Worship Resource: Wonderful Words of Life

Christ the Word of Life by Michael D. O’Brien

Thank you to Nicole Sallee for allowing me to post her beautiful worship resource celebrating God’s Word. The compilation includes three scriptures nestled between verses of Philip P. Bliss’s classic hymn Wonderful Words of Life (United Methodist Hymnal #600). It concludes with an original prayer by Nicole. Consider using it to begin your next traditional worship service. – Lisa <><

Wonderful Words of Life Canticle
ALL SINGING:
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life

ONE SPEAKING: Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

ALL SINGING:
Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life
Let me more of their beauty see
Wonderful words of life
Words of life and beauty
Teach me faith and duty
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life

ONE SPEAKING: Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

ALL SINGING:
Christ, the blessed one gives to all
Wonderful words of life
Sinner, list to the loving call
Wonderful words of life
All so freely given
Wooing us to heaven
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life

ONE SPEAKING: John 14:26-27 (NIV)
Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things
and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

ALL SINGING:
Sweetly echo the gospel call
Wonderful words of life
Offer pardon and peace to all
Wonderful words of life
Jesus, only Savior
Sanctify forever
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words
Wonderful words of life

ALL PRAYING:
Word of God,
Speak into our hearts your wonderful words
as we practice listening to You. Amen.

************

compilation © 2011 Nicole Sallee
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Nicole for information and permission to publish this compilation in any form. For more information on the scripture translation, hymns, prayers and art used in this work, please refer to the copyright information page. http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?page_id=1529

Whisper Day 15: Think on These Things

Horse Stampede, photo by Hugh Beebower

Day 14 of the Whisper Reading Plan is set aside for worship and rest.

The Power of a Whisper
Reading Plan

Day 15 Reading:
Philippians 2:5-11; 4:4-9

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:7-8

Observation
A main theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is developing the mind of Christ. In his book The Power of a Whisper, Bill Hybels describes this process as corralling our thoughts and conforming them to Christ’s. This imagery drew me to picture of my thoughts as wild, beautiful, volatile and powerful horses. As a follower of Christ, I allow them to be brought into his corral for training and protection. (a safe place for my heart and my mind- v. 7) After some time, my thoughts begin to work together, to move in the same direction under the leadership of Christ. Their power is disciplined in the best sense of that word. They are harnessed for a greater good.

The list in Philippians 4:8 serves as the fence posts of the corral. The first four – true, honorable, just, pure – are Christ-like character traits I desire to cultivate. The last four – pleasing, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise – are the types of people I look to as role models to inspire me and challenge me to greater faith.

Application
I sense God calling me to find some role models who are living this list. It will be challenging since so much of the media is now devoted to following the lives of people making foolish choices- wasting money and opportunity, misplaced priorities, destructive habits and relationships, etc.

I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book,
the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.
– John Wesley

Prayer
Lord Jesus, Savior and Sanctifier, lead me to those who live your list. Persons of honor and excellence and truth. Inspire me with their faith and servant hearts. Make the changes needed in me so I too might inspire others to greater good and faith in you. Thank you for the promise of new life in you. Thank you for being the safe place for my heart and mind, the place of deep healing and wholeness. Thank you for the chance to be a part of a greater good. In Your Name I trust and pray. Amen.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 13: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder by Albert Houthuesen

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 13 Reading: Genesis 28:10-22

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”- Genesis 28:16 (NRSV)

Observation
Jacob is on the run, the result of selfish choices. He’s tricked his father Isaac and his twin brother Esau, stealing both his firstborn birthright and blessing. Esau is ready to kill him, so Jacob literally flees for his life. God reaches out to Jacob in the midst of his ambition, deceit and self-centeredness. God isn’t a part of Jacob’s plan, but Jacob is a part of God’s plan.

God surprises this exhausted and isolated young man in the middle of the wilderness in the middle of the night. In a dream, God recognizes Jacob as the heir to the covenant, promising to fulfill the all the promises made to Abraham through Jacob and his descendants. Jacob is awestruck. He responds by setting up a pillar of reverence and making his own vows.

As Jacob with Travel was Weary One Day
traditional, English Carol (ca. 18th century)

As Jacob with travel was weary one day,
at night on a stone for a pillow he lay;
he saw in a vision a ladder so high,
that its foot was on earth and its top in the sky:
Refrain: Alleluia to Jesus, who died on the tree
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me,
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me.

The ladder is long, it is strong and well-made,
has stood hundreds of years and is not yet decayed;
many millions have climbed it and reached Zion’s hill,
many millions by faith now are climbing it still. Refrain

Come, let us ascend! All may climb it who will,
for the angels of Jacob are guarding it still;
and remember, each step that by faith we pass o’er,
many prophets and martyrs have trod it before. Refrain

And when we arrive at the haven of rest,
we shall hear the glad words, “Come to me all the blest,
here are regions of light, here are mansions of bliss.”
Who would not want to climb such a ladder as this. Refrain

Application
God reaches out to us, even though we are far from expecting it and far from being worthy of it.

Jeremiah 29:11
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Prayer
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
God of me
Your grace is deep and surprising
Your mercy is awesome to discover
Thank you for reaching out to me even in my most selfish moments
Thank you for reaching out to me when I choose sin and foolishness
Thank you for reaching out to me when my actions put me in danger
and when they result in broken relationships with you and others
Forgive me and set me aright
Mend my ways
Help me to forgive myself so that I can move forward with you
Bless you
Thank you
Amen

Day 14 of the Whisper Reading Plan is set aside for worship and rest.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 12: Moses and the Burning Bush

Moses and the Burning Bus by Ernst Fuchs

The Power of a Whisper
Reading Plan
Day 12 Reading:
Exodus 3:1-4:18

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
But Moses said to God,
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”- Exodus 3:11 (NRSV)

Observation
God calls Moses to lead the people of God out of slavery in Egypt. It is a loooooooooog and involved conversation.

  1. God gets Moses’ attention with the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-3)
  2. God calls Moses by name (Exodus 3:4)
  3. God’s identity and the sacredness of the conversation are established with references to holy ground and the covenant (Exodus 3:5-6)
  4. God reveals the misery of the slaves to Moses and calls him to tell Pharaoh to free them.  Moses makes excuse #1 – Who am I to do this? (Exodus 3:7-11)
  5. God assures Moses of God’s presence and gives Moses the next part of the plan- the people will worship God in the wilderness. Moses makes excuse #2- What if the people question me about you? (Exodus 3:12-13)
  6. God reveals the name “I AM” to Moses and instructs him to take the elders with him when he speaks with Pharaoh. God then reveals more of the plan to Moses, explaining how Pharaoh will deny the slaves their freedom but God will move in powerful ways to make it happen anyway. The slaves will not only leave Egypt but will leave with great riches. Moses makes excuse #3- What if they don’t listen to me? (Exodus 3:14-4:1)
  7. God provides Moses with three powerful signs- a rod that can turn into a snake, a coat that can turn skin leprous and then clean again, the ability to turn water
    to blood. Moses makes excuse #4- I don’t speak well. (Exodus 4:2-10)
  8. God promises to supply Moses with the words he needs to fulfill the call. Moses pleads with God to send someone else. (Exodus 4:11-13)
  9. God provides Aaron to speak for Moses. Moses accepts the call. (Exodus 4:14-18)

All great religious traditions recognize that the deepest desire of the human heart is for freedom from inner oppression. We feel “conditioned”: bound by the chains of our habits and compulsions, our likes and dislikes, our fears and guilt, our inability to love. Our great tragedy is that we so often mistake these habits and compulsions for our true self. Perhaps most of us operate on the assumption that this conditioned, unfree self is all there is, all we can ever be, and we fear that without it we could not exist at all. We are unable, therefore, to stop protecting ourselves at all cost. This fear, however, is an illusion and we need to be freed from it. -Irma Zaleski, The Way of Repentence

Application
Moses seems as much a slave to his fears as the people are to Pharaoh. Moses makes excuse after excuse after excuse to avoid God’s call to action, but eventually agrees.

Is this all a waste of time? God grows irritated with Moses’ excuses (check out Exodus 4:14), yet uses Moses’ hesitation to good ends. Ultimately, Moses is better prepared to face Pharaoh and the questioning of his own people.

Romans 8:28 (NRSV)
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

Some people follow God quickly, others eventually get around to it like Moses and Jonah, while others refuse the call completely. How often do I delay and debate or just walk away from a clear calling from God?

Prayer
Praise the One, True Living God
Holy, Holy, Holy
Covenant Keeper
Liberating Flame, burning away our chains
Empowering Flame, burning away our excuses

Praise our Rescuer, the Compassionate
Who draws near and hears our cries,
pleas of desperation and deliverance
alongside pleas to send someone else

Praise the Great I AM,
The Redeemer who brings
good out of evil
salvation out of slavery
answers out of questions
preparation out of hesitation
certainty out of maybe
yes out of no

Praise the Lord!

***********
Click Here, for a powerful reflection and prayer by Jan Richardson entitled Blessing at the Burning Bush

Click Here, for another striking reflection/poem based on the burning bush passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The One Who Hears

For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For
more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 11: God at Work in Me


The Power of a Whisper
Reading Plan

Day 11 Reading: Philippians 2

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

Observation
In this letter, Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to be of one mind, to be unified with God and one another in the way they think, live, love and serve. The one mind they are to cultivate is the mind as Christ, the mind of a true servant of God. Having Christ’s mindset results in a life which:

  • looks to the interests of others, no selfish ambition (v. 3-4)
  • is humble and reverent before God (v. 5-8.)
  • freely chooses to obey God, even to the point of self sacrifice (v. 5-8.)
  • is empowered and blessed by God (v. 9-13)
  • is joyfully obedient to the purposes of God (v. 14)
  • shines as a testimony to God, offering the world a new way of living (v. 15-16)
  • is faithful and steadfast, even though surrounded by corruption (v. 15-16)

I claim to be an average man of less than average ability…. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith. – Mahatma Gandhi

Be not afraid of greatness:
some are born great,
some achieve greatness,
and some have greatness thrust upon them.
– William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (Quote Act II, Scene V)

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. -Maya Angelou

When he was challenged by Jesus to accept a life of voluntary poverty, the rich young man knew he was faced with the simple alternative of obedience or disobedience. When Levi was called from the receipt of custom or Peter from his nets, there was no doubt that Jesus meant business. Both of them were to leave everything and follow. Again, when Peter was called to walk on the rolling sea, he had to get up and risk his life. Only one thing was required in each case — to rely on Christ’s word, and cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities in the world. The forces which tried to interpose themselves between the word of Jesus and the response of obedience were as formidable then as they are to-day. Reason and conscience, responsibility and piety all stood in the way, and even the law and ‘scriptural authority’ itself were obstacles which pretended to defend them from going to the extremes of antinomianism and ‘enthusiasms.’ But the call of Jesus made short work of all these barriers . . .
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Application
This passage reminds me of two pitfalls to faith. One is to think about faith in terms of what’s in it for me. I evaluate a congregation or ministry opportunity like I would a local business. (aka customer satisfaction) The true goal of a Christian is far different. The Holy Spirit of God is at work in me to will and to work for God’s good pleasure. Sometimes that will align with my pleasure and sometimes it will not.

As a Christian, I make a commitment to Christ- to a worldview, value system, and God beyond my own creating.  This more faithful mindset reminds me of a line I often heard on the TV show The West Wing, “I serve at the pleasure of the President.” As a Christian, I bring all I have to serve at the pleasure of God Almighty- whatever that might entail.

The other pitfall to faith is to compare myself to others when evaluating my spiritual life. I’m doing better than Susie so I must be ok. This passage reminds me to only compare myself with Christ. My goal is to become more Christ-like, to develop the mind of Christ within me, not Susie’s or anyone else’s.

Unity comes when believers all focus on being Christ-like. We are called by God to come together to “shine like stars in the world,” lighting the way to God. Those yet to believe will know we are Christians by our unity, our common mindset, and will want to have what we have found.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, you are at work in me. You empower me with the desire to follow God’s will. You strengthen me to carry it out. You correct me when I stray. You do this for others as well. Coninue to reveal to us the mind of Christ. Fill us with his wisdom, purity, and humility. Fill us with his courage, focus, and sacrifical service. Draw us together to will and to work for God’s good pleasure. Draw us together to shine, so others might be drawn to Christ as well. In his name we trust and pray, Amen.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: Compassion

Shinsetsu (Kindness): Japanese Art by Soniei

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference.
He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.
–Norman Cousins

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. – Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Luke 7:12-13 (NRSV)
As Jesus approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone. -Miller Williams

The human capacity to care for others isn’t something trivial or something to be taken for granted. Rather, it is something we should cherish. Compassion is a marvel of human nature, a precious inner resource, and the foundation of our well-being and the harmony of our societies. If we seek happiness for ourselves, we should practice compassion: and if we seek happiness for others, we should also practice compassion. – Dalai Lama

Compassion lies at the heart of the authentic Christ-following life. Any spiritual experience – whether it be one of solitude and silence, prayer and fasting, or worship and celebration – that does not result in a deeper concern for our suffering neighbors can hardly be called Christian. The critical test of relationship with the Holy One always involves the quality of our love for those around us. If our communion with God isolates us from the painful realities of our world, inoculates us into an excessive preoccupation with our own well-being, it must be considered suspect. If, on the other hand, it finds expression in greater compassion and a willingness to show care, then it passes the test for genuineness. – Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion

Our times cry out for a mass movement of compassion. This urgent need coincides with the goal of the Christ-following life, for unless our faith makes us compassionate, it can hardly be called Christian. Following Jesus means moving out of our privatized, isolated, and self-enclosed worlds into a compassionate engagement with our suffering neighbor. As we open ourselves to the pilgrimage experience, … we journey from self-centeredness to compassion. May you and I become everyday pilgrims whom God can use to bring healing to our broken world.
– Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion

Mark 6:34 (NRSV)
As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity. When your love touches someone’s pain, it becomes compassion. –Stephen Levine

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. ~  Henry Drummond

When we focus on others, our world expands.
Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller,
and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action.
– Daniel Goleman

Give yourself entirely to those around you.
Be generous with your blessings.
A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.
-Steve Maraboli, A Savior At the Grocery Store  

Become as single-minded in compassion as others may be in fear, hate, violence or hard-heartedness. Grant love and blessing without regard either to people’s deserving or to your own fate. Love indiscriminately, and people will witness a truly world-changing power. It’s happened before. It can happen again. Even in your own town.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Spread Love

May those without hope
take heart in you, O Christ.
May those with no home
find shade at your right hand.
May those near the end
see beginnings;
May those at the last
become first.
At the foot of your cross, O Christ,
I come in prayer.
O Christ, be my help,
O Christ, be our hope.
Amen.
~Pamela Hawkins

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 10: Jeremiah's Call to Action

Jeremiah Receives the Gift of Prophecy from God, from The Bible Series, 1957 by Marc Chagall

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 10 Reading: Jeremiah 1

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.”
Jeremiah 1:9 (NRSV)

Observation
In today’s passage, God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet of God. Jeremiah is hesitant to heed this call to action because of his age and inexperience. God addresses each of Jeremiah’s concerns.

Verse 7: Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.
God reminds Jeremiah who he is in God’s eyes (a prophet to the nations) not who the world says he is (a boy). God gives Jeremiah a glimpse of himself responding powerfully and faithfully to God’s call- you shall go… you shall speak…

Verse 8: Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.

God reminds Jeremiah that he is not expected to fulfill this call in his own strength. God is there to strengthen and protect Jeremiah as he responds, to even fight for him when necessary. God affirms this again in verses 18- 19, using building imagery to remind Jeremiah that he is fortified by God for this mission.

Verse 17: Do not break down before them  
In verses 7-8, God addresses the fears of initially responding to the call. In verses 9 and 17, God addresses the fears that arise in the midst of fulfilling the call.  In the heat of the moment we ask, “What am I going to say?” In verse 9, God promises to provide- Now I have put my words in your mouth.

In verse 17, God reminds Jeremiah that he is not being forced into this decision. Jeremiah has the free will to choose to stand and speak God’s message before the nation’s leaders. He is not a puppet. Jeremiah is also reminded that should he choose to accept the call, God will fulfill the mission through him, not for him. Jeremiah must make the decision to bring his strength to the situation. (gird up his loins) In order to fulfill the mission, Jeremiah must place his trust and confidence in God and choose to act. God will magnify Jeremiah’s strength as he steps out in faith.

Application
When faced with a call to action, we can allow ourselves to be broken down by an earthly view the situation or we can allow God to build us up, step out in faith, trusting God to provide what we need to fulfill the mission.

Prayer
Lord of Light,
change the way I see

I see weakness where you see strength.
change the way I see

I see hopelessness where you see healing.
change the way I see

I see inexperience where you see potential.
change the way I see

I see giants where you see Promised Land.
change the way I see
that I may be strengthened to step out courageously in response to your call.
Amen.

***********
For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a
copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the
use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright
information page.