Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kingdom Man: Silence, I Kill Me!

Just a thought here (perhaps a subject of discussion), so hear me through: we read in Genesis 3:6 that Adam was present when Eve was deceived. The word translated “with her” carries the weight of Adam standing by as a companion. The key point here is Adam’s silence. He did nothing to stop her, thus taking the full responsibility of that sinful action on himself.

That’s an amazing picture that takes little imagination: one stands by doing nothing while watching someone else fall, get beaten up, fail.

I return: while personal responsibility is one major lesson in this action leading to the fall of mankind into sin, perhaps there is another matter to consider. First, think of Jesus standing before Pilate just scant hours away from being crucified. Pilate asks Jesus (John 19:9), “where are you from?” and Jesus says nothing (stay with me here). Next Pilate asks an intriguing question: “You do not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you, and I have authority to crucify you?” (John 19:10)

Jesus’ answers, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above . . .” (John 19:11).

Now: Is it possible that Adam’s silence was a gross misapplication of authority? He was given command by God to rule over creation, so was he overstepping his bounds by declaring himself to be supreme authority over his wife and the forbidden tree by his silence? Did Adam think that nothing would happen to him if someone else disobeyed the command of the Lord?

The horror.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mike Rowe: "Right" and "Wrong" and Other Words To Think About

Mike celebrates Dirty Jobs (doing the work without cheating), sharing some insight he's gained along the way:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thoughts from the "Slaughterhouse"

There are not many, really, so this will be over quickly. Painlessly. Much like annihilation. So it goes.

If you are a reader then Kurt Vonneget’s “Slaughterhouse Five” should be on your reading list (perhaps it was already). If it's not, don’t shove it to the top. It can wait.

Should you be a writer however, make certain to read this book--and do it quickly. This short piece is simple to describe: “brace yourself.” While I can’t think I’ve ever read anything like this (and hope I never do again), as a writer, I am encouraged because “Slaughterhouse Five” is evidence there is no such thing as writer’s block. Follow the example of Vonnegut: put pen to paper and write! This book stands as an excellent example free-writing—it can be done (if Vonnegut actually had a plan, then I'm sorry)! Caveat: I did not say a story free-written would be widely received. The story may be interesting but not much good. Vonnegut’s is not far from manure: it’s good for gardens, but not much else.

There are few passages of genius here, such as this scene describing the slow passing of time:

The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only with the electric clocks, but the wind-up kind, too.  The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again. There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling. I had to believe whatever the clocks said—and calendars.”

That is simply golden.

Theological subjects surface in the story with some twisted discussions of God and Christ. One statement catches my attention concerning the crucifixion:

“’Oh, boy—they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!’ And that thought had a brother: ‘there are right people to lynch.’ Who? People not well connected. So it goes.”

Then there is this insightful commentary on the American Dream:

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand—glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.”

Writers will do well to watch how Vonnegut uses phrases.   

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Randoms



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kingdom Man: Proving It


Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile (First Baptist, Grand Cayman Islands) is thinking along with me, er, us. The men of Calvary Chapel Blythewood are studying Tony Evans’ “Kingdom Man” series, and Pastor Anaybwile is thinking right along with us. I don’t believe in accidents, and his posts “Basic Thoughts on Manhood” and comments on Manhood and Worship are timely for our group. Too bad he's stuck down there thinking about these things in the Caymans and not up here with us. He is "so" missing out.

Man was created in God’s image to be his vice-regent on earth. Man is to represent God on the earth by taking care of everything God has laid before him. This is seen in the act of man naming the animals, giving man the opportunity to be creative with language. Man had to study creation in order to determine what to call that which stood before him, but the end result was not what the animal came to be called specifically, but how man got to know his Creator better by his study of creation. The “Carnival of Animals” was a constant reminder that man is held responsible to watch over and work in creation.

Recently I heard a comment by Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe where he theorized that our society today is in a civil war against work. Enrollment in technical schools is low and workers are needed. I believe his point is accurate as we exchange technology for labor. We are moving away from God’s intended role for us, declaring autonomy and subsequently redefining ourselves in our own image.

The garden for which I am to care is much grander than that which I till and weed in my back yard; yet, that patch of ground teaches me much about who I am and who God is. Constantly. My back-yard garden reminds me to pay attention to details by cultivation and insect control in my own family. I must water and fight against that which would destroy my garden, both inside and outside. This takes work of a much different kind than simply clocking in and out five days a week.

I discover places I need help and this is my wife’s role. She helps me. I help her. Together, we work at household and family growth, but we can only do that when God is glorified as Master. This means He is much more than Creator.

There is a God. Most people have no problem with this. Instead, the problem is that God is the Lord, the Sovereign Master who has an expectation for His creation. Most people don’t like that He is the Lord. This is Satan’s problem. He believes there is a God, which is why Satan also is consumed with thwarting God’s authority. This was a key feature of the temptation: attempting to remove the rule of God from the Godhood of God. Man fell for the trick and now work for us takes on a whole separate dimension.

Consider the question: “if a man must prove his manhood, then what are the criteria?”  Tony Robbins reminds us that it isn’t walking on hot coals. Every year, a busload out mountain climbers die reminding us that Everest has nothing to do with it. Manhood is proven when a man glorifies God with every aspect of his being and action. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kingdom Man: A Thought from the Illiad

There’s a scene in Homer’s Iliad (Book 11) in the front of my mind. The scene describes a significant turn in battle. Here’s the short version: Agamemnon has spent nearly ten years in siege against the city of Troy (the purpose and outcome are not the point of discussion here). The scene-in-mind describes the Trojan Hector in battle and what captures my attention is that which holds his attention. While the battle is raging, Hector watches Agamemnon. When the King Agamemnon is fighting with his men on the front, Hector keeps back but encourages his men in the melee; but, when Agamemnon mounts his chariot, Hector steps into battle and fights until at last the Trojans drive Agamemnon and his armies back to their ships. Hector is not distracted by the particulars of the battle. Instead his eye is fixed on the leader of his enemy. When Agamemnon is no longer the strength of his troops, Hector steps in and drives the invaders away from the city.

This ancient scene comes to mind as I ponder opening questions asked at the beginning of Tony Evans’ “Kingdom Man” Bible study. We are given this statistic: “roughly 70 percent of all prisoners come from fatherless homes. Approximately 80 percent of all rapists come from fatherless homes.” Then there comes the question: “are these statistics surprising? Why or why not?” (Caveat: I suffer from over-thinkage, so brace yourself).

My reflex action is to say, “yes” but I must honestly say “no,” this statistic does not surprise me. My reaction to the statistic is not “surprise.” I am not comfortable having an emotion suggested to me and I had to honestly search to determine how I really feel. At last I have found my word. I am not “surprised” but I am “appalled” [I hear the voice of Barry McGovern acting as Vladimir in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” as he growls out the depth of his new-found emotion (for which he, too had to search).  “AP-ALLED!”]

Why am I appalled? The problem addressed is not so much that men are in prison, nor is it that a percentage of those men are rapists that have come from fatherless homes. The problem that causes me to pale is this: there are males not in prison who don’t have the fortitude to stand up and speak truth, doing everything possible to help others stay out of there.

The real issue, the real battle is not on the front line. Consider first the source of “fatherlessness” and who steps in to fill the void. Evans’ discussion on fatherlessness presents only two options: the father 1) who has walked away with no sense of obligation or responsibility; or, 2) who has made himself unavailable, unapproachable. Novelist Donald Barthelme gives us an idea of what happens within the child who at some point searches out the source of his confused anger:

“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it, he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.” (The Dead Father)

What about the third option (and I suggest this not as criticism, but as an observation): what about those families who lost their father due to death?

Further, what about fatherless children who turned out ok, those that are not in prison and/or are not rapists?
 
Here is where I find myself appalled: I along with so many others permit these statistics, allow them to occur. I along with so many others know what young men need to hear and know in order to 1) help them be good earthly citizens; and 2) become heavenly citizens. I am appalled because I let this happen. Both Hector and Agamemnon give me something to consider: I must never leave the front lines where the battle rages against a real enemy (don’t ask me where Menelaus was, Agamemnon’s brother). Also, I must keep my eyes open, ready to step in and fill the gap or someone else will.

Having said this, I find God’s words both comforting and disturbing: “I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30).

God is looking for men to fill a gap. Defenses are compromised and the city of Mansoul is in jeopardy. We must fill in the gap as representatives of the King. This means when men go wrong, we must tell them of their wrong based on the standards of the King. We must also point them to the way of reconciliation to the King. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Puddy Miggs and Buster


Puddy Miggs sat stunned on the pavement staring at the scuffed toes of her old Sunday shoes. The rounded ends of her little maroon buckled shoes displayed in tiny splits the white scars of lost battles over rocks and stones that conspired to trip her as she skipped her rope down the sidewalk. Now on the sun-blazed sidewalk, her buns toasted through her cotton dress and the backs of her tender legs sizzled like bacon. She fought back the growing thundercloud of cry. It was the crack in the sidewalk that did her in and she was angry.

Buster glided toward her his . . . well, she didn’t know what it was. Nobody knew what it was because nobody in the whole wide world had one like it. Buster didn’t even know what to call it, but he was in it approaching with a look of concern on his face. He was seated with his legs out in front, nearly identical to the way Puddy landed on the ground when she fell. The seat of the vehicle rested in the middle of a saucer-like body that rolled along on two large wheels, one to the left and one to the right of its driver. Buster propelled himself along by turning the wheels, pushing and pulling the built-in handles, rowing his way up and down the street. Sometimes he rowed the wheels feverishly then let the hand-pegs go, throwing up his hands into the air and set the contraption into a spin like a flying saucer. The pilot shrieked, “WheeEEEEE!” from the middle seat. Sometimes he just threw up.

Puddy did not want Buster to come near. She wanted him to go away, her bottom numb from summer’s sudden sidewalk spanking.

“Go 'way, Buster.” She said, drawing her legs up underneath her skirt, covering her shoes. Puddy found a rock and threw it.

“Are you ok, Puddy? I saw you fall down.” He rolled up, skidding to a stop, hands firm on the wheel-handles. He was terribly strong for a 6-year old. She sorta liked that.

“I said for you to go away, Buster.” She stood up and dusted her knees, which did not need dusting. The back of her legs stopped sizzling. She absently wiggled as the feeling returned to her burning backside—and the relief showed on her face. Buster saw it but said nothing.  

“Well, I’m jus’ trying to be nice and make sure you’re ok, Puddy. I saw you fall down from over there.” Buster navigated his device around, turning one wheel rotating on a dime to point and to show her where he was, like she needed to know. Those boys on their Big Wheel couldn’t turn like he could in that orange space-ship looking thing of his. Those wheels reminded her of a picture she saw on the cover of a paperback book her grandfather read, a boy and a black man on a raft waving their straw hats to a churning river boat driven by two great paddle wheels.

Those boys in their Big Wheels always wanted to race. The event was so comical teenagers appeared from their hiding-places, lining up along the curb to watch along with the little kids. Buster silently answered the challenge to race by rolling up to the starting crack in the street. Leaning forward slightly, he set his grip on the wheel pegs, squinting his eyes on the finish crack a few of houses down, ignoring his opponent, ignoring the cheers and the taunts of other kids. The boys in their Big Wheels took on the faces of their fathers and uncles on their motorcycles, peddling into the start position.

“GO!”

The Big Wheel boys peddled, and Buster rowed and rowed. Faster and faster, the muscles in his arms burned as he pumped. The kids along the curb laughed and pointed while Buster’s arms flew in circles. The hollow plastic shells of the riding toys rumbled down the race course.

Buster never won, and the smiles of the boys in their Big Wheels never lingered as they could only watch as Buster flew across the finish line, then throwing hands in the air with everything spinning like a top, screaming the cry of victory that only could feel. “WheeEEEEE!”

Puddy Miggs sorta liked that. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Randoms


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Revelation (of sorts)


One common feature of a university campus is the book-sale: some arranged in a list and posted (and frequently re-posted) on bulletin boards; while others are physically displayed in some fashion whether in boxes or outside offices, on shelves.

A daily routine frequently brings me by one of our seemingly permanent book-sale fixtures here on campus. Today, one title caught my attention so I picked it up. This is not the kind of book that would usually interest me, but today I could not keep my hands off--today the book was nearly irresistible. I picked it up, impressed by it’s hardback the relatively good cover condition. I flipped it open.

An entire page was underlined. I turned a few pages. More underlining—entire pages. I thumbed through the book to discover that some reader had meticulously (or perhaps not so much so) underlined the entire book as it was being read. Reaching the end of the book, the glaring omission of underlining suggested to me that these few pages had been completely ignored.

Curiouser, I noticed through my flipping that nearly every colon used by the author was circled by the reader.

A creeping feeling came over me and I re-shelved the book. I may have absent-mindedly wiped my hand on my shirt.

My parting glace at the title was filled with hope that the previous reader got much out their reading. It must have been a revelation.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Abigail's Husband

I know I’ve met him before, I just don’t remember when. You know how it goes. I should have remembered meeting him, but I don’t. Well, I met Abigail’s husband—her first husband, that is—again and now I know I’ll never forget him and the reason is because he’s a boor. Now, I am merely echoing this description that comes from someone else and frankly, this description is “spot-on.”

You know what a “boor” is, don’t you? First, the word is not pronounced “bore” or “boar.” Think Dutch: “boer” or German “bur.” Second, we might simply say the person is “rude.” That’s about the shape of it. The man is rude, without manners. One might even call him a “jerk.” Why she married him, only God knows because we all know her second husband quite well and her second husband was quite the rock-star of his day. He was a king. What a contrast in men: Nabal (the boor) and David (a man after God’s own heart). Actually, Nabal (in Hebrew) literally means, “fool” and “senseless.”

The curtain rises in 1 Samuel 25 describing Nabal as a wealthy man with three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. The scene: sheep-shearing in the region of Carmel. The tone is set as the writer tells us the man was harsh and evil in his dealings. His wife, on the other hand (and this is Abigail) is described as intelligent (“of good understanding”) and beautiful. We are given no details pertaining to their marriage.

Now, David (as he is running from Saul) knows that Nabal is shearing his sheep, so David sends ten young men with words of blessing and peace with a request to “give whatever you find at hand” to David. In other words, “hey buddy: spare some change?” (1 Samuel 25:8). Given the description of Nabal, need we guess what sort of response he will give?
  1. “Who is David?” He’s just God’s choice for king, running for his life all over the countryside and killing those pesky Philistines with his army and protecting your stuff. You’re welcome.
  2.   “There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master.”  What are you, runaways? Is that what David is, an escapee?
  3.   “Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give it to men whose origin I do not know?” What do I look like: a mess hall?

Interestingly, one of David’s men catches the ear of Abigail, Nabal’s wife and gives her a synopsis of what is taking place: “David sends blessings and he kicked us to the curb. Your servants treated us well, but ‘he is a worthless man that no one can speak to him.’” (1 Samuel 25:17).  Literally, he is the son of worthlessness.

David receives the report and tells his men to take up their swords and begins to make his way to Nabal with four hundred men. Abigail loads up the donkeys with two hundred loaves of bread, two jugs of wine, five butchered sheep, five measures of grain, a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred fig cakes and personally delivers them to David and his men. She knows who David is and what he has been doing, even guarding her husband’s property! (What’s the matter with this guy?)

1 Samuel 25:28-31 is most telling about Abigail: 
  1. She asks forgiveness for any transgression she may have committed (intentionally or unintentionally). A foolish person will not do this. She recognizes the authority her husband did not.
  2. She acknowledges that God is establishing in David an enduring house and God’s victory in carrying out that plan. She recognizes the plan of God in the midst of David’s own difficulties.
  3. She wants to participate in God’s cause with David.

David responds by blessing God, by blessing her discernment and by blessing Abigail herself with life and peace. When Abigail returns home, Nabal was holding a feast, “like the feast of a king.” One gets the feeling that there are no guests despite the elaborateness of the occasion. The man holds a party for himself, gets drunk. Next day, Abigail tells Nabal what she did and his heart “became as a stone.” I don’t know what it was before, but now, it is like stone. Ten days later, the foolish man dies.David hears the news of Nabal’s death and acknowledges that the man received what he had coming: the wages for his foolishness.

Here is a challenge for husbands:
  1. Don’t be foolish in your dealings with God. The Bible defines the fool as the one who says there is no God. Make certain you are not a practical atheist.
  2. Don’t be foolish in your response to God’s plan. Waste time and energy reacting in the world or efficiently respond to His Sovereign will. He will be glorified in whichever manner He deals with you.
  3. Don’t be foolish in your relationships with others: wife first, then others. Bless your wife in all she does, starting with her personal growth and relationship with God. Nurture and wash her with the Word. Then acknowledge what she accomplishes—she may not do it your way—but she is bringing blessing to you and your house as she obeys God by glorifying Him in everything she does. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

" A Knee On Its Own"

Yes, the "I took an arrow to the knee" meme is dead, but Futility Closet posted this poem by the nonsensical German author and poet Christian Morgenstern (written in 1907) and I am re-posting here. After reading some of Morgenstern's work, I believe I can safely say he enjoyed his writing.

" Knee On Its Own"

A lone knee wanders through the world,
A knee and nothing more;
It’s not a tent, it’s not a tree,
A knee and nothing more.

In battle once there was a man
Shot foully through and through;
The knee alone remained unhurt
As saints are said to do.

Since then it’s wandered through the world,
A knee and nothing more.
It’s not a tent, it’s not a tree,
A knee and nothing more.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Randoms


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lost Books Found

2 Kings 22 is the record of one specific incident in the life of King Josiah. During his reign a lost book was found. Instantly my mind was flooded with a catalog of book titles and declarations of new-found knowledge by this or that group or individual. We are so easily distracted by the shiny object of Mystery that each time something lost is publicly declared as “found,” we raise our heads to look and see. Look at what we’ve found (to name a few):
  • The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden 
  • Homer’s “Margites” 
  • Shakespear’s “Cardinio” 
  • Inventio Fortunata, or “The Discovery of the Fortunate Islands.” 
  •  Jane Austen’s “Sanditon” 
  • Herman Melville’s “The Isle of the Cross”
  • Thomas Hardy’s “The Poor Man and the Lady” 
The most peculiar feature of lost-books-found is the response of those who receive them. Presently, more lost-books-found are being printed with so many lost-secrets-known that the world should be revolutionized by their presence. These literary zombies are eating the brains of people who are no longer thinking. 

Case in point: when Josiah was presented with the lost book of the Law, it was identifiable as being not merely connected with national history, but also brought a response practically unheard of in comparison with today’s responses. Who has fallen on their face before God in repentance and being spared the destruction of sin after reading any other lost book? This is not the response of Joseph Smith or Oprah Winfrey. No, these book instead receive they applaud of those who find their contents compatible with their lifestyle. 
Who has noticed these “lost books” all promise the same thing: Eternality without God? 

  1. “You will not die.” Reincarnation or at least an “eternal summer;” 
  2. “Your eyes will be opened.” Gain the secret knowledge of the lost book and rise above average. Knowing the right techniques produces the right experience. 
  3. “You shall be like God.” Control your circumstances thus controlling your destiny—but if something bad happens to you it’s your fault. 
  4. “You will know good and evil.” You are the measure of all things, so if it works for you then it’s “good.” 
Why does all this sound so familiar

Amazingly, people every day open God’s Unchanging Word and meet His perfection face to face as they read the same words Josiah read in the Law. It is not uncommon that many people have read the Word over and over to the point it has become “lost” to them. Yet, there comes a point when these same persons are brought to their knees confessing their brokenness before God because His Word is alive. Missing? Only inasmuch as people close their eyes and hearts against the Bible.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Independence Day Reflection

I know that July 4 is behind us, but permit me a moment--I am that bother-ed. Sometime during the day of July 3 a comment was directed to me about observing our nations Independence on July 4 that disturbed my felicificabilty of the day. The comment was “Our flag still fly’s [sic] – not the union jack. Isn’t it nice we still speak American and no bloody British accent!” I was then encouraged to think about this throughout the day. Well, I did—and still am—and all I get are just questions. Is the reason for the patriotism of July 4 our accent and our flag? Did I celebrate because I don’t sound like someone else? Is it “nice” that I can pronounce my “r’s” unlike, I dunno, a New Yawker? If this is valid, then what is his reason for celebrating? I have a friend who lives in New York, but asking him would only bring a resounding “Shaddup!” Oh well. Moving on . . . Hey, did you know the English think we Americans sound quite silly using the emphatic “bloody”? Just tossing that in there. Also, if accent and flags are that important, what do we mean by playing the 1812 Overture on our nations birthday? This Russian composition celebrates the failure of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in (can you guess?) 1812. Maybe it’s because the piece makes the same sounds as the gun club that meets back in our woods during (or not during) hunting season and those violins do sort of sound like a pack of baying hound dogs. I feel guilty for enjoying English tenor Russell Watson’s performance in our nation’s capitol on PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth.” Was he singing in Italian while honoring our upcoming Olympians? Am I to use my American freedom to complain? I find myself siding with then Samuel Johnson, the Englishman who drew the line between true and false patriotism when he wrote against John Stuart in April 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” As I have reflected the past few days on this matter, other important questions come to mind: 1. What is this “independence” we celebrate as a nation, and how do we still have it? 2. What is “freedom?” The ability to do anything what we want, or everything we should? Evangelist K.P. Yohannan prompts a greater reason to celebrate who we are as a nation while also challenging us to do something with the freedom we have. “Why do you think God has allowed you to be born in North America or Europe rather than among the poor of Africa and Asia and to be blessed with such material and spiritual abundance?”

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Randoms

Monday, July 02, 2012

Workout Summary

This last week with the encouraging partnership of my darling wife, I “rebooted” my weight-loss regimen.  “Reboot” seems to be the word nowadays; or perhaps “re-imagine.” There is no re-imagining here.

When we first began, I lost 30 pounds then put back on a few as my knee went out and my walking routine became challenged. Now that my knee is functional once again, I enjoyed last week’s workout, burning a total of 3055 calories. And I learned something new.
I spent a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes walking and/or jogging, burning 1616 calories.

I also spent a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes practicing and/or leading worship, burning and approximate 533 calories, which is the same number of calories burned pushing a non-motorized lawnmower for one hour.
Lost two pounds since last Monday (but then, I am being hard on myself)! Three more to go to reach my lowest mark since we began the first time around!

Today I won’t be going to the gym because we are still recovering from heat exhaustion over the weekend. Our A/C went out Saturday night (after a long day well over the 100 degree mark) and the house stayed right at 90 degrees all night. Then we led worship and celebrated our church’s 10th anniversary. My entire body aches as if I just finished a heavy workout. Maybe tomorrow.

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