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It’s never over until He says it’s over!

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Like most of you, my life has had its share of defining moments.

Whether it was accepting Jesus as my Savior, finishing school, getting married, buying a house, losing my dad when I was only 12, memorable vacations, landing a good job and having a successful career, all of these and more are defining moments in my life.

There is yet another defining moment, one that took place exactly nineteen years ago today, that I want to mention in this blog.

Very early on a Monday morning 19 years ago, my wife and I drove to the hospital where I was scheduled to have open heart surgery.

A few months prior to this, on my daughter’s second birthday, I had suffered a massive heart attack while mowing the lawn. Subsequent procedures, rehab, and medications failed to keep my arteries open, and we were faced with the dim reality that surgery was the only option left.

A lot of things go through your mind when you are facing something of this magnitude. For one thing, while open heart surgery has become a normal procedure these days, there is nothing normal about it when it’s you that is going to be operated on.

Emotions, if left unchecked, will get the best of you and leave you in a constant state of panic and fear. Of course, all of this is very normal, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being honest with you.

As best as I can remember, there were about three weeks between the time I was told I had to have surgery and the day I actually went to the hospital for the procedure.

During those three weeks you have to undergo a battery of tests and procedures, none of which do anything to allay the fears that creep into the mind. Actually, by the time they finish all of these tests, you just want to have the surgery and get it over with.

People that know that I had open heart surgery generally will ask one of two questions.

1. How were you able to overcome the fear of such a serious surgery?

2. If you are a Christian that believes God still heals today, why didn’t God heal you so you didn’t have to have the surgery?

The answer to the first question is that God gave me a peace that passes all understanding about the situation. It’s hard to explain to non-believers, but driving to the hospital that morning I had no fear.

How is that possible? It was because I knew that no matter what happened, I was completely in God’s hands. If I did not come through the surgery, I was going to be in His presence for all of eternity.

If I did come through, I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet. So how could I lose? How could I not be at peace knowing that I was safe and secure in the Father’s arms?

Now, to be sure, my wife was very fearful of me not coming through the surgery. After all, we had only been married three years and we had a two year old baby. What wife and mother wouldn’t be scared?

That does not mean that she didn’t have any faith. Quite the contrary! My wife has more faith than any person I know, and literally trusts God for everything.

The way that I answer the second question is because God chose not to miraculously heal me. Could He have? Of course he could have! He is God after all. But He chose not to. And whether you believe this or not, I was OK with his decision.

Would I have rather He instantly healed me? You better believe I would have preferred that to the surgery. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy!

In case you haven’t noticed, Christians die every day from one type of disease or another. Can anyone quote the chapter and verse from the Bible that says Christians will live long, illness free lives, and die peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age?

Didn’t think so!

The fact is that God is Sovereign. He is in control. He orders our footsteps, not us. It is God who exalts and also brings low. In short, our lives are not our own, but His to do with as he pleases.

That is a bitter pill for many to swallow, and I have learned that submission to God’s will is a lifelong process. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly say “from this day forward I will submit every part of my life to the Lord”.

It just doesn’t work that way. Getting to the place where we trust God with our very lives comes from the daily experience of learning to trust the Lord that He alone knows what is best for our lives.

Coming through open heart surgery changes a person in several ways. There are the physical benefits of course, but there is also a change that takes place in the inner heart because now you know an attribute of God that may have been hidden from you before.

You now know God as Faithful in a way that goes far beyond words. And because you know Him as Faithful, you know that there is nothing that He cannot do for you.

These past nineteen years have been years of great joy, moments of severe testing, times of rejoicing, and yes even occasions of despair. Through them all however, God has been faithful to stand by us. I cannot think of a single time that I have felt as if God did not have my life in His hands.

Maybe you are facing the trial of a lifetime. Maybe fear has gripped your heart and panic rules the day. Maybe events from your past haunt you with the torment that you will never be free of them. Maybe the defining moments of your life have left you battered, broken, and helpless.

If this is you, I’ve got good news for you. It’s not over until He says it’s over! You are still standing. You may have been knocked down but you are not counted out.

There is still life to live, victories to cherish, mountains to conquer, and enemies to defeat all because God has you in the palm of His hands.

Nineteen years ago today there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my life. Would I live or die? If I lived, what kind of life would I be able to have? Would I ever be the same again?

Praise God I am alive and well today to say that God is Faithful to sustain us and keep us. It is true, I cannot do some things as well as I used to. Part of that is heart related and part of it is the normal aging process all of us deal with.

I choose to focus however on what I can do, not what I cannot do. God has chosen to keep me around and as long as I am here, I will give Him praise and thanks for the wonderful life I have been blessed to live.

It’s not over until he says it’s over. My life, as well as your, is not and will not be defined by illness or weakness. God brought me through then and He will bring me through tomorrow!

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

O Happy Day!

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Today I’m taking a break from blogging about church related matters because something much more important has come up.

Today my Princess and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary. Regular readers of this blog know that I am madly in love with my wife, and so today I wanted to share a little bit about this amazing woman who has made me complete.

My wife is the greatest encourager a man could have by his side. When I have been at my lowest, she has never failed to stand beside me and cheer me on. So many times I have wanted to quit or give up on something because I thought I couldn’t handle the resistance, yet she was always there telling me I could.

Countless times at work I would receive a text from her, encouraging me to trust God and stand firm. I’ve lost track of all the encouraging scripture notes that somehow found their way in my lunch box, but I assure you they made all the difference at the time.

When I suffered a massive heart attack, she never flinched but stayed by my side letting me know that we would pull through this. When the frightening news came that I had to have open heart surgery, she was a rock. Yes, on the inside she was terrified, but she never let me see that until it was all over.

When I was coming out of the anesthesia she was right there, calming me as I fought all the tubes, wires, and hoses connected to me. Even in my foggy condition, her soothing voice seemed to be enough to cause me to relax.

Not only did she nurse me back to health then, she has continually taken care of me whenever any kind of illness has come. She has done all of this without one word of complaint or bitterness.

She holds many job titles in our home. She is an extraordinary cook, and I’ve lost track of how many sweepers she has worn out because she loves for her home to be clean at all times.

She is the chief financial officer and budget controller as well. In an age when people find it too bothersome to balance their checkbook, I say heaven help the bank should they make a mistake because my wife will catch it. To. The. Penny.

Birthdays and holidays are always special because, well, she makes them special. Her decorating sense is amazing and should anyone visit our house, they can instantly see what season it is by her choice of decor.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her love for bunnies. At Easter, our house is filled with bunnies. Bunnies on the floor. Bunnies on the wall, Bunnies on the couch. Bunnies on towels and tablecloths. You get the picture I’m sure.

Just today, she saw a bunny in the yard and declared that she wanted to pet it. I had to remind her that the bunny would not appreciate that. Still, if that bunny would sit still…

My wife is also an incredible mother. It’s a whole another story in itself, but she was told she could not have children, yet two months after we were married, guess what happened? Yep. Eight or Ten pregnancy tests later we were finally convinced this was going to happen.

She has raised an amazing daughter who is now in her second year of college. Like her mother, she loves the Lord and is a very driven young woman. Her heart is to teach children, so to that end she is going to become a school teacher in a couple of years. I think any school system will be thrilled to have a new teacher come on board who actually loves children, don’t you?

There is yet one more thing about my wife that I believe surpasses everything else I’ve mentioned. She is a warrior. She is a fighter. When she believes she is right about something she will not back down. I love that about her!

Being raised as she was in a Christian home, the daughter of a pastor, her convictions are largely drawn from God’s Word. This is who she is, and who she will always be. People sometimes mistake her gentle spirit for weakness, but they only make that mistake once!

I am so thankful that God brought us together. Two broken people who had given up hope of finding real love were brought together and filled with a special, lifetime love for one another.

This is our Love Story

Happy Anniversary Debbie,

I love you with all that’s within me,

Ron

What do you see?

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There.

In the pew.

Sitting over there.

What do you see?

Dressed for success?

Clothed in hand-me-downs two sizes too small?

A crisp, new outfit?

A rumpled,wrinkled shirt?

Who do you see?

The preacher’s daughter?

A woman branded with a scarlet letter?

Perfectly dressed boys and girls driven to church in a shiny new Cadillac?

Ramshackle kids from the other side of the tracks who arrived in an old school bus transformed into a makeshift Sunday School taxi?

What do you hear?

A heavenly choir?

A wannabe rock band?

Too loud?

Too soft?

Just right?

Whispers of “what is he doing here”?

The muffled cries of the broken and abused?

Yes, here in God’s house, the one place where at the foot of the Cross the ground is level for all….

What do you see?

Who do you hear?

Maybe the better question is do we see and hear the same things that Jesus does?

 

 

Either 100% of God’s word is true, or none of it is!

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Think about that statement for a moment. Christians believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word given unto man. It is a collection of sixty six books, written and compiled by various authors over the span of nearly 1500 years, from 1400 BC to A.D. 90 (approximately).

While there are many detractors who maintain that the Bible is a made up fictional tale and thus not inspired of God, the truth is that there are many Biblical facts that have been proven beyond all doubt.

Perhaps more importantly, especially to the sceptics and non-believers, is that the Bible has never been proven factually wrong. Ever. It is a book of truth, divinely revealed by God to all men.

Paul the Apostle declared that God cannot lie, and if this statement is true, then God’s word is 100% accurate. [1]

Likewise, as we search through the Scriptures we are confronted time and again with the statement that God cannot or will not lie. [2]

All of which brings me to the subject of why American Christians have such a hard time believing that every word in the Scriptures is 100% true. This is never more apparent than when confronted with truths that somehow conflict with their vision of “how things are supposed to be”.

For example; the Scripture is very clear that at some point in the future (whether near or far away is not the pont), the entire world will be under the sole authority of one ruler, who is called the antichrist. This is confirmed by Daniel, Paul, and even Jesus in the Revelation. [3]

Yet in spite of overwhelming and irrefutable Scriptural evidence of this future one world dictatorial government, many American Christians emphatically believe that America will never capitulate.

In other words, they believe that good ol’ American Nationalism will prevail, and that Old Glory will continue to wave irregardless of the rest of the nations coming under the authoritarian rule of the antichrist.

American Nationalism, as most of you know, is the widely held belief that we are better than everyone else, and that our goals, principles, and ideals are superior to everyone else’s. [4]

As a Christian, I believe the Bible is clear in its teaching that all of us are to live according to God’s word. Jesus even said as much when he told Satan that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from God”. [5]

What that means is if we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we must live ‘by and according to’ the word of God. This means 100% of God’s word.

We cannot pluck out the sections that do not align themselves with our political ideology or cause. We’re either all in or we’re not, in which case we’re out.

Whether we like a particular subject of the Bible or not is irrelevant. Whether or not we think certain scriptures apply to us or not is also irrelevant.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible was not written by holy men of God under the guise of each of us getting to pick out only those parts we agree with. If we are Christians, we come under the authority of every word. One hundred percent of the time.

The entire world is running headlong toward a one world government and ruler, a fact confirmed by none other than the United Nations, who recently issued a document entitled “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

This document serves as an outline for how to achieve a one world government, and I highly recommend that students of the Bible take a close look at it.

Wishing and hoping it were not so does not change this fact. This is the direction the world is rapidly moving towards. The course has been chartered, and it is inevitable that some form of it will come to fruition simply because the Bible declares it to be so.

No amount of wishing for a return to the “good old days” will make that come to pass. Those of us who love to relish those carefree days of long ago must do so with the understanding that those days will never return.

Those well-meaning Christians who staunchly maintain that America is God’s chosen nation and thus deserving of advantages and blessings no other nation has, are, quite honestly, deceived.

I believe it’s high time that all of God’s children come to a level of maturity in Him where we accept His word and His will for our lives without reservation. No more wavering, no more doubting, no more wishing we can go back.

Let’s acknowledge instead that His direction is best for us.

Nationalistic pride aside, either 100% of God’s word is true, or none of it is. I’m staking my life on the former. How about you?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day!

Ron

 

[1] Titus 1:2

[2] Numbers 23:19,   1 Samuel 15:29,   Psalm 89:35,

[3] Daniel 7:232 Thessalonians 2: 1-12Revelation 13:1-5 

[4] Lest anyone think otherwise, I am proud to be an American. I consider myself to be among the most blessed of all people in that God in His mercy permitted me to be born in this country. For over six decades I have enjoyed the incredible wealth and prosperity this country has provided, and I am humbled by what God has given this nation.

Yet for all of that, I do not consider myself or my country to be any better than any individual or any other country. In spite of the political rhetoric that says otherwise, we are no better or no more worthy of God’s favor than any other nation.

[5] Scripture reference Luke 4:4

 

“You know better than that”

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As a child and into young adulthood, I heard those words from time to time. Specifically, I heard them nearly every time I did something wrong and couldn’t squirm, weasel, or outright lie my way out of it.

Come to think of it, saying I heard those words “from time to time” isn’t completely true. I heard them far more frequently than that.

The inference, of course, is that I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, and so on and therefore should have known better than to do the thing that got me in trouble.

Looking back on those carefree days of my early childhood, I can safely say that I liked to see how close to the edge I could get before hearing my name called out. I came to understand that when I heard a loud “RONALD!” I had fallen off that edge and it was only a matter of time before the hammer would fall.

Like the time when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I started a small fire on the floor in the hay loft of our barn. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a ‘controlled burn’ because I went to great pains to make sure I had cleared the immediate area of any excessive hay that could catch the barn on fire.

Which, by the way, I never got the proper credit for.

Anyway, all was going according to plan until one of my two younger sisters who were there with me ‘somehow’ managed to burn her finger and headed to the house, crying like a baby. Captivated by my advanced fire making skills in the middle of the barn floor, my other sister and I never gave her a second thought.

That is until a few minutes later when I saw my dad’s head at the top of the ladder. What followed next can only be described as “other worldly”, because it is simply not possible for a human being to move as quickly from the top of a ladder to where my small, ‘controlled burn’ was.

In a nanosecond, with super human skills that would make Jason Bourne envious, my dad had leaped off the ladder with a single bound, extinguished the ‘controlled burn’, grabbed me and threw me across a bale of hay, and proceeded to give me a whipping for the ages with a strap of leather that was hanging on a nail just seconds prior.

Thankfully, the years have dulled my memory to the point where I cannot remember which was the loudest, the thud of the leather strap across my body or the screams coming from the deepest recesses of my soul.

After what seemed like a good 30 or 40 minutes at the hands of my inquisitor, (though in reality it was not quite that long) I was released from the ‘hayloft turned torture chamber’ and sent to the house with strict orders to go straight to bed.

No supper. No TV. No bath (yeah!). No nothing. I still remember my mom coming into the bedroom to check on me, and her pleading with my dad to at least let me eat supper. That wasn’t happening, of this I was made sure. Now THAT hurt!

Later on, my sisters snuck into my room to see if I was still alive. Either that, or they wanted me to know that the chicken leg, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits that was supposed to be my supper did not go to waste, thank you very much.

So, I stayed in my room until the next morning. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that at some point that morning there was a very stern discussion, I mean LECTURE, about the dangers of playing with matches in a hay filled barn loft.

Even after all that had happened, I tried to plead my case by saying how responsible I had been by clearing away the hay and choosing the best place for my campfire. My dad, however, was hearing none of it. Knowing how to start a fire on the river bank was an admirable skill it seemed, while in the barn, not so much.

I can’t recall how many times the phrase “you know better than that” was used during THE LECTURE. No doubt I heard it many times that day, as well as the ensuing days when I was assigned some type of hard labor as further punishment for my foolishness.

I’d love to be able to say that this escapade forever changed my thought process, and from this day forward I was never again to engage in anything so dangerous and foolish. Yes, I would love to be able to say that.

But I can’t. Oh, to be sure I never played with matches in the barn again. But I did many other, equally dangerous things through the years as I was growing up. When my dad died when I was 12 years old, I went through a rough period of several years of living as close to the edge as I could get. Things like riding in a friend’s car doing 145 MPH on a two-lane country road, for example.

And worse. Much worse.

I suppose though that all of us do things we know better than to do, which I guess is why my Princess reminds me from time to time that I still need ‘direction’.

No doubt, it’s in our DNA to push the envelope. I believe that is how our Creator made us, to push the boundaries, to explore the unknown, to be curious enough to try something for the 1st time. Not destructive things, mind you, but things that require us to reach beyond ourselves. Things that require us to reach out to a Power far beyond our own.

When we do things that we know are wrong, or dangerous, or destructive, there is a still small voice that reminds us that “you know better than that”. It isn’t a condemning voice, but rather a Father’s voice, born of concern and love for His children.

My prayer is that we will come to know that Voice, and that we will allow it to be our guide when making life’s many decisions.

Trust me on this, it sure beats the consequences of acting on our own impulses!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil transformed into art?

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WARNING! This post may be offensive to some.

Like many of my readers, I am often stunned by what appears on the evening news. The evil that man is capable of inflicting upon one another is almost beyond comprehension, yet even as I write that statement I know that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.

So horrific are many of these acts that I choose not to discuss them in detail, both out of respect for the victims and not wanting to give any more publicity to these demon controlled monsters.

Of course, there are many types of evil in this world, just as there are many types of evil perpetrators committing the acts. I’ll spare you the details, not that they matter. After all, evil is the devil incarnate, and he is at the root of it all.

Take, for example, the “Sacred Goods” exhibit which was displayed at the Haifa Museum of Art, located in Haifa, Israel. In August of 2018, they displayed a sculpture of Ronald McDonald being crucified on a cross.

f3663570-572c-40a3-883a-f4818ded1970The “McJesus” sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen on display at the Haifa Museum of Art. (Haifa Museum of Art)

As I stated, there are many types of evil in this world, and many types of evil perpetrators. For the Christian, there cannot be a more vile, disguting image than to see the Savior of mankind mocked in such a manner as this.

This is evil, pure and simple, and the mind that “created” this blasphemous image has been wholly given over to Satan.

Of course, the Jews overwhelmingly do not believe that Jesus was their Savior, so it is of no great offense to them to see this in their museum. The fact that this is considered “art” at all and was prominently displayed in their museum testifies to the fact that they are still mocking, still rejecting Him after delivering him up to be crucified over 2000 years ago. [1]

Indeed, a people once called out from all other nations by none other than God Himself to be the “elect”, have continued on the same path of destruction that their ancestors walked thousands of years ago.

But the days of ridicule and mockery are coming to an end.

This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. Zephaniah 2:10-11

As Christians we know a day is coming when the last mocker will have been heard. There is coming a day so dreadful, and from which there is no escape, that instead of ridiculing Him, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess when the name of Jesus is declared.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   Philippians 2:8-11  emphasis mine

In that day no one will compare Jesus to Ronald McDonald. There will be no mockers, scoffers, or reprobates to ridicule Him ever again. What there will be a lot of is kneeling and confessing.

On that great day the sheep will be separated from the goats, and one’s nationality, fame, or wealth will not save him. The last words the lost will ever hear will be from the Almighty, who will say “depart from me, I never knew you”.  [2]

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] For a detailed account of this sordid display and to read about the Arab Christian opposition to it: https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-christians-in-violent-clash-with-police-in-haifa-over-mcjesus-sculpture/

[2] Matthew 7:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

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