Tag Archive: faith


Jesusfem

So i recently finished reading the book Jesus Feminist by one of my favourite writery people, Sarah Bessey and thought i should share some of the highlight/challenging/interesting moments for me:

In chapter three, titled ‘Tangled-Up Roots’, Sarah starts the chapter with this great George Carlin quote:

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist

And then, speaking from a time when she was employed full-time and realising that women’s ministry was largely aimed at stay-at-home moms, she writes this:

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‘During this season of my life, the more I learned about Jesus, the more I struggled with the iterations of Christianity around me. Much of what I saw or experienced in the modern church didn’t match up with what I thought I knew about the ageless God. My growing disenchantment was not limited to women’s roles in the church, though: these “lady issues” were merely one branch in the thicket of my frustrations with the Church.

It started with the small questions, the easy ones to stuff into the closet and ignore. I could drown the questions and the cognitive dissonance out if I quoted enough Bible verses, if I went to enough church services, if i got busy “doing hard things for Jesus,” made another casserole for another neighbour, led another youth retreat, hosted another Bible study, bought another leather-bound devotional with an unfurling flower on the cover, quieted down more, tried harder to fit into te getting-smaller-by-the-day understanding of following Jesus.

But my questions and doubts has the inconvenient habit of poking out the straining door, gathering friends, growing and intensifying as steadily as if my resolute denial of their existence fed and watered them.

I was drawn towards a life of redemptive peacemaking and justice seeking, yet the churches of my context and traditions were in a strange collusion with politics and just-war philosophy as the Iraq War began. I struggled with the cultural rhetoric against immigrants, homosexuals, artists, welfare recipients, the poor, non-Americans, and anyone who looked different or lived differently than the expectation. Cultural mores were passing as biblical mandates. The give-me-more-more-more prosperity gospel didn’t match up with my growing commitment to contentment and simple living. I wanted my pro-life ethic to encompass all of human life.

For the first time in my life, I was reading and learning about the Church’s mandate to care for the poor. I was reading voraciously about global issues such as clean water, community development, war, human trafficking, economics, disaster relief, the AIDS crisis, unjust systemic evils. Meanwhile, church budgets made room for a brand-new light show and a kickin’ sound system or a trip to Disneyland or a video venue in a saturated upscale neighbourhood – all in an effort to practice creative-experience marketing. And the rich got richer. The more I learned about the life and world and tragedies thumping along beyond pour seemingly missing-the-point building programs and Christian schools and drive-by missionary work, the more I ached and grieved and repented of my own sin and blindness. I questioned is all, including my own commitment to propping up this system.

The cracks were ricocheting and multiplying across my heart now, and when I turned to the Church for answers, I did not feel my questions were welcome. This may have been my own pride and willful blindness, but there didn’t seem to be room for me as a questioning woman within the system, as a seeker. I was straining to keep my barrage of questions stuffed in the closet. My stubborn faith was not lining up with the big, broad Church’s priorities and focus. The whole women-can’t-do-such-and-such or here’s-what-a-biblical/true/real-woman-does or submit-and-stay-home-and-have-babies subtext? Well, add that to the getting-bigger-by-the-day pile.’

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Naturally what follows is a bit of a crash and Sarah and her husband eventually left full-time vocational ministry and embarked on a ‘journey through the wilderness of my wonderings with a seen-it-all-before smirk on my face  and a profound ache in my soul’.

She continues a little later with this:

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‘We embraced a new understanding of church and community, of vocation and ministry, of organic faith and missional living. We were lonely. And then we began to heal, slowly at first, then faster and faster.

“You can’t be a Christian by yourself,” writes Sara Miles. Me? I tried.

I tried to be a Christian by myself. And in my deepest hurts from the Body of Christ, it did help to cocoon away in the in-between space for a while. It helped to step away from the institutions of church in a self-imposed blackout from the programs, from the self-perpetuating machine, from the politics, the religion, the expectations, the behaviour modification, the CEO-style leadership courses, the unstable pedestals for pastors and the way that the grind of modern ministry life seems to chew up and spit out again, and the easy consumer spirituality.

The wilderness transformed me in a way no “spiritual high” or certainty or mountaintop moment had ever done. I shed a lot of performance anxiety in those “in between” years. I reconciled what I believed and why. I embraced the glorious kaleidoscope of God at work in the global world. And most importantly, the wilderness was the birthplace of my intimacy with God. Jonathan Martin writes, “far from being a punishment, judgement, or a curse, the wilderness is a gift. It’s where we can experience the primal delight of being fully known and delighted in by God.”

I loosened my grip on my opinions. I entered recovery for being such a know-it-all. I stopped expecting everyone to experience God or church or life like I thought it should be done. In fact, I stopped using the word should about God altogether, I sought God, and He was faithful to answer me. I came to know Him as “Abba” – a Daddy. He set me free from crippling approval addiction, from my Evangelical Hero Complex, from the fear of man. He bathed my feet, bound my wounds, gave rest to my soul, restored the joy of church and community to our lives. I learned the difference between critical thinking and just being plain critical. And I found out He is more than enough, always will be more than enough – yesterday, today, forever.

Now, all these years later, I marvel. I marvel because God was there in the pain. I marvel because this life we lead back home in Canada is not what we would have imagined for our lives, but it’s so much better. And I marvel because I hold almost all of it loosely in my hand now, all of it but this: the nature, identity, soul, action, and character of God is love – lovelovelovelovelovelovelove.

Everything was resurrected on that truth. And now for me, faith is less of a brick edifice of belief and doctrine and right answers than it is a wide-open sky ringed with pine trees black against a cold sunset, an altar, a welcome, bread and wine, an unfathomable ferocious love, and a profound sense of my belovedness. ‘

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And more. Sarah talks about how her healing story won’t necessarily be your healing story so there’s no set formula she can write down that everyone just needs to apply to their own lives. But later on she writes this line which stuck out for me:

Hurry wounds a questioning soul.

And the chapter ends later with these inspiring words:

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‘My water in the desert arrived in cups fashioned by the hands of those who love the gospel. I found, right under my nose, people who love God and love others; their lives were a smelling-salts wake-up experience of grace. Sometimes they were the same people I lived alongside during those years of wondering and isolation in Texas. My loss is that, in my pride, I didn’t see them there at the time. Everywhere I look now, I see disciples who forgive and serve without fanfare or book deals, working quietly for justice and mercy. They love the unlovable, the marginalized, the hopeless; they wash dishes and raise babies; they work in Surrey and in Port-au-Prince and San Antonio because of their great love for God. They believe Jesus actually meant all that stuff He spoke while here on earth, so they are on a mission; they are peacemakers.

Jesus said, “You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” You cannot be full to the brim with Christ’s love and peace without spilling over into the lives of others. You learn how to love by being loved. You yearn to heal once you’ve been healed. We receive goodness and bread, and them, of course, we want to point every other hungry beggar on the road to the source.’

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[If you missed the Intro to this book, click here]

For more from Sarah Bessey, get hold of her book, Jesus Feminist, or check out her website over here, or you can find her on the Twitterer @sarahbessey

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easter

When Jesus walked the earth, He called many people to follow Him. And the crowds showed up.

He spoke Truth and Life. He reached out to those at the margins, which in His day included women and children, Samaritans [the foreigner], the diseased and more… He performed miracles… He saved lives people were wanting to kill and He even raised some people from the dead. And the crowds cheered and pushed to get closer to hear His words and touch Him to receive some of that power.

He said, “I have come to show you how it is possible to live a God-following life in its entirety in a way that loves God, loves people and takes care of the earth we live on.” The crowd nodded.

Jesus said, “Follow Me, do what I do, and you will know life to the absolute fullest.” The crowd chanted their approval, waving palm branches and singing songs of worship to the One they had chosen to follow.

Then He died…

[and the crowd silently snuck off into the shadows]

LET HIM WHO IS WITHOUT DOUBT… NOT REALLY REQUIRE FAITH AT ALL…

Today we celebrate one of the biggest days of doubt. Jesus hanging on a cross. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. We were expecting Him to overthrow the Roman government and begin His new kingdom of life and love and peace. And yet for the most part, people looks defeated and watched as His blood and life slowly dripped away…

On the biggest day of doubt, it seemed as if the enemy had won and even Jesus Himself seemed to agree as He gasped out those words, “It. Is. Finished.”

He had also said, “Destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuild it.”

And something about “Your body is the temple of God.”

And on the third day, Easter Sunday to come, we will witness the big miracle, the victory over death and the hope of a better life to come.

Better life for all.

But today, as we look on the cross, we can be okay with our doubt.

James 1 is a hard one for the doubters among us:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Although one wonders [and hopes] if the bit about “When you ask” is relevant in that piece.

After all, why would anyone need faith, if there was no doubt?

Faith surely indicates the presence of doubt, of questioning, of wrestling, of wondering if we have believed in the right one…

Otherwise it surely would not be needed, right? Then it would simply be belief…

Because Hebrews 1:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Confidence and assurance. But also ‘what we hope for’ and ‘what we do not see’.

Do i believe in the Jesus story? Absolutely. With everything in me.

Do i have doubt? In the face of all the critics and the church’s chequered history and some of the messed-up-ness in the world and feeling far away from God experientially? Absolutely. A lot.

But i am comforted by Jesus’ interaction with this father who had a demon-possessed son that Jesus was about to set free.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And while Friday is the day to look on the cross and see the hopes and dreams and ideas of what the world could like fading away into nothingness and despair and question and chaos and brokenness and pain…

Sunday is coming…

eastersunday

beliefanddoubt

So yesterday i took a bit of a look at the idea of doubt from the perspective of being someone who is a follower of Jesus.

Is it okay to doubt? Is doubt helpful? Should we be overly worried if there is a lot of doubt in our lives?

Sadly, i was not able to arrive at a simple tick-the-box solution. This area seems to be a bit of a complex one.

Which is okay. Wrestling is good. Don’t give up hope just yet and go running away. Let’s try dig a little deeper.

In my first post, i shared a couple of verses i found in the bible about doubt. But this passage in Mark 9 has always been the most helpful one for me. It is the story of a father with a demon-possessed son who Jesus’ disciples were not able to help and so he appealed to Jesus:

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Two things stand out for me in this story:

[1] The whole ‘If you can’ exchange which speaks loudly into the question of faith.

Once again, there is the presence of doubt [otherwise faith would not be needed, correct?] and the question of where are you going to place your trust? Do you really believe that I am who I say I am and can do what you need Me to do? Well, do you?

[2] The father’s response which is something i cling to often in life, feels so raw and real and just honest.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And i think Jesus appreciated that. Because He seemed to be pretty big on real [not a big fan of the Pharisees who projected one thing while secretly being another]

And this is a statement that describes my faith probably more often than not. And especially over the last three years during our Americaland trip which was a great experience but really tough and difficult in many ways.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When i look at that phrase, i see it as two very different things. i see the ‘i believe’ as being a bigger picture thing. “Yes, Jesus, I have heard that you can do miracles and yes I do believe that you have the ability to heal my son. In the bigger picture, I absolutely believe that you can do this.”

“But I have also lived in the reality of my son not being healed despite much prayer and hope and medical treatment and even taking him to Your very disciples. In the fact of the present moment and circumstances, I really do want this to be true and hope that it will be. But I need your help in overcoming everything in me that says this is not going to happen for me today.”

Does that sound familiar? Or is it just me?[and this guy!]

Is doubt good? Yesterday would seem to suggest no.

Is doubt okay? Today would seem to suggest yes.

WAIT, WHAT? How can something be not good and okay at the same time?

It’s called holding things in tension. Seemingly opposing ideas or traits.

Like can God be a God of Love and a God of Justice at the same time? Sometimes those feel contradictory.

It is God’s love that accepts us just the way we are. It is His justice that refuses to let us remain there.

It is God’s justice that demands the cost of death as a punishment for the sin we all have in our lives. It is His love that sees Him step forward and take the punishment in our place. His Love and Justice are not contradictory – but sometimes we need to hold them in tension to be able to better understand.

In an ideal situation, doubt is not good. But it is real. And it is likely. And as long as when it is there, it causes you to reach towards Jesus and not step away from Him, then i think you will be okay.

faithdoubtdig

Psalm 34.18 reminds us that ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ 

To me those are the lowest of places you can possibly be – to have your heart broken, or to see your spirit crushed – both places which will create huge space for the temptation of doubt to appear and bring with it the questions and the accusations and the tantalising possibilities of an alternate path.

When you are faced with that doubt [and i really do believe it is more likely a question of WHEN than IF], be slow to dig up the things you planted in faith and the beliefs you once held firmly to. Remember again why you held strongly to them when you did. Remember when you did experience God’s presence, when you clearly heard Him speak, when you saw Him work and the testimony of a changed life.

Then make sure you head towards God. As you are. Not pretending to have it all together but rather, in the desperation you are in, choking out a prayer of, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Because sometimes that is all you can manage.

And trust that big mighty universal and loving God, creator and Father, who Loves you so incredibly much, will be able to deal with that and will be able to engage with and encounter you in such a way that your doubt can be dealt with and restored to faith and belief.

That is the tension i live with anyways – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – sometimes it feels like a soothing mantra to me. But i would love to hear your thoughts on Doubt – where they are the same and where they are different.

Where have you presently arrived in terms of how you think about and respond to Doubt?

[One of my favourite Twitterer people, @NatePyle79 wrote this piece last year on confronting the lie – ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’ – worth a read]

[To return to part I of the Koeksuster of Faith, click here]

doubt

A while back someone asked me to write a blog post or series about Doubt and i already had this post’s heading sitting in my draft box waiting to be written.

So today i try to write it…

…and was doing really well…

…at least until i Uncle Googled what the bible had to say about doubt which totally threw my argument on its head.

But let me share it anyway – maybe you’re smarter than me in terms of joining the dots… or maybe this is just messy and worth wrestling with and it’s okay if we don’t reach a definitive result [gasp!]

 

doubtdoesnotequalunbelief

 

What is the opposite of Faith? It’s Doubt.

Was the mantra we had growing up. And it kinda sounds like it makes sense, right? If faith is believing, then doubt which is not believing, must be the opposite.

Until some smug christian-type got up to the mic and boldly declared that, ‘No! The opposite of faith is certainty!’

WAIT? WHAT???

Think about it for a moment. If you are required to have faith, then you can’t be certain about something, and so there must be some measure of doubt present, right?

That made a lot of sense to me. And i stole it and used it in a whole bunch of talks and preaches since then.

It’s not not believing, but more not being absolutely sure that what you are believing in is right.

Faith comes from a place of not being certain and so you need to hold on to something, or express something – that is, faith – to move towards that place.

Which means that Faith and Doubt are like conjoined twins. Or a koeksuster.

koeksuster

Yes, you heard it here first. The Koeksuster of Faith. [An analogy, that if successful enough, will have people bringing koeksusters to camps for me when i speak, you know “so that i can use it for an illustration”]

For those foreigners who don’t know what a koeksuster is, the graphic is pretty self explanatory – sweet crunchy doughy goodness, folded around itself like a braid. It’s hard to tell where one piece ends and the next begins [or is it all just one piece?]

The point i was hoping to make is that doubt it okay. It is normal and natural and okay to have.

That is, until i started reading the book:

From James 1:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

In Matthew 21:

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

And in Matthew 14 when Peter joins Jesus on the water:

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Hokay, so wow, this is where it gets a little complicated. Or maybe simple? Because the strong instruction here seems to be to not doubt.

Not doubting seems to be quite closely tied to the miraculous here [water walking and mountain moving] which i definitely have not personally observed all that much of.

URGH, SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME?

faithdoubtdig

i did find that on the Internets and i do like that as an idea to consider and wrestle with and maybe hold on to. Your thoughts?

That when doubt strikes or in times of struggling faith, don’t throw out everything that you planted or held to when your faith was there. Because doubt can be something that strikes for a moment or season and sometimes when you’re doubting it can be uber helpful to look back to the times when your faith was strong and remember what sustained you in those times.

i think i would rewrite this as, ‘Be slow to dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.’ Because some things do need to go. Especially if your faith proves to have been misguided or in the wrong thing. But the point is don’t rush to break down things that used to make a lot of sense to you – so important to critique, challenge and question in a healthy way [which, sadly, the church has too often been a little scared to let us do because we might lose all faith and leave the building] but to do so positively and in a way that is healthy and helpful for all concerned.

Then i discovered this short verse in the book of Jude right at the end of the bible, which also brought me some hope:

And in Jude 1:

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

 The instruction to be merciful to those who doubt. Phew! So doubting is not the ideal situation to be in, but provision is given for me at least.

i have a whole lot more to say on a more personal experiential note, but i will keep that for a follow-up post – in the meantime i will leave you with this inspirational piece of writing to see if you agree with it or not. And i would really love for you to share some thoughts you have on doubt.

Do you think Doubt is always good or always bad? Or do you see there being a helpful relationship between them? And if so, how do you balance that with the verses above? Do they suggest to us that all Doubt is always bad? Tell us what you think.

[For the next part, looking at a more personal wrestling of the faith and doubt question, click here]

faithdoubt

Bruce Collins is one of my best friends in the category of ‘people i have hardly spent any time with at all’ – our spirits seem to connect strongly when it comes to God and life and relationships and things and i just love his passion and wrestling and honesty… he has a great gift for writing too which is why i am reblogging this post of his which feels like something i could have written… so much doubt and wrestling combined with so much of knowing…

i believe… help me overcome my unbelief…

Barista Bruce's Brews

I’ve read so much lately that challenges the central tenets of what I believe: mostly articles and posts ranging from the horrors perpetuated in the name of “Christianity” to the rational short falling of what we hold to be true a followers of Jesus.

I must contextualise this post a little, too: on a purely cerebral level, there are many things that potentially bother me about faith in Jesus. There are many “so-called logical” arguments that challenge Christianity that seem to make perfect sense to me; when viewed in isolation, of course. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the church has always allowed us to engage with our doubt. Doubt, in my experience, has always been frowned upon. Guilt has ensued. I think, however, that doubt is an integral part of authentic belief.

I digress.

Despite all this, I believe now more than ever before in the reality of Jesus: God…

View original post 229 more words

ACID

i always get slightly nervous when i look at the back of a food product – like this Idahoan Mashed Potatoes packet i am looking at right now – and read citric ACID…

now i’m no scientist [clearly] but i have vague memories of school days where acids were demonstrated mostly burning through things, like metal for example [you remember metal? the substance my stomach is made of a weaker material than]

to really rub it in, they add in brackets, [to maintain freshness], which incidentally on this same packet it declares that sodium ACID pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfate and mixed tocopherals are already contained in this product for the purpose of maintaining freshness so how much does the citric acid actually add [and how freshness-losing is this packet of powder – that i need to just add water to – in the first place?]

FLYING

this is something i actively try to regularly keep in mind. i just climbed into a giant metal hulk of a thing with hundreds of other people. it took on the force o gravity and won convincingly [except for a few little hiccups along the way when gravity thought it fun to remind us all via a little turbulence that she was still very much out there and ready for a round two any time]. it lifted off the ground [with me in it] and flew me half way around the world.

like really, take a moment EVERY TIME YOU FLY and just think about what is happening. you are being flown from one place to another in a thing made out of that really heavy substance that sometimes you can’t even lift when there is enough of it together. mind-blowing. every time.

FAITH

And somehow people still claim to live without faith.

Let me tell you this: if you can eat, without thinking too much about it, a product containing the word ACID in its ingredients, then you have some kind of faith.

If you can get into an airplane with as little understanding as i have of how anything works together to make the plane fly, then you are exerting a tremendous amount of faith.

Every single time i fly, i am literally putting my life into the hands of a person i have never met, assuming that they know how to pilot a plane and that they passed the airplane-not-crashing test and that the airplane is airworthy and going to make this next trip.

When i hit the ‘on’ button on my laptop, things happen. I don’t understand personally how a series of 1’s and 0’s allows me to communicate with people halfway around the world or how my cellphone has the ability to bring your voice clearly into my ear. But I believe they do. Because in my experience they always have.

GOD

And then there is God. Do i understand Him? Absolutely not. [which i take great heart in, by the way. a God that i could wrap my brain around would be a tiny God indeed]

But i do have faith in Him. Because i understand enough about Him to believe that it will be safe [and certainly there will be turbulence along the way, my journey has taught me that much]. And i have witnessed the effects of God too many times for it to be merely contributed to “coincidence”. To me, anyways. I do have atheist friends who attribute my whole faith journey to the fact that i was born into a family who had Christian faith, despite mine looking a lot different from a lot of aspects of theirs [same faith though] as if i merely robot-accepted everything i was fed as a child and am clinging desperately to those things, because i am not as wise and brain-empowered as these specific atheist friends [i do have other atheist friends who celebrate my belief and are a lot less arrogant in theirs].

But the point is that we all have faith. In some thing. In many things. Every day we demonstrate it – the belief that this thing that i don’t fully understand or know how it works will work in the way that it always has or that i have been led to believe that it will.

We all have faith. The only question is what do you place your faith in?

 

believe

Wow! This passage and that statement resonate with me so deeply and i think always have.

Illustrating the tension of holding seemingly contradictory beliefs or understandings at the same time.

The hopelessness of a situation vs. the trust placed in God.

Yeah, this is just a really good one, so join me as I look at Mark chapter 9 verse 14 to 32:

[For the next passage which has to do with Jesus and His encounter with some children, click here]

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