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The “Fridays” of Life….


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“On all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God, where are you?” maybe He (Jesus) is just hanging there present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the subversion of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all, Sunday isn’t far away.”

This is a little bit of a Good Friday reflection I gave awhile back. I put it in the Lenten Devotional I published and came across it today as I read and prepared for the current writing i’m doing. I needed to read it. Maybe you do to.
Resurrection & harrowing-of-hadesTrying not to let stress and stifles control my focus and joy.
It may feel like Friday but Sunday is coming.
(I think Tony Compolo has something to say about that as well.)

To read the rest of the reflection above pick up my Lent devotion for yourself and your community.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18th, 2015.
(If you are curious about Lent and what it’s all about check this out [ CRI Voice on Lent ] or just know this, Lent is all about getting your heart and mind ready for Easter, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.)

 

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Feast of the Transfiguration


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Today was the feast of the transfiguration. I wanted to write and post this earlier but I didn’t get to it. So here’s goes.

The the transfiguration is an amazing event in the gospels and is worth pondering anytime. It’s definitely one of my favorite stories, I find it absolutely fascinating.

This is my favorite icon of the transfiguration. I like it so much I have it with me always! Just ask to see my arm!

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware says, “It [ the transfiguration ] reveals to us the highest potential of our created nature, our ultimate vocation as human beings.” Very much in line with Fr. Roberts Barron’s caption to the above icon from Word On Fire Ministries, “[ the transfiguration is ] a preview of our own destiny!”

I love it! I think they are right on! The transfiguration is an event where the curtain is pulled back and we see how things are, how they fully are in the realm we call the kingdom of heaven. We see this same thing in the life of Jesus but it’s during the transfiguration that we see a scene where everyone is wrapped up and living into the reality of God’s kingdom, the living and the dead.

When Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” That word near is often translation “at hand” because the kingdom has come so close in the person of Jesus that we see and experience this heaven, this realm where God rules and reigns as we see and experience Jesus. In the transfiguration the curtain is pulled back to ware these two realms, the kingdom of heaven and this present age collide or overlap or intersect. Hmmm… it’s kinda hard to explain it. I always think of the TV show Fringe. Yea, it’s kinda like that!

Either way, welcome to the story!

Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos in his book “This is my Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ” helps us to see that this is an event that keeps happening. We keep seeing the kingdom break into our world and into our lives. We live with this reality in mind, we participate in it’s in-breaking from time to time and we pray for it to happen often and finally.

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray and it’s a prayer for his people to live lives shaped by the transfiguration and participating in the transfiguration story – transfiguration reality. We pray for God to act and answer this prayer and we open our lives for God to use us to be answers to this prayer. This is transfiguration kinds of stuff — kinds of prayer!

Bishop Todd Hunter gave a stellar message on the transfiguration. Here’s a link ::
Todd Hunter | The Transfiguration: Unseen Reality.
Go listen to it ASAP. He nails it! Here’s a quote from the message, “There is always this glorious reality that sits behind the seen world that is always and already there.” #TRUE, this is the reality we see and experience in the transfiguration.

I could go on and on here. It’s absolutely fascinating and if we’ll let it, this is a story that really can shape our lives here and now as we follow Jesus and live as he calls us to live.

Pray-As-You-Go is a great prayer resource. They provide little 10-12 minute audio meditations for folks to listen to as they go about their day. Today’s meditation was on the Matthew passage (17:1-8) on the transfiguration. Here’s a link if you’d like to pray a bit with the transfiguration in mind.

 Pray-As-You-Go | The Feast of the Transfiguration

I’ll probably write about this more in the future but for now, I hope you can have some thoughtful, prayerful moments guided by this story we’re given and this challenge we all have to live with the reality that the kingdom of heaven is near, always it’s near!

One last icon. This is a picture I took when I was at the Getty in LA.

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Summer Camp 2013


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That was summer camp for us. And it was awesome!

For the Student Pastor of any church summer camp is something you really look and pray forward to! For me that is definitely the case. Considering I committed my life to Christ at a camp i really believe in the space that camp creates for students to encounter Christ. Camp forms bonds in a unique way and is such a huge spring board to authentic community that it’s an invaluable experience in the life of any student ministry.

There is however a dark side. 

It’s freaking exhausting! Especially as a leader / pastor / guide for the week camp is really taxing! I spent 4 summers, 10 weeks each summer, as a counselor at youth camps. They were amazing summers. I have many memories that shape me to this day from those summers (good and bad). I also remember how absolutely exhausting they were. Turn the volume up on that 2 or 3 notches and that’s what camp is like for youth pastors.

So yea, camp is amazing, i wouldn’t give it up for anything but i sure could use a few days of rest; vampire in a coffin, dead to the world kind of rest. But because of the time of year and way things are in my current ministry context that isn’t really an option. Don’t worry, i’m not going to blog cry on you right now. Just a brief vent… i’m done!

The camp we participated in this year was Illuminate Summer Camp. The owner / director fellow is a friend of mine, Bryant Underwood. Bryant is legit. One of those guys with a great heart for God and kinda oozes authenticity. I was stoked to get to partner with this him this summer! All the speakers were from his church in Chattanooga and they were all really solid. Worship was lead by AJ Cheek and Aaron Gillespie (formerly of Underoath and currently The Almost) lead one night was well, which was awesome and crazy all at the same time.

One of the great components to camp this year was the mission aspect. Now i’ve spoken at mission camps for Fuge, the M-Fuge camps but have never taken my own students to this kind of experience. It was awesome! The work adds something to the camp experience that allows students to solidify the thoughts and commitments immediately. You don’t have to wait to get home to start living out the commitments you’ve made, you just have to wake up and go to your work sites. That is amazing! I loved it!

There are a few highlight i have. Getting to pray with my small group of 8th grade guys as they were being stirred by God to lived consistent, committed lives for Christ. That was awesome! Our camp was also on the beach—VERY COOL! One afternoon i was swimming with a bunch of guys but was able to have a one on one conversation in the ocean with one of my students i had been praying for. It reminded me of living in California and sitting in the water on a surf board. The ocean seems to facilitate great conversations! This particular student hadn’t responded like the others. He didn’t get emotional, he hadn’t talked about his feelings or commitments. We were able to have a really good conversation, really more me talking about how it was ok for him to respond unquily to God. That i was ok if he doesn’t get emotional like some of the other and that everybody interacts with God in their own unique way. He didn’t say much but toward the end of our converstaion he paused and said, “That’s good to know” In a very thoughtful and matter-of-fact kind of way. I had prayed to have a good one on one conversation with this student and God facilitated that conversation. It was very cool!

You can read a little more about camp over on our churches blog. I did this write up for them, it tells a cool story and gives a few more pictures if you’re interested check that out. And here is a link to a bunch of our camp pictures as well! Check em’ out!

Now i’m praying that God continues the momentum we built at camp as we approach a new school year.
May the Lord be with us as we all seek to follow him and encourage our students to do that same!
Grace and peace
Erik

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Good Friday


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This is the Good Friday meditation from my Lent book. May it provoke you to think about Jesus and what he’s done for you on this Good Friday.

READING :: Matthew 27:32-53
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Complexity and mystery are at their peak in this moment where God is crucified, fully present and hanging on a tree, but at the same time absent, turning His face from the sin being assumed by Jesus. In the middle of Jesus’ darkest moment—paradoxically when He was glorified or lifted the highest—He leans into the Psalms to express what He is feeling, namely Psalm 22.

In the middle of one of the hardest times in my life, when it seemed like my world was imploding and the people I called family had abandoned me, I too leaned into the Psalms and found one that lamented with me, that asked the questions I was asking and sought God in a way I was trying to seek Him.

The Psalm I read begs the question, “What are the right sacrifices?” Psalm 22, the Psalm Jesus had in mind, asks for mercy, deliverance and vindication as many of them do. The Psalmist asks God to lead as He had in the past, even though it seemed like He might not be anywhere to be found.

I leaned into these songs and prayers because they echoed what my soul felt, what I was longing for, and they resonated with my circumstances.

In the middle of Jesus’ darkest moment, He leans into Psalm 22:

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why are you so far from helping me?

Jesus is asking God, with an honest gasp and familiar prayer from the scriptures, “Father God, where are you?”

Reread verses 50-53.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”

Kind of wild, right?

It’s a cosmic moment. All has gone dark, as if everything, if only for these few moments, has disappeared and in its reemergence, all of history has shifted. Something is different. There is a new nexus to all of human history. Everything that happened before, we now know, wasn’t just linear history but a string of moments leading up to this moment. Everything that will happen after this is situated in reference to this moment.

Human history no longer has a beginning and an end. It has a middle.

History has been reoriented and its new center is the cross of Christ.

And as dark as this moment is, we find ourselves wanting to call it good news and celebrate this dark day as Good Friday. We live in this tension and embrace it as mystery.

It’s in this central moment in human history that we find Jesus leaning into the Psalms, wondering where the father has gone, revealing to us his humanity.

It’s also in this central moment that we find our greatest fear and our greatest hope. Our greatest fear is that God has abandoned us, if He was ever there in the first place. Our greatest hope is that this isn’t the end of the story for Jesus or for us—that in suffering there is hope, that this is really just a new beginning of sorts.

So where was God while Jesus was hanging on the cross?

Will Willimon says, “It’s on the cross where we see the complexity of the way that this God saves us, the curious way in which God is with us.”

God didn’t save Jesus from the cross, but He schemed of a way to make this event one that nobody would ever forget. God schemed of a way to subvert the message of this horrific event of the cross, this political statement that was being made, and proclaim a different statement of hope and victory.

God is not like humans. He does things very differently than we would want him to do things.

Willimon also says, “We ask Jesus to stand up and act like God and he just hangs there.”

God chooses not to use coercion but love, service and self-sacrifice, because they are His way.

Think about your greatest moment of darkness. Whether you realized it or not, God was scheming of a way to subvert the message of despair being proclaimed in your life and circumstances and to proclaim hope. He always schemes and dreams of ways to bring light out of our darkness, hope out of our despair, good news from all the bad news we find ourselves living.

On all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God, where are you?” maybe He is just hanging there, present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the subversion of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all, Sunday isn’t far away.

What is your cross, your Good Friday?
Have you forgotten that Sunday is coming?

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.:: RESURRECTION :: Eastertide


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Welcome to Eastertide…

Eastertide is the time between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. Pretty much it’s suppose to be a party. Every Sunday is Easter Sunday during this time. I like that idea!

Now, i just blogged for 47 days straight, this is 48 — definitely a record! So i DO NOT plan on blogging everyday throughout Eastertide but i will post some reflections here and there.

Here are a couple video’s to think about as you embrace the resurrection / our risen Lord!

[ this first video was made by a friend of mine, Jeremy Cowart. It’s some modern day iconography, maybe even digital iconography but i love it! So take a look and remember HE IS RISEN! ]

[ i posted this second video last year right after Easter because that’s when it was first released. Now think what you want about Rob Bell but this video is solid and i think, inspiring. And in my opinion lacks controversy, i think. Remember, HE IS RISEN! ]

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CROSSED // LENT D::36


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[ READING :: 1 Corinthians 1:18 — 2:2 ]


“I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Knowing God—having an appropriately awe-filled yet intimate relationship, or partnership, with the creator, redeemer of israel, and sovereign of the universe—is and was the life goal of faithful Jews. It is no less so for Paul. Paul characterizes himself as zealous—both before and after his first experience of Jesus as Messiah—in his pursuit of the means to this knowledge of God and its corresponding life of obedience. The initial and ongoing encounter with Jesus, however, reformulated his understanding of who God is and how God is most fully experience. That the Messiah, God’s Son, was sent by God to be crucified, and then raised by God, meant that somehow God and the cross were inextricably interrelated. This connection led Paul to see not only Jesus, but also God the “father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as defined by the cross.

—From Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross by Michael J. Gorman

When we seek to know Jesus, like Paul in Corinthians we are seeking to know Christ crucified. And when step into the life of this crucified Jesus we not only embrace Jesus but we embrace the cross. I think this is really important to remember as we walk through the desert toward the cross to ultimately participate in the resurrection.

? To embrace Jesus as love is one things but do you embrace Jesus as crucified ?

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TEMPT // LENT D::16


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[ READING :: Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10 ]

A powerful means of meditation are Christian Icons. Icons are not meant to be a accurate depictions of a historical event but rather an image, a piece of art that points to a spiritual reality that has taken place or as Rowan Williams puts it, “(icons) are – like our efforts in Christian living – human actions that seek to be open to God’s action.”

So here are 2 icons that depict temptation, that of Jesus and that of Adam and Even.
As we spend this week of prayer and self-examination, specifically focusing on temptation my hope is that we would see that only Christ has done it perfectly and our journey with Him in the wilderness full of temptation is one of learning to lean into Him, learn from Him and being filled with Him so that we might, through his grace, also have victory in the midst of temptation.

(gaze on these images and meditation on temptation, knowing you are not alone.)
( Click on the images – twice – to see full size )

Temptation Meditations

If your interested in further reflection and meditation with the aid of Icons i would recommend Rowan Williams book, The Dwelling of the Light; Praying with Icons of Christ. He has a few others but this is the one i have read and it’s solid.

“If we paint a picture of Jesus, we’re not trying to show a humanity apart from divine life, but a humanity soaked through with divine life. The working of God, the ‘energy’ of God, to use a favorite word of Eastern theologians, are all the time acting on and in the human nature of Jesus. We don’t depict just a slice of history when we depict Jesus; we show a life radiating the light and force of God. And this means also that if we know what we’re doing when we represent Jesus, if we approach the whole matter in prayer and adoration, the image that is made becomes in turn something that in its own way radiates this light and force.”

— From the introduction of The Dwelling of the Light by Rowan Williams

? Do you believe that there is hope in the midst of temptation ?
? What or who is that hope ?

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Pacifism and parenthood…


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I’ve had this blog brewing for a while but just haven’t taken the time to flesh it out. It’s some thoughts from a while back but my first fathers day stirred them up again. So I thought I would finally share.

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I was sitting down with a good friend and another dude (friend / acquaintance), the other dude happened to be a CCM musician guy; trendy, hipster, semi-famous, and of course wise! Somehow we got to talking, I had recently gotten married, he had recently had his second kid. We were talking about family stuff, the joys of being a father and challenges of being a husband, at least a first year husband. At some point the conversation shifted and we began to talk about politics, faith, and then pacifism. And then the trendy Christian rocker stated, quite matter of fact, “Well I used to be a pacifist until I had kids.” Followed by a “you’ll understand someday.”

In case you didn’t know, I’m a pacifist. As I read the scriptures, especially the words of Jesus I think it’s fairly hard not to be. I mean if your going to take the words of Jesus seriously, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Don’t resist an evil doer.” The list goes on… just read The Sermon on the Mount. So for me it’s hard not to be a pacifist when i read these words. Now I respect people who have differing opinions than me but for me, I think it’s hard to read these word of Jesus and then pick up a gun and go kill people to protect the things I love; God, country, family, etc. That’s a hard move for me to make.

But like my trendy, wise, Christian rocker friend stated, “You’ll understand when you have kids.”

Well now I have a kid. And to be honest what my friend said has really stuck with me. I understand the difficulty with even the IDEA of being a pacifist, especially in our world. I really do. And when I’m honest and people ask me if i’m a pacifist my response is, “Well, I want to be.” I say that because I know in reality I am bent toward violence and reaction. I understand that about myself. But I also feel like I understand that the most faithful // Faith-Full thing to do is to follow Jesus and that’s isn’t always easy or the way i am naturally bent.

Now I often tell people who roll there eyes at me for even suggesting the idea of pacifism that, “non-violence isn’t necessarily non-action.” I think that is an important caveat to the conversation, but another conversation altogether.

As I reflect on my stance as a pacifist and my now status as a father I’m trying to decide if my wise rocker friend was correct. Does the love I have for my son negate my ideological position as a pacifist?

For the first few months of Jacks existence (Jack is my son) I would take him when he was crying into my office and play a few of his favorite tunes. The 2 songs that seemed to calm him the most were, 1) The Hope That Lies Within 2) Oh How He Loves – both recorded by The Glorious Unseen. (great album, you should get if you don’t have it). But I would blast these songs and sing them into my infant sons ear and he would, miraculously, calm down. And almost every time I would sing these words,

“He is jealous for me (I would sing you)
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
When all of the sudden I am unaware of these affliction eclipsed my glory
I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affection are for me

O, How He love us so
O how he love us
O, How He love us so”

…almost every time I would sing these words I would think about that comment, “You’ll understand once you have kids.” As I would sing those songs into Jacks little ears, telling him how much God loves him, I would realize how much I love him and how I would do anything for him and to protect him. And I would think, “was he right? Do I now understand?”

But in the midst of those thoughts I would realize that my love for my son can’t be stronger than God’s love for my son OR God’s love for his son. And in the mystery of the Trinity God’s love for God’s self which, more often then we are aware of, is turned in our direction and lavished upon us. This infinite and incomprehensible love that’s exists within God’s self and is poured out on humanity with undeserved regularity. This love that I can’t even fathom is directed from the heart of God to my son Jack every second of every moment and in the same way it was directed toward Jesus in every line we read of scripture, every space we ignore, every pause we skim over, and in every possible way we don’t even think of, God was in constant Love for his son. Even when his Son was hanging on a tree, bleeding and hurting, being killed by the enemy, LOVE WAS THERE. I don’t understand that but I pray God would fill me with the faith to embrace that moment of divine love that we witness in the crucificition of Jesus and I pray even harder as a father that God would gift me with even a small portion of the love I witness in that cosmic even of the cross for my son Jack.

And if I can receive that gift, even in part and as feebly as I am capable of, I believe I can continue to be faith-full to the words of Jesus, living the way of a hopeful, aspiring, would-be pacifist father. Which might be the only way any of us are capable of doing it anyway.

So was my friend right?
I don’t think so. Not if I believe in the power of the resurrection and the hope that lies within! I don’t think he was.

Grace and peace
from a would-be pacifist and an awestruck father!

erik

PS :: if you would like a resource to further this conversation here is a REALLY good one!

What would you do if? This little book entitled :: What Would You DO is a great resource to help you think through the challenges and questions of being a pacifist. It’s a great read from a few voices, put together by John Howard Yoder. Who is a stud and somebody you should read! Without a doubt!
:: Politics of Jesus
:: The Original Revolution
:: Body Politics
// TO NAME A FEW…

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Summer :: Week 1.3 :: Nuggets!


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Well despite my last post my first week of summer went really well. As mentioned earlier Youthfront really does things right, they are very intentional when it comes to their programming and that is a win for the camp, for the speaker, and most importantly for the students!

One thing they do differently than most camps i speak at is they assign a text to preach each day. They do this so that they can tie other elements into the message. And that’s great but in reality it does make my job a bit harder.

I mean think about it, during my busiest summer i think i did, 8 – 9 – 10 camps, something like that. A normal busy summer for me averages 7 camps. If each of those camps gave me the text to preach for each message i would have to prepare around 56 message for one summer. That would be crazy my friends! Typically i spent April and May preparing 10 or so messages that i will share all summer, that’s my method.

BUT! with that said, some of the text i was given to preach on really excited me and i feel like the Lord gave me some great nuggets to share.

Especially for the thursday and friday messages! The messages went awesome! i think students were really responsive and i sensed that Jesus was up to some big stuff! Because most of the response was done in cabin time i didn’t get to see that part but i heard that at least one student give his life to the Lord and started following Jesus for the 1st time. AMAZING!

So yea, I love preaching the gospel and when i find a nugget that is new, that feels like it’s a direct revelation from Jesus i get so pumped to preach it’s not even funny! I have at least one of those for this summer! Can’t wait to share it some more!!!

So, one week down (it was awesome) and a few more to go!
Be praying that God would continue to move and act and we would see the fruit of his Spirit growing in lives like a weed!

Grace and peace
erik

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Sermon on the Mount…


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I’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount with some regularity for quite a few months. I spoke at a camp this summer, August, and shared some of my initial thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically I shared thoughts on the beatitudes, and what it means to be salt and light.

I confessed to my congregation (the camp) that these were initial thoughts and that the Sermon on the Mount was really working me over and giving me a hard time.

I continue to study it. Currently I am reading some of St. Augustine’s thought and some his old sermons on our Lord’s sermon. I’m reading some studies by John Scott and still thinking HEAVILY about the words offered to me by Dallas Willard, NT Wright and Brain McLaren.

BUT STILL… The Sermon on the Mount is hard! It’s been hard to study, it’s been hard to land on an idea, a theology, a simple reading that I feel confident in when it comes to The Sermon on the Mount.

So I continue to study, read and now, listen to thoughts on The Sermon on the Mount.

I say, “and now listen” because just this past weekend I listened to a couple sermons from Mars Hill Bible Church on The Sermon on the Mount. First Rob Bell on “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the meek”. And also Father Sirico who preached on “Blessed are those who mourn” which he cleverly entitled “Whistling past the grace”.

The messages were REALLY good. REALLY encouraging. And really on (if you ask me). Maybe not conventional readings, interpretations, or messages on this famous message of Jesus but very good in my opinion.

And to me very affirming.

I preached a message on what it means to be “blessed” (which I previously blogged about). I made the point that I think blessing (largely based on Jesus’ usage of the word) might be more about God’s presence than it is about God’s gifts. Rob, in quoting Fredrick Dale Bruner says, “To understand blessed it to understand a divine ‘I am with you’” and in his message Rob translates the term “fortunate” instead of blessed. I love it!

Well I would encourage you to listen to a few of these messages. Be encouraged that even at your lowest God is with you, i.e. you are blessed!

Grace and peace
Erik

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