a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 72
"For many hours I learned new things about Maleldil and about His Father and the Third One ...
"He dwells (all of Him dwells) within the seed of the smallest flower and is not cramped: Deep Heaven is inside Him who is inside the seed and does not distend Him. Blessed be He!
"All which is not itself the Great Dance was made in order that He might come down into it. In the Fallen World He prepared for Himself a body and was united with the Dust and made it glorious for ever. This is the end and final cause of all creating, and the sin whereby it came is called Fortunate and the world where this was enacted is the centre of the worlds. Blessed be He!
"Where Maleldil is, there is the centre. He is in every place. Not some of Him in one place and some in another, but in each place the whole Maleldil, even in the smallness beyond thought. There is no way out of the centre save into the Bent Will which casts itself into the Nowhere. Blessed be He!
"Each thing was made for Him. He is the centre. Because we are with Him, each of us is at the centre. It is not as in a city of the Darkened World where they say that each must live for all. In His city all things are made for each. When He died in the Wounded World He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less. Each thing, from the single grain of Dust to the strongest eldil, is the end and the final cause of all creation and the mirror in which the beam of His brightness comes to rest and so returns to Him. Blessed be He!
"All things are by Him and for Him. He utters Himself also for His own delight and sees that He is good. He is His own begotten and what proceeds from Him is Himself. Blessed be he!"
Years ago, when I was but a wee lad, my parents gave me a brand new transistor radio -- my first -- for my birthday. Oh, my, but it was a grand thing: larger than palm-size, a handle on top, and colored a handsome tan. It had a glorious sound, and I thought it was surely the finest birthday present a boy had ever received.
The second best present I got for my birthday that year was time with my dad. Dad was not an inattentive father, but he worked long and hard hours, and didn't always have the time or opportunity to spend what we today refer to as `quality time' with his two sons. So it was a special occasion to be able to spend some private hours with him -- just me and him.
The rationale behind the decision escapes me from this decades distant perspective, but at the time it made perfect sense for us to spend the remainder of my birthday at a nearby limestone quarry, just east of town. Long since deserted, the old quarry offered a singularly daring adventure for a young boy and his father, with its roughly hewn crags and precipitous cliffs high above the huge water-filled pit. We spent the afternoon climbing about, testing our skills along the sharp ledges, discovering and exploring nooks and crannies amid the excavations made so long before -- with me, all the while, carrying my new radio in hand.
What made the event memorable for me was simply the time together. I have no memory of grandiloquent pronouncements from my dad, no lingering bits of eternal wisdom considered over fading twilight. My dad was of simple stock, an honest laborer with old grease pressed indelibly into the lines of his hands. His rudimentary vocabulary may have let him describe the machines that had carved up the stone in the quarry, but would have failed him in consideration of epochal mysteries.
No, what made the day special was simply being with my dad -- together, alone, sharing whatever there was around for us to share.
As I receive correspondence from people, on a regular basis I hear the following sentiment voiced, words to the effect: "I long for a closer, more consistent walk with Jesus."
This could easily be the petition of every believer; don't we all long to spend every day in closer communion with our Lord. Yet how is it accomplished? For every person wishing for such a thing there is surely a different book or pamphlet suggesting its own three- or ten-step method for accomplishing the desired result. For every believer dissatisfied with his or her walk there is someone else ready to tell them how to go about improving it.
Most of us can recognize deficiencies in our daily relationship with Christ, but the last thing we need are any more ten-step programs promising surefire success; we don't need anyone telling us that whatever has worked perfectly for them will surely work just as perfectly for us; and we certainly don't need anyone slipping us another paperback book, or cassette tape.
What was it that made that birthday with my dad so special? Why, after all these years, do I remember it with such fondness? Because, for a little while, I had the privilege to spend time with my dad, to get to know him more intimately, without anyone or anything else around to get in the way. It was special because I was given the chance to see him as he really was -- without distraction, without any fatherly or husbandly posturing -- my dad, yes, but also my friend and confidant.
If our desire is to have a more intimate, more consistent walk with Jesus Christ, the answer lies less in programs or methods than in recognizing and understanding two foundational things: First, knowing the person and personality of our Friend and, two, understanding who we are in His eyes.
This issue of Aspects will address the former.
Deep down, when everything less consequential has been cleaned away, when people say that they long for a more consistently close walk with Christ, what they seem to be really saying is that they long to be more like Him.
Spending time with Jesus means that His character traits are rubbing off onto us -- not the other way around; our goal is to be like Jesus, not to expect Him to be like us. We must approach Jesus on His terms.
Yet the mysterious paradox of this relationship is that, in Jesus, God has already met us halfway. God knows that people made of flesh will respond better to a Savior made of the same. So, in this walk, our companion is at once our God and our Brother. And therein lies the unique beauty of Christ: He is kin, yet superior, and our goal should be to emulate Him.
Today's society, however, has turned this around. It does not seek a relationship with a God who is already perfect, but instead seeks to conform -- what is in its eyes -- an imperfect God to its own standards.
"There are many in America who will accept only a God who approaches them, or can be approached, within the context of their own culture."
It doesn't seem to occur to those who seek a "contextual" god that such a deity would be no god at all; a god who is a chameleon, changing his stripes to fit his environment, cannot possibly be real -- no more real than the crocodile god the ancient Egyptians invented so they wouldn't be eaten alive when dipping their toes into the Nile.
The point is not to lower God to our culture, but for us to rise into His.
No one wants a liar for a friend, so you either believe that Jesus was telling the truth when He said
"He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9b NASB)
or you should have nothing to do with Him. If you do believe, however, then this is your starting point. Time spent with Jesus is time spent with God, and is a precious occupation. This is what Martha's sister understood ...
... called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:39-42
Mary understood that a friendship with Jesus was like no other, and must be treated in a unique way. She understood that having Jesus as a friend meant that time spent with Him must take precedence over everything else. No other person in the room would be more important; no other activity could possibly replace sitting at His feet, listening to everything He had to say.
"It was not [Martha's] fault that she had much serving. We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can. Head and heart and hands, let every single power and passion of our nature be engaged in the Master's service. But her fault was that she grew [distracted] with her serving, so that she forgot Him and remembered only the service. She overrode her union with Christ by her service to Christ, and herein was the mischief." C.H. Spurgeon
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:9-13
The word `friend' has been devalued in our society. But in Jesus we see the character traits of a true friend.
The most fundamental -- and necessary -- requirement for a friend is that with full knowledge of our failings, he or she still chooses to spend time with us. Jesus knows us inside and out -- better than anyone else. Yet in spite of that knowledge, He still desires our company. In fact, we might almost conclude that Jesus actually prefers the company of sinners ...
[The Time is c.27 AD; the place is the home of Matthew, the publican. Matthew enters, holding the door for his guests, smiling and being the cordial host, pleased to have them here again in his home.]
Miriam, more food for our guests!
Joseph, was the lamb roasted to your liking? The honey sauce was made specially for you. And Ezrah, I know how you love the dates; my wife has prepared a bag of them for you to take with you. My friends and guests. You bring honor to this house by your presence. Most of us go back many years. Ephraim, my brother, it was you who brought me into this lucrative business -- and I am grateful.
We have shared times of pleasure, opulence ... prosperity. We have drunk old wine and squandered new money. But now we must part.
Please. I know; it's as much a shock to me as it is to you. But you see, this day I have made a new friend. This very morning I met Him and He has brought me wealth far surpassing what I have already. The riches He brings are difficult to bank -- but easy to spend. No -- no, Laban. He's not a new overseer from Rome!
My friend's treasure is not in a currency recognized by our gracious benefactors. No, Laban, He has bestowed upon me ... . light, where once there was darkness. He has opened my mind to truth where before was only greed and deceit.
My friends, we are a close fraternity and tonight the gates are shut against our detractors. Tonight let us be honest with each other -- just as my new friend has taught me to be honest with myself. We have taken freely from our countrymen!
Under pretense of tax-increase we have systematically stolen -- yes, stolen from our brothers. And it is to our shame that we get away with it. Let me tell you something my new friend told me -- What? Oh I haven't?
Why, His name is Jesus. But let me tell you what He said. My new friend said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store your treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal."
His words puzzled me. When I found my tongue, I told Him I was a man of reason and logic. I told Him what I understood best were figures on a balance sheet -- not poetry. Would He kindly explain the procedure for storing one's treasures in heaven? There was kindness in His eyes when He answered: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world ... yet forfeits his soul?" It was then I realized -- for the first time -- how I had sold my soul for these worthless baubles! Thieves could clean me out and I would be left with nothing. Nothing! But Jesus offered me something far more valuable ... priceless, really: eternal life -- with Him. My friends, I chose His riches over mine. I have transferred all my precious possessions to His storehouse: my spirit, my devotion ...
... my love.
The rest I leave to you! Now I belong to Jesus. I don't know why, but He wants me. He has decided to include me on His balance sheet. But, my friends, I will be the one to profit.
[Matthew exits with a flourish.]
A little bit of knowledge about Christ can be a dangerous thing. For so many people -- both within and without the Kingdom -- the historical Jesus remains a friendly, tenderly sympathetic, rather bland individual who never raised His voice, never expressed any emotion beyond a simpering, "flower-child" kind of love for everyone around.
The whole truth is that Jesus was anything but bland, in possession of a spirited, energetic personality capable of the complete range of human emotions. And no one -- friend or foe -- should want to be on the receiving end of his wrath.
The Junior High years are when young boys can be guilty of doing some very strange things. During those hormonally charged days so long ago, I was whittled down to size most dramatically -- and traumatically -- during one Friday night football game ... by a friend.
Actually Dave Forrest was our next-door neighbor, a high school biology teacher, and all-around neat guy who taught me how to fertilize the garden by lining up dead fish between the rows of vegetables.
Friday nights in my hometown were reserved for high school football. Someone wisely arranged the seating at Franklin Field so that all the respectable townsfolk sat on one side of the field, while all the less-respectable students sat opposite. But many of the junior high boys (even less respectable than their older colleagues) mostly spent the entirety of the game roaming about the periphery, looking for as much mischief as possible -- and generally not paying attention to the game at all.
All along the east end of the fence that encircled Franklin Field was an ancient growth of wild cherry bushes. One fateful Friday night, while the hometown team was doing battle down on the gridiron, my companions and I were taking great delight in picking pocketfuls of ripe cherries and lobbing them anonymously into the students' stands from the relative safety of the shadows.
We were getting away with our mischief until, to my horror, Dave Forrest (what was he doing up there?), my friendly next-door neighbor, stood straight up in the middle of the crowd, swung a bony finger straight at me poised to hurl another missile, and shouted down for all the world to hear: "Lampel!"
I could have died. My friend and usually good-natured, easygoing neighbor was not only very angry with me, but he was angry in a most public and humiliating way. If there had been a rabbit hole nearby I could have easily squeezed inside. I was mortified -- and quite sure I had lost a friend.
But I hadn't. Even at that young and erratic age I understood that he was absolutely right: I was wrong to be doing that, and needed to be taken down a peg. Who better for that task than a friend.
"It is the best and truest friend who honestly tells us the truth about ourselves even when he knows we shall not like it. False friends are the ones who hide such truth from us and do so in order to remain in our favour." R.C.H. Lenski
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:21-23
Many people think God's grace consists only of His blind acceptance of us in spite of our sin, but His grace has more dimensions than that. It also consists of His caring enough to train us up well, to disciple us, and to rebuke us when necessary. That is true grace.
Peter may not have been thinking of grace that day when, once again, he uttered foolish words. Like me at that Friday night football game, he may only have been thinking about finding a hole to crawl into. Only a short time before he had given a perfectly splendid showing of himself when Jesus had quizzed him and his fellows.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
It's easy to picture the group standing about, scratching their heads, wondering to themselves what Jesus wanted them to say.
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Maybe some of them were as confused as those they quoted. Jesus wanted to know what they thought.
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
And now here's Peter, elbowing his way through the others to stand before Jesus, to declare forthrightly:
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." Matthew 16:13-17
Jesus, the perfect friend was quick to praise -- but just a short while later was equally quick to rebuke.
Here is the kind of friend we truly need. In this day of "political correctness", rampant pandering and duplicity, it's difficult to find anyone who will be straight with us.
Jesus will be straight, an honest friend. When we're right, He encourages us; when we're wrong, He corrects us -- and because He is God, He has the right to.
"Now the truth is, I think, that the sweetly-attractive- human-Jesus is a product of 19th century scepticism, produced by people who were ceasing to believe in His divinity but wanted to keep as much Christianity as they could. It is not what an unbeliever coming to the records with an open mind will (at first) find there. The first thing you find is that we are simply not invited to speak, to pass any moral judgement on Him, however favourable; it is only too clear that He is going to do whatever judging there is; it is we who are being judged, sometimes tenderly, sometimes with stunning severity, but always *de haut en bas*." C.S. Lewis
The apostle John wrote
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us ... (John 1:14a)
Anyone who questions the reality -- and susceptibility -- of that earthly flesh need only read the gospel accounts of His ministry:
- When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. Matthew 14:13
- He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:37-38
- hen, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31
- Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16
During His time on earth, Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, yet His deity did not prevent His flesh from becoming weary of the pace and the constant demands placed on Him by the crowds of people.
But Jesus was always giving -- even when His spirits were at their lowest.
Prompted by her mother, [Salome] said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:8-12
John was the cousin of Jesus, but more importantly, he had been God's designated forerunner -- the one to announce the arrival of and go before the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. So in one stroke of the executioner's axe, Jesus lost His friend, a member of His family, and His ministry partner.
On top of that, Jesus was bone-weary from the constant traveling and ministering to the needs of others. With the sad news delivered by John's disciples, and His need for rest, Jesus sought some time for restoration.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Matthew 14:13a
But as so often happened, the people weren't far behind. Hungry for His good news -- as well as His miraculous healing touch -- the crowds of people pursued Jesus everywhere He went.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34
Matthew tells us that Jesus also healed many of the people. How large was the crowd? Five thousand men, plus women and children. Jesus accomplished all this in spite of His being tired in body and sick at heart over the loss of His friend and brother in ministry, John.
Jesus still gives beyond measure. He may no longer become weary in body, but Jesus is still a friend who never grows weary of meeting all our needs; He is still an advocate who never loses faith in His charges.
"He was like a king who temporarily puts on the garments of a peasant while at the same time remaining king." John F. Walvoord
Is there anything more pleasing and satisfying for the Christian, than the idea of Jesus, the very Son of God, dead then resurrected, walking alongside, taking part in our lives?
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" Luke 24:13-32
Here we have what may be the best Scriptural example of how Jesus works in our lives today -- how He comes alongside, for a little while, to help and enlighten, to set us straight, then quietly leaves as quickly as He came.
Haven't we all wondered what it must have been like to be Cleopas or his companion that day on the road to Emmaus? Haven't we all thought to ourselves that surely we would have recognized Jesus immediately. Yet very often, even today, we miss His presence.
Like these two disciples, we plod along, trying to work things out for ourselves, befuddled by events and frustrated by our inability to understand the mysteries of life. Like them, we're sometimes blind to the presence of Jesus, thinking we're doing things on our own when He's been there all along.
When we finally see that someone, or something, is there helping, we may imagine that it's only our own wisdom masquerading as a stranger. "Oh, then you know more than I; so tell me, so I'll know, too."
Something deep inside us -- why must we repeatedly be told that the Spirit is always at work? -- whispers that it is really the Lord, but we push the idea aside. It can't be Him; surely we can work this small thing out for ourselves.
But the Lord says "What things?" So we do our best to explain, stumbling and tripping over our tongue, our reason swathed in thick cotton, like trying to explain the clarity of nocturnal imaginings with clouded memory, a sleep-masked brain, and a tongue formed from the bottom of an old shoe.
But He listens, kindly, until even He loses patience with our slow-headed obstinacy. And, good friend that He is, Jesus takes us to task:
"You're being foolish! You should know this by now! How long will it take? Listen to me, let me explain again how it all works together..."
So we listen, but the dim bulb only begins to glow a little brighter -- not yet to full wattage. Recognition comes, but slowly. The many layers of human reason cling stubbornly to us, loathe to give way to the light of the eternal.
After awhile, though complete realization is still a ways further, we invite Him to stay. He's a pleasant enough chap, good company and, anyway, who knows -- maybe He just might hold the key.
So dinner is served, the table spread. We take our places about the table and, because we're polite, we invite the wise stranger to say grace. As He lifts His gaze heavenward and gives thanks for the bread, the bulb finally comes to full glow. It is the Lord!
It was Him all along! It was Jesus listening to our frustration, our confusion and misgivings; it was Jesus patiently explaining what we now see was the truth; it was Jesus who walked beside us, shared our weepings and our joy, who took hold of our hand, who picked us up when we fell. It was Him all along!
"There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
"As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty. And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for." Jonathan Edwards
Here is the ultimate act of a true friend.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Jesus Christ has already demonstrated -- in a most profound way -- His friendship for us. He made the first move; He chose us out, and made the sacrifice before we even knew we needed Him to do it.
And how do we know Jesus is our friend -- real, touchable -- and not just some mystically conjured extension of God, sacrificed, then quickly retrieved to heaven?
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:14-15
"There's a story of two friends who went into Vulcan's shop and begged a favor of him, which he granted. What was their request? That he would either beat them on his anvil or melt them in his furnace, both into one.
"But without make-believe, there is a far greater love in Christ, for He would be melted in the furnace of wrath, and beaten on the anvil of death, to be made one with us. And to declare the exceeding love, here were not both to be beaten on the anvil or melted in the furnace -- but only He alone would be beaten, He alone would be melted that we might be spared." C.H. Spurgeon
Jesus is a personal Savior who is also a personal friend. In the spaces provided, list character traits you would use to describe the perfect friend. Then, to the right of each word, list Scripture references that show that Jesus possesses and demonstrates these traits.Mat. 12:46-50 +-------------------------------- | Loyal | -------------------+-------------------------------- | | +-------------------------------- +-------------------------------- | | -------------------+-------------------------------- | | +-------------------------------- +-------------------------------- | | -------------------+-------------------------------- | | +-------------------------------- +-------------------------------- | | -------------------+-------------------------------- | | +-------------------------------- +-------------------------------- | | -------------------+-------------------------------- | | +--------------------------------
Issue No. 72
[1.] From his novel, Perelandra (Macmillan, c.1972), Chapter 17, p 210ff. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] Time Magazine, October 28, 1996 Volume 148, No. 20, Genesis Reconsidered, by David van Biema. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] Profit, from The Twelve, #mon3 in the His Company Catalogue; Copyright David S. Lampel, all rights reserved. (return to footnote 3)
[4.] Not part of the remaining eleven in the inner circle, but followers nonetheless. (return to footnote 4)
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