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Striving: Focusing on God’s Glory to Share His Love

Striving to show others the love of God is not what was ever intended by our Creator. We often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love.



Flowers.

I would have never guessed that flowers would be the last straw. You know, the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I might have expected it to be the dress; or maybe even the food, but certainly not the flowers.

In striving to show others God's love, we often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #righteousness #striving #joy #peace

Striving for the Wedding

Our wedding was quickly approaching. My fiancé and I had been working diligently at planning a simple, yet elegant wedding. It had been really well! There were some stressful moments, sure, but generally, it was pretty easy and enjoyable.

Until it wasn’t…

With a cart full of flowers and one attempt after the other to keep this expense as small as possible, the reality finally set in. Flowers are simply a large cost, regardless of my greatest efforts.

And that’s when things started spiraling.

God’s Love, Not Ours

From Day 1 of our engagement, my fiancé and I have been set on using this special day to display God’s love story more than our own. 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 has been a bedrock verse for us in this season of life. Constantly serving as a reminder that it is Christ’s love that compels us and not our own. 

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV

That doesn’t mean the hype of wedding planning hasn’t crowded my thoughts though. Over the last several weeks, from reserving venues to deciding on our bridal party; from wedding dress shopping to premarital counseling, the wedding has been at the forefront of my thoughts.

Understandable as this may be, when I found myself crying over a $20 purchase of ugly flowers that didn’t match my vision but fit the budget, I realized that some things had gotten out of line.

Approaching God’s Word

Sometimes we read passages like 2 Corinthians 5 with the right idea, but still just slightly off from its original meaning. God’s Word is perfect, flawless, and infallible, but that doesn’t mean its readers are. Which is why it is so important we approach the Word of God wisely and with diligent devotion to understanding it correctly.

Thank God for His grace in this though, because we don’t always do this well. 

I realized that I was focusing so much on the ‘no longer living for myself’ part that I missed the ‘living for Him’ part. I’ve been so preoccupied with trying to be selfless with my time and money in the fine details; trying to make it a day that displays Christ more than myself that I neglected the condition of my heart in doing so.

Living for Him

Romans 14:17 tells us that ‘the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.’

When we consider the context of this passage, Paul is encouraging the believers in Rome to discern religion from relationship. It does not matter if someone eats food that is clean or unclean according to the Law. With Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father in absolute victory over sin and death, it is no longer about following the written code. However, about growing in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And, thus, serving Christ with such a heart.

We could have the greatest, most pure motives, yet if our hearts are not resting in the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Jesus Christ, then regardless of what we do or how well we do it, we’ll be missing the point.

We could have the greatest, most pure motives, yet if our hearts are not resting in the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Jesus Christ, then regardless of what we do or how well we do it, we’ll be missing the point. Click To Tweet

Striving To Do What’s Been Done

I don’t believe that God gets angry or disappointed with us when we get distracted like this. I truly believe He delights in our efforts and our diligence to glorify Him rather than ourselves. However, I believe it saddens Him when we strive so hard to do what He has already done.

Christ is glorious. That’s a fact and it will never change. He doesn’t need us to make Him glorious. He simply is. Yet He invites us to join in the blessing of sharing that with others. But when we attempt to do this in our own strength, we stray from what truly pleases the Lord.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Psalm 147:10-11, NIV

The greatest attempts at pointing others to Christ or at seeking to glorify Him rather than ourselves, if done without an appropriate fear of the Lord and hope in His unfailing love, remains empty.

So as our desire may be to use our wedding day as a display of God’s greater love story more than our own, by God’s grace He gently reminded me, through tears and a weary heart, that I need to first see Him. See Him as glorious and worthy before effectively displaying that to others.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us plainly that we are to ‘guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it.’ If our hearts are not resting and focusing on the glory of Christ and His unfathomable love for us, then any attempt on our part to display that to others will be tainted and ineffective.

A Place of Hope

Is there something that you have been trying so hard to do right, but feel like you’re still running in circles?

Do you feel no matter how great your efforts to honor and glorify God are, you still come up short and exhausted?

Sister, this is not how it is supposed to be. Looking at the glory of God through the grace of Jesus and pointing others to it was never intended to exhaust us. It was meant to rejuvenate, refresh, and fill us to the brim (Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 19:7-9).

Take a moment today and evaluate your heart. Are your attempts coming from a place of hope or striving? Righteousness or regret? Peace or panic? Joy or duty?

God loves it when you desire to serve Him (John 12:26), but He delights even more in a heart that is aligned with His; in a heart that finds righteousness, peace and joy in Him alone.

In striving to show others God's love, we often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #righteousness #striving #joy #peace

unsplash-logoJez Timms
glory, God’s character, important, righteousness, significance, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Significance: Finding True Meaning from the God Who Created You

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. In this quest, the lines can become blurred and the goal of becoming Christ-like may morph into making ourselves like the Most High. The shift is subtle and may begin with good intentions. What do you do when you realize you’ve been going at it all wrong?



From childhood I have been comforted by the power and security of the Lord, specifically, that spoken of in the Psalms. Reading, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8, ESV) has been a precious assurance of the goodness and nearness of God to me.

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. The lines can blur and the goal of becoming Christ-like morphs into making ourselves more important. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #glory #GodsCharacter #important #significant

Learned Significance

This past spring I took a systematic theology class. Part of the requirements directed me to read Psalm 145 and Isaiah 40 four times a week for several weeks. On the first day, I smiled at Isaiah 40:1 where I had written “store up comfort” next to it. It references a devotion from Streams in the Desert (January 11) which talks about the costliness and necessity of suffering. It is not for the purpose of our own comfort, but that we may learn how to comfort others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV

Significance Questioned

However, as I read aloud from Isaiah 40 I came to a halt at the end of verse 17.

All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Isaiah 40:17, ESV

It struck me: “they” signifies me. Suddenly my sense of significance was challenged. My thoughts raced to verses that speak of my value to God, but even those did not hold the same soothing power as they once had in my mind. For instance, when I thought of Psalm 139:14, I realized I had not previously focused on key parts of that verse:

I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14 , ESV

Praise belongs to God and His works are wonderful. Being created is glorious, but it is only glorious because of the powerful Creator. What I had known since birth was that God is great. I grew up in a Christian home with two parents who loved each other and taught me the Word. That was grace. I became a Christian when I was young—also grace, and I married a follower of Jesus. More grace. To be more specific, it was all undeserved grace. I thought of another familiar verse:

Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who has made us, and we are His.

Psalm 100:3, ESV

Significance Misled

The version I learned growing up says “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;” (NASB). Cringing, my eyes were opened to the fact that I had been viewing myself in an us-versus-them category. I had placed so much significance on my decision to choose God that it was completely unbalanced.

After all, Jesus said in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Could it be that all this time I had read Scripture from a vantage point of deservedness? For years I had been content with saying I am a child of God; relishing His protection, blessings, and by His grace, learning to take joy in my suffering. My understanding of the grace I had received turned out to be laced with entitlement. Gross.

Seemed Pointlessness

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

I had somehow bypassed this exhortation Paul sent to the church at Ephesus so, when I read through passages like Isaiah 40, it hadn’t previously occurred to me that I needed to read it addressed to myself. God used the class to boldly expose my creatureliness to me in such a way that I was unable to turn away.

By the end of it, reading through Psalm 145 and Isaiah 40 proved to be an anchor while hearing and reading about God’s sovereignty, human freedom, God’s attributes, and His purposes. Initially, I thought, how can the nations be “less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17), yet “He gives power to the faint” (verse 29)? For days I wrestled with the seeming pointlessness of it all. Humankind appeared to be like the “Whos in Who-ville” floating on a speck.

Goodness Evidenced

Nonetheless, I knew of God’s total and infinite goodness…at least to me. To name a few evidences, I had experienced God’s goodness in the restoration of my marriage, in the death and new life of my son, and in the extraordinary rescue of my daughter. In the depths of the aforementioned situations, I had little to no control beyond prayer. They taught me to rely on God and to be able to say with conviction, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

I also felt a measure of invincibility, which is not completely untrue as a child of God when viewed correctly, for nothing can pluck me from God’s hand (John 10:28). Unfortunately, I took too much credit and my view of God’s supremacy was skewed.

Blind Contentedness

Until recently, I turned a blind eye when it came to understanding God’s very real and very present wrath towards evil because I could not explain it. Like so many others, I was satisfied to focus on God’s nearness and grace to me and just nod my head like a robot at His transcendence.

That is to say, I didn’t care to search for understanding (for what might I find?!), so I quickly placed any questions in the “God has a plan because He’s God” category. I politely closed that door and ran back to my significance blanket. After all, God is great, right?! But I was at a standstill. I knew more now, and I now knew better, but I didn’t like it because I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

God’s Sovereignty

The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.

Psalm 145:9, ESV

This verse, in particular, did not line up in my mind with God bringing “princes to nothing,” and that He makes “the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Isaiah 40:23), and “all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20). My soul had never been so perplexed! I asked God, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him” (Psalm 8:4)?

I discovered a spirit of pride in myself I thought had been extinguished. I’d resigned to seeking answers about God’s authority because I was afraid it may threaten my personal significance. Instead, I dwelt on being chosen and loved, but was blind to my fearful unbelief. True worship is not offering praise from a spirit of resignation and superiority. Alternatively, praising God for who He is and what He has done is glorifying when it is done in truth.

True Significance

Yes; God is infinite and we are finite. God has need of nothing. He is not lonely. He does not need praise or love from us, whereas we do need His love and we are very much alone without Him. But the reality of God’s autonomy (or lack of need) does not mean we are unimportant and meaningless. One of the books I read helped me grasp this: The answer to my nothingness lies in the comparison, not in the value and significance God has placed on creation.

We are in fact very meaningful because God has created us and He has determined that we would be meaningful to Him. That is the final definition of genuine significance.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem

I journaled this toward the end of my class: You absolutely matter to God because He chose for you to be meaningful to Him. But you are not the point. You are not the center; God is. So then, your significance lies in the fact that He determined to make you and to delight in you; and for that to honor Himself.

You and I have the privilege to meditate on the glorious splendor of God’s majesty and His wondrous works every single day (Psalm 145:5). To Him, there is no comparison. God is the only One who can promise to save the ones who love Him (Psalm 145:20). He numbers and names the stars (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 147:4). The Lord is good to all, yet He is also righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:9, 17). So, let us say with John:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30, ESV
You are not the center; God is. So then, your significance lies in the fact that He determined to make you and to delight in you; and for that to honor Himself. Click To Tweet

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. The lines can blur and the goal of becoming Christ-like morphs into making ourselves more important. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #glory #GodsCharacter #important #significant

unsplash-logoIvan Di
desperate, abuse, forgiveness, mercy, redeemed, redemption

Desperate: God’s Redemption Covers Our Messes

God has heard the cry of women throughout history. Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God’s redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.



Throughout the holiday season a song by Pentatonix has been playing both in my home and on the radio called “Good to Be Bad.” If you are a fan of the group, I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s a fun tune that causes a smile to light your face – I imagine kids love it for its message! In fact, my husband has teased me throughout the season, saying it reminds him of me. I can’t imagine where he would get that idea!

Nevertheless, despite the silliness around the song, it spurred me to ruminate over the bad girls of the Bible, as Liz Curtis Higgs named them in her 2013 book. To be honest, it further spurred me. My thoughts first turned in that direction in early December when our pastor preached a sermon from Genesis 38 about Tamar, a daughter-in-law of Judah.

Now ladies, let’s be clear; I am a Baptist girl, raised in a Southern Baptist church, attended 2 Baptist colleges, even a short stint at Southern Seminary, so let’s just say that I had heard of Tamar. I practically drowned in Biblical theology and doctrine! But let me tell you girlfriends, this gal had never heard, at least not in my remembrance, that for Tamar, it was good to be bad.

How do I know?

Check out the lineage of Jesus…she’s there, a couple of lines above Rahab, the harlot.

In fact, as my pastor, Jamaal Williams, was stating, Jesus’ heritage is comprised of the very people He came to save! In addition, Pastor Jamaal reminded me of an important truth, which I believe conservative Christians too often forget when we become wrapped up in the doctrine of the “Thou Shalt Not’s“: God is tenaciously for vulnerable women, regardless of their pasts.

You see, Tamar had been chosen to be the wife of Judah’s firstborn son, Er. No falling in love or courtship there…still isn’t acceptable today in many middle eastern countries, by the way.  However, and this is difficult for us to grasp, God chose to kill him because Er was evil in His sight, (Genesis 38:6-7). It’s very likely Tamar was abused.

As was the custom, Tamar was then given to Judah’s next son, Onan, so that Er could have an heir. Turns out, (shocker), Onan had no desire to perform such a selfless act and allowed his seed to fall on the ground. Did he really think God couldn’t see in the dark? This angered God, so he killed Onan.

Whoa.

No sons left to give; the last one was too young…and truly, the apples hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Despite the honored cultural tradition of levirate marriage, Judah had no plan to give his last son to Tamar, even though it would bring destitution and shame to her life. He didn’t want that son to die, too!

And we thought #MeToo was a new thing.

Years passed, Tamar waited, no husband was forthcoming. What’s a girl to do when she is treated unjustly? She devises a plan…and what a plan it was!

Desperate: Self-Protection

I recommend you read the story in its entirety, but to condense it: Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, tricked Judah into sleeping with her, and conceived a child. When he was first told that Tamar was pregnant, he wanted to have her burned alive. I kid you not; such was his self-righteousness and double standard of justice. However, when Tamar sent Judah proof that he was the father, uh-oh! He began to feel shame and rightly so.  He said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.”

Wouldn’t you have loved to see his face when Judah received that 11×14 envelope of proof?

This can be confusing, however. Tamar’s actions were not an act of faith, but sin. Out of desperation, she took matters into her own hands instead of trusting God to provide for her. However, Judah had power over her and chose to abuse it. For reasons we don’t fully grasp, God forgave her and used one of her sons (she had twins!) to carry the seed forward in the line that led to Christ.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Desperate: God’s Redemption

God chooses to use weak and complex people to accomplish His will. Again, refer to the genealogy of Jesus. He doesn’t excuse our sin- there must be repentance (Psalm 86:4-5), but He uses ALL things, even the consequences of our sin, to accomplish His glory (Isaiah 46:8-10).

Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Psalm 86:4-5, NKJV

In many societies today women are still treated as property, no better than dogs, really. It’s easy to judge those cultures as backward or archaic.  Yet, in the U.S. 4,774,00 women experience domestic violence by an intimate partner every day. America’s abuse of women has just been more subtle and hidden…but not from the Father.

God hates injustice and watches over the needy, the fatherless and the widow. His Word speaks clearly concerning these issues; I’m only naming two due to space (Deut. 10:18-19; Isaiah 10:1-2). When we turn our backs to these groups and gather in our Christian huddles for more Bible studies, prayer meetings, or leadership trainings, I wonder if the Father grieves, as Gene Edwards posited in his 1993 book, The Divine Romance. (There is a place for equipping; of course there is, but let us equip ourselves in order to go, not to sit and simmer.)

My prayer for you this year is the same for me, that as we love Jesus more deeply, His love will flow through us to the needy, the abused, the fatherless and the widow…and whomever He places in our paths.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.


If you have interest in the books mentioned, please consider purchasing them through these affiliate links. A small portion will go to help support this ministry at no extra cost to you (to read more about affiliates see the disclaimer page):

Bad Girls of the Bible

The Divine Romance


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He uses ALL things, even the consequences of our sin, to accomplish His glory. Click To Tweet

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Joel Filipe


We all have messes in our lives.
If we allow Him to, God will redeem our stories and make them beautiful.


loved, pursued, redeemed, beautiful, enough

Ready, Prepared, Perspective, Risks, Pursued, Loved, Strength, Faith, Glory

Get Ready

When getting ready to face the unknown, we must be prepared, change our perspective, and take risks. The Lord is loving, strong, and longs for His glory to be known.



There has been a recurring theme in my life over the past couple of weeks. And one day in particular that caught my attention. Perhaps it take multiple times of smacking me in the face with something in order for me to understand. Perhaps I need to pay attention to what is happening.

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing the Ready Study by Heather Dixon. It is a study on the book of Joshua, chapters 1-5 and teaching how to be ready when we are facing unknown circumstances. I also have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson. It’s about praying often with boldness, and is a 40 day prayer challenge. And during my runs I have been listening to Cast of Characters by Max Lucado. In this book he connects our lives with the lives of people in the Bible.

Well, on one day the phrase “Get Ready” came to my attention in 3 different ways.

First, in the study by Heather Dixon, where she says this:

I was sitting on our screened-in porch listening to the early morning songs of my backyard bird friends when God told me to get ready.

Three months after God told me to get ready, I was in the emergency room with two aneurysms. I lost 10% of my kidney tissue. Not long after that, my left carotid artery ruptured. I underwent two precarious surgeries to repair it. I was soon diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – a genetic connective tissue disorder that makes my blood vessels, arteries, and organs prone to spontaneous rupture. There is no cure for Vascular Ehlers-Danlos. There is no treatment. There is only a prescription from the doctor to prepare your bucket list and live your life well. The average life-expectancy of someone with VEDS is 48. Indeed, God wanted me to be ready for something. I am convinced that God led me to Joshua’s story as a gracious warning for what was to come. It was the truths I learned in Joshua 1-5 that helped me stay strong through months of uncertainty.

Then, later that day I was listening to a podcast where Heather was being interviewed, and I heard this segment of her story being told again, with her saying, “get ready.”

Finally, in the late afternoon as I sat down to read in Draw the Circle, I couldn’t believe my eyes when the title for day one was, “Get Ready.”

Okay Lord, I get it. It’s time to get ready.

But for what? Is it something good? Is it something bad?

I remember a time in my life where I had a similar whisper in my spirit. I can still tell you where I was when I heard it. I had this feeling of peace, and a general all-is-right-with-the-world kind of feeling. And then the feeling shifted to, what is about to come?

Wow, did life ever shift. In the following months we experienced three deaths in the family, including my mother, as well as moving to a new state with a new job and no friends. My world, and my faith, were shaken.

But this time, I say “bring it.”


Getting Ready…

Be Prepared. In the Ready Study, Heather Dixon talks about how God will prepare us for our battles beforehand. That “He does not call you where His feet have not already marched.” The Lord knows what is coming, He is not surprised. He promises to prepare us for the work to come.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

The Lord knows what is coming, and promises to prepare us for the work to come. Click To Tweet

Change Perspective. In the chapter about David in the Cast of Characters, Max Lucado shares how David could see the giant and how large he was, but more than seeing Goliath, he saw how powerful God is.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.”

1 Samuel 17:45-47

Take Risks. In Draw the Circle, Mark Batterson (who is also sharing about Joshua), challenges us to step out in faith and be willing to get our feet wet. Notice that God didn’t hold back the water and then tell them to go forward. He told them to get in the water first.

And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters…were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Joshua 3:13-17


Final Thoughts…

Do I believe God’s power is bigger than my giant?

Do I face the unknown with boldness?

I honestly do not know if I am headed toward something good, or something bad. None of us know what the day will bring. But… I do know that whatever is to come, I will be prepared for it. I do know that, even though I may not be able to handle it, God can. I do know that God wants good things for me, so if walking through difficult times will bring me closer to Him and bring glory to His name, I am willing to step out in faith.

What are you getting ready for?


PS…

These are the books I referenced, all of which I recommend:

(These are affiliate links. Which means if you purchase from that link, Oh Lord Help Us gets a small percentage at no extra charge to you. It’s not much, but it helps with the cost of keeping this blog up and running. You can read the Disclaimer page if you would like to fall asleep get more information.)

 

When getting ready to face the unknown, we must be prepared, change our perspective, and take risks. The Lord is loving, strong, and longs for His glory to be known.

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