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Live Like a Winner

Are you acting like a loser? Does a lot of your life include fear, doubt, worry and discouragement? All that loser-living adds up to discontentment. And it’s not the way God intends us to go through our days on earth.

Very few (if any?) people have such great and perfect lives that they walk around in a joy bubble all the time. Stuff happens and can really bring you down. Little things that just really aggravate and upset your routine … huge things that catch you by surprise and knock you off your feet … this life is full of crap like that, right?

I released my book, Contentment Connection, on Amazon’s Kindle and had irrational fears that only three people would buy it. Come on, Diane, where’s your faith? It was such a relief that it reached the #4 spot on the best-seller list the first day. A clear example of loser-thinking. Have you ever had a party and felt that awful dread that no one would show up? #loserthinking They always come! Free food and good company is a big draw.

How about something truly awful … discovering a lump in your breast, learning that your spouse is cheating, losing your job … any one of those (and many other things) can cause all your faith and winner-thinking to evaporate. But the truth is: God is behind you with all His love, power and ability, regardless of the circumstances.

I know people that frequently fear the worst … what if this and what if that happens. They’re living like it already has happened, not enjoying the reality that the Bad Thing hasn’t happened yet and might NEVER come to pass.

I’m not just spewing a pep talk about positive thinking. This is a message for people who claim they believe what God says in the Bible. He says we’re not losers, we are WINNERS.

Here are a few nuggets to remind you of the truth:

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
  • Blessed is he who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to him. Luke 1:45
  • This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
  • For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
  • I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
  • Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Those aren’t just uplifting social media memes. They’re promises from Almighty God and words to live by.

If you’ve been feeling defeated, down or hopeless- read His word and embrace the victorious attitude that is ready and waiting for you. Live like a winner!

Put Love into Action

Pastor and mega-author Francis Chan wrote the foreword to Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan. He said, “Don’t be another person who wastes his/her life by trying to save it. Spend more energy saving lives than saving for retirement. Just comsider the possibility that you might live more if you risked more and gave more. Join my friend Shelene in doing something.”

In my interview with Shelene Bryan, she shares the story of how she began wondering if the kid she sponsored in Africa was actually getting any benefit from the money she sent… or if she even existed. So she did what any crazy, type A woman would do. She went to see for herself.

What she found would change her life forever. So much so that she found Skip1.org, a charity dedicated to providing food and clean water to children in America and around the world.

In the book she talks about how to: Love– with the heart of God, Skip– some of the comforts in life so you’ll have more to give, and Jump into the “Aventure of Yes.”

Shelene has never lacked passion, but through her first experience in Africa, her passion became God’s passion. As with most people who want more from life, Shelene is 100% sold out. Her story is riveting and her sense of humor refreshing.

Listen to the interview. Post a comment and share with friends so they will be inspired to say yes. You might even win a copy of Love, Skip, Jump. While you’re there, subscribe to all my podcasts on itunes and you can listen to the many fabulous guests and impactful topics from Bold Living with Diane Markins.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (or search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Prayer – It’s What Gets Us Through the Trials

We all love a great sermon or speech…as much as we hate a bad one. Meaningful, engaging messages don’t just pop into the mind and out of the mouth. They take a boat-load of effort- and PRAYER. Prayer takes us through the trials of life too. Read this hugely helpful post and listen to what H. B. Charles says about his books It Happens after Prayer and On Preaching.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

On Writing Sermon Manuscripts

by H.B. Charles

The pastor left his sermon manuscript in the pulpit. When the janitor found it, he couldn’t resist the urge to read it. He was impressed, until he stumbled over a note in the margin: “Argument weak here. Start yelling!”

Old story.

Timeless truth: Passion is never a substitute for clarity. If you write yourself clear, you won’t have to yell to cover up a weak argument.

I am a manuscript preacher who cheats. Most weeks, I write a complete manuscript. Most weeks, I do not carry anything to the pulpit but my Bible.

I believe both practices sharpen the preacher – writing manuscripts and preaching without notes.

Here are 11 tips for writing yourself clear in sermon preparation.

  1.  This is not a cursory step. You should pray before and throughout your study of the text. And you should pray your way through sermon preparation. You need guidance in what to say and how to say it to your congregation.

Start with a sermon skeleton. Begin by determining the title, theme, central idea, outline, and other elements that make up the framework of the message. Establish the structure of the sermon. Then put meat on the bones.

  1.  You will never write a manuscript if you do not write a manuscript. Don’t procrastinate. Sunday is coming. Starting writing. Write for as long as you can. Get your ideas on paper. Don’t worry about how good it is yet. A bad page is better than a blank page. Just write.

Write it out word-for-word. Type out your introduction, explanations of the text, scripture references, applications, illustrations, and conclusion completely. “The Vacation Story” or “Charles Spurgeon quote” may suffice in your pulpit notes. Not here. Write it all out. After you start writing manuscripts regularly, this practice will also help you to gauge how long your sermon is.

Write for the ear. A sermon manuscript is not a term paper, theological essay, or potential book chapter. It is a transcript for a message you will deliver to God’s people. As you write, think about those who will listen to what you say, not those who may read what you write.

Preach it as you write it. Talk it out as you are writing it down. This will help you communicate clearly and effectively. Some words that are easy to write are not easy to pronounce. That long, run-on sentence that looks so beautiful on your computer screen may be a nightmare to say. Likewise, preaching it as you write it aids memorization.

Strive for clarity. Process your word choice, sentence structure, cross-references, transitional sentences, and illustrations as clearly as possible. If you do, style and creativity will take care of themselves. Clarity is its own style.

Craft transitional sentences. Car accidents often happen at intersections, during lane changes, or when making a turn. Likewise, moving from the introduction to the main body, from point 1 to point 2, or from illustration to application can be as dangerous as driving in rush hour traffic. So work on smooth transitions. Don’t say, “Let me say three things about the text.” Give them three reasons to pray or four ways to resist temptation or two benefits of trusting God.

Work around writer’s block. I rarely write a sermon from beginning to end. And I struggle to write my introduction and conclusion first. I write as it comes to me, which may be point two. If I get a mental block, I start working on another part of the sermon. This helps me to keep writing when a section is not yet clear.

Mark the manuscript for preaching. I put the main points in red font, sub-points in dark blue. Scripture references are italicized. Quotes are blue. Illustrations are purple. “Runs” are green. Hymn lyrics are orange. I highlight, underline, and change font sizes. This helps me memorize the message. Or if I have to preach from the manuscript, ideas, sections and transitions pop out on the page.

Edit maliciously. The manuscript is a draft until you preach it. Keep working on it. Explain technical words or choose simpler ones. Shorten your sentences. Take out cliché, well-worn words and phrases. Find a different way to say it. Use one cross-reference, instead of three. Cut out that section that was good study material but doesn’t fit in the message. Eliminate unnecessary repetition. Have the courage to leave some hard work on the cutting room floor for the sake of clarity, unity, and movement.

A “Between Heaven and Earth” Perspective

After his son “relocated to Heaven” Pastor Steve Berger began to see a new perspective emerge… one of “living every day in the reality of heaven.” Read his enlightening post below.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Living Hope

by Steve Berger

The resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees every believer resurrection to eternal life in heaven. As believers, this is our living hope.

The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3–4,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.

Peter reminds us that because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have a living hope of experiencing a resurrected life in heaven. It comes with a great inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading, and it’s reserved just for us! The words Peter uses are extremely important as we gain a deeper understanding of heaven’s real hope:

Incorruptible: This literally means “exempt from wear, waste, and final perishing.” There is nothing about our heavenly inheritance that withers, wears, or shrinks.

Undefiled: This means “unpolluted, unstained, undefiled by sin, sincere, and holy as being free from evil.” There is no residue of the curse in our heavenly inheritance.

Unfading: Our heavenly inheritance is not something beautiful that lasts only for a while and then fades. The Complete Word Study Dictionary says, “It is of unfailing loveliness, reserved for the faithful in heaven.” Our inheritance is perpetual.

Reserved: This means “particularly to watch, observe attentively, keep the eyes fixed upon. Figuratively, to obey, observe, fulfill a duty, precept, law or custom, to vigilantly watch.”

Our inheritance is God is diligently and vigilantly watching over our heavenly inheritance. His eye is fixed upon it for us. The Almighty is guarding our eternal future.

We have a living hope that is far greater than any hope that we can find on this earth. When we look to the resurrection we have hope for today and tomorrow.

Peter continues just a few verses later in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

He starts with “therefore.” It brings together these four incredible words: incorruptible, undefiled, unfading, and reserved. Then He challenges us to get our heads—our thinking and our sight—right by being sober. He’s serious about this. He says, “Rest totally on the living hope of Jesus. Rest yourself fully in the grace of heaven that you are going to experience.”

We have this incredible inheritance that is guarded by God, and that should give us tremendous hope. It’s not going anywhere; it’s reserved for us. We should rest on the hope of this inheritance, not in the circumstances of this world. We can’t rest our hope in our bank account or our jobs. They don’t pass the test—they are not incorruptible, undefiled, unfading, and reserved. If you rest your hope on anything of this world, you will be disappointed!

When we rest ourselves on this living hope, suddenly we’re more heavenly minded. No matter how crazy things get here on this little planet, we have a better, living hope. We have joy in that hope, and that hope anchors our souls. Our living hope is in heaven.

Healing a Mom’s Shattered Heart

Monica Hawkins endured the unimaginable… her college-bound son was murdered. She shares how God took her through this journey and never left her without hope (right after Jan Dunlap). Read her moving post below.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

A Shattered Heart: A Journey of Hope Trust and Healing

by Monica Hawkins

Though the simple words “why” and “where” in the life of someone who has never experienced a sudden trauma may provoke many emotions, those same words during the grieving process are perplexing and overwhelm the mind and heart. Most of the time during your grieving, your thought life is consumed with the questions “Why?” and “Where are You, God?” As a griever you want to make sense of this sudden tragedy, and you want answers. But no matter how you try to get answers to the questions, the answers never make sense. There lies the battle for you as a griever. You want it to make sense, but how does it make sense that someone’s life was taken in violence? It doesn’t.

For me, “Why?” was always in my heart and mind. Many of us will always struggle with “Why, God?” or “Where are You, God?” I remember being taught that you can ask God why something has happened, but to make sure you have the right motivations. A good man in the Bible named Job began to question God about why he was experiencing so much loss, but it was with the wrong motives. God pulled Job aside and said in so many words, “Let’s talk.” It wasn’t for Job to get understanding, but to put him back in remembrance of who God is. God began to ask Job some “why” and “where were you” questions that Job was not able to answer or understand.

That being said, I knew not to begin my “why” questions in my talks with God with the wrong motivation, but I desperately wanted to know why He had permitted this to happen to Donté. I wanted to understand the purpose. Sounds like a great Christian approach. But the reality was that those questions of “why” and wanting to make sense of all of this overwhelmed my heart. I began to really question God, and not always with the proper motivation. I thank God that He is full of compassion and mercy, because I didn’t really learn from Job’s example.

I would ask God, “Why now? He just turned his life around, and from the investigation, Donté was not the intended target. And why, God, didn’t You answer my prayer that night after Donté called me and I prayed for him? Why do I have to deal with this pain? God, I lived for You with all my heart. God, why my child? Most importantly, God, why didn’t You keep him like You kept the other child that night that got shot, too?” (Understand that by no means did I want the other child to die.)

I felt like Sophia in The Color Purple. She said, “All my life I had to fight.” It seemed that nothing in my life came easy for me, and now when I thought things were looking up, I had to fight again. We had been through so much in our family, and now this.

The second question that continually plagued my heart was, “Where are You, God?” As a griever, especially a born-again Christian, I really wanted to know where God was in all of this. I told God countless times, when the pain was so unbearable, “I can’t feel You there.” The inward thoughts began to consume my heart during those dark days. As I reflected back through my spiritual counseling sessions with my pastor, I began to ask myself how my heart and motivation changed. The intensity of my pain and what I knew about God became a real battle around the sixth of every month. I dreaded the sixth day of each month. That number six reminded me too much of that awful day when I lost my Donté. I began to feel hopeless, because I missed him so much. I would think on how I would never see him graduate from college or get married or grow to be a man. I felt robbed of a future with him.

I would sit many days and look at his pictures. When I would hear of things his friends were doing, I would be very sad. Those thoughts began my journey of feeling hopeless and really questioning God. When I look back in my journal, I read how I cried out to the Lord when those emotions would come. But then my questions slowly changed. I began to question God with the motivation of “Why did You do this to me?”

The Lord would send people to comfort me, but I didn’t really want the comfort. I wanted to make sense of this tragedy. The intensity of the pain was consuming my heart. On top of all of this, I was dealing with the struggle of the physical pain from a fall that I had experienced. I found out later from my doctor that I fell because a chemical imbalance related to this trauma had weakened my legs. Listen to my interview Diane for more details.

*Share you thoughts or questions below. You may win a copy of A Shattered Heart.

Sheila Walsh, The Storm Inside

Emotional turmoil and heartache can rob us of confidence, hope and peace. Sheila Walsh has lived through painful times in her own life. She shares personal stories and lessons she’s learned as well as truths from scripture in my interview with her. I loved chatting with her and you’ll feel like you’re at the kitchen table with us!

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Excerpt from The Storm Inside

By Sheila Walsh

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:2–4 esv)

He who lives in us is greater! Sometimes we forget that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities and evil powers (Ephesians 6:12). We desperately need to remember whose we are and how to fight. A rabbit, it has been said, can outrun a lion. But the rabbit’s great fear of the lion paralyzes it, making it easy for the lion to catch and consume it. The all-out attacks we face as God’s daughters have the potential to render us as impotent as the rabbit. We can be frozen by the chaos we feel inside instead of choosing to stand on the truth of who God’s Word says we are. We must not give our enemy such advantages. We must not live that way one moment longer. It’s time to trade what we feel for the powerful truth of who we are. How we feel can change in a moment, but who we are is eternal.

There are three levels of reality, of truth, that you and I face each day and understanding each one of those will be a game-changer for us. There is the chaos of what we feel and the chaos that the enemy would stir up in us. If we focus on those two alone, we are going to go under. The third level of truth is that God is always in control. He is the one who speaks to storms and they have to obey. He is the one who brings order from chaos. In fact the Hebrew word for wind n the Old Testament is ruach, which also means “spirit” or “breath of God.” No matter how out-of-control your storms may feel right now, make no mistake girls—God is in control!

*Want to win The Storm Inside? Post a comment below!

Be a Hopelifter – Easing the Pain of Loss

When people are facing a tragic loss, or even something that might seem minor to me, I struggle to figure out how I’m supposed to respond. I want to help…be kind, but sometime fear making things worse by doing or saying the wrong thing. If you’ve been there, read the post below and listen to my interview with Kathe Wunnenberg.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

I wish there was something I could do to ease the pain…
by Kathe Wunnenberg

How often do you see a friend in distress but feel helpless to lighten their load? Too often I’ve watching people who are hurting and in need, wounded more, because friends, family or co-workers ignored them or responded in an inappropriate way.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence and decided several years ago I wanted to help people, help people. So, I started with who I am, and the resources of people, possessions, places and personal life experiences I have to offer and asked God to transform them into practical, tangible hope to others in need. I began dishing out creative compassion in personal ways to jobless or stressed our friends, those suffering the deep pain of depression or the loss of a child or loved one, long distance family with health issues, and everyday strangers I met in Starbucks.

A few years ago I heaped up a busload of hope and invited moms who lost children for a day away with God, I call Hope on Wheels. And amazingly, those who were hurting, received hope, and now boarded the next year’s bus to give it.

My daily lifestyle, I call hopelifting, is just an everyday way of being the hands and feet of Jesus and reaching out to a hurting world in simple and sometimes strategic ways. I believe God allows us to go through what we go through, to help others go through what we went through. Yes, my hurt can help others and so can yours. So don’t waste a hurt. Be willing to allow God to use it.

That’s why I wrote the book, Hopelifter: Creative Ways to Spread Hope When Life Hurts, to be a resource and hopelifter for YOU to help you help others. I’ve included 100 recipes of hope, stories from other women who have experiences a variety of life issues and are willing to share how they received hope or gave it. Much like a cookbook with creative and practical ideas, you can refer to it often when you don’t know what to do or say to help a hurting friend and it will help you put hands and feet to offer comfort and care.

Will you join us and be a hopelifter and spread hope to hurting people? I’d love to hear how you are reaching out as the hands and feet of Jesus or how someone has reached out to you as a hopelifter.

Keep spreading hope!

*Encourage Kathe (hopelifters need love too!) in a comment or share your experience. You may win a book.

Inspiration from the Karate Kid

Upon my invitation Sharon Vaz composed this deeply inspiring guest post. Enjoy.

Seeking Solace in Unexpected Places: How The Karate Kid Lifted Me Up to a Higher Place 
I was in a state of strong emotional turmoil, having weathered a series of unexpected personal storms. I had fallen into a deep pit of devastating despair and was grieving so many lost opportunities. It seemed as if nothing could rescue me from the hopelessness I was experiencing at that moment. There were no words of consolation for me…no comfort that would bring me back from the abyss.

Then I escaped to the movies and found unexpected jewels of light and hope within the plotline of the children’s favorite, The Karate Kid. It is easy to dismiss popular movies as just another form of mindless entertainment. But films with widespread box office appeal can still inspire and uplift, challenging one’s preconceptions and changing one’s mindset. I found that such is the case with The Karate Kid. 

This enterprising remake tells the story of 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith, son of superstar Will Smith) who could have easily become quite popular in his hometown of Detroit.  However, because of his mother’s career, he relocates to China, where the rules of life appear to be different.

Dre is captivated by his classmate Mei Ying (Han Wenwen), but cultural challenges jeopardize the relationship.  He is also at a distinct disadvantage because the story’s major bully, Cheng, is Mei’s childhood buddy. Fortunately, a maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chen) comes to Dre’s aid and teaches him that the art of kung fu is really based not on violent moves, but on serenity and maturity.

There are many parallels between the film’s plotline and the Christian life.

Take the scene in which Dre and Mr. Han reach the top of a mountain following a long, challenging hike.  As they are poised at the precipice, they spot a woman practicing tai chi with a cobra moving in synchronicity before her – a stirring sight, to be sure. There is certainly a sense of mystery about this unexpected scene.

From what he can surmise, Dre concludes that the woman is mimicking the snake’s movements, and shares his observation with his companion. But Mr. Han corrects him, saying that it is the snake that is following the lead of the woman.  Of course, this insight brings up a number of questions for the movie-goer.

Why does the snake follow the woman’s lead?  Why is the woman so calm?  And why is her sense of calmness so captivating?

The conclusions I drew were born of Christian faith. The Holy Spirit is our guide and comforter; the Spirit leads and provides solace to the woman, as the Spirit leads and provides solace to us.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have within ourselves the power to overcome evil as we face adversity in our day-to-day lives. The Holy Spirit can elevate us, lifting us out of moments of pain and turmoil.  We tap into God’s strength through the life preserver known as prayer. We can go from crisis to calm in 30 minutes, knowing that the Holy Spirit is there to power us through our trials. I myself felt a renewed sense of purpose, after watching Dre’s triumph on screen.

The woman’s internal tranquility is also reminiscent of that of Christ, who displayed utter serenity in the midst of the storms that surrounded him.  The Karate Kid demonstrates that each of us is capable of the same serenity, if only we are willing to reach out to God for sustenance. Indeed, with God all things are possible – even calmness in the face of evil (the serpent).

The film also challenges conventional views of power, much like Christianity does. Throughout the movie, Dre is the underdog, the physically weaker one. In terms of brute strength, he could have easily been classified as the loser. Yet, in the end, he triumphs. Certainly, the image of Christ on the cross is one of undeniable weakness. Yet, through the power of the Resurrection, He emerges as Savior and King. As Scripture states, God’s power is made manifest in weakness.

Upon reaching home after seeing this inspiring film, I was prompted to recite Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.”

But what does “soul” mean here?  We’re talking about not only the mind, but the will and our emotions as well. The connection that lies between the mind and the will and the will and the emotions cannot be denied, although the connection may be a new concept to some. It may take some convincing, but we need to believe God’s promises and to embrace them. We need to claim the fact that God can restore our broken emotions, calm our troubled minds, and give us the motivation and drive that we need to establish firm foundations – even when we feel as if our lives are crumbling beneath the weight of our worries.

After reading Psalm 23, I subsequently listened to an audio lesson from Graham Cooke’s Faith Series. Cooke points out that rejoicing empowers faith and thanksgiving breeds confidence which, in turn, releases trust. We need to recognize the all-powerfulness of God and the fact that, through Him, we can accomplish great things. Cooke also points out that, at the heart of each circumstance, we can find a deeper revelation of Who God is, particularly in that special moment. Each test is designed to help us grow in our relationship with Him.  Because he is reliable, we can find the means of being dependable.

Following the audio lesson, I had regained my sense of calm and was now filled with hope. I recognized that I still faced challenges, but I also knew that I possessed the internal resilience to overcome my deep sense of helplessness.  In the days that followed, I was no longer grieving. In fact, I was amazed at the transformation that I had experienced in just a short period of time.

This is why films such as The Karate Kid are so vitally important, especially for young audiences. These works of art transport us to different worlds where we can be taught timeless truths.  An inner-city American child may never travel to China, but he can see through Dre’s adventures how he, too, can find the strength to overcome, even in the most trying of circumstances. He can view his life through a different lens, thanks to Dre’s example. And he can discover the power that lies deep inside him, enabling him to defeat his own demons.

Viewing a movie such as The Karate Kid may seem like such a triviality, especially if there are weighty issues on your mind. But God can speak through any medium, including movies. His voice can be heard in Mr. Han’s words of wisdom…in Dre’s determination…even in the silence of a woman intently focused on the art of tai chi. The Almighty can speak through your emotions as you contemplate the richness and vibrancy of His abiding love – a love which can stretch all the way to China, and to a boy fighting for a sense of purpose.  As I have learned through my own recent experience, with God’s wisdom and relying on His comfort, we can all find the peace that the masters of Kung Fu strive for.

 Sharon Vaz is the author of Sand, Sound and Soul: The Complete Guide to the Unity Sand Ceremony. She has helped thousands of happy couples around the world enjoy the meaning and beauty of the unity sand ceremony via her blog UnitySandCeremony.net.