WRITE OFFS

Write offs may be good or bad.  Before April 15, we comb through our records looking for every possible deduction—the more the merrier. We write off our kids, our mortgage, our medical expenses, our charitable giving.  That’s all good, for the more write offs we have the less we pay Uncle Sam.  That has to do with our taxes, but we also write off things for other reasons.  In fact we sometimes write off people.

Have you ever given up on someone?  Perhaps, you have decided that he is inconsequential—no longer important to you.  You are not going to waste anymore time or attention or energy on this person.  So, you write him off.

Last Saturday I had an enlightening, and unexpected experience.  I was scheduled to attend two funerals—the funeral for a church acquaintance and a memorial for a relative.  Actually, I didn’t want to go to either, but out of duty, I decided to pay my respects to the son-in-law of my half-sister.

My family is kind of weird.  Daddy was a lot older than my mother and had a passel of grown children when they were married.  I rarely saw these older siblings, and since we never lived under the same roof, or even in the same state, it was difficult to think of them as brothers and sisters.

The widow of the man I was paying my respects to is my 87-year-old niece—older than I but niece none the less.

As I drove mile after mile through the desolate desert a thought came to mind.  “If I were asked to say something to this group of people, most of whom I did not know at all, what would I say?  With the exception of two or three, they were not church goers—God played very little part in their lives.  I tried to dismiss the thought since there was little chance that the opportunity would arise.   However, I couldn’t shake the idea knowing that God was directing my thoughts.  I knew there was no planned service.  There would be photos and recorded music, but no minister.  Someone would read a couple of scriptures and friends were free to share.

I sat in the back of the room watching the milling people.  Through the crowd, my niece spotted me.  Her eyes were red from weeping.  I felt sad for her.  She had no children and few friends.

Taking my hand she asked, “Could you sing?  Would you say something to the people?  You can say something from the Bible if you want to.”

I was surprised, and yet, not really, for I knew The Lord had prepared me for this.

“I’m not prepared to sing,” I answered, “but we can all sing together.  We can sing “Amazing Grace.” Everyone knows that.  And, yes, I will say a few words, if you want.”

I knew exactly what I would say, for God had already dropped the words into my heart. I stood behind the podium and introduced myself.  I told my audience that Dody is my niece.  I admitted that I did not know her husband well and had no idea what he believed or what relationship he had with God.

Then I said, “I have come to tell you that God loves you—every one of you.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to prove His love.  The Bible says, in Romans 3:23, “All of us have sinned,” and in Romans 10:9, “…if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (we will be forgiven) we will be saved.”

I talked to them about the fact that Jesus went away to prepare a place for those who love Him.  One day He will come again and take us there to live with Him forever.  I shared the simple Gospel.

As I spoke, I was aware that something was happening in my heart.  I no longer felt disconnected from this group.  I realized I was looking at my father’s family.  Dody was his granddaughter.  In that audience there were great grandkids, at least one great, great grandson, a great, great, great grandson, and two great, great, great, great granddaughters.  They were my family—an arm of my family that I had “written off” years ago.  They made no effort.  They never came around, so I didn’t either. My heart was touched when, after the service, they all came to introduce themselves.  I’ll never look at them the same way again.

I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw.  A little boy was defending himself against some criticism.  He said, “I’m me and I’m special, ‘cause God made me.  And God don’t make no junk!”

“God don’t make no junk!”  He was right.  God never made a throw away.

]You are God’s creation.  He treasures you.  Matthew, the apostle, tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground but that God knows about it.  Then he says in chapter 10:31, “…you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Regardless of how you are treated by others you are not inconsequential to God.  He will not write you off.  You are precious to Him, and He must become precious to you.

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T SUCK ME UP

Lani was our Hakalola girl.  When she was only ten days old, this beautiful, tormented Hawaiian baby, who was addicted to drugs in the womb, became my niece’s foster child.  Because of drugs, her birth parents were not allowed to take her home from the hospital.

Suffering from withdrawal, Lani cried incessantly the first seven months of her life.  However, in those rare moments of peace, that wide, toothless grin wrapped its way around every heart making her an indispensable member of our family, but she wasn’t really ours.

What a beautiful child she was with her chubby cheeks, shiny black eyes and a mass of uncontrollable curls.

When, after 2 ½ years, Lani’s birth parents could not get their act together, my niece and her husband were allowed to adopt this enchanting little girl, bringing her home from Hawaii.  At last, she was really ours.

Doctor’s predicted that she would doubtless be retarded and most certainly behind in her motor skills.  But—they reckoned without an adoring, nurturing family, a stable environment, and the presence of God in her life.  She was running by the time she was nine months old and talking in complete sentences shortly thereafter.

Lani knew from the beginning she was adopted—that she was Hawaiian.  She loved to hear the stories about how her Mommy and Daddy chose her.  Long before she could get her tongue around the word Hawaiian, she coined her own identity.  She was the Hakalola girl!

She used that to her own advantage.  When someone asked, “Why did you do this or why did you do that?  She shrugged her little shoulders and cried, I’m the Hakalola girl.

he was full of fun and mischief the source of much laughter.  One Saturday morning she took a box of dry cereal and filled every window sill across the living room with colorful “Fruit Loops.”

Her Mom, greatly annoyed, scolded her roundly.  Then going to the closet, she took out the “Dust Buster” with the intention of vacuuming up the cereal.

When Lani saw the little vacuum, she hid behind the chair crying, O, Mommy, Mommy don’t suck me up.  Don’t suck me up.  She knew she had done something wrong, and even at her young age, she knew there were consequences.

Being adopted made no difference.  She was loved, provided for, and disciplined in the same manner as her older brother, Marcus, the natural born son, and she was also an equal heir.

Thinking about Lani’s adoption makes me think of my own.  For, I am adopted.  I have been adopted into the family of God.  It is pretty mind blowing to know that I am part of God’s family.  He is my father and I am His heir.  In fact Romans 8:17 says, I am joint heir with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

I belong to God, and just as Lani was accountable to her adoptive parents, I am accountable to my heavenly father.

During the long years of my relationship with God, I have learned, through His Word, through teaching, and by experience, that God wants me to honor Him.  He has certain standards by which I must live.

Now, I don’t have to do that.  I don’t have to live according to His standards.  I have a free will, but I choose to honor Him.   Yet, I shamefully admit there have been times when I have dishonored God—times when I filled the windowsills of my life with “Fruit Loops.”

In my imagination, I can see God with His little “Dust Buster” cleaning up the mess that I have made, and I want to cry, “I’m sorry Lord.  Don’t suck me up! Don’t suck me up!

You see, I know when I have dishonored God, and I know there are consequences.  So, the indispensable part of my cry is “I am sorry, Lord.”

1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

            Again, in John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

It’s that simple!  When I love Him with all my heart, I will no longer allow those annoying “Fruit Loops” to clutter my life.

Pray with me today King David’s prayer found in Psalm 51:10-12.  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

In essence, David is saying, “DON’T SUCK ME UP!  Don’t throw me out with the trash.”

The sun will come out tomorrow

RESURRECTION MORNING

We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning.  With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers.  Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet.  It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with sweater or coat.

At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town.  Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top.  Someone carried a guitar or lugged an accordion.  Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.

Then the music began.  “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah! Christ arose.”  Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.”

Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning?  Couldn’t we sing and pray at church?  No need to get up so early.  No need to expend such energy—

TRUE!  However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed.  We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events.

Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16:1 – 8, pausing briefly as he read verse 6.  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  HE IS RISEN!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.”

After prayer, we skipped excitedly down the hill.  We were on our way to Easter breakfast.  A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town.  We ate pancakes and eggs.  We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service.  We laughed and complimented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery.  Then we went to church.

What, more church?  Oh, yes! Easter had just begun.  There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing.  This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life.

Oh, and don’t forget.  There was a Sunday evening service as well.

From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought.  I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories.  It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.

Now understand.  I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years.  I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs.  However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.

Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child?  That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb.  That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world.  No wonder we called it a New Year.

So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there.  He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.

THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                    

SWINGING ON A STAR… My Little Sister

Two weeks ago I moved my little sister from her home of forty-five years to an Adult Care Home.  Miraculously, she went without a murmur.  Now I am cleaning out her house and getting it ready for sale.  It is a sad, sad time for both of us.

There has been no time to think about my blog, so I have decided to recycle one of my favorites:  “YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR.”

You will understand that lately, at least emotionally, I haven’t been doing much star swinging.  I have been muddling around in stark, painful reality, but I am reminded continually—God is there.  Even in these circumstances, I can sit with Him “…in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  I am hanging on to the stars!!!  You can hang on with me.

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YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR

“Would you like to swing on a star

Carry moonbeams home in a jar

And be better off than you are

Or would you rather be a…”

 

Swinging on a Star” was an academy award winning song, in 1944, when WW II was in full swing.  Burke and Van Heusen, song writers for Bing Crosby’s forthcoming movie, “Going My Way,” were told to write a song that amounted to the Ten Commandments with a rhythm section.  The producers wanted to positively influence the viewing audience to a better way of living.  That’s pretty amazing!  Don’t you think?

The premise of the song is that we can be satisfied with who we are never aspiring to be better or to do more.  The cute and entertaining lyrics give us a choice.  We can choose to be like the stubborn, stupid mule, the fat, lazy and extremely rude pig, or the slippery, aimless fish.  Or we can shoot for the stars and become more than we ever dreamed.

Most of us have had and still have dreams, many of them not yet realized.  And, sadly enough, for one reason or another, some of our dreams will never come true.

We dream of establishing families and homes and careers.  We dream of wealth and conquest.  We dream of scaling mountains and sailing seas of writing books and composing songs.

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As a young girl, I dreamed of handsome suitors, and bouffant wedding gowns, of sweet, plump, cooing babies, and a preacher husband with whom I would captivate the multitudes.  I dreamed, also, of becoming a famous writer with a vast following.

In fact, I spent the first half of my life just yearning to be noticed—to feel important.  I wanted to be included, to be one of the “in” crowd—the popular bunch.  I was raised by Godly parents, who did not allow me to participate in many things my peers enjoyed.  Consequently, I sometimes felt that I was on the outside looking in never part of what was really happening.

]Looking back, now, I realize that many of my young dreams, dreams that are common to most little girls, never came true.  A bit of sadness comes with that realization.  Yet, those unfulfilled dreams were replaced with bigger, better almost unimaginable goals.  When you can’t have what you think you want, you don’t give up and do nothing.  You fasten your hopes on something else.  I was taught to be strong and determined, enterprising and energetic.  My Mom was not the “giving up” type, nor am I.

\When that groom and bouffant wedding gown didn’t materialize, I knew I couldn’t sit down and quit, so I concentrated on my education and got on with my life.  I fastened my heart and mind on a new dream—a new hope.

Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”

When Christ truly became the center of my life, my hopes and dreams changed.  Being noticed, being important, being in the limelight didn’t matter so much anymore.  I hitched my wagon to the stars and sang the old song, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.” And that’s exactly what I did!

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I must tell you that I have been swinging on a star for close to fifty years.  I have never aspired to be an astronaut exploring the far reaches of space, but God has blessed me “…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 1:3.

I have never been invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace, but every day I worship at the throne of Almighty God, and I speak daily with The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I will not be satisfied with the status quo, because, even at the age of eighty with diminished physical strength and glaring family needs, I believe God yet has bigger and better things for me.  I’m excited!!!

Here is the message.  YOU HAVE A CHOICE!  Like the stupid, stubborn mule, you can spend your time kicking and braying at the inequality of life.  You can, like the rude pig, snort around in the slop of this world searching in vain for some satisfying morsel, or like the slippery fish, you can go with the flow aimlessly swimming to and fro eventually snagged by  some fisher’s hook.  Don’t you know?   God has something better for you.

“You can be better than you are.

You could be swinging on a star.”

Eph. 1:3.  “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.”

THE SUN WILL COME 0UT TOMORROW!!!

 

 

God Can Do…

Dear Reader,

A friend of mine used to say, “Sometimes we turn square corners,” simply meaning that we have no idea what lies around that corner.  Life is like that.  In spite of carefully made plans, we do not know what tomorrow will bring.

For a year or more I have been dealing with a family need that seems to have no good solution.  I have prayed, wept, mourned, and sought advice, but so far—.  Today I thought the situation would finally be settled only to learn that it has been further complicated.

I told myself to put this problem aside for a
while, because I must write my blog.  Inspiration failed me, so I looked back at some of my past writing, and Eureka!  I found it.  I found my encouragement for this sad day.  Months ago, I wrote, “THINGS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE.”  The message:  “God can do what no other power can do.”  I believed it when I wrote it, and I believe it now.  So I am recycling this blog, because there is someone out there who needs it just as I do.


 

I was born with the wanderlust. I inherited it from my father. He never saw much of this world, but when he became restless, we just moved across town. In fact, we lived in seven different rentals, in the same small town, between my second birthday and kindergarten.

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We always paid the rent, so we weren’t running from the landlord. I have seen a lot of the world and yet, at the age of eighty, I still long to fly away to some distant land to see new faces and experience new places.

 

 

When I was four-years-old, my father decided to move the family to Colorado. Someone told me it snows there, and Colorado was colored pink on the map, so I put it all together and decided that the Colorado Mountains were covered with pink snow. I was excited.

The day came when the seven of us, mama, daddy and five kids, piled into our 1934 Buick and started across the Arizona desert towing a large four-wheeled trailer filled with our early poverty belongings. For some inexplicable reason, my father chose the month of August for this family adventure. In 1939, there was no such thing as air conditioning in an automobile, but not a one of us died from heat exhaustion.

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Zipping along through the burning desert, at 40 miles per hour, we made good time until we turned north toward the mountains. Yarnell Hill was our first challenge. To my father’s dismay, the Buick balked unable to pull the weight and make the uphill grade. Again and again, he tried to no avail.

Finally, daddy decided that he would off-load part of the weight, take the rest to the summit and come back for another load. Part of what he off- loaded was My Mother, my sisters, and me. The boys would be his helpers. We have a picture of my twelve-year-old sister standing in the skinny shade of a saguaro cactus.

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My Dad has been gone for many years, but I can still feel his frustration, disappointment and sense of failure as he tried time and again to find a way to get his family to Colorado. At the end of the day, hot, tired, dirty and disheartened, we turned around and headed back to Wickenburg.

 

There we found a place to camp for the night. Daddy went to a nearby grocery store coming back with supper – bread, bologna and a big bucket of ice water. Setting the icy water down by the car running board, where I rested my four-year-old self, my father turned to other chores, and I lifted my poor tired, dirty, disappointed little toes and plunged them into that deliciously frigid bucket. To this day, I cannot remember the consequences of my precipitous action, but there had to be some compensation for the loss of pink snow, right?

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The next morning our tired and wiser family headed back to the valley where my parents were at home for more than fifty years. The mountains defeated us. Had we conquered the first rise, which was not much of a mountain at all, I wonder what we would have done when we reached the Rockies.

Years ago we sang a little chorus:

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable.

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through.

God specializes in things thought impossible.

And He can do what no other power can do.”

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Mountains often defeat us. Too frequently we are faced with insurmountable problems to which there is no discernible solution. Like my father, we exhaust ourselves trying to get over, around or through the problem. 2500 years ago, a man named Zerubbabel faced just such a mountain.

After seventy years in captivity, he led 50,000 Israelites back to Jerusalem, where they anticipated rebuilding the temple and their treasured city. He was no doubt discouraged when he saw the extent of the work, his feeble resources, and the formidable opposition. This was a mountain he could not cross.

In Zechariah 4:6 – 7 we read: “…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain!” I like the way the Message says it. “So, big mountain, who do you think you are? Next to Zerubbabel you are nothing but a molehill.” You may be facing an unscalable mountain today. Remember, it is not by your efforts, but by the power of the Spirit of God. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with Him, that mountain is nothing but a molehill. He can do what no other power can do.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

DON’T PANIC!

Pan, the noisy, goat-footed Greek god of the woods, was the source of mysterious sounds and loud music, inciting contagious, groundless fear in people and in animals, hence the word “Panic.”

By the mid 1950’s, the figurative term “Panic Button,” had become a familiar part of the English vocabulary.  Now, it is not unusual to see advertisements for real panic buttons made available to the elderly or physically impaired for use in emergency.

I have always considered myself to be a cool customer.  I am either that calm, optimistic gal, that I claim to be, or like the proverbial ostrich, my head is buried in the sand.  Fact is I am not easily ruffled.  However, I do recall a time—the time when I burned up a whole field.

In my opinion, there is not really much good to say about summertime in “THE VALLEY OF THE SUN,” in Arizona, where I live.  “Miserable” is the word that comes to mind.  Someone has said that there is only a screen door between here and hell.  When it’s 118 degrees, I’m almost tempted to believe it.  No one, in his right mind, could enjoy a picnic, here, on the Fourth of July.

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Yet, the Fourth of July was an exciting day.  There was watermelon, fried chicken, and homemade ice cream enjoyed in the cool, damp comfort of our old evaporative cooler, and don’t forget the fireworks.  I loved the fireworks.  After supper, on the fourth, My Mama, little sister and I walked across town to Rendezvous Park and sat on the grass to watch the magical display.  Even in the heat of the night, the fireworks, against the darkened sky, were mesmerizing.

On the Fourth of July, when I was almost twelve years old, I had my own “FIREWORKS.” Really!  I did.  I had a handful of little red fire crackers about three inches long, and I was dying to set them off, but doing so within the city limits was against the law.  So, my girl friend and I walked to the end of the street, jumped across the dry irrigation ditch, and landed in a large vacant field overgrown with dried weeds.  We were no longer in town.  We were, now, in the country.

I had come prepared for this exciting adventure.  I retrieved a match from my pocket, struck it and lit the end of a firecracker, immediately tossing it away from me into the dried brush.  Instead of exploding, making that pop, pop, popping sound I had anticipated, a fire blazed up.

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“Help,” I yelled at my friend, as I began stomping at the flame.  “Hurry, help me put this out,” but she immediately went into panic mode falling on her belly on the ditch bank, wailing like a banshee.  The more I stomped the wider the fire spread until I gave up in terror.  She was no help, and there was no possibility that the fire engines would show up.  We were no longer in the city limits.

The fire, swift as lightning, gobbled up the dead brush until the whole field was ablaze.  Homes bordered the field on two sides, and suddenly, as if by magic, men appeared with wet burlap bags, “gunny sacks,” beating at the flames.  They worked diligently, in the hot July sun, until any semblance of fire was gone.

I stood on the far side of the field, watching the drama, knowing that it was my fault.  I had burned down the whole field all by myself.  There was no one else to blame.

What would they do to me?  Surely they would come shaking their fingers in my face telling me I had endangered their homes.  But no!  Without a word, they just went home and so did I.  I never breathed a detail of this escapade to my parents, but in the dark of night, I wondered when the police would show up, when they would cart me off to jail, how much the fine would be.  My life was over.  I was sure of it.

My fears, however, were groundless, and life went on as usual.  As far as I know, no one ever knew I had accidentally set that fire.   No one knew I was an ARSONIST!  The episode was soon forgotten.

We all fear certain things.  My sister panics at the thought of flying.  Others fear heights or closed spaces.  My nephew fears germs and will not touch another person.  These fears may be groundless, but they are no less real causing dysfunction and misery.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message) says, “Don’t panic.  I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

The next time life overwhelms you and you feel like pressing that “Panic Button,” remember, if you belong to God, He holds you close with a firm and tender grip.  Have no fear.  He will not let you go, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow