Archive for June, 2009

Thankful

June 23, 2009

What are you thankful for today?

I am thankful for the sunshine – we haven’t seen it for days, and it is back!

I am thankful for my husband.  He has a true servant’s heart and I am humbled to walk with him.

I am thankful for my oldest daughter.  She has her father’s servant’s heart, and she is so reliable.  She is also very smart when it comes to emotional intelligence.  Truthfully, she amazes me.

I am grateful for my children – they work together, play together, pull together.  They are an incredible group of kids, each with a powerful personality and huge satchel of gifts.  My second child is artistic and rich in emotional intelligence.  My son is economically intelligent as well as a rock of stability.  My youngest has the ability to read people very well.  I am so honored to walk with such amazing people.

I am grateful for a plethora of friends.  Wow.  I can’t begin to describe the list of friends that we have, but they are amazing.  Right now, I have some of the best arm lifters in the world.  I am so thankful for each an every one of them.

My computer and I haven’t been friends lately. (I think I need a new cord.)  Yet, here I sit, typing out my thoughts.  My computer is working. For this I am thankful.

There is a slight breeze coming through the window, and my husband brought me a coffee this morning.  God spoke a word of encouragement to me in my time with Him this morning. What more could I ask for?

What are you thankful for today?

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What to do When You Hit Your Limit

June 22, 2009

There are days, weeks, when you are under stress beyond the norm.

Today was one of those days.  I could feel the emotional exhaustion in the back of my head.  I knew I needed to talk.

I have a friend who has for years taken me out to coffee from time to time.  Today I called and asked for her time.  Then, the cognitive function deficiency caused by stress took over, and I forgot I’d called her.  About 45 minutes later, I was standing in my room, thinking “I really need to talk to someone” when I remembered that my friend was waiting for me just up the street.

When I got home, a prayer warrior called me, then a counselor.  By the end of the evening, my cup was full and I have something to offer again.

You see, I read the Bible every morning.  God and I have time together, and we have great conversations.  Today I needed something more.  He had people lined up to lift up my arms, to fill me up with His love, so that I can again walk with something to give.

Some days you discover stress at levels higher than you thought possible.  Here is the recipe for success:

  • A previous relationship with God
  • Intra Intelligence – the ability to assess yourself.  Know yourself so you can know when you need time away.
  • Friends – you need people to check up on you, and you need trusted people you can talk to.
  • A plan – you need a plan to decompress.  For me it is a book.  I bought a fiction book a week ago and have been working my way through it.
  • The basics: healthy food, sleep, vitamins, water.
  • Time – time to process and time to pray.

There are seasons in life that are difficult, but they are just seasons.  We grow, we learn, and with time, we heal.  Thankfully, the world keeps turning, God keeps loving us, and tomorrow is a new day.

The Bottom Line

June 19, 2009

There are times when anything you give to the world will seem trivial.  Today is one of those days.

This is what I know today:

  • God is faithful
  • Treat others gently
  • Every person is precious
  • At the end of the day, I am grateful
  • I love chocolate, maybe too much.

My you be blessed.

Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing

June 13, 2009

blog3Are you a pastor who needs encouragement?  Do you have a pastor who needs encouragement?  Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches From Growing is a book designed to encourage pastors.

Everyone makes mistakes.  If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t taking risks, and you aren’t growing.  But there is no reason to make a mistake more than once.

Ten Stupid Things is a book that helps pinpoint the things that hamper pastors and churches and remove them so that churches can grow.

Here are the topics:

  • Trying to do it all
  • Establishing the wrong role for the pastor’s family
  • Providing a second-rate worship experience
  • Settling for low quality in children’s ministry
  • Promoting talent over integrity
  • Clinging to a bad location
  • Copying another successful church
  • Favoring discipline over reconciliation
  • Mixing ministry and business
  • Letting committees steer the ship

What I like about this book is that it isn’t just one person’s observations.  Each chapter highlights a respected pastor who has made that mistake and survived.  Not only do you get the teaching, but also an interview with someone who has survived.

Every mistake has its own place, and none of them are above the others.  Yet, we are encouraged because if you are making mistakes, it means you are growing, changing, and taking risks.  If you find yourself among these pages, be encouraged.  You are in good company.  Now you get to change.

This book is a very quick read, and you can buy it here:  On Amazon

Kids, Risk, Leadership and Outreach

June 11, 2009

I’ve been reading about the importance of taking risks in leadership.  If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t taking risks.

However, we adults have a tendancy to think that we are the only people who can take risks.

Here’s the problem as I see it:

According to Barna, 43% of people become Christians before the age of 13, and 64% of people accept Christ before the age of 19.

However, when our kids start developing a relationship with Jesus, our tendancy is to encourage them to develop friendships with other Christians, and to avoid kids who are headed for trouble.

Consequently, we are removing the missionaries from the segment of people who are most likely to accept Jesus.

Why?

We are scared for them.  We don’t trust them to stand tall in their relationship with Jesus.  We are afraid they will fail.  What happens when you fail?

  • You prove you are human.
  • You figure out what not to do.
  • You learn to hear God’s voice.
  • You develop your boundaries.
  • You learn.

Therefore, we are not only stunting our missionary force, we are also encouraging our children to not build their ability to hear God’s voice and walk in it until they are ‘old enough’.  By then, they have their lives firmly planted within the church, and the only way they know how to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus is through preaching.

What if we were to become prayer warriors, trust God with our kids, and trust them to listen to Him and walk in it?  What if we became mentors in how to walk with people who don’t know Jesus and maintain your faith?  What would difference would that make?

Prayer for a Crisis

June 10, 2009

There are going to be times in your life when your stability is in question – whether it is a job change, health issues, your emotional upheaval or other people’s emotional upheaval – life will be unstable at times. The bible doesn’t say that when we join God’s team we won’t have problems. It says that God will walk with us through the problems.

As we look at Jehoshaphat’s prayer, we will see the components of how to approach God – how to put our faith in God, not just as an entity in the sky, but as the One who walks with us and in whom we can rely.

Jehoshaphat was in a pickle.  A great big army was coming against him.  He was trapped.  Ever felt that way?

As we look at his prayer, you will find a way to deal with your situation.

Read 2 Chron. 20:6-13

Who He is – First, Jehoshaphat described God.
• List the attributes of God
• David often listed God’s attributes to himself. He often reminded himself of Who God was – (see Ps. 121)

What He has done – Next, he described what God has done in the past.
• Part of knowing Who God is, and making it personal is to remind ourselves of what He has done for us in the past.
• See Ps. 21 – vs. 1-7 are declarative of what God has done – vs. 8 and forward talk about what God will do.
• We believe what we see, and when we remind ourselves of what God has done in the past, we are able to “see” His provision.

Affirm trust in Him – Jehoshaphat then tells God that He’s all they’ve got.  They are sticking with God no matter what.
• Make a decision. You can decide to ‘hope’ in the Lord, or you can decide to PUT your hope in the Lord.   If you can hope in a swing without ever sitting on it.  You PUT your hope in the swing when you sit in it.  When it doesn’t break, your hope has been proven well placed.
• When you are backed against a rock, you can keep squirming, or you can choose to lean on the rock.

Ask – Next, Jehoshaphat describes the problem to God and asks for Him to act.
• After you have told God (and yourself) Who He is, What He has done, and chosen to believe that He will be your deliverer, then you lay out specifically what you want Him to do. (2 Chron. 20:10 and forward)
• Another example is Jesus – Mark 14:35-36
o He asked God for what he wanted, but He still affirmed Who God is, and knowing in His heart that God wanted Him to press forward, He bowed His will to God.

Wait – the people then stood and waited – and God spoke.
2 Chron. 20:13
Ps. 27:14 – David told himself to wait on the Lord.
•Looking again at Jesus’ prayer,  I believe that in laying out His request to God and reaffirming that He was willing to do whatever God wanted even if it wasn’t His own will, Jesus gained the strength from the father to press forward.

Praise – God told them to go out singing.  By the time they got where they were going, the battle was already won.

•How do you spend your energy?  Do you spend it worrying about everything that could go wrong, or do you choose to put your hope in God and march forward in praise?

Difficult times are going to happen – they will make you or break you. The sooner you let stuff go and take your concerns to God, the sooner you can get off the treadmill and just deal with what is in front of you today. Life gets crazy sometimes – but when we accept Jesus into our hearts, eternal life starts now – abundant life, life to the full – and that includes joy in the moment, expectation for the future, and anticipation of God’s great and mighty works along the way.

Let’s anticipate God’s voice and His breakthroughs.

From Eternity to Here

June 9, 2009
blog2
Recently, I got an opportunity to read “From Eternity to Here” and interview the author Frank Viola for his blog tour today.
This book was provoking as well as encouraging.  Firmly in the realm of ecclesiology, yet so encouraging in my personal relationship with God – I recommend it for everyone.  Here’s our interview:
Me: Thank you for this incredibly deep book, and for visiting Staying Focused today. What impact do you hope From Eternity to Here will have in individuals and in the church in general?

I hope that it will ignite a passion for God’s people to fall in love with their Lord like never before, to be set free from so many of the trappings that hold them in bondage today, to be captivated by God’s eternal purpose (which is tremendous), and to adjust their lives to it. Thankfully, based on the emails I’ve received so far about the book, God is doing this in the lives of not a few who have read it. I hope that trend continues.

As you explain the church as the bride of Christ, the house of God, the body of Christ and family of God, what is the biggest struggle for you personally in living out these models?

There have been a few times in my life where I was living in the wilderness. Meaning, I didn’t have others to be built together with into God’s house. That’s not been the case in a long while, thank God. But I’ve had to relocate to find those interested in standing for God’s eternal purpose and being built together into Christ the Head. I think the greatest difficulty for me and everyone else who takes this path is being built together with those living stones whose personalities don’t mesh well ours. But that’s God’s way of transforming us. It’s painful, but there’s glory in the process.

How does outreach fit into your paradigm? Can you give us an example of what it might look like?

It happens organically and naturally. Without obligation. Without duty. Without guilt. Without programs. How does it happen? A thousand different ways. On small example: a couple of brothers (in Christ) who are part of a church that’s standing for God’s eternal purpose are talking about Jesus on their job. They are consumed with Him. It’s real and living. Others hear it; get interested and come to a meeting. They see Christ displayed by the members functioning in freedom, reality, and life. They see the community life of an assembly that’s really being built together and where the members have fallen in love with one another. It’s arresting. Jesus becomes irresistible. That’s the way it happened in the beginning. And it turned the Roman world upside down.

“Behold how they love one another” said the pagans.

Your paradigms are very corporate, and I understand the reason, but can you help us as individuals figure out how to fit? If we (as individuals reading this blog) could do one thing today to move toward being what you have laid out, what would that be?

Simply. Begin to pray that God will lead you to a community of believers who are standing for God’s eternal and ultimate purpose. It may possibly involve relocating, because such groups aren’t on every corner. But the Lord will lead if the heart is hungry.

What is your next project?

A few articles that rethink discipleship. The next book that comes out is on planting Christian communities that are standing for God’s eternal purpose in Christ and displaying it to the world. Should be out before the year is out, hopefully.

OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUIT

Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-Here-Rediscovering-Ageless-Purpose/dp/1434768708/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233609867&sr=1-4

For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:

—–

Out of Ur – http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/05/viola.html

Shapevine – www.Shapevine.com (June newsletter)

Brian Eberly – http://www.brianeberly.com

DashHouse.com – http://www.DashHouse.com/

Greg Boyd – http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/

Vision Advance – http://vision2advance.blogspot.com/

David Flowers – http://ddflowers.wordpress.com

Kingdom Grace – http://kingdomgrace.wordpress.com

Captain’s Blog – http://www.captainestes.blogspot.com/

Christine Sine – http://godspace.wordpress.com

Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network – www.freebelievers.com

Zoecarnate – http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com

Church Planting Novice – www.churchplantingnovice.wordpress.com

Staying Focused – https://kimmartinezstayingfocused.wordpress.com/

Take Your Vitamin Z – www.takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com

Jeff Goins – http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org

Bunny Trails – http://bunny-trails.blogspot.com

Matt Cleaver – http://mattcleaver.com

Jason T. Berggren – http://blog.jasonberggren.com/

Simple Church – http://www.simplechurchjournal.com/

Emerging from Montana – http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/

Parable Life – http://www.theparablelife.blogspot.com

Oikos Australia – http://www.oikos.org.au/blog/

West Coast Witness – www.WestCoastWitness.com

Keith Giles – http://www.Keith.Giles.com

Consuming Worship — http://www.consumingworship.org

Tasha Via – www.tashavia.blogspot.com

Andrew Courtright – www.andrewcourtright.blogspot.com

ShowMeTheMooneys! – http://www.showmethemooneys.com/

Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer – http://leavingsalem.wordpress.com/

Jason Coker – pastoralia.missionaltribe.org

From Knowledge to Wisdom – http://isthistheway.typepad.com/

Home Brewed Christianity – http://www.homebrewedchristianity.com

Dispossessed – http://kblog.kevinjbowman.com

Dandelion Seeds – http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Dandelionseeds

David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck” – http://flipthetapedeck.blogspot.com/

Chaordic Journey – http://jeffrhodes.wordpress.com

Renee Martin – http://www.reneemartinmusic.com/profiles/blog/list

Bob Kuhn – http://organicchurchnola.wordpress.com/

Living with Freaks: www.livingwithfreaks.com

Real Worship – http://therealworshipleader.com

Fervent Worship – http://ferventworship.blogspot.com

Julie Ferwerda Blog – www.JulieFerwerda.comwww.OneMillionArrows.com

What’s With Christina?! – http://w2christina.blogspot.com

Irreligious Canuck – http://www.irreligiouscanuck.com

This day on the journey – http://guychmieleski.blogspot.com

Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity – http://liveandmove.blogspot.com/

Spiritual Journey With God – http://www.elvineve.blogspot.com/

Dries Conje – http://www.echurch.co.za / http://www.thejesusfeed.com / http://www.bookdisciple.com.

Journey with Others – http://journeywithothers.blogspot.com

On Now to the Third Level – www.080808onnowto.blogspot.com

Christine Moers – www.welcometomybrain.net

Breaking Point – http://marybethstockdale.wordpress.com

Hand to the Plough – http://www.handtotheplough.com.au

Jon Reid – http://jonreid.blogs.com/oneanother/welcome-pilgrim.html

Weblight – www.blog.worldwidewebservices.se

D. L. Webster – http://gzmproductions.com/dlwebster

Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life – wholeheartedlife.blogspot.com

Fear of Failure

June 8, 2009

Do you have a problem with fear of failure? Hopefully the following will help you:

It’s not about you. God has put you on this earth. He is the one who gives you the abilities, and lack of abilities that you have, and He is the one who calls you to His purposes, and every day He puts challenges in front of you that you get to attempt.

If you can do it on your own, then why would you need God? Anything worth doing is going to have a chance that you will do it badly.

You are God’s anointed person. If you serve Him, He has anointed you to the work He has called you to.

You can face all circumstances in faith, you can have the courage to face failure as just a part of life – if you know who your source is, and you really understand in your heart that you aren’t perfect, can’t be perfect, and are in fact growing and changing every single day from now until Jesus comes home. You are either changing and expanding, or changing and shrinking.

People who let fear of failure stop them actually begin to shrink as people – their sphere of influence gets smaller and smaller until they are a circle of one. People who know that failure is part of success find that their sphere of influence grows every single year.

“Achievers are willing to vary their approaches to problems” (John Maxwell) – Sometimes we fail in life because we have a set way of approaching things, and if our way doesn’t work, we get stuck. Edison said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – and then he invented the light bulb.

Winston Churchill said: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Sometimes, the failure that we have is in relationships. We find that people are fun until we have conflict. When we have conflict, we don’t know how to deal with it, and we walk away, run away, or fight. Instead, we have to learn to walk through conflict.

Years ago, I developed the saying: “If it’s everybody else, it’s probably you.” One day I became aware that everything coming out of my mouth about my life was negative. At times like that, I step back and look. My perspective has been skewed, and I have begun to interpret other people’s actions in a negative fashion towards myself.

Now what does God think about failure?

1. Your idea of success probably isn’t God’s.

He told Abraham he would make him the father of a nation – but Abraham couldn’t manage to get Sarah pregnant. Sarah was pretty sure it was her fault, so she had Abraham sleep with Hagar. Ishmael was born. Sarah must have thought – Yup, I was a failure, but I figured out a solution. God said – that wasn’t success. I had a better plan, and we are still going with it.

2. Other people’s idea of success probably isn’t God’s.

Joseph was supposed to be in charge of his brothers – but he was a snot and they didn’t like him – he landed in slavery, then again in prison. It would have been easy to give up on a dream. To see oneself as a failure. But Joseph wasn’t a failure – all of his hard times were part of God’s plan to put him where he needed to be when God needed him there, and the Children of Israel were saved from starvation because of Joseph’s ‘personality failure’.

3. A real definition of success is one who leans on God.

In the reading for tonight, Gideon saw himself as one of the least – as a failure – but God saw him as perfect for a job that required someone who would lean on Him.

4. If you are going to live every day full on for God, you are going to make mistakes.

Peter was brash. He was brazen. If anyone was a winner, it was Peter. Then he sunk while walking on the water. Jesus’ response? “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then he rejected Jesus three times. Jesus’ response? The angel told the women (Mark 16:7) “But go tell his disciples AND PETER, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (emphasis mine) Then, on the day of Pentecost, Peter was used magnificently to preach to the crowds, and 3,000 were saved – yet Paul later called him out for duplicitous behavior.

To live a life of fervor means living your life out loud. If you are going to make a mistake, at least make it loud. On the other hand, you are wise to wait, and only move when God is telling you to move. The trick is that when God tells us to move, the fear of failure is often overwhelming, because we know just how much we can’t do – and that is why we have to be anchored on the Rock.

God sees you as you are, and as you can be. His view of you looks through the lens of a creator.

Knowing who you are, and Whose you are gives you the power to walk when God says walk, to wait when He says wait, and to keep going when you messed up. One thing we also gain is the ability to let other people walking with us make mistakes too.

So, like I started out, it’s not about you. It’s about doing what God has called you to, when He asks you to do it.  We are powerless, He is powerful…let’s ask Him to do it.

Breaking Down the Barriers

June 8, 2009

Have you noticed how Jesus reached out to the disenfranchised and helped them become a part?

He treated with Woman at the Well with respect – and gave her a place in society again.

He introduced himself to Zaccheaus, and Zaccheaus was instantly transformed.

He healed the blind, the leper – and they were able to become part of society again, participating in the life of society and entering again into worship in the temple.

He also tore down the misuse of the temple, returning it to a place of community and prayer instead of a place of commerce.

Jesus reached out and healed the widow’s son so that she would have someone to take care of her – keeping her from being relegated to the fringes of society.

Jesus reached out to the prostitute, accepting a foot washing from one, standing up for another – because He valued them as people.

He also treated those in the mainstream of society, those in power, with dignity. He spoke against injustice, but when they came to him with honest questions, He didn’t turn them away. He opened the doors of conversation for them as well.

Do you want to see society transformed? Together, let’s become like Jesus. Let’s value those that are on the fringes. Let’s value those who aren’t like us.

What are some practical ways that we can value others? I have some ideas, but I want to hear yours first.

Life Beyond the Fiery Furnace

June 2, 2009

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that things aren’t quite right?

We all get it from time to time.  Maybe your kid is out late and you can’t reach him or her on the phone.  Maybe transition is in the air and you can’t see past the end of today.

This time of year is big for transitions, and fear can either help us walk through them with grace – gaining the blessings and avoiding the pitfalls; or it can stop us in our tracks.

Here are five things to do when you feel that overwhelming feeling:

1.  Determine the cause.

If your house is on fire, your fear is real.  If you are just frozen with the fear that there might be a fire, then you might be fighting unrealistic fear.  Real fear gives us the adrenaline and sharp senses that we need for a crisis.  Fake fear is debilitating, and burns out our adrenal glands.

2.  Find a way to process your fear.

Either talk about it with a friend or journal about your feelings.  Years ago, I led a women’s bible study.  I had been out of ministry for some time, and going back into ministry took a real tole on me.  Every night after the bible study, no sooner would our car leave the church parking lot than I’d be overcome with dread.

  • “I talked too much.”
  • “No one wants to listen to me”
  • “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

Thoughts like these rolled through my head, giving me a whole-body panicky feeling.  I had a friend who had agreed to be my partner for the bible study, and every Thursday morning I would call her with my feelings of fear and dread.  She would talk me down, and I’d get ready for the following week.

Finally, after a year, I realized that she had been saying the exact same words every Thursday morning for a year.  The problem I was facing was in my head.  I decided to make that fear stop.  Instead of calling her, I took what she had been saying, and started saying it to myself.  Within a couple weeks, I no longer left the meetings in a panic.  Fear had almost debilitated me, but instead, I became much stronger.  I couldn’t have done it without my friend.

3.  Do it afraid.

I think I first heard this from Joyce Meyer, but ‘do it afraid’!  Whatever you are afraid to do, do it anyway.  The worst of it is already going on in your head.  Don’t let your body give into what your brain is telling you.

4.  Know scripture and know God.

God will bring scripture to your mind.  Make sure that you are in the Word.  Also, make sure that you know God well enough to hear His voice.  He can speak to you in the middle of really difficult times and help you keep going.

5.  Expect an end.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo (the three friends of Daniel) faced King Nebuchadnezzar when they chose to follow God and not bow to the idol.  They faced their fear by choosing to go through the worst, even if the worst happened. Daniel 3:16-18 gives their approach to this life and death situation:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we service is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

They determined to go ahead and stick to their guns, even if it meant their death.  Here is the interesting part:

It wasn’t until they went through the mouth of the furnace that they found God’s redemption.  Can you imagine?

Shadrack whispers to Meshach as they watch the soldiers making the furnace seven times hotter, “Surely God will save us, we are standing up for Him.”

“Yeah, there should be an earthquake about now”  Meshach bends his knees a bit, anticipating a violent quake.

The soldiers pick them up, and toss them into the furnace.  Abednigo suddenly lets out a holler, “Dude!  Did you see those guards fall over dead?”

All of  a sudden, the three who were thrown into the furnace find themselves sitting on the floor of the furnace.   They look at each other, stunned. “Hey, my hands are untied.  What about yours?”

Getting up, they notice ‘one like the Son of God’ walking around with them.  Their hearts are encouraged;  so much so that Nebuchadnezzar had to tell them to come out of the furnace.

Are you facing devestation on all sides?  Sometimes you have to determine to go forward no matter what.  There are times when we don’t see God’s provision until we have passed through the mouth of the furnace – but in the end, we come out ‘not even smelling like smoke’.  Why?  Because we serve the God of the impossible, and He deals with the realm of faith.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  Today, I want to encourage you to walk in “no matter what” faith.

I don’t know if God has called you to a task, or you are just walking through a deep valley, but God is the God of the impossible, and all things are possible to him who believes.  Even life beyond the fiery furnace.