God’s Testing Room

cypress grove

His testing room of suffering!

(John MacDuff)

I have tested you in the furnace of affliction!” Isaiah 48:10

I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point, and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in a great ship, or building, or bridge. He knew this, because his testing room revealed it.

It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like fragile vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel–able to bear twisting and stretching and crushing to the uttermost, without collapse.

He wants us to be, not hot-house plants–but storm-beaten oaks. He wants us to be, not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind–but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms! To make us such, He needs to bring us into His testing room of suffering.

Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds—because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

“When He has tested me—I will come forth as gold!” Job 23:10

from www.gracegems.org

This is such an important lesson for us to learn and be completely at peace with. The more we find we are being tested, the more we should give thanks, because in the process, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. We are not intended to be fragile hot-house flowers, but like palm trees and the cedars of Lebanon, standing straight, unwavering and tall—reaching up to Him in the midst of any storm. No tree withstands a hurricane like a palm tree, and the cedars of Lebanon, which symbolize strength and magnificence, are extremely durable and were used to built ships, the Temple and King Solomon’s palace. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Psalm 92:12

The image is of a cypress grove, another very durable tree that can withstand floods—the wood which God directed Noah to use to build the arc. “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” Genesis 6:14.

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Pray Earnestly

anhinga at sunrise silhouette5x7

He prayed earnestly!

(Frederick Marsh)

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly . . . ” James 5:17

The thing which made Elijah pray as he did, was the man that he was. When our Great High Priest comes with the lighted torch of His grace, and ignites the wood of our being into a holy flame–then the sweet-smelling fragrance of our requests ascend acceptably to God, and bring down the benediction of His love.

The art of prayer, is a sense of desperate need! There must be a sense of need, and an earnest desire to have that need met.
“Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.”

Prayer is a sin-killer. No one can sin and pray; for prayer will either make us cease from sin–or sin will make us cease from prayer.

Prayer is a power-bringer. It is the hand which touches the hem of the garment of Divine grace, and causes the life which is in the Divine One to flow into us.

Prayer is a victory-giver. Bunyan’s Christian found that the weapon of “all-prayer” was sufficient to wound and defeat the adversary who would stop him in his progress as a pilgrim.

Prayer is a holiness-promoter. It is like the gentle dew which falls upon the thirsty plants and causes them to be refreshed and to fructify.

Prayer is a dispute-adjuster. Let any two brethren who are at loggerheads get on their knees, and ask the Lord about any disputed matter–and they will find the Lord saying to their troubled spirits, “Peace, be still.”

Prayer is an obstacle-remover, as Peter found when an angel came in answer to the prayers of the saints, and delivered him from the prison of Herod’s hate.

Prayer is a Christ-revealer, for it clarifies our vision, and enables us to see unseen spiritual realities.

Prayer is the secret of a holy life! We cannot do without prayer. The spiritual life is born in prayer–and it flourishes, and is strong, as it lives in that same atmosphere!

It is not the arithmetic of our prayers–how many they are;
nor the rhetoric of our prayers–how eloquent they are;
nor the geometry of our prayers–how long they are;
nor the music of our prayers–how sweet our voice may be;
nor the logic of our prayers–how proper they may be;
nor the method of our prayers–how orderly they may be;
nor even the theology of our prayers–how good the doctrine may be,
which God cares for. It is only fervency in prayer, which will make a man prevalent with God. Fervent prayer hits the mark, and pierces the walls of Heaven! “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!” James 5:16

from www.gracegems.org

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Wings of Faith

swan bathing

THEN JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES, “IF ANYONE WOULD COME AFTER ME, HE MUST DENY HIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME.” ( MATTHEW 16:24)

We all have crosses to bear in this life.  Perhaps your cross  may seen like a heavy one, however if you look around you will  find others carrying a much larger one. Therefore when your “Cross” seems to heavy remember  that God is there helping you carry it.  After all God has said:

 “NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.”  ( HEBREWS 13:5 )

So put your faith in God, and remember that Jesus said,
“DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED.  TRUST IN GOD; TRUST ALSO IN ME.  (JOHN 14:1)

Then let the wings of faith uphold you.

May the wings of faith uphold you
When your cross is hard to bear,
As temptations surround you,
And no one seems to care.
May the wings of faith surround you
And shield you from the pain
When sorrows overcome you
And teardrops fall like rain.
May you know that God is with you
In times of deep despair.
May the spirit, who’s within you,
Confirm that He is there!
May the valley of the shadow
Provide angels unaware…
May the wings of faith uphold you
When your cross is hard to bear.

Poet, Clay Harrison

http://www.godsminute.org

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Stop Believing in God (For my Atheist and Agnostic Friends)

Stop Believing in God

Atheist (A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods, or one who believes that God does not exist.)

Agnostic (A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.)

This recent book was written, I thought, to primarily speak to people who identify themselves as Christians, but live their lives believing in rather than knowing God. After reading these quotes by a well-known agnostic and atheist, I think it was written for them as well. These are dictionary definitions–I have had a hard time getting atheists I know to give a personal definition of what they believe or do not believe, and why. American Atheists (www.atheists.org) state that “atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.” Using their definition, I guess I could call myself an atheist, since I also lack belief in gods, and goddesses too; however I do personally know the one true and living God.

Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences, and presenter of popular PBS show “Cosmos”. He did not identify himself as an atheist or an agnostic, but based on his stated beliefs, he was more agnostic than atheist. These are some quotes by Sagan.

An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no God.” Sagan obviously never read the American Atheists’ definition of atheism, which says nothing about knowing anything, only about lacking belief in. We know from this quote that Sagan did not consider himself an atheist, and did not even know the correct definition of one. Had he known, maybe he would have become a member. For $35 you can become a member and attend conventions, Atheist Pride marches at state capitals, and other atheist focused events.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” So true—and that incredible something waiting to be known is God. Unfortunately, Sagan spent his life believing in sciences, but never came to know God—although from these quotes, he knew at his soul level, but refused to acknowledge at his limited scientific mind level.

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” No scientist could ever create the universe, or even create an apple from scratch. No thing can be created except as a re-creation, reconstruction or re-purposing of something that has already been created. No man ever has or ever will be able to create something from nothing. That ability belongs exclusively to the Creator of all.

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.” This quote by Sagan is such a wonderful confirmation of the truth contained in this book. From the time we are children, our own parents, teachers, and others we look to for truth about life, intentionally and unintentionally lead us astray by presenting us with all sorts of false and deceptive things to believe in. Beliefs are fickle, changeable things. Throughout our lifetimes, our beliefs are constantly being challenged and often proven to be untrue—that goes for our beliefs in the sciences, religion, politics, history, country, government, friends, spouses, parents, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, tooth fairies and pixie dust, to name just a few. As one belief is disproved, people who do not know God look for the next thing they can believe in, that can give their life meaning and purpose, if only for a little while.

The following quotes are by Stephen Hawking: the first from a 2007 interview with BBC News; the second and third are from his book The Theory of Everything.

I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” I find this quote by Hawking, an avowed atheist, to be wonderful on two levels. First, he speaks from the level of what he believes (that “deep-seated need to believe” that Sagan spoke of), not what he knows. Second, he acknowledges God, who he says he lacks belief in (assuming he abides by American Atheist’s definition). How can someone who lacks belief in the existence of God say that the laws of science may have been decreed by Him, but that God does not intervene to break His own laws? In his book The Grand Design, Mr. Hawking says: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” I wonder where Mr. Hawking thinks the law of gravity came from, and is that not one of the laws of science decreed by God that he spoke of in his BBC interview? It is sad that a mere man who is deemed to be smart by the insignificant standards of worldly knowledge of men, can lead others to believe even the most damning theories. Just because they believe him to be smarter, they will follow him to eternal damnation. But then look at what Hitler, a psychopathic narcissist, was able to encourage people to do and believe, as well as Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin and many others throughout human history.

A scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations. It exists only in our minds. So it does not have any meaning to ask: Which is real, ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’ time? It is simply a matter of which is a more useful description.” A theory is “a supposition (an uncertain belief) or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” There is no absolute knowing with science—it is nothing more than an uncertain belief, which is changeable with the introduction of new observations that contradict and disprove previously held theories. As for time, it is a construct that only applies or has significance to us on this little blip in the physical realm. In eternity, time has no purpose.

If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would be neither created nor destroyed. It would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?” I particularly love this Hawking quote, as it so beautifully describes God, who has no beginning or end. Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God, of course, is so much greater than the universe as we know it or could ever know it, and is impossible for man to quantify—which must bug the living daylights out of Mr. Hawking.

I was thinking about the many people I know and love who call themselves atheists. Not all, but most grew up in homes where the religion of Catholicism was practiced—some even went to parochial schools. Knowing this about them makes it easier to understand how they can self-identify as atheists—they never got to know God personally—they were not encouraged to read and study God’s Word, they were never taught to follow the Way God clearly lays out in His manual for us to know Him and be in relationship with Him, through Jesus and Jesus alone. They were being told by mere imperfect men that they could only reach God by going through them and practicing legalism. It is no wonder they ran from religion; but in the process, they ran from God, and from their salvation. Once someone comes to know God, there is no unknowing Him. We can, however stop believing in all sorts of things, especially those things we are taught to believe which are follies, or downright manipulative deceptions intended to control and lead us astray. Many churches, not just the Catholic Church, have led multitudes astray with their non-biblical “religious”, pagan teachings, legalism, traditions and practices. That is why God repeats over and over again throughout His Word, “Know Me”—He is God, His existence is in no way predicated on our believing in Him. His desire is that we know Him, personally and intimately. He calls us to know Him, and the only way we can know Him and walk in relationship with Him, is to know Jesus, who He sent so that we might know and be reconciled with Him. He cannot be known intellectually; He cannot be proved or disproved by science, argument or debate. He can only be known Spirit to spirit, at the level of our true and eternal essence, that part of us that was created in His image. John 4:23-24 “But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

There is one thing we must all agree on, and that is that all of us will die—some sooner, some later, but we will all die (except those followers of Jesus who are alive at the time of His return). Whether you believe in Him or not, everyone will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account for their lives and the choice they made concerning Him. Those who chose to be in relationship with Him in this life through Jesus Christ will be with Him for eternity, made pure and redeemed by our acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Those who chose not to be in relationship with Him in life have chosen not to be in relationship with Him for eternity, and will be cast into outer darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. We have been given free will to choose where we want to spend eternity. Hebrews 9:27-28 “And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.” Be eagerly awaiting Him—you could die at any moment, and he could return at any moment. Psalm 103:14-16 “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.”

Stop Believing in God

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God’s Glory

Gods glorious morning at niles pond

John 11:40 “Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Revelation 19:1 “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God;”
Habakkuk 3:4 “His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power.”
Psalm 104:1 “Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty,”
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 13:31-32 “Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.'”
John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
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The Master

Gods glorious morning

What artist could ever even begin to claim such mastery over light, color, shape, form, beauty and dramatic magnificence—ever changing, never to be seen again the same way, and there for the enjoyment of whoever takes the time to look and see. Our God is awesome.

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Our Light

sunrise walker at good harbor

Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LordHear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

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Our Rock

bass rocks in fog

Psalm 62:2 “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Of course, there are times in life when we are shaken; but they are always the times that we have taken our eyes off of Him and focused on our circumstances instead.

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His Loving Kindness and Tender Mercies

mom on ardelle

HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER, SO THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG IN THE LAND THE LORD YOUR GOD IS GIVING YOU.” Exodus 20:12. The Fifth Commandment is the first one with a promise attached to it.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, when we know God, we are secure in our relationship with Him. We know He has everything under control. We know He loves and cares for us, we know we are His children, we know He showers us with loving kindness and tender mercies. We know He has redeemed us from the pit and that we will be with Him through eternity. He gives us peace and joy and comfort. He supplies our every need. He shelters us, protects us and hides us under His wing. There is no greater relationship we could have or ask for in life.

This is my mother, Jean, who is my dearest Christian sister, friend and mother turned daughter. Although physically fit and well, she has been suffering from worsening dementia for a number of years. I had been caring for her, and then in December God led for her to move from the lovely, but tiny and quirky apartment we were living together in on Rocky Neck to an assisted care facility in the town she had lived in most of her life, and where my siblings and I had grown up. Over the winter, she was secure, well cared for and close to friends and her 50+ year church family,  who jumped right in to take her to choir practice so she could continue to sing in the choir on Sundays (she so loves to sing), and I was free to do the work God was calling me to do over the winter—painting the Revelation Series paintings and writing four devotional books.

Over the past couple of months, it became increasingly obvious that Mom was not doing well—her care was sliding at the facility—she was overweight, under-exercised, her blood pressure was skyrocketing, she was depressed and unhappy. This past Wednesday I went to visit her and was confronted with a “straw that broke the camels back” issue concerning her care. I knew I had to get her out of there, but I also knew I couldn’t bring her back to my tiny apartment. In an amazing, mind-blowing display of His power and intimate loving kindness and tender mercies, the next day God led me to the house I was to rent—a gracious old but meticulously maintained 4 bedroom, 2 bath Victorian overlooking the harbor, which mom so dearly loves, at a monthly cost less than half of what the facility was costing, with space for family to come visit her, stay and enjoy the beauty of Gloucester, while Mom still remembers who we are. Three days after I knew she had to move, the lease was signed and she will move out of the facility and into her new home on September 1. Last week we had gone to see her doctor and he had asked what she was up to. She said: “Nothing, but when I have been very good, my daughter takes me up to Gloucester where I can sit and look at the ocean.” Now she will be able to look at the ocean to her heart’s content.

God is so awesome in His love and caring for us, down to the most minute and precious detail, if we just put our complete faith in Him to take care of us. He knows so much better than we do what will bring the greatest joy to our hearts, and He so loves being able to give good gifts to us. We just have to have faith in Him and follow His lead.

Preparing for this transition is going require most of my time and energy, so posts may be a little sparse for the next couple of weeks.

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Knowing God Through Relationship

backshore sunrise in fog awesome

When we know God, we are secure in our relationship with Him. We know He has everything under control. We know He loves and cares for us, we know we are His children, we know He showers us with loving kindness and tender mercies. We know He has redeemed us from the pit and that we will be with Him through eternity. He gives us peace and joy and comfort. He supplies our every need. He shelters us, protects us and hides us under His wing. There is no greater relationship we could have or ask for in life. We love, praise and exalt Him, and if we are walking closely with Him, He is our last thought before we drop off to sleep, He is our first thought as we wake in the morning, and He is there with us all through the night and day.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 4:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered for ever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” Psalm 112:6-8

Psalm 34:17-19  “The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

Isaiah 40:31  “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Psalm 86:15  “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Romans 8:38-39  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:31-32  “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Octavius Winslow (1808 –1878)

“Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5

“The religion of the Lord Jesus is valuable only as its power is experienced in the heart. In this respect, and in this only, it may be compared to the physical sciences, which, however ingenious in structure, or beautiful in theory—yet, if not reduced or reducible to purposes of practical use, are of little worth. It is so with the truth of Jesus.

The man of mere taste may applaud its external beauty, the philosopher may admire its ethics, the orator may admire its eloquence, and the poet may admire its sublimity—but if the Spirit of God does not take His own truth, and impress it upon the heart, as to the great design of its revelation—it avails nothing.

What numbers there are who rest in the mere ‘theory’ of Christianity! But as a practical principle—they know nothing of it. As a thing experienced in the heart—it is a hidden mystery to them. They speak well of it as a religious system; they believe its Divinity, and even defend its doctrines and extol its precepts—yet make no approaches towards a personal and practical obedience to its claims. In a word, they know nothing of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. It will surely appear to a spiritually-enlightened mind, a subject of vast and solemn importance that this delusion should be exposed—that this foundation of sand should be undermined—and that the absolute necessity of experimental religion, as necessary to an admission within the kingdom of glory, be strenuously and scripturally enforced.”

The words Octavius Winslow wrote back in the late 1800’s are as true today as they were then—maybe more so, because we are now nearer to the kingdom of glory. He was one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America. We desperately need more preachers like him today. You can find more teachings like this if you visit the Grace Gems website www.gracegems.org.

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