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A Gate Called Beautiful

The pain is searing. It feels as an icepick between my shoulder blades. No position brings relief, no stretch, no twist, nothing. Not even the prescriptions dull the invisible knife that tears constantly just 8 inches below my neck. But it doesn’t matter. Pain is an inevitable part of life. What matters is position and understanding. So…I find myself sitting outside the gate called Beautiful. Just like the man in Acts 3. I come every day for the same thing. Just to beg for what I think I want.

What I need however is not quite what I may be wanting. Far below the physical pain is damage that no surgeon or specialist can repair. It is a spiritual need. The Apostles offered the lame man at the gate more than he wanted, but exactly what he needed. The gave him what Jesus promised. It was a meeting of the unheard desperate cry of the soul and the penultimate grace of the cross. The man walked away in praise and adoration for the gift of God.

He came to understand that the gate is a place that we cannot stay. It is no place to live. When we understand that God wants to meet our needs, our wants become changed. We become free; freed to serve a God who in turn serves us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Let us not stand at the gate called Beautiful. Let us enter the temple, the city, the world and become that which meets the needs in someone else’s world. Bring others in from the gate into a place where abundance flows like a fountain unceasing. In my mind, whatever exists behind a gate called Beautiful must be far greater than what is kept outside. Its time to go in and live more abundantly.

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The Last Bastion, A Short Story Draft

Below is a draft of a short story I started about two years ago. I suppose I post it now as a means to kickstart myself into finishing the idea. I hope you enjoy it. Its probably the first time anyone but those closest to me have had the opportunity to read it. Its more of a narrative style story that takes place in a world of mine own creation and mentions places and geography in that world. Whenever possible I try to follow JRR Tolkien’s method for names and have meaning to them based on some other language or phrase from another language. The basis for my names and place comes from Ancient Hebrew and Greek, though this is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I just come up with a name. Enjoy, and if you don’t be kind in your critique.

Upon the far coast where the eastern sea beats the shores of Orin stands an old watchtower. The men of that region know not when it was built; its construction is far beyond their memory or tales of their elders. It stands alone at the end of a broad plain. Its stone walls once proud and daunting have faded and waned in their glory. Now it is a relic. The doorways bear no inscription save the ancient words in an ancient tongue long forgotten; they read “until you return to me I will remain.”
The man in watchtower stands every night upon the utmost parapet staring into the ocean watching for any sign, any symbol of a returning ship. He stands hunched by ages and ages of weariness and gloom. He speaks not a word, for though he was once a great man of power and renown, speech has long abandoned his tongue. He watches and he waits for a love long since sailed away. This is his tale, the tale of a mariner never to have sailed, never to have forgotten, and to have seen more of the world long passed than any even the undying kings in the west.
In the first days of men upon the shores there was a great city in the east. The men built tall ships and sailed the waters finding much bounty and knowledge upon the water, for their waters reached all the way to the lands that all other’s considered west to a shore where great and powerful kings would begin their sojourns about the lands far beyond their shores. The waters were blessed by a power greater than all that existed in the world and the men that lived upon this shore were greater than any others hence, save the Northmen for away and hidden from the world. It was in this but of the world that a man called Braeun came to renown.
Like the men around him he had been raised to sail the seas, yet for one reason or another ever were his feet on solid ground. He raised the town and led the people well. He was loved and respected by all who crossed his gaze. He was tall and fair, his hair was black as the night and his eyes as deep a blue as the deep seas just off his shores. He would be swayed by no man to evil, and none outside of his fair dwelling would enter or seek to raid his town. As was the way of his people his years were many, for the blessing of the undying kings still made it to the shores. He was many years into his reign and yet he found no one who he would call his bride. Many years he waited, and many eyes did he seek for the one who he would take hand in hand. Seeing his fair city had grown well, he desired to see the seas and the far off lands that his people spoke of, yet he could still not find his way to the sway of the ocean. He built a might tower. White were its walls that rose high above the city and looked out upon the water. For many leagues it could be seen by the mariners returning home. Upon its pinnacle he built a parapet from which he could gaze long into the night and sea even in the strongest storm the ships that were returning. Many lives were spared by his tower that gleamed in the night though no light was atop it. The glory of the structure reflected the man that stood upon its stones and shone far out through the inly blackness of the night seas.
It was in the fifth year of the tower that he noticed a strange night. There were no ships sailing home as all were in port for the annual festival. The sea was black and the moon hid her face from all that would see her. Yet through his power, which had grown great he saw into the waters and there upon the waves he perceived a frail figure floundering in the surf. Running from his tower he crossed the shore and waded into the water and caught her in his arms. She was as close to death as one could be before seeing the far shore of eternity. He wrapped her in his coat and carried her to the nearest house of healing. He sat with her until she recovered. As she lay in her bed he saw her beauty revealed to him. Her hair was as the sunset, her eyes as the green shores, and her skin soft and fair like none he had ever beheld in all of his long years. Her gaze upon him struck every core of his mind and spirit. This was the one he had searched far and wide for many years. She too held him in such esteem that they knew they were destined for one another.
“You are the one, the treasure I sought for so long, dwell here with me, and be mine for all of our days together” he asked her upon the great stone steps of the city.
“I will dwell here with you, and be yours forever, no matter what end the world may come, I will always remain yours.” She replied, and he took her and held her close and they both felt their hearts beat the same beat in the same rhythm.
“No matter what befalls the world, I shall remain forever yours in thought mind, body and strength. My heart will only ever beat for you, as it has always belonged to you.”
“As will mine,” she replied and kissed him deeply. Their love blessed the city by the shore. Many came and stood before them for council, for their minds were ever to each other’s thought and their knowledge and power doubled with each passing day. So every free person of the shore sought to be and the works of that place grew and their glory became known throughout the lands in the west.
And though their love made every light such a beacon, the wills of evil minds in the world grew ever jealous. Anrolf, the golden shore, as the city had come to be known, found the eyes of many jealous men west of its borders. Such men sent emissaries and sought to treat with the people for their knowledge and power. For though the people of the golden shore lived long years far beyond that of the mortals to the west and east, they knew not why. The men who waned quickly hated them and burned in jealousy for a taste of their perceived immortality. Though it is doomed for mortal man once to die, the people of Anrolf lived seven score longer and looked youthful even unto their final years. Little did the mariners know of the evil growing far to the north behind the mountains in lands they knew nothing of. Still evil extended its grasp towards them.
In the one hundredth year of the tower the western borders of Anrolf were threatened by men from the north. Many dignitaries had sought Braeun’s allegiance, and in his wisdom and the wisdom of his wife, Inari, they saw that the men of the north would but use them as a tools in the ways of war. Anrolf was not in any way prepared for any war, yet the power of the city held the evil at bay as they made weapons and fell blades to hold back their enemies. Yet no trenches or walls did they build for their time had come. In great council did the men whom Braeun named Generals and captains devise to send all those that could not wield a blade to sea until the city had been freed of any invasion. They loaded their treasures and books of lore and women and children aboard their finest and strongest vessels. The greatest captains of the mariners were named to steer the voyage. On the brightest morning of the summer did their blue sails leave the harbor and sail away from the shore. The same morning Braeun rode with all his host to meet the armies of the north in the western fields.
For days and nights they fought the enemy, and though they were backed to the very streets of Anrolf they were victorious. The armies of the north fell to utter ruin and at last, Aemund, king of the north fell on the steps of the great palace of the sea. The war was over and yet as the men of Anrolf celebrated they perceived a great tumult at sea. Braeun climbed to his tower and though weary from many days battle, stood without comfort looking far as his mind could see. Yet so black was the storm and gale upon the ocean that even he at the height of his strength could not see it. Mists of the next morning revealed the tattered sails of two the ships return to harbor. Their masts were shattered and yet all were alive. The men rejoiced again, save for Braeun. For though all had returned his love had not. She fell from the ships holding the Mariner’s heart, a pearl of clear crystal which contained much power of Anrolf, and with her fall so did the ship that held all of their treasures and lore. The power of Anrolf was lost forever beneath the sea of the east. Broken was the golden light that had once radiated from the city. For though the armies of the north had fallen beneath the swords of the might men of the eastern sea, the evil that had spurred them all had won its battle and claimed the glory which it sought. The men of the city left with their families and with their memories and went west, east, and to even farther shores; it is thus that the Balamri came past the Great Dividing Range and beheld the crescent bay which they called Eldion Inaris, Haven of the Mariner’s wife.
Though all had gone Braeun would not forsake his tower. He perceived his love in his heart and would not surrender his watch. He locked himself in his tower and still the light shone from it. He stood watch both day and night. He searched his mind for the lore and power that he had gained through all his long life. He stretched his mind across the seas and thus by his will touched the undying shore of Arius and gained his curse, for no mortal man had ever had such power, nor should he. Long he labored alone on his greatest work and his final work of power and will. Through ancient ways he reached into his own body and pulled from his chest his heart, deeming it never truly belonged to him, but to Inari. He closed it in facetted crystal and poured all of the love he had ever and would ever feel into it. He closed his mighty work with these words, “until you return, here I will remain”. He made a tall staff and place the globe shaped jewel upon the top and stood upon the parapet at night. By day he wandered the shore and waded the waves searching for she that he loved above all.
The years passed and Anrolf was forgotten. The fields of the west over took the once paved streets. The palace crumbled until all that remained was the tower of Rianor, the heart’s peak, and upon it stood Braeun, though unchanged by the years, ever wearied by his search. And the heart of Braeun called many ships from folly, yet none found harbor in the forgotten bay. Thus memory faded of the once great people of Anrolf, but ever stood Braeun seeking , Inari, daughter of the waves, upon the last bastion of the east.

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Trusting God with your Present (Trusting God Series Part 2)

Trusting God with your Present (Trusting God Series Part 2)

“41 Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43 Summoning His disciples, He said to them, “I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed — all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

Human beings have an issue with trust. Some of us trust everything we hear and see. For example that poor girl in the insurance commercial who says if its on the internet it must be true. Then there are those of us who simply do not trust anyone whatsoever. We like to pick and choose how we will trust people. My personal favorite is the statement made by Ronald Reagan’d administration, “trust, but verify”. Fact is we find it difficult to trust people.
When it come to trusting God, the story is almost completely different. We are willing to trust God with our prayers and concerns, and yet at the same time we continue to worry and fret over every thing that we have just laid at the feet of Jesus. We seem to be able to trust that Jesus can save us, but we do not have the ability to trust Him with the minor things or day to day lives that we experience.
In Mark 12, we are introduced to a poor widow who gives all the money that she has in an offering to God. The rich priests and scribes and other people give only a small portion, yet this woman gives all she has, though it is already such a small amount to begin with. Our first reaction to this story is to think that this verse is about money. Actually it is about much more than that. But let us look at money. In America money is everything. It is how we provide ourselves with food, shelter and many varied forms of comforts and unneeded gadgets. Without money life is extremely difficult to get through, trust me on this one. Thus our culture would expect us to place a huge priority on money. The world would have us strive for more and more of it. God, however, would have us do otherwise. He would have us trust Him with our money.
You see, when we trust God with our money in today’s culture, we are in essence trusting Him with our lives. The poor widow has given us a wonderful example of what it means to trust God in the present. Jesus tells us that she gave all she had. Since He is Jesus, we can take that at face value. This woman gave her last two cents to God. She trusted that God would provide what she needed. She knew that God would give her exactly what she needed in order to live.
Ephesians 4:24 tells us to put on a new nature, the new nature that God has made in us. That means the we must begin to trust God in our daily lives. God’s word is where we find our ability to trust Him. It is full of His promises to us. It is how God is relevant to us in our lives right now. When we live by our new nature following His word, we find that by trusting in God, all of our needs are fulfilled.
Not only is God relevant to us right now, God is sufficient. You don’t sit down and eat a sufficient meal and leave wanting. Likewise, when we trust God with our daily lives, we find that His provision, what He gives us, is more than enough for us. And beyond that, God is reliable. The promises that He makes, He follows through with them. There us testimony after testimony on how God has come through for His people. There are stories throughout the Bible, and stories throughout the church worldwide. God will do what He says, and He says He can handle what you need.
Should we start small, or go all in trusting God. The choice is really yours to make. The widow in the story went all in. But perhaps you need to build up to it. Maybe life has left you feeling burned. Start small, but more than anything start. Just because your parents or your friends, or other leadership in your life has proved untrustworthy, that is no reason to cheat yourself on the trustworthiness of God. he has never failed, and He never will. So how do you trust God? How do you start?
Pray, take your problems to God in prayer, then leave them with him. Don’t think about them again, just trust that He will present a solution or handle it without you ever doing anything. Start by leaving your problems, worries and concerns at the feet of Jesus, and never try to take them back. Peace comes when we truly allow God to work. And more than that, spend time reading God’s word. It is one thing for me to tell you about what God says, but it is much more real when you read and experience it for yourself.

If you are struggling to find a starting point. There are many apps for iOS and Android that are daily devotionals and Bibles. Also check into our Live Event on You Version’s Bible app. If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, thats perfectly fine. Pick up a Bible (NIV, HSBC, NLV, or NRSV) and begin by reading the book of John. Of course you can always contact me and I will be happy to help point you in the right direction.

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Coming Soon

Next week I will begin writing about what we are talking about in Wednesday Night Youth. If you are interested in following along and if you are part of the church, go deeper with our studies, or you can even use this blog along with the resources we have posted on You Version Live event. See you soon, in the mean time, get your questions ready on the subject of “Trusting God”

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To Whatever End

chesspicThere is a fantastic line in the movie, “The Two Towers,”. I’ll give you just a moment to finish rolling your eyes at me. One of the characters tells the king that his men will follow him “to whatever end”. It’s a wonderful sentiment of loyalty. It is also a highlighted point of concern if you are one of those men. What if the king rides of into the sea and drowns? Why should I follow him then? While the line is good, it is also very dangerous to follow such sentiments when speaking about men that we follow. But before you click out of this post, relax, this is not a political rant. I want to point out some particular points of order and concern on the chess board of the world at this moment in time.

I read the news way too much. It’s easy, I get stuck in a room with students who are not allowed to talk all day, so I end up reading a various cacophony of news sites. The headlines are never encouraging and range from, death in a nice place to nude pictures of your favorite star have surfaced, or more destruction in places where there shouldn’t be. It can be quite depressing. Don’t get me wrong the broadcasts on local news are no less filled with absolute sensationalized horse manure. Regardless of the piles of press that have to be waded through in order to find real news, there is a striking picture of the world that we live in presented.

Imagine if you will human history as a massive game of chess. We began quite a long time ago and have been moving towards some sort of endgame move. Societies have risen, fallen, been reborn, been annihilated, saved, savaged, and moved. All of this in the name of progress towards a better place. So where are we at now? Are we any closer to winning this game? Does anyone really even care? As religious person I view the game as one that we are playing against our own demise. The metaphor for me is one that we play against evil and against the darkness that humanity is so well versed in bringing to the world. Don’t agree that there is evil in the world? I am looking at the computer screen right now and the seven headlines listed are all about something bad that has happened or is happening. It would appear that the darker pieces of the board are winning.

Think about it. Iran has now told the world that they are going after Israel and have upped their nuke program, Syria(a known harbor and storage facility for chemical weapons) has said the same. There was a bombing of the US embassy in Turkey, Egypt is about to collapse, and rest of Europe appears to be at a stand still. Here at home there are children being shot in schools, taken hostage off the bus, waitresses being fired because “pastors” act like jerks, and the government resembles two groups of middles school girls who don’t like each other and hurl insults across the isle accordingly(seriously watch “Mean Girls” and then look at the reports from Washington, you might wet yourself laughing, or crying). Oh and by the way, the sun just belched out a huge plume of plasma, just a nice little icing on the cake for you there. The news is not good.

Now that may be because hall headlines do not sell news very well. It kind of reminds me of the lyrics Jon Foreman uses in his song, “Selling The News”. Look that one up and enjoy. Happiness, joy, goodness, kindness, our media fed culture has been deprived of these things. We have been spoon fed a massive amount of malnutricious junk food. Those things that would nurture us have been lost in the easy story. Thus our chess board has become bereft of lighter colored pieces. The dark is winning, not because it is better or smarter, but because we have allowed it.

We have allowed our minds to easily stray into that wild and frightening place looking for some sort of new and exciting adventure,meet we have found that the illusions of the dark feed us not well. There must come a time soon when we say no more. There must come a time when we refuse to allow the media to draw us to whatever end they would pull us toward. The Bible says remove all malice and negativity from your heart. Think on the good things such as kindness to others, love for your fellow man/woman. Now you may not be a Believer, but that still does not sound so bad.

If we would all seek those good things for one another, then perhaps we would find a better end, a brighter colored chess board. As a society we will only reap that which we have sown. The bounty and wonder of the older times of humanity is gone, it has been reaped. What then are we sowing for ourselves? Is it pain and discord? There must come a time when we say no more.

For Christians that time must be soon. We must cease to allow any leader other than Christ to direct our thoughts and actions, that goes for Pastors too (actually it goes kind of against them if they are asking you to follow them and not God’s word). It is time the world saw the light, it is time that we did such grand things for the kingdom that no longer could man mock us. It is time we were truly the hands and feet of Christ, following and doing to whatever end.

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Judge Wisely

I tend to read a good bit of the news, and various editorial articles when given the chance. Some of the information is really helpful and quite good. Sometimes however the sites that I read the news on become a stark reminder of just how far we have fallen as a society. It is a blinding example of the hypocrisy we see each day. Not only do we see it, but it seems many times we are expected to accept it as the norm.
This week, as I read a scathing editorial on how we as a society spend far too much time judging people via social media I was reminded of such hypocrisy. The article itself was actually well done and the author made some excellent points about how we needed to be far more uplifting as a society. Yet when I got to the bottom of the page there were pictures of a random red carpet event in Hollywood. The headline below it was a stereotypical one, “(insert random celebrity) fails to wow on red carpet”.
This got me thinking critically about what we accept in our society. Generally I am the first one to condemn actors and actresses on their opinions, simply because they become mouthpieces for more powerful people’s agendas, and many times they are simply ignorant on the topics on which they comment. Still, they are people and as such they should be given some ounce of grace, after all, we are all in this together. When you’ve just finished reading an article on how we should encourage and not be mean to people it is very difficult to look at that kind of headline and want to scream at the author. Especially when they wrote both of the articles.
So what is the real problem? It’s judgement! For some strange reason human being have come into this deluded ideal that we have the right and ability to judge other people. We feel that we have the right to pick someone completely apart based on our own opinion of their worth. Basically, we place ourselves on a higher level than someone else and cast down our lordship upon them. Now Brian, that’s just a bit dramatic to say isn’t it? No, it’s what we do, and we accept it as entertainment. There are entire networks devoted to the judgment of societies elite and not so elite. And we buy into the cultural ideal that one person’s opinion and style should be the accepted standard. I’m sorry but that feels incredibly closed-minded and quite frankly idiotic.
Believe it or not, Jesus actually spoke on this very topic. Matthew 7 gives us a fantastic discourse on judgement. It’s quite a simple answer, don’t judge other people or you will be judged by the same measuring stick you use. These are God’s words not mine. Jesus goes on to say that the problems you face are more than big enough for you to handle before becoming involved in someone else’s. You know the verse, first remove the large piece of wood from your own skull before trying to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye.
So where does that leave me? Well, honestly it leaves me just as guilty as everyone else. I have been known to judge, I have been known to try to lord over people with my strong opinions. I’m human, and I need grace as well. I am not perfect. What I need to be is conscious of the way I look and think about other people. It is important to remember that judges are elected people who weigh facts and truth before passing their rulings on to people. Should I not do likewise before I form an opinion? Isn’t that what my professors were trying to teach me in college, educate yourself before informing someone else? Point is you are allowed to have an opinion, you are allowed to have thoughts. When those thoughts cause you to condemn someone as being ugly, or stupid, or any other derogatory word you want to use that is when there is a problem. There is not one single, solitary, perfect person on this planet. We are all sinners in need of grace. So Christians, understand your job. Your job is to be like Christ. moreover you are called to in fact be Jesus to people. Everyone can easily quote John 3:16. How easily we forget John 3:17. Your hob is not to judge, it is to encourage, lead, and be the light. Let us be about our job as light and salt and stop being dark and salty. God will judge us in the end, so don’t carry around that burden. Who can you encourage today? Who can you lift up? Whose life can you be flavor for? Whose hope can you preserve? Whose darkness can you illuminate?

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The Face You Wear

Mirrors haunt my existence. My sister loves to tell me how vain I can be when I catch my own reflection. In fact regardless of the conversation, if she catches me looking at myself by accident she will point it out. I guess it’s a nervous tick, but whatever it is it is unintentional. But mirrors remind us of what we look like. They show us how we appear to others. They help us notice the wrinkles in our clothes that we need to iron out, or the messed up part in our hair. Mirrors show us the blemish, the bump, the bisecting lines of ages creeping into the corners of our eyes. Stark reality is reflected by a the soulless, careless, and sometimes hateful piece of glass laid over silver paint. And yet, mirrors do not reveal all that is there at a passing glance.

Sure many a person has been able to look into a mirror and self loathe. That is but a casual glance in reality. You are more than a reflection of the world. You are more than the jeans you are trying to fit into, or the new style you’re trying to find the confidence to “rock”. You are more than the face that looks back at you in the looking glass, so much more.

In all humanity, no matter how great or small there is a light. It is a light reflecting something greater and deeper than we can really understand. It doesn’t matter if you share the faith that I have. The light is still there, and it is seen in the face that you wear. Not the folds and smoothness of the skin that you see, but in that somewhat vague term of countenance. There are almost 1200 faces that I see everyday for eight hours. If I look really hard during class changes and think, I can visualize in each person that light. Adolescent children are really quite an amazing phenomenon.

Whether by fate or some strange coincidence it seems that life in the family turns completely upside down at about the time children hit middle school. It is reflected in the light in their eyes. Some are so bright and brilliant that it warms your heart to be around them. The joy of what is to come and the excitement of something new each day just emanates from them. That kind of light reminds you of what you had at one time. Yet, others wear a different face. It’s like a shroud over the light inside. As if a some smoke or haze is seeking ever to extinguish the life of this young person. The world around them feels cold, distant, an echo of what it should be.

There is another face I see. It is the face of the person who seeks to remove the shroud, to bring to the front the light and chase out the shadow. It’s not always the teachers. Many times it’s the parents that come and volunteer, the counselors, the parents, and other staff who cannot simply live and be unaffected by those around them. These faces bring out the best in others. They radiate. Still one more face do I see. It is not one pleasant to look at. It is a face that is seeking, hunting, desiring ever to put out any light that may point out its ugliness.

What kind of face are you wearing? You don’t have to work with young people to affect someone else’s life in a way that greatly increases them. You will, however, have to make some effort to change what you look like. It’s not makeup, or clothing, or hair style; it’s the constant realization that the countenance you carry can indeed show the world what you are about. If you are a person that wants to see the good in others that will show. If you simply want to tear down the world and make it your own wasteland that you feel you live in, so be it. Other people will see that in you.

I spoke with a student this week about a rather major incident in his life that could and probably will have far reaching consequences from this week on. This was not your typical trouble maker, or bully. This was a child with a mischievous streak that could be humorous and still very close to the line of being well behaved. Yet this mistake was so far beyond his own understanding. Doubt was gnawing on this kid so hard. You could see it in his entire body. Like someone had walked into the room of his soul and flipped on the light switch. I didn’t have much that I knew to say other than to pass on a piece of wisdom passed on to me when I was a little bit older than this young person…

You are more than this situation, this does not define who you are or who you will become, unless you allow it to. Your choice is to rise above, or fall below. So I pass that on to you as well. You are so much more than the reflection of the world in your mirror, and you are so much more than the sum of your past mistakes. Don’t where the face of such things.

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