeply longing to store up a different kind of treasure.

This is a call to go down a different path:

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called… not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 …do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way you will lay up treasure for yourself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:11-12, 17-19 (NIV), paraphrased.

This is the Good Life.

You may not fully realise it but you are a child of a patient, loving and forgiving Father. You are called to serve him and only him, and you are whether or not you believe it saved by an amazing, infallible, completely undeserved grace that doesn’t care how big your house is, what you drive or what you wear.

Praying For Change

It’s difficult living in a world screaming at you to consume.  You will have to continually pray to God to change your heart, to lead you where he would have you go and to take away the desires of this world.  Keep praying that prayer.  It can be a terrifying prayer as often we love the things of this world.

Ultimately though hopefully you can feel the deep dissatisfaction in your heart of pursuing the wrong things.  You can have so much but still feel so empty.  The consumption of more stuff just doesn’t fulfil you and in fact leaves you feeling empty instead.

You read this blog and many more like it but the reality is that true change will only come through prayer:

  • 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 (NIV)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

The Bible is clear, if we pray for God to change our heart, God will answer.

The Good Life, Defined

As life goes on, you can seek a different kind of wealth, a richness that comes from fullness in Christ.  You can pursue the Good Life defined so beautifully in 1 Timothy.  You can pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Do not be arrogant or put your hope in wealth but put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Do good, be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share.  In this way you can lay up treasure for yourself for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life.

This really is the Good Life.  A life rich in faith, family, friends and creativity.  It is life full of the richness that God has to offer, a life spent building treasures in heaven rather than here on earth.  It is a life of discipline, hard work and self-reflection.

It may not be easy or comfortable but it is always full in abundance and completely secure in Christ.

Is this the life you want to live?

Challenge: Define Your Good Life

  1. How do you think society’s emphasis on wealth, success and possessions affects you?
  2. Do you find yourself frequently longing for better and nicer things?
  3. Are your life goals and aspirations based on society’s definition of success?

Identify any changes you need to make in your heart’s desires and motivations.

Write them down and commit to spend time each day to pray for transformation.  God will change your heart; all you have to do is ask.

Note:  All of the above contains large excerpts from Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less“.