Category Archives: Exhortation

How attitudes intensify or moderate suffering

We all face difficulties of one kind or another. Job loss. Accidents. Disease. Rejection. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). However, the attitudes with which we face troubles will profoundly affect our ability to cope victoriously; either intensifying or moderating our anguish.

Alice and Elsie and Marci, not their real names, routinely intensify their own pain. Alice wallows in unhappiness while blaming her employer and the government for the misfortunes in her life. A cheerful greeting to Elsie triggers a recitation of grievances that reflect her bitterness and anger. Marci not only looks sad and troubled, she is.

The attitudes of these three intensify their emotional distress. Consequently, they will endure greater pain than that of others who tackle life with an uplifting outlook. Their corrosive emotions may even affect their physical health. For our own wellbeing, as well as to glorify God, we need to get rid of dark and hurtful emotions such as: sadness, worry, doubt, discouragement, fear, envy, hopelessness, bitterness, wrath, discontent, wounded pride, hatred, and the like.

The New Testament uniformly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ, and obedience to his teaching, delivers us from bondage to these emotions. (I’m not denying that in some cases there are physical causes for depression.)

This does not mean we should cover up our anguish. The Psalms of lament show us the pattern of David. “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord…all night long I flood my bed with weeping”(Ps 6:3,6). “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps. 13:1). But notice that David brought his pain to God and underlying that pain was faith. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

A huge part of the Christian process of sanctification involves replacing dark attitudes with those that are uplifting. This process doesn’t happen overnight. But the apostle Paul explained that through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the transformation is certain. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control;” the very emotions that moderate suffering.

According to Jesus, happy are they who have the right attitudes. (See Matthew 5:3-12.) He taught his disciples, “Do not worry” (Matt. 6:31); “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”(John 14:1).

There isn’t room in this article to touch on the power of prayer, the transforming effect of thankfulness, and the uplifting outcome of worship and praise. And surely, I don’t need to mention that we engage in these activities not for therapeutic reasons, but because we have touched the hem of the Infinite. That touch makes us want to lift our hearts in praise. We have been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ and that change makes us want to express thankfulness. The positive effect of praise and thankfulness—joy—is incidental to the reality of salvation, but very real.

I have no doubt whatever that the Christian faith has contributed infinitely more than we can imagine to human health, social wellbeing, and international harmony. How do I know this? I know it from the teaching of the Bible, observation of others, my own experience, and the testimony of myriad Christians, some of whom suffer indescribable persecution.

Do you have doubts that Christian attitudes moderate suffering? “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Or as Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

In a later blog, I’ll write about the role of encouragers in helping those who face trials.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

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FOOLISH CHOICES AND SUFFERING – CAUSES OF SUFFERING #4

Have you ever wondered if your problems, or even your suffering, stem from foolish choices? We’re just coming out of two days of ice pellets and freezing rain. Life ground to a frozen halt. It would have been foolish to venture out and chance getting a broken leg.

Choices are important. I agonize over decisions, especially big decisions like whether to move to another house or what kind of car to buy. That’s not to say that I take long over the choice of what brand of toothpaste or shampoo to buy or whether to plant petunias or pansies in the garden.

But too often I allow price to determine my choices rather than quality. I once bought a pair of attractive loafers because they were half price. They were a bit tight, but so desirable. That purchase doomed me to pinched toes until I gave up. I could give other illustrations but they would be too embarrassing.

Even when I determine to balance quality against price, it’s not always easy to make a good choice in our media-saturated world. One report lists butter as harmful to our arteries. Another labels margarine as a dangerous culprit. Or take coffee, or chocolate. How do we navigate through all the shoals that we’re told can shipwreck our lifeboat?

Doubtless, bad choices can lead to great harm. And some of those bad choices are clear. Smoking. Overeating. Taking addictive drugs. Avoiding exercise. A steady diet of high calorie fast-foods. Too much sugar. Pornography. Sleeping with prostitutes. Drunkenness. The list is long; the effects devastating in terms of ill health, lost jobs and broken relationships.

Many of our bad choices lead to long-term suffering, or at least, suffering that catches up with us as we age. Why do we choose things we know will be harmful? Often, it’s to find immediate pleasure through gratifying a craving. Dare I say it, lust banishes reason? Donuts and cookies and mega-burgers taste so good! Indulge. Enjoy right now. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with an occasional indulgence but the danger occurs when indulgence becomes a habit.

The danger is magnified when the indulgence breaks one of God’s commandments. Outbursts of anger can not only shatter relationships, but, as Jesus said, even lead to murder. One pilfered item from a warehouse or an act of cheating can encourage a lifestyle of dishonesty that ultimately ends in incarceration. Envy or jealousy indulged can foster lifelong discontent. One act of adultery might ruin a marriage or promote a careless approach to marital fidelity or lead to catching a sexually transmitted disease.

So why is there suffering in the world? Much of it is caused by human foolishness, indulgence, sinfulness and ignorance. We would be wise to re-read the book of Proverbs often. “He who speaks rashly will come to ruin. The sluggard craves and gets nothing…Dishonest money dwindles away…”(Prov. 13:3b, 4a, 11a).

Fortunately, God is a forgiving God. There is no sin, no matter how grave, that He will not forgive if one but bows in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, God’s Son. “His blood can make the foulest clean.” Forgiveness, however, does not necessarily deliver us from the practical consequences of our sins. The forgiven smoker will still have damaged lungs. The forgiven murderer will still have to finish out his jail sentence. The indulgent eater who is forgiven may still have clogged arteries.

Let’s not blame God for the suffering we cause. Instead let’s make wise and godly choices. Let me know what you think about this issue.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

What I’m Learning From Unanswered Prayer

For 62 years, prayer has been an indispensable part of my life. Admittedly, it has often been either formal or hurried, weak or stumbling. I’m no model of a praying Christian. But like many believers I’ve often pondered the mystery of unanswered prayer.

After all, Jesus said, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). But Lord, why didn’t you answer my plea for X’s salvation or my healing? Oh, I know the standard answer; “God always answers, either yes, no, or wait awhile.” I believe there is at least another reason.

Let me give you some personal background that has led me to this conclusion. Five or six months ago the date was set for my knee surgery. We immediately began to pray for results that did not include complications, as surgery on the other knee had been accompanied by problems. The surgery took place. The surgeon was pleased. Everything seemed good. But shortly we realized that it was infected. Dealing with the infection delayed healing for some time. Why Lord did this happen? Was the answer to our prayers a simple, no? And why did you not answer our plea?

In the months that followed, prayer for ability to sleep at night was also put on the unanswered prayer pile. What’s going on Lord? Do you not want my joy to be full?

Let me be clear. As a couple, Mary Helen and I have no right to complain to God. He has blessed us in abundant and unusual ways. And my quibble about pain and sleeplessness is minor compared to those who suffer with cancer or debilitating diseases or deal with a tragedy. I’m just trying to understand the many invitations in Scripture to bring our requests to our heavenly Father with the assurance of an answer. So what am I learning?

PATIENCE: God has laid bare my impatience. Why do I have to keep relearning lessons about patience? Have I taken my supposed maturity for granted? Unfortunately, for most of us, patience is something we have to keep relearning. And we can’t develop it without going through trying situations. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:3).

EMPATHY: I’m also learning empathy for others, especially those who suffer. This will be a hard lesson. I’m not a very empathetic person. I don’t like hospitals. I don’t even want to go near them. But many in my age group have to visit doctors and hospitals often. And each of us need encouragement, comfort and love. I’ve got a lot to learn about compassion and without it I’m not much use in the kingdom. Paul reminds us of a related reason God sends tribulations into our lives. “The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3). We face troubles so we can understand and empathize with the troubles of others.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP: I’m also trying to remember that I should lean on God for help more than on my own grit, experience, gifts, and abilities. During my missionary and pastoral career, I often faced tasks beyond my ability. During those years several key verses encouraged me to believe that the very unlikely could happen. One was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Another pointed me to the source of help. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God has worked in wonderful ways down through the years. But I wonder today, how much was His work and how much was me trying to accentuate my own efforts and abilities. I’m realizing more clearly, that when Jesus says, “you can do nothing,” He really means it. We may be able to build a chicken coop or send a man to the moon, but we cannot accomplish anything positive for the Kingdom without His help. And before we realize that we have face to situations where nothing we do works.

FAITH: Christians know that faith is foundational. In the case of a leper and a centurion (in Matthew 8) who came to Jesus, their faith led them to trust him for healing. But faith, as in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, does not always lead to healing. Abraham and the other patriarchs trusted God’s promises of a glorious future—not for them but their descendants. I wonder if for many of us today, faith requires us to trust God in the dark. Trusting God even when our requests are not met. Walking with God in apparent darkness, sure of our ultimate destination. We are to, “walk by faith not by sight.” We need to be able to say, “though He slay me, [doesn’t answer my prayer] yet will I trust him.”

Trusting God during periods when He seems distant or silent is not something unusual. Think of slaves trusting God in their misery. Think of Christians wallowing in foxholes during wartime. Think of Christians waiting for healing in cancer wards.

Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? Often it is because He knows that we will learn more about Christian living and walking by faith if He doesn’t respond to our every request. When He seems silent, He is probably working to make us more Christ-like in patience, faith, compassion, and a host of other godly characteristics. Lord, help me to learn more and grumble less. Help me to accept these tough but necessary lessons in discipleship.

How do you respond to this blog? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have something to add to this meditation?

WHO WAS THIS ADAM GUY?

If we read literature of any kind we can’t escape references to Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses, Delilah and Bathsheba, Mary and Joseph. Who were these people? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All these and many more inhabit the Scripture’s story line. Depending, of course, on your view of Scripture they may be historical or mythological.

Personally, I believe that Scripture is the most comprehensive and accurate record of history that we have. Unlike Zeus or Ulysses, these were real people. There is far more proof for the Bible’s authenticity than for ancient Greek or Roman writing. But more important, the lessons they teach us about life, for good or ill, are of inestimable value.

Character defines who we are more than our stature, ethnic background or hair colour. And our family and the people we hung out with have influenced our character for good or ill. In this series of blogs, I invite you to hang out with Bible characters. Let their livDSCN2176 - Copyes impact you for good. Learn to embrace their good qualities and avoid their mistakes.

Of course, if your character is already perfect [tongue firmly in cheek] you might want to follow these blogs just to bone up on universals embedded in Western culture. Allusions to the ten commandments, the good Samaritan, Bathsheba, Samson, and so on.

Consider first Adam, who–as indicated by Jesus Himself–was not a type or symbol of humanity but a real person. God created Adam in His own moral image and gave him responsibility to steward the resources of earth at a time when the environment was ideal. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed”(Gen 2:8).

Within the godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoy a loving and expressive relationship with each other. God knew, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). And so He created Eve as Adam’s companion to somewhat replicate the divine interaction of the persons of the godhead. Alexander Whyte in this book on Bible Characters describes Eve as “sweet, warm, tender, wistful, helpful, fruitful—a love full of 00008_s_15amtvyymk0021nice and subtle happiness.”

Loving relationships form the foundation of human experience. We were created to relate to others not to live as loners. In relating well to one another, in marriage and in other human relationships we reflect the image of God in us.

As divine image-bearers Adam and Eve possessed qualities that reflected on a limited scale divine qualities. Their intellectual ability qualified them to communicate and investigate. Their creative ability enabled them to originate things and value beauty. Their administrative ability prepared them to wisely care for the world. Their moral image enabled them to be and do righteously. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

We should celebrate the amazing potential that God has created within us. That potential should move us to use our abilities to bless the places where we live. As a children’s song tells us, “God don’t make no junk.” As image-bearers we should honour and respect all people. Racism, prejudice, and arrogance are clearly sub-human, evil.

Adam and Eve were placed in an idyllic garden where they could enjoy fruit from all the trees except one–the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One prohibition! They had free will to choose to obey or not. They faced thousands of positive, attractive, nutritious options. Delicious fruits. Only one temptation. WOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhat did they do? What will we do with all the healthy, constructive, godly options that we enjoy? Will we choose obedience or will we be drawn to harm ourselves by choosing hurtful options?

Satan slithered into the garden and temped Eve. He said, “You shall not surely die for in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen3:5). She “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…gave to her husband” (Gen 3:6). Temptation exerts a powerful appeal to us by enticing us through the lust of the flesh (an appeal to our physical appetites), the lust of the eyes (an appeal to something we want to possess) and the pride of life (something to enhance our ego). Let us ask the Lord to help us recognize temptation in these three areas and resist its downward pull.

Eve chose to disobey the one command God gave her. Adam knew it was wrong but yielded to Eve’s offer of the fruit. Both broke God’s command. But when asked by God what they had done they pointed their fingers instead of accepting blame. Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve and God! Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” Eve said, “the serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12,13)

DSCN4987 (2)Both Adam and Eve played the blame game. Eve blamed the serpent. Adam blamed Eve. Part of the fallen nature that we inherit includes the propensity to blame others for our sins and weaknesses. Our parents. Our education. The government. The environment we grew up in. The church. Our friends. God. If we would mature spiritually, we need to stop blaming others and accept personal responsibility.

From Adam and Eve we learn about our need for relationships; the fantastic potential enshrined in ever human; the importance of obeying God’s commands; the need to make careful, moral choices; and about our propensity to blame others for our sins.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –  Facebook: Eric E Wright –   Twitter: @EricEWright1  –  LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

 

The Crabby Old Lady

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was believed that she had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland.

The old lady’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on her simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this “anonymous” poem winging across the Internet

Crabby Old woman
What do you see, nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit,
With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe?

Who, resisting or not,
Let’s you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding,
The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse,
You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am
As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters,
Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen
With wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now
A lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,

My heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows

That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,

I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide

And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,

My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other

With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons

Have grown and are gone,

But man’s beside me

To see I don’t moan.

At fifty once more,

Babies play round my knee,

Again we know children

My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,

My husband is dead,
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman
And nature is cruel;
‘Tis jest to make old age
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again,
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman;
Look closer . . . see ME!!

=========================================================

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might
brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . we will all,
one day, be there, too! In fact it might be me.

American Dream? – What about the Christian Dream?

We hear a lot about realizing the American dream, a dream which is shared by their Canadian neighbours. This dream involves having the opportunity to succeed; get an education, a good job, a house, money in the bank, being able to travel, live in comfort and security. Besides these, everyone longs for good health and friends. Who can discredit these as desirable goals?

But are these aspirations enough? Jesus promises his disciples abundant life. “I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b, NIV). The New KJV translates
it “have it more abundantly.” What is meant by abundant life?

No matter how close we are to achieving our dreams, we live with uncertainty. We cannot predict our future health, the stability of our jobs, or even the permanence of our relationships. We share common fears and anxieties. Something unpredictable may wait just around the corner.

But in the context of John ten, Jesus explains to his disciples that he is responsible for their care. As their shepherd, He promises to protect them from both a world full of thieves and the uncaring agents of all the institutions that affect our lives. In the Good Shepherd’s hand, what seems to us uncertain about the future is known and determined to work out for our good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbundant life, in Christ, is a life that can be free from anxiety and fear. Jesus urges us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body…but seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:25,33). Peter challenges us to “Cast all your care upon Him who cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

Also in the context of John ten, abundant life is life that is eternal in extent. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave his life for the sheep, securing for us life that continues beyond the grave into eternal bliss. Abundant life includes a home in heaven and a place in the new heavens and the new earth.

Sadly, this abundant life is not for all. Jesus explained, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (10:9). Only those who admit they have been wandering sheep and desire safety in Christ will enter. Only those who believe in Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” and receive him as their Lord and Saviour belong in this place of safety. There is only one door and one good shepherd.

Abundant life is only possible—not by works that we do—but through receiving “the fullness of his grace…one blessing after another” (John 1:16). It is enjoying rich, lavish grace what teaches us we are forgiven and loved (Eph. 1:7,8). It is to know “overflowing joy” (2 Cor. 8:2), peace that passes understanding, the fellowship of the redeemed, answered prayer, spiritual armour to live a victorious life, and so much more.

The promise of abundant life surpasses any democratic dream of success. Once we are in
Christ
, everything is brighter and more hopeful.

Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in ev’ry hue

Christless eyes have never seen;

Lupinsclose(I Am His And He Is Mine, Wade Robinson)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

I’ll Do It My Way -the terrible harvest of moral relativism

The anthem of western civilization for the last 100 years could well be Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way.” Morality has become a matter of preference rather than principle. As the Creator God has been either denied or relegated to the closet of human thought, the Ten Commandments as absolute standards have also been rejected.

Indeed, if madscn1336-1nkind had an impersonal beginning there is no basis for absolute standards of right and wrong. If we are nothing more than an evolved combination of forces and elements, then we must do what our genes tell us to do. Why question any action? Cruelty will occur in some cases and generosity in others and there is no difference. As a result of such thinking, we have fluid and ever-changing ethics. Abortion is justified. Euthanasia will shortly be acceptable. Sex in any combination and situation is promoted. How can rape be defined? How can pornography in a free-speech society be curbed? Gender becomes what I feel I am, male, female, transgender, whatever.

Moral freedom defined by personal preference rules. Hugh Heffner, founder of the Playboy empire who brags about having slept with 1000 women, told the Daily Telegraph “I’m dscn4172a very
ethical guy. I’ve managed to live on the edge. But I’ve done it with a lot of class.”
Without a glimmer of irony, he said, “Moderation is the key.” When individuals like Heffner manipulate morals these ethical choices become nothing more than subjective personal preferences. The results are outrageous.

When Woody Allen was challenged about having an affair with the adopted teenage daughter of his live-in partner, Mia Farrow, he defiantly replied, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”  In other words, his heart’s desire determined what is good and his decision was no one else’s business.

As someone has said concerning letting feelings define sexuality: “Shouldn’t a 16-year-old teen-ager who identifies as a 21-year-old be allowed to purchase alcohol? Shouldn’t a 40-year-old who identifies as a 70-year-old receive social security and get a senior’s discount at the movie theatre? If we are going to identify people by their feelings, doesn’t anything go?”

But is moral relativism really morality at all? If there are no absolute, unchanging standards of right and wrong, why or how can we condemn human cruelty? On what basis can we condemn Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or ISIS?

These approaches to morality fly in the face of the innate sense among people of all Greece, Parthenoncultures that certain things are right and others wrong. As Scripture declares, [Those] “who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law [of God]…they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness , and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14,15). There are, whatever society might say, absolute, unchanging standards of right and wrong written into the consciences of all mankind and into the fabric of the universe.

Moral relativism has led to the horrific events of the twentieth century and continues to create a harvest of misery in our day. Millions of unborn people continue to be killed. Sexually transmitted diseases continue to thrive. The number of single mothers increases as does the number of fatherless children. Pornography and addictions will surge higher. Wars will increase.

If we are to see the disastrous results of moral relativism curbed, we must re-instate the Ten Commandments personally and socially. What may be impossible in society, without
revival, must at least be the absolute norm in the Church dscn1243-copyand in our Christian families.

We were created in the image of God as moral creatures responsible to him. And we should remember, “As it is appointed onto man once to die, and after that the judgement”.

(Much of this meditation came as a result of re-visiting Francis Schaeffer’s “He Is Not There And He Is Not Silent”.)

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )