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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual’

Today has been a strange day. I usually wake up raring to go, have things to do, places to go, people to see, and yet today, I just wanted to go back to bed. I got my Beloved off to work, fed the dogs, fed myself, and cleaned up the kitchen. Then I had a shower, got dressed and double-checked my schedule. It was shaping up to be a good, albeit busy day. I got to the office and checked messages. One from the Municipal clerk. So I called her back.

She wanted to know if I would pronounce the invocation on the new council members on the 1st of December. I was touched, and honoured, and thrilled. When I said yes I don’t know who was more excited…the Clerk or myself. I wrote it in my calendar and then started thinking about what I would say and what I should wear. Something to look forward to.

Then I got a call from a parishioner who is being discharged from hospital today. I tried to figure out the best place to schedule her and realised I didn’t have as much time as I thought. I am having tea with a friend today. I have had to cancel a few times and I promised myself that I would not short change her. So I rearranged my schedule and will be picking up the parishioner at a better time for her and for me. It means that I am shortening an appointment I have with a parishioner this morning, but it will work out okay.

This learning to take care of myself and honouring my time is challenging…but I think…maybe…perhaps…I am learning how it do it better…or at all.

Look at me go!

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A few months ago I connected with a young woman through social media. At first we seemed to have so much in common, that we were soon finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. She was seeking some spiritual direction and guidance and soon she was coming to Church. We connected a couple of months before Easter and she was interested in learning about how we do Holy Week.

She is legally blind and as such does not drive. I volunteered to drive into the city to pick her up during Holy Week. Most nights after service I drove her home, a couple of times my beloved did. Her daughter tagged along for a couple of services as well and it was amazing watching the two of them take in what they were seeing.

A few weeks ago my friend started having recurrent health problems that required her to go to emergency. She would call an ambulance and let me know what was happening. I would get there to see her if I could. Two weeks ago she called and told me she thought she was having a stroke. I advised her to call an ambulance and asked her to call me back. She was certainly undergoing some distress. The night she took ill I had driven to and from where my Mam lives and was quite tired. My ankle was badly swollen, I was exhausted and having some difficulty seeing (because of the fatigue).

I told my friend I could not come to emergency but asked her to call me when she was either admitted or discharged. She said she would. The next morning I received an email that said she felt hurt I had not been there for her and that she was walking away from God and therefore was walking away from me.

I was shocked and hurt but am not the type of person to beg someone to stay. If they want to leave I will do everything I can to get out of their way. I think my hurt was mostly because she had made it seem that if she rejected God she had to reject me as she saw me as a part of her Spiritual being.

My reply was that I was sorry to have hurt her and that I would not stand in her way. I wished her well and told her I would continue to pray for her.

The reply was met with hurt and angry words. It was filled with rage and blame. I did not reply to it, deleting it instead.

The first day of not hearing from her was strange, but also strangely liberating. She would often text and email all day and if I didn’t reply immediately would send another text or email. I had told her that I cannot always reply immediately and she said she understood, but in reality, I don’t think she did.

Three days passed without hearing a word. Yesterday I received an email through the church website from someone claiming to be a friend and spiritual teacher of hers. He indicated that she was in great distress and urged me to mend our spiritual friendship. He said he had not heard from her in years but God had told him to plead with me for her safety.

I felt bullied and curious at the same time. Emotional blackmail would be a good term to use. I waited a full day before I replied, politely, that the decision to end our friendship had come from her and I was respecting that decision. The email he supplied bounced back. I deleted the message and thought no more about it.

This morning I received a text and an email from my friend, attempting contact again, saying how she had forgiven me.

I asked her who this man was that contacted me. She claimed to not have had contact with him in two years. When I shared the email he sent me, her reply was that he had gathered his information from God. As much as I believe in God, I don’t think this is the work of God.

So I told her I was sorry she felt hurt. I told her that her words hurt me and that I needed time to myself. I told her I thought a break in our communication would be best.

She replied that she has forgiven me and wants me to forgive her, as God has forgiven both of us. Now I am angry and feeling manipulated, so I didn’t respond to her last two emails.

After spending time in prayer, I have decided to let this friendship lay fallow for a while. I don’t know if I want to be involved with her as a friend or as her spiritual guide. I feel as though she has manipulated me and wants things on her terms only. I don’t operate that way.

So I have decided that it is time to let go. I’m leaving this one with God.

In fact, I need to do more of that…but that’s a musing for another day.

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Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever you want to call it. It is the day where we use up all the fat and whatnot before we enter the 40 days plus Sundays of Lent. A time of fasting, of almsgiving, of turning our attention inward.

This year I have challenged my congregation to keep one word at the forefront of Lent: mindfulness. So often we go about our days in autopilot and we forget about the joy and pleasure that surrounds us. We don’t listen when people are talking; instead we are formulating our response. Lent is a time of year when we need to slow down and look around.

I have challenged my congregation to deepen their relationship with God. In whatever that looks like for them; be it daily bible reading, meditation, prayer, sitting in silence. It’s about shutting out the sounds, embracing the silence and being at peace with the sacred.

Today I burned last years palm crosses for ashes and they are ready at the Church. The silver has been put away and the pottery brought out. We have veiled all the brass, veiled the crosses and now begin the time of contemplation, the vivid and shocking realisation that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Lent is about turning yourself inside out and examining everything about yourself; even the dark and scary corners that you usually avoid. This is the place to sit in the stillness and anxiety; to allow yourself to look at failure and doubt, knowing that you rest in the arms of a God who loves you completely and honestly: always has, and always will.

I have decided to give up processed food and to embrace juicing every single day. For my spiritual discipline I am committed to spending 20 minutes of uninterrupted silence for meditation and/or prayer.

I encourage you to keep a holy Lent and to rest in the arms of the One who created you, who loves you, who sustains you.

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You may wonder why this Christmas post is actually the 26th of December? Well, after three services on Tuesday, one yesterday followed by Home Communion I was physically, emotionally and spiritually spent. I was empty. And so I slept, and slept, and slept. I likely could have slept longer, but at some point you are expected to return to the world.

Christmas is about gathering. Gathering with congregation, with family and friends. It’s not about gifts, and if the day came that there was absolutely nothing material given to me, I wouldn’t mope. I am fortunate, to be in a place where I can buy myself, most of the things I need and want. If there’s something I can’t afford, I wait until I can afford it, or I don’t buy it. I didn’t always feel this way. Most Christmases past were financed by my credit card. And it would feel good to buy with relative abandon. Then I’d add up the receipts and be gobsmacked and furious that I had spent so much.

My credit card always carried a balance. And after Christmas was usually at its maximum limit. So when the bill arrived in January I would open it with a sense of dread. Then I would pull out a piece of paper, a calculator and figure out what money was coming in, what bills needed to be paid and how much I could put on the credit card to try to pay it down as quickly as possible. But I didn’t learn.

In September my beloved and I decided we wanted to make debt reduction a priority, and so we applied for a loan and paid off the credit card and both of our lines of credit. We still have an overdraft because sometimes we the loan payment comes out before he has a chance to deposit his paycheque. At first I thought I’d miss being able to plunk down the credit card when I saw something that I had to have. But I don’t.

Instead of wandering around a store when I want to pass time, I meditate or go for a walk. I spend time on my yoga mat or in my sanctuary, reading, being still or simply breathing. And it’s awesome. I am going to take a garbage bag into the home office, as the dog got in there recently and tore apart of whole lot of stuff. I am going to fill the garbage bag with things that are broken or simply not needed and get rid of them. Either to the garbage or to the back of my car and off to an agency that will use them, such as Neighbourhood Closet, Goodwill or Value Village. And it will be awesome.

Since I have been lightening my financial load, I notice that my waistline is thinning somewhat as well. I think I have finally learned to stop self-medicating with food or shopping. Could it be that I am finally learning, after all these years? Imagine that!

So this Christmas has been very Merry. I didn’t get a chance to see my Mam or my brother and sister-in-law and nephews, but soon I will. I don’t have to eat all the things put in front of me. I don’t have to spend my way into a coma to feel good about myself and how much I can give away. All I need to do is give of myself and that will be a good thing.

Because I am enough.

And so are you.

My wish for you is that your Christmas be content. That you feel joy, hope, peace and especially love. And that you realise that you have everything you need within you.

God Bless xo

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The 5th of December is a date that will remain with me forever. It has for the past 25 years. All day I’ve been irritable, uneasy, scattered, and generally miserable. Oh, and I think I have a chest cold.

On the 5th of December 1988 my husband of 99 days left me. It’s true. Twenty-five years ago I was adjusting to being newly married, only to switch to newly separated and finally to newly divorced. I had spent the day with my sister-in-law and had left feeling much better than when I arrived. She was married to my husband’s brother, so I asked her advice. She gave it and I was positive and excited about how things were going to be between K and myself.

I walked through the door to the apartment with a huge smile on my face. Then I saw two suitcases packed. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Not we. Just me” he said.

“Pardon?” said I.

“I’ve decided this isn’t working for me, so I’m leaving”.

“Scuze me?”

“Yep, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be”.

“We’ve been married five minutes”.

“No, it’s been longer than that. But I made a mistake. I should have married you. Can I have the car keys please? I’ll be back in a couple of days to pick up the rest of my stuff. I called the landlord and you have to be out of the apartment by the end of December”.

And with that, he was gone.

At roughly 4:30 pm on the 5th of December 1988 my world was turned upside down.

Every year since, on the 5th of December, I have a physical memory of that day.

This year, 2013, just after 6:00 pm, I learned that Nelson Mandela had died.

A great man who leaves an amazing legacy. Nelson Mandela changed the world. And the majority of the planning and teaching for that change happened within the walls of his cell on Robben Island. Prisoner 46664 was initially tormented and humiliated. He rose above this and forgave. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (overseen by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) he was able to put a face on the inhumanity to which he had been subject.

He is a man of tremendous integrity, faith and grace. There is someone in my life that I need to forgive for abuse that was suffered from the ages of 3 – 6. I am closer now then I have ever been to forgiving him. And I believe that due to Madiba’s teaching, I may be able to actually forgive. Not this minute. Not this day. But soon. I may finally able to let go of that to which I cling. I cannot describe what “that” is, but cling to it I must. For now.

Over the past few days I’ve been cleaning and arranging rooms in the rectory. I have reclaimed a room upstairs as my Sanctuary, where I can meditate, stretch, pray, read, write, etc. It is a peaceful and lovely room.

I scoured the upstairs bathroom last night after both dogs had baths. Today I took down the curtains and washed them. I washed the curtains on all main floor windows, washed the windows and sills, and put the curtains back up. The house feels cleaner. It certainly smells cleaner. And my calm is returning.

This morning I reclaimed a small table in the dining room that had papers and other detritus strewn on it. A mess. Chaos. I don’t like that. It is now orderly. I know where everything is and most of the papers from that pile have been recycled or filed away. Order. Calm.

When I heard the news on the radio tonight I stopped what I was doing to listen carefully. Then I sat down and stayed perfectly still. Then I prayed. I gave thanks for Madiba’s life. I gave thanks to G-d for making Apartheid a memory instead of a reality. I promised to be more optimistic and to be more understanding. I prayed for guidance and strength. Then I sat, in silence and stillness for what seemed like a long while.

Then I slowly got up, made some tea and continued with what I was doing.

This week has been a physically and emotionally productive week. I’ve not slept nearly enough and I suspect that, combined with the dust and grime that’s been unearthed, is part of the reason I am having respiratory issues.

This weekend will be a very hectic weekend. And it will be draining, emotionally, spiritually and physically. But it will be worth it.

Mr. Mandela, you changed the world. You have inspired generations to learn from you and to do their part to change the world. I pray, one day, to make you proud of the changes that you have inspired in me, in my small corner of the world.

May you rest in peace and rise in glory. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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In my last post I shared just how off the rails I feel. There was something close to a miracle that occurred. My motivation came back. And I suspect, it was in no small way due to my husband realising that the house was in a state and he needed to do his part. He told me, on Sunday, that he was going to vacuum and wash the upstairs floors because he saw that they needed it.

I had made up my mind that I was going to clean/scour/disinfect the bathrooms…which I did. He not only cleaned the floors in the bedroom, he rearranged the furniture. I was excited. We washed the bedding, and the duvet cover, changed the duvet cover, and took a break at the half way mark. We went into the city to buy a new shower curtain and bath mat. Came home with two great bargains, as well as birthday presents for my nephews whose birthdays are in December and January.

Rejuvenated I hung the shower curtain, which has brightened up the bathroom, put down the new mat and marvelled at how everything was gleaming. I should have taken before and after pictures, but the feeling of accomplishment was significant. The downstairs bathroom is also our laundry room so it regularly takes a beating. The sink and toilet have been scrubbed and disinfected and are gleaming. I need to take down the curtains and wash them, but that won’t be for another couple of weeks at least. I need to take down the curtains in our bedroom and do the same, but again, not for a while.

The kitchen floor needs washing, but it’s been raining and miserable, and with two dogs there’s not much point. So it will get done later in the week. The mop stands at the ready.

Overall, I feel like I’ve turned a corner. My thoughts are more positive and my days feel much more productive. I went to a PFLAG meeting last night in the city and met a young woman who has been damaged by the Church. She allowed me to hold her hands while I reminded her that she is a beautiful child of God, created by God, and she is nothing short of perfection. She wept and gave me a hug. And I think she believes me, which is even more powerful.

I am shocked and saddened by how many people discriminate against a brother or sister because of their sexual orientation. It’s as irrational as discriminating about eye colour or nose size. It’s ridiculous. And yet so many people have been damaged by words spoken, supposedly from love, but in reality from hate. And it’s my job to speak against it.

That young woman and I walked out together. She was feeling much more positive than when she arrived. She felt like she part of something bigger, which, she is. And she is going to work on her relationship with God according to her new-found, newly re-discovered faith; not the faith that was used to hurt her. We are going to meet for coffee to discuss the Bible and theology. I’m looking forward to that. To finding out how she sees the Bible and helping her to find passages that are filled with beauty, not used as weapons of hate.

Today is a busy day with a Clericus meeting about half an hour away. Tonight is the Transgender Day of Remembrance that will be life-changing.

So, today, is a good day. Thanks be to God.

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I am not a huge fan of retaliation. In fact, most often, it has been my experience that when one retaliates from a hurtful situation, it usually escalates. However, in this case, I believe retaliation is necessary.

Yesterday, after a particularly uplifting Church Service, I was standing in the Gathering Space chatting with one of my parishioners when another approached and asked if he could “have a word” with me. We moved to a quieter part of the Gathering Space and he said “Is it true?” I asked what he was talking about. He said “I’ve been deluged with emails that you’ve joined a gay choir. Is this true?”

My knee-jerk reaction was to get up in his face and teach him a thing or two. I did not do that. I guess that means my meds are working. 🙂 Instead, what I said was “Who has been causing this deluge?” He did not reply. I told him that it is no secret that I belong to a CHURCH CHOIR in the City that happens to have some gay members. Why is this a problem? He quickly backpedalled and said “You know I love you and it’s fine with me, but – ” “But what?” I asked, somewhat angrily. I did not give him a chance to reply. I reminded him that I have always been affirming of everyone.

I have invited the congregation to join the same choir I am in, and have invited them to come and hear the choir perform. I have never hidden that I am an ally. I told him that the Wardens are fully aware that I am a proud member of PFLAG, then I had to explain what PFLAG is.

Eventually, this parishioner said he thought I should be aware of “what people are saying”. I replied that I would prefer to know who these people are and that I would appreciate it if he would either forward me the emails OR respond to the people who were sending them, that they should speak to me directly.

Personally, I can’t stand he said/she said conversations. It is the same as leaving an unsigned note on my desk. I won’t respond to the criticism or the suggestion. I was furious after our conversation and I came home to calm down, to pray and reflect on it. And in the process of this, I decided to change the Church sign.

I usually change it every week or two and decided to change it yesterday. Every sign has contained the word “love” since the end of May. The sign now says “We do not need to think alike to love alike”.

Take THAT haters.
Here endeth the lesson.

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It could be the edge of insanity, or it could be the edge of awesome. I don’t believe I have ever felt this weary and yet this wired at any time before in my life. It’s a strange manic/hyper place, where I am not the slightest bit familiar. I don’t like it here.

The past two weeks have been really rough in many ways and I am so very happy to be getting away from this place. I love what I do, and I love where I live, but right now I’m so empty that I’m worried I’m starting to corrode.

My yoga mat is packed and ready to go. I have a list of things to put in my handbag so I have what I need for the train ride at my fingertips. I have packed some healthy snacks to take with me so all I have to buy is sparkling water or perhaps a cup of tea. a friend is taking me to the train station so my husband and daughter can have an afternoon of awesome together going swimming.

Today we went to an off leash beach in a big city a couple of hours away. The dogs were good, the younger one has never been in the lake before and he loves it. He’s a natural swimmer and even gave our dock diving older dog a run for her money. They slept soundly, snoring most of the way home.

The towels from today’s adventure are in the dryer. I’m going to flip them around and put them on again as the load was really full, and I’m quite sure they’re not dry. And then I think I’ll go to bed.

I have no homily for tomorrow. And I will own it. I’m overtired, I’m beyond exhausted and I’m very pleased that I have two weeks away beginning tomorrow. By this time tomorrow I will be with my friend, driving from the train station to the small town where she lives and I will really and truly be on vacation. I was have two weeks of Sabbath. And I can’t wait.

The lists have been prepared of what I need to bring and many of the smaller things have been packed. I have a book I’m bringing for a course I’m taking in September, that I may or may not get around to reading. I am bringing my yoga mat and my journal. Two dresses for theatre events we are going to, and a small collection of tops and bottoms. A yoga jacket, a heavier cardigan and that’s all I need.

Makeup is packed, jewellery is packed, clothes have been set out but not yet packed. Still have to pack toiletries, which will happen tomorrow after Church and then, I am done.

I need to pick up a pair of sandals I was looking at the other night. My right heel is an absolute mess, and the sandals I currently have aggravate it. My thoughts of extended walking are on hold for a week, I may pick them up on week two of my vacation, if my heel is in better shape. The weather is supposed to be cooler and wet for the first week, then bright and sunny the second week. Awesome.

I will not set an agenda. I will take each day as it comes. I will take better care of myself. Drink lots of water. Eat healthier foods. Laugh uncontrollably. Pour out my heart and soul in words. Pray without ceasing. Stretch my mind and body into better health. Eliminate sugar, refined flour, processed foods and alcohol from my diet, perhaps forever.

Mindfulness is the touch-word for this vacation.

I don’t know when I will blog again. This vacation will also be electronics free. My cell phone is coming with me for emergencies, and for checking on my family. But nothing else. It will not travel with me if we are away for the day. I will not come with me or be near me when I am practicing yoga. And I’m looking forward to that.

Today, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of insanity. I pray that in two weeks I will be standing on the edge of awesomeness. Only time, determination, faith, and openness will tell.

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Twelve months ago my dad died. I miss him, more than I ever imagined I would.

This morning at 11:00 I am meeting a family at the cemetery where we will inter the cremated remains of their mother/grandmother. It seems appropriate that we will gather for this liturgy on this particular day.

M was also from England. She radiated sunshine and never spoke a mean word about anyone. Which is not to say she was all sweetness and light. When you had slipped up she would tell you, and you would know you had been told. She was fiercely proud of her family, and would have been delighted at her granddaughter’s wedding last Saturday.

M always wore Keds running shoes with a casual collared top and a cardigan. She joined our Bible Study group with some hesitation as she had never before attended Bible Study, and in the end she was the one who always started the discussion, as she had collected questions as she read.

I believe my Dad and M would have gotten along quite well, until it came time for football. Dad was a staunch Man City supporter, and M supported Everton. I would love to have seen the exchanges between them regarding their respective teams.

Today is also my sister-in-laws birthday. We are gathering tonight at my mother-in-laws to have dinner. I don’t really want to go, but I know I have to. Today is not about me.

So, after I’m finished my ‘work duties’ today, I think I will go for a walk and take in the beauty of this day. We started with fog, but it seems to have lifted now and there is bright sunshine.

Today is meant to be a day of peace.

Rest in peace, Dad, and rise in glory.

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Lately in the parish and community there have been several significant losses. It seems I’m spending more time with the grieving then any other group. What I’ve learned with time is that there is nothing useful to say to someone who is experiencing a great loss.

There are, however, many things that are NOT helpful when in crisis or grieving. This hit home with me after my dad died. Every one of these phrases was said to me. And they all made me angry. So here they are, in no particular order…

I know how you feel.
Been there, done that.
S/he’s in the arms of Jesus.
They’ve gone to a better place.
You’ll get over this.
You have to stay strong for your mother.
You must be used to this, given what you do for a living.
God now has a new angel in heaven.
OMG, this reminds me of when…
Chin up, s/he’s not in pain anymore.
I’m sorry for your loss.
What happened, exactly? How did s/he pass on?

Now, while these may be true sayings, they are NOT helpful when someone you love has died. So I’ve taken to letting congregations know that the phrase “I’m sorry” is perfectly acceptable, with nothing else added.

Yes, I am a religious person, but it brings me no comfort to be told that my agnostic father is in the arms of Jesus. He wouldn’t like it there. Too many people try to appropriate someone else’s grief by telling their story. With time that may be an appropriate way to share how you’re coping, but not at the funeral home or the church. The person who is mourning is a combination of exhausted, hyperactive, frightened, nervous, and numb. They are not there to comfort you. You’re supposed to comfort them.

Something we seem to be so frightened about is silence between two people. More and more often, when I’m sitting with a family I will deliberately not speak for several minutes, and let the silence wash over the room. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and there’s chatter about weather, sports, etc. But sometimes it’s comforting to be still in the silence, especially of the parishioner is finally sleeping.

Everyone reacts to death and illness differently. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only your way. I stress with families that if they feel the need to be angry, they should express that, especially if they are angry with God. As much as we are prepared mentally for a person to die, when it actually happens we realised just how UNprepared we are. It hurts like hell. And it will for a long time.

It’s not helpful to tell someone to “get over” their loss. The death of a loved one is not something that you ever “get over”. But with time, love and grace, you will get through it. You will be affected for the rest of your life. There will be times when you burst into tears because of a song on the radio. Or collapse in a fit of giggles because of a remembered phrase of joke. And both are absolutely okay.

At some point in the future I will post about stupid euphemisms people use for death. But not today.

Today is about the gift of silence. About the gift of presence. I remembered when my dad died, what I needed was someone to hold me and say nothing. My husband is awesome with that. Not a single word is exchanged, but I can feel the strength of his arms around me, hear the beating of his heart, and know, for this moment, I am safe.

True ministry, I’m discovering, comes from the heart, not from the mouth. There are times when it is appropriate and necessary to speak. But more often, especially when in crisis; it is more important to be wholly present with the person, and to save the words for another time.

With permission, take their hand, give them a hug, but say nothing. The strength you will feel from that experience will be life changing.

Don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t be afraid of anger, tears or laughter. Don’t be afraid of numbness. All are appropriate emotions when mourning.

So the next time you are at the funeral home, or greeting someone in the community who has sustained a significant loss, resist the urge to say “So, how are you?” because that’s not a fair question. A better statement is “I’m sorry.” And offer a hug or handshake, and be still in the silence.

I truly believe that God appears to us, not in the eloquent homilies, or the well prepared eulogies, but rather that God appears to us in the stillness and silence of simply being present.

“Preach the gospel, use words if necessary” is a misquote attributed to Francis of Assisi. While somewhat contentious, I believe it means that to be fully present with a person, you don’t need to say anything. Great comfort can come from silence.

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