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Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There are numerous articles expounding on all that’s wrong with the church. They’re trying to be too contemporary, too relevant. They’re behind the times. They’re full of hypocrites, ran by hypocrites. They’re too judgmental, or too lenient, or too rigid, or to laxed…

I could go on, but I choose not to.

I’d rather remind us all that WE are the church. We are the ones whom Christ sent out, to help the poor, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, to die to ourselves and “to find common ground with everyone, doing everything [we] can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b).

Because let’s face it, our pastors are outnumbered. In a congregation of 500, in a given week, you’ll have those who are sick and in need of visitation, those who are struggling financially and in need of aid, single moms who are lonely and in need of a friend, and I could go on. And on. And on.

Sadly, there will likely always be more needs than resources to meet them. That benevolence fund created to help families in need eventually runs dry, and needs you and I to contribute to it. Because the funds for ministries aimed at showing Christ’s love and helping our communities come from you and I.

As I type this, I’m thinking of Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:3-5

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (NLT).

The hypocrite, it seems, is the one who criticizes others without taking the time to evaluate themselves, without taking the time to zero in on and remove the plank that’s distorting their vision.

When I do this, when I focus on my vision-distorting plank, I suddenly remember all the times I chose to buy a latte rather than giving to a need. Or when I avoided that which was inconvenient or awkward–the reaching out to a new neighbor, or watching the children of a single mother, or cleaning the house of a shut-in–to do that which was most pleasurable.

Each day, I make selfish, non-loving choices. Each day, I get caught up in my agenda, or my schedule, or even the 5,000 thoughts swirling through my popcorn-kernelling brain. Leaving those I love and want to love hurt in my wake.

And each day, I must confess this selfish side of me to Christ, asking Him to help me do better, to love better, and to better Lovewithactionversereflect who He is.

So let’s drop our pointing fingers, set aside our debates, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Because there’s a big, hurting world out there, a world of incredible needs, and it’s going to take all of us, working together, to meet them. To love them. And to reach this generation for Christ.

Unity of the gospel is a powerful thing.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this! How do you feel about the points raised in this post? (If you disagree, that’s totally OK! :) ) When have you been tempted to focus on another’s faults or weaknesses, either personally or in relation to their ministry? How did God bring you back to a place of unity? Why do you think people are often quick to point fingers at the church? What are the dangers in doing so?

Share your thoughts with me in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And before you go, I wanted to introduce you to our newest addition to the Living by Grace team: Susan Aken! My regularly readers are probably fairly familiar with Susan and her writing by now, as I’ve had her on here numerous times. She has such a heart for Christ and such a sweet, humble way of presenting thought provoking truth. She’ll be hosting on Mondays. In the meantime, visit her blog (HERE) and tell her hello!

And, if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to sign up for my (our) free quarterly newsletter. When you do, not only will you receive great content (serial story segments, devotions, recipes, and more!), but you’ll also receive free e-copies of my two compilations: Sweet Freedom With a Slice of Peach Cobbler and Sweet Freedom Ala Mode. So sign up now! :) (If you’ve already signed up but didn’t receive your free copy yet, please let me know! I’ve had some emails bounce back on me.)

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It’s easy to fall into rote behaviors. To pray without thinking; to worship half-heartedly with our mouth singing one thing while our mind jumps to every task awaiting us. To read Scripture without personalizing and digesting the precious, intimate, life-changing Words of God.

It happens every year, it seems. Actually, more like every month, but admitting such would be far too self-disclosing. Somehow, my to-do list begins to grow, tugging at my heart, my mind, my worship. And when that happens, I’m left with two choices: keep going as if busyness is somehow normal and desirable, as if it’s perfectly okay to allow the temporal to crowd out the eternal–to keep me from the One person, the only One, who can strengthen, nourish, refresh, and fulfill me. Or I can stop! And make a conscious choice to slow down.

King David’s words to his son, right before assigning him a monumental task that would take decades to complete, really resonated with me this morning.

“…learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find Him” (1 Chron. 28:9 NLT).

Learn to know God intimately.

Worship and serve Him with [my] whole heart. An undivided heart. A focused and surrendered heart. And a willing mind, AbideVersejpg-photopublicdomainwhich means, I need to surrender my mind, and all those lists and agendas that run through it in a given day, to the lover of my soul. If I do that, if I intentionally seek Him, I will find Him.

Today, I need to unplug. Slow down. Rest and connect. And I plan to intentionally fill that need. This morning my sweet hubby and I are going to a lavender farm not too far from us, so we can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, a creation that naturally draws the heart to the Creator. We’ll listen to praise music. Pray. And simply rest.

What about you? When was the last time you set your to-do list aside and simply slowed down? What are some ways, when your heart and mind feel pulled in a thousand directions, that you still it and center it in worship?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and have a happy, restful, worshipful weekend!

Created a new verse picKnowing why we are here changes everything… if that reason is true, valid, and big enough to carry all the muck. I was thinking about this very thing yesterday, as I pushed through some physical challenges. Thinking how all this gunk, (and we’ve all got our gunk) would feel utterly pointless and defeating, if not for my mission in Christ.

Knowing–and living–our purpose changes everything. Today my sweet friend and Author photoone of my most cherished critique partners Marji Lane shares her thoughts on this liberating and life-infusing subject this morning.

The Purpose of Our Lives by Marji Lane

I saw a tweet the other day that apparently quoted the Dali Lama. According to the tweeter, the purpose of our lives is to be happy.

Really? What a self-absorbed, empty life that is. It’s all about me being happy. That means whatever it takes to make ME happy, that’s what I should do because my purpose is to enjoy happiness.

Yikes. No wonder folks are so messed up.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I know wrong ones when I see them. I don’t care how often-quoted or sincere a person is; wrong is just wrong.

Purpose for our lives goes back to creation. Why were humans made in the first place?

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” Genesis 1:26. And in the third chapter, in the midst of the first sin, the man and the woman “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day …. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Sounds like Adam and Eve had a habit of walking with God in the cool of the evening. So much so, that when they weren’t there, He called out to them. (Not that He didn’t know what was going on.) All this leads me to believe they were created to be the Lord’s companions. That identifies where I should be putting my effort now.

I need to make sure I cultivate that ongoing relationship with my Heavenly Father.Draw Near verse pic

In addition, Christ gave instruction to share the good news of His gift of eternal life. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” Matthew 28:19.

Another purpose for my being here is to share the amazing love and grace of the Father, the sacrifice of Christ, and the good news of our adoption into God’s family. I find this purpose difficult to act on. I’m not naturally an evangelist – I don’t have that gift of the Spirit. Yet, regardless of how comfortable I feel doing it, I am still called to share.

I do have one other purpose, one that falls more fully into my forte. Whereas I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism, I do have the gift of exhortation. The apostle Paul, through the Holy Spirit’s prompting, urges us to encourage one another in Christ and build up His Body, the Church. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) I am called to find ways to support other believers, to strengthen them as they act in accord with the Lord’s work and will. My words need to be full of grace and love, with the intent to renew the spirits of my brothers and sisters. Especially when they are struggling for the cause of Christ.

This certainly gives more depth and satisfaction than to simply “be happy.” And all of my actions should fulfill my purposes.

  • Learn about the Father through scripture and spend time with Him in prayer, listening to the Spirit’s urging to follow as closely to Him as I can.
  • Sharing the truth that I’ve learned with hurting people who desperately need to know of the hope and love they can have through Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Encouraging other believers with my words and actions—”Speak to one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Ephesians 5:19—in order to strengthen the body of Christ.

Looking at these in a nutshell, I see I’m not in the center of any of them. My desires are focused on others and on the Lord. That type of focus brings true satisfaction and joy. Especially when the quest for joy isn’t the point of what I’m doing.

Your turn: How do you define your purpose?

Marji Laine is a homeschooling mom with teenage twins left in the nest. An independent author with her debut novel, GRIME BEAT, just released, she spends her non-writing times transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

imgresGrime Beat:

Her best friend missing, every cell in Dani Foster’s body screams something is wrong.

Crime scene cleaning is the perfect job for relocated Dani Foster. But her orders to maintain a low profile and stay out of trouble mean little when her friend goes missing. Suspicions point to the handsome crime scene specialist, Jay Hunter, but he’s also the only person willing to help Dani. Dare she trust him even when lies seem to surround him?

Dani amuses Jay. Her penchant for speaking and acting without regard to the consequences land her in the funniest situations. But her latest moves have thrust her into serious danger. As he learns more about her circumstances, the stakes rise until her very life is on the line. He has no time or inclination for romance, but this girl needs him, and she seems to have no one else. How can he turn his back?

This is the first episode of this Christian Mystery and Romance series set in Dallas, Texas. Dani’s troubles and Jay’s attraction are only just beginning!

Buy it HERE!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Have you discovered your purpose? The reason you’re here? Are you living it? What things tend to distract you from living out your purpose? What activities or verses help you to remain diligent and focused on your purpose? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And before you go… have you signed up for my (and 7 other authors) free quarterly newsletter? If not, wanna? You’ll receive free serial story segments, recipes, devotions, and more!

(Check out our last edition HERE!)

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Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net

How often do we take God’s delay as “no”, or perhaps even lack of care. As if, because we can’t hear Him, He’s suddenly not listening? Waiting, on anything, is incredibly hard for me, and I think, if I were to get to the root of it, I’d find, my impatience stems from a lack of surrender. If you’re following our Fear of the Lord/Resting in Christ study, you may remember our discussion on half-hearted trust.

Oh to surrender our whole hearts, our whole selves, to Christ, even in, especially in, times of waiting–what peace and joy we’d have! These were the thoughts running through my brain as I read Kimberly Rose Johnson’s devotion. As you IMG_4314-2 Publicityread her devotion, think of whatever it is  you’re waiting on and how you can trust God with your whole heart, as Proverbs 3:5 urges, while you wait.

Not my Way but God’s

By Kimberly Rose Johnson

I have a bad habit of running ahead of the Lord. By nature I’m an impatient person who wants things done yesterday, but God does not work that way. I must work hard to hold back and allow the Lord to lead me, but my goodness it is a challenge at times.  :)

In 1 Samuel 13:8-15 Saul had the same problem. He was impatient for Samuel to arrive and offer a burnt offering to God. He finally lost his patience and offered the sacrifice himself. Big mistake. Verse 13 tells us that God would have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for all time if had he waited in obedience, but that wasn’t going to happen since he didn’t wait.

Prov3v5picI remember several times I ran ahead of the Lord without giving a thought to His plan and guess what? I ended up doing more harm than good. If I had sought His will and timing I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

It’s not always easy to wait on Him or do the things He asks of us, but when all is said and done His ways are better.

***

Kimberly Rose Johnson, soon to be empty-nester, lives in Pacific Northwest with her husband and their yellow lab. Island Refuge is her sixth book and the first in a series of three. Kimberly enjoys long walks, chocolate, and mochas, not necessarily in that order.

Island Refuge cover 25080381She’s the author of Island Refuge:

Five-Star-Chef Zoe Griffin walked away from her dream job. Did she make a mistake?

Her engagement off, Zoe Griffin retreats to tiny Wildflower Island in the Puget Sound. Hiding out as a cook and maid at a shabby bed-and-breakfast seems crazy for a chef who’s used to running her own five-star kitchen. And just as she starts to feel at home, her klutzy mishaps make Zoe fear her handsome new boss will fire her.

Dr. Nick Jackson is done with medicine, and owning a B&B is as far from doctoring as he can get. He needs help, but his only employee’s mistakes give him doubts. As Zoe lets her defenses down, Nick begins to see a competent and caring woman. One whose wounds are as deep as his own. But as they fall for each other, Nick and Zoe must learn the hardest lesson of all—to forgive. Only then can they heal the past and embrace the future . . . together.

Buy it on Amazon HERE.

You might also like:

When God Says Wait

And for those following the Resting in Christ study and who prefer watching videos in 5-7 min chunks, here’s part 2 of my talk.

Shoot me a message or leave a comment on this post if you’d like me to send you a copy of the 7-day study that goes with my presentation. You can also join our Facebook study group. You can do so HERE. I’ve learned so much from the other group members! It’s always awesome to talk about Scripture with other believers.

You might also enjoy this song, which talks about serving Christ while we wait.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to wait on Christ? What are some things you do while you wait? What are some ways, in your opinion, we can “Trust in the LORD with all [our] heart; do not depend on [our] own understanding” (Prov. 3:5)? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, to be brave! To embrace risk and challenges all for the sake of Christ with little thought of the what-ifs. To daily surrender myself so fully to Christ, I would always and only do His will…

Unfortunately, my actions are often more characterized by fear than faith and striving than surrender. But God is faithful, even when–especially when!–I’m not.

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of reconnecting with the ladies at Northland Baptist in Kansas City, MO. While there, I 11110888_10204129386370679_2892693323041088365_otalked about fear–of the world and the Lord.

One refreshes and strengthens us, the other leaves us drained, stressed, and completely exhausted.

So which will you choose?

My study on what it means to fear the Lord and how this impacts a believer’s life has FindingRefreshmentinChristbeen so rich, I decided to extend it and invite you to come alone! I’ve created a one-week study guide, which I gave to the Northland ladies and also posted on Facebook. I’ve also created a Facebook “group” and page where we can all dialogue about what God is showing us through the study. I hope you’ll join us! Later this week, Susan Aken and Julie Arduini, blogging friends of mine, will be sharing their thoughts on some of the study verses. I can’t wait! I love learning from other believers. :) And on Thursday, Kimberly Rose Johnson, another writing friend, will be here to talk about waiting on God, so make sure to pop back to join that discussion!

If you’re not on Facebook, that’s OK. I can send you the questions via email. Simply shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com letting me know you’d like and I’ll send them off to you.

In the meantime, you can watch segment one of my speech here. I hope to have segment two posted to Youtube tomorrow.

Or, if you’d rather see the video in it’s entirety, recorded on the day of the event, you can watch that here:

 

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Do you ever wish you could find some hidden, remote closet to hide away in? Do you ever feel like the Internet–most specifically social media–has become a breeding ground for hate? Can good–love, peace, compassion, sacrificial service, dialogue–truly overcome evil? And in the case of Baltimore, do we even have a clear idea of what evil looks like, or have the lines become blurred?

Last night, after skimming through the Facebook wars, I went to bed feeling completely overwhelmed and emotionally charged, so I asked myself why. After a bit of thought, the answer came: because I realize behind the posts, tweets, and news headlines exist hurting people. I think we forget that. It’s so easy to zero in on behavior without ever taking the time to look deeper.

To truly understand the root.

Before I get too far, let me make it incredibly clear: I do not condone rioting, vandalism, and open hatred. But neither to do I condone secret hatred hidden in passive aggress social media updates. Nor do I condone sneaky hatred, spoken in racial epitaphs, jokes, and callous stereotypes.

And in all our posts and comments, we forget, or fail to realize:

Hatred and prejudice still exits. 

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a business woman who happens to be a Japanese American. Somehow our conversation turned to racial tension and stereotypes, and I mentioned how my brother, a Korean American, often experienced prejudice when we were growing up. Her comment, “You mean you saw it?”

In other words, often, the greatest damage is done when others aren’t looking, and those of us watching from the sidelines only see a fraction of the hate our ethnic friends experience.

Then again, even once is enough to deeply wound. I can think back over my childhood to teachers that have said hurtful things, friends who’ve misjudged me, and those things stay with me. I have to work to forget and forgive.

I could give numerous examples of prejudice I’ve witnessed or heard of, but I suspect you can, too. And if you can’t, I’d say widen your circle. Engage with the world at large. Take time to listen to other people’s stories and to understand their perceptions and hurts. If you live in middle-class whiteland, get to know, really know, those who are different than you. Spend time in the inner cities. Serve in inner city ministries. Get to know those on the front lines of this issue.

There’s a video making the Facebook rounds of NFL player Ray Lewis condemning the rioters for their behavior, as I think many do, myself included. But if we take the time to truly listen to what Mr. Lewis is saying, we’ll notice he acknowledges hatred, oppression, and discrimination does exist. He’s merely saying, “This isn’t the way to fix it.”

Let’s not jump on the sentiment, “This isn’t the way to fix it,” without taking time to figure out what the way to fix it is.

So what is the way? Or perhaps I should say, what are the ways?

Invest in inner city missions, helping families in poverty find a leg up.

Invest in our youth, especially those who, through their behavior, demonstrate a sense of hopelessness.

Walk beside our single moms so that they can raise their kids how they want. (I could go on and on about this one, but sadly, this post is already nearing TMW stage (too many words–a novel worth, actually).

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Poverty leads to hopelessness.

When we lived in Kansas City, our family reached out to a Sudanese family that came to America from the refugee camps of Kampala. Life was so different for these teenagers! So many things we take for granted were completely foreign to them–like the fact that landlords are responsible for the care and upkeep of their buildings.

It was an insanely hot summer, and the complex this family lived in had window units. The teenage girl called them fans, but I’m pretty sure they were AC units. Anyway, most of the units in the complex were broken. (Did I mention it was an insanely hot summer? Like the type that routinely soared into the triple digits?) When she shared this with me, I told her she needed to talk to her landlord. She said her father–a working, single father, by the way–had, but the landlord hadn’t done anything. I told her this wasn’t right and that she should contact the city. This idea threw her as she had no idea she had a right to, well, rights period. She and her family felt at the mercy of her landlord, and as they were completely broke, they also felt they had no other options but to endure. And the “fans” were but one instance.

Stereotypes and quick judgements only make things worse. 

How easily we throw out opinions on things we don’t understand. How easily we lump individuals with beating, bleeding hearts together. How easily we remain on the surface without taking the time to really dig. To engage. To dialogue and find solutions.

But love engages. Love listens. Love helps. Love breaks down barriers and finds ways to form bridges. Love links arms with those in need of help, support, encouragement.

This post (hopefully) begs the question: What now? Where do we go from here?

We find a way to rise above, to reach out, and to saturate this country with love and grace. Folks, let’s go deeper and find a way to be part of positive change.

And, on a happier note, Mark Bethea of New Hope Publishers interviewed me via Skype the other day. And I learned something. Pink reflects! Watching the below linked video, at first I thought, wow, why is my neck so red? Was I embarrassed? But then when my head bobbed (lesson two, keep head still!) the red crept up to my chin then back to my neck. Pink reflects! Even so, it was a great conversation, and I was glad for the chance to share my heart.

Jennifer Slattery Video Interview from New Hope Publishers on Vimeo.

Let’s talk about this. What are your thoughts about this issue and my post? Am I completely off base? What are your experiences with prejudice, injustice, and racial oppression? What are your thoughts about the posts and comments making the social media rounds? Where do you think America should go from here, and how do you suggest we begin moving in that direction? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Speaking of… are we Facebook friends yet? If not, how come? Connect with me here! :)

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing more frustrating than looking back on a busy, tiring day and realizing you’ve accomplished nothing. Or at least, nothing of value. Or to embark on a task, perhaps seven or eight times in a day, only to be distracted, seven or eight times.

We all have those days, right? Times when our lack of focus, lack of prioritizing, eats up our productivity. But we mustn’t let those times of distraction and futility, of wasted effort, become a norm.

We all have countless opportunities set before us each day, sometimes even great opportunities, eternally impacting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean each one is for us. God has carved out a unique path for each one of us. He’s created us, gifted us, molded and equipped us, to fill a very specific role.

I love how Ephesians 2:10 puts it: “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece! That word grabs me every time. As does the ending of the verse, “He planned for us long ago.”

It reminds me that God has a plan, a very good and very specific plan, for my life. My role is to discover that plan and follow it ps37v23to24jpgwith everything within me, resisting the constant pull to be everything to everyone. Rather, I am to give everything–my time, energy, thoughts, and actions–to the Son.

Proverbs 4:25-27 says “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on that safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT).

This verse speaks of determined focus, of perseverance, of intentionality. Of zeroing in on whatever it is Christ is calling me to do each day. Which implies taking the time to discover what He’s calling me to do. Which in turn implies taking the time to prayerfully read His Word each morning.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What about you? What is God calling you to do today? Raise your children or grandchildren to love and honor Christ? Reveal Christ’s love and grace in your work place? Serve in a church ministry with excellence? Are you doing that with focus, perseverance, and intentionality? Are you giving your whole self to that task, or have you allowed nonessentials to leave you divided? What time-sappers have you allowed in your day that hinder your effectiveness? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

We can’t do it all. Each day, we’re going to have to let something go. Let’s let those things go intentionally so that we can “fix our eyes on what lies before us.”

For all the mommas of little ones out there, my friend (and the marketing manager of New Hope Publishers) has a series I know you’ll find encouraging and inspiring. You can read about that here.

You might also be interested in:

Are the Little Things Really Little? 

In the Little Things

Called and Accountable by Henry T. Blackaby and Norman C. Blackaby

Before I go, I wanted to announce the winners of last week’s give away! Maryann, congrats! You won a copy of the Shepherd’s Song! I’ll be contacting you shortly to chat about the best way to get that novel to you. And, there’s still time to enter the drawing to receive a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book Praying Upside Down. You can do so here.

Before I go, I wanted to invite you listen to a radio interview I did Tuesday. You can do so here:

I also encourage you to sign up for my (really, our, as I and the Faith, Friends, and Chocolate gals put it out together) free quarterly newsletter, which is packed with great stuff–a serial story, short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!


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