For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
The Lord remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 105: 8
I have a small set of completely useless talents! One of those useless talents is being able to remember song lyrics from decades ago. I don’t mean to brag, but I can sing songs that are even older than I am. Now, don’t be too impressed because I’m also the same woman who can’t remember 3 things at the grocery store and about the only room I can walk in to and consistently remember why I entered, is the bathroom. I remember random silly things but there are days when I forget ten times more than I remember. I like to console myself and say it’s because I just have so much important stuff to think about I run out of room in my brain!
Thank goodness God has a better memory than me! I’m so grateful for this reminder from Psalm 105 and it makes my heart peaceful to know that even on those crazy days when I forget to ask God for help or peace or assurance, he never forgets me or the covenant he made with his people. He remembers all the important stuff. He doesn’t remember just when it’s convenient or when it serves his purpose; he remembers his promise to love us all the time!
Sometimes we can make our way through lent and come out on Easter Sunday feeling like we didn’t get it right. We sometimes forget our lenten promises and when Good Friday rolls around we start to feel guilty for forgetting how much we wanted to show our love to Jesus though our sacrifices and penances. Now would be a great time to remember that our lenten works have no real bearing on the glory of Easter. Jesus wouldn’t be more “risen” if we had remembered all the things we promised on Ash Wednesday. God isn’t going to put us on the “B list” because we didn’t complete six weeks of perfect sacrificial piousness. His covenant promised his love, compassion, care and correction whether we ate chocolate during lent or not.
The fifty days of the Easter season are the perfect time to hit a “remember re-set”. God isn’t honored just through our sacrifice; he’s honored by our joy and gratitude. Easter is the absolute perfect time to be more joyful and grateful. We are an Easter people which is to say we are a people who were created to celebrate the joy and happiness of the Resurrection and the new beginnings it promises. That too was a part of the covenant God will always remember. I keep thinking about that line about happy christians and it makes me giggle so I’ll repeat it again; “There are way too many christians running around looking like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice!” Are we gonna mope about your lenten weaknesses or realize with enthusiastic happiness and joy that Easter makes all things new! What needs to be new with you? This is the season that begs us to believe the unbelievable and profess the spectacular and revel in the unfathomable! How about turning from the lent guilt and running head first into the magnificent gift of love the Father will never forget to show us. Absolutely, we are not worthy of such a gift but lets remember that he already knows that and it doesn’t matter. The gates of Heaven were flung open not because we deserve it but because the Father promised and because he wants us with him. That is something we need to remember! This Easter Season let your focus be joy, after all, someone died for you and then his Father raised him up!
A Seed To Plant: Find a great image of the Risen Jesus and pray with it each day to remind yourself that it was a gift for you from the Father who will never forget his promises.
Blessings on your day!
Happy Easter! I hope you had a beautiful Easter Sunday. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Easter Season continues for 50 days which leaves me plenty of time to write about it in the days to come. Yesterday was filled with family and sunshine and celebration. It was a great day but there were no left over minutes for writing so...todays post is a simple Happy Easter and a promise to return with more Joyful Words on Thursday!
Blessings on your day!
When the hour came He took his place at the table with the apostles. Luke 22:14
We have a tradition here at the Wohlfert house. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the menu for your birthday supper. We had the same tradition in the McClaskey house too. Since I’ll do anything to get meatloaf for supper, I thought it was a tradition that certainly needed to continue with my children. As luck would have it, my daughter also chooses meatloaf on her birthday every year. There is just something comforting about sitting down with family to enjoy your favorite meal together.
Many years ago some friends invited us to go out for supper with them one Saturday night. Being a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under the age of 5 at the time, I think I had my finger on the babysitter’s phone number in the phone book before I had even finished accepting the invitation. Our friends said they had discovered this great place that they thought we’d just love. I WAS IN! The night arrived and as we waved goodbye to the kids and backed out of the driveway I felt so lucky to be going out to eat at an exciting new place where I wasn’t going to have to cut anyone else’s meat or transfer anyone’s drink to a cup with a spout. I was excited! After a 40 minute drive to the middle of nowhere, we pulled up in front of this old house that look like it had about 4 sunrooms added on, each in a different decade. The parking lot was gravel and the paint on the building wasn’t even all one color. I was a wee bit unimpressed to say the least. When we walked in the door it didn’t get much better. The big open space was full of tables that didn’t match and were covered with vinyl tablecloths that were every pattern and color known to man. All three pieces of silverware were a different pattern and even the glasses didn’t match. I really wondered what it was about the place my friend thought we’d love so much. A few seconds later a sweet, cheerful lady appeared at our table with a personality that would rival Santa’s! We placed our order and a few moments later some of the best homemade delicious food I’d ever tasted arrived at our table. We laughed, talked, ate and enjoyed a fabulous evening! It was not at all what I had expected when we got out of the car that night. Isn’t life like that sometimes!
When I read the gospel accounts of the last supper, I often wonder what the apostles thought when they first realized that night was no ordinary supper together. I wonder what they felt more; shock, fear or sorrow. We can be certain the evening didn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus had news they could not have possibly been ready for and the events of the night spilling into the next day were more than anyone could have imagined. It is on this night; Holy Thursday, I am more overwhelmed by my sinfulness than any other night of the year. I know the story, and the Easter morning happy ending but I still feel as dumbfounded each year as the apostles must have felt. Disbelief, sorrow, anguish…I feel it all heavy on my heart. Too many Christians want the Easter without the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We want to skip to the happy ending and miss the brutality and the guilt but without the cross we aren’t Christians. Without meditating on the burden of our sins Christ bore, we don’t have repentance and without repentance we can’t have forgiveness and salvation. His death brought forth our life and in some small, unexpected, unpleasant way, we have to share it with Jesus.
If you truly want to experience Easter joy, spend some time this holy evening reading the Gospel accounts of the last supper…imagine…think…feel…experience the unexpected like the apostles. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, spend some time with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. As you read, ask God to join you with the suffering of His Son in order to come to a greater understanding of His gift of life and love. If you can unite yourself more closely with the cross, you will feel the joy of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time with the Last Supper and Good Friday Gospel stories.
Blessings on your day!
…She has done a good thing for me. Matthew 26:10
Well, it’s Monday! That means the start of another week and as you read, some of you are tired, some are frustrated, some are happy and some are worried. No matter what you’re feeling as this new week begins I’m going to ask you to put it all on hold and realize this is not just another week. This is HOLY WEEK and more than anything I want this week to be different for you, for me, for everyone who is a christian. This is a week of powerful sacrifice, love, commitment and glory. The point and purpose of this post is to help you make this week set apart from all the others. I’m asking all of us to lay down our worries, our burdens and our “stuff” and choose instead to walk this week with Jesus and remember how great were his actions during this week as he redeemed us.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Duluth MN have a spectacular way of living out this week and setting it apart. I’d like to share their Holy Week focus in hopes it will change our focus too. Here’s what they think and pray about each day this week. They actually begin on Saturday. We’re a couple days late but we sure can back up our thinking and catch up. I’ve added a couple of questions to each day in hopes we can think about and act on them as we walk with Jesus through this extraordinary last week of his earthly life.
*Commitment Saturday - Ponder and pray about the commitment Jesus made to his Father’s plan and will. The commitment he made to our salvation. How have I committed to Jesus? What can I commit to do for him today?
*Procession Sunday - Jesus publicly showed his love for the Father. Will I walk with him? What will I do today to publicly stand and walk with Jesus?
*Extravagance Monday - How extravagant was his love for us. Read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Matthew 26. Her love and her actions showed extravagant love. How has Jesus shown extravagant love for you? Who can you love today?
*Compulsion to Completion Tuesday - Jesus was compelled to move forward to do his Father’s will in spite of doubts, worries, troubles or fear. He was determined to complete the Father’s will. What is God asking you to do for him? Where do you need to add compulsion and completion like Jesus?
*Aloneness Wednesday - Jesus knew the next day he would give everything and he paused to be alone in prayer, in silence in the presence of his Father. Spend at least 30 minutes in silence today. Take time to be alone with your Father and His Son pondering the upcoming few days and all Jesus did for you. Read the Gospel accounts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday so you will be ready to think about them in the upcoming days.
*Body Given Thursday - Jesus gave everything. His body to the guards who arrest him this night and in the Last Supper he gave us the everlasting promise of His Body and Blood which were to be poured out for the salvation of us all. What is Jesus asking you to give? Are there people in your life who need the gifts you can offer them?
*Impotent Friday - Jesus was powerless on this day. He who was Almighty became powerless for our sake and his Father had to observe it all. That happened for you and for me. Where do you need to submit to the Father? Where do you need to relinquish some power to the Father, knowing all the while he will be with you? From the time you wake up until 3 spend 5 to 10 minutes each hour meditating on the events of Good Friday; walking with him through this sorrowful day.
*Saturday - The Day of Night, Jesus spent this day in darkness. It was still, it was waiting, it was quiet. It was a day that with patience, reaped great glorious joy. Where do you need to be more patient? Find a way to practice that today.
*Sunday - The Day of Miracles. After you eat your chocolate bunny, make a list of all the miracles God has worked in your life and be sure to put Jesus a the top of the list.
May you use these thoughts and questions to guide you through the week and may the practice be fruitful for your soul.
A Seed To Plant: Print this one or open it each morning so you remember how to pray your way through each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good Sisters for their Holy Week example.
Blessings on your day!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have you ever gotten something that far exceeded your expectation? When I was a little girl I remember asking for a baby doll for Christmas. All I wanted was a doll with brown hair and brown eyes. That Christmas stands out like no other because not only did I get the baby doll I wanted, I also got 3 outfits that my mom made by hand, I got a baby bottle to feed the baby doll and my dad made a baby bed out of an old wooden orange crate from my grandpas store. The doll bed came complete with a hand made mattress, pillow and little baby quilt. I remember squealing with so much excitement because it was SO much more than I had expected!
One of the best parts of traveling around giving talks and retreats is the people I meet and the stories they share about the things God is doing in their lives. I often pack up my little bag and hop on a plane determined to go give something but without fail…instead of doing the giving; I’m always the one who ends up receiving and experiencing so much more than I expected! I’m amazed at all the things the Lord can do when we open our heart; always more than we expected! Recently I’ve had some lovely women share an instance where God has worked in amazing and unexpected ways and with their permission I’d like to share them with you in this post.
*It’s all in the name. A nurse who was very apprehensive and anxious about a new computer system taking over the surgical center where she worked asked God to help her find a way to cope with the unwelcomed changes. She was an experienced nurse but technology wasn’t part of her training or her generation…compounding the stress and anxiety! In the shower the morning of the big “technology take over” she told God she was surrendering the whole crazy deal to him and asked him to calm her stress and be with her as she tried to learn. When she got to work that day, each nurse was assigned an assistant from the technology company. The gentleman assigned to help her was polite, gentle, understanding and extremely helpful and calming. As the nerves and stress began to subside, she thanked him for his helpfulness and asked his name. He told her his name was Emmanuel. Knowing that Emmanuel means “God is with us” she was overwhelmed at the goodness and love of the God she’d invited to be in charge of her day. The name was just a huge loving touch that proved his presence and love beyond her expectation.
*Just ask me. A grandma sat in the audience at a day of prayer and was troubled that her daughter was not making Sunday Mass a priority for her young family. She sent a text inviting her daughter and family to mass with her at the conclusion of the day of prayer but the daughter texted back and declined. The situation sat on the woman’s heart like a brick. When the scripture from 1 John was discussed she closed her eyes and made a conscious decision to ask God to take the situation and handle it “according to his will”. When the session took a break, she checked her phone and read a text from her daughter informing her of their Sunday Mass plans. When she checked the time the text was sent, it was exactly 1 minute after she had turned the situation over to the Fathers will. She was shaking with joy when she came to me to show me the text and tell me the story. The text also indicated that her grandson had just been accepted into the Catholic pre-school they were hoping he could attend. One request, one text, one big blessing that exceeded her expectation as only God can.
I think sometimes we set the bar so low it’s a wonder we don’t trip over it! God is waiting every minute to exceed our expectations. If we ask…if we believe…if we trust…and if it’s according to his will, he will surprise us every time! Go ahead and give it a try; ask with faith and then share the story!
A Seed To Plant: Make a two column list during your prayer time today. In the first column make a list of all the recent prayers God has answered in your life and in the second column make a list of all the things you’d like to lift to the Glory of his plan.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
As I type this post we’re just hours from tip-off of the MSU Texas Tech NCAA Final Four game. I have made some great friends in Lubbock and I’ve rooted for the Red Raiders throughout the whole tournament but tonight there is a dividing line and I’m typing in green! I just have to pick the Spartans tonight because one of my favorite priests always says, “MSU is where Jesus went to school!”
Tonights game is just one of the many places we divide ourselves and take sides. Sometimes the divisions are light hearted and fun; other times they can be completely serious. As humans we fuss and argue and pick sides but as Children of God, we need to come together and find our voice in this crazy world. We need to remember we’re all fighting AGAINST the same thing…evil! If we could remember who are leader is and follow him together the world could be very different.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes us choose the things we do. Sometimes it’s a family thing, sometimes it’s a political thing or a financial thing that influences our choices. Sometimes we’re pressured into making choices and picking sides. I ran across this quote shortly before the NCAA tournament began and it just stuck to my heart. When it comes to the most important “side” or “choice” we can pick there is no pressure, no requirements, no loss whatsoever. The outcome will be perfect and generous and loving and compassionate and amazing. When you pick God, there is only truth and he’s always right there waiting for us to pick him and allow him to transform everything! This little nugget of comfort and hope was written by Fr. Cantalamessa who is the preacher to the papal household. I hope it sticks you your heart too and helps you pick the team that will always finish first…the team that follows Jesus!
He it is, the Only Begotten of the Father, who stands before the human race today and says: Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps 46:11) He does not plead for it, he does not beg for faith and recognition, as so many pseudo-prophets and founders of empty religions do. He does not say. “Believe me, please, be kind enough to listen,” but he says: “Know that I am God!” Whether you believe it or not, I am God!
A Seed To Plant: Think of the “teams” you are a part of and then compare the amount of time you devote to that team to the amount of time you devote to being on Christ’s disciple squad. Make adjustments as needed.
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
It seems like everybody has that friend who just always has the right thing to say at precisely the right moment. I admire those fast thinking, quick witted folks who just spit out the perfect set of words in a flash and leave everyone else speechless. I especially enjoy hearing that person when they speak words that are kind and truthful. More than once I’ve observed as a person like that has left a group of people just scratching their heads in silence thinking, “humm, good point, why didn’t I think of that!” Let’s be clear…I am NOT that person! I’m more like the one who mulls the conversation over and hours later thinks, man, I should have said___!
Instead of being the person with the right words, I’m beginning to realize being quiet is usually a much better choice for me. The story about the temptation of Jesus appears in three of the Gospels and each contains a huge detail I’d never noticed before. Satan is talking away to Jesus, he’s wheeling and dealing and carrying on but Jesus doesn’t really speak back. There is no conversation, no argument, no points to defend or no rebuttal on Jesus’ part. Jesus doesn’t enter conversation at all. Jesus does speak, but he doesn’t converse. After Satan huffs and puffs, Jesus speaks one line of truth. He doesn’t make something up. He doesn’t embellish or brag or even make Satan feel like the “despicable nothing slug” he really is, he simply quotes one line of scripture. He doesn’t use extra words because he grabs the perfect ones right from the book of “the only great words we ever need” book; the Bible. What a genius idea!
After this was pointed out to me in a sermon by a wonderful priest, he said some words that hit my heart. He said, “Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!” At first I smugly sat in my pew thinking, well of course not, I certainly would never enter into a debate or a battle with Satan. But, as he often does, Jesus showed up in my heart with a gigantic flash light and showed me exactly where I let it happen again and again. Of course it’s never a toe to toe confrontation like the one Jesus and Satan had but the little battles creep in and bring their ugliness along. Through some prayer I came to realize that I do listen to Satan. That voice that says, “you aren’t smart enough” or “go ahead and try to do that; you’ve failed there before and you’ll fail again” or the one that goes “yeah, this whole ministry and blog thing; do you really think you’re qualified to do God’s work”. He starts battles that leave me wondering if I’ve been a good enough wife, mom, teacher or friend. He creeps into my head with thoughts about past mistakes, weaknesses and calls to my mind the dozens of times a day I fall desperately short and I listen. In my head I make excuses or even agree with him for a bit.
Since this Gospel has been a big part of my Lenten Prayer, the Lord has led me to a few things. First, I need to be like Jesus and silence his voice with one well chosen line from God’s truth. Second, like Jesus, I need to recognize whose voice it is and quiet it immediately. I’m not called to argue or defend or refute. My job is to stand on the truth of God and walk away from the conversation. I have this sign with my middle lovelies. I’ll clamp four fingers down onto my thumb like an alligator closing it’s mouth and say “ZZZT”. All talking stops! Lately when I hear that voice that tells me things that aren’t true, I give Satan the ZZZT sign. I’m also making a list of one line truths from Scripture to go along with my ZZZT. A raw and honest look at how it works; when I looked at the gorgeous pictures from Jason and Katie’s perfect wedding day I heard that voice say, “Geeze Sheri, you should have worked harder and lost more weight before the wedding because that dress would have looked so much better in a smaller size.” I quick did my ZZZT and said “You are precious in my eyes and glorious because I love you. Isaiah 43:4” I’ll be completely honest, I had to repeat it a couple (or couple dozen) times before it choked out that ugly voice but it’s my beginning at ending the conversations! Where do you need to begin?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those conversations you need to put a stop to and then google a line from Scripture that tells the truth. Stand on that truth and remember Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!
Blessings on your day!
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