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Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

 

“The first day of spring is one thing,

the first spring day is another.

The difference between them is sometimes a month.”

–Henry Van Dyke

 

Van Dyke’s observation is surely proving true this year for those of us in the Midwest. Since the first day of spring March 20, we’ve enjoyed only a day or two of shirt-sleeve weather. Cold, unremitting rain and even snow dustings have occurred more often.

 

(Photo taken April 2)

 

But we know the warm euphoria of spring will eventually arrive; it always does.

 

“No winter lasts forever;

No spring ever skips its turn.”

–Hal Borland

 

And when warm sunshine spangles the sky once again, God’s springtime handiwork will proclaim his glory—from deep in the soil where tree roots awaken, to high on the mountains where overflowing streams roil.

 

 

We can join in creation’s celebration, singing our praise to the Maker of Spring:

 

O God of Defined Order,

You appointed four seasons to circle the year,

Each with its own purpose and characteristics—

Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn—

Inevitably and always in that order.

We praise you for your dependable constancy.

 

 

O God of Gracious Restoration,

You created foliage that returns to life each spring.

New grass suddenly appears, verdant and fresh,

Bush and shrub become draped in pale green lace,

And tree buds finally release their tiny leaf curls.

We praise you for your attentive sovereignty over all things.

 

 

O God of Inventive Design,

From winter’s death you ordained delicate blossoms

To emerge with varicolored vivacity–

Royal crocus, golden daffodils,

Blushing hyacinths, and flame red tulips.

We praise you for your infinite creativity.

 

 

O God of Marvelous Wonders,

You direct springtime rains to wash over the landscape

And replenish the earth.

Leaves sparkle, petals gleam,

And crystal jewels cling to slender limbs.

We praise you for your beauty-yielding renewal.

 

 

O God of Exuberant Transformation,

Songbirds, breezes, and gurgling brooks

Chorus together in euphoric strain,

Because you are the only One who can

Turn harsh winter into jubilant spring,

And we praise you for your miracle-working magnificence.

 

 

You are the Almighty God of invigoration.

And we celebrate you, the Gracious Giver of springtime joy!

 

 

_____________________________

 

P.S Most of you know that Steve was diagnosed with liver cancer at the end of March. Radiation therapy beginning in early May will be the first line of defense, with a liver transplant expected in the fall.

Meanwhile, we praise God for his peace, presence, and intervention.  One example of the latter: it just so happens (!) my nephew’s girlfriend is a profusionist.  That’s the person who runs the heart-lung machine to keep a patient alive during transplants and certain surgeries.  She sent an email full of helpful information and uplifting encouragement.  Bottom line:  there is every reason to expect Steve to fully recover!

Thank you VERY much for your prayers on Steve’s behalf.  God IS working!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.fickr.com (2).

 

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“Are you all set for your move to Chicago?” I heard Jessica* ask. She’s one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to. Her station is just on the other side of a partition from where my stylist Anna* works.

As I settled into Anna’s chair last Wednesday morning, I readily heard the conversation between Jessica and her client.

“Yes, we found the perfect house,” the woman was saying. “There are just two bedrooms, but…”

I knew that voice.

In late December my hair appointment had overlapped with the same client. That day she had expressed concern because none of the properties shown on realtor websites were fitting her and her husband’s criteria. She feared there would be no suitable homes to tour during their house hunt set for mid-February.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she confided. “I hate to think of moving into a rental and then moving again later.”

It seemed fitting to share our house-search experience.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted while peeking around the partition. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and just wanted to tell you the same thing happened to us before we moved here three and a half years ago.  We discovered that if the perfect house becomes available too soon, it’s likely to be sold by the time you’re able to visit the area and view homes.

“Our perfect house came on the market just two weeks before we flew up here from Florida to house-hunt. The same will happen for you, I’m sure of it!”

She thanked me warmly, appreciative of the voice-of experience offering reassurance.

And now, at the end of March, I was quite certain that same woman (whom I had not seen since December) was in Jessica’s chair again, sharing the next chapter of her story.

I peeked around the partition just as I had before.  Instantly we recognized each other.

“You found the perfect house! Awesome!” I cried.

“Just like you said, “ she replied. “It came on the market a couple of weeks before our trip to Chicago.”

It wasn’t long before the two of us sported our coloring-chemicals and sat together so I could hear about her house. We chatted away like old friends.

A couple of times Diane* mentioned her husband’s illness but gave no specifics; I didn’t press for details. Later in the conversation it seemed appropriate to share Steve’s recent diagnosis of liver cancer. (You can read a short explanation at the end of last week’s post, “Haven of Peace.”)

“I don’t always talk about the details of my Ken’s* illness,” Diane confided, “but you need to know.” She paused. “Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. The doctors only gave him twelve to fifteen months to live after the surgery, but it’s been two years and he’s still here!”

And together we praised God for his goodness.

I left the salon last Wednesday with my heart greatly uplifted. Ordinarily I would have sat at Anna’s station and read magazines or the book I always bring along.

But God is El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). He saw my need for companionship that day.

He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14). He provided Diane to be his voice of encouragement, hope, and joy.

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty (Psalm 91:1). He rules over all—every situation, every difficulty, every illness—even cancer.  Sometimes he ordains miracles.   Diane’s husband and countless others are living proof.

 

 

He is Yahweh Nissi, The Lord Our Banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  He goes into the battle before us, leading the way toward victory in all circumstances—a victory of faith in the face of trouble (1 John 5:4).

He is Yahweh Rapha, The Lord Who Heals (Psalm 103:2-3). And if the healing is not realized on earth, it is guaranteed in heaven (Revelation 21:4).

 

*     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God,

for your knowledge that comforts,

your provision that reassures,

your power that enables,

your leadership that guides,

your healing that perfects.

You alone are the wellspring

of all that we need.

May we trust in you

with unwavering confidence

and rest in your transcendent peace.  

 

*Names changed.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.minot.af.mil (Cassandra Jones, photographer); http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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In spite of research, technology, and highly trained engineers, there are still appliances and products that leave us wondering, Who designed this thing?

For example:

 

 

Some of those motion sensor faucets do NOT work. They only detect motion in ¼” square of air space.  In addition, you must position your hands at a particular angle and you must move them at a precise rate of speed to get the water flowing.

Good luck.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

_________________________

 

 

Take a look down inside one of the drawers of our refrigerator. See that little niche deep in the left corner? All kinds of tiny bits find their way into those crevices; to get the bits out you need a Q-tip.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

Someone who’s never cleaned a refrigerator, I’ll bet.

_________________________

 

 

‘Ever make the mistake of washing your fresh fruit and vegetables before removing the stickers? If so, you’ve wasted precious moments (as I have) scraping off the stubborn adhesive. In these days of Gorilla Glue and Post-Its, you’d think they could create a glue that doesn’t turn gooey the second it gets wet.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

No doubt the top concern of “those sticker people” is what’s cheap–not what’s helpful to the consumer.

_________________________

 

 

And I just love hand lotion pumps.  They (purposely?) make the pump stem short so we’re left with two weeks worth of lotion in the bottom that won’t pump.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

I suppose they hope we’ll throw away the remaining amount to avoid the hassle of draining the container. Then we’ll purchase more often, which means more money for them. Clever.

_________________________

 

 

I know one Designer who doesn’t make poor decisions, careless mistakes, or selfish choices.  You know him too.

He’s the one who created caterpillars that can morph into butterflies by repurposing parts of the chrysalis into fragile wings.  Yet some species are capable of migrating thousands of miles  (1).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

The Supreme Designer gave hens the ability to manufacture a hard shell around a flexible membrane containing a slippery yolk and liquid albumen. In addition to that feat, thousands of invisible pores perforate the shell so the baby chick can breathe.

Within a few days after the egg is laid, blood vessels develop from the growing chick. Two attach to the membrane under the shell; two attach to the yolk. By the fifth day, the chick is obtaining oxygen through the membrane vessels and nourishment through the yolk vessels.

Peel a hard-boiled egg and you’ll notice an empty space at the wider end. That pocket of air provides about six hours of oxygen while the chick pecks his way to life in the big world (2).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

In 2007, scientists attached satellite transmitters to sixteen birds known for their long-distant flights: bar-tailed godwits. One little specimen called E7 flew from New Zealand to Alaska in three months—a trip of 9, 340 miles. That included a five-week stopover near the North Korean/Chinese border.

After nearly four months in Alaska, E7 began his journey back to New Zealand. He flew 7,145 miles in nine days, nonstop, averaging 34.8 mph. He didn’t eat, drink, or sleep that whole time. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he flew alone and ended up where he started (3).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

And those are just three examples, O God, of your incomparable work. I shake my head in wonder at the millions of plants, animals, and even one-celled creatures you have meticulously designed to function perfectly in perpetuity.

From nothingness you have created the universe and everything in it. Thank you for gifting us with eyes to see the beauty, minds to contemplate the wonder, and hearts to savor the miracles.  May we be ever attentive, appreciative, and worshipful in the presence of your creative genius.

 

 

What element in creation leaves you astounded?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

(1) https://lifehopeandtruth.com/god/is-there-a-god/intelligent-design/evidence-for-intelligent-design/

(2) http://biblicaldiscipleship.org/content/marvelousgod%E2%80%99s-creation-8-childen-egg

(3) http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2629

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.simple.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net.

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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Not long ago, the church where our son Jeremy is pastor completed a major renovation of their sanctuary. As you can imagine, not every change was celebrated by every person. We all know: you can’t please all the people all the time—even at church.

 

 

One recent Sunday a long-time member named Mike* was asked to pray during the Sunday worship service. Only he didn’t pray; he addressed the congregation instead.

“Most of you know I didn’t approve the remodeling of our church,” he began. “I liked it just the way it was. In fact, the beauty of the sanctuary was one of the reasons my family and I made this church our home in the first place.”

Jeremy’s heart sank.  How much damage would this reproach cause among a congregation that was rejuvenating and growing?

Mike paused and took a deep breath. Every eye was focused on him; not one program rustled.

“BUT!” he said in a louder voice. “This isn’t about me; this is about God. This is not my building; it’s God’s. And I can’t speak for you, but I’m going to worship in this church no matter the changes in structure or decor.”

Mike paused again, and then announced, “Now let us pray.”

Mike gets it: Worship is not about us.  It’s about God.

 

 

In our consumer culture, however, we’ve unconsciously fallen into viewing worship with a consumer attitude:

  • “I need a church where I feel comfortable.”
  • “I need worship to lift my spirit, especially after a hard week.”
  • “I need sermons that will give me guidance and strength, especially with all the issues I face right now.”

And when these expectations aren’t met, we feel cheated somehow.

But the word worship has nothing to do with our needs. It means worth-ship.

Worship is something we do to express our awe, love and respect for God—not something we receive.

 

 

When I make worship about me—my preferences and my desires, I’m putting myself in the place of God.

Ouch.

So how might I focus my attention to truly worship God and not drift into Me-Mode? Several possibilities offer a place to begin.

  1. Empty myself of me.

With Jesus as my role model, I can pray to empty myself of my own desires (Philippians 2:7):

Father in heaven, during worship today may: 1) my eyes be fixed on you with undistracted focus (Psalm 141:8), 2) my meditation be pure and pleasing in your sight (Psalm 19:14), and 3) my heart be humble, tender, and responsive to your Spirit (James 4:10).

 

 

  1. Determine to be an enthusiastic participant.

We’re not meant to be an audience as we sit or stand in church. We’re meant to be performers of praise and instruments being tuned for obedience. Our audience is God—an audience of One**.

 

  1. Seek after God, not an emotional experience.

Sure, there are times when worship lifts me into spiritual euphoria. But it would be a mistake to expect such moments every week.

However! I can enter worship with the expectation of blessing my Heavenly Father with gratitude, praise, and adoration. And I can expect to experience joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

In addition to joy in worship, God also promises other benefits including his goodness (Psalm 31:19), rest and refuge (Psalm 91:1-2), strength (Psalm 138:2-3), and peace (Isaiah 26:3).

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? We seek to bless him with our worship, and he blesses us many times over with what we really need.

___________________________

 

*Name changed.

** Big Daddy Weave composed a meaningful song by that title (2002). You can access it here.

 

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg with http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg with http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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For one of his most stunning and delicate works of art, The Supreme Craftsman begins with the most innocuous of materials: dust and water.

His factory/workshop for these masterpieces is the upper atmosphere of Planet Earth where he sets into motion a miracle of formation and intricate design.

God endowed water vapor with the ability to cling, even to the tiniest of dust particles floating high into the atmosphere. And when the temperature drops below freezing, those wet, clinging molecules turn into ice crystals. Very quickly they form a hexagon shape, no more than .008 or .009 of an inch in diameter, and a snowflake is born.

Vapor continues to bond to the hexagons in different ways as temperature, wind velocity, and density of moisture vary—even within the same cloud.

Some snowflakes maintain a hexagon shape.

 

(Photo by Wilson Bentley)

 

Others develop arms, and from the arms grow lacy patterns or feathery extensions.

 

 

As the snowflake tumbles downward from the clouds, vapor continues to cling and ice crystals continue to form—up to 1,000 microscopic crystals, each impacted by differing conditions. One outcome is certain: the greater the humidity, the more complex the pattern.

 

 Another photo by Wilson Bentley, 1890)

 

Is it true what they say, that no two snowflakes are alike? Most meteorologists say yes, because the dust particles themselves come from countless different sources–from sand, soil, and volcanic ash to decayed plant and animal material.

Add to that the wide-ranging variations of weather conditions mentioned above, and it becomes apparent: an infinite combination of factors contributes to the infinite number of patterns.

 

 

 

 

But God isn’t finished yet.

The awe factor is increased as tiny snowflakes begin to gather:

  • in graceful drifts,

 

 

 

  • on every branch of the trees,

 

 

  • and in sparkling swaths across the landscape.

 

 

And a few lessons present themselves as well:

 

  1. If God cares about the formation of snowflakes, he surely cares about the formation of his children.

A practically minded person would take one look inside God’s snowflake-factory and shake his head. “Why bother with all these designs?” he might ask. “Such a waste when they’re just going to turn to slush and eventually evaporate!”

But our God is a true Artist at heart, paying attention to details and creating beauty where it isn’t even necessary.

How much more must he desire to create the beauty of his holiness within our spirits?

 

  1. By itself, one snowflake is a fragile entity. But think what an avalanche or glacier can do.

 

 

By himself, one person can accomplish little. But think what happens when human effort is multiplied.

We weren’t created for isolation; God intends for us to live in community with other believers. Together we can achieve great good. Groups of Christians have generously brought aid to those in need, built schools, hospitals, and orphanages, even accomplished the abolition of slavery—to name a few examples.

There is strength in numbers, whether it’s snowflakes or God’s people.

 

  1. The miracle of snow occurs in silence; the miraculous power of God works silently, too.

 

 

Hours before we catch snowflakes on our gloves, the Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their creation. Silently the snow comes, and finally we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of dust and ice crystals.

Similarly, long before we take note of an answered prayer or unbidden blessing, The Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their fulfillment.

Silently he comes. And suddenly we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of his power and love.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Maker of Miracles, just as your universe is full of wonder, so are our lives. We can’t begin to recount all the awesome works you have performed for our benefit. All we can do is sing for joy at the work of your hands!

 

(Psalm 40:5, 66:5, 92:4)

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr (James P. Mann); http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com (Natalia Kollegova); http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com (AMagill); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nws.noaa.gov; http://www.paxpixel.freegreatpcitures.com; http://www.flickr.com & Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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Just twelve days to Christmas 2017. Are you too immersed in preparation? In all honesty, I’m scrambling a bit in order to accomplish the remaining items on the must-do list: finish the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, clean the house before the first guests arrive on Saturday, etc.

And for me, with the scrambling comes that uncomfortable feeling I’ll never get everything done.

It’s so silly, I tell myself. In the final analysis will our friends and family care if their cards arrive after Christmas? Is it necessary the packages be just so? Will our guests mind if every surface of the house isn’t gleaming?

Of course not. But my OCD tendencies still want to press me toward those expectations.

So what can I do to calm my spirit? I’m thinking the answer is worship.  I can express to God my gratitude, praise, and adoration–even while writing cards, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house.

 

 

Scripture assures me that, as I worship in God’s presence, I will experience:

 

  1. Peace.

 

 

  1. Joy.

You, [O God], will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16:11b

  1. Rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

 

 

What a glorious gift worship is! Isn’t it just like our loving Father to bless us as we seek to bless him?

And so, while writing the Christmas cards, I am praising God for friends and extended family spread all over the country, and praying for them, too.

 

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you for (insert name).

Thank you for their influence in our lives,

Their support and affection.

Thank you for treasured memories of time spent together.

We may have lived apart for many years,

Yet the bonds of love hold firm because of you.

Bless them, I pray, with joy in each day,

Provision and protection too.

 

While wrapping the family’s gifts I can offer praise on behalf of the recipients.

 

 

Your goodness, O Lord, has impacted our family again and again.

Every member has his/her stories to tell of

Your wonders, interventions, and miracles.

I praise you for each loved one—

His/her gifts and personality traits,

The delight You give us in each other.

I praise you we are able to gather once more

In celebration of you, our indescribable gift.

.

While cleaning, I can focus on gratitude. What am I thankful for in each room?

 

 

I praise you, Father for our cozy home,

for the perfectly sized dining set you provided

And the hutch we found rather miraculously.

I praise you for the large windows

Across the back of the house,

giving us a grand view of the backyard trees.

And I praise you that with gratitude

Even housekeeping can be turned into joyful worship.

 

Throughout the day, whatever the task, I can meditate on the wonder of what Jesus our Savior has accomplished.

And marvel again that it all began with his humble birth in a stable-cave:

 

(Gerard von Honthorst, 1622)

 

“O Sovereign God!

You have humbled yourself in order to exalt us.

You became poor so that we might become rich.

You came to us so that we can come to you.

You took upon yourself our humanity

In order to raise us up into eternal life.

All this comes through your grace,

Free and unmerited;

All this through your beloved Son,

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth

 

Come! Let us adore him—even as we work!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.flickr.com; publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

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