Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thought for Thursday: Worship

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is—mind, emotions, will, and body—to all that God is and says and does”—Warren W. Wiersbe

".. Worship doesn't happen when a guy gets on a stage with a guitar. It happens when faith-filled eyes behold the glory of Christ" - Matt Pappa

“When you put biblical truth to the songs used in churches, you'll have the congregation leave singing the sermon. You'll have God's thoughts, things that are God-breathed, stuck in their heads. It's sad to think about a really catchy tune paired up with bad theology because that could, honestly, do a lot of damage in church " - Laura Story

“As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modern life.” - Richard Foster

Friday, May 22, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Dear God,

Thank You for hearing our every prayer, no matter how we feel.

Thank You for caring about our every need, no matter how small.

Thank You for being ever-faithful, ever-loving, ever-lasting.

In our weakest moments, help us to lean on You.

In our saddest moments, help us find our comfort in You.

In our most insecure moments, help us put our trust in You.

As we approach the weekend worship services, Lord please help us to prepare and plan well, to practice with excellence, and pray with urgency and expectancy. Lord, please use us, no matter how insecure or insignificant we feel, to give You glory and praise and help others to do the same. Help us to draw near to You, to know and hear Your voice, and follow You. Help us to respond to You in worship, and may our worship be sweet to Your ears. Please remove the distractions that prevent us and others from being focused on You.

Please pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us a we seek to serve You. We ask that You move our hearts, move in our families, move in our churches in such a might way that there is no doubt that You are present.

Dear Lord, please move me and through me.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thoughts for Thursday

"Our will is transformed by experience, not information.” —Dallas Willard

“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“We don't believe something by merely saying we believe it..." -DallasAWillard

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Do you need to become a more confident worship leader?

1. Pray. Nothing beats the power of prayer. It is mission critical to everything we do. Before, during, and after, we must pray. It is amazing how much worship music can be transformed through prayer. It's more amazing how much WE can be transformed through prayer! I don't mean just a hasty, "Lord have mercy on this music" kind of a prayer (although that never hurts!), but daily, fervent, communication with God. He delights in it!

2. Prepare. Plan ahead. Plan your set lists, your transitions, your words, your rehearsals. Plan at least a few weeks in advance so you can systematically introduce new songs and have enough time to prepare your team and yourself. Plan out what sound system needs you will have, what performing forces you will need, what overhead or bulletin inserts there will be. Do you need to print music for your team? Solid preparation removes away a myriad of worries.

3. Practice. Get to the know the music backwards and forwards. Memorize it if possible. Then help your team do the same!

4. Perspire. Leading worship is hard work. Planning and practice make it easier, but sometimes you just have to sweat your way through it, even if you don't feel comfortable. Do your best to be prepared and then lean heavily on the Holy Spirit to make up the difference.

5. Pay attention. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Follow the Spirit's lead through the entire process. The more you pray, the more you read your Bible, the closer you draw to the Lord, the more you'll be able to recognize and follow His voice in planning and in performance.

6. Pick it a part. Analyze what went well and what didn't so you can make necessary course corrections. Too many mistakes means you might need more practice. Not knowing what comes next means you need to plan better. Not knowing who is going to show up means you need more conscientious administration. Not being able to concentrate on God means that perhaps you didn't pray well or prepare well. Most of these issues can be detected and corrected, but don't beat yourself up because something wasn't perfected.

7. Put it in perspective. As a worship leader, I can't make anyone worship. My job is to create the opportunity through music to help people see God for who He is and what He has done and help them to respond to Him. I may give them the words to say or the melodies to sing, but ultimately, it us up to God to move their hearts and up to them to respond to Him. I can create an amazing experience, but people still may not worship. Or I can create a service that is a complete flop, and find that people found the worship moving and meaningful.

8. Praise God! No matter what happens, remember to praise and thank God during and outside of the worship service. No matter what we feel, no matter how the worship service goes, no matter what goe wrong or right, God is good! Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Good News! It's Tuesday! Seek God for security.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV). It’s hard to feel secure in a world where so many bad things happen. It’s hard to feel secure when we don’t know what the future holds. And it’s hard to feel secure when we experience Post-Adrenaline Depression, or fatigue, or any other kind of sadness or grief. Even the most confident among us can feel pretty insecure at times, whether it’s on a small level (am I really prepared for this song?) or a grand scale (What if I lose my job?). Sometimes, insecurity just comes.

But here’s the thing – insecurity does NOT come from God. Neither does fear. However, God gives us the antidote to these things – Himself. This doesn’t mean that if we had more faith, everything would just be ok. If we were better Christians, we wouldn’t feel this way. If we just prayed more, or better, or harder, we wouldn’t experience Post-Adrenaline Depression or any other negative feeling. I don’t agree with this at all, and sometimes, Christian platitudes just get in the way, rather than helping us grow closer to God.

The Christian walk is not to see the world through rose-colored glasses, filled with pithy sayings and trite remarks. Rather, the Christian walk is spiritual warfare. It is a fight to the finish. It is hard work. It means we will face difficulty. It means we’re in the trenches of war each and every day, but Jesus Christ is right there with us. Fighting insecurity means that rather than beating ourselves up because we don’t have peace, we instead make a conscious decision to put our faith and trust in God in spite of our feelings.

Never feel badly because you have anxiety or fear – when we read the book of Psalms, we see how much the Psalmist experienced all sorts of emotions: fear, insecurity, despair, joy, and hope…. King David was known as a man after God's own heart, and yet, he still experienced fear, despair, insecurity, and sorrow. Psalm 55:17 (NIV) says, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” King David isn’t saying he’s never afraid, but he cries out to God when he IS afraid because he knows that God will hear him. God loves it when we call on Him! And He loves it when we choose to put our trust and hope in Him even when we are afraid or insecure.

Next time Monday comes, and you feel afraid, or tired, or depressed, or insecure, don’t beat yourself. Instead, cry out to God! Make a conscious decision to put your trust in Him no matter what your feelings tell you. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Morning Blues: Insecurity

Do you ever second-guess yourself on Monday?

Feel insecure about Sunday?

Wonder if you’re cut out for this?

A little grace in a cup.
A little self-examination for the sake of improvement is a good thing, but on Monday Morning, too much self-examination easily turns into insecurity. I have to be careful about analyzing Sunday’s service before I’m physically and emotionally recovered from the weekend. I start asking myself, Did I choose the right topic? Did I select the wrong songs? Did the offertory fit the service? Did I play well or sing out of tune? Maybe I should have practiced more. Maybe I should have prayed more. Did I listen to God? Did people like the music? Did they like the songs? Did they like me? So and so barely spoke to me, did I make him or her mad? Am I in trouble? Did I do it all wrong? Why didn’t anyone complement the music? Why didn’t they sing?  Should I be doing this at all?

Insecurity isn’t all bad – it helps me realize that I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect. And someone will probably always be unhappy about something. And there is always someone who will do my work better than I could. That humbles me. A lot. But just because someone else might be better at what I do doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it all. It means I need to rely on Jesus all the more.
The problem we have on Mondays is that we sometimes let our feelings of insecurity affect our families, our relationships, and our ministries. To make sure that doesn’t happen, we need to look at our insecurities, acknowledge them, but avoid making decisions based on them. I may feel like quitting on Monday Morning, but usually by the time Tuesday rolls around, I’ve recovered from the feelings of insecurity that made me want to write that resignation letter. I need to make sure I’m not putting my feelings of insecurity onto my spouse – just because they aren’t singing my praises all Monday morning doesn’t mean they’re mad me or think I did a bad job the day before. It probably just means it is Monday, and they don’t want to face the world, either!  I also need to be careful about my relationships with people at church on Monday morning. If I’m feeling insecure, I might be tempted to strive at pleasing people more than I work to please God. Awareness doesn’t make insecurity evaporate; it helps us live out what we believe even when we don’t feel like it.

It’s Monday. A day to give myself a little extra grace, and extend it to those around me.

It’s Monday. A day to practice what I preach the rest of the week: to act according to how I believe, rather than according to how I feel.

It’s Monday. A day to practice the discipline, to make a conscious choice, of putting my security in God’s hands even when I am insecure.

It’s Monday, but Tuesday’s on its way.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Dear God in Heaven, 

We praise You because You are all-knowing, we worship You because You are compassion, and we love You because You first loved us. 

You know our every word and thought before it meets our lips. You love us. 

You know the depths of our hearts where the pain and sorrow, the joy and laughter, the beautiful and the ugly, reside together.  Yet, You love us. 

You know every thing we feel and You meet us where we are, offering comfort in our pain, hope in our despair, love in our emptyness. And You love us. 

Give us wisdom to discern the difference between what we feel and what is Truth. Your Truth. 

As the weekend gives way to worship services, we ask that You give us the presence of mind to lead, give us joy to share with others, and let us be so full of You that we leak Your love on those around us. 

Lord, give us the energy to complete our work with the mindfulness to foster relationships with others. 

Let us be effective for You, made Holy by You, and alive because of You. 

And as the worship services give way to Monday, please give us rest for our bodies, sabbath for our souls, and joy for our hearts.

We need You to restore us so that we are ready to start anew. 

And most of all Lord, we pray that in all things, we will ever seek You.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thought for Thursday: Feelings and Facts

Is Captain Jack right? 

“Emotions come and go and can't be controlled so there's no reason to worry about them. That in the end, people should be judged by their actions since in the end it was actions that defined everyone.”

Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices

“But feelings can't be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.”

Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Bob Ross taught me about leading worship

I grew up watching Bob Ross on Saturday afternoons. I loved to see him paint, but even more, I loved to listen to him talk. I waited each week for him to say that there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents. Oh, just put in a few more happy little trees. Look at the clouds - put in a few more happy little clouds. Try as I might, I could never quite get the same effect with my Crayola water colors that he could, even in such a short painting episode. He never seemed flustered, always happily painting away and creating something beautiful from a plain canvas and a few splashes of color.

What I learned from watching Bob Ross is that things in painting and things in life don't always come out the way we'd like, but that's ok, We can still make something beautiful out of what others might see as a mistake if we are willing to adjust our plans and keep our eye on the big picture.

 It's awfully difficult to compare our weekly service to a professionally mastered worship album or a worship concert. Worship artists spend months rehearsing for their concerts and albums, and have all kinds of technology to make their music sound even better - an average small church with a volunteer worship team just can't compare with the amount of time or technology. And that's ok! The truth is that live music is a lot like live painting on television - things don't always come out as planned. There are wrong notes, missed cues, and technological issues that creep up. But if we are flexible and go with the flow, we can still make something beautiful out of what others might see as mistakes.

Don't get hung up when things don't come out as planned, don't get stuck on mistakes. Instead, let the happy little accidents go, and keep your eye on the big picture - worshiping our Risen Lord - and He will make it beautiful.

Oh, and if you need more of Bob Ross's happy little accidents, there's a whole YouTube channel devoted just to him!Watch Bob Ross paint here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Good News! It's Tuesday: Seek God in Faith.

Good news! Tuesday is here!

"The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."
(Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT).

I need those new mercies even more than I need my morning coffee. It's time to move forward, to remember God's great love for us, to dig deep in His Word, and get to work for the week. Sometimes on a Monday, reading God's Word is a relief for my soul. And sometimes it feels like I am just going through the motions, reading the words on the page, but still feeling pretty empty in my soul from the aftermath of Sunday. But just like we talked about Monday, feelings don't give us the whole story. We need to separate how we feel from the facts so we can get a better picture of the Truth.

The book of Hebrews tells us: "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (Hebrews 11:6, NLT). It doesn't matter if you FEEL spiritual when you approach God's Word. It doesn't matter if we FEEL God's presence, or His love for us, His mercy, or His faithfulness, because feelings don't always tell the whole story.  Our feelings are important, but what the Bible says is Truth, and we can depend on that even if we don't feel it.  We can believe that God loves us even when we can't feel the depths of His love. We can depend on God's faithfulness even when we can't see it. We can be assured that He will reward us for seeking Him even when we feel empty in our soul.

Sometimes, the only time I get to delve into God's Word is sitting in my van with my children, who are eating snacks and watching a movie. or sometimes, it's late at night when i'm tired, or early morning with my eyes still bleary and the coffee hasn't even perked yet. The reality is, I won't feel like a super-Christian during these times (or ever). I probably won't have a clear enough head to truly focus on the presence of God. I don't feel spiritual when I'm passing out snacks or propping my eyes open to read just a few more verses. But the Bible is true: we have to have faith that God will reward us for seeking HIM no matter what our circumstances or our feelings might have to say on the matter.

The Bible doesn't say that God will rewards us for seeking the feeling of His presence. Or seeking whatever it is that we want God to do for us. The Bible says He will reward us for seeking Him in faith.

Today - and everyday - take the time to seek God. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
Seek God in faith. No matter what it looks like, feels like, sounds like. Seek Him.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Monday Blues: Separating Fact from Feelings

Feeling frazzled? 
One of the strategies that I use for coping with the Monday Blues is to separate out the facts from what I’m feeling. This type of logical self-examination helps me figure out if I truly have a good reason to be upset, or if it’s really just the adrenaline let down talking. And then I can make a conscious effort to extend extra grace to myself for my unhappy feelings and to those around me so I don’t hurt them.

For example, because of the adrenal let down, I might be more likely to be short-tempered with my spouse on a Monday. This translates to me being annoyed when he doesn’t live up to my expectations, or me getting frustrated or irritated at something that normally doesn’t bother me at all. Before I snap at someone else, I try to rehearse my feelings to myself first:

I feel…. But the fact is…

I feel irritated because he left dirty dishes in the sink. But the fact is, the dishwasher was in the middle of a cycle so there was no place else to put the dirty dishes. There is no reason for me to snap even though I’m feeling upset. I might still feel stressed, but at least I can stop myself from putting that stress onto someone else.

Other examples…

I feel too tired to work out… but the fact is that the endorphins from a brisk walk will help to improve my mood and give me energy. (I probably should do it anyway!)

I feel frustrated that the worship service didn’t go as planned. But the fact is, some of that was out of my control, so I’ll fix what I can this week and let the rest of it go.

I feel sad and I don’t know why, but the fact is, I felt really good yesterday so I’ll try to focus on how God worked through yesterday’s worship service. It’s ok that I’m sad, but good things happened, too.

I feel overwhelmed by the work week ahead, but the fact is that I will feel better about it tomorrow, so I’ll try to tackle some easier tasks today and save the more complicated things for when I’ve recovered from the weekend.

I think it’s important to acknowledge those feelings – feelings aren’t wrong or bad, they just don’t tell the whole story. Separating out fact and feeling helps us to deal with what we’re feeling right now without allowing it to damage people or programs.  

No matter what we’re feeling – sadness, frustration, exhaustion, tiredness, joy, or gladness or even fear – God cares. He knows our hearts and He cares about what we’re feeling no matter what the facts are.

Hang in there- it might be Monday, but Tuesday is on its way.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend: The Word

Lord God Almighty,

At Your Word, the world happened. You spoke, and life came. With Your words, You created.
You are the Author of creation, the Author of life.

You sent us the Word to dwell among us, to be with us, to be one of us. Your Word became flesh, and took on human skin, and paid the highest price so our wandering souls could be Yours again. You left for us Your written Word so that we might know You.

Your spoken Word breathed life in the beginning; Your begotten Word redeemed life that was lost. Your written Word reveals truth so we might thrive in this world and in the next.
Almighty God, there is power in Your Word.

Please draw us to Your written Word so that we might be drawn to You. Speak Your Word into our hearts, so that we might love and worship You. Enable us to live out Your Word, so we might bring Your Word to others. Help us believe Your every Word.

Thank You, God, for Your Word, and may we have an insatiable hunger for it.

John 1:1-5, NLT
Prologue: Christ, the Eternal Word
In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

Thought for Thursday: Read your Bible

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.
― Charles H. Spurgeon

“Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.”
― Dwight Lyman Moody

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
― Dwight Lyman Moody

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
 Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Distracted? Declutter!

Clutter is distracting. 

When my home looks cluttered, I find myself thinking of all the things I need to do, all the items that need to be put away, all the work that needs to be completed. It makes me stressed. For me, a de-cluttered space is a peaceful space. I rest easier at night when the dishes are put away, the toys are picked up, and the floor is swept. I have an especially hard time concentrating on reading the Bible if I sit in a cluttered room. It’s also hard for me to be musically creative or to practice well when there are piles of mail and homework sitting around my piano. I feel hectic and hurried when my schedule is cluttered, too.

 I feel the same way about our worship spaces.

Modern worship spaces have a natural tendency to look cluttered due to the nature of the equipment.  Imagine how clean your worship platform would be if you didn’t need cables, music stands, monitors, amps, instrument stands, and other items. How clean and fresh would your space look if all you had were people and their instruments?

Not all ministry budgets have the space for wireless mics and in-ear monitors, and that’s ok! But when I set up my gear for Sunday morning, I try to pause for just a minute and think about the visual use of the space. Can I organize the cables a little more neatly? Can I make that mic stand a little less obtrusive? Can we tweak the platform arrangement for a more open feeling?

Our worship services tend to be aurally focused – that is, we are focused on what we hear, such as music, sermons, Scripture reading. But statistically, 65% of the general population are visual learners. So how can we make our visual space for our worship services more supportive of, rather than distracting from, what we are hearing? Removing the visual clutter, without creating a completely stark, empty space, is a great step towards removing distractions that get in the way of communing with each other and with our Creator. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Powerful Bible

Have you ever sat at your computer screen and just blankly stared at the web pages in front of you? Have you ever scrolled Pinterest, or Facebook, or any other website, your eyes seeing the data in front of you, but feeling like your brain just cannot process it at all? Some would call this data smog, information glut, or simply, information overload. Our brains can only take in and process so much information – it filters out a lot, and we cannot remember it. We increasingly consume information, but we cannot process all of it, so we numbly scroll for more, trying to get our information fix. I don’t know why certain facts or images are retained, and other’s aren’t – but with so much data coming in, the brain can’t accurately assess what needs to stay and what can be let go. Consequently, I find myself remembering random Facebook statuses, information that is completely irrelevant to my life, and just stuff. I know it’s a waste, and yet I go back for more. I catch myself scrolling and scanning without even realizing it.

And yet, we have access to the most life changing book that has ever been written. A book that is truth, not gossip. A book that heals, not hurts. A book that gives us access to the Creator. So why do we spend more time on what’s irrelevant than the love letter written to
us from God? Hebrews 4:12 says For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (NLT). There is power in God’s Word!

But do we truly live like God’s Word – our Bible – is powerful? Do I read it because, as a good Christian, I’m supposed to read it? Do I read it because it is a good book? Or do I read it because it is The Good Book? What if I read the Bible as eagerly as I scrolled through blogs, and Facebook, and, yes, even Pinterest? What if I read the Bible like a book that I just couldn’t put down? And what if I believed that reading it would make a difference in my life? Not just a “self-help” I’m going to be a better person difference, not just a “someday I’ll go to heaven” difference.  What if we accepted the Bible as a mystical expression of God’s love for us – something more powerful than us, too great for us to fully understand, but something we can completely believe in?

How would life be differently if we expectantly believed that God’s Word would make a difference in us, through us, and for us? How would we read it differently? How would we change? What would we do differently today if we could grasp the power of God’s Word?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Morning Blues: God is Good even when I don't feel good

I struggle to see the silver lining when Monday morning rolls around… the headache, fatigue, and low mood is sometimes so pervasive that I don’t want to look on the bright side. But there is one.
The Monday morning low teaches me to be wholly dependent on God. It’s easy to trust God on a good day. When there is smooth sailing on Sunday, a solid sermon backed by a chorus of “Amens” and “Hallelujah,” sweet strains of musical praise, and sweet treats after church, it’s easy to pat each other on the back and say that God is Good. And He is! He is good in the good times.
But God is also good in the low times. When I am discouraged, God is good. When I am physically tired and weak, God is good. When I am annoyed at my spouse, God is good. When I feel like failure has conquered me, God is very very good.  And so it becomes a discipline, this Monday morning that comes every single week.  My calendar doesn’t lie. There is never a Sunday that isn’t followed up by Monday.  There is never a day of ministry that isn’t followed up by a day that needs a healthy dose of “God is still good even though I don’t feel like it.” There is never a day of discouragement that my Lord and Savior is absent from.  And so I practice my praise, I remember that no matter how lousy I might feel, God is good.
There is no quick fix for this weariness, no easy answer to the lost feeling that comes with the post-Sunday let down. I wish that I could read the perfect combination of Scripture passages and feel perfectly fine. I wish that I could wake up in the morning, meditate on the correct mindset, and be ready to face the week. It’s just not that simple, there is no ‘super-Christian’ response to Monday.
What I do have is the assurance that God loves me. I have the promise of Romans 8:28,that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes. That God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147), God’s loving kindness endures forever (Psalm 136), and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).

Monday morning may not be a good time, but it is the right time to exercise the truth that God is good even when I don’t feel it. And then, when the good times come, I’ll know the difference between “my circumstances are good” and “God is good.”  So for today, even though Monday doesn’t feel so hot, I’ll keep practicing that God is good. Not because I feel good, but simply because it’s true.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Prayer for the weekend.

Dear Heavenly Father, 

You are the Master Creator and the author of creativity. 
You designed the flow of the earth and the flow of our lives. 
You set the earth on its axis 
and you set in our hearts the desire to know and worship you. 
How we want to know You more, how we want to bring You delight. 

Give us the heart to worship You with our lives and our music.
Give us the words to praise Your Holy Name.
Give us the songs to sing of our love for You. 
Give us ears to listen to Your unfailing direction.
Give us guidance and wisdom for every detail, every note, every word
That we might worship You with our best gifts and inspire others to do the same. 

Thank You for the gift of worship, may we offer our worship well. 
Thank You for the gift of song, may ours be pleasing to You. 
Thank You for the gift of Your Word, may we read it, learn it, live it. 


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