28 June 2010

Multitude Monday ~ 1000 Gifts

#223 camping and canoeing farther than I thought we could - and sunburn, blisters and sore muscles just to prove it

#224 camping in the rain

#225 children jumping on a trampoline in the rain

#226 brightly colored balls that the adults chased around the yard

#227 muddy bare feet

#228 blazing campfires

#229 5-year old canoe paddler singing in Zarma at the top of his lungs ~ for a really long time

#230 venison hobo packs cooked in a campfire

#231 cheeky chipmunks who aren't afraid to express their opinion... noisely

#232 baby beavers

#233 flashlight tag

#234 brave girls who wanted to sleep on the trampoline

#235 lots of unscheduled time to enjoy family and friends - sweet and bittersweet as our furlough time comes to an end

#236 being still, knowing and resting...

25 June 2010

Encountering Jesus ~ The Capernaum Nobleman

{Hope you enjoy this repost from the archives... I've enjoyed rereading and reviewing the lessons the Lord was teaching me at that time in my life. Lord-willing, it is a lovely Friday Michigan morning and we are canoeing down the Manistee River... and the "biggers" have figured out how to manuver the canoes while the littlers play with matchbox cars and Littlest Pet Shoppe figurines in the bottoms of the canoes... I'll be sure to let you know!}

This month (Originally written in Sept. 08, this was the last month I taught Ladies' Bible study at our Nigerien church before returning to the States for Mary Michelle's birth), we looked at another "rendez-vous" with the Lord. So far, we've considered the Lord's meetings with:

  • His mother Mary and the servants at the wedding feast in Cana,
  • Nicodemus,
  • and the Samaritan woman at the well.
This particular study focused on the encounter between Jesus and the nobleman from Capernaum, also found in John 4.

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee. (John 4.46-54, KJV)

Jesus had returned to Cana, where he had performed his first miracle. Since this was an encounter that we had already studied, and because I believe that every word written in the Bible is there for a reason and to help us better know and have confidence in our God and Savior (and is a big part of the purpose of the whole book of John - see John 20.31), I was intrigued by the fact that John reminds us that Cana was the place for commencing his ministry of miracles - changing the water into wine. So we reviewed the things we had learned during that first lesson:
  1. Mary, Jesus' mother, knew that she could approach the Lord with whatever her need, big or small. So can we, for He is the same Lord now that He was then.
  2. Jesus responded to her, and will also respond to us. It is not always the response that we desire, for which we are looking, or what we want to hear. But, He does and will respond.
  3. We can have confidence in Him, just as Mary did, that whatever His response, whatever He chooses to do, it will be very good.
  4. Jesus performs extravagant miracles - things far and above what we could imagine or dream up on our own. He loves to bring pleasure to those He loves.
  5. The servants, those in the position of unquestioning and immediate obedience, where the first to see and recognize this miracle of Jesus. To see God working, we too must be found in the position of obedience.
These are important points to remember as we look at this passage about the nobleman's encounter with the Savior.

I bolded in the Bible passage above some of the key phrases that we considered. The first one was that this man was not just "any 'ole man." He was a nobleman. Translated back from the French, he was a high ranking dignitary... and he still had a difficult and serious problem. For the Nigeriens, people who live in astoundingly difficult and challenging poverty and heat, it is very easy to think that "the grass is greener" elsewhere. If only I had an education (or a better one)... If only I had money... If only I had "______" job... If only people respected me.... If only I had.... (you fill in that blank). Yet these sorts of haves do not function as immunizations against trouble. Education, health, money, position or power, possessions - none of these will guarantee a life of ease, trouble free. It is easy to presume that those with these things live life on "Easy Street," but the truth is that no one who has ever lived, is alive or will live can be exempt from trouble, difficulty and hard times.

This nobleman had a very serious problem. His son was gravely ill. Reading back through the passage and taking note of the words that describe how sick he was as well as the words that talk about to what lengths the father was willing to go just to have some hope that his boy might survive. It was these difficult circumstances that drove this father to a meeting with Jesus. The father didn't know where else to turn. Discouraged, he was pushed to his very limits - leading to an encounter with the Savior.

Just how far did this daddy go to meet up with the Lord, a man he had never met, but of whom he'd heard others speak? The distance between Capernaum, the nobleman's home and Cana, where Jesus was reputedly located, was 42 kilometers (i.e. around 20 miles). That is a good two day's journey on foot. This father was literally grasping at straws - even with the best of information, he could have no guarantee that Jesus would still be in Cana when he arrived there himself. But he was desperate to seek out the only hope he had - that this man who could perform miracles might be able to touch and heal his son. There is a saying we hear often in Niger: "Inch Allah." It essentially means "Whatever God wills..." and can be a sign of acceptance of the sovereignty of God. More often than not, however, it signifies a person's refusal to commit... a way of avoiding dealing with a difficult reality and is an excuse. "My child was just run over by a car? Inch Allah." I can drive however I want, because "Que sera sera... whatever will be will be," and we carry no responsiblity for our actions because God has already predetermined everything. That sort of belief totally ignores the reality of a Savior who is intimately connected with our day to day lives, of a God who is always ready to offer His grace and mercy, of the One who says, "If you seek me, you will find me if you search with all your heart..."

The nobleman "besought" Jesus. The sense of the word besought is that the father did not come to Jesus once to make his request. It contains more the idea that he followed the Lord around, asking repeatedly and persistantly, perhaps even throwing himself at the feet of Jesus as he put forth his petition.

The initial response of Jesus always surprises me. Rereading it, polite and sympathetic are not the immediate descriptions that come to my mind. I feel sorry for the father - and can imagine him thinking, "What did I do to deserve that sort of an answer? Why is he angry with me?" It probably was not what he was expecting to hear... certainly not what he was hoping to hear. I prayed about that response and asked the Lord, "Why?" As I prayed, I tried to imagine Jesus' eyes as he responded to the man, and I pictured them filled with love and compassion: Jesus wasn't angry, but he was emphatically pointing out to this man something very important. The father came to him with what he thought was a serious, desperate need - a divine touch to heal his son's dying body. Jesus, in His gracious mercy, pointed out that there was another, even more grave ailment that needed to be dealt with, an illness that would most certainly result in eternal death - a lack of belief in Himself. I'm so thankful for the Lord's initial response, and that the father persisted - and asked one more time for the Savior's help.

Jesus' response this time was more of what I had expected. One sentence. Six small words. His first response was directed to the father and the crowd of people surrounding Him. This second response was for the nobleman. I wonder if the nobleman sensed the power that was contained in those 6 words? We know that the words of God are powerful. He calmed the wind and the waves with mere words. He used words to create from nothing all that is. He resurrected Lazarus with a single sentence. And with His final cry on the cross, "It is finished!" tore the curtain in the temple, opening the path of grace for us to approach the Almighty God directly. Isaiah 55.11 says "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." God's Word - spoken or written - is powerful, giving and changing life.

The Bible doesn't tell us if the nobleman sensed that incredible power; it says he believed and demonstrated that belief by his obedience. He left for home immediately. And I think this following was my favorite thing that I pulled from studying this encounter. Who were the first ones to recognize that Jesus had performed this miracle? It was the servants and the nobleman who met each other en route, 1 1/2 days after the nobleman had left the Lord's presence. Both the servants and the nobleman had demonstrated a believing faith - without seeing the whole miracle. The father never saw the Savior touch his son, nor had he already seen his son healed. The servants knew that the boy was well, but had not heard the words of the Lord, neither had the experienced the presence of God. But both the servants and the father were in the place of obedience. And there, on that road of compliance, they both realized the greatness of the miracle that the Lord had performed. As servants, they were the first to know all that the Lord had done.

So, to summarize the key points:
  1. Nothing protects us from problems during this life. If we are alive, we can expect trouble and difficulties.
  2. It is often those troubles and difficulties that push us to seek and search for the Lord.
  3. Jesus is approachable, and longs to see our persistance as we seek Him.
  4. Jesus responds, not just as we expect or want, but often in a manner that is even more magnificent, extravagent and far beyond what we were actually asking Him to do.
  5. Faith and belief are best demonstrated by obedience.
  6. God's Word is infinitely powerful.
  7. Those in the position of a servant, those set on obeying the Lord, are the ones who first recognize His hand and His miracles.

Did you notice that several of these key points are repeated from the water into wine encounter earlier in John? The ladies at Bible study did!

There was one other thing that the Lord so impressed upon my heart as I prepared for this Bible study: the father's dedication and engagement in the life of his child. Most parents will tell you that they love their children and would do anything for them - but one priority that I need to make even more of a priority is to truly pray for my children, to spend time before the throne of grace truly interceding on their behalf. Do I pray? Of course. Could I pray more fervently. Definitely! And prayer according to the will of God is an investment into the lives of our children (or the children who the Lord has placed into our lives) is an investment with eternal dividends. Several years ago, just before Nadia was born, I attended a baby shower where I was given a bookmark titled: "16 Things to Pray for Your Children." I've carried that bookmark around in my Bible ever since - trying to frequently pray through that list for each individual child. I decided to translate that list and share it with the ladies at Bible Study. They loved it - and the ladies who can read asked me to make a bookmarks for them to carry around in their Bibles. They also committed to pray for their own children along these lines - several were ideas they had never considered before - as well as to pray for the youth and children who attend the church or who they have the potential to influence in their homes and neighborhoods. It is wonderful to see them get excited about an opportunity for ministry such as this!

16 Things to Pray for Your Children
1. Their salvation.
2. Their mate.
3. That they would fall in love with God's Word.
4. That God would keep them from evil.
5. That they would have a conscience void of offense before God and man.
6. That character would be more valuable to them than credentials.
7. That they would stand up for what is right even if it means standing alone.
8. That they would be kept from the love of money.
9. That they would be kept morally pure.
10. That they would have the heart of a servant.
11. That eternity would burn in their hearts.
12. That sin would always be distasteful to them and that they would not be broken easily over sin.
13. That they would love each other.
14. That they would trust God with their parents and not allow rebellion to set in.
15. Regardless the hardship, that they may never become bitter against God.
16. That our boys would be glad to be boys, and our girls glad to be girls.

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Open Bible photo found at www.bible-truth.org .
"16 Things..." bookmark was made by Tom Harmon and Faithful Men of Michigan.

24 June 2010

22 June 2010

On the Way to Knitting Class ~

~ this morning, Tim took Rebekah by the craft store to buy some yarn. They both enjoyed what they saw...

...Canadian geese crossing the road and parking lot, stopping traffic, marching along in a single file line.

When Tim recounted this story earlier today, my mind wandered to these words: "As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew... and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he rose and followed him."

Each day, the Lord gives me opportunity to follow Him... the question is will I obey... right away, without questioning, exactly as He leads and with a sweet attitude?

I'm finding the longer I live that this isn't just a one-time commitment; neither is it simply a daily choice. Rather, it is committing to choose moment by moment, each moment, to walk with the Lord. And it is impossible without His abiding presence...

21 June 2010

Multitude Monday ~ 1000 Gifts ~ Choosing to Ignore Rights and Practice Contentment

I've been meditating on this passage a lot the past year... maybe even longer...

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus... (Phil 2:1-5a)

As I've mulled over those words, memorizing... meditating... munching... musing... I'm wondering if it has always been this way... or if I've just been blind. The most likely answer is blinded, probably by my own sin, in this area. Don't you think the sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in our society, in our communities, in our churches, in our families... in my family... must grieve the Lord. I hear it all the time: "It isn't fair..." and then fill in the blank with whatever someone feels shouldn't be a part of his/her life at that moment in time. Why is it that men (and women and children) tend to think that God owes us or that life owes us and that hardship or hard work or hard anything is wrong?

I'm finding that for me, the best remedy to any sense of entitlement is deliberately choosing contentment by choosing gratitude. When I practice remembering the multitude of graces God gifts to me each day, it makes it easier to focus on the joy He brings rather than worry about perceived rights and happinesses that He might not be lining along my path. As a once-upon-a-time athlete, two words particularly resonate: CHOOSING and PRACTICE. Years from those days of early morning workouts and several daily miles in the water, the word practice has immediate connotations.

Practice means to perform or do habitually, and is often a strict regimen. This repition serves a key purpose - it is to help acquire skill or proficiency in that skill. One definition I particularly like is the pursuit of competency. In older English, it had the idea of plotting or consipiring (i.e. figuring out)... how to do something well. Thus, contentment doesn't come without a lot of effort... Practicing contentment helps me to more readily choose thankfulness. It is a wonderful way to remove my focus off of what I want and help me see the needs so readily supplied, the multitude that has already been given... and given... and given again.

~ a few of the multitude of graces this week ~

#208 my husband... wonderful man, incredible daddy - I still can't believe he entered into this adventure with me and am so thankful he continues to stick around

#209 unexpected opportunity to visit with a friend and former student I've not seen for a long time

#210 cool, dew-blanketing-the-grass mornings, even though some say it is hot during the day

#211 company from Hawaii

#212 camping in a tent with 10 big and not so big girls

#213 leaving church the other day and having Elsie Mae's Sunday School teacher tell me how sweet Elsie had been, and what a pretty little voice she had, even though the only words they could understand were "Happy Day"

#214 coming home and immediately asking Elsie Mae what song she had been singing for her teachers and hearing her answer "Zaro ne ya..." or "This is the Day," but in Zarma

#215 this song, and the message it contains

#216 learning to turn to God's Word first

#217 those situations that God brings which allow me to learn and practice #216

#218 Father's Day with three awesome daddies

#219 bagpipes

#220 couscous, chicken and peanut sauce

#221 early mornings working while everyone else sleeps and the time it allows to think, to pray, to meditate

#222 the words and message of "Complete in Thee"

Complete in Thee! no work of mine
May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.

Refrain:
Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And glorified, I too, shall be!

Complete in Thee! no more shall sin,
Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;
Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,
And I shall stand complete in Thee.

Complete in Thee each want supplied,
And no good thing to me denied;
Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,
I ask no more, complete in Thee.

Dear Saviour! when before Thy bar
All tribes and tongues assembled are,
Among Thy chosen will I be,
At Thy right hand, complete in Thee

holy experience

20 June 2010

Happy Father's Day

A friend of ours, Adam, stopped by the house not too many weeks ago and he shared a story that touched my heart... and I asked if I could use it on our blog. I've saved it until today... I think you'll see why.

Apparently, when he was a little guy, his feet turned in and the doctors told his parents he'd probably end up needing braces to correct the problem. Like most little guys, Adam greatly looked up to his daddy and wanted to be just like him. One of the easiest ways for Adam to mimic his father was to walk behind him and plant his feet in his daddy's footsteps. He wanted his stride and his footprints to match his father's exactly. And in so doing, his foot problems were corrected.

It was a powerful illustration of the impact parents, particularly a godly father, can have in the life of his child.

I'm so thankful...

  • my kids have such an amazing daddy...
  • he has captured their hearts and they love him unreservedly...
  • they love spending time with him and will try anything ~ just so they can...
  • he enjoys so many things that naturally captivate a kid's heart...
  • he leaves behind footprints of love, kindness, servanthood, faithfulness, loyalty, gentleness and a heritage of seeking and following His Heavenly Father.

It is such a joy to know that if they follow their daddy's footprints, they'll be on the narrow, but sure, path... just like their "Baaba."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

(Thanks, Adam... I hope I've remembered the details pretty close to how you told them the day you shared this lovely story with us.)

19 June 2010

A Worthwhile and Challenging Read ~ in honor of Father's Day

Back in January, a treasured friend loaned me the book Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas. She knows me well... and she was right on target in thinking I could benefit from "cud-munching" (that term was coined by another friend) my way through the book.

I know when Tim saw the title, he was a little worried (he might deny it, but I saw that "eyebrow action" that indicated his concern) ~ he was probably thinking along the lines of "sacred manipulation..." But that is not at all what this book is about. After all, Gary Thomas is the same guy who wrote Sacred Marriage: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“...some Christians spiritualize wishing - we call it 'praying.' Please understand, I'm not knocking prayer; I'm challenging a misconception about prayer, namely that we can merely voice our displeasure and expect our world and our relationships to be transformed. True biblical prayer is about much, much more than that. It involves receiving our marching orders and then acting on them.”

[a woman quoted in the book, speaking first on God's grace... and how one of her listeners applied that same principle to marriage] “'The pressure is off me,' she told them. 'Don't get me wrong; it's not that I'm not pursuing holiness. It's just that I know that my Father will get me where He wants me to be and that even my failures serve, in some way, to glorify Him. My relationship with God is growing to be all about His grace, His mercy, His power.' Then Elyse's friend 'astounded' her by responding, 'That must be such a blessing for your husband, Elyse. To be walking in that kind of grace must enable you to be so patient and so grace-filled with Phil. To know that God is working in him just as He's working in you must make your marriage so sweet and your husband so pleased. It must be great for him to know that the pressure is off for him too.'”

It takes great spiritual maturity to love mercy, to offer grace, to give someone the same spiritual benefits we ourselves have received from our heavenly Father. Get in touch with how much God has done for you - how he has seen every wicked act you've ever committed; heard every syllable of gossip; noticed every malicious, ugly and hateful thought - and still, he loves you. Even more, he adores you. And he's forgiven you. Now comes the hard part: will you give your husband what God has given you?

Families crumble because we've lost our respect for responsibility. Instead, we allow romantic intensity to enthrall us. Since God created our feelings, they must be good; there must be a divine purpose behind infatuation. Unfortunately, however, we've become romantic gluttons. Instead of giving thanks for romance when it comes, we crave it, demand it, and even build our lives around it. We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to experience the more steadfast satisfaction of loyalty, commitment, and responsiblity.”

“The brilliance of Christianity is that God can grow you in an unhealthy marriage as well as in a healthy marriage. He can shape you in prosperity or need, in comfort or stress, in intimacy or loneliness. And intimacy with him is the most precious reward any of us can every know or experience.”

If you are interested in becoming a better helpmeet and completer for your husband or if your goal as wife and mom looks something like what is described in Proverbs 31... I'd highly recommend the time it takes to study through, with your Bible open, this book. If you do, let me know what you think.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

18 June 2010

When God Graces Us

Tim and I have often remarked that one of the harder parts of a radio ministry is never knowing whether you actually make a difference... if people are listening, if the Spirit is changing lives because of something they heard... so we choose to trust that in faithfully serving, seeds are sown and a harvest is being and will be reaped.

Sometimes, it is the same with prayer... you pray and you wonder... "Did He answer that one the way I hoped?"

So it is a delight when God shows you His answer, how He chose to work. That was what made this day at Hanging Rock with great friends even more special - meeting a specific answer to a very specific prayer!

17 June 2010

"If you give an Elsie Mae a Marshmallow..."

...she'll decide that she needs to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

At Grandma and Grandpa's, she'll be able to find a good stick to roast her marshmallow.

They also live just up the road from Grandma Bernie's horses.

She'll probably decide that she needs to stop and see the horses.

Then she remembers she can't visit the horses.

Before she can visit the horses, she needs to have something to give them.

So you take her back to the party store by the light to buy some carrots.

After all, you can't visit the horses without carrots... and sugar cubes...

Uh oh, she forgot the sugar cubes.

Back inside the party store for those.

She'll probably ask you "Why is the party store so far from the horses?" even though it really isn't.

"Why are there all those tractors across the street from the party store?"

"Because that place fixes tractors that aren't working right?" you reply.

"Can I go for a ride on a tractor?"

"Not tonight."

"Why not?"

"Because those tractors aren't working. That's why they are there."

Then she'll look at you with a puzzled expression and say, "But they should be working now, since they're there."

You head back to the horses...

But Elsie Mae decides she's hungry and wants to eat the carrots herself and only wants to give the horses the sugar.

She accidently drops one sugar cube into a puddle of water from the rain the night before.

It dissolves. She's fascinated.

She drops another... and another and then asks, "Why does the sugar melt?"

"That's called dissolving. When it goes into the water, all it's pieces break apart..."

"Me tired of horses. Let's go to Grandma's."

As you walk back up the hill, she spots a dandylion. She picks the dandylion and then sees another one, which she also wants to pick.

She decides to get 4 dandylions because she will be four years old soon...

...and she puts them in her hair.

Then she asks for a brush to brush her hair.

While you are finding a brush, she asks Grandpa if he will build a fire to roast her marshmallow.

He tells her that he will if she will help him collect the sticks for the fire.

They go out and collect sticks.

You hear her ask "Why..." at least a gazillion times.

Once the sticks are gathered and the fire is lit, she picks out a stick as long as she is tall...

and asks Grandpa to make it pointy for her.

She smashes her marshmallow on the pointy end of her stick and starts to put it over the fire but the fire is too hot.

She gives her marshmallow on a stick to you and asks you to "burn it" for her.

As you stand up out of your lawn chair, she runs off to the playland under the cherry blossom tree where all the bees are buzzing.

She reminds you that the bees "not sting me. They like me."

Once her marshmallow is roasted (she's only had time to slide twice), you holler at her to come and eat it.

She tells you she doesn't want the marshmallow. She wants a SMORE.

Thankfully, Grandma had chocolate and graham crackers!

But she doesn't want the graham cracker for her SMORE. She only wants the chocolate.

She pulls the marshmallow off the stick with her fingers and squishes it around the chocolate.

She eats it and wipes her sticky fingers on her hair.

She asks you to make another marshmallow for her and you do.

She eats that one the same way, only this time she wipes her twice sticky hand across her nose.

When she asks if you'll make her a third marshmallow, you say "No, two is enough."

She runs away with a sly giggle to slide down the slide a few more times. You wonder why she laughed when you said, "No..."

Night time... sleepy girl... time to go...

Protesting, she climbs into her carseat and waves bye to her grandparents and promptly falls asleep on the way home...

...so you use a diaper wipe to get the worst of the sticky from the marshmallows off her nose and out of her hair. You decide to let her sleep in her clothes.

You don't notice her clenched hand...

...and the next morning, she wakes you up with a sticky touch to your shoulder.

You notice she has even more marshmallow on her nose AND in her hair.

You remember her giggle as she ran the night before... she had escaped with a marshmallow after you'd told her "No."

She slept all night with that sticky, smushy marshmallow in her hand in her clenched fist...

...she slyly whispers in your ear, "Me want to go to Grandma's and Grandpa's today..."

(This is a ficticious story. However, any ressemblance to others, particulary Elsie Mae was intentional and all events were based upon actual occurences in the life of our sweet, next-to-the-littlest baby girl.)

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...I wonder if Felicia Bond would agree to illustrate???

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