Finding Adventure in the Kingdom

Finding Adventure in the Kingdom

Jerrad LopesBy Jerrad Lopes49 Minutes

Book Excerpt from Dad Tired and Loving It: Stumbling Your Way to Spiritual Leadership by Jerrad Lopes


Chapter 6

Squirrel Food – Look for Adventure in the Kingdom, Not in this World

As I begin writing this chapter, I’m sitting in an old hotel room in the middle of Egypt. I’m about four hours from Cairo, the capital, and can hear the hustle and bustle of the streets below my room. When I arrived in the country a week ago, we were told that any American group coming to visit Egypt must have a police escort with them at all times. Apparently, the two governments made an agreement years ago that required Egypt to provide American groups with constant police escorts. This sounds great in theory, but nothing makes tourists stick out more than having armed police officers following their every step. If we want to drive somewhere, they lead the way. If we want to shop for souvenirs in the market, they walk around next to us. They are always near.

Tonight, however, I found a way to ditch them.

Every time I travel, Leila makes me promise to bring her home some kind of local food—specifically, sweets. She doesn’t care about mugs, magnets, or trinkets I could find on eBay. She wants the sweet stuff. Whenever I leave the country while she stays with the kids, I am required to bring home treats that can be found only in that country. When I get home, we sit down at the kitchen table, brew a pot of coffee or tea, and enjoy the treats together as I tell her all about the trip. Sometimes she goes on medical mission trips while I stay home with the kids, and the roles are reversed. We collect cookies, not things.

On this trip, I may have gone a little overboard on the Egyptian sweets. The Egyptians make some amazing food, including desserts, and I’ve purchased more boxes of goodies than my luggage can hold. So instead of checking my heart regarding my shopping habits, I’ve decided I would rather check an extra piece of luggage instead—a piece of luggage filled with goodies for my wife.

The problem is, I didn’t have an extra piece of luggage, and I didn’t want to have a police officer escort me through town as I tried to explain to him why having another suitcase is so imperative.

So I ditched the police.

I went down to the lobby where there was free Wi-Fi and pretended to check my phone, waiting for my opportunity to sneak past the police and out of the hotel. To my surprise, after only a few minutes, fifteen or twenty locals came down the stairs and started to make their way toward the door. They looked as if they had just come from a wedding celebration. Without hesitating, I lowered my baseball cap to cover my face and quietly made my way to the back of the crowd, blending in as best I could. I looked down toward the ground and held my breath as our entire group passed the police officers standing in front of the building.

I thought for sure I would be singled out and pulled aside. I was the only American in the group and the only one not wearing wedding attire. But to my surprise, I made it past the officers without them saying a word. I walked about a hundred feet from the hotel and realized I was totally free. It was just after 11:00 p.m., and the streets were still full of life. I was so excited to start exploring this new city on my own.

I began walking up and down the small roads when something struck me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was watching me. I’d like to believe I can blend in with the dark-skinned crowd, but apparently I stuck out like a sore thumb. For the first time on the trip, I wished the police escorts were with me. I felt incredibly vulnerable as I walked in and out of each store, looking for a new suitcase. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back to the hotel room? What if a group of guys decided to mug me? What if I did find a suitcase—was I going to walk around the Egyptian city streets at midnight rolling around a suitcase full of cookies?

What in the world was I thinking to sneak out in a foreign country on my own?

My heart was racing. I could feel my body temperature rising as all the Egyptian eyes were staring at me. It was an absolute adrenaline rush. And despite being totally freaked out, I was loving every minute of it. As small and pathetic as this task was, it turned out to be a fun little adventure.

I eventually found a little shop that happened to sell used backpacks. I figured filling up a couple of backpacks with goodies might be more practical than finding a giant suitcase.

The truth is, I don’t think I was really looking for a suitcase that night. I think I was looking for an adventure. Deep down, I knew that sneaking out of the hotel, running around the streets alone, and being somewhat vulnerable would satisfy an itch for me.

Though my hunt for a suitcase may have been insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it was still an adventure. And yes, it satisfied a small part of my soul.

Bored to Tears

Humans love adventure. You don’t have to be a scientific researcher to know that kids are born to explore and look for fun in every possible opportunity. I often work from a big comfy chair in my living room that looks out the window into my front yard. I watch as my kids and their friends find creative ways to play in the giant maple tree at the edge of our lawn. Sometimes they are sailors, trying to escape from evil pirates. Other times they are birds, building a nest in the tree. And sometimes I watch them work together to build a giant rope swing in its branches.[1]

In the creative hands of a child, every tree, stick, and rock can be used for a new adventure.

When do we grow out of that? Do we ever really grow out of it?

When we are children, we use the raw materials of the world around us to create new adventures. When we are teenagers, we find adventures in our first dates, our first kisses, or our new driver’s licenses. As college students, we find adventure in moving to a new place, making new friends, and exploring new freedoms as young adults. In our twenties, we find adventure in landing our first real jobs or getting married to the women of our dreams. In our late twenties and early thirties, we experience the rush of buying our first homes or maybe becoming fathers for the first time.

And then what?

By the world’s standards, you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do. You finished school. You got the job. You married the girl. You bought the house. You had the kids. What is left to do? Pay bills, coach little league, and wait for the adventure of retirement to show up in thirty years?

Have you lost the appetite for adventure that you once had as a child and young adult? Or are you looking for it in other places?

I don’t think men have outgrown their sense of adventure. Instead, I think they have become bored and begin looking for it elsewhere. The scary part is, a bored man is a dangerous man.

When I was on a church pastoral staff, I sometimes noticed that many of the men who showed up on Sunday morning looked depressed. Their wives wore big smiles and pretty dresses and seemed to almost drag the husbands into the building. The men walked around with stiff faces and talked about the football games they had to miss to be at church.

Honestly, I was right there with them. If I wasn’t getting paid to attend church, I probably wouldn’t have been there every week either. In fact, I’ve been guilty of checking my fantasy football scores in the middle of a sermon.

The real superheroes of the church community were the guys who volunteered their time to serve. They’d offer to greet guests and new visitors on Sunday mornings or maybe pass the offering basket in the middle of the service. If they wanted extra credit, some guys would even volunteer to host a Bible study or weekly community group in their homes.

Part of my job at the church was to encourage guys to step up and serve in these ways. It almost felt like I was trying to sell them on something they clearly didn’t want to buy. When they said yes, they often seemed to do so out of obligation. I sometimes thought, Is this really what adventure looks like for a man in the kingdom of God? There must be more to it than this.

If I weren’t a Christian and walked into an American church on a Sunday morning, outside of the Holy Spirit miraculously saving me (which I fully believe he can do), I’m not sure I’d buy into the adventure the church was selling.

Some studies seem to indicate that Christian men and the secular community are no different when it comes to addiction to pornography, adultery, divorce, and substance abuse. Honestly, I’m not really surprised. I think Satan hijacks our God-given desire for adventure and points it toward evil. He knows our hearts want more, and he wants us to find it outside of Christ.

Don’t forget, this is the same deceiver from the Garden of Eden who convinced Adam and Eve they could find adventure outside of God.

Our churches are filled with bored men. Men whose souls long for adventure. Men who desire to take risks, step out in faith, and put themselves in situations where they might fail.

And how do we channel the longing burning in them?

We ask them to pass the communion trays or volunteer to vacuum the sanctuary.

No wonder our guys are searching for adventure through porn, affairs, or video games. Their hearts want more.

Please hear me loud and clear: I am not justifying any man’s choice to follow his desire into sin. I am not excusing his lack of righteousness. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit, God in us, can transform our hearts to live righteous lives for his glory. Rather, I am saying that church leaders (including me!) have done a terrible job of helping men fulfill their longing for adventure through service in the kingdom.

When a man comes to me to confess his addictions or his entanglement with sin, I can’t help but wonder how bored he is. I often see a man who desires to live a life of adventure, but instead of finding it in Jesus, he has turned to lesser things.


At our house, we don’t own any pets—not because we don’t love animals, but because we are renting a home, and our agreement says we aren’t allowed to have animals in the house. My kids constantly ask me to buy them a puppy, and I always remind them that it simply isn’t an option for us right now.

As a compromise, I have channeled my inner Ace Ventura and turned my backyard into a miniature wildlife refuge. I can hardly count all our bird feeders, bird baths, bird houses, squirrel feeders, and much more. I should charge the neighbors admission into my homemade zoo when they come over. If you were to sit down at our kitchen table for a meal, you would most likely see dozens of creatures enjoying their food just outside the sliding glass door.

The other day I was eating lunch in the kitchen when I watched a new squirrel wander into our backyard. And yes, I knew it was a new squirrel because we have identified and named each animal that comes onto our property. I hadn’t seen this little guy before.

He climbed our fence and scrambled along the top. I could tell he had caught a whiff of the many gourmet meals we had set out for the animals to enjoy. He stood on top of the squirrel feeder, which was full of the best squirrel food you can buy, and held his nose high, desperately trying to track the scent of his next meal. I smiled, knowing he was about to enjoy the jackpot beneath his feet.

To my surprise, instead of using the squirrel feeder to enjoy a feast, he simply used it as a step stool to climb off the fence and down into the yard. He cautiously made his way under one of the bird feeders that hung in the tree above. I watched as he spent the next ten minutes scrounging through the leftover birdseed the birds had tossed away. He had no idea a delicious meal had already been set out for him just feet away.

Sometimes I wonder if God watches us scrounge through dirty leftovers when he has prepared a feast for us to enjoy.

God has invited us to join him on the greatest adventure the world has ever known. He is redeeming our shattered hearts, community, and world. And for some reason, he chooses us to be part of that rescue mission.

Try wrapping your head around the God of the entire universe enlisting you to bring chunks of heaven down here to earth. When you do, it’s hard to imagine being bored.

The truth is, though, that we step right over that invitation and make our way down to the yard to pick through the scraps. We settle for crumbs like porn, alcohol, or new toys, knowing full well they won’t satisfy. Our appetite for adventure leads us back to our sin over and over again. Or as the writer of Proverbs says, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

As I sat and watched that squirrel rummage through the leftover birdseed, I felt a little sorry for him. He had no idea what he was missing out on. He was trying to satisfy his appetite with crumbs when I had worked hard to prepare him a feast.

How much more did the Father sacrifice for us to enjoy a feast with him? We were enemies of God, but because of what Christ did on the cross, we are now friends of God. That’s crazy. Christ gave up his life to call us friends and invite us to work with him, yet we choose to find adventure elsewhere.

I know it seems a bit weird to compare our lives with God to a squirrel finding food in my backyard, but I can’t help but wonder how much God’s heart must break to see us scrounging through leftovers to fulfill our appetites when he knows a feast is just feet away.

Rocks and Trees and You and Me

It’s hard to imagine the men of the Bible being bored. I’m sure they had plenty of mundane days, but the overall story of their lives must have been anything but boring.

Abraham was called to pick up his family and move to an unknown land. Later he was told he would have a son when he was a hundred years old—and that son would bless the nations.

God invited Moses to help rescue his people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses watched the seas part, food miraculously appear from heaven, and God show up through a burning bush.

Jesus invited Peter to leave his job and join him in his ministry. Later, Jesus invited him to walk on water with him in the middle of a storm as part of an impromptu faith lesson.

God literally knocked Paul to the ground and invited him to turn from his evil ways. God later used Paul to plant churches around the region and become a major catalyst in the advancement of the early church.

Rest assured, these men were not bored. God used them to play a small role in the redemption of the world, and their lives revolved around that mission.

Several years ago, I discipled a group of boys during their senior year of high school. These boys were studs—athletic, smart, and well-liked by their peers. Every week they came to my house, and we talked about following Jesus in their everyday lives.

I didn’t envy these guys. They faced an insane amount of temptation every day. We all deal with temptation, but it seems the enemy has his own temptation lab experiment on high school campuses around the country. These young men were being hit from every possible direction.

At the end of the year, before they headed off to college, I told them I would take them anywhere in the world they wanted to go. We had spent the entire year together, and I wanted to end it with a memorable experience.

Instead of picking a typical “senior trip” on a tropical island, the boys decided they wanted to serve together. The devastating earthquake in Haiti had occurred earlier that year, and the guys decided they wanted to use their senior trip to serve and encourage the Haitian people. I had never been to Haiti before, but I was committed to finding a way to make this trip happen with them.

We spent the next several months raising funds and planning our trip out of the country. By God’s grace, we gathered all the prayer and financial support needed and made our way to Haiti.

I’ve traveled to dozens of countries around the world, but none like Haiti. It is a beautiful country, but it’s completely devastated by natural disasters and a severely broken economy. As we drove through the streets, our hearts broke with a sense of hopelessness for the people. Witchcraft is extremely popular among the locals, and a heaviness lingered in our souls as we heard about the brokenness and evil around us.

This is not how things were supposed to be, I thought repeatedly during the trip.

And yet amid all the rubble and brokenness, there were small glimmers of hope and redemption. God had not given up on the country of Haiti, and he had not forgotten its people. In this very moment, he is taking what is broken and making it new. And in our short eight-day trip to that little island, we got to join in with him to play a tiny role in that redemptive work. We worked with the locals to build houses, clean streets, pray for people who were hurting, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. God used us in a very small way to bring chunks of heaven here to earth.

At the end of the week, as we gathered to have one final talk before heading home, one thing struck me. Normally, when we’d get together at my house each week, the guys would talk about how hard it was to fight temptation and live righteously. But this week was different. I saw a side of the guys that I hadn’t seen all year. They weren’t thinking about temptations and struggles as they normally would. Instead, they were excited to wake up each morning to see how God might use them for the day. They had the eyes and mindset of missionaries. They prayed together constantly. They saw every interaction as an opportunity to show the love of Christ. They sacrificed for each other and the people they came to serve. Every moment felt exciting as they thought about what God could do next or what he was about to show them.

I wonder if this is how the guys we read about in the Scriptures felt. Of course, they continued to deal with sin and temptation, but I wonder if they also woke up every morning eager to see how God would move around them. I imagine we’d be more likely to avoid the sins that so easily entangle us (see Hebrews 12:1) if we focused on the way God was using us in his redemptive story rather than focusing on avoiding temptation. I wonder if the arguments we have with our wives and kids would diminish if we remembered we were partnering with God in his work to bring a little piece of heaven here to earth.

During that week in Haiti, we were still the same old group of broken and messed-up young dudes we were the week before. Nothing significant had changed—except that we realized we didn’t have to let our sin stop us from being used by God. We finally believed the Holy Spirit could work in us, and despite of us, to bring parts of his kingdom to Haiti. We were excited and found great adventure in partnering with God in his work. And because of that, we seemed to focus less on our little worlds and our personal sins and more on the bigger story that was happening around us.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of life that I forget the amazing work God has been doing since that famous day back in the garden. From the very first pages of Scripture, God has been working to turn things back to the way they were supposed to be. He knows what the world was like when it wasn’t broken, when our hearts weren’t broken, when our relationships with him and each other weren’t broken… and he won’t stop until all things are made new again (see Revelation 21:4).

The crazy part to me, though, is that he doesn’t just do that work by himself. He invites us to tag along.

Sometimes when I’m fixing something around the house, I’ll invite Elijah to help me out. I don’t invite him to help me because he is a master carpenter or because he has freakish handyman skills for a seven-year-old. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He still doesn’t know how to properly use a hammer, and I have to keep reminding him which way to turn the screwdriver. One time he almost chopped off my hand with a chop saw.

I could do things faster and better if I did the work on my own. But I wouldn’t trade our partnership for the world. I want nothing more than for him to work alongside me.

I’m confident God could fix this whole world by himself. He could use the rocks and the trees to redeem mankind. For some reason, though, he invites us to tag along, even if it means we might accidentally chop his hand off (or like Peter, chop someone’s ear off     ). We tend to get in the way and make a mess of things. But God doesn’t kick us off to the side—he continues to let us join him in his adventurous rescue project.

Partnering with God to see lives changed is way more thrilling than fantasy football, a new Jet Ski, or getting drunk with your friends. He wants you to join him in a much more exciting adventure.

Don’t get distracted by the leftovers on the lawn when God has prepared a feast just a few feet away.

Tailgate Prayers

What if you were like the guys of the Bible or the high school guys I took to Haiti? What if you saw yourself as a missionary? How would life change for you with this perspective?

There was a time in our marriage when Leila and I worked especially hard to live like missionaries in our neighborhood. I kept thinking, If we really do serve the God of creation, who is always actively pursuing the world, then we should be constantly seeing him work around us. I figured that if I wasn’t seeing God working, the problem was not that God was idle but that I simply wasn’t seeing what he was doing. So we committed to living our lives as missionaries and looking for ways to see God in every situation.

During this season, we happened to be moving from our little apartment into a new house. I got lazy and was looking for every possible way to not have to carry the heavy furniture down three flights of stairs. One item in particular, our bed frame, had been haunting me all week. It was a beast, made of solid wood, and weighed more than I could imagine. I seriously considered setting it on fire so I wouldn’t have to carry it down the stairs.

Instead, I convinced Leila that we needed a new bed frame and that this was the perfect time to sell our old one. (Let someone else lug it out of our apartment!) The Spirit must have been working in her heart, because she agreed that now would be a great time to get rid of the bed frame. Without hesitating, I immediately pulled out my phone, snapped some photos, listed it on Craigslist, and began disassembling it.

The next day I got a call from a guy saying he’d like to come pick up the frame. In my mind, it was a win-win. He’d carry it down the stairs, and I’d make a little extra cash. To my great disappointment, he showed up alone and needed help loading the bed frame into his truck. As we stood in my nearly empty bedroom, I took a few minutes to show him how to reassemble the frame.

As I talked about the nuts and bolts, I felt God speak to my Spirit. I rarely make statements like that because I feel that such language is often overused and abused in the church. But I knew for sure that this thought was not my own. I had been praying with Leila all week about us living as missionaries and looking for ways to see God move around us, and I was confident he was answering our prayers at that moment.

Give him the bed frame. That thought went through my mind over and over.

I don’t want to give him the bed frame. I want the cash so I can buy a new bed frame for Leila and me, I argued in my head.

Give him the bed frame for free.

I was having what felt like a bipolar meltdown in the middle of my Craigslist transaction.

Finally, I relented.

“Hey, man, I’d like to just give you this bed frame,” I said out loud as my heart nearly pounded out of my chest.

“What?” the guy said.

“Yeah, dude, I just feel like I need to give you this bed frame. I think we’ve been blessed so we can be a blessing.”

I could tell that last sentence totally confused him.

“Are you serious?” he responded.

“Yep. It’d be a joy for me to give this to you. I’ll help you load it up.”

I couldn’t believe what I was saying. This was the worst-case scenario. Not only was I not going to make any extra cash, but now I was about to do exactly what I was trying to avoid—carry the stupid bed frame down three flights of stairs.

All my plans were being ruined. But apparently I wasn’t the only one with a plan that night.

As we picked up the bed frame and made our way down the stairs, the man stopped and looked at me.

“My wife just served me with divorce papers and kicked me out of the house. I needed a new bed frame because I don’t have any furniture or a place to sleep. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re just giving it to me like this.”

My heart sank, and I fought back tears.

“Bro, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.”

“Yeah, man… I have three little girls too. I’m a wreck. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

We made our way to the bottom of the stairs and loaded the frame into his truck. God had clearly invited me into something big here, and I didn’t want to miss out on what he was doing.

“Hey, man, I know this seems a little weird, but would it be cool if I prayed with you?”

“That would seriously mean the world to me,” he responded.

We sat on the tailgate of his truck as I pleaded to God to restore their marriage. I asked God to protect his heart from bitterness and his little girls’ hearts from overwhelming pain. We finished praying, hopped off the back of the truck, and gave each other a hug after exchanging phone numbers.

As he drove away that night, I couldn’t help but think about the opportunity I would have missed had I not listened to God’s prompting of my heart. The truth is, God was already pursuing that guy, and he could have used anyone to join in. But by his grace, he invited me into that moment. The work was going to get done no matter what, but I got the chance to see it with my own eyes.

The experience lit a fire in me. I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I kept thinking about all the little pieces that had to come together for that moment to happen. It amazed me to think that God had been orchestrating all the details while I simply thought I was trying to avoid moving a bed frame down a few flights of stairs.

I went to bed excited, eager to wake up the next day to see what God would invite me into next.

The next several weeks were amazing. As I woke up every day with the mindset of a missionary, I looked for ways God could use me to bring his kingdom to earth. I had more intentional conversations about Jesus than I’d had in years. I made new friends, saw broken relationships restored, fell more in love with my wife, and felt more excitement as a follower of Jesus than I had ever felt.

But do you know what happened next? Eventually I started to believe the lie that adventure can be found elsewhere. I became convinced there were more exciting things to chase after than life on a mission with Jesus. In many ways, I got comfortable. It takes a lot of faith to live as a missionary. You have to step into conversations you wouldn’t normally step into. You talk with more strangers. And sometimes God even asks you to give stuff away.

Eventually, I stopped wanting to have those conversations with random people at the grocery store. I didn’t want to step into potentially hard or awkward conversations anymore. And I became convinced it was better to keep my stuff than to give it away.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant in Mark 8:34: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Maybe taking up my cross had less to do with me dying physically and more to do with me dying to my comforts. Maybe it meant me dying to the lies I was believing about what would satisfy my soul.

Terrible Gods

Even as I sit in my living room and write this chapter, I am conflicted. I’m writing this book on an expensive laptop that I purchased in hopes that it would bring me more joy. On my left hand is an Apple Watch that I was convinced would bring me happiness. I’m pausing to look up around my living room and see all the things I have spent my money on, desperately hoping to find some contentment.

I can tell you now that those things suck at being God.

Nothing in this home has satisfied my soul like Jesus can. Nothing is quite as exhilarating and rewarding as stepping out in faith with the God of the universe and going to work for the sake of his kingdom.

Why do we chase such dumb and trivial things? I want to get back to the place where I am waking up every morning excited to see God work and courageous enough to step out in faith when he invites me in.

Back to the Table

My original plan to end this chapter was to challenge you to see yourself more like a missionary. But I think I would be purposely avoiding what the Spirit is trying to do inside me if I didn’t lump myself into that challenge.

Brother, will you join me in ditching the leftover birdseed on the ground and sitting at the table with the King?

Maybe that squirrel in my backyard felt safer rummaging through leftover birdseed on the ground. Maybe it was too dangerous or he felt too vulnerable to enjoy the feast I had left for him by the fence. But in his hunt for safety and comfort, he missed out on the best.

I don’t want our families to miss out on the best with Jesus because we’re chasing after comfort and safety. I don’t want my kids to see their dad pursuing adventure in things that have no eternal value.

What if instead of playing it safe, you saw your family as a mission team sent by God into the neighborhood where you live? God has given your family unique qualities and characteristics. You can choose to hoard them for yourself, or you can step out in faith and be salt and light where God has placed you. In doing so, you will likely fall into conversations with your neighbors when it would be easier to shut the garage door. It might require you to spend more money on food so you can feed a widow or a struggling student. It might mean buying an extra bike so the neighborhood kids can play at your house.

Believe me, living as a missionary isn’t easy. It requires a lot of sacrifice when it comes to your time, your money, and your comfort. It would be much easier to take the more comfortable route. But I can assure you, the comfortable route will not satisfy the longing for adventure that God has placed deep within your soul.

Your soul doesn’t want more football, more porn, more money, or more toys. Your soul wants Jesus. You are hardwired, deep within your very being, to search for what is right. Your spirit recognizes when something isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, and it won’t be settled until it is.

Get off the ground and come to the table. There is a feast here. Find the adventure your soul is longing for by working with God as he restores your broken neighborhood. Foster or adopt a child. Invite a coworker’s family over for dinner. Have the neighborhood kids over for a movie night. Take your family to serve in a local charity—or in an orphanage halfway around the world. Move. Give up your stuff. Give up your time and comfort. God is moving all around you, and he is already at work. Ditch the worldly adventures you’ve been chasing after and lead your family toward the adventures of God.

[1]This still brings back terrible memories of my rope-swing-in-the-tree days.

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Excerpted from Dad Tired. Copyright © 2019 by Jerrad Lopes. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408. www.harvesthousepublishers.comUsed by Permission.