Thursday, February 8, 2024

Escaping Armstrongism - part I

A few weeks ago, I asked how we could help you, our esteemed readers. The answer came back, people want to know more about what it is like to exit. Having done that once, I believe I can oblige.

There are several ways to approach this. Where to start? I have a sinking feeling this is going to take more than one post.
Nothing to it but to do it.

Maybe it would be helpful to start by telling you how I left. I've told parts of it here and there, but never really plotted it out. Not that you care about me, or that I hope to get you to care about my tale, but maybe there will be a helpful nugget in my story that you can relate to.

This is the highly abridged version of how I left.

In today's post, I am going to take you through the major events that led to my initial exit from thirty years of following Herbert Armstrong. In my next post, I will go over my experiences after I made my escape.


One thing I've learned over the years is that everyone's exit has to be personal. Nobody leaves for an empty reason. No one leaves for someone else's reason. My reason to leave, like my reason for joining in the first place, was deeply personal, and it starts with prophecy.

I was big into prophecy when I was a young boy. Prophecy is what got me interested in Herbert Armstrong in the first place. My father was a tithe-paying Armstrongist in good standing. He was a stern man, and I wanted to make him proud. My mother was not an Armstrongist at all. So, my father was never allowed to force anything religious on his children. He spoke to the Ministry in the Worldwide Church of God, and they said to just let it play out on its own. The church was always odd that way. Regular people were actively discouraged from evangelizing. I suspect it had something to do with money. My father would talk to me about the church and prophecy, and I would eat that up. He had all the written material and watched The World Tomorrow regularly, so I ate that up, too. It was prophecy that got me into other topics, like Easter for example, and the Sabbath. The hook being set, I was reeled in like a fish. And like a fish, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

As I got older, I would read through everything I could get my hands on (approved material only, of course). I wanted to crack that nut. I needed to fully understand prophecy. I could understand Revelation, I just knew it! That led me to gravitate towards others in the church who loved prophecy. Funny thing about prophecy nuts - none of us agree about much. And some of us didn't agree with Herbert Armstrong.

I was at the Feast of Tabernacles in 2002, in Pensacola, Florida. Hurricane Isadore was taking a tour of the Gulf of Mexico. A room full of friends had gathered to chat about nothing in particular. In my circle, the topic turned to ... yes, prophecy. Doesn't it always at the Feast, though? A friend of mine asked me if God could lie. (That was his ice breaker this year. He asked a lot of people that as a conversation starter.) Of course not! Why would He want to? We investigated it a while. He eventually asked if I believed the church could be wrong on prophecy. I didn't know how to answer that. Was this some kind of trick? I responded 'no'. How could the true church be wrong on prophecy? It was no trick. He pointed out how he disagreed with a few things. Minor things. But minor or not, the idea that the church could legitimately be wrong on prophecy was major. That was the first crack in the dam.

Fast forward a few years. I was at the Feast in Phoenix, Arizona in 2007. When they say "dry heat" it doesn't mean it's not hot. It a lot hotter, only dry. Which makes 113F/45C and full sun better in precisely no way at all. A group of friends from all over the country had arranged to gather there. We would sneak off in the early morning hours before sunrise, with our Bibles and some coffee in hand, to discuss ... yes, prophecy. We jokingly called it "The Heretics Club". We would discuss our disagreements with official views on prophecy, and each other's. It was mostly peaceful. The key to being a prophecy nut and having friends was to disagree with other people gently. Some guys just don't get that. We tried to get along. There we were, gathered in secret to disagree with each other and discuss secrets. Secrets about why the church was wrong. And why shouldn't we? There were sermons and articles piling up about why Herbert Armstrong was wrong. Every minister I knew about was either saying he was off the mark, or insufficient, or that they were even greater than he (they're still doing it). How was that acceptable but what we were doing was wrong? Wrong, no. Effective, yes. For some reason, what we were doing affected me. Here is the difference - we gave ourselves permission. What felt so risky wasn't the disagreeing so much, it was the permission to disagree. That was the second crack in the dam.

We were careful to keep our disagreements solely on prophecy. We weren't real heretics. That was just a fun little name. We saw ourselves as protecting the truth, not undermining it. I remember walking out of a session one morning, looking at the vast horizon, wondering in awe at the natural beauty and grandeur of God's creation. What force would it take to create all that waste? As I looked out at the mesas, I felt small, exposed. It's in moments like that (and, oddly, in the shower) when I do my best thinking. Maybe it's because I get myself out of the way. Then it dawned on me - if the church was so wrong about prophecy, what's to say they aren't wrong on doctrine too? I ducked into a stairwell and looked around to make sure no one saw me have that thought. I kept my mouth shut tight about that! If I breathed out a whisper about it, I'd be exiled for certain. But, like prophecy, articles and sermons littered the floor about why the church was wrong on doctrinal issues. We were wrong on government, evangelism, the role of prophecy, the centrality of Christ, the calendar, the Last Great Day of Tabernacles, race relations, the list goes on and on. Everyone I knew expressed some sort of dissatisfaction with how things were done in the past. Why couldn't I? My novel contribution was simply to put these smaller bites together to see the whole meal. Since no one was going to allow me to question, I needed to give myself permission to question. As providence would have it, Harold Smith's sermon that morning was his attempt to get ahead of all the doctrinal drift and force everyone back on point. It was a real stinker of an obvious attempt to manipulate everyone. Coincidence? I think not. It seemed there might be something to this doctrine idea after all. That was the third crack in the dam.

I held my cards tight to my chest. No one needed to know what I was going through. Not fully, anyway. I had a friend in my local congregation who was a black sheep if ever there was one. Intelligent and searching, that man. God rest his soul. He wasn't afraid at all to disagree openly. He was a thorn in everyone's side and I enjoyed that about him. He had a soft and friendly face that made you want to forgive him, or else I'm sure he would have been put out years before. Upsetting the powers that be so many times has a way of changing one's perspective. It made him see himself as having a direct relationship with Jesus. No man could come between him and God (or put him out of the church). What a novel idea. I couldn't tell if it was true or arrogant, but it felt nice. Can I have a direct relationship with God, too? No Minister between us? Scary! But a key idea.
One average day, I was studying an average topic - the Sabbath and how it was magnified in the New Covenant - preparing for an average sermonette, when, all at once, I "got it". An incredible torrent of joy washed over me. Jesus Christ really did magnify all things! Our flaw was that we had defined "magnify" as "made harder". That was wrong. Joy was unusual and strange. Armstrongists don't have joy. We feel best when we're given a right good beating in the sermon. But this wasn't guilt, it was joy! And I didn't trust it one bit. I studied late into the night, trying to see if what I thought was real or some elaborate emotional deception. Was I falling away? Was this Satan? Other sinful things feel pretty good, so joy wasn't necessarily proof. I buried my face in church material. By the time I went to bed, I had managed to quench that joy and go back into believing Armstrong. Whew! A close call! That was the fourth crack in the dam.

I needed to know if we were right or wrong. Really know. I decided to do a little trial. I was going to take a doctrinal topic and put it to the test. I hated tithing. Nobody loves tithing. That would be my topic. I was going to study tithing every bit as hard as I studied prophecy, but I was going to be critical and try to poke holes in it. Devil's advocate. I think that is where the prototype As Bereans Did doctrinal gauntlet was first constructed. I would see for myself if the church was solid on doctrine. The doctrine went in, and wreckage came out. Did you know there's a difference between 10% and one-in-ten? Neither did I until that study. We were doing tithing very, very wrong. Highlights of that study are in the ten articles on tithing over at the old Escaping Armstrongism blog. Trust me, you wouldn't want to read the whole thing. It was 27 pages! That winter, I showed it to some close and respected friends. Try as they might, they couldn't disprove my thesis. It brought one of them to tears. He had sacrificed so much over the years. Tithing was his thing; his hill to die on. The thought of all that sacrifice being for nothing was too much for him to bear. He told me I was right, then apologized and said he could never read it again. Remember when I said 'nobody loves tithing'? Nobody but him. I loved that man. I still love that man. If he needed to bury this, then I say bury it. Burn it! But as for me, the church could be wrong on doctrine after all. That was the fifth crack in the dam.

What if it was only tithing? Logic dictates I had to try one more topic. One could be a fluke, but two is evidence. I had to know! I chose clean/unclean meats. Pork made me feel sick when I ate it. I always knew when some found its way into my food at a restaurant. I thought this would be a fair choice. Certain of my inevitable defeat and confidently awaiting my comfortable return to orthodox Armstrongism, I fired up the doctrinal gauntlet. Much to my disappointment and confusion, the doctrine went in and wreckage came out. Did you know God gave Noah every creeping thing to eat, and that includes lizards? Neither did I until that study. Highlights of that study are in the eleven articles on food laws over at Escaping Armstrongism. You wouldn't want to read the full study of that one, either. It was 50 pages! That was the sixth crack in the dam.

This studying business was getting uncomfortable. I found the Painful TruthIronWolfAmbassador Watch and other websites with counter-information. Who knew an entire universe of information already existed? I wasn't quite ready for it all, but there I went all the same. I kept studying and I kept finding. Did you know we are commanded to travel three times a year to the place where the Lord places His name, not just once? We were even doing holy days wrong. So many flaws! How could the one true church have been so wrong? Notice, I still believed it was the one true church. We had lots of doctrines that I thought were unique to us (because I hadn't yet found out they weren't unique to us), so we had to be one true. I was so sure of it, I tried convincing a co-worker of this foundational truth. A long series of discussions culminated in him agreeing to read "The Incredible Human Potential" by Herbert Armstrong. I gave him my copy. He didn't say anything about it for several days. I asked how he was doing. He mildly responded that he had certain disagreements with the material. I was flabbergasted. How can a person read this material and come away with disagreements? I found the book online and read it that very night. My review: what a complete load of steaming Holstein! How did I ever find that book to be convincing?? The next conversation I had with my co-worker went very differently than the last. I never gave him "Mystery of the Ages" like I planned. Turns out that was pretty bad, too. That was the seventh crack in the dam. A big one!

I travelled to Illinois to spend the Spring holy days with some very dear friends. It didn't hurt that the lady of the house, God rest her soul, made this wonderful stuff called "bread of affliction", which was unleavened (technically). It used egg whites to add air. Affliction never tasted so good! We were all later told by Harold Smith that this was cheating and we were not to whip air into unleavened bread. On the last day of Unleavened Bread, my friend and I drove to church together in a beat up old pickup truck. The drive was a bit long so I took the opportunity to mention some of what I had learned about holy days. I specifically mentioned the laws that required travelling to the place where the Lord places His name three times in the year. My friend told me about how, in the beginning, Herbert Armstrong taught travel three times in the year, but he later changed it when things proved too difficult and expensive. That certainly was news to me. I chewed on that a little and responded it was necessary because it is the law. He didn't agree that was necessary. But it was the law, I complained. (The law! The law! Just not THAT law!) That was when he said the words I will never forget, "Herbert Armstrong changed the law out of necessity."

        And at that very second, the dam broke.


Something snapped. No, snapped isn't the right word. Shattered! Yes, something shattered. It was the strangest sensation. One second everything was normal, the next second everything - everything - was different. Do you know what a Dolly Zoom is? I imagine in the camera of my life it looked like a Dolly Zoom. A switch was flipped. I was in the same truck with the same person, but it was as if it were an entirely different truck and an entirely different person. The friend who I loved so dearly was a stranger to me. Where I had felt comfortable, now I felt trapped. I was taking a cab to a place I didn't want to go.

To understand why that phrase shattered my worldview, you need to understand all it entailed. It meant we didn't really care about law. Armstrong made everything up as he went, and changed what he liked. All that talk about the law being eternal and "not one jot or one tittle" was all just propaganda.

All the prophecies, all the tithes, all the holy days, all the magazines, booklets, and shows, all the sermons given or received, all the discussions, all the studies and debates, all the stands taken over the Sabbath, all the jobs lost, all the opportunities missed, all the ridicule endured, all the sacrifices, all the tithes paid, all the years up until then, and all the reasons for being at the Spring holy days, were all at once shattered by those eight words. I felt cold. I felt trapped. I needed out of that truck, out of that state, right the heck now!

It was everything I could do to keep my mouth from hanging open. I felt like a man trying to stay calm after a life-threatening injury. The building was on fire and I needed the wherewithal to carefully walk toward the exit. I tried my best to act like nothing happened. It's fine. Everything's fine. They must not suspect a thing. I went to church and I did the motions on auto pilot. I no longer felt like I was inside the story. I was outside looking in. Like a near death experience, I watched events from a third person perspective, somewhere removed just off screen. Packed into a meeting room at a hotel with a crowd of strangers I knew and loved. My seat safely in the back close to the exit door. I didn't sing. I had no idea what the sermon was about, I only knew it lasted an eternity. When services finished, I walked outside to the sight of the most beautiful Redbud trees I had ever seen. A purple so vibrant it almost hurt. That little touch of God's beauty helped ground me. I went to lunch afterward, deeply contemplating the laws against having someone work for you on the Sabbath. Herbert changed that law out of necessity, too. We were hypocrites. All of us! Not that day only, but always. I even stayed the night. But I no longer saw the point.
The church was wrong on doctrine. My brain had finally accepted it was all made up as we went along. This entire time, we all were just saying whatever we thought sounded good at the moment.


I went home and studied as hard as I had ever studied before. I was fairly down and needed something positive to happen.

I did a lot of looking into the holy days, since I had to give the sermon at Pentecost. My message was about how wrong we were about the holy days, but I stated it in a way that sounded like I was agreeing with everyone. They all said it was the best Pentecost sermon they had ever heard! All but one man. He knew. He came up to me afterward with a glint in his eye and a smile hidden in the corner of his mouth. Oh, he knew exactly what I'd just done. He was genuinely one of the most intelligent human beings I had ever known. He shook my hand with a wink and said it was a good message. We talked very briefly about how nobody else realized. I asked him if he'd thought about leaving. He said yes, but he was going to stay. That's where all his friends were. I thought that was a good reason for a man like him. That was it. Lord, do I ever miss that man!

I spent the summer studying and debating what I had learned online. I read "Churches That Abuse" by Ronald Enroth. That book hurt! I started to read "The Babylon Connection" by Ralph Woodrow, but that took a back seat to another matter. I happened across the infamous story of Herbert Armstrong's personal failings. (You know what I mean. We never go into detail about that here. That's for other websites. But it's all true!)

I was not actively looking for information on Armstrong, specifically. I was just reading everything I could find. I found out about his reliance on the ravings of G. G. Rupert, how he borrowed doctrines from the SDA and the Mormons and would read the JW's Watchtower magazine to get ideas, how he read "Mein Kampf" and was a Communist sympathizer, how a woman offering him a stack of wood caused him to believe he was chosen by God, how he was fired from the Church of God (Seventh Day), how he predicted Jesus would return by 1936, how he was a plagiarist, how he let his wife die of a simple bowel obstruction but had a suitcase full of pills for himself, how he used to teach Pentecost was on a Monday, how he was remarried to a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, and how he almost lost the Worldwide Church of God to the State of California in a receivership debacle in the 1970s. He was the test I never wanted. He needed to endure the gauntlet. He failed spectacularly. It was a thing of grotesque beauty. Like watching the Bismarck sink. This was the Apostle?! (Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms'?) Could this get any worse??

Once again, I was crushed. I recalled Armstrong's words, "The deceived don't know they are deceived." Finally, I knew I had not just been wrong. Yes, things could get worse.. I had been deceived. There was a marked difference between the church being wrong and me being deceived. There is no way for me to write to you about how that felt. I promise you, it was as if the very gravity that held me to the earth could not be trusted anymore, and I could possibly float away at any moment. Nothing was worthy of my trust. The only thing I was sure about at that point were the Ten Commandments. What else was hiding out there, waiting for me? I was about to find out.

Enter Justin Martyr.

For some reason I cannot explain, for about the past year or so by this point I suspected answers were hiding in the writings of the early church. I didn't know the first thing about these early church writers. We were always told to stay away from them. I forced myself to read them and become familiar. There were quite a few, so it took a long time. And, to be honest, they were confusing to me. I couldn't relate because I was coming from such a different place. They were saying things that weren't Armstrong's message at all. Like, at all. Not even a little. All of them did this. The natural proclivity of an Armstrongist mindset is to try and force everything into our worldview box, to protect it and keep it true. I couldn't do that with these "Church Fathers". Normally, when something defies every attempt to fit it into the box, it gets dismissed as deception from Satan, and condemned. I wasn't about to do that either. The point was to understand them as they are, and get answers. Yet, to be even more honest, since we were told not to trust them, I didn't seriously trust them. I was afraid of this "lost century" thing. If you aren't familiar, Armstrong told us the true church was forced underground before the end of the first century and all the writings from about 90 AD and onward were nothing but Catholic propaganda. "Lost history" referred to the true church being nowhere to be found, even though it endured, secretly. Maybe in some valley in the French Alps. We don't know. They were lost. You can't prove it, so it must be true! Was any of that really true? No. Not at all. But we believed it was true. Long story short, it took me a long time to get through any of the writings from that period.

One average night as I sat on my couch, I came across a second century document written by a man named Justin. They call him Justin Martyr, for obvious reasons. Justin is the earliest extant Christian apologist. One of his writings is about a discussion he had with a Jew named Philo. Among other things, Justin described to Philo how Christians no longer observe the Sabbath. It was nowhere near as simple as, "We don't keep the Sabbath because the Pope changed it to Sunday." No. He went into detail about it. He debated a Sabbath keeper about it from the guy's own scriptures. I will never forget sitting there, realizing the church was wrong on the Sabbath, too. Not the Sabbath! Yes, the Sabbath.

Do you remember when I said I was shocked when I felt an inexplicable joy come over me as I contemplated the New Covenant? And how I said I was shocked when my friend said, "Herbert Armstrong changed the law out of necessity"? This was another of those times. Like earthquakes and aftershocks, they just kept coming. But this one was good!

It all made sense all at once. Armstrong was wrong! The early church were not Sabbatarians, and it was for completely Biblical reasons. There was no lost history. Jesus is our Sabbath! 
I sat on that couch, mouth agape, reading and re-reading Justin's words. I tried to explain it to the person sitting next to me, but I was so energized I stumbled and fumbled over my words. My mind was going faster than my mouth could keep up.

No wonder why we weren't allowed to read that stuff!!

The next day, I prayed about it. I kid you not, I laid face down on the living room floor like the men of old, and I prayed my heart out. I wanted the truth - GOD'S truth. I didn't care what the consequences were, so long as I knew the truth. And just like that, the joy I felt that one night retuned. It was one of the best feelings I'd ever experienced.
Something inside me knew the joy was temporary. This world can't keep joy like that. It was only a down payment; a foretaste. It would dissipate, but I was going to ride that wave as long as I could.


After services one Sabbath shortly thereafter, I asked my Minister to step aside and speak to me privately. He was an honorable man. Not at all like the rest. I told him I was having issues with what I had learned about Armstrong's behavior. He asked if I thought the Holy Spirit came through Armstrong. I considered it for a moment then responded, no. If the Holy Spirit comes at all, it comes directly to us through Christ. I assured him I wasn't questioning his ordination. Realizing that wasn't all there was to it, he probed for more. I responded I could not tell him more, because if I did, he would have to answer the same questions I was, and either he would have to agree with me or lie to himself.
He needed that place, he needed those people, and it wasn't right for me to take it away. It was clear I had to escape Armstrongism. I couldn't stay, like my friend would. I had to go. I was a threat to the group. All I could do any longer is cause division. For their sake and mine, I had to go.

A few days later, a Minister from another area called to ask if I would speak at his Feast of Tabernacles in Panama City, Florida that year. A great honor, which I had to politely decline. I didn't tell him I was leaving. I just said I couldn't attend that year. It was true enough.

Prophecy, gone. Doctrine, gone. Armstrong, God's appointed Apostle, gone. Sabbath, gone.
This is how I described my last day in my post "Welcome To Escaping Armstrongsm" on the old blog:

"I left my splinter group on Saturday, August 23rd, 2008.
I had followed Herbert Armstrong for 30 years.
I insisted on going to services in order to see everyone one last time. I arrived dressed in my best. I made sure to give out as many hugs and hardy handshakes as possible. I got a cup of coffee and settled in for the sermon. When the coffee was gone, so was I. Quietly, I sneaked out the back door, and I am not going to return.
These were the people who were there when I was a child. They were at my wedding. They saw my wife and I through our pregnancies. Everyone was invited to my wife's baptism. They were grandma and grandpa to our children. We went through agonizing church splits together. They loved us like their own. They were a closer family than my physical family. And I never wanted to have to go."

Three decades of my life dedicated primarily to one thing. All gone. All except for Jesus and a belief that mainstream Christianity was steeped in pagan ideas.

I bet my life and my future on the inerrancy of the church Herbert Armstrong founded. I lost that bet. This was supposed to have been the one true church sent from God to tell us the astounding truth! God's truth!!

I knew I had one last bit of unfinished business that I would not enjoy in the least.
... [deep breath]...
I went to my mother's house to humiliate myself and admit my failures. She was right that whole time, and I was wrong. I didn't listen, and I should have. I put her through so much for nothing. She took it well.

I started the Escaping Armstrongism blog that same month. I was still escaping. That's also when I came up with the name xHWA. In other words, ex Herbert W Armstrong believer. Seemed fitting. And sounded better than Silence DoGood.

I hope you found some nugget of value in my story. God willing, in the next post, I will tell you about how I went from recovering Armstrongist to mainstream Christian. See you then!



It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



Jim said...

Very helpful and encouraging. I experienced similar cracks in Armstrongism. Strangely the thing that started waking me up was something very mild; the claim that the best way to observe the Feast of Tabernacles was to attend all the services including the opening night service.
At the time, I saw that services were only commanded on the first and last day of tabernacles, yet they seemingly knew better, insisting that services every day was the right way. I thought, "If so, why didn't God set it up that way?"

So many things wrong in Armstrongism, but that was the one that got the ball moving for me. I suppose it is because this only required a simple reading of the Bible to see when services were commanded...and the hubris of the COGs to believe they knew better how to keep the FOT than the Biblical instruction.

A question you can ignore:

You were married and had kids as you were leaving Armstrongism. Was that smooth? Did you and your spouse recognize this at the same time?

xHWA said...

Hi Jim. I am so glad this was helpful! I really didn't know if it would be.
I totally agree with you. Such hubris in the leadership.

I was married (past tense) and I do have kids. Was it smooth? Well, yes and no. I learned that she hated going and stopped believing a while before I did. That would have been helpful to know earlier. I don't feel she was entirely honest with me. That turned out to be a pattern later on.
So, no, I suppose we didn't recognize it at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that. It is an additional great blessing when both spouses are on the relatively same page. I'm still hoping for that myself but making efforts to focus on faith and not the COGs.
The excluding of other Christians is what is the most damaging. As long as you recognize they are not necessary for salvation, the "practices" in the COGs are pretty minor really and probably are not necessarily a bad on saturday, observe some special days each year, don't eat pork/shelfish".

It's really an easy practice...much easier than expressing care and concern and help to your fellow man.

Yet, somehow the COGs think these three easy practices distinguish them from all the fake Christians (many of whom are devoted to helping others and spreading the Gospel).

Anonymous said...

How do you even go about telling people you left? The worst thing ever is when former friends don’t know and you don’t even know where to start.

I have no idea how to approach the conversation. If I say, I left because I don’t believe in the doctrines of the ACOGs, it just feels like I’m opening a can of worms knowing the mind-control is real.

Any advice in this area is appreciated… I’m not looking for a magic button, but seriously, I have no intention of trying to pull anyone out of it because I know God has to do that.

xHWA said...


I sympathize with you. Truly. It is a very difficult thing to walk knowingly into a mine field. You are about to lose some former "friends" no matter what you do. Even if they don't run screaming from your presence, they will drift away. This week, I learned a man who was once a very good friend of mine, one I mentioned in this article, died 2 years ago. I wish I knew this at the time. This is how it goes.

I am a more direct kind of guy. I believe in just telling them. Of course, politely and gently. Unless you're thoroughly prepared for a theological debate, I would just tell them with as little specific detail as possible that you left. "I think you should know, I left the church. It doesn't mean I am judging anyone who stays."

They will be curious as to why, so get a very generic response ready. "I've been studying and I just don't agree with a few doctrinal points anymore. I would rather not get into it. I've thought a lot about it and I have to work this out on my own."

And yeah they'll want to argue you back into the fold. Send them here if you want. I think that would make all the statement they need. ;-)

And, if you need to just vent, my email address is posted somewhere on the blog.