. . . when I can’t sing . . .

There is no sweet nectar . . .

. . . anywhere. Returning home after a few days away, I noticed the three hummingbird feeders drained of all liquid. Used up . . .

These tiny birds love that sweet liquid and will sip all day ignoring the fragrant flowers and vines right under their long, sword like beaks. But this morning with feeders still empty, they were busily feasting on the red and orange blooms, not grumbling for the lack of their favorite food. Darting here and there from one flower to another, they seemed to be just as content, thankful for their meals.

I pondered. . . how do I respond when my preferred source of nourishment has vanished? 

I’ve been cleaning out old notebooks, journals and old Bible studies. There comes a time when you begin discarding much of your past experiences. Page after page found its way into the trash can when these words flew right off the page as I began tossing it. . . .

  “The only way I know you are trusting me is that you praise me.”

Did I write that? Is that true?

Worn words written twenty five years ago. Looks like my writing. I attribute that line of wisdom to a sweet Bible teacher leading a retreat at Fairhaven — Tennessee in 1998. I can remember those words reigning true in my life. That was long, long ago when life was simpler. . . when my  feeder was full of sweet nectar. No major crashes . . .

Weddings celebrated, grandbabies born. Trust was possible, real. I was fluent in praise.  Complications could surface as surely as life happens, but nothing so serious to disrupt my flow of praise.

Our decade in Europe with the International Mission Board brought continued trust and precious time in singing praises. Serving in Vienna and Copenhagen was the high point of our ministry. Health issues there did not dampen our music as we rejoiced in loving the peoples of the world.  

Praise came so easily . . . trusting my Lord was a way of life.

NOW . . . the sweet nectar is gone . . .

The Babylonians demanded the Jewish captives to sing. Not just any perfunctory song, but one of joy. “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” In Psalm 137, we can sense the pain of those sitting around the banks of the rivers in a foreign country, trying to remember happier days in Jerusalem .

They could not sing. . .

I like to imagine that they did sing —-  a silent song, one not heard by their tormentors, but heard only by their God. A song deep within their hearts, reflecting love and praise to the God they knew, but now He appeared absent. He hears the songs I cannot sing NOW. He hears the praises I cannot voice— He sings over me the songs I am unable to whisper. 

What a beautiful thought that our heavenly Father sings over me . . . and you. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

The Psalms are full of cries and lament unto the Lord. David was unashamed in sharing emotions, in being honest before Him. Seventy percent of the songs recorded there are classified as lament Psalms and were readily used in worship.

There are reasons I am having difficulty  praising. And trusting. . .  Some of you will understand the lament of this blog; others cannot imagine because you are brimming over with sweet nectar. 

  • I have begun doing research on the subject of child sexual abuse for a book I would like to write. Interviewing and hearing the stories of precious lives is a personal battle for me. Please pray I succeed in giving hope to victims of this grave wrongdoing. This is a year long process. (I will be seeking a prayer team to surround me in this project.)
  • The brokenness of family . . . loss of relationships. Tom’s mother once said, “There are things much more devastating than death.” 
  • STRESS  . . .  my doctor told me this week that due to my history of Lyme disease, Q-fever, high histamine levels, my body is unable to handle stress.

What to do when I can’t praise? When I have difficulty trusting? 

  • I listen to instrumental music –no words. Words surface from memory, ever so gently, restoring my soul. Right now—- There is a Balm in Gilead is playing softly in the background. . .
  • I read the Psalms–the other thirty percent of joy and praise!
  • Tom hugs me often
  • I begin mornings in gentle peace

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Tom’s cup from Austria says, Ich bin Der Weinstock, John 15:5. . .  I am the true vine

Are you struggling to trust and praise NOW in these moments? Perhaps you can share how you are learning to sing  again. . .

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night, His song is with me—a prayer (a low moan -my words) to the God of my life.” Psalm 42: 8

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. . . growing my beard . . .

It was flying straight towards me.  I ducked . . . a  male cardinal hit the clear glass pane with a  bang. Windows without screens invite winged creatures to fly straight through them. 

The bright red bird was stunned . . . for ten minutes, he sat perfectly still, listening to me as I opened the door, speaking softly to him. He didn’t move an eyelid; he didn’t cock his head. It was uncanny–this stillness, this waiting. It was as if he knew any movement would hinder his hope of recovery When all sense and presence of mind returned, off he flew.

It happened again yesterday; only this time it was a small goldfinch. The bright yellow male sat right where he landed, not moving, for almost an hour. I thought he had surely broken something, but then he darted to the tree above.

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(photo by Lyndi Harris)

Why can’t I sit still . . . not flailing in despair . . . waiting . . . gaining strength . . . changing perspective if necessary? Waiting. . . quietly . . . Am I committed to staying calm as I recoup my balance when a devastating circumstance would detour me. Where did birds learn to take such blows in stride, to quietly compose themselves before running into another situation? Neither one of these colorful beauties called a friend to support him in his pain; they did not Google for a quick remedy. “I pour out my complaint before You, O Lord. before You, I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.” Psalm 142: 2-3a

While birds are often stunned when crashing into a glass barrier as these two were,  over one hundred million birds die every year when they attempt cruising through a window. It’s virtual suicide. They do not recognize the clear pane as a barrier.  Bird lovers are encouraged to cut branches, move feeders, add decals, close curtains,–multiple solutions are given to prevent more deaths. Perhaps I need to make sure my windows are dirty:-)  

Are there solutions when you and I slam into a barrier? When circumstances steal the very air we breathe.  Stunned fowls need peace and quiet to reboot. I, too, must adhere to that advice. I am reminded of David in Psalm 131 when he acknowledges . . . “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” He is totally contented, at peace, waiting.

An interesting story in 2 Samuel 10  gives insight into waiting for healing.  David’s gesture to show kindness to an Ammonite king was interpreted as a spy motive. David’s delegation of men was siezed; their beards were shaved half off, and their clothes were cut down the middle. Imagine returning to Jerusalem with buttocks showing! There was no debate; they could not return home. 

This was humiliation at its worst. To have one’s beard removed was a major taboo in the Israelite culture; it was an insult.  Exposure of one’s  private areas was a shameful practice afflicted to prisoners of war. King David heard of his men’s pain and instructed them to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back.

Why Jericho? Jericho was the first city the men would have come to after crossing the Jordan from Ammon. No doubt it was an unfruitful area with few inhabitants as it had not been rebuilt since the walls had fallen and the city burned during the conquest years before. (Joshua 6) The shamed men could be obscure while regaining their sense of worth and strength to continue their journey. 

But it is a sweet spot–this Jericho to which David sends them. Jericho literally means a place of fragrance. Imagine that these devastated men needed to seek calmness, peace, and quietness in order for their emotionally damaged hurts to be soothed. Trees of balsam, pine, and the spring blooms of the myrobalan or cherry plum perfumed the ruins. 

Perhaps we need to hurry to our place of fragrance, a sweet place. . . and stay there until our beards grow back.  A place where we can be soothed , to again know peace . . . His peace.”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you  . . . John 14:27

. . . my beard is growing . . .

 

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. . . protected . . .

Tears splashed my face as the words of Even If . . . washed over my heart at a funeral this past Sunday. What a testimony in song at the memorial service for Cheryl. Our church had witnessed a four-year graceful cancer battle fought by this soft, gentle young lady in our midst. Her faith had never wavered; she knew God could, but if He didn’t—- well, it would be okay . . . (if you haven’t heard these words, click here for the song and the story behind it . . . )  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHosmHnOrb8)

But can He save us from the fire, from the storms of life we find ourselves NOW? Will He? Do we trust Him . . . Even If. . .? Often there is someone who walks the journey with us, protecting, guiding, leading by example.

Years ago, I heard the expression, “a velvet covered brick”.  A book on Christian leadership, published in 1973, used this phrase. I didn’t read the book, but immediately, it became my definition of Tom Suiter. Picture that—a hard brick—secure, strong, covered by softness.

For fifty five years, this man has protected me, has corrected me in firmness, has shaped me. Now, as we are walking through the greatest crises of our lives, I notice the soft covering has grown thicker, while at the core he is more secure, solid. I love the definition of a covering. . . “something laid over or wrapped around a thing, especially for concealment, protection, or warmth.”

As he is covered, so Tom protects me. His covering is his faith, his life message. Years ago, he chose Psalm 71:18 as his life verse— “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.”DSC_0115

So this Friday, June 14, I will celebrate this strong force of protection. I cannot imagine that he has lived three quarters of a century—and most of that with me 🙂  I wanted to use this blog to honor Tom on his 75th birthday.  He continues to show me daily how to stand firm on The Rock.

How do I continue when I am afraid of the darkness. When there is no answer. When there is no hope of restoration of the losses within the family. When the break is unmendable. . .

My brick stands firm and strong—protecting me even against myself, ever wrapping me with gentleness and tenderness. Normally a brick would sink into the deep abyss, buried below layers of pain and heartache, but this one. . .  my physical covering, keeps afloat . . pushing me to the source of his strength.  .  .

I listen to the song again—Even If . . .

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I will confess my faith has been tested, almost shattered; yet, Tom holds me tenaciously so I will not sink. And I ask, would I stand firm without him. I want to believe that I would, that I can. There are promises in Scripture that I –that you— are covered, that we are protected. “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” Psalm 5: 11. What about Psalm 91:4? “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge. . . ”

Faintly comes a whisper; it came to me again in the night: “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax my hold on you. Assuredly not.” Hebrews 13: 5b, Amplified Bible.

May we each find assurance that Even If . . . whatever happens . . . when there is no answer. . . we are held, supported, protected . . . in the only possible Hope. . .

 

 

 

 

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. . . with a sacred scar . . .

“Begin praying My compassion for your father.” The whispered words jolted my quiet morning thoughts as I looked out over the mountains of East Tennessee . “I want you to love him as I do.”

I said NO.

For months,  I repeatedly said no.

After all, I had plenty of reasons not to pray that prayer.  I wanted no part of loving this man.  I was taking care of his physical needs. Wasn’t that enough? After leaving the scene of  family years before, he had not been a part of  my siblings’ lives for over 35 years. When I was approached by one of his sisters, I agreed to initiate his disability monies and place him in assisted living quarters. For 20 years, I played the role as a distant caregiver. I didn’t want him too close to me.

Scared . . .  most of us have been.

Scarred . . . most of us are.

I count eight scars on my right hand and fingers—tattoos of all my chopping in the kitchen. Tom says I am dangerous with a sharpened knife; he makes sure they are never too sharp.  My oldest scar is on my foot; I stepped off our porch onto a broken coke bottle when I was three years old . . . a prominent scar. After seventy years, the result of those ten stitches is clearly evident. I have no memory of that painful experience, but the scar reminds me daily that it happened.

Scar . . . a physical reminder of an injury or surgery.   These scars fade without any effort. Plastic surgery is seldom needed to cover them or change them unless they are disfiguring. Tattoo artists . . . tattooed . . .often can help change the scar into a beauty mark.

Scar. . . a result of the healing process. Without healing, the wound is evident, always there; without healing, there will never be a scar. Forever fresh, open, painful.

And so, I reluctantly  yielded to the Lord’s gentle, continued nudges to pray His compassion for my father. Stiff, generic words at first prayed religiously.

Emotional wounds. Now that’s a different process.  Many of us live with wounds that need to heal.  For me, there was an ugly, painful wound hiding behind forced smiles — one  that scared joy and laughter from the heart of a young girl.

My father’s abuse took the sunshine away, and I was no longer free to be a happy, content young girl.  My parents divorced soon after, and I entered my teenage years. I was scared, hiding the sad, dirty wound. I learned to cover it well—my Pollyanna personality enabled me to push through the pain.

With Tom’s encouragement, a journey of healing began. I was open to counsel; I read articles and books; Scriptures reinforced Biblical truths of my worth as a person while Tom’s love and support have forever supported me.  For years, I healed, and eventually, I had my scar. (The Wounded Heart (1995) by Dr. Dan Allender was especially helpful.)

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34: 4,5.

Just today on Facebook, a sweet Filipino friend shared that her 5 year old son tearfully met her with the words of another 5-year old boy at school “I won’t play with you  because your skin is brown . . .

. . . wounded . . . there will be a scar. . .

A precious friend in Europe is sleepless—for years— 70 years she has been sleepless. She was wounded and scared as she kept herself awake to protect her little sister from being abused . . .

. . . still scared. . . there is no scar . . .

Look!

By changing the order of these letters in scarred and scared, we have the word—sacred. I learned to value my scar, the thing that scared me most—I valued it enough to let it change me; I accepted it.  My experience became a stepping stone, a gradual, gentle ascent on my journey to Now. My scar will forever be a part of who I am.

My scar is a part, only a small part, of my story. It defines me . . . not in a way to ignore or to cover it—but to own it. It is mine. While I do not, nor cannot, celebrate the memory or the experience, I can celebrate that it has enabled me to be . . . well,  me.

heart-scars

LynnDove.com–may be subject to copyright

. . . sacred . . . something set apart, precious . . . worthy of protection . . .

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it.” Isaiah 43:14,15

No, I cannot love my father as a daughter loves her strong, wise father. But in a way, it is much more than that. I learned to love him as Jesus loved him.  I spoke at his funeral in February 1998, sharing this journey of God’s command to a sacred love. He is forgiven by His heavenly Father, and by me, a scarred daughter.

Brief, forceful words of a Colonel to a Sergeant in a scene in Black Hawk Down, the movie released in 2001 of the Battle of the Bahara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia, of October 1993, speak loudly:

Colonel:  Get into that truck and drive.                                                                                          Sergeant:   But I’m shot, Colonel.                                                                                                        Colonel:  Everybody’s shot, get in and drive.

Everyone’s shot–we’re wounded. The important question is . . . am I in the process of being healed? Will I develop a beautiful, sacred scar? One that gives glory and praise for His healing in my life . . . in your life. . .

“For I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me –in you– will continue . . . developing that good work and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in me – – in you. . . Philippians 1:6 Amplified Bible

Celebrate that you are you, defined yes, with your own personal scars,

. . . becoming sacred . . . –

 

 

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. . . tattooed . . .

“Of course, it was painful!”

“Sharp and  continuous from beginning to end– for twenty minutes. And worth every minute of it,” Ahnna, our granddaughter adamantly confirmed of her recent tattoo on the back of her right arm.  She has joined the ranks of a quarter of the U.S. population ages 18-50 making a statement with a unique tattoo.

Once thought of as a deviant behavior during the Hippie movement, today, a tattoo adorning a place on the body, is an acceptable form of expression. In fact, it was the movement of the 1960’s that ushered in this somewhat lost art form of past decades.

The method of marking skin with colored ink and pigment is a centuries’ old tradition in most cultures. There is evidence of mummified bodies with tattoos dating to the third and fourth centuries BC. Chinese marked their criminals; ancient Egyptians used tattooing as a method of healing. Other cultures have used it in religious worship. Early ship owners carrying slaves to America painted them for identification should they escape. In the earlier centuries, the skin was cut, and pigment was rubbed into the raw areas.  

Tattooing is the latest form of “outsider art” to rock the world of fine art. And today the global tattoo industry is well over 50 billion dollars annually and growing rapidly.

And then one day, I discovered I was tattooed!

Permanent markings of abuse, divorce, rejection and unforgivingness stained my early years.  I was never quite certain of my parents’ unconditional love. Even though I was loved fully and completely by Tom, the insecurities of  my family of origin haunted me even into my 40’s. Those cuts were painted dark. 

I remember the quiet morning, reading in Isaiah. Suddenly the entire room exploded in a soft brightness.  I had just read verses 15 and 16 of Chapter 49. “Can a woman forget her nursing child that she should not have compassion on the daughter of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you. . . behold, I have engraved you, indelibly imprinted (tattooed) a picture on the palm of each of my hands.” Amplified

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What an absolutely astounding declaration of love!

Surely I had read that passage before.  Isaiah is assuring the children of Israel that the Lord God will indeed never forget them after being in captivity in Babylon for seventy years.  But these words were personal this day, a promise for me. I quickly read those verses in every translation I had in the house. Sobbing, I was certain my name and picture were tattooed on my Lord’s palms.

The process of multitudes of tiny needles piercing the epidermis into the dermis is more painful on the palms. Tattoo artists often try to dissuade a client from having one drawn there. After all, the skin is pricked between 50 and 3,000 times per minute by the needles during this process.

Easter is coming. . .

. . . the season we ponder the way and the reason we are given new life– the whys. Roman crucifixion was gruesome and excruciating; Jesus willingly stretched out his hands on the cross while the nails were driven, and my name was engraved.  Oh, the pain . . . 

We can suggest this is all figurative language written  long ago; I prefer to believe the promise given me.  I can see my face tattooed here on His hand.  Can you see yours? The disciple Thomas made his boast that he would not believe Jesus had arisen from the tomb unless he could “put his finger where the nails were.” John 20:25. Jesus tells Thomas (verse 27), “put your finger here, see my hands . . . stop doubting and believe.” 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son; that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3: 16 

Always on his palms–forever in His heart,

. . . tattooed . . . NOW. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. . . in the storm . . .

I remember the day . . . some parts not so clearly. But I do remember the storm. Strong March winds rocked the vanilla colored Volkswagon as we headed up the mountain. Dark clouds filled the sky, and pelting rain added to the already frightening moment.

“We’re not going to make it,” I silently feared. Only two hours earlier, Tom and I had breathed our marriage vows to one another, and were off on our first adventure. NOW a storm threatened to destroy our immediate joy. I was scared. Certainly I had been in other rain storms, going with someone, somewhere. But never had I been so excited in the middle of a big storm with someone I had only begun to trust.

Timidly, I watched my very new husband manage the wind and the heavy rain and wondered . . . wondered if we would be safe.

That was 55 years ago–today, March 14.

Storms rage often and everywhere. There are over 100,000 thunderstorms in the U.S. every year. Then there are the dust storms, the sand storms, wind storms, ice storms. Add to that the tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis that bring havoc.

Today –again–we were driving to a get-away, secret place. And again, a storm happened in almost the same scenario as fifty five years ago. But I didn’t wonder today if we would make it. I knew this man beside me would manage the vehicle with the wind, rain and winding roads as diligently as he could. I trust him completely. Tom and I have a secret. We have chosen to walk this journey with the third person in our union, the Lord Jesus.

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 56:3

So many storms these years–all kinds. It’s the tearful storms, the pain storms, the hurtful storms, the medical storms that can’t be managed or maneuvered easily alone or even together. The ‘nothing is working right’ storm. How do we survive those? It’s a storm Tom and I right now–find ourselves.

Storms are more easily endured when three walk together through the difficult times. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (Amplified.)

John tells of an incident in chapter 6 when the disciples suddenly found themselves surrounded by a massive storm. Strong winds caused high waves in the darkness, and they were afraid. Jesus walks through the storm to get to them, to bring them to safety. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

I choose to believe that he is walking in the storm towards us this day and reaching his hand to save us from drowning. Even when the mud is too deep, making it impossible to lift one foot after the other, His presence is sensed even in the roar of the winds.

My regular readers know that I have been writing of this storm we find ourselves these past months; this is where we are. I must remind myself often that He is here, in the NOW, in the boat with us. Therefore, we continue to walk through these days with joy and confidence that God is indeed working His purpose out for our good and His glory.

And if you are going through a storm NOW, then know that He is coming to you in the dark night and affirms, “I am here. Trust me, Do not be afraid.”

. . . trusting . . .

(Rain was pounding loudly on the roof last night. I went to sleep, comforted–and didn’t post this blog 🙂

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. . . fearless?. . .

The view from my kitchen window looked more like spring than January.  Families of squirrels  skipped playfully in the warm sunshine.  We were enjoying days of rare temperatures the first week of a new year. These furry rodents were taking advantage of  moments in the sun. They were everywhere, running through piles of fall’s left over leaves. You could almost hear their happiness.

Minutes later, I was on the phone and screamed in my caller’s ear. A red tailed hawk flew past the window with one of those playful unsuspecting squirrels dangling from its grip.  He stopped to rest on a nearby tree branch with his fresh lunch catch. The victim’s tail wiggled slowly as I snapped a picture on my phone.  (If you increase the size, you can see the tail laying to the right of the hawk.)

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I know. I know— survival of the fittest. The happy squirrel didn’t have a chance. The red-tailed hawk, flying 120 miles an hour to catch lunch he has spotted from 100 feet  is guaranteed success.

Is there a lesson here?  Somewhat similar to  being caught in the spider’s web, but different.  (see . . . caught . . . ) I have pondered the difference. A moth, a butterfly, wasp–well, they get too close to a ‘do-not-enter area’ of the web, and life is over for the unsuspecting victim.  But a happy squirrel is living within his own territory.  This unprotected soft rodent is an easy target for the sharp eyes and talons of a hawk.

Wonder why a hawk doesn’t grab an armadillo?

Nine-banded armadillo

The hawk has few predators. Neither does the armadillo. The only predator for this nine banded rodent is a man with a gun or a fast car.  This is nightly road-kill on our country roads in Tennessee.

“Be well-balanced, be vigilant and cautious at all time; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring, seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (Amplified)

Often we are as innocent and free as squirrels, romping in the winds and warmth of the NOW. . . and then. . . quickly snatched, captured. I watch the hawk with the now placid, once playful victim—barely a wiggle. This predator doesn’t eat its prey quickly; it subdues it or squeezes it just to the point of suffocation –and then devours each piece slowly.

For a moment I witness the large predator with the small squirrel in its grip, and I see me struggling to be free. The Hawk that devours me, you—always comes with warning.  After all, a roar is not silent. Too often, I am deaf to the loud signs. Till it’s too late.  Potentially hazardous talons of busy-ness, self pity, apathy, judgment and other devious hooks squeeze life from me.

Can I, can you live free, in the NOW?  Without fear of the Hawk, but yet protected as the armadillo. The armor of the particular species living around us can deflect a bullet.  But I don’t want to be covered with hardness.

Me thinks it’s a difficult journey—to walk in fearless trust. The next verse after the warning to be on the look-out for the enemy instructs one to be firm in faith. Other words in verse 9 encourage us to be rooted, established, strong, immovable, determined.  (Amplified)

WOW.  I can live as a squirrel in an armadillo’s covering. 

. . .fearless. . . in faith.

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