Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Coffee Connection

I had coffee with an old friend yesterday. We meet up periodically to get reconnected, encourage each other, and learn how to pray more effectively for the challenges the other is facing. Our conversation this time took us back almost two decades to a Bible study ours and other families were a part of. What was fascinating was to reflect on how God had been working in our lives from then until the present. It was a time of quiet sharing that I believe drew both of us closer to the Father.

There were a lot of other things I could have been doing instead this morning, "professional" activities that could potentially help our budget and further my career. But were any of them really more important than those forty-five minutes I spent with my brother in Christ?

We get so caught up in our jobs and interests that we often forget to take time out to really engage in the lives of those around us. Yet it is those very times that are helping build our eternal futures as we share the love of Christ with one another. They may not do much for our "bottom line," but they can enrich our souls.

Sometimes a cup of coffee with a friend can be one of the best investments you ever make.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rending the Veil of Separation

The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament tabernacle. The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he offered a blood sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the laver that stood near it. Then through a veil he passed into the holy place where no natural light could come, but the golden candlestick which spoke of Jesus the Light of the World threw its soft glow over all. There also was the shewbread to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and the altar of incense, a figure of unceasing prayer.

Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered the Presence of God. Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies where above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in awful and glorious manifestation. While the tabernacle stood, only the high priest could enter there, and that but once a year, with blood which he offered for his sins and the sins of the people. It was this last veil which was rent when our Lord gave up the ghost on Calvary, and the sacred writer explains that this rending of the veil opened the way for every worshipper in the world to come by the new and living way straight into the divine Presence.

Everything in the New Testament accords with this Old Testament picture. Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.

--from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Locked Up Tight?

In many cars, there is a flat portion between the back seat and the rear window where people place books, pillows, or the occasional bobble-headed dog. What some may not realize, though, is this area is usually directly over the back of the trunk. Why is this important to today's post? Read on.

I was driving down Bourguiba, one of the major roads in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, West Africa. In front of my mini-van was a small car with two people in the front. There was nothing unusual about the vehicle, nothing that would make it stand out in the crush of other cars, buses, taxis, and rapides (a multi-colored van used for public transport) on the road. Then suddenly the interior of the car seemed to explode. Out of the remains of that flat area behind the back seat a sheep struggled to stand up. Once he got to his feet he seemed perfectly calm, but you can imagine the frenzy from the front seat. Fortunately, aside from some initial weaving back and forth, the driver managed to keep his car on the road. Meanwhile, his companion was reaching back trying to force the newly freed sheep back into the trunk. You can probably imagine how unsuccessful that was.

Many of us drive through life with things hidden inside us that want to bust free. We desperately try to blend in and not call attention to ourselves, but the suppressed feelings of shame, guilt, resentment, hurt, or whatever other damage we carry with us from past events we've managed to lock away threaten to burst out and expose us. As we travel farther down the road the poundings on the lid become more insistent, and it takes more and more of our energy just to keep the trunk closed. What a relief it would be if the trunk could somehow be emptied, the beast inside released. But our fear of it keeps it trapped, at least for one more day, inside.

Car trunks were not made to carry sheep, and neither are we designed to hold all of those past griefs inside of us. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (NIV). How is this possible? When we pour out all of the pain in our hearts to God he not only takes it from us he replaces it with his comfort and peace. He is the original burden-bearer, and his shoulders are broad enough to carry any load we have, no matter how heavy or painful.

Why continue to live with the beast inside when release is only a prayer away?

(Photo by David Friel from under the attribution license.)


Monday, April 27, 2009

Jumping For Joy

Go on...

What are you afraid of?

If God's love for you
makes you want to

jump for joy,

don't worry about
what others may think of you.



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Worship of the One True God

Is your god a supernatural Santa Clause? Is he some impersonal force that you tap into, or a do-it-yourself deity you can custom design to fit your own personal views of reality? Hopefully, you worship the One True God, who is not politically correct but eternally holy and righteous. This is the God this video celebrates.

--Mark Harris - One True God


Saturday, April 25, 2009

One Life To Love Others

It is SO easy to get caught up in all the stuff of daily life that we lose out on what is truly important: the relationships that God has given us on this earth. How many times have we put off our children with the "I'm too busy" excuse, choosing to focus on something that has little eternal value and losing a precious opportunity to enjoy, cherish, and help guide the little lives that God has entrusted to us? Today's video serves as a healthy reminder of what we lose when we choose to miss out on the love of family in order to follow our own ambitions.

--33Miles - One Life To Love


Friday, April 24, 2009

True Communion

As a pastor and traveling speaker I am always on the lookout for great illustrations. One of the ones I like the most is a story about the former Confederate, General Robert E. Lee.

Now although Lee had fought for the South during the American Civil War, he was not a fan of slavery and had set his own slaves free several years before the war. Was he a racist? Probably, but no more so than most people in both the North and the South during this time period. What truly sticks out about Lee, though, in my mind was his deep Christian faith and mindset. There is probably no more telling illustration of this than in an incident that supposedly took place shortly after the war was over.

Lee was attending a church service in Washington, D.C. Also attending were people from a variety of backgrounds, and unlike in many of our churches today the congregation was evidently racially mixed. As fate would have it, when it was time to take communion Lee walked down the aisle at the same time as a black man. Both knelt together for the sacred ceremony. Some people must have been astonished at the sight because afterward at least one onlooker asked him "How could you do that?" Lee's reply hits at the very heart of what Christianity is all about. "My friend," Lee replied, "all ground is level beneath the cross."

When we get to heaven we are going to be surrounded by men and women from all classes and colors who are just as saved by grace as we are. Wouldn't it be wonderful to break through the barriers of race and culture among believers today and start on those eternal relationships now?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lack of Understanding

But Judas Would Not Understand

When Lazarus rose at Christ's command,

And God was glorified of men,

The children cried Hosanna then,

But Judas would not understand.

When seated with Thy chosen band

Thou didst to Thy disciples say

That one, O Christ, would Thee betray,

But Judas would not understand.

The sop revealed the traitor's hand,

In answer to the question made;

They saw by whom Thou wert betrayed,

But Judas would not understand.

The Jews, O Christ, Thy life demand,

'Twas purchased for a price like this--

For silver pieces and a kiss,

But Judas would not understand.

Thou, with Thine own unstained hand,

Didst wash the feet, and humbly teach

That such a task becometh each,

But Judas would not understand.

Watch thou and pray,' was Thy command,

Lest, thoughtless, the disciples fall

Beneath the tempter's bitter thrall;

But Judas would not understand.

--from Hymns of the Greek Church by John Brownlie


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One Bad Attitude

Aren't you glad God still loves us
on those days when we have
such bad attitudes?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

God's Will Or Mine?

God has done so much for us that we often feel our efforts for Him could never be enough to please Him. While it is true that we can never repay Him for his grace, redemption, and countless other blessings, we can sometimes get too caught up in our feelings of inadequacy that we jump at any ministry opportunity available in order to somehow pay Him back. In such cases, though, it is usually not God's will but our own that we are seeking to fulfill.

How easy it becomes, then, to find ourselves trapped behind self-made fences of good works that may make us feel "holy" but are more about us than about Him. Yes, God has called us to service, but that service should be at his direction and not ours. His plans for us may not be glamorous, may not seem to onlookers as useful as others, but are we trying to please man and ourselves or God?

One thing we can be sure of is that God will never require of us more than He has equipped us for. Oh, we may not realize at first that we can do what He asks of us, but if it is truly God that has called us into a form of service He will provide us with the skills and strength to do the task well.

Living behind our fences of good works is spiritually exhausting and not nearly as productive as living in the freedom of choosing to follow God's plan for our lives.

It is a sure sign that we are seeking rather to indulge our own self-love than to please God when we prefer our own will to His. For if we only desired to do His holy will we should always be content and tranquil with this thought, God only requires of me what I am able to give Him...

--from Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Cure for the Crankies

Bored? Cranky?

Try asking God what He would have you do today...
And then step out and faith and do it.

You might be surprised at how interesting your life can become.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Redeemer Lives

Jesus Christ is not a concept. He is not a myth nor simply an historical figure. No, the Christ we as believers know is a living, loving part of the Godhead who visited this world in human flesh in order to die a humiliating death as a payment for our sins. Yet, thankfully, the story doesn't end at Calvary or in some tomb in Jerusalem. Instead the work of our resurrected Christ continues in Heaven as he intercedes for us in the presence of the Father. Additionally, the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of Jesus' followers here on Earth. Aren't you glad that the passion of Christ didn't end with the cross? Aren't you glad that your Redeemer lives?

--Nicole C. Mullen - Redeemer


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stormy Weather Faith

When the waves of the world come crashing down upon us, and our faith is tested like never before, it is often hard to cling to our hope in Christ. Thankfully, He is holding onto us, too, during those stormy times. The words of this song reflect our commitment to believe even when things seem the darkest.

--Jeremy Camp - I Still Believe


Friday, April 17, 2009

Short and Sweet

Why use a thousand words to make your point when ten will do the job better? Such is the power of proverbs and maxims. These bite-sized chunks of wisdom often impact our thinking more than the finest book or treatise.

With this in mind, periodically Soul Strokes will feature a post dedicated to a few pithy sayings by some of the masters of this art of expression. Today's thoughts come from the pen of John Wright Follette, an acclaimed Bible teacher, poet, and author from the early part of the last century. May they enrich you as they have enriched others over the years.

If we know HIM, we know enough!

Never take the initiative in moving into anything unless you have the Word of God to garrison you.--As soon as the Spirit takes hold of that Word, He makes it a throbbing reality.

The motto of Jesus' life: "I have come to do Thy will, O God."

Some leave the great essentials, and involve themselves with doctrinal issues.

We were not made for the here and now; we were made for the heart of God.

The spiritual, mental and physical should all have their source in the Christ.

It is not a reformation, but a total deliverance when He comes.

When we move in the will of God, it answers about a thousand prayers.

There is such a difference between being religious and being spiritual.

Always watch out that you have not too many possessions. If you are not careful, those possessions will possess you!

Don't develop a devil consciousness; develop a God consciousness.

Too many are conscious of their limitations. Count HIM in! Remember what He did with five loaves and two fishes.

Humility is something which is birthed within, and, if we think we have it; we haven't!

Lord, keep me alive until I die.

--from Golden Grain by John Wright Follette


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Calling All Sheep

Children, draw near to your Father, and He will embrace you in the arms of love! Come, ye poor, stray, wandering sheep, return to your Shepherd! Come, sinners, to your Saviour! Come, ye dull, ignorant, and illiterate, ye who think yourselves the most incapable of prayer! ye are more peculiarly called and adapted thereto. Let all without exception come, for Jesus Christ hath called all.

--from A Short and Easy Method of Prayer by Madame Guyon


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coping With Loss

Death comes to all of us, sooner or later; and no matter how much we may be expecting its arrival, the actual moment we are faced with it in the passing of friends or family members it will change us forever.

Death means loss for those left behind, and loss usually means pain. No matter how great your faith may be, the sorrow of losing one who is special to you creates an aching hole that will only heal with time. Yet for the believer, the death of a fellow Christian, while heart-wrenching, is still mollified with the knowledge that one day he or she will be reunited with the one who has passed on. This hope, this assurance from God's word keeps us going through the tough and lonely times ahead.

The title of this post's photo by Victor Stoyanov is "We shall meet where there is no sorrow." What a comfort that statement should be to all of us who know Christ as savior and have experienced the loss of a loved one.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality,
then the saying that is written will come true:

"Death has been swallowed up in victory."

"Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?"

--I Corinthians 15:54-55 (NIV)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meekness or Weakness?

I recently watched The Tale of Despereaux with my family. Not only did the younger boys enjoy it but my teenagers were impressed with the complexity and morality of the story. While one of the strongest themes in the movie is that of forgiveness, a no-less obvious one is that of not judging others. It is not so much what you are (man, mouse, or rat) but who you are that matters.

Such a movie is a healthy reminder for us since we as a people are quite adept at judging. We look at the clothes someone wears or perhaps even the mannerisms they express and form opinions on the person's character. Yet tragically we are often mistaken in our assessments. The well-groomed, muscular man-of-the-world who exudes self-confidence may actually be cowardly and petty. The girl-next-door with that sweet, innocent smile may be as vicious as piranha when your back is turned. Appearances, as they say, are deceiving.

One of the most misunderstood mannerisms, for example, is meekness, a word which is not synonymous with weakness, although many people seem to believe it is. That mild-mannered Clark Kent we work with may actually be a Superman when put to the test, but will we ever take the time to find out? We miss out on so much of the depth in others by only looking on the surface.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.--Matt. 5:5

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father. He is willing to wait for that day.

--from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer


Monday, April 13, 2009

Post-Easter Joy

Easter Flowers are Blooming Bright

Easter flowers are blooming bright,
Easter skies pour radiant light:
Christ our Lord is risen in might,

Angels caroled this sweet lay,
When in manger rude he lay;
Now once more cast grief away,

He, then born to grief and pain,
Now to glory born again,
Calleth forth our gladdest strain,

As he riseth, rise we too,
Tune we heart and voice anew,
Offering homage glad and true,

Glory in the highest.


--by Mary A. Nicholson from Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal church in the USA


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easter Story

I know of no other music video that so passionately portrays the Easter story like this one. Enjoy this "oldie but goodie" and have a wonderful, Christ-filled Easter Sunday.

--Michael W. Smith - Secret Ambition


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rescuer

Why did Christ have to die on the cross? Because without Him our way to the Father would be forever severed. Christ's sacrifice provided a means for mankind to be reconciled to God, and in our brokenness and need how wonderful it is to have that connection to One who truly loves us. This Saturday we have a concept video by Natalie Grant that illustrates how God reaches out to us when all hope seems lost and is there to shepherd us home.

--Natalie Grant - In Better Hands


Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Friday Message

The Precious Blood of Christ
1 Peter 1:19

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands, and feet, and side, all distilling crimson streams of precious blood. It is "precious" because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it the sins of Christ's people are atoned for; they are redeemed from under the law; they are reconciled to God, made one with him.

Christ's blood is also "precious" in its cleansing power; it "cleanseth from all sin." "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Through Jesus' blood there is not a spot left upon any believer, no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood, which makes us clean, removing the stains of abundant iniquity, and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved, notwithstanding the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God.

The blood of Christ is likewise "precious" in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember it is God's seeing the blood which is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God's eye is still the same.

The blood of Christ is "precious" also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood which justifies by taking away sin, does in its after-action, quicken the new nature and lead it onward to subdue sin and to follow out the commands of God. There is no motive for holiness so great as that which streams from the veins of Jesus.

And "precious," unspeakably precious, is this blood, because it has an overcoming power. It is written, "They overcame through the blood of the Lamb." How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus, fights with a weapon which cannot know defeat. The blood of Jesus! sin dies at its presence, death ceases to be death: heaven's gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! we shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!

from Morning and Evening by Charles Haddon Spurgeon


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crown the Lord of Glory

Crown the Lord of glory,

Angels, crown your King;

Saints whose souls He ransomed,

Bring your offering;

Let no voice be silent,

Laud and honour bring.

Crown the Lord of glory,

Once He dwelt below,

Bore the cross of sorrow,

Drank the cup of woe;

Now He reigns triumphant,

Let your praises flow.

Crown the Lord of glory,--

On the earth He wore

Purple robe that mocked Him,

Thorns His brow that tore;

Now His griefs are ended,

Praise Him evermore.

Crown the Lord of glory,

For His work is done;

Crown the King of glory,

God's eternal Son;

In my life enthroned,

Be Thy reign begun!

--from Hymns From The East by John Brownlie


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Gap

The canyon is wide
That separates man
From the Father

Fortunately for us
We have a bridge
In Jesus Christ


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God and the World's Pain

The world can be cruel. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornadoes cut down families as easily as a scythe slashes through a field of wheat. Poverty hollows out the eyes and lives of its victims indiscriminately. Disease steals our loved ones away from, and escalating crime keeps us constantly watching out for strangers and huddled behind triple-locked doors at night.

Where is a "loving" God in all the pain? How can He be called "good" when we are hurting so badly?

Sometimes there are no easy answers to our questions. Sometimes faith in his Word and character are the only things that we can hold onto in the storm. Yet, occasionally, we are given a glimpse of a higher reason for a specific tragedy. Such is the case in the story below:

Father, Father, Come This Way

I remember a number of years ago I went out of Chicago to try to preach. I went down to a little town where was being held a Sunday-school convention. I was a perfect stranger in the place, and when I arrived a man stepped up to me and asked me if my name was Moody. I told him it was, and he invited me to his house.

When I got there he said he had to go to the convention, and asked me to excuse his wife, as she, not having a servant, had to attend to her household duties. He put me into the parlor, and told me to amuse myself as best I could till he came back. I sat there, but the room was dark and I could not read, and I got tired. So I thought I would try and get the children and play with them. I listened for some sound of childhood in the house, but could not hear a single evidence of the presence of little ones.

When my friend came back I said: "Haven't you any children?"

"Yes," he replied, "'I have one, but she's in Heaven, and I am
glad she is there, Moody."

"Are you glad that your child's dead?" I inquired.

He went on to tell me how he had worshiped that child; how his whole life had been bound up in her to the neglect of his Saviour. One day he had come home and found her dying. Upon her death he accused God of being unjust. He saw some of his neighbors with their children around them. Why hadn't He taken some of them away? He was rebellious.

After he came home from her funeral he said: "All at once I thought I heard, her little voice calling me, but the truth came to my heart that she was gone. Then I thought I heard her feet upon the stairs; but I knew she was lying in the grave. The thought of her loss almost made me mad. I threw myself on my bed and wept bitterly. I fell asleep, and while I slept I had a dream, but it almost seemed to me like a vision.

"I thought I was going over a barren field, and I came to a river so dark and chill-looking that, I was going to turn away, when all at once I saw on the opposite bank the most beautiful sight I ever looked at. I thought death and sorrow could never enter into that lovely region. Then I began to see beings all so happy looking, and among them I saw my little child. She waved her little angel hand to me and cried, 'Father, Father, come this way.' I thought, her voice sounded much sweeter than it did on earth. In my dream I thought I went to the water and tried to cross it, but found it deep and the current so rapid that I thought if I entered it would carry me away from her forever. I tried to find a boatman to take me over, but couldn't, and I walked up and down the river trying to find a crossing, and still she cried: 'Come this way.'

All at once I heard a voice come rolling down, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.' The voice awoke me from my sleep,' and I knew it was my Saviour calling me, and pointing the way for me to reach my darling child.

"I am now superintendent of a Sunday-school; I have made many converts; my wife has been converted, and we will, through Jesus as the way, see one day our child."

--from Anecdotes and Illustrations by Dwight L. Moody


Monday, April 6, 2009

King of Zion

Behold The King Of Zion Rides

Behold the King of Zion rides,
But not in vain array;
The people wave their goodly palms,
With garments strew the way;
And loud hosannas fill the air
From crowds that, surging, throng;
'Tis meet to honour Him Who rides,
With cheer, and shout, and song.

O Zion of your God beloved,
The day of strife is nigh,
Yet comes He not in armour clad,
And sword upon His thigh;
The weapons of our mighty King
No other hand could wield,
The might of God is in His arm,
The will of God His shield.

See, on the Cross without the wall
The King immortal dies;
Not now hosannas fill the air,
The shouts of hell arise;
But in that hour of triumph deemed,
Satanic might is slain,
For He Who bows the head in death,
Shall rise to life again.

O Zion, hail your mighty King;
Your palms around Him wave;
And strew your garments in the way
Of Him Who rides to save;
And when He mounts His regal throne,
By bloody conflict won,
Give homage to the King of heaven,
God's One Eternal Son.

--from Hymns of the Russian Church by John Brownlie


Sunday, April 5, 2009


This clip has some fun footage of Michael W. Smith on his world tour. Yet more importantly, listen to the words of the song and the heart's cry contained in them. Do the sentiments echo yours?

--Michael W. Smith - Here I Am


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Unfathomable Love

This Saturday's song has been played a lot on some of the Christian stations. Even though the lyrics aren't terribly deep and are rather repetitive, the reminder of God's love in our lives is worth a listen. Enjoy.

--VOTA - Hard To Believe


Friday, April 3, 2009

Clarion Call

Clarion Call

Christ came in the name of freedom
To release the fetters of sin's slaves,
And to shepherd those in the shadows
Into the glorious light of His love.

But now that He has ascended,
He has called us to continue the task;
A role we surely feel unfit to play,
Yet one, in His strength, we must fulfill.

The darkness merely thickens
As we hesitate.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Learning To Love

Do you know how to love? While it is true we can have affection or even infatuation for someone or something, to love another person in the fullest sense of the word is not that easy. Granted, some expressions of love come naturally. A mother's love for her child is a classic example. Her love is usually so fierce that in most cases a mother would die to protect her little one. But would that same woman die for the neighbor she barely knows? The drunk in the park? The boss who fired her? How do you love someone that completely when love doesn't come naturally? How do you love a person that you personally have no affinity for?

We are called to be like Christ, and he loved the world so much that he was willing to die on the cross for everyone, even the ones who spit on him and drove the nails into his hands. How do we learn to love like that?

The truth is we can't, at least not on our own. Only through the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we begin to experience that depth of love for all those we encounter in our walk with God. No, we may never be called to die physically for them, but we may be required to die to our pride and selfishness in order to love them as Christ does.

We have been given a sacred task: to be ambassadors of Christ's love here on Earth...

How are we doing?

"Love is a Phoenix that will revive in its own ashes, inherit death, and smell sweetly in the grave." - Thomas Traherne


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Prayer For Our Children

A Father's Prayer

Jesus, Lord, remember me;

Ease my hour of mortal strife:

Let my children find in Thee

Guidance through this earthly life:

Write, with those dear names I love,

My name in Thy Book above.

by Hallgrim Petursson (1614-1674)
from The Passion-Hymns of Iceland by Charles Venn Pilcher


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