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An Anchor for the Storm-Tossed Family

Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”

But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.

You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed FamilyPublished by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.

Family as Problem, and Family as Solution

Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.

storm-tossed family

“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.

God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”

Family as Spiritual Warfare

Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.

How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.

Living Crucified Lives

A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.

How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.

1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.

2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed.  As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.

3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.

God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.

The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.

Core Issues

I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.

This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)

The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.

Let me share some great statements from several chapters.

From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:

“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)

“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)

“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)

“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)

storm-tossed family

“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)

From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:

Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)

A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)

“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)

“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)

We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)

From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:

“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)

“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)

“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)

From “The Road To and From Divorce”:

“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)

“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)

“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)

Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175).  These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.

Cherish the Blessings

Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.

The book concludes with strong encouragement:

Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)

Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.

Your Marriage has a Legacy

Forty-seven years of marriage can provide a wealth of knowledge and insight, especially when that marriage has been built on biblical principles. Drawing from that rich experience, Crawford and Karen Loritts have written a new book entitled, Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. The book emphasizes creating marriages that are so strong today that they give endurance to marriages tomorrow, in the next generation and beyond.

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Seeing the Big Picture

Your Marriage Today focuses on the underlying principles of a successful marriage. Crawford acknowledges that he is the “big picture” person in his marriage while his wife is better at the details. Although the book is co-authored by both Crawford and Karen, it is written in Crawford’s conversational voice, and the material reflects his “big picture” perspective.

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The instruction and insights which the Loritts share are excellent. Their advice is solidly biblical, full of wisdom, and honoring to both husbands and wives. I think readers will be encouraged to see how God has beautifully “knit together” a man and woman from very different backgrounds.

Creating Your Legacy

Crawford and Karen are aware that each marriage leaves a legacy, one that can be painfully destructive or wonderfully life-giving. The Loritts challenge us to think beyond our present moment of busyness. They caution us to be mindful of the long-term consequences of our marital behavior. Through the choices we make in our marriages, we create a profound impact in the lives of those around us and those who follow us.

How we need this counsel!

In our culture, marriages are sometimes trashed and replaced as if they were temporary jobs, subject to our personal whims, instead of high callings that God has placed on our lives. Marriage is God-ordained, designed to be God-reflecting and gospel-illustrating. Before we start working out the details of our marriages, we all need to consider the important legacy we are shaping.

Whether our marriages last or not, our legacies will.

When Your Spouse Isn’t Working with You

In this book, the Loritts address the husband and wife who are working together to strengthen their relationship. But what if your spouse is not working with you? What if your spouse is not helping to create a legacy of blessing?

Don’t be discouraged! You can still give your children (and a watching world) a fantastic legacy.

Even when your marriage isn’t healthy, you can be healthy as a spouse, leaning on God to meet your every need. You can give your children the legacy of a promise-keeping parent. When you honor your vows, you give others hope and even confidence that there is a promise-keeping, trustworthy God.

You give your family a wonderful legacy when you model trusting God despite difficult circumstances. What is more valuable than that? You can be living proof that God Himself is the Giver of life and joy.

You can teach your children how to handle disappointments by handing those hurts to God and allowing Him to turn ashes into beauty. What a rich legacy that is! Perhaps most importantly, you can demonstrate how to forgive. That priceless gift will bless your children and their children for the rest of their lives.

Feeding Your Marriage

The Loritts paint a broad picture of the forest, but they do not ignore the trees. They do include some practical advice for the day-by-day work of strengthening marriages. For example, they encourage us to “feed” our marriages by “making consistent, heart-nourishing deposits” in the lives of our spouses (58).  They list six specific ways to do that:

  1. Regularly read the Bible as a couple.
  2. Pray together every day.
  3. Lighten each other’s load.
  4. Identify what refreshes your spouse.
  5. Serve together.
  6. Spend regular, uninterrupted time together. … Carve out some time each evening to touch base with each other. Schedule two or three weekends a year to get away as a couple to talk and connect on a deeper level. (59)

That is an excellent list! How many of these habits do you have?

I encourage you to choose one and start practicing it this eveningIt will bless you “today … and tomorrow.”

Book Giveaway

Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. If you would like to enter the drawing to receive this book, simply leave a comment HERE by July 23. I will notify the winner on July 24, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.

Blessings to you!
Tami

(This article first appeared on MannaForMarriage.com.)


			

Spring Celebrations: Passover and Easter

Happy Spring!

spring

Soon, we will be celebrating the most important events in human history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first event rescues us from unending death, unrelieved aloneness, and the utter loss of every good thing.  The second event gives us friendship-filled, bursting-with-beauty Life forever.

And the brilliant spotlight in both events is on Jesus Christ, the One who rescues with power and who loves lavishly. He is the One True Living God, full of glory and goodness. We have much to celebrate!

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It has been a rich blessing in my family to celebrate Passover and Resurrection Sunday.  If you have not enjoyed Passover at your home or with your church before, here are some simple ways to do that with preschoolers, children, or adults. (This material comes from Simple Celebrations.)

Celebrating Passover

What it is:

Passover is a rich, multilayered celebration. On the first Passover,  the blood from a flawless lamb protected God’s people from death.

Fifteen hundred years later, the symbols of the Passover supper became reality as  the flawless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shed His blood on a cross to rescue us from spiritual death . And today,  every follower of Christ can experience a personal Passover, as we are rescued from spiritual slavery to enjoy friendship with God.

Passover celebrates the fact that spiritual death passes over us, not touching us, as we commit to following Christ as Lord.

How to prepare: 

  1. Set a festive, colorful table. You may want to include two long taper candles.
  1. Set a glass of grape juice at each place.3. Place the following on each plate:
    • a parsley stalk
    • a piece of onion, or a bite of horseradish
    • a small serving of haroset (Combine applesauce, walnuts, and cinnamon—or use chunky applesauce, if your group has a nut allergy. The idea is create something that resembles mortar and which reminds us of the Hebrew slaves’ brickmaking.)
    • a small bowl of salt water (It is not necessary for each person to have a bowl if people can share.)
    • a sheet (or piece) of matzoh (or plain cracker)
    • a bite of cooked lamb (I fry lamb chops.)
  1. If you are using a Haggadah (a program) with your group, make a copy for each person, and put a copy at each place. Click here for a PDF of a Christian Passover program.

You will need someone to be the leader, who will read most of the program. You may assign the shorter sections to others in your group–however you like. There are 23 reading sections. (Blank lines are provided so that you can write in the reader’s name at each numbered section.) The leader reads each section that is not otherwise assigned.

How to celebrate with preschoolers:

I like to begin by saying this: “I know that you have eaten a meal before. And I know that you have listened to a story before. But today, we are going to EAT A STORY!” 

In a way appropriate for your children, tell the story of the Exodus. When you talk about making bricks, eat the haroset, which reminds us of the mortar used in building.

As you tell about the suffering of the slaves, dip the parsley into the salt water, and then have the children taste or eat it. Explain that this reminds us of tears because the Hebrew people were very sad.

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Have the children eat (or simply smell) the green onion, explaining that this, too, reminds us that the Hebrew slaves were sad because of the cruel things that Pharaoh did to them. Explain that we also are sad if we don’t know God and if we don’t know that He loves us.

Explain that God sent Moses to rescue the Hebrew slaves. Moses told the people what to do, and God helped them to escape from Pharaoh.

Let the children taste the lamb. Explain that everyone who belonged to God had a Passover lamb, and God took good care of everyone with a Passover lamb because they were His people.  We belong to God, and we have a Passover Lamb, too, because Jesus is like a Passover Lamb for us. God takes good care of us because we belong to Him.

Show the children the “flat bread,” the matzoh. Explain that when God rescued the Hebrew slaves, they had to leave Egypt so quickly that they could not wait for their bread to rise; they had to eat flat bread. As the children eat the matzoh, express gratitude to God for helping us because He loves us.

Explain that grape juice reminds us that God loves us so much that He would die for us! Say, “This juice is red (or purple), just like a valentine. This juice is like a valentine from God because it reminds us that God loves us very much.”

Conclude with a short prayer, thanking God that He loves us very much, that we can belong to Him, and that He helps us because He loves us.

Celebrating Easter

In Marriage

As we reflect on the Scriptures concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, we can learn valuable truths for our marriages:

With Children

With my children were younger, we enjoyed making Resurrection Cookies. This is a creative and fun way to talk about the Easter events as you make cookies together. Click HERE for a Family Life PDF of the recipe and instructions.

May God bless you with much joy as you celebrate His lavish love!

How to Avoid “Divorce Month”

(The following article was written by Mike McManus, syndicated columnist and president of Marriage Savers.  I appreciate Mike’s fantastic work on behalf of marriages , and I am grateful for his permission to share this column, which first appeared on December 14, 2016, on EthicsAndReligion.com.)

divorce

January is the worst “Divorce Month” of the year.  No one wants to file over Christmas.  They want the kids to have a happy time.

Will the children feel better about the divorce in January?  Of course not.

Divorce is the worst event in any child’s life – or that of most adults, for that matter.  Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, experienced their divorce as a boy and wrote about it in his book, Twice Adopted:

“Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child – the child’s house, family, security and a sense of being loved and protected – and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess.”

Yet half of all marriages in America end in divorce. Children of divorce are three times more likely to be expelled from school or to have a baby as a teenager as are children from intact homes; are five times more apt to live in poverty, six times more likely to commit suicide, and 12 times more apt to be incarcerated, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Those who marry a second time have a 70% chance of a second divorce.

Therefore, couples with troubled marriages ought to consider five different strategies to restore their marriage for themselves and their children.

1.      Marriage Encounter is a weekend retreat that is so powerful, that if every married couple attended it, America’s divorce rate would plunge.  My wife and I attended in 1976 and fell back in love that weekend. It was life-changing.  Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, reported: “Marriage Encounter gave Shirley and me the opportunity to occasion the deepest, most intimate exchange of feelings we had known in 20 yearsof marriage.” About half of couples attending Marriage Encounter had marriages they described as “average” or “unhappy.”  Yet one study reported that nine in ten couples gave the weekend high marks.  It is not designed for a marriage in deep crisis. (See the Retrouvaille weekend described below.) But it will give virtually all ho-hum to mildly troubled marriages a big booster shot. About 4 million couples have attended over the past five decades.  For more information about one near you go to www.wwme.org.

2.      Couple mentoring.  If there’s been adultery which seems like an unforgiveable sin, ask a pastor if he knows a church couple who survived infidelity.  Odds are, he does.  The survivors can say, “This is what we did to restore trust.”  That’s exactly what Couple B needs to hear – not expensive counseling.

3.      Retrouvaille is a weekend retreat led by three couples whose marriages nearly failed.  They tell their stories of recovery and are walking parables of hope.  After a talk, they put the men in one room, women in another, and ask them to write for ten minutes on an assigned topic, such as: “What do I have difficulty talking to you about?”  Couples then meet privately, read what each other wrote, and talk.  They return to hear another Lead Couple tell their story, and write to each other on another topic. By Sunday afternoon, couples’ arms are typically around each other.  Over 150,000 couples have attended Retrouvaille, and four of five couples save their marriage! Go to www.retrouvaille.org, look for your state and see when one is scheduled.

4.      Stepfamilies normally divorce at a 70% rate.  A child says, “I don’t want a new Mom,” and can make her life so miserable, she leaves.  The answer is to create a Stepfamily Support Group, where couples learn from each other how to make these marriages work.  It works so well 80% are successful.  For a kit to create one, call me:  301 978-7105.

5.      Reconciliation is possible even if one spouse insists on a divorce.  Four out of five spouses want to save their marriage, and Marriage 911 is a 12-week workbook course that committed spouses take to win back their mate.  It is taken with a friend of the same gender.  There is a Support Partner Handbook for the friend to know what questions to ask. It is designed to help the committed spouse grow so much, the unhappy partner is won back.  Of 50,000 couples who have taken Marriage 911, about half are able to reconcile. The materials cost only $28.  Call me to order: 301 978-7105.

These are all much better options than a divorce in January.

_______
Copyright © 2016 by Michael J. McManus

Give the Blessing: Change a Life

Earlier this month, Gary Smalley crossed the finish line and entered heaven. I was one of the many who were blessed by his writing and speaking.  As he ran the race that God had marked out for him, Gary shared some wonderful truths that he was learning along the way.

Be a Blessing!

Gary Smalley wrote sixteen award-winning books, selling over five million copies. One of those best-sellers was The Blessing, co-authored with John Trent. The Blessing explains how we can give a powerful blessing to our children, our spouses, our parents, and our friends.

Bless Your Children

Parents can give their children a life-changing blessing. In Biblical times, this blessing was a important, well-understood part of  family life.

Do you remember the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau as they battled for their father’s blessing? The Genesis account is dramatic and heart-wrenching.

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In our culture today, we are not familiar with the concept of blessing, but it is just as important as ever. If we do not receive a blessing from our parents, that sense of loss can plague us our entire lives.

Our desire for the approval and affirmation of our parents is a strong, innate longing. It is critically important to learn how to give this great treasure to our children.

blessing

There are five elements of the blessing:

  1. meaningful touch

  2. a spoken message of love and acceptance

  3. attaching “high value” to the person being blessed

  4. picturing a special future for that person

  5. an active commitment to fulfill the blessing[i]

Bless Your Spouse

Giving a blessing to our spouses will also make a profound difference in our marriages.couple

  1. We can touch in ways that convey concern, affection, and encouragement.
  2. Every day, we can speak words of admiration, gratitude, and appreciation.
  3. We can choose to attach high value to our spouses, and we can be deliberate in expressing that high value to them.

In Hebrew, to “bow the knee” is the root meaning of blessing. … Bowing before someone is a graphic picture of valuing that person. … Anytime we bless someone, we are attaching high value to him or her. [ii]

  1. We can picture a future for our spouses that is full of hope, growth, success, and joy.
  2. We can express active commitment to our spouses. This is the “glue” that holds the blessing together.

In fact, this final element of the blessing is at the heart of “cleaving” in a marriage. When the Scriptures tell us to “cleave to our spouse” (Gen. 2:24), the root word in Hebrew means “to cling, to be firmly attached.”[iii]

touch

Bless Your Friends

You can bless your friends with these same five elements. The fantastic friendship of David and Jonathan provides a great model. If you review their story, you will see how they gave each element of blessing to one another. (See 1 Samuel 18 and 20.)

And Be Blessed!

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.”[iv]

If you are God’s child and His friend, He will give you His blessing, which is the richest of all blessings.

  1. You can feel His touch through His Spirit within you. God says that He holds your hand. (Isaiah 41:13)
  2. You can hear His words of love through the Scripture. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  3. You can be amazed by the high value which He attaches to you. (Genesis 1:27, Deuteronomy 7:6, Psalm 147:11, Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:4, Isaiah 49:15-16, Zechariah 2:8, Romans 8:32, Ephesians 1:3-5)
  4. You can look forward to the glorious future that He has planned for you. (Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 1:6, Revelation 21:4)
  5. You can rest in His active, loyal commitment to you. (Deuteronomy 41:8, Psalm 136, Psalm 94:14)

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We are going through The Red Sea Rules on our weekly prayer call, held every Thursday. You are invited to pray with us!  You can join us HERE. You can also listen to past recordings HERE.

May God bless you and your home with His life-giving power as you celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend!

Blessings to you,
Tami

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[i] p. 25. Thomas Nelson, 1986.

[ii] p. 67

[iii] p. 177

[iv] Proverbs 11:25, MSG

You are invited …

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You are invited to join us as we “fight on our knees” every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern time).  Join us either by phone or online as we pray for marriages and families. The call lasts only 15 minutes.

Our marriages and families are protected and strengthened through prayer. When damaged, they are repaired through prayer. Even when relationships are completely destroyed, they can be rebuilt through prayer. Keep praying!

To join us by phone, simply  call 1-323-920-0091. When prompted, enter the access code 022 5211.

(Callers are in “listen-only” mode, so you need not worry about being put “on the air” or about having background noise around you.)

To join us online as we pray, click HERE.

We gain strength and encouragement as we pray together. Join us!

 

How to Fight on Your Knees

I am trying something new today.

I would like to share with you a presentation called “Battle Strategies in Prayer: How to Fight on Your Knees.” In this slide-show, I discuss several aspects of effective prayer. These are spiritual principles that we can learn from Old Testament battle accounts.

May God bless you as you join Him in fighting for your marriages and families.

Tami

 

 

[Photo from swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/february2012p4.htm]