What I Learned in Seminary (So Far) – The Simple Gospel: The Glorious Oil of Grace

part 1

(Painting by Yongsung Kim)

Hello, Readers.

Have I told you how much I appreciate your readership here at The Beggar’s Bakery? I do – so much.

Last month, I wrote my first ever college-level paper for seminary school. I had just completed Course I and was challenged to write about what I had gleaned from the program material so far. Early on, I mentioned that I might be sharing parts of my seminary journey here on this blog, so here is essay #1.

It’s a pretty wordy piece, but kind of sums up some of the ways that the Gospel of Grace and the Christocentric have impacted me. I hope it speaks to you in some way – that you will know how absolutely in LOVE with you Jesus is.

God bless us, every one.

The Simple Gospel –  Glorious, Oily Grace

By: Jana Greene

I knew I was signing on for an adventure when I enrolled in Global Grace Seminary.

I gratefully had no idea what the scope of that spiritual foray would entail. My inner dying fundamentalist would never have allowed me to go this deep.

I became fascinated with the Gospel of Grace exactly one year ago, although in hindsight, I can clearly see that Abba was preparing my heart in prior years to receive it. I attended the Open Table Conference in Atlanta in April, and was introduced to the teachings of doctors Steve McVey, C. Baxter Krueger, and Wm. Paul Young.  Having soaked up the experience of accepting radical grace for what it already is, I was gleefully done for. No turning back. I wanted to soak up more.

Soaking up means giving up on a lifetime of sticky theology.

I began Global Grace Seminary right around the start of the New Year.  Now, as I complete the first course, my spirit looks forward to sharing what I’m learning with the whole, hurting world.

I cannot adequately purvey the difference between my pre-seminary vs. current seminary understanding of the Gospel without going back many years. Indoctrination starts early, when the heart and mind are malleable – the gospel of an angry god, being one of the stickiest points.

In my childhood, I was exposed to Southern Baptist culture. I loved the rich and velvety red pew cushions and stained glass windows. It is where I learned that God was to be loved and feared, but not necessarily in that order.

As a child, the message was clear:

God creates. He destroys.

God is counting on you to make the mark. If you’re not striving hard enough, you aren’t upholding your end of the deal.

God giveith, and God taketh away, often with wrath and cruelty.

Oh how sweet the realization is that Papa God is a good Father.

Francois du Toit said it beautifully: “If one could only make a quality decision to change one’s life, then the law would be the savoir of man.” – Francois du Toit

Praise God that the law is dead!

By the time I began Course I, I started experiencing all of the terms that I sometimes made fun of the hipster culture for using:

Wrecked.

De-fragmented

Disenfranchised from church as we largely know it.

Throughout the modules of the program, I find myself undone – which is exactly where I need to be.

Andre Rabe presented the Mystery of union with God by suggesting that We the People were actually created to be loved by God. The mess of mankind has died, and infinitely greater than our sin is Papa’s love for us.

The mess of mankind still sees Jesus through the stained glass windows. The mess believes He sits on the blood-red pews with us on Sunday mornings, and then goes His own way by the time His congregants are lining up at the K & W Cafeteria on Sundays at noon.

When the world thinks about of the image of Christ, they might see Him in their mind’s eye sitting on a rock, looking wistfully into the atmosphere. His portraits hung in your Sunday school and vacation bible school rooms. Dirty blonde hair, blue eyes. Perfectly serene expression. Sandaled feet and in robe and sash. I remember him that way, too. He is lovely and pure and holy, but He doesn’t appear to be radical or particularly passionate. It is a portrait of a Christ made in our image.

By the time I was half-way through Course I, I fell in love with Jesus all over again, because Holy Spirit has revealed the mind-blowing, soul-edifying truth about Jesus, and in the process, turned everything upside down much like the money-changing tables in the Temple. This message of a grace-based gospel is Anything but boring or staid.

As I continued throughout the course, learning has been easier than un-learning. I have a lot to unlearn.

The Old Testament, coming from the perspective of the Jewish people bound by law, taught that laws were in place to get you a little bit holy, but never holy enough (much like the majority of current day Christians, truth be told.) The New Testament is a literal New Covenant, one in which all are welcome in the Kingdom regardless of un-attainable laws or heritage. All books of the Bible are inspired by God, but I am not certain all are literal. Scripture is taken out of context so often that people have no IDEA what the original Greek and Hebrew texts say. I have enjoyed studying the context of so many familiar scriptures.

The revelation that everything in the Bible is written for us, but not necessarily to us, was a completely new concept, and made understanding the practicality of scripture come alive for me. The Word is not a tome of pages, but a person. The Word is Jesus Himself.

I am learning to shush the voice in my head that fears I’ve abandoned my Old Time Religion in favor of this radical grace, and Jesus will say to me one day: “Sorry, Kiddo. I sure wish you’d have kept striving. If only you’d tried a little harder –you know, spent more time on your ‘devotions,’ memorized scriptures, and shunned those living in obvious rebellion. You were on a roll there for a while, but you really dropped the ball when you went around saying I love the morally bankrupt.”

Only all of that is inconsistent with what I’ve been absorbing in seminary. It’s also inconsistent with what Papa is doing to and through my heart. Because Jesus loves the morally bankrupt, and not one iota less than He loves Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, or any of the hundreds of people I’ve convinced myself are ‘better’ than me and deserve His love more.

The Creator isn’t even ruffled by our unbelief and sin. From the beginning, He had us in mind. To believe it, you have to receive it – experience it. Who wouldn’t want the spiritual wares we are hawking, if they knew the true bounty of unconditional love that the Father wants to lavish them with? If they knew that He puts His love on the line for us full and overflowing, and that His Spirit comes not to smite, but to rest upon us as passionately as a lover and as gentle as the flutter of a butterfly.

But most of the world doesn’t know this Jesus – so irrationally in love with His people. They see God through the lens of millennia of religiosity.

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” Romans 5:8 (MSG)

One of the first things I learned in seminary is that God is not intimidated by our sin. Dr. McVey helped me explore this idea of the Incarnation as a voluntary deed. I had always assumed that God and Jesus were just doing what they had to do, begrudgingly, and Holy Spirit was left behind to sweep up the mess. How tragic that I’d understood it like that all my 48 years!

What if the Love of God was bigger than the sins of the world? Sin gets so much airtime, and the Christians give it more than anyone else. It almost seems like sin is the main thing we focus on, and what does that prioritization tell the hurting world?

What if we gave Jesus center stage, and His offensive, scandalous, raw grace was truly poured out on His people?

Why are we so stingy with love? Why do we withhold the Gospel from the people who need its radical truth the most? The lavish and abundant Truth; the Truth that is not a concept, but a person.

This grace doctrine…it is scandalous in its oozing of mercy, positively radical in its inclusion. Where has this message of the Good News BEEN all my life!? Studying the Old and New Covenants, so much comes into focus. So many questions answered.

The more I study, the more I become convinced that this sentiment by Dr. Kruger is true:

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.”

— C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

We are so afraid that we will lose the moral superiority that took 2,000 + years to hone. Two-thousand years of making rules in this religion to keep out the riif-raff. I grew up so sure I had it all figured out, before I asked God to take me deeper. I was so sure I knew all of the main things. I knew where the right side to stand was on every issue. The “biblical” stand. The 10 Commandment Stand. I expected God to basically confirm that I was right, and conform to my preconceived notions.

Here’s how I previously and unwittingly ‘loved’ people – how I thought it all worked: Jesus wants to love you, but you have to get your act together. You are wrong about your lifestyle / choices / world view, and sorry, but there is not hope for you if you don’t tow the line, Buddy.

Just tow the line.

Much like a game of Red Rover, society requires you to pick a side or be picked by a side, link arms with similarly-minded brethren, and make sure that when the opposing side sends someone to run up against the chain, no one gets through.

Except that when we do that as believers, no one gets through. No one gets to change sides to the team that is destined to win.

Grace gets lost to the object of the game.

Jesus said “Red Rover, Red Rover, let whomsoever come over!” (I am paraphrasing, obviously.)

Throughout the lessons at Global Grace Seminary, Abba wrecked my heart with compassion for the people and groups I previously considered unreachable. I’ve had a ‘soul oil change’ – the material presented in class releasing Heavenly fragrance all day long, staining my Spirit for the One it longs for.

I had to make my own quality decision as I drew closer to the completion of Course I. Either God is a sadist that creates beautiful things so that He can torture them, or He is indeed Love, and there is no room for cruelty in 100-proof Love. To know His true nature is to look to His Son, Jesus – who is most certainly not sitting on a rock somewhere being pensive, but is loving His kids in a way many consider heretical and all consider radical. In Jesus is where I find what God looks like in ‘real time’ – His nature.

It’s really just so simple. It’s so simple, yet 2,000 years of man ‘helping’ theology along have diluted the whole point of the Gospel. Worse, it’s been used to divide us all.

But we are not dependent on the faith of Adam, as Rabe so succinctly said. We have the faith of Christ Himself at our disposal. Choose this day whom you will serve: Adam or Jesus? That’s the mystery of Union with God – he envelops us, fills us, lives in us, loves others through us. The majesty is that no matter which you choose, grace remains available to you all the same.

And, as Dr. Keathley points out, we don’t have to wait to receive our Benefits package. It was pulled out of layaway more than 2000 years ago, and is as available to us through Holy Spirit even today. The Gospel is good news.

Not the good news that comes with a disclaimer at the bottom for full legal disclosure. (Has anyone seen my can of “LAW BE GONE?”  I’m sure I left it right here next to my Self Condemnation Deflator.

Global Grace Seminary has challenged me in so many ways. I still struggle with the concept that God is always in a good mood, but I have embraced that He is only good.

If it’s true – this grace-based Gospel – then we can do nothing to mitigate the furious love of our father.

If it’s true that the Kingdom of God is within us, we need to stop looking for him elsewhere.

If it’s true, we need to stop trying to invoke the presence of Holy Spirit in our worship. He is already here.

The neat and tidy Jesus of Vacation Bible School is not gazing out into the atmosphere, but at you. Right now. He is looking upon us adoringly, as if in a mirror. He is here in this messy, screwed-up, fallen, train wreck of a planet because He just cannot get close enough to us!

If it’s true (and my Spirit tells me it IS, it’s gloriously, wonderfully, life-givingly true!) then perhaps we should start spreading this amazing news.

Oddly, if I could describe Course 1 at Global Grace Seminary in one word, I believe it would be “oily.”

I love the anointing with oil. Unlike water blessed by priests that evaporates quickly, oil blessed by Holy Spirit lingers and lingers.

It is messy and difficult to control.

It releases Heavenly fragrance all day long.

If it gets on your clothes, they are stained. It cannot easily be washed out.

If you touch another human being with the same hand that has been anointed, they too carry the softness and scent on their person.

That’s the Gospel proper, as I’ve come to accept it through the Global Grace Seminary.

That’s the Gospel the world needs to hear.

 

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It is Finished, Trusting in the Easter Truth

 

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers,

I’m hoping to write more regularly here at The Beggar’s Bakery. I hope, because there are about a baker’s dozen of life issues that keep ‘getting in the way’ of my creativity. Too much brain-space being rented out to things that are out of my control anyway. Know what I mean?

Yesterday was a super sick day for me. Caught something sometime in the previous week, and it camped out in my system until I became a blathering lump of self-pity who couldn’t get out of bed, even though I really tried. Mind / Body / Spirit = all connected.

There was also family drama. (Spoiler alert: You never stop worrying about your kids, no matter how old they get.) And job (or lack thereof) drama.

So I was under approximately 8 blankets and still cold when I brought this revered prayer to the Creator of the Universe:

“You never give me anything good to write about anymore.” It actually came all the way out of my parched mouth. What a whiner! (It’s okay,though.  He’s my Daddy and knows I get a little sassy when sick.)

What’s the rule about fighting fair? “Never say never, or always?”

Abba brought to mind the movie, The Shack (which I highly recommend seeing at least once) the scene where the God character reminds the protagonist that “When you focus on the pain, you lose sight of Me.”

Oh yes, that.

That pain thing is a real time and energy suck. But if adversity is good for nothing else, it makes for interesting written fodder on the other side of this.

On the other side. What ‘other side’ is there? We, who see through a glass so darkly, cannot differentiate one ‘side’ from another.

That’s where this very Eastery thought came into play. It’s really the Eastery-est thought I think I’ve ever had, and I want to share it with you.

Christ, by virtue of the Resurrection, is everything. Or he is nothing. We have heard that before, but let it rest on your brainspace for a bit and settle in your Spirit: ONE God. ONE Man. ONE Day.

Either the Resurrection changed everything, or it changed nothing.

Either everything matters or nothing does.

Either He died for all, or died for none.

Either It is Finished, or It is Incomplete.

(If its incomplete, holy cow – FINISH it already – this planet is a MESS!)

In class, I’ve been exploring the Incarnation as a voluntary deed on the part of Jesus. I had always assumed that God and Jesus were just doing what they had to do, begrudgingly, and Holy Spirit was left behind to sweep up the mess. Kicking and screaming. How tragic that I’d understood it like that all my 48 years!

The lavish and abundant Truth is not a concept, but a person.

And what if that Person loved you more than anything in all the universe He created?

What if He isn’t an Aztec-style god, demanding the ongoing sacrifice – or heads will roll? What if He is a God who cradles your head in His lap when you’re broken?

This grace doctrine…it is scandalous in its oozing of mercy, positively radical in its inclusion. I’m not suggesting that The Passion of the Christ be sanitized to appease the masses, but to embrace the loving God whose Passion is US. His blood was not a country club membership, carte blanche for those who tow the line. If the Creator fashioned this elaborate universe for only a select few to partake in, does that cheapen the lavishness of His love for all?

What if He rolled away the stone over 2,000 years ago so that He can meet you right now, exactly where you are, exactly who you are?

I believe in a God that allows – for whatever good purpose – his kids to experience consequences. I’m a parent. I’m on board with that. The god who withholds his love while they suffer? No thanks. My God is no sadist, enjoying pummeling His son with a cat of 9 tails so that we can enter the country club.

Easter is the most make-it or break-it occasion in the Christian faith. And according to Jesus, “It is finished.”

The hard part is learning to rest in that – no head-rolling necessary.

You are included in His finished work. Trust in that.

He is never mad at you.

He always loves you, even on this side – where you cannot see what’s around the corner.

Happy Easter, my friends.

 

 

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Trump acts in Response to Chemical attack, World Citizenry Reacts with Horror (but wishes to keep Kumbaya on the table as means of counter-attack)

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By: Jana Greene
I hesitated to post this, as some have suggested that my blog platform should be about recovery issues only. They have shared their displeasure when I post about anything political. I am in no way an expert on anything geo-political, but I am an observer of our world, as are you.

This is a place where I blab about various subjects like middle-aged muffin tops, the time I ate an entire box of Oreos in one sitting, Jesus and his crazy radical grace, cats who try to drown their toy mice in their water bowls, thoughts on marriage and parenting, current events on occasion, which brings me to Syria.

If every post on The Beggar’s Bakery must be about recovery, how about this: Watching the news makes me want to drink.
There you go.
I try not to watch the news in any way, shape or form any more, because I would prefer my head not to explode. But waking up to the dozens of references about the Syrian situation in my Facebook feed, I figured I’d weigh in.
The CNN online headline declared today: Trump orders barrage in response to chemical attack.  And the sh*t  storm on social media is absolutely blowing up. War drums are beating. The Cult of Personality is already deciding to drown out the drums with screaming indignation.
Even CNN used the term ‘IN RESPONSE TO.’ Not just because Trump was in cranky mood and felt like starting a war, but ‘in response to’ or ‘because of’ the actions of terrorists. The line between war mongering and taking action for protect others from genocide have apparently become twisted.
Here’s the horror:  Collateral damage is a by-product of fighting the greater evil. innocent people have been killed in any and every act of battle. There are always civilian casualties; ask anyone who survived the Blitz.
If your heart breaks for the refugees and and you feel a sense of urgency about helping them flee, yet you think that the world should welcome them in other countries (and I do think we should as much as we can, while making sure the needs of our own hungry children and veterans are met), I think that gives us an incomplete picture. This leaves the wills of the oppressed people completely out of the equation. Some of us think shuffling them around, so that we can feel noble about it is the endgame, but these are human beings!  Their beloved HOMELAND is being destroyed. It’s where they have lived and raised generations of family, and have become cohesive communities. They risk losing their very culture. They MIGHT, if given the chance, want to stay in the lands of their fore-fathers. They are having to leave because they are being bullied and murdered by rebels. I’m sorry, but just relocating people and calling it a day? that doesn’t look like justice to me.
Bad Guys vs. Good Guys 101 –  evil  people don’t want to talk about stopping the carnage they are inflicting. They want to inflict ever more carnage.
Bad guys perpetuate atrocities. Good guys try and stop (or at least stem) the damage.
The same people who are angry about Trump’s move to kill the rebels are the people who think we can afford to absorb all the Syrian refugees. We cannot adequately feed and care for the American veterans who DID fight against the last World War –  and are now old and sick. That should outrage us just as much.
Its a messy, confusing, awful situation all around. If not addressed on the world stage, more and more refugees will be created daily. This is not 100 people in harm’s way we are talking about. And there are not 200 soldiers massacring them. It’s so much bigger than that.
Cut off the head of the snake, lest more and more eventually require fleeing their homes and and losing their communities, too.
The enemy is vicious – this one more so than ever, because there is NO honor in their fighting. They do not fight mano-to-mano, but weave themselves amongst the innocents. Do we not go after the bad guys now, because they are so manipulative and cowardly?
Howmany refugee babies and women would be acceptable to sacrifice before we really got serious about killing the scourge that is massacring them? Yet more will die at the hands of the evil doers than would be imaginable if we allow what’s going on now. Round up every single Syrian fMiky and place them elsewhere, and the evil just spreads out further. Surely no one is suggesting that we avoid justice for the refugees.
Some, I suspect, are especially upset about this turn of events because Trump is involved in it. Hey, I don’t like the guy either.  Not a big fan. I AM, however, a fan of putting an end to the unfathomable suffering the Syrians are currently going through.
We MUST grow a pair as a nation, because evil has been allowed to ferment and spread with no checks and balances for years now. We had become impotent against so much of the evil in the world. It’s as (again my opinion) Obama was thinking, “Oh hey, I’ll turn a blind eye to the genocides going on all over the world, and give them a good 8 years to marinate, become better armed. ISIS is not our problem, and by the way, UP YOURS, ISRAEL!” Alas, there is not one single thing we can do about the past, but we can surely move forward to promote justice for heartless killers.
But that is a blog for another day.
Here is the absolute and horrifying truth: If we want to stop the baby killing, you will likely accidentally kill babies, because the enemy used civilians as shields.  They nest among the same people they are wiping out. That should piss a lot of people off.
Does it?
Should we not gone to war against Hitler because there would be so many casualties? Six million Jews lost their lives during WWII, and may have faced racial extinction, had we not stepped in. The families in the UK, who lost people to collateral damage, understood in order to be free, some will die. Because there are BAD GUYS.
When did we decide to turn a blind eye to such large-scale torment of people groups? When did we decide to ‘negotiate’ with the Bad Guys?
How soon we forget history!
I freaking HATE war.
I hate that it is a necesecity. We should be done with pussyfooting around evill. My heart breaks for ALL of the innocents whose lives have been snuffed out or forever damaged.
I wish we could all sit around with all of Earth’s residents, coming in peace and singing folksy songs around a campfire. Oh how I wish it were that easy! Ask the poor refugees if they’d like to join in. I suspect the cannot, as  they are currently dying at the hands of monsters.
It’s tragic as Hell.
As a matter of fact, war IS Hell, according to General  William Tecumseh Sherman, who noted this pure truth during the Civil War. Had he not engaged anyway, the  barbaric and evil practice of slavery may not have ended here in the Land of the Free.
Join me in praying for all involved.
(*And yes, I am still sober. #PlatformFacts)
God bless us, every one.

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And the Band Plays on – Addiction Complacency / Grace-full Recovery

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“The sale of pills is at an all time high,
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky,
Cities aflame in the summer time,
and the beat goes on.
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon.
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world’s headed nobody knows.
Ball of confusion,
That’s what the world is today.
Hey hey.” –
The Temptations, “Ball of Confusion”
By: Jana Greene
I just came across a post on my Facebook news feed by a friend who just lost someone she loved to the ravages of addiction. He OD’ed on heroin.
It started like so many, many posts I come across – RIP. Rest in peace.
I’m so tired of people resting in peace before their lives are lived to completion.
I never knew this friend of my friend’s.  I’ve  never heard his name prior to this event – but my spirit knows his spirit, and I pray his is at peace.
It’s easy to become numb to the loss of life from addiction. We are in the midst of opiate saturation and fatal / ‘functioning’ alcoholism, because the human condition is so confoundedly painful. It just really is.
Behind every story of death via substance abuse, there is a son or daughter. A mother, a father. A friend. A person of great and precious worth.
How does society deal with loss on such a grand scale?
Too often, by accepting the undercurrent of judgement as truth, and denying that addiction is a freaking brain disease.
Another day, another RIP memorial page on Facebook.
One more overdose victim. I guess he had it coming.
One more person who drank herself to death. She asked for it.
Nobody says it out loud, but the sense of exasperation is tangible.
Hey world-at-large – IT’S A DISEASE.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot afford to rest.
I’m glad that there are programs that allow participants the luxury of anonymity (and I certainly respect the anonymity of others) but I’m not sure how long we can afford to hide our faces. The faces of addiction, but more importantly – the faces of RECOVERY.
Because not all of us will RIP before our time, but surely stigma enables keeping the disease alive and kicking.
Every overdose should shock the shit out our systems. It should worry us when we start thinking of a lost life ‘just another.’ It should break our hearts.
Karl Marx is quoted as saying ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ and I think there is truth in that. But religion as we know it often carries the same numbing properties as any other opiate. Relationship with the living God is what the masses are really craving.
We are all just really jonesing for relationship.
If you can’t justify being compassionate because you believe addiction is solely a moral peril, I challenge you to consider it an act of compassion from one fellow human being in confounding pain to another.
One spirit to another.
The gentleman who died of a heroin overdose, he brought to mind tonight the parable of the lost sheep in the biblical book of Luke.

“…By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

Jesus gets it. He didn’t go after that one sheep to feed it opiates. He went after it because He couldn’t bear missing out on relationship with one who had so much worth.

It’s my honor to show my face and be non-anonymous. I am an alcoholic who did not die of my disease, but who still asks God for help in my recovery journey every single day.

I pray we as a society ‘get it’ too.

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