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Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Listening As Well As I Hear

Each day at work I turn the oldies station on the radio.  The oldies station probably has fifty songs that they play over and over again.  The oldies are songs I used to listen to in the seventies and some from the eighties.  There is one song I hear every day called “The Living Years”, by Mike & the Mechanics.   The chorus has the words “You can listen as well as you hear.”  The song talks about regrets as the singers dad dies and he never told him how much of an impact he made on his life.  Those words though “You can listen as well as you hear” seems so deep and got me thinking.  First of all I am all about the lyrics in a song.  I can’t truly like a song if I don’t understand the lyrics.  Beat alone doesn’t do it for me.  The song needs to be real with meaning that I can relate to.  So I thought some more about these lyrics “you can listen as well as you hear” and then I thought about my first trip as a student to campus.

"You Can Listen As Well As You Hear" Mike & The Mechanics

You Can Listen As Well As You Hear” Mike & The Mechanics

It was student orientation in the summer of 1975 and new students were expected to spend some time on campus and get accustomed to what life would be like as a student.  I was looking forward to meeting my roommate and making a new friend with someone I had plenty in common with.  After all we both would have college in front of us and probably the same type of experiences leading up to it.  When my roommate finally entered the room one thing struck me, he was blind.  He guided himself with his cane and here I was thinking “we’ll have nothing in common.”  Our backgrounds were totally different growing up, yet having him as a roommate made me both thankful and admiring of him as a person.  His name was Paul and he had been blind since he was three.  There was another guy named Mike who was staying in the room next door.  All three of us got to know each other that night and later Mike left for the bar.  When he got back Mike was pretty well wasted.  I heard Mike’s thick tongue trying to communicate with us.  I heard,  but Paul listened.  “I’m really concerned about Mike”, he confided in me when Mike left the room.  Paul was an amazing guy as so many sightless people are.  He had to memorize the dips, roads and hills of campus while at the same time doing all of the stuff I was doing.  Never once did I hear Paul complain.  He was so focused on where he was and where he was going!  When I was confused on what courses to sign up for it was Paul that guided my thought process!  Paul compensated for his lack of sight with increased emphasis on his other senses.  Paul was an excellent listener!

Those words keep coming back in my mind “you can listen as well as you hear.”  I have to ask myself if that is true?  I can say that sometimes I am a good listener.  Other times for one reason or another distractions get in the way.  If I am in the middle of watching a sporting event and especially if it is coming down to the final minutes of a close game, people have found that I’m not listening to the outside world very well.  You see most of the time it isn’t that people have a lack of hearing problem, they have a lack of listening problem.  Hearing comes naturally as the noise does something to your ear and you realize someone is talking or some other noise is going on.  Listening is something that we decide to do.  When we listen we let the words go into our brain and we think about and interpret what was said or heard and how it effects us. 

In Matthew chapter 13 starting with verse 3 Jesus told a parable saying “A sower went out to sow and as he sowed some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched, and since they had no root they withered away.  Other seeds fell upon thorns and the thorns grew and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  You may wonder how this parable relates to the listening delema I sometimes have?  Our choices can be compared to the ground where the seeds land.  If we choose to hear the word but not listen it is like the seed landing on hard ground and not getting properly rooted.  Those seeds will soon die as they were not planted properly within us.  The seeds that landed in fertile soil are like our choice to not only hear the message but to listen to it and let it penetrate and grow in our hearts! 

In horse racing you will see the horses with blinders on.  Blinders help the horse concentrate only on what is ahead of them.  There is no reason for the horse to get distracted with the blinders on.  He can concentrate on moving forward without losing focus.

The songwriter indirectly brings up the point that we won’t live forever in this life. In the song he had regrets that he didn’t say some of the things to his father that he felt in his heart.  Now his father is gone and it is too late to tell him.  He sadly states that “I wish I would have told him, in the living years.”  I think most of us have this same type of regret, I know I do.  Maybe you have some of the same types of guilt feelings too.  God understands our guilt and he is there to lovingly forgive us.  We can’t go back, but we can improve with God’s help!  Be careful with your words because words are powerful.  They can encourage or discourage.  They can lift people up or bring them down.  Going forward make sure you tell people how much they mean to you in the living years, I know I will!  Take time to listen and understand without letting the disagreements become bigger than the many points you agree on.  Showing your love and letting your loved ones know how you feel will save feeling regret later.  Show that loved one how much they mean to you not only by your words, but your actions too!

From a spiritual side, with God’s help let us soften our spiritual soil.  Let us make the choice to be  spiritual listeners instead of just spiritual hearers.  Let us be like the blind kid Paul, who compensated for his lack of sight by being extra sensitive in other areas.  We too lack sight in the spiritual realm.  We don’t physically see God but we can hear him if we listen closely.  Like the race horses we need to make sure our spiritual blinders are in place because then we can focus completely on God’s voice without distractions.  When we let his seed penetrate into our minds and being, it will change us as the spiritual root goes deep into our hearts!  Only then can we truly say that we are listening as well as we hear!

A Giant Throwing Starfish (The Blind Side)

There was a kids book called “The Giant” that I was facinated with when I was first learning to read!  I checked that same book out numerous times from our school library.  It was about a kid who was a Giant in the world.  It was illustrated with his enormous pictures doing enormous things!  He was relating how it felt as the ocean was his bath tub and the ships were his toys.  He sat there and played with the ships for hours and if he got bored he might stand up and catch an airplane just for his amusement.  The story ends when he wakes up from his “Giant” dream. 

A Giant Doesn't Have to be big I learned!

A Giant Doesn’t Have to be big I learned!

I have learned since that “Giants” don’t have to be big in stature.  The movie “The Blind Side” was a big box office hit and it was based on a true story!  Leigh Anne Tuohy was a well off mother of two.  Her family spotted Michael Oher, a giant of a kid, walking down the road on a cold rainy night with just shorts and a T-shirt on.  She offered Michael a ride and he reluctantly accepted.  Little did she know that Michael’s father had been murdered and his mother was a drug addict.  All she saw was a big kid who seemed to be walking around aimlessly.  Everyone seemed to always pass him by without question or hesitation.  Leigh Anne was not like most people.  She wondered why and because she did the relationship with Michael began to grow. 



Michael eventually was invited to make his home in their house.  At first he was offered to spend the night with them.  He was so withdrawn that Leigh Anne had a very hard time getting anything out of him.  It seemed that Michael was hurt so much in life that he kept everything inside.  It took someone like Leigh Anne to get him to open up.  Everyone called Michael “Big Mike.”  Since that was what everyone called him Leigh Anne called him that too.  As she was trying to have him open up to the world and her in particular she asked “Big Mike, is there anything I should know about you?  After hesitating in his usual way he said something very unexpectedly that she didn’t know.  “I don’t like to be called Big Mike.”  “OK”, she said, as she was thrilled with that piece of knowledge, “from now on we will call you Michael!”

For a while Michael slept on their couch downstairs.  One day Leigh Anne announced to Michael that he was going to have his own room.  “The $8,000 dollar couch is getting worn out,” she said in mock disbelief.   She showed him the bed she had purchased for him.  It was much more expensive because it had to be larger to support him.  She also bought him a dresser and had the room just so.  Michael looked at her in that quiet unassuming way he had.  “Is this all mine?”, he asked.  “Yes”, she affirmed, “it is all yours!”   “I never had one of these before,” he went on.  “You mean a room?”, she wondered.  “No, a bed”, he answered.  It was almost too much for her not to break down as she quickly said “Well, you have one now” , wished him goodnight and hurriedly left the room before she lost it completely.

Michael was behind accademically but his grades slowly started to improve.  Because of his massive size the football coach just knew that he would be dominant on the field.  When Michael’s grades improved enough for him to play the coach was anxious to see him take over.  Michael was wired differently than the coach liked however.  He was not a natural battler like some of the smaller kids were.  When Michael was sixteen and came to the Tuoy’s house he heard the story of Ferdinand the Bull for the first time.  The story must have been like looking in the mirror because the same traits Ferdinand had Michael did also.  Ferdinand the bull was the biggest bull in the field.  While the other bulls locked horns and battled for toughness supremecy Ferdinand was content to lay under a cork tree and smell the flowers.  Day after day Ferdinand layed under this tree happy as can be.  One day the people from the bull fights were looking for a ferocios bull that would make a great show.  They visited the bull yard one day and it just so happened that a bee stung Ferdinand and he was in agony.  He was hurting so badly that he started running and smashed over everything in his way including the other bulls.  The men from the bull fighting show chose Ferdinand over all of the other bulls.  When it came time for the show to start and Ferdinand was let into the arena, instead of charging he contently walked out and smelled a flower that was in the ring.  When it was apparent that there was no fight in him they reluctantly took him back to the bull yard.  He found his favorite tree and was content the rest of his days smelling the flowers.  Michael was also content with life and how things were turning out for him.  He was not an aggressive kid and smelling the flowers to him was like enjoying a lot of things in life besides football.

Ferdinand The Bull

Ferdinand The Bull

Leigh Anne Tuohy knew what button to push.  She had found out months before that Michael was in the lower percentiles in almost every subject.  One that he was at 95% however was protection.  In Michael’s life he had learned to be protective of the ones that he loved and would not let them get hurt.  Leigh Anne used this strength for his advantage on the football field.  She had him envision that the Quarterback and Runningbacks were like his adopted brother and herself.  He was to protect them so that none of the opposition could hurt them.  From that time on Michael turned into an unstoppable force.  He went straight up the radar screen of colleges throughout the land.  He ended up at Mississippi and played so well he became a pro and plays today for the Baltimore Ravens.  Michael’s story had a happy ending and it can be attributed to the moral of another story that follows.

A wise man was walking toward the ocean.  From a distance he saw a figure that appeared to be dancing.  As he got closer he saw that it was a boy.  The boy was not dancing at all but throwing something into the water.  As the wise man got closer he saw that the boy was throwing starfish one by one that had been washed up onto the beach.  As the hot summer sun beat down on the beached starfish they would surely die if left on the beach.  The wise man called out to the boy “There are thousands of them out here, you are wasting your time because you cannot possibly save them all.”  The boy answered back as he threw one back into the water “well I saved that one.”

 Well, I saved that one!

God calls each of us to do what we can.  He does not expect you or I to save the world.  What he does call us to do however is to meet needs.  There is a saying that is widespread called WWJD or What would Jesus do?  I think in this case Jesus would have done exactly what Leigh Anne did.  While others saw Michael and passed on the other side of the road, Leigh Anne didn’t.  She wondered why and offered a helping hand.  In short she saw a need and step by step went in the direction of filling that need.

The movie was called “Blind Side” because Michael ended up playing the position in football of protecting the Quarterback’s blind side.  A right handed Quarterback has his back to the Right Defensive End.  It is Michael’s job to block that Defensive End who is attempting to hit the Quarterback unexpectedly while he is most vulnerable.  The fact is however that all of us have a blind side.  We don’t know what the future holds or what troubles will come our way.  We do have someone who will protect us from all harm if we trust in him!  If we walk in the will of God he gives back far more than we could ever give!  When it was mentioned to Leigh Anne by some of her well to do friends as to how she was changing Michael’s life, she was quick to point out that “you are wrong, he is changing our lives!”  Leigh Anne realized that by getting involved they entered  into the will of God and by giving to a kid that needed them so much, they had opened themselves up to Gods blessings and peace as he gave back to them in a multitude of ways!

When I read “The Giant” book in elementary school, I pictured myself as “The Giant.”  I envisioned what it would be like to play with ships in the ocean and to catch airplanes if I got bored.  Through the years I learned that who most people thought of as “Giants” are just “Giants” in their dreams.  The real “Giants” are people like Leigh Anne Tuohy.  These are normal looking people that don’t sit around playing in the ocean like the “Dream Giant” in the book did, but walk along the beach, positioned to be useful.  They are opened to God’s leading and desire to be his hands and feet while they are here.  Leigh Anne didn’t start out as a “Giant” because nobody does.  She turned into a “Giant” because she didn’t walk away from the starfish on the beach.  Instead, she picked one up and helped it live again.  It turned out that his name was Michael!

That Monster Machine Is A Wizard!

I don’t think there is anything I enjoy more than just sitting on the couch watching a basketball game with my son!  No matter what NBA or college team we are watching he seems to always know the names and tendencies of the players.  Usually I sit there with a smile on my face as we both find interesting things to talk about concerning the game.  It is always back and forth as one of us comes up with something and the other adds to it!  It doesn’t have to be specifically about the game either.  Sometimes it may be a comment about how that player looks like someone else or anything  that strikes us about what we see as funny!   Usually it is a running commentary that keeps a smile on each others face as we enjoy the game together.  Sometimes one of us makes an odd comment out of the blue and the other will say “I was thinking the same thing!”  So many times one will make a point and a minute or two later the color analyst for the game will make the same point!  When that happens it usually creates additional fun filled commentary as he or I will say “I just said that!”

My son uses descriptions of players after seeing plays that they were amazing in!  I have found myself stealing some of his phrases because they seem so appropriate!  For instance a player like Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies seems to find a way to put the ball in the basket.  When they throw the ball near the basket to him and he converts my son may say “What a machine!”  A machine in his basketball praise terminology is typically what all machines should be.  You give it a job and it does the job!  It may not be the most flashy thing you see but it is a thing of beauty how consistently the job gets done!  He touches the ball and invariably the ball goes in the basket in his creative yet effecient way!  What a machine

What a machine!

We have a printer at work that is sometimes “what a machine!”  Other times it is “what’s wrong with that machine?”   Most of the time it is “what a machine!”  You ask it to print a report and it will efficiently print the report be it one or two hundred pages.  However, there is one report that my co-worker has to run each month that this machine can’t seem to handle.  She may run this report of maybe two hundred pages and the printer will spit out one page.  Maybe fifteen seconds later it may produce another page.  Because of the inefficiency of  this printer she has been forced to print on her smaller printer.  Although the little printer is not designed for large printing orders it plows ahead and does the job that the big printer for some reason won’t do.  Before this printer we had another printer designed to do big jobs.  With this machine you were never quite sure what you would get.  Sometimes it would run a big report without a hitch.  Other times a paper jam would occur and out of necessity we had to become experts on how to unjam the printer.  Frustratingly many times after unjamming the printer and re-ordering the job the same problem would occur.  This was a big machine built for huge results and yet we got to the point that we were afraid to ask it to do anything because of it’s past failures.

The Detroit Pistons have a young player named Andre Drummond.  Andre Drummond is 6’10 and weighs 270 pounds!  Besides being big he has incredible athletic ability!  It seems like he has springs in his legs as he can elevate so high, which is unusual for someone as big as he is!  Besides his jumping skills he has a determination about him.  We’ve seen him somehow get a rebound when he seemed completely out of the play.  We’ve seen him stationed around the free throw line when the rebound goes up and somehow slice through and over players and tip the ball before securing it!  My son will invariably say “What a monster!”  A monster in his praise definition is someone who is almost alien in their abilities!  In other words they stand out so much that they are literally leaps and bounds better than the opposition.  They get balls that nobody thought they could get and they forcefully block the opponents intentions with their unrelentless energy!  Their abilities and desire stand out so much it’s almost like they are super human!

What a monster!

What a monster!

When James Harden of the Houston Rockets zigs and zags all the way down the court dribbling the ball between and around would be defenders and ultimately laying the ball in the basket my son may excitedly say “What a wizard!”  I asked him the other day what he meant by the phrase?  He told me that it is when someone is so amazing that you can’t figure out how they are doing it!  It reminds me of a magic act as the magician pulls out forty things from his hat including a rabbit and your sitting there saying “How did he do that?”  What makes James Harden’s act so special is there are no “magic tricks” involved.  He does it with skill at such a high level that you shake your head in amazement.  As my son states “What a wizard!”

What a wizard!

What a wizard!

I always like it when the star of the game gets interviewed when the game is over and right away before a question is asked they give praise where praise is due!  “I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because without Him I am nothing!”  I know there are many who don’t like this statement and think they are using the situation as pushing religion.   What they are saying though is whatever I am or will become it is all because of God.  He created me and gave me certain abilities and I just want to use my abilities for His glory!  My son describes attributes in players very efficiently with just a phrase, but there is an old hymn that’s words describe how totally impossible it is to fully describe God’s love.  The hymn is called “The Love of God” and some of the lyrics follow:  Could we with ink the ocean fill, and with the sky a parchment make, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky. What a beautiful way to say that the sky isn’t big enough for describing his love and if the ocean was all ink it would run dry from the task!

Ocean Sky

Unlike God’s love though, our talents can be explained normally in brief sentences.  We have a copier in our mail room that’s awesomeness can be explained briefly too.  It can run hundreds of copies at a time, do two sided copies, staple documents, and scan items.  I’m sure I left out many other functions this impressive machine does.  It very rarely fails and when it does it is usually when the user accidentally runs something through that doesn’t belong, such as a paper clip.  You could say that this machine is  “What a monster, What a machine, and What a wizard” all rolled up into one!  In our lives we should strive to be as efficient and amazing as this machine.  We can only become like that through the power of God.  We should strive first to be an efficient machine when God calls us.  When He asks us to do something we can’t get jammed up with distractions or do only one of the things He asks, leaving the others undone.  If we do that, He will find someone else to do the job we were perfectly equipped to do!  God is looking for people He can count on, not ones who frustrate because they don’t obey His orders.  Let me  strive to be “What a machine.”  I know that with His strength following “What a machine!” will be “What a monster” and “What a wizard!”  These things will follow if I’m listening to Him and doing what He wants!

As I become this monster and machine God wants me to be, people will take notice and praise the wizard-like results they are seeing!  When they do it is imperative that I let them know that “I am just a vessel for God’s use and I want to give all of the praise and glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who created me and makes all things that I do possible!”  When God looks down and views us, I hope He has a smile on His face and our actions are pleasing and amazing!  Through His power I pray that He sees us doing wizard-like things!   Much like how my son admiringly has his own language for greatness, I hope however he expresses it, that God is pleased with what He views as He looks down.  I pray that He states with excitement to others watching words meaning “What a machine!” or “What a monster!”  Much like a kid whose parents are proud of their accomplishments, I’d like to bring joy to my Heavenly Father! I’d like to look up to heaven and thank the one who makes everything that I am or do or ever desire to do possible!  Maybe with my quill I can write my praise of Him on the parchment before the sky fills up or the ocean of ink runs dry!

Mama, Dada, Goo-Gle

I had my plans Friday night as I left work.  I was going to the Civic box office to pick up some tickets for a show they have been advertising.  Later I had a softball game and was looking forward to that!  I quickly walked out to my car to get everything started.   To my surprise the key didn’t turn.  I tried again and again and nothing.  It was locked and my key could not turn the ignition switch.  After a few minutes I called home.  My son answered the phone.  I asked him to bring the spare key thinking maybe that my key had worn down and that was the problem.  When he arrived I found that the spare key didn’t work either.  Quickly he pulled out his phone and got on the internet.  Within a couple of minutes he told me to turn the wheel at the same time I turned the key.  Remarkably that was the answer.  The key turned just as it was supposed to and I was on my way!  I haven’t been driving this car very long and I don’t know all of it’s little quirks.  It seems if the wheel is turned the whole thing can get locked up.  The quick remedy my son found was brought to you by Google Search.

Gentleman, Start Your Engine!

Gentleman, Start Your Engine!

Before I came along my mom and dad were home one day when an encyclopedia salesman came to the door.  They were in the perfect market as they had a little two year old girl.  It made the sales pitch so much easier as the salesman talked about making an investment in her future.  Those were the days of the printed word and families throughout our country were buying the Encyclopedia Britannica volumes for the same reasons my mom and dad bought them.  Years and years passed as the Encyclopedia Britannica made everyone happy including their sales force.  This was before the computer started taking over.  Wickopedia and Google started chipping into their sales.  That chipping with a pic and hammer became more like demolision with a crane and wrecking ball.  Last year Encyclopedia Britannica made a decision that many felt was long overdue.  They would not be printing in hard copy anymore because of their increasing yearly sales losses.


In a way it was kind of a sad day because personally I like books.  I like holding the specific book I am reading as it was written.  I do not own a Kindle even though I will admit it would free up my house from bundles of books.  There was something about the book volume of the encyclopedia too.  You were likely to pick it up and thumb through it finding interesting things you weren’t even looking for.  I remember the research papers we had to write in school.  One of the challenges was going to the library and going through the card catelog.  This little exercise helped me develop skills in problem solving.  Finding the book was not the end of the exercise either.  Going through the book and reading a lot of unrelated stuff was part of the process.  Suddenly finding the information that was needed to make a point for the report was very satisfying.  These days that whole process is watered down.  Finding things on the computer is fast and easy much like the fast food hamburger.  There is no need to dig for information.  It’s much like the gold is waiting to be picked up free of charge!

The picture above is almost too real to be funny!  In our computer led society I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a frequent occurrence.

One of my all time favorite TV shows was “The Wonder Years!”  I liked the show because Kevin (the main character) was about my age so I could relate to things he was going through in that time.  He described his childhood in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  One of my favorite episodes was when Kevin had a disagreement with his best friend Paul.  As kids do they started not speaking to each other and sought out new best friends.  Kevin and Paul would have spirited verbal exchanges when trading their baseball cards.  They both knew the abilities of the players on the cards.  When Kevin tried to replace Paul with this new friend Doug he found the spirited conversation missing.  It came to a head when Doug gladly traded his Willie McCovey card for an unknown player named Don Schwartz.  The challenge was gone in Kevin’s thinking and a short time later Kevin and Paul were back together.

DougDoug-Paul's temporary replacementwonderyears4

Sometimes in everyday conversation we would find that we disagreed with the other person on some trivial fact.  The conversation might have gotten interesting as we knew that what we were saying was right.  Sometimes after a week or so of research one of the parties could claim victory and report to the wrongly mistaken party their information.  The conversation came up about The Keebler Company the other day.  I knew that they were bought out by Kellogg’s and now made their home in Battle Creek.  I was almost sure that they had been in Grand Rapids at one time.  My son quickly Googled “Keebler” and it never mentioned Grand Rapids.  A quick answer with facts beyond argument and here I sat thinking how life was without Google.  There was a price to pay like “do your chores and then you can go out and play.”  These days a quick visit to Google and the chores are all done!

Sometimes we find out things in normal conversation that we never really thought of.  We were wondering why my son never wears his wristwatch so we asked him last week.  “My generation doesn’t wear wristwatches”, he told us, “if we want to see the time we just pull out our phone.”  I guess some things are generational things,  some things I have to adapt to,  and sometimes I have to accept changes going on around me.

End of the wristwatch?

End of the wristwatch?

I suppose someday probably right after a young child utters their first words of “mama” or “dada” they will be uttering “goo-gle.”   I have to admit that in my hour of need with the car problem Google Search came through big time!  I didn’t have the time or the resources to conduct a massive research study to find my problem.  I have concluded that Google (just like the internet) can be bad or good depending on how it is used.  I have also concluded that sometimes when you have to work for something it is more valuable than if it is given to you.



Years ago I was talking to a guy at work named Ryan.  Ryan didn’t seem like a deeply spiritual guy but the subject got to the question of our existance.  When the conversation and questions were going in that direction Ryan said in response “You mean the big one?”  As Ryan suggested it is the big question.  It’s a question that people have struggled with through time.  It will not be properly answered by a quick Google Search.  It may take hours and days of deliberation.  One book that will never be outdated is God’s book of the universe.  If ever there is a doubt as to if there is a God all we have to do is look around us.  Look up in the sky at the amazing power of the Sun!  Look around at all of the creation he has provided for us!  Look at yourself and your family and the fact that you and they are miracles in themselves!

I came across some information while thinking about “the big question”, as Ryan called it.  The late Dr. Arthur E. Wilder-Smith, was an honored scientist with three doctorates!  He was a former Evolutionist until his opinion shifted.  He debated many leading scientists on the subject throughout the years.  He stated that “The Evolutionary model says that it is not necessary to assume the existence of anything, besides matter and energy, to produce life.  That proposition is unscientific.  We know perfectly well that if you leave matter to itself, it does not organize itself – in spite of all the efforts in recent years to prove that it does.”  You might wonder where I got all of this wonderful information about the opinion of this renowned scholar?  I used the good side of the Google Search!

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