Baaaaaaaaa!!!!

As I have shared with you before, I live in a very large Christian Retirement Village in North Florida…along the Georgia boarder, between Jacksonville and Tallahassee.  We are in a rural area with cattle, horses, sheep, large chicken farms, and the infamous country roads.  It is peaceful and dark at night.  I am such a country girl, I don’t even like to go for a 25 minute drive to Walmart…Ha!

Last week I drove by a sheep farm.  The sheep had just been shorn and were huddled together as if they were embarrassed, or cold. (HeHe…it was 95 degrees that day)

Then, Sunday morning, our Pastor preached on JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD from the book of Ezekiel.  What a joy to be reminded that although we are stinky, “stupid” sheep who wander and go astray, our Good Shepherd seeks us out and covers us with His protection and correction.

Ezekiel 34, portions from vs. 13, 14, 15, 16 “I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them…I will tend them in a good pasture, I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down , declares the Sovereign Lord…I will search for the lost and bring back the strays…I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

John 10  gives Jesus’ words about His sheep knowing His voice and following Him, and that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.

Isaiah 40:11 “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

Now that I know He cares about me I will answer this way…Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.(provision)  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.(rest)  He guides me in paths of righteousness (right decisions) for His Name’s Sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and your staff, they comfort me (correction).  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies .(Spiritual warfare)  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows(healing). Surely goodness and love (mercy) will follow (pursue) me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”(NIV translation and my inserts)

Happy to be one of His stinky sheep…..Baaaaaaaaaa!

A Lord of Compassion

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“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.’
Matthew 25:35-40

We serve a Lord of compassion. Jesus was compassionate to everyone he met, except for the people who were being unkind or judgmental of others. Those he challenged to do better. We are expected to treat others as we would be treated, and to show compassion to those in greater need than our own, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. What we do for those, we do unto the Lord.

Compassion is defined as: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. synonyms: sympathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

Last week I went to Little Caesar’s to pick up a cheese pizza for the kids playing in the pool at my house. A Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza is only $5.41 with tax. It was Friday night at almost 8:00 so the place was packed. If you don’t know, Little Caesar’s is just a small lobby with a big kitchen. Everything is to go. It’s a working class joint.

The kids working were slammed and stressed. The 20 people packed in the lobby were people just getting off a hard day of work at places like Goodwill, Walmart, Auto Bell. I could tell everyone was tired and impatient. Most were looking at their phones and noticeably irritable. They all wanted to get their inexpensive pizzas and get home to their families to enjoy their Friday night after a grueling work week.

I just stood there in the crowd smiling at people and trying to make light conversation. I had been there at least 10 minutes and there were several people who had ordered ahead of me. Some were pleasant to me, some were not.

Then, in walked a very frail looking man, I’d say in his 60s, who made his way to the counter and asked for the manager. He quietly and humbly interrupted the busy manager to ask if there was any way he could get a discount on a pizza because he and his wife were very hungry and all they had was some change.

The manager politely said he was too busy at the moment serving the customers who were waiting, but that he would see what he could do once the rush died down.

The man began to ask individuals in the lobby if they could spare a couple dollars. He was shaky and very thin and he kept pointing to his wife standing outside. Every person turned him away, and every person tried to put their head down and did their best to look busy on their phone and waved him off. Some at least looked at him to tell him “No.”

He finally got to me. I knew it was coming, and I had been thinking of what I would do. Was this man an addict? Was that really his wife? I was ashamed that I even let those questions run through my head. I thought, what WOULD Jesus do if he were here? It doesn’t matter what this man’s story really is. He is in need, and I have another $5.50 in my pocket right now. Money’s tight, but I have more than this man has, and I am called to share when I am able. Plus, there is an audience watching to see what I do.

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have just a couple dollars to help me and my wife get a pizza? We are so hungry and the manager said he’d work a discount if I wait. That’s my wife right out there. We just need a meal.”

I looked him in the eye. Everyone in the lobby was watching me. This was my chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. “Sir,” I said, “I just happen to have $5.50 in my pocket and the pizza is $5.41. I would be honored to help you get a pizza.”

Everyone watched as I handed him the money and he limped to get in line behind two others who were about to order. He finally ordered and got the 9 cents back. He walked to me and reached in his pocket to get an assortment of pennies, dimes and nickels to put with the 9 cents of change. He handed it to me with tears in his eyes and said, “THANK YOU. I worked for 25 years driving a truck and had to have a knee surgery and it took all we had. I still can’t walk well and I cannot find a job that will take care of me and my wife. This pizza will be so good. God bless you for your kindness ma’am.”

I continued talking with him as we waited. My pizza came up next. He shook my hand again and thanked me. I said, “It is a pleasure sir, and God bless you.” I smiled and waved to everyone as I left. “Have a great night everyone!” All those irritable people waved and smiled at me as I walked out the door.

Perhaps that very small act of kindness had put everyone’s frustrating wait for pizza into perspective. Perhaps it spurred some of them on to be kinder to others that night. All I know is that God gave me an opportunity to be a light, and I am glad I took it.

I cried when I got to my car. I thanked God for the opportunity He had given me and I prayed for that man and his wife, the employees, and all the patrons I had encountered that night. I don’t know any of their stories, but I do know that God showed Himself in that lobby here in East Charlotte last Friday night. He is good, all the time, and He asks us to be an extension of His love to all we meet. Opportunities abound – we just have to be aware and willing!

To Love


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Doesn’t that sound simple? To Love. This is all God has called us to do. Love him, and love others, but why are we making it so difficult?

We let our differences get in the way. We let our opinions get in the way. We let our selfish selves get in the way. If we want to live a life like Jesus we need to look at his model for us. 

Jesus engaged and interacted and sat with those who were “different” from everyone else. He listened to them and gave them his undivided attention. He loved them in a way no one else would. He didn’t let their differences get in the way. He is the Son of God for goodness sake and he came down to our human level to be with us and love and serve us. Why are we not doing this today? 

If you call yourself a Christian, why are you casting judgment on others? If you call yourself a Christ follower, why are you not loving your neighbor? 

He called us to love. That’s it! It’s simple and yet for us we overcomplicate it. 

I am learning what it means to love. To see those who are different than me, who have a different belief than me, who have a difference of opinion than me and sit to gain understanding of who they are and why they believe the things they do. It is not my place to cast judgement. I surely don’t have all the answers, none of us do. So we need to change our judgement to gaining understanding for the person in front of us. 

I have a constant prayer that I will see people the way God sees them. I want to see his children the way he does!

We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Learn about the uniqueness of your neighbor. They were made in the image of God just like you were. Don’t you forget that!

Think of a person who is different than you and that you have possibly cast judgement on and rode them off. Reach out to them. Tell them you want to learn more about them and just sit and listen. Don’t offer advice. Don’t state your opinion. Just be with them and show them love the way Jesus does by giving them your undivided attention. 

If we all do this, honestly, the world would be a better place! If you call yourself a Christian and a follower of Jesus, do as he did. Love him and love your neighbor. It’s that simple. Get yourself and your selfish motives out of the way and be Jesus to the person in front of you. 

 

WRESTLING………..REALLY?

That…is one of the strangest sports I have ever watched!

Some of you may have a family member or friend who has a child in that sport in high school,  I really don`t “get it”, but wrestling has been “tangling of bodies” type competition for thousands of years.

Jacob wrestled with God.   In Genesis we begin to learn of Jacob, who tricked his father Isaac into blessing him instead of his older brother Esau.  Jacob goes through a journey of places and marriages, and births of children and increase of wealth due to the fulfilled blessing of his father Isaac (Genesis 28:1-4).

Jacob was an upright honest man and a worshiper of the One True God.  By the time we get to Genesis 32, he has 11 sons, and some daughters.  Jacob is about to see his brother Esau, whom he tricked out of their father’s blessing.  That night as he tried to sleep…

(Gen. 32:24-30 NIV)”So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him ’till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob”s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man,Then the man said’,’Let me go, for it is daybreak. But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  The man asked him, ‘What is your name?‘  ‘Jacob, he answered.  ‘Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.’  ‘Jacob said, Please tell me your name.’ ‘But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?  Then he blessed him there.’ So Jacob called the place Peniel,, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

WOW! That was some wrestling match!!! (I have a friend who says he doesn’t trust anyone who doesn’t limp!)

That wrestling (or struggle as is often interpreted) resulted in the beginning of the 12 tribes of Israel.  (Jacob’s 12th son Benjamin, was born after this incident.)

If you are like me, you have wrestled with God over a situation in your life.  Maybe many a sleepless night, or days of quiet thoughts and prayers, until the peace comes.  I have cried out to God “I will not let you go until you give me the correct answer!”

Sometimes the answer is not what you want.  My years of knowing God has shown me the answer is not always noticeable right away.  That’s where faith and trust are necessary in our walk with the Lord.  I look back and say “Now I see why God did it that way!  It was for my good!

Wrestling or struggling with God is a good thing!  It means you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  Wrestling in prayer for others is good too…that’s called interceding.  But, since we live in this sinful world, the instruction in Ephesians 6:10-18 is to consider wrestling with sin and winning.

.“Finally, my brethren, be strong on the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”(NKJV)

Whatever wrestling match you are in right now…be strong in the Lord…and WIN.  Even if, in wrestling with God you must give up to His best for you...YOU STILL WIN !!!

God’s Not Afraid of Your Honesty

Have you every pushed God away when you were in a dark season because you felt like you were not “good enough” to be close to Him?

I used to shy away from God during my dark and difficult times. I would retreat, as if I were actually hiding from Him. Finally I know that my authentic self is exactly who He loves and who He wants to come to Him. He’s not surprised by my insecurities, anger or frustration. He’s not surprised by an unsavory word or loss of composure. He knows all of that anyway – even if it’s just inside my head! Instead, He welcomes it. He says, just come into my presence and lay that down. Put all your cards on the table.

Margaret Becker said it well in her song Honesty:

God’s not afraid of your honesty
He can heal your heart if you speak honestly
Humble sorrow and the honest cry
He will not pass by

So many of us spend so much time
Smoothing things over, pretending we’re fine
As if life could ever be so cut and dried…. 

In this age of social media, most of us put on a good face online. Even when we are at our lowest. Most of us are afraid to be too real because we aren’t sure what others will think of us. What if we don’t live up to others’ expectations? One little glimpse into our imperfection might “lose” us a friend! Pure authenticity doesn’t feel like an option.

But it is with God. He wants us in our most authentic posture always. He wants our honesty. He can work with that!

Look who Jesus hung out with! He hung out with the real folks who admitted they were broken. He didn’t preach AT the people. He simply sat down with them. His mere presence was life-changing. It still is. He wants to sit with you, but he is a gentleman and allows us to turn to him in our own time.

What He wants is ME. In all my broken beauty. And He wants YOU too.

God’s love for us never waivers for a second. He is a God of endless chances and “do overs.” He never falters like humans do. He knows our hearts. He knows how difficult this life can be, and He is always right there working all things together for our good in the big picture we cannot see. All the while the Holy Spirit is there to show us compassion and wrap us in peace as we journey on.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

JUST KIDDING!

This year Easter is on April 1st….the traditional April Fool’s Day.

Some of my friends say that is blasphemous, but our calendar puts the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection according to three days after the Jewish Passover.

The tradition of April Fool’s Day has endured for over 400 years. The true origins of April Fool’s Day are uncertain, but one theory is that it began in 1582 when France adopted the Gregorian calendar. Before then, New Year’s Day fell on the end of March, not January 1st. Those who continued to celebrate the old New Year (at the beginning of April) were called “fools” by their peers. In 1700, English pranksters began popularizing this annual tradition of April Fool’s Day by playing practical jokes on each other. And so it goes on still to this day.

When Christ died on that Roman cross and shed His blood to cover our sins it certainly wasn’t a joke. And, God’s plan for the covering of our sins is not a prank. God wasn’t teasing humanity with a “maybe my Son Jesus could suffer, bleed and die for the penalty of mankind’s sins against Me.” It’s not a J/K scenario that Jesus actually arose from the dead and is living with His Father in Heaven!

And, you know what?  Jesus is coming one day when His Father says “Go get my children!”  And on that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD of all…no one will be able to say “I thought you were kidding.”

Something to think about………..

The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.”  Psalm 14:1

On a happier note…have a blessed Easter Day celebration that Christ is risen!!!

WEARINESS

Today I am simply weary. I don’t even have the strength to post something positive on social media to make it appear as though all is well. All my needs are met for today. My immediate family and close friends are all safe and sound for today. But, people have worn me out, and I am fighting to stay grateful, thankful and positive. I can be nothing but honest today as I write this. Just the raw truth.

I have been reminding myself all day that the only one we can fully count on is Jesus himself. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand….” That old hymn continues to loop in my head. I welcome it. TURN UP THE VOLUME. It’s slowly drowning out the background noise.

Disappointment comes in many forms, but the hardest for me to swallow continues to be when a person I trust betrays me. That pain just runs deep. I have had my share of betrayal in the past several weeks. Not one, but several people whom I thought I could count on have run off the rails. Today I am just on the verge of throwing my hands up and writing off human beings. I want to run away with my family and live in the wilderness, off the grid, with a canine companion.

I suppose there would not be so many references to weariness in the Bible if it were not an expected part of life. Our weakness reminds us of God’s strength. Without him, how could we press on? I know that he is all that is keeping me going today. I must press on toward my calling and my goal. I must be kind and faithful to others regardless of how they treat me. He promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him.

My word to share with you today is simply that we are human, and we are weak. It is okay to have the days where we feel so heavy and dreary. It is okay to admit it to ourselves and to others. BUT, we must remember to focus on HIM and his faithfulness to us on the dark days. That focus will pull us through. Mediate on the Word with me:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

How far is too far? How close is close enough?

For over a a year now I have been witnessing to a 90-year-old woman who can’t seem to decide to be a follower of Christ.  She keeps saying “I’ll try.”

My heart is drawn to her.  She is covered in prayer by friends she has acquired at this faith-based retirement community.

This past week I asked her some pointed questions, such as: “Have you decided to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?”  The answer was “No.”  “Do you believe Jesus Christ shed His blood and died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins?”  “Oh yes!”, was her answer.   “Do you believe Jesus arose from the dead after three days and still lives in Heaven today?”  “Oh yes!”, she said.  “Do you believe He’s coming again?”  “Well, I’m not sure about that.”, she said.

My heart was rejoicing as I told her….”Then you believe according to the Word of God in Acts 16:31.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….”

I encouraged her with Scripture and the account of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples who did not believe Jesus was alive, who, after touching the nail scars in Jesus’ hands, and the wound in His side, cried out “My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28

Also in the scriptures; the account of a father asking Jesus to heal his son, if He could. (Mark 9:24) When Jesus said “If you can?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Isn’t it God’s great compassion and grace to give us proof in His Word that He knows our heart?  He knows our frail humanity!

Even though my elderly friend has not prayed the “sinners prayer”, or “gone forward to the altar” at church, she must be on her way to a full realization of who Jesus Christ is, and who He is to her. Even the thief on one of the crosses next to Jesus cried out to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “I tell you THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”  That man believed in his heart at that moment and didn’t have time to pray a sinners prayer, or go forward to an altar , or even be baptized in water….Jesus accepted him just as he was!

My point is…it is not for me to judge how far away her soul is from salvation, or how close is close enough.   God knows every individual heart and motive.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12

My part in her salvation is to pray for her, encourage her and disciple her in the Word so that she fully understands that salvation cannot be earned, it is a free gift, accepted by childlike faith; no need to try harder!

As she comes to the last years of her life on this earth, I pray peace over her; that she will know, without a doubt, that she belongs to Jesus Christ, her Savior for eternity.

I claim this scripture for her that my Mom prayed over me…”Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

TRUST

TRUST: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence; reliance

Between the daily headlines and personal disappointments of 2017, I many times find myself lacking trust. God clearly tells us that He is the only one we can fully trust – the only one who will never let us down. However, as humans, it is not only inevitable, but understandable to put our trust in other things. Children trust the adults in their lives with everything. We trust our family members to act in our best interest. We trust friends to keep our confidence. We expect the people close to us to be honest and supportive. We trust that our finances will remain stable. We trust that we will remain healthy.

The older I get, the more I realize that these hopes are dashed much more often than I expected them to be. It disheartens me to see too much news. The acts of hatred and violence of all kinds run rampant. I also realize the ups and downs of finances, health, and relationships.

Without consistent communication with God through prayer and by reading His Word, it is easy to continue down the path of disheartenment and become distrustful of God Himself. It is sometimes easy to hold Him accountable for the disappointment we feel in the people He created in His image, and the circumstances that are out of our control.

Here we are at Christmastime again, and though the joy of the meaning of this season supersedes the chaos I see in every corner of earth, those headlines do take hold of me sometimes. Those personal disappointments in people that I thought I could trust, that I thought would be in my corner for life, loom in my heart and my mind. They somehow become magnified at this time of the year.

My Grandmother used to say two words to me (and to many others) at times of despair and difficulty…at times when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel…

BUT GOD….

No matter what we see, hear and feel…. BUT GOD….

God is here. He is in control. He holds EVERYTHING in His capable and perfect hands.

So, when the world looks bleak, and when we feel personal pain and despair and begin to lose our faith in goodness, let us remember: BUT GOD is here.

Some encouragement today. A Merry Christmas and a peaceful and joyful 2018! Let us push on in faith and trust in our Heavenly Father.

Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 9:10  “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 56:3  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 20:7  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 13:5  “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GRACE……… PERIOD.

In pondering what should be written for you today, I have come to the conclusion that my mind is cluttered with the needs of the gift shop that I manage here in this retirement village, and all the music that needs to be practiced and memorized.   Whoa….has my precious time with God been pushed aside because of “busyness”? Forgive me Lord.  I am so thankful, not just at this season of thankfulness, but every moment of every day for Your unfailing Grace!

What better gift of life words could I give you than the words from the Book of Life? So glean strength from these words of encouragement.

Romans 5   We have been made right with God because of our faith. So we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we know enjoy.  And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory.  And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts  God gave us His love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and weak.  We were living against God, but at the right time, Christ died for us.  Very few people will die to save the life of someone else.  But Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  In this way God shows His great love for us.

Sin came into this world because of what one man (Adam) did.  And with sin came death.  And this is why all men must die …. because one man sinned against God.  But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

PERIOD

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