Posted by: Jo | May 29, 2015

An Authentic Seal

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”

(Ephesians 1:13)

image Just recently I had reason to go through some very old papers of mine because I had received in the mail, from my dear friend in Australia, a piece of nostalgia from my past and the envelope contained my wedding invitation to her which she received 58 years ago. She was my bridesmaid that day and she had tucked the invitation away for safe keeping and while sorting through one of her cupboards had come across it and on an impulse had popped it in the mail for me. I decided to place it in my special trove of treasures I keep (haven’t we all that special box or draw filled with all sorts of memorabilia?) As I sorted through these memories from my past, I started to read through some official documents; my teacher’s certificate, a legal document, a diploma I had earned and I noticed they all featured a seal attached to the bottom, signifying the document was authentic and was verified by the authority that had placed it there. Some of the seals were embossed deep into the paper so they could never be removed.

As I was contemplating these various seals I remembered how often in ancient times placing a king’s seal upon a verdict, an edict, a proclamation was the most binding of all procedures. We have many instances in Scripture where this is recorded, one is in the book of Esther.

“Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring- for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” (Esther 8:8)

A piece of clay was often used and once applied the king would roll his personal signet ring over it sealing it for all time. Even when I was younger, documents were sealed by melting wax and imprinting the mark of the lawyer/ company etc. thus making the seal unable to be removed and the paper valid.

With a deeper understanding of a king’s seal, how much more are we awed and grateful for the beautiful message Paul has for us. We have been stamped, sealed by the mighty seal of the King of Kings. Nobody, nothing can ever cancel his ownership of us when we accept his beautiful offer of belonging to him

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21 – 22)

image Sometimes life seems to be a constant challenge as we seek approval from all sorts of different avenues. Physical beauty seems to be the one the young amongst us feel is the most important one to strive for. We seek approval from others, always feeling we have to compare how well we are doing with them. We seek approval in the work place even within our own church family, and this constant searching for approval drains us of joy. This is when we have to remember we have the stamp of approval from the only one that really matters, Our Heavenly Father, and to remember his seal cannot be broken and Jesus tells us to stop running after those joyless pursuits, the one authentic seal of the Holy Spirit is all we need.

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27)

Posted by: Jo | May 22, 2015

The Radiant Smile

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

(Psalm 34:5)

image   All of us are familiar with that, important part of popular culture, the smiley face that greets us through shopping mall posters, badges, magazine articles and now through our e- mails, making us smile in response. I was fascinated to find out the other day how that cheery, yellow face came about. According to the article I was reading, it originated with one, Harvey Ball in 1964, and was an assignment for an insurance company poster to be displayed in their offices, but I was most interested in the reason why the company wanted such a poster. It was a friendship campaign, firstly to promote happiness in the work place and secondly to allow that feeling to flow though the workers when they answered the telephone, welcomed customers or dealt with problem complaints.

As I was absorbing the brilliant work ethic this approach had, I saw a startling resemblance to all of us who love the Lord. We don’t need a smiley face to create a warm, loving feeling towards others, our Heavenly Father has provided us with the most powerful reason to smile ever created, his own radiance, and what is more amazing we can access that radiance just by looking to him and asking him to fill us with that light, He would want us to spread this radiance wherever we go.

“…Let the light of you face shine upon us, O Lord.” (Psalm 4:6)

I think most of us are aware of how powerful a warm smile can be. As I child I heard adults say, “Her smile could light up a room.” How as parents that first wobbly smile from our baby warms our hearts. An intimate smile from a loved one, shared just by two, is very special. A smile can bridge generation gaps. It can eliminate the barrier of language and can create a sense of belonging between strangers.

I checked the word, radiant, in the dictionary and this is what it said;

Sending out rays of light

When we know how our smiles can be transformed into radiant ones that can spread his light to others, it is so important to stay close to the source, so our smiles don’t become mechanical or forced, lacking in warmth. This can be so important within the community we live in or even in our church fellowship so visitors are enveloped in light and can be drawn to the real source of this light, Jesus Christ.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word…” (Hebrews 1:3)

image When the prophet, Isaiah, was encouraging the children of Israel, he entreated them not to be downcast, but to look up and seek the Lord and this will be the result;

“Then you will look and be radiant, and your heart will throb and swell with joy…” (Isaiah 60:5)

So what a wonderful way for us to start our days, if we look up, seek the Lord’s face, ask for that radiant smile to adorn our faces so we spread light/ joy / acceptance/ understanding/ warmth/love to all we come across in our daily walk.

Posted by: Jo | May 15, 2015

A Sanctuary Filled With Grace

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.”

(Ezekiel 37:26)

image There has been much more public awareness about that often hidden, devastating condition that according to statistics, affects one in five North Americans; mental health. This last month the media has concentrated upon bringing the problems that those who are burdened by this, into the open. Once an affliction of shame which one was not able to admit coloured one’s life, is now freely spoken of in great hopes that those who are suffering will seek help and probably more important that they will find that help in the love and understanding of others.

We listened to a powerful sermon this Sunday on this topic and the theme was “Loving Into Wellness” The speaker enlightened us to the fact that, mental health, came in all sorts of different forms ranging from depression, compulsive behaviour, addiction, unresolved conflicts from the past crippling normal thoughts. He also challenged us to the fact that possibly many in our own congregation, perhaps among our friends or fellow workers, were hiding behind a facade, too afraid to admit they needed help.

Following that sermon I came across a beautiful expression in a devotional I was reading,


The message summed up all I had been reading this month about mental health and answered the question, “how could we as servants of a loving God possibly help?” I looked up the definitions of these two words. A sanctuary is a safe place, a haven, a refuge from anything harmful. Grace can be defined by a divine influence, a rendering of the soul to perform with supernatural power. I realised we can do this in our own lives with the help of the Holy Spirit.

image A sanctuary does not necessarily need to be a place. God promised the children of Israel that he himself would be a sanctuary in the midst of them. (Ezekiel 37:26) so we can ask that others will feel his presence when we make space in our lives for those who are hurting and grace is also a gift from him, so we can fill that space with his grace so others can come to feel safe and to be blessed. If we are nervous about what we can say to those hurting ones we can take courage that the Lord will provide the words;

“… and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2)

The other powerful message I received from the sermon was this;


God does most of his work through people and when we remember what a mighty and powerful God he is, we can have confidence that through his love recovery is possible and we can bring that confidence with us when we welcome the hurting to share in his love.

image Jesus welcomed the burdened into his presence

“Come to me, all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

But often the burden is so heavy for those beset with mental illness they need somebody beside them to help carry that burden into Jesus’ presence.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

The Lord is asking us to open the eyes of our hearts so we can see those who need his grace.

Posted by: Jo | May 8, 2015

You Don’t Need To Have All The Answers

“…We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us…”

(2 Corinthians 5:20)

We were shown an incredible video during our service this Sunday, imagewhich was a forerunner to commissioning volunteers for the Stephen Ministry. This ministry is an outreach to those who may be going through any sort of trial in their personal lives, and need someone to come along side of them to listen, encourage, be compassionate in whatever the situation is. What struck me to begin with was the eye catching title blazoned across the screen


Too often, and we may be guilty of this ourselves, people look at another’s problems and come up with a quick solution that they think will fix whatever is wrong. For example, just stop drinking, leave that abusive man, get over that grief and move on, forget what has gone on etc. or the reverse may happen we feel we have no idea how to help someone in deep distress and consequently do nothing. The message of this video was how to develop a deep, compassionate, grace filled approach to those who are hurting, not offering solutions, but offering time, a listening ear, prayer.

I think this approach could be developed in all our lives, particularly remembering the wisdom of the title of the video, we don’t need to have all the answers I find that very comforting. When we realise that any real help for those hurting will come from our Heavenly Father, it leaves us free to fill the supporting role, remembering these words;

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

image The other great comfort I received from that powerful title, was the realisation that as Christ’s followers we are not expected to know all the answers. There will be no final exam about how many Bible verses we know; no thesis to be written about science and religion; no having to explain how the universe was created. I love that section in the book of Job, where Job has a lot of questions about God, and God answers him (Job chapters 38 – 39). After listening to God expound on his own majesty in creation, Job is humbled and realised of course he does not have all the answers;

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:2 – 3)

Many things are too wonderful for us as humans to understand, imagebut when we accept that, we can relax in the fact that yes, we don’t have all the answers, but we do serve a mighty God who holds the universe and us in his hands, and we can call upon him in any circumstance to fill us with that power to carry out any task he sets before us, to be his ambassadors of his love to others.

Posted by: Jo | May 1, 2015

God Is Our Rear Guard


“…for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard”

(Isaiah: 52 12)

image My husband and I had a very demanding example of what it means to be a rear guard this week when we offered to mind our little grandson. One of the plans for the morning was a visit to the neighbourhood park. Even donning the appropriate clothing from proper boots to warm jacket and checking that we remembered a towel (wet slides and swings not good for clothing or fun) took thoughtful planning, but the actual adventure was where we knew we had to take seriously our role of protecting our little one. We knew he would be oblivious of the danger of crossing a road, running ahead of us, jumping on equipment meant for older children, perhaps doubling back to check where that chipmunk went, any spur of the minute a change in direction, so we knew he needed one of us up front and the rear guard coming up behind.

Our Heavenly Father describes himself as fulfilling that role for us, making sure we are protected, sending his angels to specifically watch over us;

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91: 11 – 12)

We have a choice of allowing the Lord to play that role or we can choose to be in charge of our own lives, the Lord never forces us to rely on him, but as I was watching our care free little grandson I was made aware of, without us guarding him, how easily he could have wandered into the surrounding woods, how easily he could slither down that steep embankment, and it made me realise how easily we can be misled or distracted in our own lives and how incredible the gift God, Our Heavenly Father is offering, in promising to guard us.

“…he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” (Proverbs 2: 7 – 8)

image The book of Proverbs is full of comparisons of the “wise” and the “foolish” and the Psalmists define who a fool actually is;

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God…”” (Psalm 14: 1)

So acknowledging who our Heavenly Father is, is the first step in accepting that blanket covering of protection so freely offered by him. The next step is to make sure we are travelling on the same path as he is. We do this by keeping in touch with him by daily prayer, worshipping him with other believers, reading his word.

I particularly like the Lord describing himself as the “rear guard”. How often have we exclaimed or have heard others say, “I didn’t see it coming!”? Disasters can creep up on us unexpectedly without us being aware. We can be hurt by others failing us. Dark despair can overtake us. This is when we can take great comfort that our rear guard is not surprised by anything that can rob of us of joy. He is there right behind us, helping us overcome whatever assails us. Isaiah the prophet reminds us of this in beautiful words that will sustain us through any rough waters;

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will call for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (Isaiah 58: 8 – 9)

Posted by: Jo | April 24, 2015

In Awe Of God’s Majesty

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”

(Psalm 8:1)

image Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and after a cold, grey winter the sun has begun to shine, bringing warmth and new life to everything it touches. It also stirs in us humans, a desire to leave the confines of our houses and feel the sun ourselves, to breathe the fresh air, to just revel in the outdoors. My husband was suddenly struck by this urge this week and it didn’t take much persuasion for me to readily agree to pack our lunch and to head out to one of our favourite spots.

This particular spot, a little cove with a rocky beach, is set in one of the most beautiful parts of British Columbia and to reach it one must take a dramatic scenic highway named fittingly, “The Sea To Sky.” The highway winds along the water against rugged cliffs and on a clear day every bend in the road reveals yet more and more awe inspiring mountains and at this time of the year, still wearing snow on their summits. One of the bends reveals a glacier far in the distance, nestled between two massive peaks and when I see this one I am forced to cry out;

O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.

I think sometimes we tend to forget the beautiful creator side of our Heavenly Father. We forget to recognise his majesty in nature. We forget that he created the beauty of this earth for us his children to yes, enjoy, but also to be reminded of his mighty power and to never lose the sense of awe that we too are the work of his hands. The psalmists believed that nature itself cries out, glorifying our God;

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1 – 2)

We certainly don’t all live near mighty mountains, but all of us can witness the beauty of the sky and I love this passage in Isaiah that reminds us that all we have to do is to look up to be filled with awe;

“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

The other great reminder I had about God’s majesty was when we witnessed the water slowly covering the rocky beach that had been dry when we arrived. No man can control that mighty tide, the sea belongs to the Creator.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (Psalm 95:4 – 5)

image Our little escape into the great outdoors became a new awakening, a new realisation of the awesome majesty of our God.

When we recognise God’s majesty, it humbles us and makes us aware of his grace in allowing his son to die for us. The beautiful hymn, Majesty, says this

Here I am humbled by your majesty

Covered by your grace so free

Here I am knowing I’m a sinful man

Covered by the blood of the lamb

Posted by: Jo | April 17, 2015

Ask And Receive

“So I say to you:Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened”

(Luke 11:9 – 10)

imageWhy didnt you ask me?

How many times have we said those words to a friend when we have discovered they have gone through some sort of trauma on their own without asking for help? We may have also been foolish enough to struggle through difficulties as well, being too proud to ask for help. Jesus was very anxious for all his loved ones to know that he is always there for the asking and repeats over and over again, his willingness to not only answer us when we call, but to step in and help us. We often seem to be under the impression that we can only bother him if the situation is really serious, not realising that he cares about every tiny detail in our lives.

I had a really good example of his caring this week, when one of the members of our Home Group phoned to say she would have to miss the meeting because she had lost her bus pass. She is an elderly lady and is dependent on buses to take her wherever she needs to go and therefore also relies on her yearly pass which enables her to travel. When she phoned we both agreed that we would call upon the Lord for his help, while we were praying the word, “jacket” came into my mind and when we finished praying, I told her to check the jacket she had been wearing the day before, she assured me she had already done so, but would check again, so I was delighted when the phone rang and sure enough wedged in the pocket was the ticket.

If the Lord cares about a lost bus pass, how foolish we are not to share with him every part of our lives, all our hopes, our worries, our desires to live a life worthy of him. How foolish not to ask him for his wisdom when we need to make decisions that affect our lives;

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

image When we join with other believers and agree to place our petitions before our Heavenly Father, Jesus promises to be right there with us.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For when two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” (Matthew 18:19 – 20)

So we should not hesitate to seek believers and have them pray with us for whatever is besetting us, believing whole heartedly in the promise of Jesus’ words, realising he is a true friend and wants us to share our daily walk with him and as a true friend cares about even the smallest of details in our lives.

Anxiety, stress, worries, drain us and robs us of the joy of following Jesus, when Peter is writing to believers he reminds them, and of course us, to accept the Lord’s beautiful offer and ask and receive whatever we need. We need to take Jesus at his word;

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Posted by: Jo | April 10, 2015

God’s Presence With Us

“Then the Lord replied, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”

(Exodus 33:14)

image When I was a little girl growing up in Australia, the school system was a duplication of the very formal English way of teaching in Britain. We all marched into our class rooms, stood at our desks until the teacher arrived to say good morning, replied in unison and then sat down for, what we called, roll call. The teacher read out each of our names and we replied


Even as a little girl I wondered at that reply. Why did we have to say, “Present”? Couldn’t the teacher see we were sitting there? As I was thinking back on those days I began to wonder what that word, and it’s other form, presence, means today.

We talk about someone having a certain presence. We can remark about an emotion being ever present in some meetings. Others have told me that walking into some of the old cathedrals of Europe, where the Lord has been worshipped for countless ages, one can feel a blessed presence.

God’s amazing gift to the children of Israel was that his presence would be right with them (Exodus 33:14) and they could find rest in that knowledge that he would always be there. Unfortunately they forgot repeatedly that his presence was with them. We too sometimes forget that he is close to us and not only until we cry out his name, does he answer like my childhood response, “present”

Our reading this Sunday was from Luke 24:13 – 32, the story of two of Jesus’ disciples walking with Jesus after the resurrection, but failing to recognise him, his presence was right beside them, but overcome with grief, with their heads downcast they failed to notice the beautiful presence of their Saviour Jesus Christ.

“…They stood still, their faces downcast.” (Luke 24:17)

Emotions must have been raging in the minds of those two men. They had placed all their hope on Jesus and now they had seen him brutally killed. Perhaps doubt began to creep into their thoughts, perhaps they felt despair that now they had no one to turn to. Perhaps they were even disillusioned about the amazing miracles and the wonderful words they had heard from the Teacher’s mouth.

We, too, in our spiritual walk, can experience similar times of doubt, despair, and deep sorrow and be so burdened and downcast that we fail to be aware of the beautiful presence, promised by our Heavenly Father, to all who believe in him. When these ugly emotions beset us, we need to focus, not on what is troubling us, but on the one who has promised to never leave us.

image Jesus first opens the two disciples’ eyes to the truth about him in his word and then graciously allows them to recognise him.

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him…” (Luke 24:31)

Acknowledging his presence every day through prayer and reading his word, enables us to walk boldly through the day, no matter what lies ahead of us, trusting in his goodness to be with us wherever we are.

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men;” (Psalm 31:19 – 20)

Posted by: Jo | April 3, 2015

Behold The Lamb of God

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

(Isaiah 53:5)

image When my husband and I were first married we went to live in London and my husband’s uncle, a well-known artist in Australia, was also there at the same time on an extended trip, painting the beauty of Europe. He took both of us under his wing and proceeded to introduce us to the world of art. He walked us through the most famous art galleries of London and how surprising it was, particularly for me, as he opened my eyes to the deeper beauty and meaning behind each painting we saw. He was able to make me aware of emotion in all its forms that true art can evoke in one’s inner being. I was, for the first time, able to sense the raw feelings of the artist, to feel sadness, longing, love, joy, awe, awareness of true beauty.

I was thinking about some of those beautiful paintings when I came across a short video on the history of paintings of the crucifix of Jesus. At first the early church forbad any depiction of that first Good Friday, but through the ages many artists have tried to catch the essence of that day. That made me start to wonder how any human artist could capture the incredible emotions of that momentous day. I came to the conclusion that no human hand was capable of doing so, only through God’s word and the help of the Holy Spirit, can we even begin to grasp or get a glimpse deep within us, the enormity and the range of feelings swirling around Jesus and those who witnessed his sacrifice for us.

The prophet, Isaiah, shows us firstly that Jesus accepted without hesitation, his role in the Father’s plan for our salvation;

“…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

So regret was not evident that day, his total acceptance was.

One of the paintings I saw on the video was by a French artist and this one stood out as it was entitled Crucifixion from the Cross. This gave a very different perspective as the painter chose to paint those standing at the foot of the cross to display the range of emotions they were feeling. Sorrow etched on his mother’s face and those with her. Curious bystanders. Mocking soldiers. The centurion whose face was filled with awe as he exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54)

imageYes, sorrow was enveloping all those who had walked closely to the Lord, but one emotion was able to drench the whole situation. LOVE. The old hymn, WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS, puts it this way, “sorrow and love flow mingled down

Jesus’ words from the cross, uttered while in agony, sum up the extent of his deep love for us, that despite all that mankind can do against him, love triumphed that day as we all hear these loving words.

“…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34)

Posted by: Jo | March 27, 2015

Telling And Retelling the Good News

“…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”

(1 John 4:16)

image Our little grandson is approaching three years old and loves listening to stories and the ones he loves the best are ones about the family and everyday happenings, especially the ones that have some dramatic incidence in them. He begs his grandfather to tell and retell about how the big trees surrounding our cabin had to be chopped down and my husband obliges by many loud noises of chain saws and much moving of hands until the final mighty crash as the tree comes falling down. As soon as he finishes talking a little voice immediately pipes up, “Tell the story again, Grandpa” He never seems to tire of the story (like we do who are listening along with him) and this made me remember an old hymn about the joy of listening to a well-loved story about our Saviour and what incredible peace it brings about in our lives and how the retelling of it is so important. The hymn is called;

Tell Me The Old, Old Story

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above

Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story simply as to a little child

For I am weak and weary, helpless and defiled.

When I was searching for these words on the internet, I reached one site that had a beautiful rendition and as I listened to the one who was singing, I felt the deep longing of countless others who had uttered these same words. All of us need to be reassured like little children of Jesus’ all-encompassing love. We need to hear again and again that he is the glorious one and is able to restore us even though we may be weak and helpless and feel we are not worthy. We also need to hear the truth simply. I feel man-made rules and many doctrines have complicated our beliefs and we need to heed this hymn that tells us, accept the truth with childlike trust. I think the disciple John puts it so simply “God is love…” (1 John 4:16) and Jesus himself tells us to be like little children in acknowledging this wonderful news.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

The other verse of the hymn that catches my attention has these words in it;

Tell me the story often for I forget so soon.

I think this happens to all of us at different times. Life gets busy. Stress happens. Problems arise. Even though we know the good news of Jesus Christ, somehow it is not forefront in our minds. This is when we need to be like my little grandson and beg others to “tell the story again”, or we may be the ones to remind others when they are struggling with life’s problems so we join together in rejoicing in his great love.

The good news is so good, it needs telling and retelling over and over again!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

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