Safest Place in Iraq

Linzey-cover-v4 PreliminaryI am thrilled to announce that the book is finally ready to order. In fact, if you buy it before April 15, I will lower the price, autograph it, cover the shipping expense, and pay the sales tax for you. Plus, if you order two or more, I’ll send you the Study Guide free.

The normal list price is $16.99 at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Amazon, and most other outlets. But if you buy it from me before April 15, you can get it for only $15.00 with no sales tax and no shipping.

There are two ways to do this. First, you may click on https://paullinzey.com/books and order it on my website using PayPal. That should automatically give me your name and mailing address. The other way is to send me a check. The mailing address is:

Paul Linzey

2161 East CR-540A, #120

Lakeland, FL 33813

The book is perfect for class room, small group discussion, or individual use. Some pastors and Bible study leaders have used it for sermon illustrations. Feel free use the Connect page to ask questions or request additional information. Or you may contact me on Facebook.

Safest Place in Iraq is already available as an e-book at several booksellers. The typical cost for the e-book is $9.99, although I saw one online bookstore offer it for $8.99. The general release of the book takes place in September. Until then, you can get the print version only from me.

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You Don’t Understand Me

You Just Don't UnderstandWhen I came across Deborah Tannen’s book, You Just Don’t Understand, it looked good, so I bought it, took it home, and placed it on my nightstand. That night I picked it up and started reading, and reading, and reading. The more I read, the more I laughed out loud. The subtitle—what it’s really all about . . .

is Women and Men in Conversation.

“What are you laughing about?” my wife wondered.

“I’m laughing cause she’s talking about you and me.”

“What?”

Every night I read a few more pages, still laughing. I’m sure Dr. Tannen didn’t mean for her book to be taken as a comedy. She wrote it as a straight-forward description of the way men and women communicate, based on the way they think and their goals and purposes in the relationship. But when you see yourself and your spouse on every page, it makes you wonder, How did she know that’s what we do?

I think I learned more about communication with my wife from Tannen’s writing than from any other source. It was easy to see my wife’s foibles and laugh about them. Aha! See? That’s what you do! But then to read about what I do was a real eye-opener. I had to own up to my own patterns and behaviors.

What I learned was that Linda and I are pretty normal in how we communicate, and how we fail to communicate. In many ways, we fall into the stereotypes of male and female. But the way Dr. Tannen tells the stories is so funny. I called it my evening devotions. I had to read more.

One of the principles Dr. Tannen discusses in the book is the asymmetry between the way men and women think and communicate.

Men talk to Report; women talk to Rapport.

When there’s a problem, men move immediately into Fix-it mode; women move into Affirmation mode.

Men speak to establish Hierarchy; women speak to establish Community. Of course, these are generalities. There are men and women at both ends of each spectrum.

The truth is that women don’t need a fixer. And, contrary to popular myth, they don’t want a knight in shining armor to come and rescue them. They want someone they can relate to, someone who will affirm them, someone who takes time to understand.

Men are more comfortable talking about information than relationship. Their standard response to a problem is to come up with a solution, and they don’t understand why they’re not appreciated for it. They want someone who doesn’t read into their words and reinterpret them, but instead will take them at face value.

A couple years ago, a blogger posted an entry called Her Diary, His Diary. Hers was almost 300 words long. His had only seven words. She wrote that her husband was acting weird. He was upset about something, but wouldn’t talk about it. She tried to ask if she’d done something wrong, but he just said not to worry about it; it wasn’t about her. She was a total wreck by the end of the night, trying to figure it out, and finally concluded their marriage was over and her life was a disaster. His diary that day simply said, Motorcycle won’t start . . . can’t figure out why.

The comments from readers after the post, are just as telling as the original blog. Men sided with the husband. They got it. Women sided with the wife. They understood. Apparently, the writer struck a nerve.

In 1999, newspaper columnist and humorist Dave Berry wrote a classic piece about a man and woman on a date, Roger and Elaine, having a conversation in the car. The guy is concerned about the car, and the gal is worried about the relationship. Their conversation is hilarious, a great example of two people trying to have a discussion, making assumptions, but neither person knowing what the other is even thinking about or talking about.

Linda and I have had conversations like that. It’s not funny while it’s happening, but later on, it’s hilarious to look back, once we finally break through, communicate and understand each other.

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He Ain’t Heavy

Walking along a country road, a little girl struggles under the weight of a heavy load. A passerby stops to see if she needs help, and notices that she’s carrying a rather large baby boy, not much smaller than herself, it seems.

“Don’t you get tired carrying him?”

The little girl matter-of-factly replies, “He’s na heavy; he’s mi brither.”

The story first appeared in Scotland in 1884, in a book on the Parables of Jesus. It showed up in the September 1924 Kiwanis magazine. Then in 1941, Father Edward Flanagan discovered a similar story with a picture in Ideal Magazine, and got permission to use the motto and image at Boys Town, the home for boys he founded.

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The movie Boys Town came out in 1938. A 1941 sequel, titled The Men of Boys Town, included the line, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” In 1969, Bob Russell and Bobby Scott wrote a song by the same name. It became popular and was sung by dozens of pop singers in the 60s and 70s. In addition, there have been numerous paintings and sculptures on the same theme. Click on the record below and you can hear the song.

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There’s something about the story of the little girl that captivates the imagination and begs to illustrate a key theme in the Bible. In Genesis 4:9, the Lord asks Cain about Abel, and the murderer replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer implied in the scripture is simple. “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.” Leviticus 19:18 instructs the people of God to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which Jesus quotes in Matthew 22:37. The apostle Paul adds in Galatians 6:2 that we are to “Carry one another’s heavy load, and by doing so, fulfill the law of Christ.”

In Victor Hugo’s timeless novel, Les Misérable, Jean Valjean is a former criminal who changes his name and his lifestyle in order to hide his past, eventually becoming the mayor of a town. But the new chief of police is the very same officer who was a guard at the prison, and is looking to re-arrest Valjean for breaking parole. One day, one of the men in town is trapped under the heavy weight of a horse-drawn wagon, and nobody is able to get him out from underneath. Then, while Javert, the police inspector, is watching, the mayor hefts the weight of the wagon, lifting it off the ground high enough for others to pull the man to safety.

The officer remembers a time when a prisoner had done something similar in the prison, and wonders if this is the same man. Knowing what’s at stake, Valjean risks his identity and his freedom in order to help the man.

Carrying one another’s burden is the essence of loving someone in the name of the Lord, loving someone enough to lighten the load, loving someone enough to risk everything in order to offer a helping hand.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10 has a similar motif. In this story, several righteous people see the injured man, but they don’t stop to help him. The one who provides the desperately needed assistance is an outsider, a despised Samaritan, someone you’d least expect to offer help. But he does stop, and he does help. In fact, he pays the innkeeper to care for the man until he returns.

After telling the story, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” An expert in the law replies, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.”

It is this Go and Do Likewise that Jesus asks his followers to put into practice. Are we big enough to see every human being as our neighbor, and every person out there as a brother or sister? To put it into the words of the little Scottish girl, “He’s na heavy; he’s mi brither.”

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Expressions Storytelling Institute and Writers Conference

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The 2020 Expressions Storytelling Institute & Writers Conference is this Friday, January 31, at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FLorida. Special guest speakers are Jeff Goins and Carol J. Post, with genre workshops by Joni M. Fisher, Scott Morgan, and Paul Linzey. And then a fabulous panel discussion with SEU faculty members in the Department of Communications:  Adrienne Garvey, Bethany Miller, Chris Clark, and David Sparling.

The cost is $10.00 for the breakfast and $30.00 for the all-day conference. There’ll be a break for buy-your-own lunch at one of the campus restaurants.

Planned and hosted by Professor Hannah Benefield, this is undoubtedly one of the highlights in the state of Florida’s active writing scene. It’s better to register online in advance, or you may register and pay at the door. The conference is in the Campus Science Building. Make plans to join us. 

You Are Not Your Own

Roger & Michelle 2When you’re a Christian, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says that your body doesn’t belong to you. Your life doesn’t belong to you. Jesus Christ bought and paid for you, and now you belong to him. The Lord owns you. Therefore, the way you live your life matters. You decided to live your life the way the Lord wants you to.

Then in chapter seven we discover that a wife does not have the right over her own body. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body. In other words, you are not your own. You belong to Christ, who owns you. And if you’re married, you are not your own, you belong to your spouse, who owns you. Therefore, you might want to consider your partner’s preferences when trying to make lifestyle decisions.

I understand that this flies in the face of what the secular culture might be telling you. The message from your friends, your therapist, and the media may be more like, “Do your own thing. Who cares about what your partner says. Be your own person. Nobody owns you. If she doesn’t like it, so what. If he doesn’t like it, do it anyway. Be your own boss. You own yourself.” That’s what a lot of voices might be telling you, but they’re wrong . . . Every one of them. Your church might be telling you something different, too.

Before you click away from this blog, or decide that this concept is so outdated you’re going to forget it and live the way you want to, please keep in mind that this is the Word of the Lord. Life works better this way and marriage works better this way. But also, the harshness of being owned by someone is mitigated by the fact that ownership in marriage is mutual. You own each other. It’s not a one-way street; it works both ways.

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When the apostle Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Corinthians 7:4, there are three ways to understand his meaning.

The literal way to read the verse is that it’s talking about your physical body being owned by your spouse. In a literal sense, it’s saying that your partner has the authority to make decisions that affect your body, because your body belongs to your spouse. Interestingly, this is what a Medical Power of Attorney establishes. In some states, it’s called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

My wife and I have both a Durable Power of Attorney (financial/business authority) and a Medical Power of Attorney (medical/healthcare authority). You might consider preparing similar documents, but before you do, you need to make sure you have a relationship and a reputation of complete trust in each other.

A second way to understand “body” in this verse is to see it as a pronoun. It can be interpreted to mean the self. A wife doesn’t have authority over herself, nor does a husband have authority over himself. Biblical scholars point out that Paul sometimes uses “body” and “flesh” as if they were pronouns referring to the self.

And a third way to understand body in 1 Corinthians 7 is as a metaphor for life. When I committed myself to my wife in marriage, I transferred ownership of my body, myself, and my entire life to her. When she married me, she made the same commitment.

That’s why marriage can be scary. That’s why the decision to marry shouldn’t be made in a hurry, or before knowing each other pretty well.

The fact that your spouse owns you doesn’t mean he or she makes all the decisions. It doesn’t mean your mate can boss you around, bark out orders, or issue commands. It doesn’t give your partner permission to abuse you or take advantage of you, and it doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for yourself.

What it does mean is that you are accountable to each other. It means you are aware of each other’s feelings, desires, and preferences, and you choose to honor one another with your body, your decisions, and your lifestyle.

While driving to a restaurant one night, I asked my wife what she thought about the biblical principle of mutual ownership. Her response surprised me, but I really like what she had to say.

“It’s like Jesus’s parable about the Pearl of Great Price,” she told me. “The pearl was expensive. It cost the guy everything he had. But he was happy, because that pearl was precious to him.”

When we become a follower of Jesus, we count the cost and are willing to give up everything in order to follow Him. He is Lord, and His will is really what we want more than anything else.

In the same way, marriage costs everything we have. But what we gain is precious.

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What Mutual Submission Looks Like

couple-1030744_1920Husbands are called to submit to their wives just as certainly as wives are called to submit to their husbands. What might this look like in a marriage?

There are many ways this can be implemented. One way is the impact it has on the decision-making process. For example, some couples take turns making decisions. Others make every decision together, talking it out until they agree on what to do. One method is to have the partner who is more knowledgeable in that area make the decision. Another possibility would be for the partner who feels more passionate on that issue to decide. My wife and I have used every one of these methods. The key is to build and maintain unity in the marriage, to honor one another, and foster equality and mutuality.

Bible and TeacupThis is one of the take-aways of Ephesians 5:21, where the apostle writes, “Submit to one another in reverence for Christ.” It seems to me that “in reverence for Christ” is a reference to the Imago Dei, the Image of God in both husband and wife. We are to submit to each other and honor each other because both husband and wife are made in the Image of God.

Another way mutual submission might show up in marriage is the way you balance two careers. We discovered early on that a wife’s career is just as important as a husband’s. We also realized that it’s sometimes difficult for both to get good jobs in the same area at the same time. Because of this, my wife and I have taken turns making professional sacrifices in order to further the other’s career.

A few years ago, I was pastoring a good church when my wife had an opportunity to join the faculty at a university that was a bit too far to commute. After discussing it, praying about it, and thinking it through, I decided to resign from the ministry position in order for her to take the teaching job. A lot of people criticized me for doing that, because they believed the husband and his career mattered, and the wife and her interests should always be subservient or marginalized. A few months after we moved, the Lord opened the doors to another ministry opportunity for me. Linda found fulfillment in her career, and so did I.

Ten years later, I had a chance to go into the Army as an Active Duty Chaplain. Knowing how much that meant to me, Linda willingly resigned from the teaching position that she loved, in order to facilitate my dream of being a military chaplain. It just so happened, that my first duty station was near a university that had a PhD program in her field. She applied and was accepted.

As she was completing her degree, she got a new job that wouldn’t have been possible had she not completed the doctorate. Again, one of us submitted so the other could pursue a career opportunity. Every time we did that, it worked out to the benefit of the one who was making the sacrifice, and we were both able to pursue our dreams.

If you want to read more about this, take a look at WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage.

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The Annual Newsletter

Annual Newsletters: You’ve seen them, so you know the format. A recap of what happened during the year. Pictures that coincide with the stories. Almost always, the newsletter focuses on the good and fun events that happened during the year: the vacation, the promotion, the positives. We get them from friends and relatives every year, usually during the month of December. You get them too. You probably even sent a few.

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But what do you do when only bad happens during the year? Do you still send out that festive, upbeat newsletter? This happened to us a few years ago. Right after Thanksgiving, my wife asked, “Are you doing a newsletter this year?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll tell all our friends what a crummy year we had.”

When we recounted all the painful experiences and disappointments that happened during the year, we started laughing. That year, my wife gave up a job she really loved in order to be with me when the Army transferred me to a different part of the country. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer and had multiple surgeries. As she was recovering and going through chemotherapy, the Army sent me overseas, so I couldn’t even be with her. That same year, I had an evil boss who was trying to destroy my career. One of our sons was unemployed, and our other two sons were struggling with personal issues. Bad news after bad news piled on top of us, and it seemed there was no end.

We have a pretty good idea how Job felt when he experienced horrible losses back to back to back, one after another. No wonder he groaned and grumbled and grieved. No wonder his wife suggested that he simply curse God and die. When life gets too painful and it seems there’s no end to the suffering and bad news, there’s not much you can do. We understand, because it happened to us.

But Job didn’t turn his back on God. He didn’t lose his faith. He didn’t curse. And he didn’t end his life. In fact, Job 1:22 indicates that in all his suffering, he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t end his life, he didn’t sin, and he didn’t blame God.

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In our worst year ever, we adopted similar goals. We wanted to keep our eyes on Jesus and stay faithful in every way. When the world would advise us to give up, curse God, and die, we refused. And by the end of the year, even though we hadn’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel in those dreadful situations, we managed to laugh together.

James 1:2-4 reminds us to remain joyful even when facing many kinds of trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces character, perseverance, and strength. 1 Peter 4:12-13 adds that we shouldn’t even be surprised when life gets ugly, as if something strange were happening. Instead, we can continue to be joyful, knowing that our Lord suffered too, keeping in mind that if we are faithful during the tough days, the Glory of the Lord will eventually be revealed in us.

Job knew this a long time ago, which is why he could proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand.” And then he adds, “And I will see Him with my own eyes.”

The same is true for you, my friend. Do your best to remain joyful and faithful while you’re struggling, and you will see the glory of the Lord, because your Redeemer lives.

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The Old Chevy

1When we drove up to the historic motel on Route 66, an old Chevy parked out front caught our eye. It had to be more than sixty-five years old, and though the paint was faded, worn-off, and rust-eaten the car still exuded a certain charm and beauty. A couple of the tires were flat and one window was permanently open. Yet, it had a stately dignity that spoke of a time when it ruled the road.

Once upon a time, this automobile was the lifeline for an entire family. Dad drove it to work; Mom took it shopping. Weekends were for family outings, and Sundays for going to Church. Each summer she took her family to a far-off destination, and special occasions saw her at family get-togethers. The kids learned to drive behind that huge steering wheel, and longed for the day they might get a car of their own: something new, shiny, and fast, with the latest technology.

But the old Chevy had long ago been discarded. Removed to the junkyard, where it sat for a decade: unwanted, untended, and ignored. Just taking up space.

Sometimes we look at people that way. We have no time for the elderly, no interest in what they have to offer or what they’ve accomplished. They had their day in the sun; now it’s our turn. We look at people of different ethnicities similarly. We too easily disregard their importance, their feelings, their dreams and ambitions, and what they can contribute to the community or the church. We treat children as though they were worth less than adults, and teens as if they should be banished to a remote island.

The Bible, on the other hand, tells us to honor people, value them, and care for them. To look for the beauty and the charm that are still there in every human being. Romans 12:10, for example, says to honor and give preference to one another.

James 1:27 reminds us that “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction.” In other words, we’re supposed to honor those in society who are helpless or in less fortunate circumstances.

The writer of Job adds to this discussion by recognizing the dignity of the common person and by identifying with the hireling and the slave. “Do not mortals have hard service on earth? Are not their days like those of hired laborers? Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired laborer waiting to be paid?”

In context, Job is saying there’s no difference between the rich and the poor, the master and the slave, when it comes to how hard life can be. We all want rest at the end of the day, we all want a better life for our family, we all have hopes and dreams, we all need love and friendship, and we all crave acceptance and respect.

The apostle Paul summarizes in Philippians chapter two, where he simply says we are to value others above ourselves.

The woman who owned the roadside hotel told us that a lot of her customers express an interest in old cars and the way life used to be on Route 66. So, she called a friend who had a junkyard, and asked if there was an old car she could buy. Her friend gave her the Chevy and brought it to her motel, where it has attracted attention and sparked conversation among people from all over the country and all around the world who see the car while driving by.

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Bronze Wisdom

First Breath (2)While visiting friends and family in San Diego, my wife and I decided to spend an afternoon at Seaport Village, one of our favorite places. After lunch, we stepped into the Wyland Gallery and saw the sculpture of a humpback whale nudging her newborn to the surface for its first breath, and we couldn’t help but stop, stand, and stare. It’s a breathtaking work of art, designed to show the beauty, compassion, and wisdom of a mother as she instinctively helps her baby take that first breath of life-giving fresh air.

We’ve seen humpback whales bubble-net feeding, emerging from under water, up, into the air, to catch herring in their mouths. After that experience, we read about these school-bus-size behemoths, amazed at the wonderful work of the Lord in His creation. But to see the tenderness of this act of the loving mother caring for her young was overwhelming. And Wyland’s artisanship is impressive.

The bronze sculpture of the whale and her infant reminds me of a story in First Kings chapter seven, where Solomon brought in a skilled craftsman to create bronze decorations for the temple. The scripture describes the items Huram fashioned. There were two massive pillars, interwoven chains, pomegranates, and lilies. He made an ocean, encircled by gourdes and resting on twelve bulls. Next, he crafted ten movable stands that were adorned with lions, bulls, and cherubim. He finished his work with basins, pots, shovels, and sprinkling bowls, all out of cast metal.

But what really caught my attention was the word “wisdom” in 1 Kings 7:14. The artist was skilled, knowledgeable, and had great insight. But wisdom? That’s not what I expected to see in the description of the craftsman at work.

When I asked my wife about it, she mentioned that a good artist needs wisdom, not only to know how to work with the materials at hand, but to convey meaning to others. It’s this type of wisdom that God had given to Huram as he built the bronze artifacts for the temple of the Lord. His artistic ability was a gift from God, further developed and refined by study, practice, and hard work, and offered back to the Lord as an act of worship.

First Corinthians 12:8 says wisdom is one of the Gifts of the Spirit. We need this gift, not only in the Church, but in our homes, our families, and our careers. Wisdom can help us handle tough situations. It will provide guidance when we’re facing temptation, and insight for those difficult decisions that seem to come up too often. We need wisdom for knowing how to share Christ with our friends, how to pray for someone in need, and how best to answer questions from our children. Sometimes, a word of wisdom spoken at just the right time, can provide guidance for our church leaders or even the entire congregation.

If the Lord gives wisdom to a mother whale so she can safely guide her calf, and if He imparts wisdom to an artist or a craftsman in bronze, then we can be confident He will provide the wisdom and guidance we need for the circumstances, challenges, and opportunities in our lives.

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Being Spiritual Together

church-4565590_1920Who you are as a couple can be infinitely more beautiful and wonderful when you are spiritual together. Every aspect of your relationship will be better. Your spirituality can include Bible reading, singing praise songs and hymns, praying, and going to church. Some couples fast, memorize Bible verses, and talk about the beauty in the world and the universe. There are many ways to pursue and develop spiritually. The important thing is to make a plan, and that you do it together.

When my wife and I were visiting some friends, the husband asked If I wanted to go to the grocery store with him to pick up a few items, so I did. He and his wife were relatively new Christians so in the car, I asked if he and his wife prayed together.

“No. We did that for a while, but we don’t anymore.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I got tired of her correcting my grammar when I’m talking to the Lord.”

He had a point. Praying or being spiritual together is hard enough. Instead of adding to the difficulty, you need to make it a safe experience by being supportive and accepting. The Lord understands your weaknesses and shortcomings, and he’s big enough to tolerate bad grammar.

I know some couples who correct each other’s theology when they’re praying together. Don’t do that. There may be other appropriate times to talk about theology, but not while you’re praying. God won’t send a lightning bolt if you accidentally say something wrong or misquote the scripture in your prayer. What’s important is that you’re praying together.

There are some cool benefits to being spiritual. You develop a sensitivity for one another. You’re more in sync mentally and emotionally. You’re stronger psychologically, and better able to handle life’s challenges and obstacles. You start knowing each other in a more comprehensive and more intimate way. Plus, you come to a deeper sense of unity with the Lord and with your spouse. Unity invites the presence of God, and ignites the power of God in your home.

You’ll also discover a greater inner security, joy, and fulfillment in your life. Your sex life will be better, and you’ll know first-hand what the apostle meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Accompanying these discoveries will be an inner transformation of character, a connection with the God of the universe, and an ability to overcome temptations and personal weaknesses.

In summary, by growing spiritually, you are able to bring your best self to your mate. That is a priceless gift. And that’s when marriage truly becomes heaven on earth.

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