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Archive for the ‘God’s compassion’ Category

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. ‘For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it’.” (I Peter 3:8-11)

“He was not the man I thought he was, and he was the man I thought he was.” That is what Edith Hahn says of her husband after a long discussion with one of his colleagues in the play “Delicate Particle Logic.”

Based on a true story, the play depicts the struggle of Edith and physicist Lise Meitner in coming to terms with the contradictions in the life of chemist Otto Hahn.

IHahn won the Nobel prize for his role in discovering nuclear fission. Many thought Meitner deserved to share in the award, but at the time in pre-World War II Germany, women scientists were rare and hardly ever acclaimed.

Of course, the understanding of nuclear fission led to the atom bomb, something that Hahn grieved over. But that wasn’t what causes the anguish experienced by the two women in “Delicate Particle Logic.”

Lise visits Edith in the mental hospital. During their talk, Otto’s wife is appalled when she learns that Otto helped develop gas warfare for the Germans during World War I. Lise Meitner, though not happy about her lack of recognition, is more upset at Hahn’s lack of resistance to the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler.

The women are not totally dismissive of Otto. He did arrange for the Jewish Meitner’s escape from Nazi Germany. Lise considers Hahn a friend. And Edith appears to appreciate her husband’s attentiveness.

The interaction between Edith and Lise goes on for a couple hours. What conclusion do they come to?

Finally, Otto’s wife says simply, “He’s just a man.”

SPOILER ALERT

In the end, Hahn visits the ward and we learn that Lise Meitner’s visit is a figment of Edith’s imagination. However, it seems that having come to terms with her husband’s life as a result of her imaginary dialogue with Lise has made her quite cheerful, something her doctor notices and relates to Hahn.

In coming to understand Otto’s humanity, she gives him grace.

I saw another example of grace today when I attended a presentation by an Israeli professor at the university where I work. The historian traced the background of the recent developments in the war-torn regions of Iraq, Syria and Gaza.

Many of my Arab students attended, and I noticed that he was warmly received. I also heard this Jewish man say, “We need to work hard to see the other side.”

He noted how difficult this was since many people have had relatives or friends who have been influenced or even killed. The professor also said that in his discussions with his Arab friends, he found that understanding was hard because both sides were coming at things from completely different narratives.

During the question and answer period, it was clear that this Jewish man comprehends that Israel has made mistakes. He lamented the inability of his friends to also see their side’s own failures, even if they don’t agree with him.

“I wish they would move a little bit,” he said.

The Israeli historian’s own generous spirit displayed the same kind of grace Edith and Lise offered Otto Hahn in the end.

We are greatly divided in this world. People and groups of all kinds are at war with each other.

There’s an alleged war on women, for instance. A symptom of this is that professional American football players are being drawn and quartered in the press for their brutality toward their wives and girlfriends.

Politicians are at each other’s throats. Leftists can’t stand right wingers and vice-versa.

I could go on and on with more examples.

None of this today surprises God. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus when he was wandering Palestine knew the blemishes in men’s souls. (John 2:24).

Yet, he died with grace on his lips. Hanging on a cross, and taking the sin of the world on himself, Jesus expressed his own generous spirit. He interceded with His Father for them, entreating God to show His compassion.

“Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” he said before taking his final breath. (Luke 23:34)

I know my own lack of grace with others. On a daily basis I find myself taking a hard line with people who I see as immature, self absorbed or disrespectful.

It would do well for me to do apply a currently popular meme: “Keep Calm and Let it Go.” After all, these folks are just men.

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The Lord is compassionate and merciful,  slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins;  he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve (Psalm 103:8-10).

Motivational speaker David G. Johnson notes that if you want to find your calling, it’s a good idea to ask yourself some questions:

1) What would I do even if I didn’t get paid or receive applause?

2) What problem do I feel compelled to solve for people?

3) What makes you mad?

I pondered that last question in the last 24 hours or so, when I wasn’t sleeping that is. I think I figured it out.

What makes me mad is injustice. I see a lot of it around these days.

When I probe deeper into my heart, though, I find an annoying truth. What makes me mad is when I or one of my loved ones get treated unjustly.

Do I get angry when I hear or read about somebody else receiving unfair treatment? The honest answer is probably,”Sometimes I guess. But not as much as when the experience involves me.”

Rage at my own unfair treatment has gotten me into trouble in the past. I’m not so sure trying to bail myself out of unjust situations is exactly what God had in mine when He gave me a “calling”.

Johnson does say that whatever our calling is, it involves serving people. So if I can figure out where I get really teed off when other folks are handled poorly, I may go a long way in discovering where to invest the rest of my life vocationally.

Injustice is nothing new, of course. If you read the media you would think it is, though.

The news is full of one injustice after another. Here’s a sample of today’s headlines:

“Blind Chinese activist says he’s been abandoned by American officials…”

“12 teenagers haul teenagers off of train by hair, steal cell phone”

“Computer glitch summons 1,200 residents to jury duty, causes traffic jam”.

It’s a fallen world, especially in politics.

If the current POTUS is not of your party, you have your eye on him. You are just waiting for him to assume dictatorial powers and institute a police state.

Interestingly enough, some folks in my birth state of Maryland felt that way about Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. As a border state, Maryland was subject to a lot of intense scrutiny from the US government and the military.

According to Charles W. Mitchell, who edited a book called “Maryland Voices of the Civil War”, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus for Marylanders in some cases.

The writ of habeas corpus is the longstanding right in the English legal system, passed down to Americans, in which an accused person is required to be brought before a judge by the arresting  party. The latter must show cause before the court as to why the person has been arrested.

The writ of habeas corpus is a foundation of the American legal system. It prevents unlawful detention of our citizens.

From Mitchell’s account, a lot of people in Maryland were held without charge, at least at the beginning of the Civil War. Mitchell produces one written account by one such man, Augustus R. Sollers. He begins:

“My arrest was a simple outrage only to be excused upon the ground of over zeal in th officer who ordered it”. Sollers goes on to describe the charges against him as “fabrications” and defends himself.

Furthermore, he goes into detail as to how he has suffered at the hands of the military when they tried to arrest him previously:

I was driven from my home, family and business and lived in the woods for weeks.  They visited my house the night of their arrival and searched for me; they placed a guard of 150 men around it.; they killed my hogs, sheep, poultry, and wantonly shot the best horse on the farm, for all I was never offered a cent nor have I received a cent.”

In his letter, Sollers insists he is a loyal citizen of the United States, but decries how much is fealty has gotten him:

“For all this I have incurred the displeasure of some of my best friends and looked upon with suspicion and distrust by many others. But for my loyalty I have received nothing  but persecution. I have been driven from home, my property destroyed, ny family harassed and insulted, and finally arrested.”

Imagine the cable news networks of our time. They’d have a field day with Sollers’ story.

If you are a dedicated Christian, you know full well how Jesus Christ suffered far worse treatment at the hands of the authorities of his time. Yet, he voluntarily submitted Himself to it.

The Scriptures say of Jesus:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature  of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death —
        even death on a cross! (Phillippians 2:5-8)

Indeed, on that cross, as he was being crucified with others who DID deserve the punishment,  Jesus asked God for leniency  concerning those responsible. Luke recorded his words:

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Pastor Erwin Lutzer tells of  a discussion he had with another minister about David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam. Those of us around in the 1970s remember the hot summer he went around shooting numerous people  to death in New York City.

This pastor told Lutzer that Berkowitz is a saved man today, deeply regretting his actions, not asking for any parole, and leading Bible studies in prison. He is transformed according to this pastor.

However, when the pastor tried to get a Christian publisher to consider putting out Berkowitz’s story, he received resistance. The publisher said,

“Yeah, but do you know for sure he’s saved. You get weary of all these people being converted in prison. Prison’s a nice place to get converted, right?”

The pastor countered with this:

“I know Son of Sam–I know that he’s saved. But I am worried about you.” 

I wonder what the loved ones of Son of Sam would think about this discussion. I would surmise many of them would be as skeptical as this Christian publisher and still demand every ounce in payment for the injustice done.

The work of Jesus, who was “pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins”  and “beaten” and “whipped” so we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5), shows God’s attitude toward injustice.  He took it upon Himself so that He could be merciful to those who were responsible for it.

So sure, I ought to be upset when there’s injustice and do what I can, at least for others, when it is perpetrated.  God hates injustice so much His Son died for it.

Yet, if I am to be like Him I need to slow down and be patient with some people. I might even attempt to show  them the error of their ways in a kind and gentle way.

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“When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;  the light of my face was precious to them (Job 29:24).”

I think six months of winter is a little much, even for the Finns. Finally, today I have seen the possibility that it might be over.

As I walked by the largest lake in the country around noon, I could see pools of water developing. They were intermingled with the ever -weakening ice and the last vestiges of the white snow that has dominated the landscape here for months.

I groaned inwardly as I walked through the harbor in my town.  Having any winter the last week of April made me long for something different.

I also sighed inside because the icy lake, though beginning to turn liquid again, reminded me of my own soul. After a lifetime I have grown tired of the winter in my being and at last have begun to see my frozen spirit begin to melt.

These feelings come on a day that it seems major issues in my life all confronted me at once. This tends to happen when a computer is used. Too much communication, or perhaps not enough real life.

Recently a pastor told me that I was just “going through a season in my life”. When it was obvious to him that I was getting ready to object, that nothing was going to change, he added,”Oh, this doesn’t mean necesarrily that your circumstances will change, but…”.

I don’t remember the rest. I probably can’t recall because I was stuck on the unsettling truth of his first clause just sinking in.

Today I am fed up with myself. Not only that, I am disillusioned with the world I live in every day, including the features of modern-day Christianity.

I guess I’m not alone in that. Andrew Sullivan just wrote a piece in Newsweek advising Christians to follow Jesus and not the church.

No news there. The letters to the editor in the following edition both praised him and criticized him for his article.

I guess I am feeling a bit singled out today though, perhaps by Jesus Himself. I ask,”What I want to know, Lord, is why I have to keep paying the price for my sinfulness and other believers I know seem to be getting a pass?”

I know for a fact that they struggle with the same stuff I do: temper, sexual temptation, greed, envy, self indulgence…the list could go on and have made the same mistakes as a result of failing in these areas. Yet, these folks seem to be carrying on, their smiling Facebook images glaring out at me each day.

I, on the other hand, have to pay the piper for my lifetime of not really following Jesus all the way. Without going into detail in public print, let’s just say I have a bunch of messes, mostly originating from the biggest cesspool in my life: my heart.

I cry with the Psalmist,”My problems are going from bad to worse (Psalm 25:17a).”  (He adds pleadingly,”Save me from them all!”)

These same people who are getting a free ride on their sins, from my point of view anyway, are not shy about telling the rest of us what to do about ours. (I don’t know, even as I write that it seems a little unfair. I do the same thing-trying to play God in the lives of others.)

What I wonder is if my earthly life can still be redeemed. I am beginning to feel like one of my favorite fictional characters, Dr. Gregory House-the king of curmdgeons.

House consistently displays his flaws from week-to-week in the TV drama that bears his name. Into his eighth and final season, it doesn’t appear as if the not-so-good doctor will ever change.

He is left with only one loving aspect it seems. This was revealed recently as he dealt with one of his colleagues, Dr. Robert Chase.

Chase is about to tell a nun who had previously struggled with her beliefs that her renewed faith and desire to return to the convent has to do with a chemical reaction to her brain from a near-death experience, not a spiritual awakening. Chase has fallen in love with the nun and wants to keep her.

But he has his own issues, which House sees right through. It’s not that House is particularly religious -far from it.  He just realizes Chase would be making a big mistake, trying to bring the woman back to him for all the wrong reasons.

For one, Chase himself has just had a near death experience. A few weeks before a patient nearly stabbed him to death.

Chase defends his rationale and attacks House for his intent to bring him to his senses:

Chase (to House): She’s throwing away her life because of blind faith.

House: So are you! She’s found something she wants to build her life around. It’s a total illusion, but apparently she’ll take a little ignorance with her bliss. And you want to take that away?

Chase: How many times have you thrown the truth in people’s faces?

House: Because it’s the truth, not because we’re gonna live happily ever after.

House: Either your relationship just blows up like every other non-magical romance, or she stays with you but blames you for stripping all the meaning out of her life.

Chase: (angrily) This has nothing to do with the truth. You don’t like that I’m reassessing my life, that I want to change it, that I can.

House: Anyone can screw up a life. I never said that wasn’t possible.

Chase: You’re incapable of human connection, so you want everyone to be like you.

House: If I wanted you to be like me… I would be urging you to make a stupid, stubborn decision that blows up your life and leaves you lonely and miserable. You reassess your life when you’ve made mistakes. You didn’t. You just got stabbed. 

Thus, the only goodness that can come from House after a life of curmdugeonliness is to tell someone else,”Don’t be like me!”.

I am hoping my life isn’t so far gone that I end up being some old guy who tells young whippernsnappers,”Do as I say, not as I do (or did).”

What I discovered though as I walked through the harbor today is that what really matters is what Jesus Christ thinks of me, not what others, even those closest to me, think. More than that, what He thinks of me is more crucial than what I think of myself.

What I know is that Jesus died to give me grace. He paid the price for my sins, past, present and future.

Can this aging leopard change his spots at this date (Jeremiah 13:23). I don’t know, but if any transformation is going to come about, it is going to happen through completely turning my life over to the care of Jesus.

So instead of looking at my dirty smudges, and the frowns of those around me who don’t care much for them either, I think it’s best I just look into the face of Christ. There I’ll get a smile.

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“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:9,10).”

It’s a day to think about enemies. In two days, the 10th anniversary of September 11 will roll around.

Some people out there just have it in for you. That’s a big lesson we learned from the terrorist attacks in America on that fateful day.

Usually, it’s because they have an agenda and you are standing in the way. For those people to move ahead, from their point of view they have to abuse you or even take you out.

Some enemies are national and some are personal. Either way, when you run up against them, you encounter a plethora of emotions, including fear, frustration and anger.

It hurts when people you are loyal to and want to help treat you like an enemy.  The pain is deep because you feel misunderstood and lonely.

Just this week I had someone I am trying to assist demean me. Oh, they were pleasant enough. It’s just that behind the smile were teeth.

This person had a “suggestion” for me. When I tried to respond, they interrupted me. They had no desire to listen to me at all.

As it turned out, as I talked with this person I could indeed see behind the smiles that they had a not so hidden program that involved me and their selfish purposes.

I tried to be polite in return. although I did confront them on their interruptions. However, the interaction with this person was quite frustrating in the end.

People and nations that use subterfuge to get their way are difficult to deal with. You just don’t know what they have up their sleeve, although you are pretty sure that whatever it is, it doesn’t bode well for you.

What it seems to me we need when we have enemies like this is a friend, a supporter. Those who got wind of the September 11 attacks beforehand didn’t have that.

Newsweek magazine reports this week that some FBI personnel in Minnesota were beginning to piece together the terrorists’ plans. Yet, they were blown off by arrogant supervisors. We paid dearly on September 11, 2001 because these skilled law enforcement people didn’t have the backup they needed.

David knew what it was like to have enemies when he was even a young man. In his case, his opponent was the king of Israel.  Having the head person in your country against you is not a nice place to be. 

King Saul would have gotten him, too, except David had a friend in high places. His best friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, came to his aid.

Jonathan at first couldn’t believe David when he was told that his father was out to get him. However, he found out the truth and when he confronted his Dad about it, Jonathan was called a bad name and was almost pinned to the wall with a spear by his own father.

Jonathan made sure David got to know the situation. They wept and grieved over it together. Jonathan was a dear friend who saved the life of his pal and supported him to his own hurt (I Samuel 20:1-42).

When he had to flee Israel, David found himself alone and without support. In fact, he had to run to Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. He was so lonely and afraid he acted like a madmen so the Philistine ruler wouldn’t harm him in revenge for his previous military exploits for Saul and Israel (I Samuel 21:1-13).

At this point in time, David had to be depressed. He didn’t have a friend in the world, at least locally.

It was at times like these that David found that, despite all appearances, he did indeed have a friend he could depend on absolutely.  David could call on God anytime, anywhere.

James Taylor says it best:

When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there 
to brighten up even your darkest nights.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,you’ve got a friend.

Immediately after September 11, Americans thought this way about God. Church attendance skyrockete. Out of the smoke of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, they sought the presence of the Lord.

Again, Mr. Taylor has the best words to describe that time:

If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.

However, 10 years later, Americans are back where they were before the day. It seems we are as far from God as a nation as we have ever been, and in fact some of our people are in league with our enemies, and His.

At the end of a long week, I am sure glad to hear from the Scriptures that I do have at least one friend out there. I may not be able to see Him, but He is there.

James Taylor has some encouragement and some good advice for my personal situation this day:

Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend? People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you and desert you. Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them,
oh yeah, but don’t you let them.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call, Lord, I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,
you’ve got a friend. You’ve got a friend.
Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend. Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.
Oh, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.


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Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the LORD, my soul,  and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins 
 and heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5).

Vicki has begun to get it. She understands that her boyfriend, sportswriter Frank Bascombe, is a shallow jerk and a poseur.

Frank has been courting Vicki since his divorce from his wife. In their story, told in Richard Ford’s fiction “The Sportswriter”, they have just gotten back from a trip to Detroit, where in their hotel room Vicki caught Frank going though her handbag in the middle of the night.

Frank is a lot of things, many of them not good, but he isn’t a criminal. He was just curious, but things have been a little touch and go since then between him and Vicki.

The more she gets to know Frank, it seems the less she trusts him. At Easter dinner at her family’s place, she watches nonplussed as Frank pontificates about one issue after another. This is not the sweet, simple Frank she knows.

Frank notices things aren’t right and tries to be his same old playful self with Vicki. He has repeatedly suggested they get married, and he again at her family event does the same after dinner.

However, now Vicki isn’t buying it. She tells him,”I don’t love you enough to marry you.” She adds that they have to have more than just love and sex to make a long-term marriage.

She also has noticed Frank’s chagrin when she informs him of an affair his ex-wife is having with a jerk doctor they both know. Even though Frank denies caring, it is obvious she does.

As the afternoon at Vicki’s family wanes, Frank learns by a phone call from his ex-wife that a friend of his, Walter,  has just committed suicide. He apologizes to the family, but he has to leave.       

At the car, he lightly suggests to Vicki that they go to a motel room. Walter’s death is not that important in comparison to his fling with her.

As Frank goes to hug Vicki, the unexpected happens. She decks him.

Vicki is a strong woman, inside and out. She is a nurse and is used to moving big bodies around, and she has seen a lot of difficult things.

Still being playful, Frank mocks her ability to hit and tells Vicki to call him the next day. Vicki replies,”I doubt that.”  Frank has gotten the message she intends to send.

Sometimes, even when you are weaker, you just have to haul off and smack the opponent. It’s been a strategy for dealing with bullies for a long time.

In a famous heavyweight fight, lightly regarded Ken Norton surprised the world by defeating the great champion Muhammad Ali. Even though the fight ended in a decision for Norton, it really was finished in an early round when the challenger landed such a strong blow that he broke Ali’s jaw. 

Yesterday, I was really depressed over my ability to handle the temptations thrown my way. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I was fed up.

I really began to even doubt my Christianity. I thought my problem was a really weak faith.

Well, today my attitude has changed. I have realized that my Bible tells me that I am indeed powerless against the onslaughts of Satan -in and of myself, that is.

As I read the Scriptures, the first thing God told me was that He was the boxer in the fight against the enemy. I am just the corner man.

The king and poet David wrote:

Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
   break the teeth of the wicked.

 From the LORD comes deliverance. 
  May your blessing be on your people. (Psalm 3:7,8)

David knew at a young age that, when faced with an adversary too great for him, that he had to rely on the Lord to do the fighting. Oh, he was in the ring, but he wasn’t really the one slugging it out.

In the famous story of his battle with Goliath, David ditched the normal weapons of war and relied on some brook stones and a sling. It was a simple tactic, but his choice of weapons wasn’t the major decision.

What really turned the tide was whom he chose to rely on for victory. He came at his opponent in the name of the Lord, and in fact told the enemy so.

David got mocked and abused by Goliath for his puny order of battle. However, who was it who had his head cut off at the end of the day, huh (I Samuel 17:32-51).

The second thing God told me, in summary, was not to sweat my failure. He is compassionate, patient and understanding of where I am coming from as a flawed human being (Psalm 103:8-14).

This is hard to explain, but in the heat of the battle, when I am tempted to disobey God, I literally forget about Him and His Word. Even after all these years of purportedly being a Christian, I either try to fight my own battle with the devil.

This strategy is a losing proposition inside and out. It always, and I mean always, leads to defeat. I usually end up surrendering and becoming a POW.

Thus, the third thing God told me today was to remember to obey him (Psalm 103:17,18; Proverbs 3:1,2).  The result will be prosperity and active love from the Lord.

Such a deal, right? But I know tomorrow morning, shoot, even tonight, I am going to have to remind myself Who is in the ring with me. 

The lyrics of Neko Case could have been penned by the Lord Himself!

Don’t forget me, please don’t forget me
Make it easy, only just for a little while
You know I think about you
Let me know you think about me too

Vicki smacked Frank to stop his advances,  she had come to her senses. She realized Frank was an empty person with no substance.

She was deeper than him, and wanted more. While he promised her the moon, she realized he couldn’t and wouldn’t deliver.

Satan does to me what Frank did to Vicki. He tries to seduce me with promises, but both he and his promises are empty.

The devil won’t make me happy. Only God can do that.

Neko Case again penned what could be God’s message:

 “And when we’re older and full of cancer
It doesn’t matter now, come on get happy
‘Cause nothing lasts forever
But I will always love you

The next time I step in the ring with Satan, it’s best not to forget what God told me today. I think God wants a rematch.

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