Monday, December 24, 2012

Annual Christmas Monologue: A Shepherd Remembers

A Shepherd Remembers

My father gave it to me when I was twelve. That’s the age a shepherd receives his own staff and it means you are old enough to have the late night watch by yourself.

Each of us has our own staff. All of them are different and they represent who we are. Usually a father picks the particular branch of the tree from which the staff will be carved. A shepherd’s staff is really special and we use the same one all of our life.

But for years I did not have mine. You see I gave it away only to have it returned. It’s been years now and that eager twelve year old body is now tired from standing watch on long nights. But I’m not too weary to share a story that changed my life so many years ago when I first went down into the town.

It was my turn to keep the night watch while the others slept. The night was clear and a bit cold. Leaning on my new staff I knew that I must be careful not to fall asleep. Shepherds love our sheep but we also know how stupid they are. One of them will often wonder off in search of most anything; a distant patch of grass…a sound that leads their curiosity to places where they can fall into deep crevices and one of us has to get them out…they just don’t pay attention.

And then there are the wolves that prey on the flock. Over my years I’ve had to fend off the attack of wolves that would wreak havoc on the sheep. For many of those years the staff I used to defend our sheep was not this one but I’ll tell you about that.

To this day I cannot really explain what happened late that night as I stood alone watching our sheep. The voices seem to come from, well, the sky. It was one of the brightest evenings I could remember.

At first I thought it was the wind making its way through the small tress and undergrowth. I thought perhaps I had drifted off to sleep only to awake in the midst of some dream. But then the voices grew louder and all I can say is that it was as if the stars started coming closer and became brighter.

I was new at this being alone with the sheep and being responsible for their safety. I had to keep my senses. At first I wanted to run back to the others who were now asleep around the embers of the fire but I knew they would consider me filled with childish imagination.

But my choice was made for me when the light became so bright that it woke my father and the others. Of course it was not just the light it was the voices, the singing, and the words.

I looked behind me and there stood the others. No one said anything. There was nothing to say. As we listened fear became our companion. The light became almost blinding.

And then came the words, “To you is born a savior…do not fear…go down to the town below and find him…he is the one you’ve been waiting for…and so that you will believe, here is a sign for you….the child will be in a manger…go…tell everyone you see what you will see down in the city of David…”

Then the voices filled everything. They filled us. There are no words to describe what we heard. The only thing I can remember that we kept hearing over and over was, “Glory to God…Glory to God.”

We all knew that the instructions made no sense. We were not welcome in any town. Below us was Bethlehem but we knew that to go there was to risk ridicule. The religious leaders considered us unclean and most people assumed we were thieves and vagabonds. We were used to such accusations.

My father helped me understand that to be a shepherd was to have no place that was really home except to be with each other and our sheep. The people in those towns had no use for us but they needed our sheep even though they despised us. The people purchased our sheep for their religious sacrifices but they desired that we be invisible servants if anyone asked where the sheep came from. Those who bought our sheep had no understanding that we loved the sheep as a parent loves a child but we had to make a living.

So why did those voices from heaven come to us? No one would believe what we heard and saw especially if it came from the lips of shepherds.

Although my father was not allowed to go to the synagogue his own father had taught him the stories. His father knew a man who was a Rabbi and the Rabbi befriended my grandfather. This particular religious scholar was a kind man and though my grandfather could not read the words on the sacred scrolls, the Rabbi read them to him and for him.

So my father said to me after the voices seemed to somehow go back into the heavens from which they came, “Son these voices tell of the one I told you of. Your grandfather told me what the Rabbi told him. This child is the one we’ve been waiting for. This manger child is the deliverer.”

I looked into his eyes and said words I now hold near to my heart, “But father how is it that we are the ones invited? The child surely is not for us.”

My father’s words still live with me in spite of the years gone by. He said, “O my son that is what is so wonderful. It seems that we are the first to know. The Rabbi told my father and your grandfather that the promised one would be a shepherd for his people and that he would especially come for those who were forsaken and on the outside. Do you now see why shepherds are the first to know?”

We went to the town as the voices instructed. I was afraid we might be driven away as we had been before in other towns but it seemed that all of Bethlehem was asleep. My brothers told me of the census and how so many had come into this tiny village so I was surprised that the town was so quite.

“How do we know where to go,” I asked my father. “I’m still hearing the voices,” is all he said. We led our sheep to the edge of the town and it was there my father pointed with his staff to a lantern burning in a stable. I remembered that earlier the voices said the child would be found in a manger so we walked toward the light.

She was bending over the manger when I first saw her. She looked up and did not even seem surprised to see us. A man was standing behind her. My father stepped forward and spoke some words to him. It was then I saw the man smile and gently shake his head.

I leaned against my father’s strong back and stood on my tip toes to see what I could see. There he was, the manger child. Something came over me like the fires that sometimes break out in the valleys when the grass is dry.

As the others in our band knelt down near the manger I stepped forward. My father motioned for me to step back but I was lost in the wonder of it all.

I walked over to the woman and simply said, “My father said that your child would grow up to be a shepherd…a very special shepherd. He will need a staff. This staff is a very special shepherd’s staff. It is mine but I want your shepherd to have it and when he gets older tell him that another shepherd gave it to him on the night of his birth.”

She looked into my eyes with something that I can only describe as love in motion. She reached toward me and gently put her hand to my cheek.

She spoke in a tired whisper, “I know this staff must be valuable to you so what a gift it is. I will keep it and give it to him when it is time for him to tend his sheep.”

That was years ago. I grew up and became the lead shepherd of our gathered families. It was my task to sometimes sleep in the opening of the stone enclosure we call a sheepfold. That way I was the gate through which the sheep must pass. I kept the sheep in and the wolves out. Any person or any predator would have to get past me to get to my sheep.

So the words he spoke that day so many years later sank deep into my soul when I heard him talk about being the good shepherd who was the gate for the sheep. I had tried to keep up with his movements and his teachings. Word had quickly spread about the way he could touch people and heal them.

Rumors of him quieting storms and even changing water into wine were spread among the many people who came to hear him speak in order to discover if he really was the long awaited one. Very view of those people knew of the night of his birth even though we told everyone who would listen. Most people did not believe us so it was only much later after he chose followers and started teaching that people began to ask if he really was the deliverer.

I would go listen to him whenever I could get away from the sheep. The crowds were often so large that I had to struggle to get close enough to hear his words. And if the religious leaders were present I had to worry about their judgmental stares but I decided that did not matter anymore. I was tired of being viewed as one who was not worthy. After all I knew who he was before they did even if they did not believe our stories of stars that sang and voices in the night.

So it was that one day that as I was listening to him he said that he was the good shepherd and that he came to be the gate through which the sheep could come home. As he said those words about being a shepherd my heart sang like the night long ago when it seemed that angels broke lose from heaven. His closing words were the ones I remember most. He stopped speaking and became silent for what seemed like a long time. He looked off into the distance as if his mind was far from the place.

He then looked back at the people who were listening intensely to him and he said, “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” It was then I noticed the staff in his hand. My old eyes filled with tears. It was my staff. I looked down at my feet and prayed softly, “O God may my staff help him lead us.”

When I looked up he was standing in front of me. I could not believe that this was the child of the manger whose mother I offered my shepherd staff to so long ago.

He put his hand on my shoulder and smiled. “You’re the one aren’t you?” Before I could answer he said, “My mother told me of that night and of how you were the first to come. It was one of her favorite stories to tell because of what you gave to her. I have used this staff these years not only to lean on but to…well….to try to be a good shepherd.”

That’s when we both smiled a smile of recognition that only the two of us could share…shepherd to shepherd. He then did something that allows me to tell you this story. He handed me my staff and said, “I want you to have this now. I’m going to Jerusalem and will not be coming back this way so I want it to be yours again.”

I wanted to argue with him and tell him that the gift was his to keep but somehow the words did not come. As he turned to walk away he smiled and said to me, “You are a good shepherd too you know.”

Word came to me later about what they did to him in Jerusalem. What did he do to deserve crucifixion? I will never understand why they killed a man who came to be the long awaited shepherd for us all. Did they not know how much we need a shepherd? Some people claim that death could not hold him and that when grieving followers returned to his grave they found that the tomb was empty. Others say it is just wishful thinking by people who hoped he was what he was not.

But I know who he was and who he is. I was one of those lucky shepherds on a hill who were told to go down to a town to discover a shepherd born in a manger. As I hold my staff…his staff… I thank God that I was able to stand that night long ago beside a manger on ground that was holy. Voices that seemed liked angels told surprised shepherds to go tell the story about what we would see. So hear these words of a tired old shepherd who once gave his staff to the shepherd who came to save us all. He is the manger child who is the good shepherd.

I’m one lucky shepherd….

(the song “Go Thee Down” is now sung)

Just a lucky bunch of shepherds on a hill

Watching over their flocks with a fire against the chill

And then the sky opened up with a heavenly light

And before them stood an angel with a message in the night:

Go thee down into the town

There’s a child there you’ve really got to see

Be not afraid but be excited

You’re the first to be invited

Go thee down into the town

And once you see him tell everyone you see

He’s the one we’ve waited for

We’re not waiting anymore

There’s a shepherd born to show the way

to you and me

(Ricky Skaggs: Go Thee Down/ rest of the song can be

Found on Y Tube/ Advent Shepherds 2008)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Always Wanted to be a Shepherd...Until

I Always Wanted to be a Shepherd


            When it came time for the children’s Christmas pageant I always wanted to be a shepherd.  First of all there were no speaking parts for shepherds.  An angel usually got to make the ancient announcement which sounded something like, “Unto you a child is born…go to Bethlehem and see the child in a manger who is Christ the Lord.”

            Then another angel might wave her hands like so many wings and announce, “Glory to God in the highest and peace among men.”  Back in my day we did have inclusive language so it seemed that the peace was just for men.  Modern translations accurately translate the angelic announcement so that the peace is for all “people.”  I wondered as a child why Jesus just came for the guys.

            Anyway I wanted to be a shepherd because they got to just stand there dressed in something that resembled a bathrobe and simply look and listen to the story without doing much of anything.  I hope that you are not going to do that this year?

            Are you going to listen to the Christmas proclamation and not do much of anything but observe a nice story?  It is true that in the original story the shepherds go to Bethlehem and check things out but you still better take another look at wanting to be a shepherd.

            Shepherds in Jesus’ day were the in the lowest social class of people.  They were considered to be untrustworthy and often grazed their sheep on other people’s land.  From that day long before when David recounted his own days of being a shepherd and wrote the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want,” the life of shepherding ended up being looked down upon.

            As the people of God settled down into towns the nomadic life of a shepherd was out of place.  Shepherds were often accused of stealing and sometimes the accusations were true, but even if they were not the people thought of them as roaming band of people with no ties to the families in most towns.                                                                                                                               Shepherds were considered unclean by the religious leaders so they were not allowed to participate in any religious ritual or practice.  In one religious code it said that if you came upon a shepherd who had fallen in a pit you did not have to help him get out.

            According to Jewish guidelines a shepherd could not testify in court because they had no civil rights.  So why in the world would God pick shepherds to be the first witnesses of the event in Bethlehem?  I mean who would believe their story?  The witness of a shepherd does not count.

            But according to Luke shepherds are picked to hear the angel’s song of “Glory to God in the highest.  To you is born a savior.”  The lowest are picked to hear about the highest.

            So here is the good news. Life is a wonderful gift but we cannot avoid the lowest parts of life.  This week I looked into the eyes of a person battling cancer and heard a testimony of how it felt to be low.  We were brought to unimaginable lows this week as we heard the news of innocent children being gunned down at a school.  We collectively felt lost for any words to describe how low those parents must feel.

            We who so desire to have guns to protect ourselves live in a culture of violence where the right to possess such weapons so often leads to the access to rage that misuses the right.  But when it comes to ways to control and prevent such horror we seem to be low in ability.  So we continue to be brought low as a people not only by the rage of those we do not understand but also by our own inability to know what to do about our rights and power.

            Each of us today can describe a time when we were brought low by life.  In those moments of illness or loss or unfairness we realize that when it comes to control our status is rather low.  We fool ourselves into thinking we have control in order to give ourselves security.  In so doing we build a life around us full of material things and titles and money.  But when the unfairness of freedom breaks down our walls and breaches our damns of control we find ourselves awash in what might be termed the lowliness of life.

            So now do you see why God picks shepherds to hear the news?  Listen; life is wonderful.  Let’s not sit here today and get all down and out because of he inevitable low points in life.  After all we need to remember that we never asked for life and life is a gift from God even with all the unfair things that happen.  Gratitude is the antidote for the sadness and darkness because it is gratitude that reminds us of the joy, the light, and the gift that life is.  We need to say thank you every chance we get and not forget that all of life is a grace-given gift of God.

            But the Christmas story reminds us that God first comes to the low places and the low people.  Shepherds hear the news and discover a couple huddled in a barn. The shepherds then down into the town where they were not really welcome to discover a child laying in a feeding trough for animals.  God comes to our low places to say and even to sing, “Glory to this world…my child is born in a barn and yes the first witnesses are lowly shepherds…get it!!  I have come for you on days when you can sing ‘gloria’…and I have come on days when you cannot think you can sing….but on any day you can sing even if its hard because I have come for all your low times…so sing…you are not alone…Christ is still your savior.”

            So I share with you my Christmas poem since I always wanted to be a shepherd and now find myself working for the great shepherd of the sheep as one of his assistant shepherds.  So this is for you…

Now It’s Time for You to Sing


Something so big has happened

but you must seek

it in small ways


Heaven has broken open

and stardust now fills

the vacant places


Words cannot contain this

encounter of earth and sky

but words must be used


Only angelic voices can

dare speak what

might be-  that now is


And so, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”

Glory to God in the highest

fills the sky

where shepherds quake


Who are they to hear such

a shattering of all that is

for what shall be?


And yet to the lowly comes

that which will elevate all

who need to lift their heads


He is the child of the universe

born so meek that

some will pay him no mind


But listen to the song

of the stars-

They can’t help but sing,



For you and all he has come

So that worship can now be

 of something other than

the little things we make big




Glory to God in the highest

so that the lowest will know

of love’s penetrating power


Twas not just the angels

that sang that night

but all creation felt a chorus

that shepherds found themselves


so they went to a manger


Now it is time for

you to sing

for to do so is to worship a power

bigger than your small life


But for you and our world

God became a small life

that all might be lifted up


So lift your weary heads

O world that often feels


Christ is born


Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Glory to God in the highest


God became the lowest


you and for me


Jody-Christmas 2012


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Over Let's Begin

It’s Over Let’s Begin

The costliest election in our history is over so can we now begin? After watching the movie, “Lincoln” I am reminded that divisions within our country that again surfaced in the midst of the vitriolic rhetoric used by both sides in this recent political “fight” are not new to our land. Lincoln tried to lead a nation that was separated by ideology and strongly held beliefs in the rights of people.

But now our election is over so can we begin? The movie ends with the haunting words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Sadly these words echo in the theatre just after the scene where this tall man with big ideas is reduced to a dead president surrounded by shocked leaders who tell us that, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Well, we are part of those “ages” and we need to listen to his words that he spoke to a broken and divided people at the end of the Civil War;

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right
that God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we
are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…”

As a working pastor let me humbly offer a few thoughts on how we begin after this recent war of words:

Since we have work to do let’s quite bringing up the Bible like it was put together much like a brick is created. A brick is created by mixing together a prepared substance and pouring it into a mold in order to make a solid piece of building matter. A brick is the same all the way through because it is made of the same stuff.

The Bible is not a brick. It is not made of the same stuff. It is more like a woven garment that is composed of many different threads woven together over thousands of years by many different “weavers.” To take it literally means that often it cannot be taken seriously. In our need for a new beginning there is much in the Bible that needs to be taken seriously.

The woven garment of the sacred text known as the Bible is meant to be more like a family quilt pieced together by a loving grandmother from patches saved over the years rather than to be viewed as a solid block that can be thrown toward the person who does not seem to cherish the brick. A quilt on the other hand can surround the recipient with a sense of security and warmth even though you know it did not come from a factory and is quite home-made. The tatters around the edges of the quilt and the seams that are not quite perfect are what make the hand crafted creation so special.

My particular tradition states that the sacred text should be studied in light of experience, tradition, and reason. It is important to not just know what the Bible says but to know what it means. Quite frankly, the Bible says a lot that deserves study so that isolated words and phrases will not be thrown around like so many bricks.

So with malice toward none I offer the observation that to take a couple of bricks that seem to indicate who can marry who or to establish exactly when life begins as the only foundation blocks upon which to create a holistic world view might be more harmful than constructive. In the sacred weaving there are many more threads that portray the need to care for the sojourners and marginalized than there are threads about marriage and rights.

And in terms of the “street talk” theology that gets thrown around in election cycles let’s take off the street that often used expression, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” As a pastor I deal with countless people who come my way who are broken and beaten by life. These hurting people sometimes lift up this platitude that is, by the way, not found in the Bible. You might say they’ve been hit by a factory made brick when they need to be wrapped in a hand-made quilt.

Life will sometimes give us more than we can handle. Ask a man, who while hung out to dry by life and suffering, once uttered, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, he was quoting scripture because you can find that line in the Psalms, but you can be sure he was not tossing bricks. He was offering some threads that the rest of us could weave together when we are given more than we can bear.

And finally, being quite aware that I am a pastor and not a politician let me say it’s time to begin again in the face of the Washington rock throwing scene about our economic “cliff.” I’m nearing the finish line and await the benefits of Medicare so let me be the first to say, “If you need to take a little away from my Medicare and Social Security benefit in order to fix this mess then for God’s sake and ours do it. We are in this mess together and we need to redefine what community means…and that is in the Bible.”

And so I will say to whoever are the rich…and they seem a moving target… now that I’ve “moved” you can move. Hopefully if all of us move a little bit we will not have to jump over the cliff together. That is sure no way to come together.

There is a sad and tragic scene in the movie when Lincoln slowly rides through the carnage of bodies after the battle of Petersburg. Those images of the vacant stares of the casualties of war must have been on his mind when he uttered his words of healing a few short days before he became one of those causalities.

I hope we can now begin and come together as a kind of wonderfully different community of people who know we need at times to be wrapped in quilts so that we can quit throwing bricks. We need to hear again the words of a man of great vision who learned from his pain:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God

gives us the right to see, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;

to bind up the nations wounds…”

It’s over, it’s time to begin.

Jody Seymour

Sr. Pastor

Davidson United Methodist Church

Friday, June 8, 2012

Milepost 65

When I was a kid someone who was 65 was toast.  The next stop was "the Home."  Of course back then there were not that many "Homes."  Now there is an Assisted Living on every corner.

What's happening?  My grandmother held my hand and squeezed it as she looked up at me from her nursing home bed, "I need to go home."  She did not mean the overused word  "home" as it gets attached to "nursing."  She was referring to "that home not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

We both knew what she meant so I squeezed back and whispered, "I know grandma, but I hate to lose you."  That's when she said words to me that I have used many times.  This time the grip of her hand became even tighter as she said to me, "Boy I don't want to outlive myself."

She was 92. She died the next year.  I figure she "outlived" herself by about 3 years.

Why am I reflecting on all this?  I registered for Medicare last week.  Milepost 65 is now in the rear view mirror.  I did not even slow down as I pasted the marker.  How can I be going this fast at 65?  From my viewpoint as a child a 65 year old was a slow-poke...ready for the farm...worn out...spent.

How much time will there be between 65 and that time I come up against "outliving myself?"  One never knows.  They tell me that 65 is the new 45.  We'll see.

My friends in AA have the best attitude when it comes to all this age and time stuff:  "One day at a time."  As I pasted the milepost I wonder if I remembered that there have been 23,725 of those days?'s time to go home but alas this time I simply mean the house in which I dwell....thankfully.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Did Jesus Have a SuperPac?

I wonder how he got as far as he did without the help of a SuperPac? It seems that no public figure these days can get by without the help of some really big money from who knows where. I mean we literally watch as our politicians are "bought" by various special interest groups. Everybody complains but the checks keep rolling in. Many people seem to think that all this influence money is not a good idea but nobody can do anything about it?
There is a line in the Book of Revelation about "the Beast." Most people remember the part about the "number of the Beast" which is 666. What we need to pay attention to, however, is not the number but what the people say about the Beast. Since the Beast is so powerful and mysterious the people say, "Who is like the Beast and who can fight against it?" The Beast is "given authority by the Dragon?" I know this revelation from long ago gets messy and mysterious with all the numbers and "angels and demons," but what I'm getting at (I know you're beginning to wonder) is that this Beast known as SuperPac seems to be impenetrable. Who can fight against it?
Jesus was offered help by a SuperPac, did you know that? Yea, it happened just after he was "elected" by voice vote. There was only one voice but it was quite a vote because it came in the midst of a clamp on thunder when folks who were lined up to get baptized thought they heard something that sounded like, "Hey listen up this is my special child. He's the one you've been waiting for. I'm so proud I can't stand it!" OK, the literal translation is, "This is my child, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased."
Jesus was then immediately offered the help of a SuperPac. Another voice, this time not from above but from "below" said, "Hey you need some help or you'll never get anywhere. Here, I've friends in 'high' places that can provide the resources you need to be powerful beyond measure. Without this help your new campaign will sputter out before it ever gets started."
Jesus, the story says, was in fact "tempted" to take the help of this SuperPac. After all, at that time in his campaign he did not even have a staff, no posters in anybody's front yard, and no War Chest from which to pull the needed resources for what looked to be a tough long fight to "win the vote."
It seems that major influence peddler from long ago set the precedent for the many temptations that come when you are offered power from places that can lead you away from what is most important. Jesus was offered a way to get things done by the voices of the power brokers of the day. Back then it sounded like; "Give me your allegiance and I'll give you all the bread you want...Jump when I say jump and you'll win the next primary...let go of those silly principals that are foolish and idealistic and let me show you what the people really want."
Too much money mixed with the promise of power have always been a volatile mixture. After all we are "only human." I think that was also one of the lines used in the wilderness with Jesus back then. I wish we could get rid of the funny money that leads to back room promises that end up affecting lots of people.
Jesus learned long before people wrote books about management principals that, "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." High minded dreamers seem to end up in the wilderness as soon as they step off the bus in Washington. SuperPacs wait to greet them with promises and money. It was not good "back then" and it's not good now.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Locker Room Floor

Well maybe it happens at the Beauty Parlor or the Coffee Shop but I know it also happens with us men types at the Y or Health Club locker room . I overheard it yet again the other day.

It comes in the form of glittering generalities about really complex and sometimes important issues. Whether you like it or not you can hear , because it echoes in those locker rooms for all to take in, one line comments about politics, education, how kids have no respect anymore, religion, and all kinds of comments on economic policy.

The other day one guy who was bantering on about how poor the quality of education had become rounded the row of lockers and left one last comment on the locker room floor as he left; "Well what can you do?" Well here is what I want to say, "Many times there is something you CAN do and it does no good to leave one line over generalized comments on the locker room floor and then walk away."

Do something to make things better. And quit the locker room talk. I don't want to over hear it because most of the time it is full of simplistic sound bites about some really important issues. Here's one, "Obama has spent more money than any other President we've had!" Well you know that might be right, but what does it really mean? I suppose this person does not like Obama or his policies but what locker room talk has become is like the sound bites on TV that simply make people draw lines in the sand and throw dirt at each other across the line.

It is not doing us any good. The issues facing America are not that simple and we are all going to have to learn to "play together in the sandbox" if we are going to keep talking and acting like children. These are grown up problems and our politicians need to grow up...but the truth is they can't as long as those to whom they talk still use locker room language and and act like we expect simple-sound bite-solutions to complex issues that require some painful compromise by probably all of us.

"Well what can you do?" You and I can learn the complex realities and start expecting more from our leaders. We can convey to them that they do not have to make us happy all the time and that we are willing listen to "hard" solutions that may impact our life style or even our pocketbook. It is time to quit acting like children.. in real life and in the locker room.

When was a kid playing football that kind of of talk was OK because after all I was a kid...but some guy I discovered a few years later coined a phrase that can be used for many different occasions not just religious ones: "When I was a child I spoke as a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became an adult I put an end to childish ways."

Leave wet towels on the locker room floor, not trash talk about really important things...