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Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Give Us Life" - 26 February 2017 AM and PM

Sunday morning:
Give us life, and we will call upon your name! Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this (Psalm 80.14) your Church in all nations, Heritage and these churches in the OKC area: Memorial Presbyterian Church; Messiah Lutheran Church; Metro Mennonite Church; Midwest Boulevard Christian Church; Miracle Revival Center; Moore Baptist Temple; and Mount Rose Baptist Church. Turn to us and be gracious to us; give your strength to your servants, and save the sons and daughters of your maidservant. Show us a sign of your favor that those who hate us may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped us and comforted us (Psalm 86.16-17). Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

Consider, O God, those who do not know you or have broken faith with you….Change their hearts that they may confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts you raised him from the day, so that they may come to join with us in praying; Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

O God, please refresh those who are weary; replenish those who are parched; restore those who are bowled over; revitalize those who are vitiated; … On their behalf and with them we pray; Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

O God, we pray for our nation and leaders, including our State Representatives such as Chad Caldwell; Kevin Calvey; Ed Cannaday; Dennis Casey; Bobby Cleveland; Josh Cockroft; Donnie Condit; and Jeff Cody. May we, heads and inhabitants of this land, be directed and guided to protect the defenseless and to stand up and stand in for those who are oppressed. Profit our businesses, grant our schools, colleges, universities, homeschools, private schools and vocational schools to succeed in educating our students that they may be well cultivated for the life ahead of them. Provide what is lacking for this State. Furnish us with the rainfalls we need to have plenty of fresh water, bountiful crops and abundant livestock. We pray for our country; Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

O God, please be with all world leaders, to include Bounnhang Vorachith; Raimonds Vējonis; Michel Aoun; King Letsie III; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; and Fayez al-Sarraj. We pray that you would re-establish order, solid infrastructures, medical establishments, schools, and families in those places devastated by wars and rebellion. We pray that you would have mercy on those desiccated by drought or drowning in floods; those made paltry by famine or by inefficient food production. For all of the nations and peoples of the world we pray; Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)!

For Christ’s sake, give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth, and Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved (Psalm 80.18b-19)! Amen.


Sunday evening:

O LORD, who created us, who formed us, and who has said to us – frequently and in various ways – “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43.1-3). It is to you we pray, O Lord, hear our prayer.

O LORD, who created and formed us through your Son and by your Spirit, thank you for watching over Hxx, his brother and those with them as they travelled and worked in Ethiopia. Continue to assist Txxx Wxxx in all of the fund raising as well as in all the matters she needs to complete before she goes to Thailand. May she be drawn closer to you through all of this, and see you do amazing things. And may Txxx’s time and toil in Australia be encouraging to the Hxxxx, effectual in their desire to communicate the Gospel, and essential in her own growth as a godly Christian woman. O Lord, hear our prayer.

O LORD, who created and formed us your Church, we seek your kingdom and righteousness for our denomination, this congregation and these PCA churches in Oklahoma: Trinity Presbyterian Church- Owasso; Grace Presbyterian Church-Stillwater; In Tulsa Christ Presbyterian Church; Ethos Presbyterian Church; River Oaks Presbyterian Church; and Grace Presbyterian Church-Shreveport. Rouse us and refashion us that we may always be remembered for our work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that your gospel would work in us, and come through us, not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1.3-4). O Lord, hear our prayer.

O LORD, who created and formed us to be part of your world rescue operation; we ask, even now, that you would take in hand our Marriage Conference, our Carnegie Mission VBS and trip; and our own outreach VBS. Bring each of these, in their specific focus, to be efficient and effective in presenting your Gospel. And may each of these, in their specific focus, produce results that bring others to join us in glorifying and enjoying you forever. O Lord, hear our prayer.

O LORD, who created and formed us in Christ Jesus to desire what you desire, love what you love, rejoice in what you rejoice over; bring us to see the opportunities you give us to do good to everyone, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6.10). And bring to us “divine appointments” where we will have openings to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to some in our families, among our friends, to our foes and with our fellow citizen. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A Review

Between the World and MeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There was a season when I did review work for an Austin-based company that helped to market books for self-published authors and small presses. Though, on occasion, I received texts that became mildly well-known, usually I was sent manuscripts by fledgling authors that almost no one has heard of or read. Several of the volumes I reviewed were from Vietnam vets who had been drafted. They were informative for their rattling and raw firsthand accounts. But typically they were filled with various levels of rage that had been simmering and seething for thirty or more years. Angered that they had been drafted and forced into combat; enraged by their country’s misuse of them; incensed that they had been so wronged and would never get their lives back; infuriated that they were looked down on by many of their peers. And their stories recounted how the rest of their lives were lived from inside an imprisoning fury. So initially I thought I sensed the same kind of vibes from the 176 page hardback, “Between the World and Me” penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, correspondent for The Atlantic, Journalist in Residence at the School of Journalism at CUNY and winner of a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship.

“Between the World and Me” is an autobiographical dossier compiling three long letters from Coates to his son. His son, Samori, had been recently scandalized by the decision to acquit the police officer who shot Michael Brown, and the father sought to hand off to his son an heirloom to hold onto as he traveled through life. The story arises from the fear Coates felt growing up on Woodbrook Avenue in west Baltimore; how he cut his teeth on his father’s Black Panther readings “and his stash of old Party Papers” (30); progressed in his education at Howard University, and on into his present life. In many ways it’s a touching narrative of one man’s development and maturation in a world he sees as in the wrong; a world where “the god of history is an atheist, and nothing about his world is meant to be” (71).

But “Between the Word and Me” is more than an autobiography. In some ways it is an indictment against America told from one who feels wronged; the tale of a man prosecuting his case against racism and racist America, since “race is the child of racism, not the father” (7). It pours and pulses with passion, anger, fear and anguish. It is told from within an a priori assessment that sees life in the United States as textured by systemic bigotry, and most of the recounted events prove what the author expected.

In other ways, it is the chronicling of the growth of a man arising from a black idealism that imagined “history to be a unified narrative, free of debate, which, once uncovered, would simply verify everything I always suspected” but he came to find that there was no “coherent tradition marching lockstep but instead factions, and factions within factions” (47). “Between the World and Me” is the self-reflective reporting of a person coming to see his own, and his world’s, injury that hemorrhages, hampers and hobbles. The book is the heartfelt writing of a father yearning for his son to make it safely through a world of dreamers where all human empires “are built on the destruction of the body” (143). Here is a black father showing his black son “that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself” (12).

What I finally came to realize was that Coates, though afraid and angered, was actually seeking to communicate to his son not to get swallowed up by the dreamers, white or black, but rather to recognize “the design flaws of humanity” (146), to live as part of a people and not a race (149), and that though history is not singularly in our hands, yet to struggle, “not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life” (97). Though the book troubled me at places, nevertheless I began to hear a father desperate for his son’s fragile wellbeing in a world inebriated with easy, thoughtless categories of race, triumph, nobility, and empire; a world where “surging rage…could, in an instant, erase my body” (19).

Though I originally read “Between the World and Me” as a raging rant, upon reflection it has become clear that there is something deeper going on. Perhaps, even, some of the original manuscript pages are stained with a tear or two. Though there is a point here and there that stuck in my craw, overall it was an insightful and telling memoir. Give it a go, and then before you write it off as tirade or bandy it about as fodder for “the cause,” ruminate on it and see if it doesn’t affect you differently and strike you as a book from a father’s heart.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

"O God Our Father, We Implore You..." - 19 February 2017

O God our Father, we implore you to make us a holy, joy-filled people in our homes, occupations, and our various networks of friends. May those who are married be free of strife, pettiness, and fear; may those who are single be chaste and holy, enjoying you in their God-ward singleness; may the children grow stronger in grace and wisdom, loving you all their days while obeying and honoring their parents; may the parents raise their children in faithfulness and godliness; and may the elderly flourish in God-given strength, patience, and sound-mindedness. Also please help us to be the kind of church that is instrumental in drawing the straying back to Christ and his church, and bringing unbelievers to be born again by trusting in your Son Jesus Christ. Hear us as we cry out some of their names to you now…

O God our Father, we pray for your Church in all nations, and these churches in the OKC area: Madison Street Church of God in Christ; Maranatha Assembly of God; Maranatha Church; Mayfair Church of Christ; Mayflower Congregational Church; McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church; and Meadowood Baptist Church; grant your Church to live out the righteousness, peace and joy which are in the Holy Spirit; to pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14.17, 19); and to turn neither to the right hand or the left. And where she has jumped the tracks and derailed, reorient her course, and send her in the right direction once more.

O Lord God, please strengthen, assist, build up and give a renewed buoyancy to those in need…

O Lord God, please be with our nation, national leaders and State leaders, including our State Representatives such as Greg Babinec; Rhonda Baker; Forrest Bennett; John Bennett; Scott Biggs; Meloyde Blancett; David Brumbaugh; and Carol Bush. Graciously help us to recognize when we do evil and injustice, to amend our ways and correct our directions. May neither peace nor prosperity blind our eyes or deafen our ears to you, or to the cries of those being unfairly treated. Grant us to sustain and support justice and liberty for all, unborn, foreign born, or home born.

O Lord God, please be with all world leaders, to include King Abdullah II; Nursultan Nazarbayev; Taneti Mamau; Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah; and Almazbek Atambayev. We pray for an end to all wars, to all natural or man-made famines, pestilences, droughts, plagues. We pray for an end to abortion in our land and world over, and an end to the crimes of slave trafficking and prostituting women and children. In this regard, and based on your words to us, we make bold to pray for MS-13, ISIS, Boko-Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Aryan Nations, and other destructive alliances: Bring them to repentance and faith in Christ – individually and personally, but also as a whole. And if they will not, then Lord, we pray on behalf of those crushed under their jackbooted thuggery, and we pray with the Psalmist, “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun” (Psalm 58.6-8).

O Lord God, we ask all this because you are good. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Prayers for Trump" by Charles M. Garriott. A Review

Prayers for Trump: Petitions for the 45th President
Charles M. Garriott
Riott Publishing, LLC
3731 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, DC 20016
ISBN: 978-0-9762004-5-1; $18.99; March 2017

5 stars of 5

There are sparks and censures on the one side as well as applause and admiration on the other. And in between are oodles of worried and baffled looks from those in the middle. But if one claims to be a Christian, there is one thing for certain, no matter how one voted or didn’t vote, we have a biblical obligation to pray for the President, whether we consider him our President or not. And that’s the well-reasoned premise of Charles “Chuck” Garriott, Presbyterian minister, founder and director of Ministry to State, and accomplished author, in his soon-to-be published 96 page hardcover, “Prayers for Trump: Petitions for the 45th President”. This nonpartisan compendium is meant to be useful for pastors and parishioners alike as they seek to navigate their Christian responsibilities through the days ahead. As the author explains, “This prayer book is a call for every thoughtful Christian in our land to respond to this administration as our Lord has intended. Christians may not get their political way. But they are expected to represent the gospel in every sphere of life. Thoughtful, intelligent and persistent prayer for our leader is part of what it means for us to be salt and light in a needy world” (13-4).

“Prayers for Trump” is the second in a series that began in 2011 with “Obama Prayer: Prayers for the 44th President”. After the prologue, Garriott walks the praying reader through 12 biblical features that we should pray for no matter who is in office. The qualities covered are prayer, reverence, direction, wisdom, words, favor, family, truth, protection, integrity, justice, and friends. Each short chapter is a thoughtful, devotional and biblical précis on each specific aspect that covers around three pages apiece. Then once a particular facet has been developed, the author wraps it up with a fitting prayer for the President. In all there are twelve prayers that go along with the twelve qualities, and the publisher has even given permission for these prayers to be used in their churches (95).

The tone in “Prayers for Trump” is civil and courteous, as was the previous volume in this series. Garriott has provided pastors and parishioners with a valuable tool to pilot them through some of their responsibilities in the days and months before us. Our assignment from our Lord is to pray for this administration, as we should for each presidency. I encourage every Christian minister to obtain a copy as soon as it’s off the press, and employ it personally and pastorally. I gladly recommend the book!

"Cane Fighting" by Sammy Franco. A Review

Cane Fighting: The Authoritative Guide to Using the Cane or Walking Stick for Self-DefenseCane Fighting: The Authoritative Guide to Using the Cane or Walking Stick for Self-Defense by Sammy Franco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have walked with a cane for years, usually for comfort (not medical reasons...yet) and as a means to have something in hand if ever assaulted by four-legged or two-legged animals. Therefore my interest was piqued when I read the back cover of this book. Sammy Franco, founder and creator of Contemporary Fighting Arts (CFA), Law Enforcement Master Instructor, and author of 35 books on various aspects of reality based self-defense, has put together a simple manual on how to use a cane or walking-stick in personal protection situations. This snazzy, 233 page paperback is written for trained martial artists and the average citizen who has no training.

"Cane Fighting" is easy to read and straightforward. The pictures are clear, the instruction is coherent, and the material is comprehensible. The seven chapters walk the learner through cane selection, how to handle a cane, what stances to take, the human targets to strike in self-defense and in an all-out-fight-for-your-life context, rightly using the cane when being assaulted, and the kinds of attacks to watch for. The final chapter even walks the reader through a proper set of workouts to condition the body as well as the reflexes.

If you have to walk with a cane or use one for comfort, "Cane Fighting" has some very usable advice and directions on how to use your cane in hostile events. This volume would make a good addition to a martial arts school's lending library. But it would be a valuable gift for anyone who regularly handles a shillelagh or walking stick of some kind. And for those who don't normally employ a cane, after reading this book, you will wonder why not. I highly recommend the book!

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

O Lord, Mercifully Look Upon..." - 12 February 2017 AM and PM

Sunday morning:

O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, your mercies and loving-kindnesses have been from everlasting. You did become man and stooped to endure crucifixion and death for the salvation of all who rightly believe in you. You rose from the dead for our justification and ascended into heaven, and sit at the right hand of God the Father, from whence you shall come to judge the living and the dead; and as our great High Priest you regard the humble prayers of all who call upon you with their whole heart. Incline your ear and hear.

First of all remember your Holy Universal Church, which you have purchased with your precious blood, this congregation; these churches in the greater OKC area; Life Community Church; Life Covenant Church; Life Line Baptist Church; Life Restoration Center; Life Tabernacle; Living Faith Church; Living Waters Lighthouse; Christ Lutheran Church; and your servants who are under persecution for your sake and for the sake of your holy gospel. Confirm and strengthen your Church, enlarge and multiply her, keep her in peace, and preserve her unconquerable by the gates of hell forever. Heal the factions, quench the fuming of the God-haters, speedily uproot the weeds of heresy and bring them to nothing by the power of your Holy Spirit.

O Lord, mercifully look upon all ministers, pastors, Bishops and presbyters of your Church. May they build up and strengthen your people in all places, giving themselves faithfully to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6.4).

O Lord, mercifully look upon those who hate us and despitefully use us. Help us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who abuse us. (Luke 6.27-28) Assist us to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for your sake, whether to the President, or to governors and judges, including our State Senators, such as Roger Thompson, Greg Treat and Ervin Yen, as to those who are sent by you for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For we know and confess that this is your will, that by doing good we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2.13-15).

O Lord, mercifully look upon all world rulers, to include Fuad Masum; Michael D. Higgins; Reuven Rivlin; Sergio Mattarella; Alassane Ouattara; Sir Patrick Allen; and Emperor Akihito; and on all other civil authorities. May their leadership lead toward peace and prosperity for all, as well as safety and security for your people in their lands.

O Lord, mercifully look upon our parents (…), our spouses (…), our brothers and sisters (…), our children (…), our relatives and our friends (…), and grant them your blessings both here and hereafter.

O Lord, mercifully look upon the aged, young, needy, orphans, widows, single parents, those in sickness and sorrow, distress and affliction, oppression and captivity, prison and confinement (especially these…..). Remember them, visit, strengthen, keep, and comfort them, and make haste to grant them, by your power, relief, safety, freedom, or deliverance, as they may need.

O Lord, mercifully look upon those who have never turned from their sins and believed in you, Lord Jesus, as well as those who have departed from the true faith and who have become dazzled by dissent and deviation (…), enlighten them by the light of your Holy Spirit, and bring them into the fold of your Holy Church. Amen.


Sunday evening:

Almighty and indestructible God, you never grow old, and never succumb to Alzheimer’s or dementia; you never forget your promises, and never misplace your valuables; you speak, and your word is solid and sure; you plan out the end from the beginning, and all you have planned comes about. It is to you that we come, worshiping you in your greatness, adoring your majesty, singing your might, and offering ourselves as living, whole-person sacrifices, made holy and acceptable to you through Jesus Christ your Son, and in the power of your Holy Spirit. Now O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, we implore your help and guidance for our denomination, this congregation and these PCA churches in Oklahoma: Christ Presbyterian Church-Claremore; Redeemer Presbyterian Church; First Reformed Presbyterian Church – Minco; Christ the King Presbyterian Church; and City Presbyterian Church.  Keep us from being swayed by the wooing, seductive voices of our age, those voices that beckon us to “go along to get along,” the voices that promise us “peace, peace” when there is no peace, those voices that tell us we can have respect and renown if we would but slide a smidgeon on this or skootch a bit on that. Like Jehoshaphat, may our hearts be courageous in the ways of the LORD. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Turn your eyes and cares onto those who are having trouble and turmoil in their marriages or with their children; those who find that life hasn’t gone where they had dreamed and are disheartened; and those who are in the ravenous grip of rapacious urges...Because you have not given us a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1.7), fortify them with the righteous resilience to work through their situation, looking above, where Christ is, seated at your right hand, and to turn neither to the right hand or to the left. O Lord, hear our prayer.

May your hand be on Txxxxx Wxxxx for good in all of the fund raising as well as in all the matters she needs to complete before she goes to Thailand. Also may your good, guiding hand be on Hxxx while he’s in Ethiopia; Jxxxxx Rxxxx, Mxxx and the kids in New Mexico; and Txxxxx in Australia. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, take thought to our vocations, Lord. Those who are in transition or may well soon be (whether through lay-offs, graduations, transfers or job changes), make the way for them to have good, sturdy and steady jobs so they can care for their families. Those who are established in their work, may they prosper, glorify and enjoy you where they are. And those unemployed, may they trust you thoroughly, seek first your kingdom and righteousness, and see you open up new ways for them.  O Lord, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society" by R.R. Reno. A Review

Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian SocietyResurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society by R.R. Reno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Given the bombastic and melodramatic hotness of the past several months, a book promoting the resurgence of a Christian Society in the United States might well be taken as simply the dying gasps of a glum devotee. Yet R.R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine, past professor at Creighton University, and accomplished author, boldly jumps through the flames to present his 215 page hardback, “Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society”. It is a volume written to stimulate stability, arouse civility, and awaken creativity. The title of the book is a tipping-of-the-hat to T.S. Eliot’s “The Idea of a Christian Society” penned in the 1930’s as World War II and Nazism were looming large on the horizon. Reno’s reworking of Eliot’s theme, though, is written in a different era, with contemporary concerns.

The author’s unease is that when “a culture of freedom becomes a cult of freedom, injustice, suffering, and social dysfunction get explained away as “choices”” (4). Further, that those who normally put themselves forward as socially progressive are actually “waging a war on the weak” through unimpeded choice, self-definition, and deregulation of cultural mores (5). Additionally, the pursuing of these liberation projects – consistent as they may be with the American dream – are also consistent “with a powerful, coercive government” (30) because moral deregulation “serves only the interests of the powerful” (85). Similarly, if “government can define marriage and parenthood as it sees fit, the personal is the political, which is one of the definitions of tyranny” (129). The author works this all out in well-reasoned detail through seven chapters.

On the other hand, Reno espouses the logic of faith, which “runs counter to the cult of freedom” (5). The author does not promote a resuscitation of some Nouveau Christendom to be shoved down unwilling throats. Instead, the bulk of the manuscript seeks to reclaim the importance of our “speaking up in the public square as Christians” (6). For the way forward, the way to renew our society is “by restoring our voices as Christian citizens” (7), which he fills out in the following seven chapters. As he does so, he is careful to give sober and sane reminders that salvage the reader from falling into fanatical idealism, or disenchantment: “We are called to do what we are able, not to succeed” (8); “Christians are called not to win debates and elections but to build a civilization of love – never an easy task, certainly not today” (184).

“Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society” has some surprising twists. Reno takes several of his directions from Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel, as “one of the most important Christian movements of the twentieth century” (66). Also, the author regularly turns the statistical and ideological table on those who are clamoring for moral deregulation and nonjudgmentalism as the way to empower the people;
“It’s hard to imagine a moral system more conducive to elite domination over ordinary people than nonjudgmentalism, which leaves poor people literally demoralized. Increasingly dysfunctional, the poor and near-poor can’t form communities and social institutions capable of representing their interests, making it easier for [the elites] to dominate…politically, culturally and morally” (85).

In the end “Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society” is a book for Christians of every clique and coterie. It is a book needed by those who are passionate about social justice. And for those alarmed by the secularizing decrees that have become systematized and standardized. It is a book that clarifies the importance of liberty, limited government, resilient morality and renewed faith. “The most powerful limits to government power are found below and above political life: a strong culture of marriage and family, and robust, assertive religious institutions. A free society depends on strong family loyalties and faith’s indomitable resolve” (138). I highly recommend the book!

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