Bread – Love

February 14, 2018


And He [Jesus] said to him [the lawyer], ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”   Mt. 22:37-40

Today is Valentine’s Day, where everyone in reaching distance of a card and candy display, shows their “love” by doing nice things for their “significant others.”

Because it is Valentine’s Day, I broke with the pattern of writing from the Psalms and instead write today about love, quoting Jesus’ summary addressed to the lawyers among us who want rules and guidelines.  Besides, when I woke up this morning I had a definite impression that I was supposed to write about love.

And what can I say which is different than what Scripture says or God says or even Hallmark cards, for that matter?

Well, I can try to answer the question about what love is, because it finally dawned on me this morning.

Love is not a feeling.  And it is not really words or actions, although these do flow from love.

Love is an attitude.  (attitude = disposition toward life)

We speak often in Christian circles of an “attitude of gratitude.”  It has poetic ring and it makes a point, which is that we should be grateful in all things for the blessings we have received, not the least of which is our salvation.

But we never speak of an “attitude of love.”  And yet, isn’t that what Jesus is saying.  Be turned always toward God and be disposed toward Him, seeking His glory in all things, seeking to be obedient to His desires, His Word, His commandments, His law, seeking to reflect the love He showed us by dying on the cross for our sins so that we might have life and that, eternally.  Be turned also toward others and be disposed toward them, that each person we deal with is treated, not only as our neighbor and as friend, but as better and more important than we are.

The brilliance of the Hallmark Holiday called “Valentine’s Day” is that the entire marketing machine of modern enterprise is focused on our having an attitude of love for a few minutes.

The brilliance of the Jesus Life called “today” is that our heart, having been transformed by the workings of the Holy Spirit, ought to also be disposed toward God and others.

Love as a Christian is not how we feel today or even what we do or say today, it is who we are today?

As we walk through today, I urge myself and each person reading this to try harder to shed our attitude of self and put on an attitude of love.  Remarkable things will happen when we do.  First, we will be walking in God’s will.  Second, we will be walking with God’s power.  Third, we will be demonstrating God’s glory in our lives.  And fourth, who knows … we will find rest, we will find contentment, we will find security, we will find miracles, and we will find joy and life.

An attitude of gratitude is great.  An attitude of love is better.

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!  Let’s look beyond ourselves and love.


© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.






Bread – Prayer

April 25, 2016

Psalm 17

“Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!  Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!…You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me, and You will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.  With regard to the works of man, by the word of Your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.  My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.”  Ps. 17:1-5

This Bread is called “Prayer” because that is what this Psalm is called, “A Prayer of David.”

And look how it begins!  “Hey, God, here I am.  Listen to me because I am perfect?  You know I am because You know everything.  Hey, look at me; listen to me!”

Obviously this is both a paraphrase and something of an exaggeration, but not by much.  When we approach God, can we say that we are perfect, that we are sinless, that we can be examined by a holy God and found to be wanting in nothing?

The Christian might answer this question by saying that, “yes, because we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we are deemed pure before God and able to stand before Him.”  That is true but it leads to a certain sloppiness in prayer because it means that we approach prayer as our three year old grandson might, stomping into the throne room of God and laying down our demand for candy without so much as a “Hi, grandpa!”

David is claiming the right to be in front of God because he claims obedience to the Father’s Law.

Can he rightly claim that, claim perfect obedience?  The answer is probably not, but he does anyway.  How?

How can we make a claim to perfect obedience, when it is impossible?

Might I suggest that it is not so much obedience in fact which matters to ordering our prayer life, but obedience in intent, obedience in desire and attitude.

We may be able to walk into the throne room of God with our prayers because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but beyond that, doesn’t the power of our prayer depend in substantial part upon how much we want God, how much we want to obey Him and listen to Him and walk with Him.  The danger of casual prayer before an Almighty God made by a believer is not that we will be struck down, but that the results will be weak.  The strength of prayer made by a believer who tries his or her best to walk in obedience, who tries to speak with lips free of deceit, and who applies God’s Word to daily living lies not in the believer’s own righteousness, but it is certainly greatly increased in power by the believer’s own commitment to God and His ways.

So, if we are not to stomp into God’s throne room full of our own righteousness or maybe even a casual reliance upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, how are we to enter it?

What is not in this Psalm is what David did just prior to saying “Hear a just cause…”  What did David do to prepare for that opening volley of self-promotion?

I suspect that he examined his actions and his heart to see whether what he was going to say was true.  And, finding, like all men, that it was not completely true, he probably confessed it to God and asked God to forgive him his trespasses.  Preceded by confession, at the moment David said “Hear…,” it may very well be that his lips were “free of deceit.”

How do we walk into the throne room?  Do we just stomp in and say “Hey, God, listen to me, the great one!”  Or do we walk in with confidence, knowing that we bear the right attitude and the right gratitude, born of a desire for God, a desire for His truth, a desire for obedience, a desire to walk with Him, cloaked in the righteousness of Christ?


© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.







Bread – Pits

February 8, 2016

Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious unto me, O Lord, for I am languishing…My soul also is greatly troubled.  But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:1-3

As I write this, it is Monday morning, the depressing morning to a depressing week.  Why is it depressing? I don’t know … it just feels that it is starting that way.  I had trouble getting out of bed.  I had trouble getting started.  I had trouble praying.  I had trouble opening my Bible.  I am even having trouble writing this.

As David write this Psalm, one gets the distinct impression that it is Monday morning, he has a lot to do, and he is depressed.  For some reason (perhaps many reasons), he is in the pits.

And down in the pit, you look around and what do you see around you?  Nothing but walls.  You don’t necessarily know how you got down there, but there you are.  You are inclined to want to blame someone for throwing you down there, but you know in your heart that it was really you who climbed down there deliberately or fell down there because you weren’t paying attention or were attracted down there because you thought you saw something shiny and attractive at the bottom.

And when you are in the pits, when you are in the throes of depression, where is God?

One characteristic feeling we all have in these circumstances is that God is nowhere to be found.  That can be, in our minds eye, for all kinds of reasons.  Perhaps He is mad at us for ignoring His commandments and climbing down into the well.  Perhaps He is mad at us because we continue to live in and practice a life of sin as opposed to obedience.  Perhaps He is angry at us because we have chosen to go our own way and have not spent time with Him.  We know He hates sin and, therefore, maybe He hates us.

All of these thoughts were likely going through David’s mind while he sat in the pit.  That is why He says to God “rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me with Your wrath.”  Note that he assumes that God is angry with him, because (a) if he were God, he would be mad at himself and (b) it makes for a ready explanation for why he is in the pit, is stuck in the pit, and can’t get out of the pit.

“I fell in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I am stuck in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I can’t get out of the pit because God is angry with me.”  A convenient explanation which makes us the victim.  No wonder we might well say, “don’t be mad, God,” “don’t rebuke me, God,” “don’t discipline me, God.”  If we can get above our own depression, self-righteousness, and anger at God, we might even follow the preceding statements with “please.”

How do we know David is depressed, that he is in the pits?  Because he says so … he says that he is “languishing.”  The NASB translates this “pining away.”

So, we may find ourselves in the pits today.  Perhaps it is money which caused it.  Perhaps it is love.  Perhaps it is an unfair and ungrateful world, spouse, children, boss, co-workers, employees, clients, suppliers, customers, friends, stock market, etc., which caused it.  The cause is in a real sense irrelevant when it happens to us, because we are there and we are stuck.

So God is apparently appearing to ignore David (from David’s perspective) and he is wallowing in depression … what does he do to get out of the pits?

The answer is actually built into the quoted verses.  While he is asking the Lord not to rebuke him, complaining about his depression, asking God to heal him, and asking the Lord why He is taking so long, what is David doing which is improving his life, although he may not know it.

He is addressing God.  He is talking to God.  He is complaining to God.  He is asking God.  He is arguing with God.  He is so depressed that he knows nowhere else to turn, so he turns to God.

One of the commentators on this passage which I read points out that the word translated to “Lord” in the first three verses of this Psalm is the word “Jehovah,” which is a name of God suggesting Redeemer or Deliverer.

So, in a very real sense, although David senses that God is not present because He is, in David’s mind, angry with him, David still addresses Him in the role which He needs to play in David’s life right then, “Deliverer.”

Over what time period does this take place?  When we read these sentences together, the tendency is to think of the events in the Psalm as coming pretty close together.  David feels like he is in the pits, he sort of blames God but calls on his Deliverer anyway, and the Deliverer shows up (immediately).  But is this true?

There is nothing in the Psalm to indicate how quickly these events occurred.  The prayer “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing” could have been made one time over the time span of 10 minutes, or 1,000 times over the span of ten years.

I would suggest that David was actually in the pits for quite a while.  The reason I say that is this – “But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:3b  If God was answering David fast, why would David feel the need to groan “how long.”

The fact is that it doesn’t matter in one sense and matters a lot in another.  To a depressed person, whether you are in the pits 10 minutes or ten years, it feels like an eternity.  So it is entirely possible that David was only depressed for ten minutes before he yells out “Lord, how long?”  So, to David in his depressed state, it doesn’t matter how long it is.  However, where it does matter is in the area of perseverance.  How long would David keep going with his entreaty to God the Deliverer before he gave up, thinking that God would never show up?

I think the answer to that question is whether David did or did not have a real relationship with God.  If his relationship is one of convenience, then when God didn’t show up, David would have stopped calling upon Him pretty quickly.  However, David has created a relationship with God where he will talk to God whether he is mad with God or not, whether God is mad with him or not, whether he is in the pits or on a mountaintop, whether he has committed great sin or committed good works.  He is going to reach out to God, his Deliverer, regardless.

This week, when you are in the pits, how quickly will you give up calling upon the name of God in order to solve the problem yourself?

I suspect the answer to that question is tied to the larger answer to the larger question … who do you say He is, really?  A helper in time of trouble, an unreliable “go to” person who is sometimes there and sometimes not, a companion, a friend … or Creator, Redeemer, Savior?


© 2016 GBF  All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.




Bread – Attention

October 19, 2012

Readings for Friday, October 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Acts 28:1-16; Luke 9:28-36; Psalms 16,17,22


“Pay attention!” It is a command we all heard somewhere in our lives, as our mind wandered into our imaginations while something important was going on.

It is a command which we all could do a better job with in our Christian walk.

For example, my last Bread “Pits” had Noah in the fish. That would be nice, except it was supposed to be Jonah. Everyone knows that it was Jonah in the big fish and not Noah, but somehow I wasn’t paying attention. But neither was anyone else. Out of all the people who read this, only one person e-mailed me with the error. Maybe some or most of you were just being kind, but I daresay that, for most people, since they knew that it was supposed to be Jonah in the fish, they read right past what I had actually written (Noah) and substituted in their mind Jonah and kept on reading.

There are at least two lessons in today’s Scripture readings about paying attention. The first is in Acts as Luke reports Paul’s journey from Malta to Rome. When Paul arrived at Puteoli, it is reported simply that “there they found brothers.” Acts 28:14. How did they do that? It is not like they had an e-mail list and could send a text message. To find brothers it took looking, paying attention to the signs, talking to people and listening to what they were saying. In other words, it took paying attention to what they were seeing, hearing, and sensing. It probably took paying attention to how the Holy Spirit was guiding them. Now this may seem like a trivial example, but it is real world and points up a problem — don’t we pay the most attention when we are after something we want? How often do we really pay attention if it involves someone else, their needs, their life, and not ours? Do we really pay attention to the person in the elevator, who sits next to us in their cubicle at work, who is talking to the room but not to us particularly? Do we really read what we are reading, see what we are looking at, hear what is being said, or look upon events and other people with a sharp, discerning eye? Unless it involves us, probably not.

The more important example is what Peter did at the transfiguration of Christ (in today’s reading from Luke). Here he is in the middle of seeing Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together and his thought is immediately turned to setting up a place for them to separately stay, to hang out. The importance of the event was in the revelation of Jesus as God, standing with the Law and the Prophets in complete unity. However, rather than pay attention to the miracle, to absorb its grandeur and holiness, to let it encompass and infill him, Peter reacts practically, paying attention to his own concepts of what the miracle needed, offering his own take on the situation. How often do we not pay attention to the miracle around us, instead taking the opportunity to pursue our own agenda? How often have we ignored the splendor of the new morning, the rising of the sun, the cry of the new baby, the wisdom of the old, the existence of hope in dreadful circumstances, the word spoken to us by Scripture or by the teacher or preacher. These are miracles designed for us, that God has let us participate in, and we walk right past them daily, paying no attention at all.

So, will today be any different? I hope so, because Noah does not belong in the fish and because I don’t need to be so wrapped up in myself that I am not paying attention. What about you?


*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 1:1-10, 18-27.


© 2012 GBF

Bread – Contrary

July 4, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, July 4 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 22:41-23:12; Rom. 7:13-25; Matt. 21:33-46; Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130


Do we act contrary to God? Probably in more ways than we can imagine. The focus today however is a particular point of contrariness, where we attempt to curse what God has blessed.

For example, God has blessed marriage between a man and a woman. And yet we curse marriage all the time. Inside of marriage we curse it when we want out. Outside of marriage we curse it when we help marriages break up. As a society we curse it when we make it easier and easier to break up what God has blessed. As a culture we curse it when we say there is a better, more inclusive way – civil unions or the redefinition of marriage as a union between two people, whether or not the couple is a man and a woman.

As another example, it is clear that God has blessed this country. Yet we curse the blessing every day in the way we treat each other, the way we ignore our obligations as citizens, the way we refuse to learn the underpinnings of economy and liberty, when we don’t vote, when we take from others what we could earn ourselves, when we pass off our duty of love to the government, where there is no love, so that we don’t have to personally mess with it.

Why bring this up today? Part of it is because this is July 4th, where we supposedly celebrate the blessing. But the big reason is because this topic is raised by our Scripture readings today.

In Numbers, Balaam has now been induced by the king of Moab to come and curse Israel. Balaam makes a big show and then goes off to a quiet place to listen to the Lord. After he returns, he blesses Israel instead. What he says applies to our discussion – “How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?” Num. 23:8. Here we have an example of contrariness to the world based upon trust in God. Balaam has been paid by Moab’s king to do a job, he has come to do that job, and he is surrounded by Moab soldiers and citizens. This is not a good place (in worldly eyes) to say “No.” But that is just what Balaam does. He stands with the Lord’s instructions, with His truth, and with His blessing. He refuses to curse what God has blessed. In so doing he has acted contrary to the world and in line with God. He will not oppose what God has blessed.

In Matthew, Jesus speaks of the vineyard and the tenants. The father owns the vineyard and lets the tenants occupy it in exchange for the tenants using the blessing and returning a portion of the blessing to God. The tenants decide to keep it themselves, despising the blessing and in the process cursing both the blessing and God. God sends them prophets and righteous people who represent Him, and the tenants kill them all. Finally, God sends His Son, thinking that the people will honor such a great blessing. The tenants in turn kill the Son, believing that by getting rid of this person that the curse on the blessing will be complete and they will inherit the vineyard. Instead, of course, God takes their contrariness, their rebellion, for what it is and destroys them.

Supporting who and what God has blessed may be dangerous in the circumstances, because society does not want the things of God and you may be surrounded by people who hate Who you stand for and What you stand for. Being contrary to Satan is not fun, but being contrary to God is worse. The contrarians who held the vineyard against God, who despised the blessing which God has given them and cursed it instead, ended up being themselves cursed by God and put to a “miserable death.” Matt. 21:41

We are always contrary to something. If we choose the good we are contrary to the bad. If we choose life we are contrary to death. If we choose the ways of the world we are contrary to the ways of God. If we are contrary to the blessing then we are cursing the blessing.

There is no neutrality. So, who and what are you contrary to? Answering that question will also tell you whether you are cursing what God has blessed.


© 2012 GBF

Bread – Undivided

September 26, 2011

Readings for Monday, September 26, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: 2 Kings 17:24-41; 1 Cor. 7:25-31; Matt. 6:25-34; Psalm 89


“Give me you undivided attention!” Have we ever had that said to us (perhaps as a little child)? Have we ever said it to someone (like our own children)?

If we as parents can be so frustrated when our children are not listening to us because they are paying attention to something or someone else, can you imagine how aggravated our Lord must be when we do not give Him our undivided attention?

In today’s readings from 2 Kings, Paul’s first letter to Corinth, and the Gospel of Matthew, we have three examples of how and when our attention becomes divided, how and when we lose focus on God.

The three examples are (a) other gods, (b) other people, and (c) ourselves. As we read these passages, it is appropriate to ask ourselves how many different ways does our attention upon God and His glory and wishes for us become scattered and divided, to ask ourselves how often this has happened already today.

In 2 Kings, the king of Babylon (Assyria) has resettled Samaria with non-Jews. The situation facing the people is that they are getting killed by a bunch of lions sent by God because, according to the Assyrian reporter, “The people … do not know what the god of that country [Samaria] requires. He has sent lions among them … because the people do not know what he requires.” 2 Kings 17:26. What do we do when we don’t know something? We go hire an expert. That is what the king of Assyria did; he found a priest to go explain to the people what the “god of that country” demanded.

Now what is funny about this (and tragic at the same time) is that the priest did his job. He taught the people that God requires that they “not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them.” 2 Kings 17:35. However, the people in the land “worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” 2 Kings 17:33.

How many of us do the same thing? We have been brought into the church from the world. How often do we worship the Lord on Sunday, only to worship our own gods (money, power, ourselves, work, play, good looks) [the customs of the world] the rest of the time?

So, in 2 Kings, we are taught that our first major source of divided interests, of divided attention, is the existence of other gods and our service to those other gods “in accordance with the customs of the nations.”

In our reading today from 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses marriage in the context of the Corinthian situation and suggests that marriage not be automatically sought because it creates divided loyalties. He says “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided.” 1 Cor. 7:32-34. The point here does not involve so much marriage as it does other people; when we are bound to other people our interests and attentions are divided. When we are paying attention to our spouse, we are not paying attention to the Lord. When we are paying attention to someone else, we are not paying attention to the Lord.

Because we live among people with different degrees of affinity and affiliation, the fact is that our attention will always be divided, unless we (a) acknowledge it (and see it for what it is) and (b) work hard to counter-act it. One way we can help this division of attention is to constantly ask ourselves whether we, in interacting with the other person, are acting like Christ to that person, whether we are abiding in Christ. While, then, we are attending to the other we are also attending to Christ. We are then “piggybacking” on our divided attention to refocus our attention where it needs to be. Unless we do what Paul suggests, withdraw from personal relationships, divided attention will always exist; however, by recognizing what is happening we can act in the power of the Holy Spirit to help us effectively deal with it.

The third place we can become divided from attending to our Lord is ourselves. Our reading today from Matthew is the teaching on worry. Jesus tells us not to worry because God has it under control. Why worry about worry? Because it divides us from the power source, from God Himself. What is the first thing that happens when we worry – we ask ourselves how we are going to fix it. (What can I do to fix ….?) Jesus reminds us simply that if our undivided focus is first on “His kingdom” and “His righteousness,” “all these things [the things we worry about] will be given to [us] as well.” Matt. 6:33.

Other gods, other people, our personal situation – which of these today divides your attention and takes you away from undivided focus upon God’s kingdom and God’s holiness and righteousness? There is no answer but one. “But seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and other gods will be cast off as irrelevant. “But seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and we can see people through the eyes of Jesus and deal with them firmly grounded in truth and love. “But seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and those things about ourselves we are concerned about will be handled.

The way we remain undivided is to seek first things first. “Seek His kingdom and His righteousness” and the “divi” words – divided, division, divisiveness – will disappear into the woodwork.

And wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to begin the week!


Bread – Hardness

July 27, 2011

Readings for Wednesday, July 27, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 3:22-39; Acts 16:16-24; Mark 6:47-56; Psalms 72, 119:73-96


What causes us to be or become hardened?

In today’s readings we have three examples from Scripture of hardened hearts, resulting in behavior which is opposite the virtue which is desired.

In 2 Samuel, we read about David, Joab, and Abner. Abner was David’s enemy and supported the forces of Saul against David. However, recognizing that God had appointed David, Abner offered to come before David. Instead of killing Abner, David set out a feast for Abner and his men, David released Abner and “he went in peace.” 2 Sam. 3:21-23. David forgave Abner and there was peace between them. Joab, however, hated Abner and arranged to kill him. Even though David told Joab that Abner was released to go in peace, Joab held onto his anger, did not forgive him, and arranged to kill him, which he did. Joab’s heart was hardened against Abner and it was hardened against his king David. As a result of his hardness of heart, he could not forgive Abner and instead committed murder. Here, hardness comes from anger, hate, and a spirit of unforgiveness; the virtue lost is peace.

In Acts, we read about the possessed servant girl who so bothered Paul (by shouting out the truth – “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Acts 16:17) that he ordered the demon to leave her, leaving her free but bereft of her ability to predict the future (fortune-telling). Her masters, “realizing that their hope of making money was gone (Acts 16:19),” stirred up the city and had Paul and Silas thrown in jail. Instead of focusing on Paul and Silas, let’s focus on the masters of the demon-possessed fortune-teller. Why would they keep her in bondage and resent the fact that she was set free by God? In this case, the masters’ hearts were hardened by economics. They made money from the girl’s unfortunate state; she was different and they made money from that difference, so why change it? Their greed hardened their hearts against their neighbor’s best interest. They would have the girl imprisoned (by Satan) for life, but failing that they were content to have Paul and Silas imprisoned. Here, hardness comes from greed; the virtue lost is freedom.

In Mark, the disciples are on the boat in the stormy waters. We are all familiar with this event. Jesus passes by walking on the water and the disciples forgot he was a ghost. Mark explains their confusion by saying this – “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” Mk. 6:52. What caused their hearts to be hardened against Jesus? What caused their hearts to be hardened against the possibility and reality of miracles, when they had just witnessed one and were in the middle of another? I daresay it was their prior training, their prior education, their existing prejudices, their “scientific” personality that it is not real unless you can describe it and reproduce it, their predisposition. Here, hardness comes from predisposition; the virtue lost is amazement, wonder, excitement, and recognition of who God is and who we are in comparison to Him. The virtue lost is the right view of ourselves and the clear view of God’s power, glory, holiness, and love.

So, you probably can guess the question. What hardens your heart today from the realization of all that God has in store for you? What blinders are you wearing? What predisposition have you succumbed to?

And having a hardened heart, a heart of stone, what have you lost? Love? Freedom? Amazement? Beauty? Peace?

Come, Holy Spirit, help us.


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