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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sears: We do that because it makes customers happy.

Seeing today’s news about Sears Holdings closing 100 to 120 Sears and K-Marts reminds me of a story of an experience I had about a two years ago.  At that time, I was just beginning to become aware of the degree that I couldn’t mentally “tough out” the pain my knees were giving me when standing up.  That’s important in working retail.

            Anyway, I applied to Sears online, and the website immediately spit out an offer of a job interview and about 25 choices of appointment times.  I picked one out for the next Monday morning.  I show up, and whoever was to do the interview must not have checked the website to know about the interview, so I had to wait until her lunch ended.  In spite of having my resume in front of her (bachelor’s degree, 30 years of experience in retail), she asks me questions (obviously scripted from above) that were befitting a high school student.  Then she tells me that, if hired, she would meet with me every morning about sales of extended warranties and amount of credit card applications filled out and approved.  To me, that sounds more like a threat than a promise.  She ended that with, “We do that because it makes customers happy.”  It sounds like management is attempting to live out a delusion, and I would predict that they aren’t even enjoying it.

         For the record, the next week, they offered me ten hours a week at the minimum wage, and I politely declined.  I have been it their Sears stores since, but haven't purchased  anything.  I think I've purchased a few dollars worth of things at K Mart, but stand amazed that they can keep the doors open with as few people as I see in there.  I remember when I was in 2nd grade, my mom got a job at K Mart, and just inside the front door there was always a huge display of pound bags of potato chips for 49 cents.  But, that was 1960. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Some unconventional Christmas thoughts

                    I believe that a couple of days ago, I mentioned the blog of anewcreation33 on being a scrooge and finding it liberating.  In a sense along that same line, Jamal Jivanjee today has written something along the same line, except more oriented toward scripture and history, as opposed to reacting to western culture.  Both have valid, albeit different, points to make about this time of year and the believer’s reaction towards living through it.

        I have been doing some consideration of the idea of the meaning of words.  A couple of weeks ago in church, our discussion of the scripture was on James 1, where in the KJV, the phrase “superfluity of naughtiness” (verse 21), which by this time in our culture guts the sentence of what James was attempting to communicate, which might be put today as “major evildoing.”  I have become more and more aware of, in spite of the freedom of speech we have in the U.S., how difficult it is to communicate with others in part because we are overloaded with communication that is backed by money, whether advertisements, the words of major politicians, or just whomever the media feels is important, which, in many cases, can be translated as entertaining, even if what is said is devoid of any solid thinking.
To that effect, I have been learning the meaning of the word “friend”, as defined by Facebook.  Such a person may not actually be your friend, but someone that you might guess might be your friend in that they are a Facebook “friend” to someone you know.  So, I began sending out friend requests to people who were popping up on the right side of the screen by whatever computer program sees who is one connection from someone else.  Many so far are persons who I do have things in common with, and probably would be friends by the former definition of the term if I lived geographically close.  Then, on the other hand, I got this bar 800 miles away sending me notices of their regular events. Oh, well…    
   Question for consideration:  Have you ever spontanteously used the phrase "superfluity of naughtiness" in your life? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Corporate logo tattoos

            Although I heard this a few days ago, I reheard the news that one of the new points of the new bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union is a ban on players getting corporate logo tattoos.  Doing a little research, it appears that there is one player with tattoos who may have such a tattoo among all the body art on his upper torso. 

            I write on this in that, as a believer in Jesus, I realize that the admonition on tattoos in the Old Testament was connected to the religious significance that some of the peoples near Israel had in their use, therefore meaning some form of idol worship.  As a sports fan, I am familiar with an NFL Films piece on the Raiders, which shows a man in a leather vest opening it up to show a picture of the recently departed head man Al Davis on his chest.  I couldn’t help but think that, in a unthinking way, that was somewhat like idol worship again.

            I decided to do a little research on the net and stumbled across the following article: .  In  Corporate Logo Tattoos: Literal Corporate Branding? by Angela Orend-Cunningham of University of Louisville, she writes about the trend towards persons getting corporate logos on their body as a connection between postmodern society and persons relating corporate branding, although not necessarily product, to their life.  She speaks particularly of the relationship between the Nike swoosh and their catch phrase “Just Do It”, which, of course, is full of postmodern philosophical meaning.  One aspect of our society is the muddying of the waters between serious thought and unthinking impulse masquerading as serious thoughts.

            One of the blogs I get a feed on is Felicity Dale’s .  On her December 12, 2011 entry, she credits some persons whose writings have taught her, and she mentions a missionary named David L. Watson (  I went there, where appeared his latest entry, dated November 1, 2011. Watson makes an interesting point of comparing aspects of secular western society to animism, and traditional parts of our society, particularly capitalism, to a creative worldview.  Conversely, though, I could argue the exact opposite point as he is attempting to make.  First, until less than two centuries ago, within “Christian cultures”, the word “creative” was reserved for God’s acts in Genesis 1, and never used for human acts of discovery, be it scientific or artistic. Second, because of the change in our culture, capitalism in its most powerful forms acts as the worship of money, and honest, moral persons are passed over for advancement over the persons who will do anything to advance sales.  One must remember that “sales specialists” only go back to the snake oil salesmen of the 1850’s.  Each generation of persons getting burned by sales lies, then half-truths, then carefully worded phrases, hasn’t improved the honesty of sales organizations, only their subtlety.  Conversely, the Occupy Wall Street movement is made up, in part, with intelligent, honest, and many times homeless persons who know the people with money and power have shafted them in favor of the unethical. 

            It appears Watson lives in San Jose, CA, so I would imagine that he is aware of what I just said.  I also recognize that, given what he does, my point may be that important to him, while I, as a person who has worked at bottom level jobs for my career since college, see this point as being of great importance.  Also, we are both correct.  We are just looking at different aspects of the same issue in a complex world.     

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2152--Information about evangelism--Lyzenga

Somehow, this wound up on edit back in September, and I just noticed that I didn't get it posted.  This is one of the five-minute commentaries.
2152—Information about evangelism

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, some statistics, out of the work of Steven S. Lyzenga that I have quoted in previous blips, which should be food for thought:

Don Richardson, the famous missionary author of the book Eternity in Their Hearts, observed that one of the biggest problems in the Church today is its penchant to focus on micro themes in the Bible, themes that “offer worms-eye views of brief passages of scripture,” instead of macro themes that “offer eagles-eye views of major Bible themes.”  He went on to say that there are really only two macro themes in the Bible, both taken from God’s mandate to Abram in Genesis 12:2-3: (1) we are blessed (the top line), (2) to be a blessing (the bottom line). This theme is so prevalent in Scripture that
there are 395 passages in the Bible where these two tracks are abridged... Not coincidently, God’s promise to bless Abram was preceded by a command. Genesis 12:1 states, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” God’s command to Abram was to “leave…and go…” Incidentally, “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” (Gen 12:4). Hence, God’s promise to bless Abram (top line) that he might be a blessing to the nations (bottom line) was predicated on His command to “go.” Jesus, in His last two recorded commands, followed the same pattern. His promise to the disciples: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (top line: blessing) was so they would “make disciples of all nations…baptizing…and teaching…” (bottom
line: to be a blessing), but it was predicated on His command to “go” (Mt 28:19,20).
        Following this commission, Jesus’ last commission also followed the same pattern: “But
 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (top line: blessing), and you will be my witnesses (bottom line: to be a blessing) in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (“go”) (Acts 1:8).
       Missionary John Mott said, “If it is a good thing to go where we’re needed, it is more Christ-like to go where we’re needed most. Whereas there are multiple “something’s” that work against the mission of the Church, there is a culprit that fights largely against the equality of resources needed to send workers to UPGs. … that culprit is bulky Institutional Church (IC) operating expenses. Sadly, the current benchmark for Western IC giving to reach UPGs is 0.02% of their overall budget. Conversely, this 0.02% benchmark has the potential to be shattered to the upside by millions of Western believers operating from “small, simple, easily reproducible churches.”
              Consider the allocation of missionaries to foreign fields: 96% work among already existing churches, whereas only 4% work where no church exists!  Along these imbalanced lines, 40% of the Church’s foreign mission resources in North America are being deployed to just 10 oversaturated countries, which already possess strong citizen-run home ministries.  Nearly 97% of the total income of all Christian organizations was spent on Christians themselves. Whereas $261 billion was spent on ministering to Christians, only $7.8 billion was spent on already-evangelized non-Christians, and even more alarming, only $52 million was spent on reaching the 1.9 billion unreached peoples – a mere 0.2% of what Christians spend on themselves!
            The total income of Christians in the USA is $5.2 trillion annually, nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.39 Out of this, the evangelical annual share of income in the year 2000 was 2.66 trillion. And out of this, evangelicals had $850 billion annually in disposable income. To put this amount of wealth in perspective in the context of the GC, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board estimated that only $650 million was needed to complete the task of global evangelization. In view of this, where is all the wealth going that instead could be used to enable GC workers? As the following statistics bear out, much of it is going towards Church bureaucracy:
When asked “What would you do with an unexpected financial windfall?” thirty-one percent of Protestant pastors said they would build, expand or update their church buildings and facilities. Seven percent said they would give more to foreign missions and evangelism.
A 2004 survey of 34 denominations showed that the average amount of total denominational budgets earmarked for overseas missions was 2%. Annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all foreign missions worldwide. Emboldened by lax procedures, trusted church treasurers are embezzling from the Church $5,500,000 per day. That’s $16,000,000,000 per year!
85% of all church activity and funds are directed toward the internal operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, building payments, utility and operating expenses.
50% of the average church’s budget goes to staff and personnel salaries; whereas missions/evangelism accounts for only 5%.

           I should state that writing I am quoting is dated April, 2009, but I know of no reason to believe that the statistics connected to church corporations has changed significantly. 

          You can contact me at or 757-735-xxxx. My blog is, and a transcript of today’s talk will be posted to the date October 5, 2011.  For more information about simple church in this area, visit
            From pages 5 through 19 of Steven S. Lyzenga’s dissertation, ASSESSING THE STATE OF SIMPLE CHURCHES IN THE USA REGARDING RELEASING RESOURCES TOWARD FINISHING THE GREAT COMMISSION, which can be seen at

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: The Father Heart of God, by Floyd McClung

Floyd McClung, The Father Heart of God (Eastboure, UK: Kingsway, 1985).

            Floyd McClung is a leader in the Christian church who has been associated with the missionary organization Youth With a Mission.  I know that I can first remember hearing his name in the mid-1970’s, although, at that time, I knew little more about him than what I just said above.  At the time of the writing of this book, he was working in Amsterdam, and much of his work was with young adults who had been on drugs, had abusive family experiences, and had been immersed in western hedonistic secular “culture”.   Since I am generally writing from a simple church perspective, I will say that YWAM, without promoting it, has worked quite closely to that point of view during its history, as far as I can see from where I am at.

            This book is about more than the title suggests.  It starts with the obvious: that in the Bible, God refers to Himself as our heavenly Father, and we humans, being made in His image, were created in the male gender to reflect those fatherly qualities.  Due to sin, many fathers have reflected vacant, abusive, and distorted images of what a father is to their children, who, therefore, reflect these experiences in a negative way towards their image of who God is.  McClung first deals with this distortion and what should be the analogy between a father and God’s character.  One major example is the parable of the Prodigal Son, how sin grieves God, but God allows us to make what He knows are bad decisions, and how He, like the father in the parable, is waiting for our return, as God is love.  McClung then deals with how God heals broken hearts.

            About three-fourths of the way through the book, McClung moves to another analogy of God as Father to the spiritual fathers, the leaders in the local bodies of believers.  Once again, the Christian leader should be an imperfect, but good example of the qualities of God for both believers and others around him or her.  Of course, there are situations of failures (1985 was a year of highly publicized failures of well known personalities connected to the Christian faith).  The last quarter of the book deals with that subject in a way that is both sensitive, covers a wide variety of mis-leadership, and practical advice on dealing with it on the non-leaders level.  Given that McClung was working as a missionary, and working with YWAM, which is independent of any denomination and was heavily dealing with the changes in western culture at the time, he deals with the special situation of the missionary organization.  This part of the book reflects much thought and discussion between McClung and others he knew struggling with these same problems, and writing and rewriting the ideas expressed until what he expresses is just right for dealing with this subject, and not just the dominant examples of the time of this writing.

            The first couple of chapters feel like something I’ve heard multiple times in sermons.  The last quarter of the book is excellent guidance on a touchy subject that over the years has been all too often avoided, oversimplified or dealt with incompletely.

            Here in the U.S., this book is still in print.

Why prospective missionaries don't say hard numbers about how much money they need

            I was washing dishes this morning, I just happened to think of a little factoid that I learned many years ago, but I just recalled that I haven’t seen it in print.  Let us say that one is in a traditional church, and a person comes along attempting to raise money to go overseas as a missionary.  In a service, they tell stories of the need of whatever area they are going to, and success stories of their work.  That last point gets really tricky for the person attempting to raise money to go the first time.  I think of a few years ago where I was in a situation in which I knew a number of persons who were attempting to raise funds for the first time, and every one of them was stuck at the 70% level of what was required.  Anyway, you hear the prospective tell about percentages, but they never mention hard numbers about how much they need.  Why is that?

            First, most missionary organizations do assign them a hard number of how much must be raised before the person can go.  Second, that hard number is about 40% above what a person working at a full time, no specific skill requirement job in our culture makes, which might come across to many average persons who attend church but are not in leadership.  That is because of two reasons.  First, a certain percentage of money promised never shows up.  Second, that missionary isn’t working on his own.  He/she (missionary A) knows missionaries B, C, and D in other cities.  There are times A, C, and D go over to help B do something special for a few days, and another time A, B, and D go over to C’s community to do something, etc.  Therefore, between traveling from here to wherever, and back again in a year to raise money, and this other travel during the year, the expense of doing all that is greater (even if a USD stretches further in that country, which it oftentimes does) than what we experience living here and doing what we must, and, for those of us in bottom end jobs, there isn’t extra for vacations and saving for the future, even if we are told that’s a correct thing to do.

            Maybe that’s why there’s one missionary organization that doesn’t have pre-entry educational requirements and a specific monetary goal before going, and that organization has grown hugely in just a few decades (although, yes, I’ve heard the negative stories about persons who go with too little money raised). 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Assorted quotes

            Today, in my RSS feeds, I received a blog from titled I AM TURNING INTO A SCROOGE AND I LOVE IT!! SOOOOO LIBERATING.  Anewcreation33 is a female, I think from England, and tends to be somewhat harsher with regard to the traditional church than I am.  Sometimes I am ambivalent, but her writing today I feel is a creative look at the side of the coin less looked at.  I had to write down a quote she has from Dr. Walter Martin: “Controversy for the sake of controversy is a sin; controversy for the sake of truth is a Divine command.”

While I am mentioning quotations, I’ll mention a few I’ve scribbled on papers since the last time I did a column of quotes.  From Steve Case, former AOL Time Warner CEO:  In the end, a vision without the ability to execute is probably a hallucination.”

That is an example of the difference between business, and possibly the whole secular realm and the realm of faith.  In business, I can see how he saw that as true.  In the realm of desiring to serve Jesus, a vision may not come into fruition until one passes, as has been the heritage of our forefathers of faith who have been persecuted and martyred over the centuries.

            From Jack Welch of GE: “When everybody gets the same facts, they’ll generally come to the same conclusion.”  Maybe that’s true in the corporate boardroom (and maybe this was said to intimidate the minority opinion), but I don’t see it from the battle lines of the spiritual war.  Still, the believer in Jesus must stand for truth, which is steady even though the gross sales figures can go up or down.

            From Joan Magretta of Harvard Business School, from her book, What Management Is, p. 126:  “Even the best stopwatch won’t tell you what time it is, let alone how you should be spending your time.” 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon

            Of late, I have been attempting to help my family in sorting through various groups of personal property my son has acquired.  In doing so, I ran across a copy of Jeanne Guyon’s “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ”, as printed by Seedsowers, (the original title would have translated into English as “Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer; Which All Can Practice With the Greatest Facility, and Arrive in a Short Time, by Its Means, at a High Degree of Perfection”).  As I have been writing on house church issues, I was familiar with Seedsowers as the publishing house connected with the works of Gene Edwards, a pioneer, but controversial figure with those believers involved in simple expressions of Christian life. At this time, I have not read any of his works.  This particular issue has a forward and afterward to the writing, which has no indication whether it was written by Edwards or someone else.  Anyway, in my recent free time, I read it.

            Jeanne Guyon was a woman living in France in the 17th century.  France, of course, was politically and socially dominated by Roman Catholicism in that time, and she was officially Catholic throughout her life.  This writing drew the ire of parts of the religious and political status quo, and she was denounced as a heretic and imprisioned.  History shows that her writing influenced John Wesley, the Quakers, Zindendorf and the Moravians, the Holiness Movement and Watchman Nee, among others.

            This book is on the subject of prayer.  As those of us who have been believers and desired to follow Jesus learn, prayer is something, in one sense more complicated, and in another sense defying description, in comparison to our society’s concept of what it is.  On the first page, she quotes 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”  The unbeliever, who thinks of prayer as a thing done publicly by one person, recounting God’s acts and verbalizing requests, thinks this to be impossible.  Reviews of her life describe her as a mystic, I would assume for considering this command to be possible, which, of course, it is not by human effort alone.  She attempts to describe entering this depth of following Jesus and prayer with the term “prayer of simplicity.”  To the world, this isn’t prayer at all, and I know that we who are believers daily deal with the idea, even among fellow believers, that the formal public prayer is what is meant by prayer.  Whoever wrote the afterword to this version wrote, “Even in the original French version, the book is vague and complicated with a vocabulary at once so exacting and yet so obscure that reading it has always been a study in frustration.  The English translation did nothing to help.” 

            Much of the early explanations about how to pray in the early part of this book appear to be extremely similar to explanations of Eastern meditation, with the substitution of Jesus or scripture inserted in place of a point, place on the body, or emptying of the mind.  While the two are far different, how to pray is a thing that Guyon and others I have read struggle to put into words, not that I feel that I could do any better.

            There are, though, some really good parts of this book.  In the later part, as she begins to describe the results of learning what she describes as depth in prayer, and what others might describe as basic Christian maturity (as the two are different descriptions of the life of desiring to live God’s way, and not separate compartments), she started describing things I have sensed, but have never heard publicly stated.  Some of these things I will say are true Christian, mature spirituality, but are insidious to status quo religion, be it the Catholicism of the 17th century French culture she lived in, or modern Western Christian status quo, be it Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal/Charismatic (if you consider that flavor separate from the previous), or unaffiliated informal believers (which would be where Edwards’ and my interests would come into play here).  I won’t tell you what these are, I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, as some say about movies. 

There are places where I question whether she chose the right words to describe a certain thing, in many places, and this makes this simple to read book a challenge to read.  I fully well recognize that she didn’t have the advantage of a modern Christian book’s being gone over by proofreaders and scholars before being printed.  Still, for the believer desiring to do some spiritual mining, there’s a lot of gold amongst the rock here.

            As most books concerning simple worship are not readily available in bookstores (Christian and secular), and, further, this has an original publishing date in this version of 1975, I will state it is available at, and I must note that, in comparison to virtually every publishing house I am familiar with, all there books are quite reasonable, with regard to price.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on Leadership

            I will start with a disclaimer:  although I lived in the greater St. Augustine, FL area for a number of years, I do not personally know Tim Tebow or his family, although I cannot help but think I am one introduction away, but by who, I have no idea.  Today, it came across my mind, while watching sports news, that he must be the most divisive athlete in the U.S. since Jackie Robinson.  With Robinson, the issue was race, and this country has seen sufficient healing with this regard that the way it was then is unimaginable to those of us who didn’t live through it (that was about two decades too far back for my memory).  With Tebow, the divisiveness comes from his faith combined with what the media has told us is his exceptional leadership ability at a time where there is more open hostility to believers in Jesus. 

            I live in a military area, and what we hear in the recruitment ads speaks about leadership.  This concept of leadership is nearly totally based on discipline and training.  I occasionally read articles about a military unit, and it seems it always has to be mentioned that, for those in the unit, what they do is a job, and not a matter of passion for the ideals of this country.  The ideals are respected, and mentally saluted, but it isn’t a matter of passion, the way a football team gets worked up before a game.  Of course, that type of emotional excitement only is functional for certain short periods of time, and totally the opposite of functional for many endeavors.  I say this, as my son is in the military working on electronics, where getting excited (upset) is a reason to go take a walk for a minute.

            Leadership is a fascinating subject for me.  I had the honor to be around about two persons in high school and three in college who had a gift for leadership.  One of the persons I knew in college is a believer, and has been involved in leading in traditional churches during his adult life.  I can clearly say that his gifting for leadership was on his life at 19, long before the denomination he is connected to accredited him as a leader.  I didn’t know him before he was a believer, so I have no clue how believing increased his leadership ability.  I fully well know from the other persons that exceptional leadership ability appears in them to be a natural gift, not a learned thing.  At my age, I don’t really know how to separate a natural ability to lead, and the spiritual gift of leadership Paul speaks of in Romans 12:8.

            I can further say that, when I was in high school and college, a gift of leadership, whether natural or spiritual, was more obvious then than when I became an adult, where our society, be it business, politics, church, or whatever, attributes leadership to a position, so it is really hard to tell whether there is giftedness behind it.  First Corinthians 12:10 tells about gifts (plural) of healing.  Further, nothing is indicated in scripture that the spiritual gifts spoken in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and First Corinthians 12 are the complete list.  Therefore, it is unsaid that there may be degrees of leadership ability.  One problem in the church in North America is the idea on both sides of the divide within the church on understanding spiritual gifts is that the discussion gravitates toward the gifts of tongues and prophecy, and doesn’t discuss the others much.  To that effect, when I walk over to the discussion of leadership, there is a problem on both sides of the previous controversy that leaders are oftentimes recognized by positions given by fellow humans.  One aspect about any spiritual gift is that, if it is truly given by God (I am not questioning God’s giving these gifts, I am using “if” in the sense of a logical if-then sentence), then the gifting upon a believer is not dependent upon whether an organization, or even any other believer recognizes it.  It is God’s gifting that makes one a pastor (Eph. 4), a discerner of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10), a giver (Rom. 12:8), or, possibly, one who possesses a gift God gives over and above the names he has elaborated for us. 

            A further problem with leadership giftings is beginning to show itself here in the West, with the rise of the megachurch, which could not have happened previously without the ability of most people to come many miles, experience the presentation called worship that is dependent on many modern technologies, and the highly able leader.  I avoided the word “gifted” there, in that we have seen such churches built around one person with extreme talent, or is it a spiritual gift, for leadership, and then the world has seen such organizations financially collapse if something happens to that person, and there is no other person who can fill his shoes.

            I come back, once again, to First Thessalonians 5:11, which tells us to edify each other.  Such a gifted person can speak to thousands, but it gets in the way, not only of those persons edifying each other, but in some cases even knowing each other.  I have come to believe that Jesus, who as God had more ability than any of us, chose to intensely mentor 12, and it appears mentor to a significantly lower degree, another 70.  Paul taught 24 young leaders in Ephesus.  We can have “iron sharpens iron” relationships with only a few others.  If you ask me a question that I haven’t thought about lately (or ever), it may take me a little while to think and study through it, and give a proper answer.  ESP is not a (Godly) spiritual gift, and to say that a traditional pastor preparing a sermon is answering the questions those listening to him/her have (knowingly or unknowingly) is implying that something like it is.  I have come to believe that the participatory Bible study, where everyone to wishes to knows what will be examined to examine beforehand for him/herself to prepare so as to help others, makes for a situation in which those who have not grown to the maturity to study for oneself, will ask spur of the moment questions which are far more likely to produce the “teachable moment” in which the right statement, which is actually the Spirit speaking into that persons’ spirit, happens.