Standing (kneeling, bowing, dancing?) before God

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on ...

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I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on your posture.


I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once help deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

**

A few months ago, on a Sunday morning, I went to the altar to pray. I’d been closing in with God, doing a lot of writing, thinking of Him as a friend. Sitting beside me. Walking next to me.

But that day, as I knelt in prayer, I realized something. I’ve spent time side-by-side, but not enough time at His feet. It’s a posture of surrender. The physical position is important. Because as I sit at His feet, I remember how big He is. How powerful.

I realize that for generations and generations, kings had to grant special approval to let someone enter the throne room. I’ve done nothing to earn that kind of access. But He allows me to approach Him in His sanctuary, this place of peace, away from the chaos and noise. To rest in the shadows of His glory. To draw near in the shelter of His wings. To not have to do anything. To simply be. To be with Him.

Nothing more is required.

Resting my head and shoulder against the throne, leaning near Him, imagining His hand resting on my head, I feel the weight of His majesty. A fatherly gesture of familiarity and comfort. The bestowal of a blessing.

The sweetest of gifts. The greatest.

**

We can’t control the way God responds to our prayers. But I’ve discovered that I have different types of experiences when I change the posture of my prayer.

Standing with arms open toward the sky makes me feel exultant. I close my eyes and imagine His light shining upon me, His Spirit pouring into me. I’m coming boldly before His throne.

Bowing on my knees makes me feel like I’m coming to Him in humility and supplication, remembering who He is and offering Him respect. Asking Him, humbly and reverently, for help.

Standing, arms open, palms up, I’m talking to Him as a friend. He reaches out His hands to grasp mine, and we stand face to face.

Face down on the floor, awash in emotions, I am physically responding to the almighty power and greatness, the majesty of my God. I am bowing as low as I can in order to lift Him up.

Lying in bed at night, whispering to Him, unloading the burdens I’ve carried all day, I feel an intimacy and can imagine His arms holding me tight as He rocks me to sleep.

**

If the only way I’ve experienced God is in the silence, the quiet moments might not seem so sweet. If I’ve only ever danced and shouted, I’ve missed the opportunity to hear His still, small voice. If I always humble myself, I may forget that He wants to come face to face with me and build relationship. And if I simply walk through life with Him beside me, I may lose sight of how powerful and magnificent He is. I may forget that He. Is. God. We’re not equals; He is so much more.

And the more ways I approach Him, the more I experience of Him.

What are you doing today? Whether you meet me at the foot of the Almighty God, or we link arms and dance for joy, or we sit down together and talk over coffee, know this: There’s plenty of room for all of us. And He will meet us there.

 

The Beautiful Word Bible giveaway

It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon? Yeah. Well. So I’ll content myself with ...

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It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon?

Yeah. Well.

So I’ll content myself with doing a brief review (because typing left-handed is still slow-going)… and then I’ll give YOU a chance to win one of two copies of this beautiful book. (They knew what they were talking about when they named it.)

The NIV translation is my favorite, and that’s what these giveaway copies are (although this also comes in KJV and NKJV versions). I’m always wishing for lots of space to write notes in my Bibles and for nice, clean, elegant typography. This Bible offers those things, plus key verses illustrated in a wide variety of styles (all fun and colorful). It’s nice to see Scriptures expressed artistically—it gives us a chance to focus on key words and concepts and better understand them. If you’re comfortable drawing in your Bible, that’s what this was made for—but even if that’s not your thing, use the space for notes or journaling. Write about what a certain verse means to you, what you’re learning, who you’re praying for, what questions you have about it, the definitions of words or other related verses… it’s wide open and flexible. You can find your own way and do your own thing. If you want to doodle or draw, then DO. It’s a whole new dimension of interaction with God’s word that can be meaningful and enlightening.

(On a side note, I find the recent surge of interest in coloring, drawing, and so forth pretty exciting… especially since my new book, Designed to Pray, is coming out in August. It’s full of hands-on prayer activities—coloring pages, writing prompts, charts and questions and pages on which to explore—to help you find new insights in prayer by embracing your creativity. Watch for more announcements, or pre-order now :-).)

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that the text in the Beautiful Word Bible is a little too small for my nearing-50 eyes. But the font is pretty and legible—an important consideration to this designer :-). I also wish the paper was a little thicker because some of the illustrated verses kind of show through the pages. Then again, Bibles always use thin paper or else they’d be too big and bulky to carry around!

Beautiful Word Bible composite

Would you like to win one of these Bibles? I have a hard-cover version and one with a leather cover to give away. To enter, just subscribe to my blog posts (right-hand sidebar) or leave a comment below. On April 8 (next Friday) I will post winners. And I’ll even include a little box of colored pencils I had produced as swag for the release of Praying Upside Down.

Hope lots of you will enter—I’m excited to be able to give these away! What do you think about this Bible? Does it scare you or thrill you to be invited to color in your Bible?


Some additional info from Zondervan that you might find useful:

Tips For Bible Art Journaling:

  1. Use the right pen: Look for a pen designed for Bible journaling to minimize bleed through and tears. There are many options in plenty of colors. Or, try your hand at colored pencils which make a great alternative to pens.
  2. Practice on scrap paper: Learn key factors like spacing and ink drying time before you make your mark on your Bible.
  3. Use back pages: When you get comfortable and want to move to Bible paper, try the pages in the back to help build confidence.
  4. Integrate Washi tape: Just a little tape under favorite verses and around the edge adds a lot of interest to the pages
  5. Peel and stick: You name it, there is a sticker for it. From letters and pictures, to shapes, ribbons, and designs. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to brighten your pages with stickers.
  6. Stencil and stamp: Just like stickers, there are endless options in these categories to enhance your Bible without having an art degree.
  7. Appreciate the paper: Use the translucency to your advantage by tracing your favorite images directly onto the Bible paper.
  8. Get inspired: Reflect on the designs found in NIV Beautiful Word Bible or your favorite verse art to help spark ideas.
  9. Don’t stress about mistakes: You will make them – learn and let go of perfection!

Shanna’s 7 Tips to Illustrate Your Faith (courtesy IllustratedFaith.com):

  • Spend time with God – read a devotional, listen to worship music.
  • Pray about it – ask God to guide you
  • Write it down – what is God telling you?
  • Draw it – bring that big idea into the margins of your Bible
  • Date it – Date your entries as you will want to go back to those verses and reflect
  • Tab it – Use tables to see what themes you’ve covered
  • Forget the rules – Connect with God in the way that is most natural to you!

Starting over in prayer

Is anyone else surprised to discover that it’s almost 2016? Somehow, every year I’m surprised by how close together Christmas and New Year’s Eve are. Yeah, I know. It’s the same every. single. year. So better get this printed out and hung on your fridge… or your mirror… or wedged into the center console of ...

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Is anyone else surprised to discover that it’s almost 2016? Somehow, every year I’m surprised by how close together Christmas and New Year’s Eve are.
Yeah, I know. It’s the same every. single. year.

So better get this printed out and hung on your fridge… or your mirror… or wedged into the center console of your car. This blog, and my book, are all about prayer. But do I consider myself a dedicated or accomplished pray-er? Not so much. I’ll gladly share my best secret tip, though: Try again. Didn’t pray this morning? Try this afternoon. Didn’t pray today? Try again tomorrow.

I fall short all the time. But instead of beating myself up, I just keep trying. I ask God to help me and to forgive my lack of interest. I ask Him to renew me, to help me focus. And then tomorrow, if I find myself in the same place, I stop for a moment. Say a short prayer, and ask for help. At that point, I’ve already prayed more than the day before. And I do that, over and over again. And you know what? Over time, I grow. Over time, I desire more of God. Over time, I discover that I’ve spent more time with God than I thought.

God’s always listening, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Even if you forget to talk.

So let go of your guilt, and let’s start fresh again together. In January of 2016. Which is less than two days away.
[ w o w ]

Download your calendar here.

Happy New Year!

What you missed (Allume 2015)

Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. ...

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Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. Here are a few highlights.

The aforementioned friends. The swag bags—and oh my goodness were there lots of free books! A little bit of heaven. Seeing my book displayed alongside some truly amazing authors, and getting to meet a bunch of others. Late-night talks, and time spent with my agent. Dinner with some people from Tyndale.

allume collage 2A few random (but profound) tidbits from some of the people I heard speak (top left to bottom right):

Logan Wolfram, director of Allume—”Peace only comes through the whole body… Their differences paved the way for them to undertake their ministry together… We all end up at the foot of the same Jesus… Be curious about what makes you different, but more curious about what makes you the same.” Excited to join the street team for her upcoming book, Curious Faith.

Austin Channing Brown—”Doing nothing is no longer an option… Committing yourself to constantly entering the brokenness… Whites have been elevated beyond where they should be, and blacks pushed lower. Both are false identities and have interfered with the way we see God… Incredibly important to the work of justice is to follow the more marginalized… Reconciliation cannot be done alone. It must be done in community.” Her words really stirred up something inside me, showing me why I must care about racial issues.

The Museum of the Bible—being built in D.C. to open in fall 2017. An immense undertaking—and an exciting one, because they want to show people the history of the Bible. And it sounds amazing. I’ll be posting more about it later, but you can go to their site right now.

Tim Willard—spoke on the language of beauty with language and ideas too beautiful for me to replicate. A couple phrases from my notes: “What God creates communicates joy because there is an echo within us. He is echoing in you because he is alive in what you see… What connects with people in writing is that which comes from joy or tears… Beauty demands something of me because I have to first pause to see it… The embodiment of beauty in your writing is what actually makes it so.” I bought his devotional, Longing for More, and the intro alone brought me to tears. Something so beautiful and profound in his words.

Chrystal Evans Hurst—Author of Kingdom Woman with her dad, Tony Evans—and what an amazing speaker. “We serve a God who loves to interrupt us. Every interruption serves to introduce us to Him in a new way… Rest is worship. It’s trusting God. Believing He’s got this. Stop, beloved.”

Gwen Smith (not pictured)—you should listen to this beautiful song. Right now. And then listen to all her other ones.

Wendy Speake—such an inspiring session. “Your heart message usually comes out of your story. Not the first one, but the second story (the ‘I once was lost but now am found’ story). We’re just a reflection of that message. And until we understand our own stories, we can’t tell those of others.”

Esther Burroughs—reminded us of the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit whispers and He nudges—and if we don’t hear Him, we’re not still enough… When the Holy Spirit works, He always points to Jesus, not to you or to your book or your blog… A woman of God who trusts the Holy Spirit has to live this way: instant confession and instant obedience.”

Lots to chew on. Lots of thoughts whirring through my brain. So many people with so much to say… and a whole bunch of books to read, as well. Looks like my mind is going to be busy this fall and winter!

Still having trouble being still

I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN. But since when have I ever kept it short? As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a ...

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I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN.

But since when have I ever kept it short?

As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a Bible study—sort of a prayer activity book, with eight weeks of prayer exercises. For Day 7 of each week, I titled it “A Day of Rest” and created short, quiet thoughts and activities for those days. Something simple, some way to stay connected and pray without ceasing, but nothing that was tiring or difficult. My thought process was this: On the seventh day, God rested. Maybe you should, too.

As Marcia and I were discussing it, I told her I was having trouble with the days of rest. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, that’s ironic!”

I have trouble resting. Relaxation feels indulgent. I have too much to do. Not enough time. Too many things I want to do. People to see. Books to read (and write). Ask my husband—I don’t even really relax on vacation. It’s a problem.

And yet, I’ve been bombarded with messages about why we need to rest. Why we need time to be still and quiet with God. I’m the first to tell about an article I read once saying that kids need down time in order to be creative. Their minds need time to ponder, reflect, wonder, and imagine. When they’re overly busy, there’s no time to simply think.

I read this article today, 6 Reasons You Seriously Need to Slow Down: How a hurried life can destroy your relationship with God. Although I haven’t read her new book yet, I read Emily Freeman’s blog, Creating Space for Your Soul to Breathe, which is all about saying no to busyness. My go-to Bible verse is “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

And yet…I hurry. Always. I can’t go to a soccer game without a book to read and a notebook to jot ideas in. I can’t pick up my son from school without a book. I answer emails at stoplights (but not while driving, I promise). If I sit in front of the TV, it’s with my calendar and notebooks and laptop spread in front of me. I burn nearly everything I cook because I sit down at the computer to try to finish one more thing and I don’t hear the oven timer go off.

I’ve been starting to wonder why. Do I need to stay busy to feel important? Do I do a lot of meaningless stuff to avoid something else? Am I afraid if I slow down I’ll never get moving again?

I really don’t know.

But it’s becoming clear to me that I need to try.

I’m not exactly sure how. No idea what that really looks like. How do I not feel like I’m wasting time? How do I not worry about all that I’m not getting done? I don’t think I feel the need to earn God’s (or anyone else’s) approval. I know I’m loved by God first and by my friends and family, just the way I am. But I always think that if there is more that I can do, I should. If I have any talents at all, I should use them. If I have all these wonderful people in my life, I should spend time with them. And if I want to do those things, I have to cram it all in and rush rush rush through my days.

I’d love to know what you do to slow down—even if it’s just mentally slowing down. How do you justify it? Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and it comes naturally to you. If so, I’d love to hear your insights.

I’ll start by signing off WordPress and picking up my journal. My house should be quiet for a little while longer. (See, I can’t even sit in quiet without something in my hands. My excuse is that it keeps me focused and I get less distracted.) But please, comment on this post and let me know your thoughts. Do you have these struggles too? How do you handle it?

Reaching the end

I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished! I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll ...

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I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished!

I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll be working on edits with Bonne, the same magnificent editor I worked with on Praying Upside Down. That gives me great pleasure, because she’s something like magic. She makes me look good. I’ll keep you posted on things like release date (next spring) and the cover and so forth, but for now all I have to offer you is the title: DESIGNED TO PRAY: Creative Ways to Engage with God. It’s an 8-week-long prayer journal/activity book filled with creative prayer exercises, stories, Bible verses and quotations, and lots of fun artwork. And I’m really excited about it. But I’m also quite tired. I’ll be sending this to my editors Sunday afternoon after asking everyone in my church to pray over it first. And now? I’m going to indulge in reading a good YA novel and watching TV with my son. I may also find some chocolate.

Here’s the link to download the new prayer prompt calendar for September. Hope you enjoy!

Sept 2015 prayer prompts

The essence of creativity…

As I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, ...

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GRAPHIC essence of creativityAs I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, afraid the thought would vanish with the scenery. Bits of my own writing, bits of other people’s.

This quotation is one I stumbled upon again recently. I immediately fell in love with when I first read it—when Ann Voskamp posted it in 2012 in a post about why everyone needs to make art everyday. (Read that post here.)

Because of my new book, I’m thinking a lot about creativity. About risk. About finding the courage to seek God even when it’s not easy. To look for Him even when we’re tired and weary. To pick up the Bible even when we don’t know where to start. Wondering about how to keep up a life of faith, how to not burn out, how to push through anyway. And I’m pondering how to still my mind and relax into my relationship with God even as I try frantically to meet this next writing deadline.

Just because I’m writing about prayer does not mean I struggle any less than you do. But with each comment I receive, each message and question about prayer, I am more and more inspired to work on this book. I’m in love with the subject. I’m in love with creativity. And I’m remembering how much I’m in love with the Creator who inspires all of those things.

And I’m grateful for you. For that thing inside that won’t let go, the part of you that keeps reaching, keeps wanting to try again or find more of God or reach out to connect with others. The part of you that keeps hoping. We hear all the time that God is love. And oh, He is. We can rest in it, pull it around us, wrap ourselves in the warm cloak of God’s adoration.

But the word that makes my spirit leap is hope. Hope says there’s always something more. That the end is not the end. That somehow, some way, things will get better. Deadlines will be met, bodies will be healed, finances will balance, relationships will be restored, life will move forward, and God will prevail.

But allowing ourselves to believe? Letting ourselves feel that hope? It’s hard. And scary. It’s a huge risk. But if you look back at Ann’s quote, note that she doesn’t simply say that creativity is believing. She says it’s believing enough.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to believe everything you hear or study. You don’t need all the answers. You can still wonder, and doubt, and try, and fail, and walk forward, and fall back. But just believe enough to pick yourself back up. To take one more step. To reach out your hand, to tilt your face towards the sky. To dream. To create. To pray. To seek. To hope. And to find.

Because the biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.

 

 

Does your posture influence your prayer?

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head ...

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GRAPHIC The more ways I approach

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once held deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

Join me at the Internet Café today to find out how.

The problem with prayer

Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that. But the problem? You’re never done. I’m a list maker. I will ...

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Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that.

But the problem? You’re never done.

I’m a list maker. I will transfer items I’ve already completed to a sheet of paper just for the sheer joy of crossing them off. I line my computer monitor with post-it notes with check boxes beside each item. I have lists in my calendar. I make lists for my family when I’m not around.

I like to finish something. I don’t have the world’s longest attention span. I also am a big fan of instant gratification, which is why I can never seem to schedule posts here on this blog. I write it, and I want it to go live. So I never seem to stick to a schedule. But I’m trying. (And I’ve digressed.)

As I was saying, I like to finish things. I hate projects that go on for months and months. I have to break them down into smaller pieces so that I can check them off: Do initial layout. Get approval. Revise layout. Get approval. Prepare art for printer. Download high-res photos. Get printing quote. Send to printer. Send invoice.

But prayer? I don’t get to cross that off.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to pray. I really do. But sometimes, because I’m so driven and obsessive and overscheduled (my own fault), I wish I could draw a nice big checkmark next to it.

I may be an overachiever in many ways. But I am severely lacking in discipline and longevity. I get tired. And bored.

July 2015 prayer prompt previewWhich brings me, finally, to my point: July’s prayer prompt calendar is ready to download. If you struggle like I do—if sometimes prayer seems too abstract and on-going, too lofty and heavy—this may be just what you need. It’s one simple prompt for each day of the month. You’re not required to stop there—let your mind wander. Open your eyes to whatever God brings before you. Keep watching… and waiting… and praying. Because just like our responsibility to pray never ends, our God never ends. We will always get answers. We will never cease to be changed.

And all it takes is just a few minutes a day. One small item on your to-do list with a monumental impact. And one mighty God. After a while, it won’t feel like a task to be crossed off a list, but a treat. A joy. A way to soften your heart, slow your mind. And connect. Amen.

 

Look around

Ask God to show you where He is in anything you witness, study, or participate in. Inspiration—creative and spiritual—is everywhere. ~Praying Upside Down Anyone willing to share with the rest of us? Where have you found inspiration lately? What are you reading? Listening to? Learning? Absorbing? Watching? Discovering? It’s not too late to download this ...

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PUD book quotes-12Ask God to show you where He is in anything you witness, study, or participate in. Inspiration—creative and spiritual—is everywhere. ~Praying Upside Down


Anyone willing to share with the rest of us? Where have you found inspiration lately? What are you reading? Listening to? Learning? Absorbing? Watching? Discovering?


It’s not too late to download this June calendar to use as a daily reminder to pray… or to help you pray for something different. It’s free to all blog subscribers!

 

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