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Relevance

Sometimes I struggle with relevance. Being stuck inside, isolated and away from community can do that. For me, not having a career anymore has made that worse. Is this something that matters for individual people? Even though it is really important that businesses and organizations remain relevant, or useful, innovative and up with the times, I am curious to know what the Bible says about being relevant and if my irrelevance is relevant!

I cannot ever remember being part of a church family that was not caught up in being relevant. When I was 10 years old, man landed on the moon and we watched it on TV at church. When the “Jesus music” took off in the 1970’s, it was a chance to win people through music that was set to drums and guitars and sounded like songs on the radio. Then there were the clean comedians and the full length movies that showed up in real movie theaters!  There are plenty of other examples but I think you get the idea that everyone wants to be effective in context of the culture, even Christians.

By definition I am using the word to mean one thing is pertinent or practical and useful in relationship to another thing; in other words, why it matters and how it is important to the situation at hand. When looking at scripture, the first thing I think of is the sons of Issachar who studied the times and knew what to do. (1 Chr. 12:32). The other passage that is often referenced is in 1 Cor. 9:19 when Paul says he has become “all things to all people”. These 2 things seem to offer an appearance to the idea of biblical relevance and yet somehow I am not convinced that relevance is very important in the grand scheme of things. Similarly, I don’t believe that the Bible can be made relevant; it IS always relevant and all we are asked to do is show people how relevant it is! Paul really wasn’t interested in being cool or “fitting” in to the world’s mold. He wasn’t willing to sin to share the gospel. I am not trying to sound judgmental but I really find that some activities now being considered “acceptable” are simply a compromise. In fact, I have heard people talk about what they can do or don’t have to do under the banner of the freedom that’s found in Christ. While there may be a pretense of serving Christ by the use of a certain activity, when the veneer is stripped away, isn’t it really about feeding one’s appetite for the world and justifying it?

Additionally, I think the problem is in trying to be so relevant that we lose sight of reality. Instead of getting as close to Christ as we can, we are trying to look so much like the world that no one can see Jesus in us. We are more enthralled with looking palatable to the world and somehow the gospel seems to disappear or lose its primary importance. What a futile task. It is impossible to stay relevant in a world that changes constantly. In fact the only constant in life is change! New grows old rather quickly and, since we have become a people fixated on “new”, we always need something different, something greater, something better. And so we steadily spend most of our energy trying to find the latest, greatest thing instead of leaning into the relevance of Jesus. When did it become a race to see how much we can be like the world and still be a Christian? 1 John 2:15 says clearly, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” James 4 adds, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Don’t get me wrong. I spent years in student ministry studying the culture and trying to creatively share the gospel in meaningful ways. I understand that there are important cues to avoid and I know that some of the things I did in ministry back in the day would now cost me my job and maybe even my witness. I know that what works in one ministry won’t work in another. I think that is what Paul is talking about when he was trying to be all things to all people or when the sons of Issachar studied the times, but the culture does not change the relevance and the reality of God’s inerrant Word!

So the question remains: How can I be relevant without swallowing the lie that I have to be like the world to win the world, or that I have freedom to sin? When God’s people can’t behave like Jesus because they have added to what it means to be like Jesus there is a problem. When your faith prevents you from exercising your faith then something is definitely wrong! Jesus was always relevant. So how can I go and do likewise? How can I do the right thing, at the right time and in the right way relevantly?!

I just reread this rant and somehow I am feeling better. Hmm wonder if that is relevant?!

That was my question last week to a friend while we played cards using one of my childhood decks of cards that had life savers on them. Every so often the simplest of questions can lead to the best discussions and walks down memory lane. My friend’s favorite flavor was butterscotch. Mine was choc-o-mint or fancy fruit (especially pear and black raspberry).

That took us down a rabbit trail of candy memories from childhood. One memory had to do with a butterscotch candy that L’s dad used to love. She couldn’t remember much so she called her dad to see if he could remember the name. He couldn’t. So we started googling and found it! Callard and Bowser, a British brand that is now called Champion and Reeves. It took another plot twist to discover that information and another call to her dad to confirm the brand. We next hunted for a way to purchase it and finally were able to order some for her dad.

I then posed the original question to several other friends and then cheerfully traveled down several more rabbit trails along memory lane. My favorite stroll included gum which led to a gum wrapper chain that we pulled out and measured at 103 feet! You know the weirdest thought is that, in this recycled and paper free era, gum wrappers are obsolete! When I looked it up on the internet, I found chains for sale, commanding quite a nice price!

There are so many sweet memories (pun intended) related to childhood treats and candy. My favorites were varied and usually fruity over chocolate, hard over chewy, sweet over tart, but all of it brings back happy memories.

Remember when you could buy a whole roll of one flavor of lifesavers? How about Life Saver Holes? Or Cream lifesavers? There was even life saver gum and popsicles for awhile. One of the things I loved was how it was packaged and I would use the outside wrapper as a bookmark. The brilliance of lifesaver was the green string to open one end of the waxed lined foil roll for eating. What’s your favorite flavor of Life Savers?

Father’s Day 2020

I think about the Amy Grant song written many years before we were parents and how Jim shared that he hoped one day, when he became a parent, that the words would be true of him as he reflected Jesus.

Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around;

Eyes that find the source of help,When help just can’t be found;

Eyes full of compassion,Seeing every pain;

Knowing what you’re going through And feeling it the same.

This year we went to the Apple Pan and we played a new game called the Jungle Cruise and another new one called Musical Chairs. Every year we try to be together on Father’s day and do something that Jim would have loved. We play games, eat out at favorite restaurants, watch a movie or attend a ball game. Sometimes we talk about him, sometimes we share memories. It is not hard to keep Jim’s memory alive in our family; he was a great dad, husband, brother, uncle, son.

This is the 10th father’s day without Jim. I don’t know that it has gotten “easier” but we definitely have developed a routine. Maybe that is because it has become the way we acknowledge his absence. Also, it feels wrong to ignore someone who is so significant. Our holiday tradition honors our memories of Jim and allows us to comfort each other. What we “do” changes and it is often not a big deal. It is a safe space we set aside to be together, We usually think of him every day but we focus on honoring him every Father’s day and on his birthday. Maybe one day we will forget to do something on one of those days. Maybe we won’t “do” something together or specific but I doubt we will ever be able to say we have forgotten Jim.

And I am so proud of the fact that I have beautiful kids who reflect their father in many ways as they also reflect their heavenly father. They definitely have their father’s eyes.

Baking a Wedding Cake

A wedding metaphor for Cameron and Emma K

I think of many creative analogies for marriage, but for you I am going with baking! Baking is a common metaphor for describing a marriage with making sure you add the right ingredients and follow the recipe, yet I would add a twist. You are not only the ones who mix up the batter, you ARE the batter and God is the cook! When you go with His ingredients and plan then the cake will be amazing!

You know and have been “gathering” the best ingredients. You both have invested on your lives as followers of Christ and invested in becoming the best for the other long before you even knew each other! You know how to “bake a cake” because you have seen the marriages of godly parents and mentors around you. You know what goes into a cake; it includes the predictable list of things that you were reminded of as you sought counsel before June 7th: fun, friends, faith, finances, laughter, forgiveness, fighting fair, family, etc.  You have read the recipe and you know what it involves, the time it takes,  the temperature and the cooking process. You are not baking blind.

The journey of marriage is an organic process that will take time mixing and blending AND heat! No one else will do the work with or for you but the Master Baker – GOD! Let Him be your binding agent! As you blend the right ingredients and use best mixing techniques, don’t forget that, while you are following an age-old recipe, you will both bring a unique flavor and texture to your own creation! Make your cake fun and let God blend it into a heavenly delight that reflects the communion of the Trinity!

As you bake the cake the batter will go through a process that develops it into its intended form. It is a process that proves, stabilizes and tempers the blended ingredients, creating a special, wonderful and unique blend of your godly character and relationship. Adding the icing is like adding your personal stamp on it all. The couple who ices the cake together, stays together!?

God provides you with both the cake making and cake decorating equipment you will need. He planned this perfect fusion long ago! As you work with Him, your Master Baker, your marriage will be the best “cake” possible! May your marriage bring to it all the good ingredients, stirred together with love and laughter.  Serve each other with kindness, caring tenderness and patience. Serve as Jesus served you. When all is said and done, you and everyone else will look at the finished product with awe. They will taste and see that the Lord is good. Your marriage will be a beautiful reflection of the one who designed it and baked it! It will be perfect for you and your family. By the way, you can have your cake and eat it too!

As you begin your adventure together, never lose sight of these things EVER:

  • Be grateful every day. It turns what you have into enough.
  • Don’t grow “old”. Keep your minds and hearts active and open to new ideas.
  • Cultivate Friendship…with each other and others. Friends are the greatest wealth and treasure in this life.
  • Laugh often. It is the best way to reflect the joy of the Lord!
  • Discourage debt.
  • Always kiss each other good morning, goodbye and goodnight.
  • Apologize first and minister reconciliation.
  • Forgive.
  • Pray without ceasing.

I could say more but know that I love you and I am praying that God will use you in powerful and creative ways for His glory and Kingdom.

With joyful Hope, Miriam Mohler Ps. 34:3

Driving back in time

The other day I took a mini vacation with a friend. We needed to get out and do something as this pandemic seems to be never ending! So, we got in the car and drove back in time. Literally we drove to the San Fernando Valley but it really was a trip to our past. We both grew up in the same area (Calabasas and Woodland Hills) and knew some of the same haunts and people. We fer shure have talked about our common heritage as valley girls but like totally never drove around there together! Some of the areas were grody to the max and others looked frozen in time! It was seriously bitchin’!

Even though I knew her story and she knew mine, and even though we didn’t know each other then, it was like we knew each other always as we connected sights and streets and memories visually. It was fun to reminisce about these common things and it was also a bit eerie to think that we probably sat next to each other trying on shoes in the same store, sat on neighboring “sit-upons” at Cotton Tail Ranch or munching on popcorn at the same matinee at the theatre at Falbrook Mall. We probably were in the same classes at Shadow Ranch park, checked out books the other one read at the same library or watched fireworks at Shoup Park on the Fourth of July! It was an amazing adventure back in time together.

Actually I am older than Lauren so she probably was part of those things with my sister or brother but that doesn’t matter. There is something that time and place does to impact who we become. It can’t be helped. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on it, put part of us knows that were we live, the places we spend our time play a part in shaping us because we collectively define its identity as a community. What has happened in a place shapes, directly or indirectly, how people see it, feel about it, and create narratives around it; such memories and stories are as much a part of the identity of a place as the bricks and mortar.

The places we live become a tangible landscape of memory. Yet, the physical makeup of a place is only the backdrop for our personalities, families and friendships to create a framework for us to grow and develop and see the world as we do. Sometimes God uses our places to change us. Sometimes our circumstances. He always uses all things to mold us into the image of His Son. Throughout the story of scripture, place is a very important concept. The land of Canaan isn’t just a settlement. It’s the Promised land. The Kingdom of Babylon isn’t just the one that happened to capture Israel. It’s a land of exile and God’s people were instructed to seek its peace and prosperity. (Jeremiah 29:7) There are countless times when Jesus is introduced as Jesus of Nazareth.

Place matters.  Locations can lead us closer and closer to God. We are given our moment in history and our place upon the earth because this is the setting where we can draw closer to God, if we seek. That raises another question- what does it look like to seek? That will look different for different people, but ultimately, we are meant to engage with our place on earth rather than to try to escape it. God placed us where we are to draw us near.

Our moment in history matters. We have an opportunity to find God through our interaction with our surroundings.Opportunities to work remotely and live nomadically are on the rise. These aren’t necessarily bad changes, but they can cause us to overlook the importance of place. Not only did God create each one of us but he put us in this world in these times and in a particular place of His choosing

So, as we unraveled more of our memories, we found ourselves focused on how wonderful our stories are intertwined because of our current common space in both Fullerton and the family of faith. God is good to shape my life with places and people who change the landscape of my life and push me to follow after Him.

Words by Wil Triggs

I’ve been asked to give a testimony to our men’s Bible study. We’ve been doing Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology, a chapter or two at a time, and then they ask someone from the group to give a testimony. This week they asked me and the chapter is death and the intermediate state. It’s Wednesday night. I’m not finished exactly, but this is what I have so far…

Talk for Men’s Bible Study

Lately when I wake up in the morning, I check my weather app to see if the weather is 50 with wind or 25 with snow. This is so I know how to dress when I walk the dog and what I’m in for when I step outside.

The other day, I noticed that the Weather Channel added a feature to their app—the COVID-19 button down in the bottom right corner. I clicked on it and got a Coronavirus graph of how many people have been diagnosed and how many people have died in DuPage County every day for the last seven days. You can get it by county or by the whole state. You can choose infections, deaths or both.

To tell you the truth it seems a little macabre.

The thing is—Covid-19 is not the only thing that’s killing people. All the other ways people die are continuing unabated—the flu, cancer, heart disease. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the other things killing people just stopped? Is it supposed to make me feel better when I see social media posts that say more people die of the flu than Covid-19? That doesn’t really help.

When it comes to death, each one of us is going to be part of a statistic like that someday. Every single one of us. It strikes me in the midst of this pandemic, that in normal life, death is something most of the modern world would choose to forget. Maybe this is not a modern phenomenon—perhaps it’s always been that way. As humans, we do our best to social distance from death.

But not now. Day by day, as I check my app every morning, I can’t help it. I look to see how many people died of COVID-19 yesterday in DuPage County. I’m kind of fixated on it. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I mean, they’re talking about mass graves in New York. So 77 deaths in DuPage County isn’t so bad. But death is death.

And since death is on my mind more than usual, I end up thinking about some of my best friends in life who have died.

I think of Jim. The best man in my wedding—and I was the best man in his—he was a youth pastor, magician, puppeteer, trombonist, master of the pun and corny jokes, Christian formation professor at Trinity and Biola. Jim just sort of got me in a way that is hard to describe. People appreciate me. They like me, but with Jim, it clicked. He got me. One day he was walking with his wife and his leg went numb. He thought he was having a stroke. But it turned out to be inoperable brain cancer.

I did my best to walk with him through that, even though I was here in Illinois and he was out in California. I called him most nights and we checked with each other on how things were. Then, when he couldn’t talk anymore, his wife would tell me what was going on. Toward the end he said he saw Jesus in the room with him, praying. And then he went to heaven. For me, there’s no replacing Jim.

And there’s Peter. He was the missionary force that God used to put my heart in Russia and Ukraine, to serve the church there. Mostly, though, Peter was a man who wanted to do everything he could to help other people know and follow Jesus. I was part of a small handful of people who worked here in Wheaton while he lived in Moscow. Every morning there would be 20-30 sheets of handwritten fax pages telling us the latest news of what was happening and what we needed to do that day on top of our regular work. And then, email replaced fax, and 20-30 fax pages became 20-30 emails. We worked to impact legislation on religious freedom, connected church leaders with key partners, or directed them away from cult leaders who looked just like any other Christian from the West.

Then, out of nowhere, he and his wife were coming home early and heading to Mayo Clinic. His lymphoma was aggressive and fast. He fought hard and we prayed hard. One of the last things he told me was about our plans to do summer camp ministry with kids in Russia. Go, he said, you need to go. And we did. Peter’s energy, humility and ministry partnership with his wife have shaped me and Lorraine in ways that I can’t even begin to express. For me, there’s no replacing Peter.

One thing I’ll say—death is the enemy. Even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass if there was any other way. Of course, when we die, we won’t be taking the sins of the world on ourselves as he did, so his cup is a lot different than the ones we will all drink.

Death is with us because of sin. We aren’t supposed to embrace it.

I miss these people more than I can say. My life felt better with them physically here. The grief of losing them doesn’t end. But Jesus called them home. I trust him. Our days are in his loving, nail-scarred hands.

I don’t want to think so much of those dear ones I miss so that l lose out on the amazing wonder of the people right in front of me. I mean, every person is a universe of creative wonder, a unique expression from the hand of God. God’s stamp is on each of us and it’s not some kind of die-cut cookie cutter stamp. Everyone is different. My table guys—Mike and Michael and Val and Rick and Jeff and John—what a gift to walk with you guys and pray together and look together at the wonder of God’s Word. Seeing your faces in little boxes on my laptop, that’s better than nothing. It’s good. Just walking together through life with you –that’s so great. For me, there’s no replacing you guys either.

We aren’t people of death. We Christians are all about life. The hymn isn’t Jesus died and so shall I. It’s Jesus Lives and So Shall I—and that means that I will see Jim and Peter again. That means that someday all of us connecting tonight won’t have to use the internet and our devices to connect. We won’t have to drive to church and find places to park. That day is going to be richer and fuller and better than we can even imagine and we’re going to get to see Jesus and one another and Jim and Peter all at the same time and cry out together

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.

There’s one more thing. Not everyone’s going to get this. People we know, people we love, some will go to a different place. Let’s not forget that and do all we can to show them the fountain of God’s love that none of us deserve but we all get to drink from because of the wondrous flow from the lamb of God.

Come. Drink. Live.

copyright 2020 Wil Triggs

A Quarantine Wedding

There are so many ripple effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. One of them is that it has become the very unwelcome wedding guest as couples have to scrap their plans, can’t honeymoon and are unable to get a wedding license. Saturday, April 18th was the date Dale and Megan set long ago. It was engraved on the band. Invitations were sent. Friends were asked to stand up with them. Showers and celebrations were arranged. And my organized niece, with a list, was in her element when the virus struck and all was postponed – maybe August? maybe not? Rather than become a statistical and logistical casualty, this couple met the potential roadblock with resolve and creativity to keep their most significant day a reality!

So, these 2 decided that the show must go on and on Saturday, with a live stream so that all those who could not travel and all those who wanted to witness this happy moment could tune in and virtually join in the celebration. Some dressed up in their living rooms. Some took screen shots and sent them to the couple. Some had a Zoom meeting so they could all watch “together”. It was special in the backyard that Megan called home. I had the honor of officiating. The parents were there. The matron of honor and the best man both gave toasts. We had masks and distancing but mostly we celebrated what no pandemic can stop – Here’s to the power of love!

Since their marriage started with the “hard times” may all the good times and the happily ever after begin. I love you Megan and Dale!

Resurrection Buns

It is interesting how each of us have different memories which turn into traditions or anti- traditions. I grew up the oldest and hated Easter egg hunts because I always had to hunt in a separate room from my siblings. On the flip side, I love many of the traditions of Easter and was once again reminded of a devotional I wrote many years ago for the junior high students in Scottsdale. I probably should see if I can find the original and print out a few more for my kids.

One of the traditions we had as a family in IL was the sunrise service that Christ Church would host along the shore of Lake Michigan. Finally a sunrise service facing East as the sun came up! It was usually too cold to put on typical spring clothing but we would bundle up and pack a picnic breakfast and head out to worship with our church family. Our breakfast usually included Hot cocoa, Orangina, hard boiled eggs, strawberries and resurrection buns. This year Clayton made the buns! Yum!!!

Resurrection buns are sweet empty tomb rolls where the marshmallow melts down to a sticky caramel sauce inside the roll and looks like the empty tomb when bitten into and it tastes like the sweet victory over death! Jesus’ body is no longer there because He is risen! All of us can live forever because of the death and resurrection of Christ!

There are other things that can be object lessons as well. If there is a little bit of marshmallow left in the bottom of the roll it is a reminder of the burial clothes. Also, the cinnamon reminds us of the spices and the butter represents the oils Jesus was anointed with when he was buried. The rolls are placed in the oven, aka the tomb!

Resurrection Rolls:

Ingredients:

18 frozen yeast rolls (Rhodes or Bridgeford) thawed. (Can also use Pillsbury Crescent rolls)

18 Marshmallows

1/4 c. sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon mixed together

1/4 c. melted butter

Directions:

1. Start out with the dough and press or roll each ball into a flat circle (about 4-5 inches in diameter). Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon sugar.

2. Roll marshmallow in melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar,

3. Place in the middle of the dough circle and seal up the dough around the marshmallow.

4. Place the pinched side down in a greased or sprayed baking pan (9×13). Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over the rolls

5. Let the rolls rest for about 15 min while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. (They are best if made and eaten warm but if you make them the night before then you will need to let them come back to room temp for 30 min or so before baking)

6. Bake about 15 minutes until golden brown. Eat immediately

5 Years

Happy 5th Anniversary Osborns!

It is startling to wake up and realize that it has already been 5 years since your wedding day!  Is married life what you expected? Do you remember being single? Does it feel like 5 years? 5 years is the anniversary of wood – whatever that means…

So I will start a word play to honor the family sense of humor…

Would you promise to love each other better this year than you have the past year? Would you bravely ask each other what you need to do to make the other want to marry you all over again? Would you choose each other again? And, then would you be courageous enough to implement whatever it takes to do make it a reality? Would you have let go of some of the bickering and selfish things if you knew how much it meant to the other?

There is an Imagineering trick I learned from McNair Wilson years ago that I will share in honor of 5 years. The imagineers for Disney would routinely ask the question,  “what do we want this attraction to look like, smell like, sound like, taste like, feel like?” Then they would incorporate all five senses into everything. There are 5 senses  – see, hear, smell, taste and touch. But I might suggest 5 more:

  • Innocence
  • Nonsense
  • common sense
  • conscience
  • magnificence

And they make the most sense with the 6th sense, which is humor.

So, how can you imagineer your marriage relationship into an even more creative and beautiful reality in this, your 6th year?!

Wouldn’t you know it?! I love you both and I sense God is going great things in and through you together!

Mom

Staff Words

Every day during this pandemic the staff are taking turns writing a thought or word of encouragement. I was on tap for today

When the foundations crumble, what can the righteous do? Ps. 11:3

At the beginning of this year I had not really heard of the corona virus, Wuhan or Dr. Fauci. I never used the expression “social distancing” and I had no idea of how much toilet paper I had on hand.  I never dreamed that I would be trying to teach my parents how to use Zoom nor scold them for running errands.  

Things seemed less fragile a month ago than they do now but we all know that isn’t true, in spite of how it feels. Life is not newly difficult. It is just as difficult as it has been. But, it is also dangerous, magnificent, exciting, short, adventurous, fragile, humorous, magical, and forever.  And none of the challenges we have ever faced or will face are a surprise to God. All the things I believe about God, all my theology, has  onceagain become biography in the last month.  The constant challenge for each person is the translation of all we say we believe to be real and true into daily living.  I guess it is always a struggle, but when suffering and crises happen, it forces the choice. 

I am reminded of something Kenny Poure used to say.  One time he asked someone how they were doing.  The response was, “Pretty good under the circumstances.”  His reply was, “What are you doing under the circumstances?”  I suppose I would best sum up these days as living “in the meantime”.  Pastor Kent Hughes once called it “living in the now and the not yet”.  It is probably the most important place in life. Since we are living in light of eternity, then the things we focus on now are different than if our last best goals and dreams happen here on earth.  We could choose to focus on the Coronavirus only, but think how much we would miss!  The relationships, the blessings, the abundant living promised by God would all be diminished.  And, life in between salvation and glory is where we choose to live rather than focusing on the past, which we can’t change, or the future, which we can’t control. It is the way one chooses to spend the “in the meantime” that really matters. 

In the meantime we can choose to live life to the fullest. 

In the meantime we are answering the call and trying to trust and obey.

In the meantime we are still leaning hard into His amazing grace.

In the meantime we will continue to live with purpose and passion all the days ordained for us. 

In the meantime we can serve and give and love and reflect.

In the meantime we gratefully and joyfully live…

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.  Yet, in His largeness, nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse slips through the cracks. Ps 36:5,6

Isn’t that inspiring?!  We know God is bigger than this.  He is sufficient.  He is still our focus and we know that he is using this current situation to deepen our love for Christ.  We cherish him by both our need for Him and our joyful gratitude. 

Prayer requests – 

  • All those who are without work (There are many in my family)
  • Medical Leaders – insight into how to stop this pandemic and resolve to keep fighting
  • For me to find ways to continue to honor and support others around me with joyful hope and courage.
  • For God to be glorified

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