Tag Archives: Jesus

A God of abundance…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 1: 16-18:

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”


Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time praying and thinking about what it means to be loved by a God of abundance. Pondering this fuels me as our family navigates through the ever-changing world of 2020. Last spring I started asking God to help me to know Him better so that I could truly trust and believe that I am beloved by Him. Some deep part of my heart knew that I needed to better understand this and to cling to it as an anchor of faith. I asked, I prayed, and God moved. Over the past four months, God systematically supplied me with tools of discernment and moments of personal growth so that my heart could deepen in love. It’s allowed me to find peace regardless of circumstance.

I think it is interesting how God works – using a variety of people and bringing different facets of our lives together as a way to answer our prayers. He put a series of callings on my heart, and as I followed them I found the answers. From our girls Bible study on the book of Philippians, to our swim team family’s shared devotional lessons on the “fruits of the Spirit”, to the recommendation of two of Henri Nouwen’s books to read, to surrounding me with the love of family with all three of my girls home, to bringing Joseph back into our lives — God has clearly been moving in my heart and helping to answer my prayers to better understand His abundance.

People write books on how to follow Jesus in order to find peace. I suppose that maybe I could write one too 🙂 But today, what is on my heart finds its power in its simplicity. We may live in a world of scarcity, but our God is a God of abundance. His love never runs out, and it covers all of His children. We don’t have to worry that God does not have a place for us, Jesus took care of that. John 14: 1-2 recounts Jesus’ words, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”


Regardless of what the earthly world tells you, it is not a competition. There is enough for everyone. God’s love never gives up, it never runs out, and it has the capacity to fill our hearts if only we would allow it. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. When we follow out of love, then our focus is that love and it outshines everything else. We may have times when we feel pain, but it is not our focus. Instead, divine love brings a wave of peace and a gentle strength that moves past worldly troubles to bring the hope of tomorrow. That love is available now – today – this minute. It is eternal, but it begins on this earth the moment that we say “yes” and move into the comforting embrace of the Father. The more that we nestle into that embrace, the more Jesus fills our hearts with His sustaining love, and the Holy Spirit brings peace amidst the storm.

Megan comes out of quarantine tonight. We’ve had a time of joy, of togetherness, and of faith during this journey. It’s reminded our family to be grateful for what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have. God blessed us by keeping her safe and free of sickness. He also blessed us with moments and memories that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the list of what she “missed” is long, but there is a longer list of things that our family gained – medals that were placed on our hearts as we deepened in love and faith with each other and with our God of abundance.


For those of you who enjoy reading, The Return of the Prodigal Son and Following Jesus by Henri J.M. Nouwen are wonderfully insightful books that have blessed me this summer. Ashley Grace has studied Henri Nouwen in her theology classes at Notre Dame, and our discipleship pastor encouraged me to read them as well.

A big “thank you” to all of you who are keeping our family in your prayers – you bless us with your loving hearts 😊

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clinging to Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-18

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”


I remember reading these verses with Megan a few nights before the Nebraska State Track Meet a couple of years ago. To say that she was nervous would have been an understatement, she was a wreck. The stress of competition had depleted her confidence and left her in a pit of fear. Instead of looking up and remembering the love of her Father in heaven, she had tied herself into knots worrying that she wasn’t good enough. I don’t know exactly how she felt as we read these verses together, but my “mama’s heart” calmed as the Holy Spirit assured me that Megan was beloved and held by the Father. She would be just fine.

She, in fact, was just fine. Jesus carried her through the state track meet all the way to the medal stand. The gold medal from the Nebraska State Activities Association was awesome, but the lesson she learned about faith made it seem pale in comparison. She learned to cling to Grace and her roots have since grown deep into God’s love to bring her a new kind of strength. The strength that is found in the realization of the power of God’s love. I’ve read the above passages from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians many times since that day, and I always take a moment to remember how these verses came alive for Meg in the spring of 2018 and then again in the spring of 2019.


We all pass through hard times. We experience moments, days, perhaps even years that shake our core and threaten our peace. I would venture a guess that each of us has experienced some level of this in recent months as our lives changed dramatically due to Covid-19. Over and above the physical challenge of Covid, we have also experienced a growing emotional chasm in our country fueled by passionate and often opposing opinions. Instead of living in community with hearts united for a meaningful purpose, we’ve fallen into a trap where fear overrides our ability to accept and share Grace. I know that I need the daily reminder of how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is. That love calls me to cling to Grace in order to find strength, patience, peace, and joy. It battles directly against the fear, frustration, anger, and temptation to judge that threatens my heart.

Today, a small group of awesome middle school and high school students finish up our four week Bible study on “how to chose joy regardless of circumstance”. While we specifically studied another of Paul’s epistles (to the people of Philippi), I believe that the above verses to the Ephesians also speak directly to this topic.

I believe that our ability to chose joy and to experience peace through challenging times is directly related to the depth of our understanding and trust in God’s love.

When that trust runs deep, our hearts fill with love and gratefulness. We then become able to recognize fully the beauty of what we have, instead of getting hung up on those things that we do not have.

Clinging to Grace becomes a habit when we choose to make it one. Some days it is really hard, and some of those days I fail to accomplish it. But, I believe that it provides the answer to what we all inherently search for: acceptance, love, value and purpose. I know that the days that I truly believe and trust in the vast power of God’s love are my good days. They are the days that He hangs the gold medal on my heart – the medal that allows me to chose joy, find peace, and cling to the beautiful Grace of a good, good Father.

I pray that as I prepare to send my girls back to school – two to college and one to high school – that we will all cling to Grace and be inspired to share God’s love, the ultimate medal to be found on our earthly journey 🙂

 

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Stages…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 9: 10-17

Jesus Feeds 5,000


For a large chunk of my life, I read the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 as a representation of Jesus’ power manifested in the form of a miracle. Somehow, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish multiplied to satisfy an enormous crowd of people in need. A couple of years ago, the discipleship pastor at our church challenged me to read it from another angle. This weekend, he reminded me of it again…

What if the story is also a look into how “Coach Jesus” molds and shapes the disciples as he prepares them to be leaders?

The story begins with the disciples returning from one of their early mission trips without Jesus (Luke 9:1-6). They are feeling pretty successful and eager to share of their experiences healing others, so Jesus takes them off to a quiet area “to debrief”.  We aren’t told what Jesus imparts during that private time with them, but the coach in me suspects that it might include a gentle refocus and reminder of the long-term team goal. That private time of coaching runs short as crowds follow them and assemble to hear more teaching. As the afternoon wears on, the disciples become concerned that food is scarce and they are far from town. They ask Jesus to send the crowds away to find food and lodging for the night.

But instead of sending the crowds away, Coach Jesus issues a challenge by replying – “You feed them.”

I can imagine the looks of disbelief on the disciples faces. I think I’ve seen something similar from time to time when I’ve put together a really challenging workout for my swimmers. “Coach Anne, you must be crazy, how are we going to do that?!” My reply is consistent, “One lap at a time” 😉 In the story, we see Jesus break the task of feeding 5,000 down into “teaching pieces”, offering tools and support, but steadfastly expecting that the disciples will get it done. It was a coaching moment when Jesus asked his team to do something that seemed impossible to them. Jesus knew they could do it, and prepared to coach them through the experience.


Regardless of whether or not you have ever been a coach or a teacher, I bet that you can remember a time when you were pushed by someone past your comfort level. The ask was big and (in the moment) your doubts were bigger! Hopefully, you had a great support group that helped you move to that next level, that next stage – to go perhaps where you never thought you could go.

The road to excellence isn’t meant to be comfortable.

All throughout the Gospels, Jesus is clear about this. But, He also clearly shares the message that we are not meant to travel it alone. By trusting God, we get to be on “Team Jesus”. Then, if we are willing to put in work and effort, all things are possible. For many of us, settling is a huge and comfortable trap that grips at us. It talks us out of moving deeper and keeps us from finding the joy that exists in being all-in on our spiritual journey. Settling temps us into believing that easier is better.

I used to look at my swim coach the same way that my swimmers sometimes look at me – with disbelief and incredulity.  I know that I also look at Jesus that way when the Holy Spirit puts something difficult on my heart. Over time, I am learning that the next stage is always worth the initial discomfort. I always end up somewhere better that makes it well worth the effort 🙂

In our minds, there may only be 5 loaves of bread and two fish, but Coach Jesus sees a different picture. A picture where reaching our potential enables an unlimited number of people to be nourished with 12 baskets of leftovers remaining.

 

 

 

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Swimming Across Nebraska…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Galatians 5: 22-23

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”


The Cozad Swim team kicked off its 2020 season on Monday. It is truly a season like no others, as it appears that we will not hold any competitions during our time together due to Covid 19 restrictions. I know that some of our kids are very disappointed at the lack of meets, but I stand firm in my belief that we have many other things that we are called to accomplish together in our time as a team in 2020. As a coach, there are two focuses that God has put on my heart to share:

  1. During our daily fellowship time before we dive into the pool, we are learning to better “pack our faith”. We practice this by putting on our “backpacks of faith” each day as we begin our adventures. Throughout the 5 week season, we will study the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit and devise strategies to make sure that our backpacks are filled with them. I hope to help the kids connect the dots to understand that as Jesus lives in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is able to guide us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These “fruits of the Spirit” provide the recipe for a successful team 😊
  2. As we dive into the water together, we are learning to be contributors by working hard and giving our best to help our teammates each day. We have a team goal of pooling our laps – measuring in miles – and swimming across the state of Nebraska and beyond. After three days, we’ve swum 67.22 miles and have passed Lincoln headed west. I am excited to see how far we can go together and build on the theme #StrongerTogether!

We have 45 swimmers on the team this summer, and we’re getting creative to make the most of our shortened time together. After 3 and 1/2 months of no structured school or sports activities, the kids are out of practice and generally out of shape. But, we’re holding each other accountable and putting in the hard work that creates fitness and success! About halfway through the first day of practice, one of the 11 year old boys on the team looked at me with complete confusion as he asked – “Coach, why is this so hard?” This swimmer is a talented athlete who is used to things coming easily to him. He – along with his teammates – are learning this summer that fitness is hard to reattain after it is lost. More than 3 months sitting at home during quarantine took its toll — both physically and emotionally. But, we are coming together as a team to earn it back.


I think it is appropriate that our lesson this first week is of love. When I think about what best motivates me, it is love. Passion, perseverance, and camaraderie thrive when we let love fuel us. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. As fear falls apart, great things happen. Have you ever noticed how our attitudes change when we are focused on sharing Jesus’ love? As our eyes shift outward in a desire to contribute to something greater, our hearts find the joy of purpose. I remember an old cowboy telling me sometime “Anne, when you’re guiding your horse, always remember that wherever his nose goes – his body will go. Guide the nose and you’ll guide the horse.”

What if our hearts are just like a horse’s nose? When they are guided by Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit, then everything just falls into place for our journey. As my swimmers are finding out this week, sometimes this journey is hard. But, Jesus so loved the world that he sent each of us on a mission to love during our time on earth. When our backpacks are filled with love, we find that we are stronger and more joyful teammates who can rally with toughness to conquer hard things. We are able to swim across Nebraska and beyond. We are not just putting in the laps, but also making a difference in the lives of others as we travel the journey.

 

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Someone With Whom To Share…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”

My favorite farmer and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on Monday. I met Matt when I was eighteen and a freshman in college. My mom’s parting words when she put me on an airplane to go to school were, “Anne, stay away from the older boys.” It took about two months at Dartmouth College for our paths to cross on Halloween night, and we went on our first date the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I knew when I met Matt that he was the one. My friends teased me and my dad kept reminding me that I was too young to commit, but my heart had clear discernment and I have always been stubborn. We got engaged on my 20th birthday and were married not long after I turned 21. I had no idea what life would bring, but I knew who I was meant to share it with.

24 years later, I better appreciate the blessing of our partnership. We’ve experienced the joy of family with our girls, the heartache of loss, and enough health challenges that we remember that each day is a gift. It’s not been easy, but it’s been a beautiful and honorable journey. One that would not be complete without the togetherness that we intentionally choose to share each day.


I think that the Bible very clearly calls us to live in community. God did not create us to live in isolation, He created us to share. While we are asked to share with many, there is a special type of sharing that comes with being husband and wife. Sharing is not just a “perk”, rather it is a vital part of finding stability amidst the roller coaster of life. I’ve learned to appreciate many things in the 24 years that Matt and I have been married, but I think this is the gift that I treasure the most.

Having someone with whom to share life enables the joy to be greater and the challenges to be surmountable. It is one way that God comforts us no matter the circumstances that we must walk through.

Even though I am an introvert, being alone frightens me. The love that Matt and I share helps to fuel me. I know that no matter what happens, he will walk through it with me – holding my hand – and caring for my heart. Quite honestly, Matt is my little bit of Jesus on earth. God’s good like that. He places a bit of himself in everyone with the goal that He can be shared and become a reality for all.

One of my very favorite verses is Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” I can’t literally see Jesus while I live on earth, but I can see Him through others and (as a result) know with certainty that He is there. Matt enables that for me. I believe that part of his mission – his calling – is to share God’s love, comfort, courage and grace with me. I know in my heart that God intentionally created Matt to love me and to share life with me, and through that connection I am able to better see the reality of God’s love for me 🙂

Today, I am thankful to have someone with whom to share…

 

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Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:16

“For God so loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”


In addition to being in the Bible, you can find the above verse on billboards across the country. Its words are both simple and powerful as they encompass the heart of the Good News. God loves. Jesus saves. I don’t know what eternal life fully looks like, but my heart tells me that it is peaceful, joyful, and filled with the agape love that we strive to wrap our minds and hearts around during our earthly lives. Despite the fact that its exact description eludes me, I know that it is where I want to go.

But, I believe that there is more to it than that because eternal life (in my mind) begins today, not the day that God calls me home to heaven. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes up the rest of the message. What is my role on earth? Then, last week my Pastor said the words that allowed it all to come together. He started with the verse from the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He sent his son Jesus.” But then he went on, “Jesus so loved the world that He sent us.”  The dots connected and the line was bolded and strong. I cried as I sat there, my eyes with a new level of insight and my heart with a deeper understanding of how and why He calls us to love. Not just those who return our love, but also those who do not.

He asks us to be there with our hearts ready and our bodies prepared to act.


Ever since Joseph left twelve months ago, I’ve wondered time and time again why God sent him to be a part of our family. At the time that the Holy Spirit put the request to love him on my heart, I assumed God’s ask brought with it a promise. Why wouldn’t it? Surely an ask of that magnitude came with a multitude of blessings? Visions of happily ever after passed through my mind as I believed that what was once an awesome family of five would become a beautiful family of six. Joe spent more than a year with us. The day he walked out the door, he took a piece of both Matt’s and my heart with him. I’ve felt a range of emotions since then; defeat, sadness, anger, and bits of joy as I remember the memories that we built together. Most of the emotions I am okay with, but the one that has proved the heaviest to bear is rejection.

I think that I finally hung that one on the cross last week as our Pastor’s words sank into my heart.

Jesus so loved the world that He sent us 
     - to love anyone and everyone- 
with no expectations for anything in return. 

It changes your heart to learn to love among and through pain. Rejection is a powerful emotion, and it incites a myriad of reactions (most of which are not rooted in love). It hurts. But, attaining the ability to love through it creates a light in the dark, an unexpected goodness in a time of crisis. Love enables forgiveness. It brings salvation and eternal life, but it also allows grace to permeate our earthly lives. Jesus is the ultimate source of grace, but every one of us has the ability to share that gift as we walk through each day. The more we share, the more it spreads.

I may not ever truly understand why God asked me to love Joseph, but I can understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about sharing. It was about unselfishly loving someone in a time of need. If I’m truly blessed, I’ll get to do it again before my heavenly Father calls me home. If I’m a good student, next time I’ll do it better – more like Jesus. I’ll leave the strings and the expectations out, and just focus on sharing radical love with the courageous boldness of grace.

Joseph gave great hugs. In those moments, I felt the strength of Grace. I took that for granted, and perhaps that’s my greatest regret. As he left, I told him that our door was always open. I’m not sure that I truly meant it at the time, but that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit. Today I do, as my heart has gained a better understanding of the radical love that we are called to share.

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The First Lap…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”


I’ve started running 2-3 times per week on our local high school track. The track surface is soft and the path is clear and flat so it sets me up for success as I embark on this new chapter of the healing process. There’s been a large amount of “unknown” over the past 14 months relative to my leg and I’ve had to learn to do two things: trust that the Lord loves me and walks with me, and put in the work to do my part on the “race” that we travel together. Fear exists in the unknown, but that fear can be replaced by peace and hope when we allow faith to guide us.

It’s surprising to me the things that I notice now that I never used to see before. One of these is the first lap or the start of each run. Since I am accustomed to measuring my runs in miles, the beginning used to be simply a blip on the radar screen. I’d walk out the back door of our house and turn north onto the gravel road with my feet automatically falling into cadence. Easy. No thought required, and little challenge or fear to be found in those first steps.

It’s not that way anymore. The first 300 yards are filled with discomfort as I try to plant my foot properly on the ground and bridge into the next step. The notable thing is that if I keep going, if I continue to run with endurance the race God has set before me, then it gets better. I eventually settle into a rhythm and foot pattern that works so that I can run around the track. With each step that I take, I am able to strip off the weight of the pain and move forward believing in my heart that I can do it.


In light of the COVID-19 virus, I think there is a universal lesson to be found here. There currently exits a HUGE amount of uncertainty and fear. It can stymie our lives and wreak havoc with our emotions. Most importantly, it limits our ability to move forward in faith. Emotional stress is just as crippling as the pain that I feel in my leg. It has the power to trip us up and thwart our ability to trust both God’s greatness and His goodness.

Where can we look when fear threatens?

I had this discussion on the pool deck recently with my swimmers. We talked about three places “to look” in order to live in faith during times of uncertainty:

  1. We look up, to God our heavenly Father who commands us to be strong and courageous and promises to always be with us (Joshua 1:9).
  2. We look out, with a focus on the needs of our neighbors to see how we can serve.
  3. We look within, to find the guiding hand of Jesus in our hearts to inspire and fuel us in love.

How do we start?

It’s hard to pack your faith when times are hard. Instead, it is tempting to give into stress and fear. But, that’s not what God asks us to do. I have found that the more I share my burdens with Jesus in prayer, the more the Holy Spirit inspires me to use my energy to serve others instead of worrying about myself. Once I find the courage to start, then over time I find a rhythmic pattern:  looking up to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit, looking out to share and serve others, and looking within to let Jesus guide my steps.

As an actively recovering “worry-a-hol-ic”, this is something that I have to be very intentional about. In the midst of these troubling times, don’t be afraid of the first lap! Let’s come together and lean into our faith 🙂 I am praying that each of you stays healthy — in mind, body and spirit as we go forward into these uncharted waters.

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Own it!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week is Megan’s choice: Proverbs 31:25-26

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”


A friend of ours asked me sometime last year, “Anne – what do you think is the most important thing that we can do as parents to help our kids make good choices?” I didn’t even need to pause before I answered, “The most important thing is to enable our kids to own their faith. If Jesus lives in and guides their hearts, then they will make good choices.”

I have three beautiful young women that call me Mama. God blessed me with them so that they could share His love and serve others. To do that, they must develop their own unique faith. I truly believe that my girls’ future is inherently tied to them developing a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. Their own relationship. Not mine and not even the faith relationship of our pastors and youth leaders that minister to them each week. While we all play important supporting roles, the relationship has to be uniquely their’s.

When something is yours, it defines you and you own it. When you own it, you allow it to guide you and it becomes the core of who you are.


“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

The peace, wisdom, courage, and love that come from heart-felt faith enables the above verse from Proverbs to become a reality. It’s hard to laugh without fear of the future. It takes confidence to wear the gentle strength and dignity of Christ. But when we clothe ourselves in Jesus’ love, then our faith enables it to be possible. It is a learning process for all of us (including our kids) and requires having the freedom to develop it. As a mom, I needed to let go in order to let God. To trust both Jesus’ hand, and also my children’s ability to cling to it when the decisions of life weigh on them.


When Ashley Grace was in high school, she wanted to go with a friend to a youth group in another town about 20 miles away. It was hard for Matt and I to let her go. It was even harder for me to let her change churches on Sunday mornings when that request came just a few months later.  It was hard, but it was good. I watched as she grew in her faith. She owned it and it changed her.  Eventually we all followed her to the Refuge Youth Group and the church that sponsors it. We found a family at Parkview Baptist Church that led us all to a new level of heart-felt faith. As I let go, Jesus stepped in.

Today, all three of my girls wear their faith so very well. I look into their eyes and I see the genuine love that comes from Jesus. They make good choices. They are not perfect, but they have the most beautiful supply of try in their hearts. Matt and I have taught them and guided them in many ways over the years, but perhaps the most important thing that we did was to give them the freedom to be who God intended them to be.  And, when they found something so very special and so very right, we trusted and we followed.

There exists a sweet spot as we grow in relationship with Jesus. It fills us with strength, dignity, wisdom and kindness. It enables us to laugh without fear of the future. Megan draws wisdom from the above verses from Proverbs, and she asked me to share them with each of you this week. Her love for Jesus inspires her to try to live them, and that makes all the difference 🙂

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