Pop Pop Epistle #44 – Happy Birthday Grayson

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Dear Grayson,

Happy birthday. This is going to be an awesome year. It has been really fun to watch you grow and learn and change over the last 12 months. I love the fact that you love to read. And I love the fact that you are becoming a song writer. A few years ago I wrote a song that you have probably heard me sing to you but it seems especially pertinent now as you celebrate another birthday. The name of the song is It’s A Great Day To Be Alive and the refrain goes like this:

Each day is an adventure
Another new surprise.
A chance to watch God do His thing
Before your very eyes.
And those who say they love Him,
Who call upon His Name
Will find joy in the journey
And strength for each new day.

I love the fact that you are always up for a Pop Pop adventure. I love that you love fun surprises. The Lord is already doing a good work in your life and I can see His joy evidenced in you. No matter what comes your way in the years to come – whether they are fun surprises or challenging surprises – may His joy always be your strength. It is indeed a great joy for me to be your Pop Pop.

Never forget that you are very loved!

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Pop Pop Epistle # 43 – About October 26, 1986 and Those Miracle Mets

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Dear Grandkids,

It is World Series time and once again the Boston Red Sox find themselves in the Fall Classic. They are hoping to win their 4th championship in the last 15 years but there was a time when it had been for-e-ver since they had won. 100 years ago, way back in 1918, when Babe Ruth played for the Sox they were winners. Then they traded him away to the Yankees and endured the “Curse of the Bambino” for 85 years. My favorite year to relive the curse is 1986 when my favorite team, the New York Mets, wrote an awesome chapter in the storied history of the BoSox.

It was about 1 AM when I woke Christy (aka Mom, aka aunt) up because I was screaming with exuberant delight. She was only about 7 months at the time but she and her mom have not forgotten the reason for the scream. History.com tells the story like this…

metsBoston was one out away from the championship in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets, when the Sox defense managed to bungle a series of easy plays so badly that they lost the game. At the bottom of the 10th, Boston had a 5-3 lead. Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets who came to the plate. But then Gary Carter hit a single; so did Kevin Mitchell; and then Ray Knight did, too. The score was 5-4. Bob Stanley came in from the Red Sox bullpen and immediately fired off a wild pitch. Mitchell scored, and the game was tied. Then outfielder Mookie Wilson stepped to the plate. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, after he’d knocked six pitches foul, Wilson poked a ground ball right to Buckner at first. Buckner bent to field the ball, but it bounced right over his glove and kept rolling down the right-field line. Knight headed gleefully for home. The Mets had won.

And that’s when I screamed. At 1 AM. With my heart racing wildly. With no one else around me. It was a great day to be a Met’s fan. It was a very sad to be a Red Sox fan. Just ask your great uncle Kent. It was another epic reason why the Met’s were called the Miracle Mets.

Victory is always just one miracle away. One of the things that is great about sports is that there is so much hope. Hope at the beginning of a new season. Hope at the beginning of each game. Hope even when your team is down to their last strike. There is always hope until it is over. And that is one of the great things about the faith that we believe in Jesus. There is always hope. And Scripture tells us that “hope does NOT disappoint.” We know this because even when we are down to OUR last strike our hope is the greatest. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 says this:

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every day I face my own mortality. But one day I will stand face to face with Jesus and my mortality will be a distant memory because I will have victory in Jesus. Tonight might be a good time for your parents to sing you “that” song as you get ready for bed.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #42 – About Yom Kippur

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Dear Grandkids,

yom-kippurSince one fourth of the blood running through your veins is Jewish I wanted to tell you a little about today. Today is the most solemn holy day of all the holy days on the Jewish calendar. Today is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. It commemorates the annual day that the Jewish High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple in order to offer sacrifices for sin on behalf of the Jewish people.

Interestingly, these sacrifices stopped being offered in 70 AD because the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the future Roman emperor Titus. So the question can legitimately be asked, “How are sins for the Jewish people now atoned for?”  The Older Testament is clear that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin. And yet blood is no longer shed.

Nowadays, the Jewish people believe that forgiveness of sin is obtained through repentance, prayer, and good deeds. But the fact remains that blood must be shed – not only for the Jewish people but also for everyone else in order to have our sin forgiven. So is forgiveness even possible?

Here is the very good news…

Jesus came as THE High Priest to offer Himself as a blameless and pure and undefiled sacrifice to secure redemption by the shedding of His own blood on the cross. Forgiveness of sin is available for all who look to Him and trust in the sufficiency of His sacrifice. God accepts the sacrifice of His only begotten Son as satisfactory to secure our eternal salvation and to bring about reconciliation in our relationship with the Father that sin had destroyed.

There is no longer a need for an annual Day of Atonement because atonement was made once for all when Jesus died on the cross. There is no longer a need for sacrifices to made in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. There is no longer a need for blood to be shed because blood has been shed. So how are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah  of the world to regard Yom Kippur?

Today is an awesome day (as is every day) to thank God for sending His Son to be the Savior of the world and for rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness and bringing us into the light of the Son. Today is an awesome day to remember the gospel. Today is an awesome day to pray for our Jewish kin that they will recognize Jesus as the Messiah they have been looking for. Today is an awesome day to celebrate and rejoice in our salvation.

Never forget what Jesus did for you!

And never forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle # 41 – About The Greatest

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Dear Grandkids,

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.12.41 AMOn this day in 1978, September 15, boxer Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to win the world heavyweight boxing title for the third time in his career, the first fighter ever to do so.

And I was there.

At the time, I was beginning my junior year at Tulane University. I was a Biomedical Engineering major and still trying to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do. The Superdome had only been open for 3 years and had begun hosting some major sporting events. (The previous year I had gone to the Superbowl between Dallas and Denver.)

Ali was considered to be, at least by his own admission, The Greatest boxer of all time. Humility was not his greatest characteristic. Contrast him with the man who was indeed the greatest to have ever lived – NOT by his own admission but by the testimony of millions throughout the last 2000 years… Jesus.

 Jesus said in Matthew 23:11-12, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And it was said of Jesus by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2…

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here is a lesson that Jesus taught and that He lived and that I hope you learn early on in your life: If you aspire to greatness, which is not a bad thing, first of all learn to look after the needs of other people. Learn how to serve others. Learn obedience to the Father. Learn humility. Then you will have no need to exalt yourself because the Father will exalt you and give you a position of influence in the Kingdom – not so that your name will be great but so that you can make His name great.

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #40 – About Verse 8 on 8/8

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is 8/8/18. August 8.

And it just so happens that in my Bible reading this morning I came across a verse that I love – which I wanted to share with you. It is verse 8 in 1 Peter chapter 1.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…

This one verse pretty much sums up what a relationship with Jesus entails. 3 things that I want to show you:

1) True believers love Jesus “Though you have not seen him, you love him.”  When a person grasps the full extent of what Jesus did on the cross for them it would be impossible NOT to love him. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” I hope that as you grow up you will think often and think deeply about the great great love of Jesus that he expressed for you and that this will cause you to love him greatly in return.

2) True believers trust Jesus“Though you do not now see him, you believe in him.”  There is a saying that goes like this: Put your money where your mouth is. We live in a world where many people SAY that they believe in Jesus but ACT otherwise. True faith will be demonstrated by your actions. Do you trust him? Then obey him! Obey his Word even when it is goes against what the rest of the world says or even what your feelings are telling you. Do not ever follow your heart – it will lead you astray. Follow Jesus and do what he says.

3) True believers find their joy in Jesus“and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”  Finding your joy in Jesus is the only way to make sense of a verse like James 1:2 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” I mean, who does that? Who finds joy when life is hard and lonely and exhausting? Only those people that have their joy rooted in Jesus and not in the things or circumstances of this world. Joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory is a joy that first of all exults in the beauty and the wonder and majesty and glory of God. Ponder that statement and ask the Lord to help you understand it’s profundity.

May the Lord fill you with a fathomless love for him, an abiding trust in him, and a deeply satisfying joy in him.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

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Pop Pop Epistle #39 – Happy Birthday Keller

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Dear Keller,

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 11.37.51 AMHappy Birthday! Two years old already. Well that went by pretty fast.

I want to tell you a story that I hope you will always remember. 37 years ago today there was a royal wedding that took place in England between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. It was a wedding that was doomed from the start because Prince Charles loved someone else – another woman who was a third party in their marriage. The marriage lasted 15 years but was over long before the divorce took place.

3 days after they got married, on August 1, 1981, there was another royal wedding that took place in Kernersville, NC. It was between Prince Shay and Princess Linda – also known to you as Pop Pop and Nona. You see, they were indeed royalty because they were children of the King of Kings. And as it turns out there was a third party involved in their marriage as well. But instead of dooming their marriage this third party invigorated and strengthened their marriage and enabled them to love each other more than was humanly possible. That third party was the Holy Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit dwells within everyone who has surrendered their life to the Lord – those whom the Lord has rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into His kingdom of light when they acknowledged His death and resurrection on their behalf.

One day you are going to be thinking about getting married yourself. My hope and prayer is that you will look for a woman who is led by the Holy Spirit. Someone who’s first priority will be to the Lord and who loves Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. Someone who can be as awesome a wife to you as Nona has been to me.

Again, happy birthday to you. It has been a joy having you live with us this past year. And I am looking forward to lots of memory making in the years to come.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #38 – How I Met Your Grandmother (aka Nona)

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Dear Grandkids,

The year was 1979.

– A group called The Bee Gees had the #1 hit at the time
– M*A*S*H*, Dallas, and Three’s Company were 3 of the top TV shows that year
– Jimmy Carter was president
– The Pittsburg Steelers and the Pittsburg Pirates were both World Champions
– A gallon of gas cost 88 cents
– A house that would cost $200k today would have cost $70k then
– Adam Levine, Pink, and Kourtney Kardashian were born that year
– McDonalds introduced the Happy Meal
– There was no such thing as Google or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Yahoo or email or the internet.
– No one had a computer in their house or owned a mobile phone.

I had just finished my junior year at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She had just finished her junior year at UNC-Greensboro. Our parents were living 25 minutes away from each other in NC. (My folks had moved to NC after my high school graduation but I was still living in my home town of Aiken, SC.) But we didn’t meet in either NC or SC. We met half way across the country in Galveston, Texas. Here’s how the Lord orchestrated our meeting way out there…

During my time at Tulane I had been involved with an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ (these days it is just called CRU). They offered projects during the summer all over the country where college students would come together for 2 months  to do evangelism and discipleship. Nona had been introduced to CRU by her sister Anne who had been on a CRU project in Panama City, FL during the summer of 1978. Both of us applied to go on the same project – to Myrtle Beach, SC, which was only a few hours from where we both lived. Both of us were turned down. Both of us were offered the opportunity instead to go on a beach project in Galveston, TX. She immediately accepted. I immediately declined.

And we would have never met unless the Lord had intervened in a way that I will never forget. There have been several times in my life where God got my attention in a very unexpected way. This was the second time.

In the Spring of ’79 I was lying on a couch in my dorm room one afternoon after classes and listening to a song by Keith Green when God spoke to me in perhaps the loudest “still small voice” that I have ever heard.  He very clearly said to me, “Go to Galveston! I’m not going to tell you why, just GO!” I was stunned because I had already made up my mind NOT to go. I had already told CRU that I wasn’t going. But I wasn’t going for my own selfish reasons. I had not really consulted the Lord on my decision. Now I was being forced to choose obedience to God or follow the waywardness of my fickle heart.

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One of the 1st pictures of us taken together

So I went. And it was in Galveston that I met this cute little blond gal who loved God and who wanted to serve Him and was willing to put up with my eccentricities. We were both working day jobs – she was a waitress at a pancake house and I was behind the counter at a McDonalds. After work one day we started chatting while sitting outside of the school house where we were lodging. And so it began.

The Lord took us 1150 miles away from where our parents were living so that we could meet, fall in love, and begin our life together. And here we are almost 37 years later still going strong with lots of memories to look back on and lots more still to be made.

So here are a few takeaways that I hope you will ponder as you grow up and grow older:

  • Learn to discern God’s still small voice – He generally speaks quietly. Which means you need to practice a discipline of quietness and solitude to hear Him.
  • Don’t make any decision apart from the Lord –  I almost didn’t meet your Nona because I thought I knew what was best for me instead of Him.
  • Expect the unexpected – God will often drop unexpected blessings in your lap when you are serving Him and following His ways. I did not go to Texas looking for a wife. But that is where God provided for me because I chose obedience.

Never forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #37 – About Your Nona

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Dear Grandkids,

2 weeks ago I celebrated my 60th birthday. Today, your Nona joins me in the 60 year old club. We have been married for almost 37 of those years. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Your Nona was definitely made especially for me. She is the perfect “fit” for me. She is an awesome wife, mother, and grandmother. I wanted to write down some things about her that you may or may not know – you can ask her more about these some time when you are older.

  • She was born at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem and then grew up in Kernersville, NC.
  • She had childhood TB (tuberculosis) when she was 2 years old. For some reason she  began asking for a pink Christmas tree at this time but got a pink angel that still adorns our Christmas tree each year.
  • She grew up with a mom and a dad who loved each other, with 2 older sisters that she is very close to, and a beloved dog (a dachshund) named Snoopy.
  • She was a cheerleader for the Kernersville Raiders in the Pop Warner League.
  • She attended East Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem and was the valedictorian of her graduating class in 1976.
  • She was Chief of the Eaglettes – a dance team that performed with the marching band at her high school football games.
  • She graduated from UNC-Greensboro in 1980 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
  • She attended NC State University where she received her Master’s Degree in Counseling.
  • She grew up attending Sedge Garden United Methodist Church. She became a follower of Jesus through the influence of her sister Anne while in college. And then began attending a baptist church after we got married.
  • She loves the Lord, treasures His Word, and is continually learning what it means to abide in Christ.
  • She met the man who would be her future husband (that would be me) in Galveston, Texas on a Campus Crusade for Christ Beach Project in June of 1979.
  • She began running that summer when she saw me running and didn’t stop for 35 years – until I encouraged her to transition to walking in her late 50s.
  • She broke her back when she was in college.
  • She worked as a medical receptionist for a surgeon before she became a mom.
  • She loves being a mom. She has 3 awesome kids who have grown up to be 3 awesome adults who became awesome parents themselves with awesome kids of their own.
  • She spent many years meeting with other moms each week to pray for your parents (and the other mom’s kids) – which accounts in no small way as to why your parents are so awesome.
  • She was a stay at home mom until your parents were fairly independent then worked as a school counselor at Carrington Middle School for about 13 years.
  • She just retired from that job so that she has more time to hang out with you and to help your parents anyway that she can.
  • She has generally had good health but was involved in a scooter accident in India in 2011 that has caused some ongoing issues.
  • She has lived in 5 cities: Kernersville NC (1958-1976), Greensboro NC (1976-1980), Raleigh NC (1980-1981), Ipswich MA (1981-1983), Raleigh NC (1983-1993), and Durham, NC (1993- present)
  • She watches very little television but she does love 2 shows: Jeopardy and The Amazing Race.
  • She loves to cook and bake and make Nona bread for you. She loves to work outside in the yard and to grow flowers – especially Iris’ because they were favorites of her Mom.
  • She is meticulous when it comes to details and especially values organization.
  • She is a beach lover (Sunset Beach is her favorite) and especially loves the weeks at the beach that she can spend with you.
  • She considers herself incredibly blessed and lives gratefully for all that the Lord has done for her and in her.
  • Her grandma name for you all came about this way: None of the options that she came up were approved by your parents so as grandchild #1 approached we had NO NAme. So she became Nona.
  • You will notice from these pictures that she is still a stunning woman even in her “senior” years. She has most definitely aged better than me.

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Hopefully you will have a chance to talk to her today and wish her a very happy birthday. I promise that it will be the highlight of her day.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #36 – My Hezekiah Prayer

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is my birthday. My 60th birthday to be exact. And as I celebrate today I am reminded of how blessed I am to be your Pop Pop and to get to spend these years in my older age with you. I am also reminded of a prayer that I began praying when your parents were about your age now. It is what I have come to call my Hezekiah Prayer.

2 Kings 20:1-6 says this about King Hezekiah, who was about 39 years old at the time.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. 

When I was about 32 years old (1990), soon after Tucker was born, I began praying that the Lord would allow me 50 years of life. You see, my dad had died when he was only 42 so I was hoping to live for more than 10 years. I wasn’t trying to be greedy so I only asked for 18 more years. My thinking was this – in 18 years I would turn 50 and Tucker, our youngest, would be 18. By that time I would have had the majority of influence on my kid’s lives as they would be out of the house and making their own decisions by that time.

Fast forward to June 14, 2008. 18 years later. My 50th birthday was an awesome day. Not only did I celebrate half a century of life but I also walked Christy down the aisle to marry Chad and then officiated the rest of the wedding. And then 5 years later on November 17, 2012 Grayson was born. It was at this point that I began to get greedy. And my level of greediness elevated every time that one of you was born in subsequent years.

So here I am at 60 years of age. The Lord has already given me 10 more years than I originally asked for. And for that I am grateful. And my hope is that I still have another 20 years of good health so I can watch all of you grow into young men and women and so that I can write a lot more Pop Pop Epistles along the way.

But none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And if I should anytime soon be “absent from the body but at home with the Lord” just know that I have been incredibly blessed and am incredibly grateful for all the years the Lord has given me. But if the Lord should choose to give me another 20 years then I hope that we can create lots of fun memories and that I can demonstrate for you a life that honors God and finds deep satisfaction in Him.

And by the way,  never ever forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #35: Happy Birthday Asher

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Dear Asher,

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 1.41.01 PMA very very happy birthday #1 to you. It is joy to be your Pop Pop and it has been fun to watch you grow so much over the last year.

Since everybody is completely enthralled with your beautiful red hair and since your Instagram handle is LilRedReyner I thought I would tell you the story of Big Red.

It was on June 9 that Big Red forever etched his name in history. The year was 1973 (45 years ago today) and I was not quite 16 years old. But I still remember watching along with millions of others as he galloped his way to fame and glory.

Big Red was a horse. A magnificently beautiful animal with a gorgeous coat that was tinted red who was better known to the world as Secretariat.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 12.58.40 PMHe became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. And he did it in record setting fashion. Having already won The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, it was on June 9 that he put an exclamation point on his greatness at The Belmont Stakes. Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He won by an astounding record-setting 31 lengths.

In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat No. 35 in its list of the Top 50 North American athletes of the 20th century, the only non-human on the list. That’s amazing.

What was the secret to his greatness? Big Red had a big heart. Literally. An autopsy upon his death showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average horse, which no doubt contributed to his extraordinary racing abilities.

This is my prayer for you. That God would give you a big heart.  And that God would fill that heart with a huge dose of compassion. And a tremendous amount of joy. And a prodigious helping of faith. And that your big heart would overflow such that others are mightily influenced and blessed by the spillover. Your nickname may be LilRed but I anticipate that the Lord will use you in big ways as you seek after Him.

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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