Musings on a snowy day

What is it about a snow day? Where I live in Charlottesville, VA, snow days are a big deal. Everyone talks about it for days before and things shut or slow down during and after the event for a couple of days. Part of the attraction is that sometimes because of the mountains to our west and the Atlantic Ocean not far to our east, it goes around us and doesn’t happen at all. We got one today 😀

Watching the snow fall early and into the morning, I relished it’s beauty and the way it brings a fresh look to my usual perspective. The view from in front of my house or off the back deck is the same. (see below) Yet, it has been changed by the newly made winter wonderland. What came to mind is that it is only temporary. It is exciting and allows us to enjoy something new but pretty soon it melts away and the view is back to what it was before. The deer poop in the back yard is still there. It is just under the white blanket that will soon go away.

This is true about our lives as well. How many times do we try or do new things hoping they (like the snow over the deer poop) will cover up what is really bothering us? Interestingly, what deer leave behind can be harmful to your yard if not removed. https://mybackyardlife.com/what-to-do-with-deer-poop-in-yard/ The same can be said if we don’t deal with what causes stress and worry in our lives. It just spreads and causes more damage. If we are to remain thankful in all things, we need to find what brings us our purpose and our joy. Only then can we fight the circumstances that want to rob us of that very thing.
Paul David Tripp says it this way. “Looking to creation to do for us what it was not meant to do will not only disappoint us, it will enslave us, and for that there is rescuing grace.  We need to be constantly pointed toward the One who alone is able to satisfy the longing of our hearts.” What the world has to offer us is like the snow. It is temporal and will melt away leaving us disappointed and once again, yearning for something more.
Most of us know the Latin phrase, carpe diem, meaning “seize the day.” What we all need though is Coram Deo which is Integrity found when men and women live their lives knowing they were created to be in a relationship with God. A Ligonier ministry writer said it this way. “It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.” What it is not is a life that continues to be disappointed as it goes from one experience or snow day to another hoping to find happiness.
The good news is that God makes it all possible. He desires to be in a relationship with us and says the darkness of our imperfections are made as white as freshly fallen snow. Isaiah 1:18. James 4:8, says “if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us” and when we do we can have that snow day experience exclaiming “new every morning, new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” https://youtu.be/TYyZCCs5bJc

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My word for 2021 is Embrace

I have been doing the One Word challenge https://www.onewordchallenge.com/ for several years now. I wish I had written them all down. I do know that 2018 was Blessed because I realized how often I forgot how much I had for which to be thankful. Who would have guessed when I chose Prayer as my 2019 word, it would be so needed as I battled Guillain Barre Syndrome chronicled here. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie 2020’s word Generosity was an easy one to choose. I wanted to pay forward the generosity everyone shared with Dottie and me the previous year. Covid19 gave me lots of ways to practice generosity. Thinking of and stepping out to serve others kept me from self-isolation pity parties and spiraling into discouragement. If these last few years have taught me anything, it has been stuff happens that is totally out of my control. That is why my word this year is EMBRACE. My focus will be on two different meanings of the word. “an act of holding someone closely in one’s arms.” and “accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.” Instead of trying to figure out why things happen, I want to trust God enough knowing “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Therefore, I can be thankful in all things.
Charles Stanley writes-“Signs of God’s blessing are all around us, but discerning them can be difficult. We tend to think God is moving and blessing us when things are going well—when marriages are thriving, we get the promotion, or sickness is healed. But He blesses us even in the wilderness of our lives—in the unknown, unpredictable, and uncomfortable. When things are difficult, it’s common to believe the solution is to move past our problems—to change our circumstances. But God doesn’t just pluck us out of the desert places. Usually, He comes alongside us, bringing life, water, and renewed hope as we journey onward.”

This is what I want to do with 2021. Embrace whatever comes my way. Over these last two years, I have experienced God’s presence in ways that have deepened my faith. I have learned the need to Abide in Christ to have the confidence I can trust Him no matter what the outcome. Jesus teaches in John 15 that we are to cling to the True Vine. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. I think we can all agree that clinging on to something during these stormy times sounds like a pretty good idea. It has certainly worked for me and I believe it will work for you as well. This passage communicates we are to be grafted into a place God has prepared for us as a result our faith in Him. The better that attachment the more our new life of faith can flourish. My hope is as I focus on clinging even tighter to my relationship with God, more of what He wants for my life will appear. The result will be the fruit https://www.biblica.com/bible/niv/galatians/5/ produced by my embracing Him no matter what 2021 brings with it.

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“Ubuntu” May we consider giving this gift for Christmas

I have written about the African proverb above before in this blog. On a Glenn Lundy podcast recently, I was introduced to Ubuntu. In the Bantu language, it means, “humanity”. Unpacked further, it says, I am because you are”. Once again the African culture teaches the importance of going together. “Their belief is in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”(Wikipedia). As we enter this Christmas week, practicing Ubuntu Would be a great gift to give each other. Treating one another with respect and honor. Paul in Ephesians 4 wrote about it this way. “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The Christmas angels sang about this peace when they announced the birth of a baby born in a manger, Jesus. They promised “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” There is no doubt in this season of uncertainty, we could all use some peace in our lives. I submit that it can happen with you doing two simple things. First, the simple act of showing goodwill to others makes us realize we are all connected. It is good to know and show others we are not going it alone. Secondly, Christ calls us to 1st “Come unto Him” As we “Abide in Him”, He promises to bring “rest to our souls”. This song reminds us to make your own trip to the manger and at His feet, may you lay your burdens down 😃 https://youtu.be/dK_azB1-HMU. Listen and then rise up knowing Jesus wants to take on whatever burdens your carrying around these days.

I pray you will have a blessed Christmas filled with great tidings of His Joy. Please subscribe to this blog post if you want to receive email notifications when new content is posted. I can be reached by email at michael@mrg7175.com

Advent….Another season of waiting

2019 was a year of waiting to recover from Guillain Barre Syndrome (www.CaringBridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie. Little did I know that 2020 would bring a new kind of waiting; the all clear from Covid19. Although I am physically well and have accomplished my 180 goal stated in this link http://thankfulinallthings.com/tag/transformed/, the doctors have me self-isolating as much as possible. They say that is the best course of action given my compromised immune system because Covid19 can result in Guillain Barre as well. Singer Christopher Cross had that exact thing happen https://youtu.be/aeEe9W8wayw back in March. Along with all of you, we wait for a vaccine that will hopefully allow us to return to our normal lives again sometime in 2021.

Waiting for recovery in 2019 and Covid19 to be brought under control in 2020 has made the season of Advent more poignant for me. Why? Because it is also about waiting and waiting is never easy. I guess that is why they say “patience is a virtue.” 😀 God’s chosen people had been waiting for a Messiah for a lot longer than a couple of years. God’s son, Jesus, had been prophesied hundreds of years before in Isaiah 7:14. Here is a link to 44 prophesies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the New Testament. https://parish.rcdow.org.uk/swisscottage/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2014/11/44-Prophecies-Jesus-Christ-Fulfilled.pdf

One such prophesy shares about the servant, the messiah for whom they were waiting.

Isaiah 42 goes on to say what the people could expect upon His arrival.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

Ponder this question on this 2nd Sunday of Advent. For what or for whom are you waiting? Is it something temporal in nature like improved health or the end of Covid19? There is no doubt I have found both are worth waiting for with expectant anticipation. Yet this Christmas season, try waiting on God to show you how He wants to renew your life. There you will find the everlasting Hope that was promised in Isaiah. The hope that comes from God who loved us enough to send His Incarnate Son to live amongst us. Wait on Him friends and watch how he will bring justice to this broken and bruised world that feels like at any moment could be snuffed out like a smoldering wick. Joy to the world, The Lord has come. May we each receive Him personally as our King. When we do we can remain Thankful in All Things.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on what it means to wait during The Advent season. I can be reached by email at michael@mrg7175.com Please subscribe to the blog if you want to get email notifications when new content is posted.

There will be others!

It has taken me awhile to figure out what I wanted to post this week. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have the desire to sit down and write. Many thoughts and topics crossed my mind but for different reasons, I ruled them out. It finally dawned on me a couple days ago that I was having a hard time being thankful. How can one post on a blog about being thankful in all things when you don’t feel thankful?
Gratefully, I came across this devotional thought from my friend Tom. “One of my “Thanks” this year is finding my Joy in God. ” The joy of the Lord is my strength,”  Neh 8:10. This crisis makes me go deeper into my relationship with the Lord, and the deeper I go the more thankful I am for him.  This  trial has me seeking him constantly, where he becomes, “my joy and my delight.” Ps 43:4.
My friend’s words stopped me from focusing on the sadness of knowing there would not be 35 family and friends (pictured below) packed around tables for Thanksgiving. It provided another lesson learned that adversity makes me lean in and go deeper in the trust I have for the One who created and wants only the best for me. Proverbs 23:18 reinforces this affirmation by saying, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”


If that wasn’t enough, Facebook reminded me of a prayer I wrote last Thanksgiving.
My Thanksgiving poem-

Gratitude for which I strive

Instead of stress eating me alive 

The world wants us to never be content 

Achieving much, asking what’s next. 

So on this another Thanksgiving Day

Lord I ask that my heart does stay 

Focused on you and all that You give

Abundance abounds and in that thought I’ll live

So my encouragement to you is this simple exercise. Stop focusing on what you don’t have, where you can’t go, or who you can’t visit. Instead, take the time to look around you and take in all the abundance you have in your life. Once you have gotten yourself refocused with an attitude of gratitude, find some ways to bring thankfulness into others’ lives knowing this season will indeed pass and another Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. I can’t wait to celebrate it with the folks pictured below 😀


missing Maggie and Caroline

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How are you dealing with tension and stress?

There is so much tension in the world these days. It comes from so many directions. Stop for a moment and think. Maybe even find a piece of paper. Write down from where the tension in your life is originating. I think you will be surprised by how many things come to mind. It may explain why you are feeling tired and discouraged. Think about your computer or smart phone. Throughout the day, you are opening different apps and websites. With each one that is opened, the battery starts to run down and the system starts to get sluggish. We need to regularly go in and clear the cache, close the apps and websites. We also need to plug it in so it can recharge. So it goes with our brain and nervous system. Look back at your list. So many things are flying through your brain that you forget or aren’t able to shut down. They unconsciously weigh you down and tire you out. The question is how do we acknowledge and deal with the tensions so that our mind can find time to relax? We also need to figure out the best ways to allow ourselves to recharge so that we can venture out with a mindset of wanting to make a positive difference in the world. It reminds me of an earlier blog post linked here. http://thankfulinallthings.com/to-what-are-you-tethered/ It is so important to venture out knowing we have a way to get back.

Why is acknowledging tension, fatigue, and discouragement important? There are many reasons but the one I want to focus on is how it impacts how we love our neighbor. I am generally a pretty even keeled, slow to anger person. When I look back at why I lash out or find myself being short with someone, I realize it is because I am tired or some other stress triggers it. Therefore, I have found setting reminders so I stop throughout the day to defrag and clear out the stress that has come my way, helps me in dealing with others. It also makes sure I get a good night sleep so I can be recharged for tomorrow. How do I know this will work?

I trust in the Lord and obey Him even if friends choose a different path or when suffering or discomfort is guaranteed. Seeing His will done is more important than my own comfort or personal ambition. I commit the consequences to God and cling to His promises: He will never leave us (Heb. 13:5), and He makes good out of every situation (Rom. 8:28). I can cling to these promises because I can look back and see where God was present in my adversity and His good was evident even when I didn’t see it at the time.

I read a book years ago called Travelling Light. With the Twenty-third Psalm as his guide, the author writes about burdens we were never intended to bear. Using these verses as a guide, Max Lucado walks us through a helpful inventory of our burdens. May God use this Psalm to remind you to release the burdens you were never meant to bear. Yes, fellow Weary travelers, we are called to rest and lay our burdens down. As Matthew 11:28-30 instructs, “ “Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and burdened, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him. You will find Him gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”

Take the time to Be still friends and know that God is with you and wants to replace all of your anxiety, fears, and stress with His peace that “surpasses all human understanding.” If you find these posts helpful, please subscribe to the blog so you can be notified when new content is posted. You can contact me by email at michael@mrg7175.com

Isn’t it great when someone says you made a difference no matter how small or large?

Affordable housing was the topic on my radio show a couple weeks ago. I had the opportunity to speak with two Realtors whose initiatives resulted in four families buying homes when they never thought it possible. I congratulated them saying, “you all can always look back and be thankful knowing your efforts has and will In the future, help others experience homeownership.” It reminded me that our individual decisions to go out and serve can and will make the world a better place. I saw a powerful video about Rick Rescorla that illustrated this very point. Very few know his name but his one act cost him his life but saved the lives of 2700 fellow employees. https://youtu.be/J8XfwZAKPMk As I wrote last week, he exemplifies choosing not to retreat but to strive forward on behalf of others.

Two scripture passages jump out at me when thinking about how knowing we have made a difference in the world allows us to be thankful. Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 2 Corinthians 9:11,12 “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

The ultimate verse though is Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The greatest motivation to do good works is not so that we can be applauded or told how much someone appreciates you. It is that God exhibited the greatest act of love by allowing His son to die for us and therefore when we got out to serve others, It is like we are serving Jesus himself.

I read a book years ago with the title, The Five People You Meet In Heaven  by Mitch Albom. It follows the life and death of a man named Eddie who is killed and sent to heaven, where he encounters five people who had a significant impact upon him while he was alive. Thinking about it reminds me of the opportunity each of us has to create positive or negative ripples out into the world. I think we would all agree, like Eddie in the book, we would rather have people smiling when they say to you “I remember when you…….” I bet the almost 2700 people who survived the tower collapse on 9/11 remember what Rick Rescorla did for them.

“Ever present Father, You are active in everything and everyone and every moment, moving the world toward the full manifestation of your loving reign. Help us to love ourselves wholly up to you; to be instruments of your will in this and every moment” Gregory Boyd

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Looking back, allows you to look forward

Last week I played my annual 100 holes of golf to raise money for FCA and AIA. When the person I played with found out about my recovery from Guillain Barre, his 1st response was “that had to be really scary.” My answer, in all honesty, is nothing scared me once it was determined I would not need to go on a ventilator. That in itself was a blessing as the doctor gave me a 78% chance of that happening within 24 hours of being admitted to UVA. It was the only time I cried. I have thought a lot about not being scared and it boils down to one thing. My faith allowed me to trust God in as Paul writes in Hebrews 11, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I also trusted a good friend who is a doctor when he said, “this is going to get worse but you will get better” But why did I have such a trust?

The trust came from being able to look back over my life to the significant moments where God met me in that place and showed me the way forward. As I shared my GBS story with my golf marathon partner, the book “Hinds feet in high places” by Hannah Humard came to mind. The author titled it based on Habakkuk 3:19, “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds‘ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” and also from Psalm 18:33 “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” I was not scared because I believed my strength would return, I would walk again and yes, even be able to play golf all day long for FCA/AIA. “Much Afraid” in Hinds feet “had the feeling that somehow, in the very far-off places, perhaps even in far-off ages, there would be a meaning found to all sorrow and an answer too fair and wonderful to be as yet understood.” I have experienced that same wonderful meaning in my life.

Elizabeth Elliott expressed where rest is found in marathons or any challenge we face: ”God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will. and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” Pamela Bunn writes in her blog https://astherainandsnow.com/author/astherainandsnow/, “Though Elijah had his weak moments of discouragement and fear, Elijah would learn by experience that the Lord would never ask him to do anything for which He was not enough. Repeatedly, His adequacy came forth out of lack and impossibility, and that is where it best shines. (1 Kings 17:11-1618:32-39)

Prior to GBS there have been many times in my life that like Much Afraid in Hinds Feet, God met me which gave me the strength and courage to persevere in the midst of the adversity. Each time it made me stronger having gone through it. Little did I know I would need those times to not be afraid when lying in a hospital bed with GBS unable to move. Here are some things I learned from a sermon by Chip Ingram at https://livingontheedge.org that I hope will help you the next time you come up against a challenge.

  1. God uses adversity to make us more mature because we are forced to depend on God rather than on our own power
  2. We are weaned from the worldly and temporal things and made to realize what is really important In our lives
  3. We get to witness the reality and Power Of God. 
  4. God gives us the privilege of showing others what it looks like to trust in God.
  5. Finally, going through a struggle gives you the ability to help others who are experiencing some kind of trial in their life.

Paul sums it up well in 2 Corinthians 9:8. “It is in these very hard circumstances that His enough is the most welcome, satisfying, and glorious, showing forth the bounty of His nature toward us.” I pray you will find joy in knowing God is indeed enough. Be blessed!

To learn more about my GBS story visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie If you want to support my FCA/AIA golf fundraiser, click on this link. https://my.fca.org/donation?name=fcauvagolfmarathon I can be reached at michael@mrg7175.com

Thoughts on how to remain thankful

Bruce Pulver shared how he thinks of the word Hope. That led me to respond this way.

Bruce Pulver
“HOPE.
Have
Overwhelmingly
Positive
Expectations”
My response/add on
Having Hope allows us to remain
FOCUSED
Focused
On
Creating
Unbelievable
Success
Every
Day

Having this kind of mindset allows me to make the most of each day so I, by God’s grace, can be a better person tomorrow. Another way I look at it is with the two words RISE UP which comes from the verse Isaiah 60:1-3

60 “Rise up and shine, for your light has come. The shining-greatness of the Lord has risen upon you. For see, darkness will cover the earth. Much darkness will cover the people. But the Lord will rise upon you, and His shining-greatness will be seen upon you. Nations will come to your light. And kings will see the shining-greatness of the Lord on you.

God calls us Each and every day to RISE UP/P
Resolved Intentional Striving for Eternal things. W Unbelievable Purpose/Passion. Over this past month or so, I have been trying to live out Gregory Boyd’s Exhortation to live out my life knowing “God is in the Now” and when I do it makes the [Present Perfect] (the name of his book)
When I can stay in the moment it pushes away all the distractions, discouragement, and challenges so that I can live a life of gratitude. It is not that the adversity disappears. The story of Peter walking on the water In Matthew 14:22-33 illustrates this very point. The storm was raging while he was out there. It wasn’t until he took his eyes off of Jesus that he realized the wind and the waves. When he did, he immediately sank. Isn’t that just like us. When we start trying to do things on our own power the stuff comes flooding back in leaving us discouraged and defeated. We just need to choose to remember that God loves us and that is all that matters. When We go out into the world virtually or in person with that thought process it is much easier to be thankful and as Miles McPherson encourages, strive to honor those who cross our paths.
How do we stay in the Now? Here are a couple things I have done.
1) I have set a reminder on my phone at 6am, 9am,noon, 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm. It comes up at BSKIG. Be still and know that I am God. When I see the notice, I stop and recite The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. I try to add things into both that bring up things that are going on in my life at that point in the day. An example is below.
2) I try to commit to honoring every person I encounter whether on the phone, via zoom, or in person. A quick prayer, “Lord, let me honor this person in this interaction so that they might see You in my conversation with them”

These simple things have helped me greatly in remaining thankful during these mind boggling times. I hope they will in some way help you as well. If it has, please forward it to others and ask them to subscribe so they can receive an email when Impost new content. You can reach me via email at michael@mrg7175.com.

My Quarantine version of Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

As I navigate the lonely paths of Covid19, The Lord will be my guide and His presence is all I need 

Whether I think it is needed or not, I will use this time for rest and quiet reflection. 

So that my soul can be refreshed 

As He guides me where He wants me to be used bring Glory and honor to His name. 

Even though I walk

 through the valley of people wearing masks

I will fear no evil,

He gives my faith confidence so that I can go or do wherever He feels the need to send me. 

 Knowing even in self-isolation you are with me and won’t forsake me. 

Like the shepherds’ rod and staff, your Word and the Holy Spirit will teach and comfort me. 

Even in the midst of my adversity, You will abundantly provide all that I need so that I will it be afraid. 

Like an anointing, You will bless and protect me from whatever evil that wants to prey on me. 

You will fill me with your spirit so that cup of love you want me to share overflows. 

I count and trust on the contentment of your love for as long as I am to live.

This assurance brings joy knowing that I will be welcomed and will forever dwell in the house that you went and prepared for me. 


Acknowledging the tension between Sadness and Gratitude

How could this picture bring about sadness? Doesn’t everyone look like they are having a good time? I mean you are on a dock looking at boats on a beautiful day with family. What could be better? The gratitude part for Dottie and me says, “we are blessed to get away to a beautiful place with those we love. Nothing brings us more joy. So where is the sadness? The sadness is what isn’t pictured here. It reminds me that my son, his wife, and three kids weren’t with us leaving a huge void. Not being the one to pull the wagon conveys Dottie and me having to stay socially distanced because of Covid19. There is not one picture of us and our grandkids because we couldn’t even be inside, hug them or have them sit in our laps.

Scripture like the one pictured above remind us of this tension. No matter what comes our way, we can remain “Thankful in all Things” because God made tensions like these for our own good. This tension and others like “out of adversity comes strength”, “letting go allows God to do His thing”, and “peace in the midst of turmoil” are used to strengthen our relationship with God. Our creator who is always with us in the good and the bad. Like the footprints in the sand poem, God is always there. We just sometimes forget to look for Him.

Kellie Balarie prays- “God, help us. Where we are weak, make us strong. Where we are wavering, help us lay our anchor down. May we find strength through knowing you hold us. We no longer need to be held down by the world’s claws. May we believe you are so believable we see your hand in our everything.”

May we seek contentment in everything whether it produces Gratitude or heart felt Sadness. Jesus tells us how in John 15:10,11.
“Keep My commandments and no matter what remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” I pray the same for each of you who read this blog.

For the story of how this blog got started, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie You can reach me by email at michael@mrg7175.com