Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Are You So Angry?

Have you ever been so angry that you lost control? That you did or said something that you normally would not do? So angry that you are still paying the price for your thoughtless words or vindictive actions?

You're not alone. Everyone experiences anger at some point. It could be over something as simple as someone taking too much time ahead of you in the store. Someone cutting you off on the freeway. A marriage gone bad. A job that has become too stressful. A life that is simply overwhelming.

The bible is filled with examples of people who got angry - God hardened Pharaoh's heart as Moses sought the freedom of the Israelites. Pharaoh's anger (and stubbornness) led to plagues, adversity and death for his people.

Naaman, captain of the host of Syria, was almost doomed to a life of leprosy because of his anger. Naaman visited the prophet Elisha to seek a healing for his leprosy, but turned away in anger when he did not receive the response he desired. Only the intelligence of his servants saved him from the price of his foolish actions.

The Apostle Paul was filled with righteous anger towards the newly founded Christian sect. After Jesus's death, he sought to kill as many Christians as he could. A fateful encounter on the Damascus road finally caused him to see the error of his ways and allowed his heart to become open to the Savior.

Anger can be a very destructive emotion. Ephesians 4:6 admonishes us to 'Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath'. I believe sin follows so closely behind anger in this passage because God knew how easily destructive behavior follows the expression of anger. This is not necessarily an injunction to never get angry (Jesus used anger to great effect in ridding the temple of money changers), but not to allow anger to lead you into foolish acts.

Anger also has a negative impact on your mind, your emotions and your body's chemistry. An article in Psychology Today sums it up this way:

A strong emotion that is accompanied by arousal of the nervous system, anger produces effects throughout the body. It eats away at your cardiovascular system, your gut and hijacks nervous system, often obliterating the capacity for clear thinking.

And, despite conventional wisdom that it is a good idea to 'get it all out', it has been proven that the release of anger actually makes you feel worse, not better. But you already knew that, didn't you? Because you remember the last time you had an argument, got angry and said and did things that only made the situation or problem worse. In fact, you did not become less angry after the fight, but more angry. Not to mention your bruised feelings, sense of outrage and unfairness that you still feel when you think about it.

So what does the Bible say to do about anger? Don't give in to it and leave the revenge for God. Paul says in Romans 12 '17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'

He ends this passage by saying '21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.'

So go forth today and instead of becoming angry, be glad - knowing that the Lord will fight your battles and avenge any wrong done to you. And repay evil with good. But, whatever you do - don't let anger get the best of you!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fasting For Lent

Did you give up anything to celebrate this past Lenten season? I'm curious about what other Christians are doing to mark this celebration.

Every year (since I've become a practicing Christian), I am faced with the challenge of how to mark or celebrate the Lenten season. Though I am a Baptist by denomination (and Baptists don't typically don't celebrate Lent), I am moved by the thought of using the Lenten season to remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross.

For background, Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter Sunday (excluding Sundays). The period of 40 days is representive of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. During that time, he fasted. During Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness, Satan tempted him with all kinds of things - wealth, power and authority - if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus refused and resisted everything the devil offered - because he knew the real deal - there was only one true God, and Satan wasn't Him. And, furthermore, that Satan didn't truly have the power to give Jesus all those things he was promising - all things belong to God and Him alone.

(A good article on Lent can be found here.)

So, it is very easy to draw the analogy between what Jesus did (resisting evil) and our ongoing battle to resist temptation. And to incorporate fasting - which is what people do during this season - fast, or 'give up' certain items, as a means of following in Jesus's footsteps. A time to become closer to God and reflect on who He is and what He has done for us.

So how was your Lenten season? Any thoughts on how Lent should be celebrated?

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In the News: Black Woman Have Increased Breast Cancer Risk

A recent news story about a study of one million women found that Black women are diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer tumors than White woman. Not because we get cancer at a higher rate, but because we are inadequately screened,the article says. Specifically:

Compared with white women, black women were significantly more likely to have received inadequate screening, which included never receiving a mammogram before diagnosis, not receiving one until age 55, or not receiving one in the past three and a half years, said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco.

Have you been screened recently for breast cancer? I have - and though I hated the poking, prodding and squeezing - I at least left with the reassurance of knowing I had done my part to catch a potentially fatal disease.

Ladies - make sure you are screened regularly and, if you are at high risk or over the age of 40, that you receive yearly mammograms. And men - make sure all the women in your life are well protected.

Be Blessed!

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Friday, April 14, 2006

The Hook-Up

Violet T. Barry, who is the President of one of my sister websites, Holy Jamz, submitted this article to me, and I thought it was very powerful. Read on and let me know what you think:

When I was 19, I let one of my friends introduce me to a guy who she knew through association as one of her boyfriend's closest friends. When we met, it started off really sweet for a moment. Everything was going pretty nicely until he started talking about sex. After that first conversation, every conversation eventually led to the same topic which eventually turned into him pursuing me. So I lost my cool one day and told him to lose my number and pretend as if we never met.

A few weeks after that conversation, I got a page from him from out of the blue. Within that same hour I started receiving 911 pages from different telephone numbers. By the time I pulled up to my house from school I called the last number back and it was my friend who was crying and begging me to go and get her. I asked her where she was and I jumped in the car and took off. When I reached her and got her safely inside of the car, she told me that her ex-boyfriend (who set me up with the guy I told never to call me again) stopped by her family's house and asked her to go for a ride with him. She agreed and he took her to a gated apartment complex that you could only get in and out of with a key.

She told him that she'd rather wait in the car but he insisted that she went up with him because he was going to be a while. Eventually after going back and forth, she agreed. He had her step into the apartment first and closed and locked the door behind him. The apartment was full of guys. And everyone was staring at her. After that sentence the rest of the events from that moment on was a blur. The guy that I had been talking to was also in that apartment. As far as she can remember, her ex-boyfriend took her into a bedroom and raped her. After that, the guy I had been talking to entered the room and she only remembers running and screaming. After that, she can't recall how she got her clothes back on. She remembered running through the apartment complex and trying to jump the high concrete wall to get out. She never really understood how she made all the way to where she was when I picked her up.

At the time, she refused to call the police or to go to the rape trauma center. It was after taking her to another friend's place and talking with her and her husband that she agreed to go to the emergency room. We were told to go to the trauma rape center where she was examined by nurses and coaxed into speaking with a police officer to take a statement. She asked me to stay with her and I did.

It was then that I learned that she didn't really know the guy that she called her boyfriend. They had been dating for less than a month and she only knew him by his street name and the vehicle that he drove. She did not know of either his real first or last name, where he stayed, his home telephone number or anything. She basically knew jack about this dude and was sexually active with him from jump. The police never bothered to follow-up on the incident and she decided to put it behind her and pretend as if it never happened. We never spoke about it again but I never fully understood why things went down the way that they did.

I learned that I was set-up to be gang raped along with my friend that night but didn't. I learned that I really did not know my friend the way that I thought I did. I learned that it was best that I make my own mistakes and that it was better for me not to follow or allow people that I knew to influence me into making poor decisions. My heart went out to my friend for what she had survived that night. At the same time, I also realized that it could have also been me and that she had led me falsely into dating one of her rapists by telling me that she had been with her boyfriend for a long time and knew his friend, too.

I could say that the experience kept me on my toes and from going on to make more mistakes and bad decisions but I would be a liar. I was one of those people who had to learn things the hard way for quite some time before coming to any kind of common sense. When I look back at some of the things that I've done in my younger years, I know that it was nothing but the grace of God that spared, kept and saved me even in the midst of some of the worse choices I've ever made and in the midst of some of the darkest periods of my life. As women, if we can not love ourselves and be content in knowing that the Lord loves us and cares for us regardless of what we may think or feel for ourselves, happiness will never be found in bed with some man between our thighs for whatever amount of minutes or hours the sin of lust can last.

If you've tried everything else imaginable in your life, why not give Christ a try?

Why not, indeed? Have you ever experienced anything like this or heard of anything like this happening to anybody else? What kind of vetting process do you think you need to put your potential boyfriend through to make sure it doesn't happen to you? Hopefully, this article will make us all be just a little more careful about who we choose to spend our time with.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Worth Watering: He loves me despite myself

Worth Watering: He loves me despite myself

This blog entry is from a sister website - Worth Watering. In this poem, Ms. Mimi talks about her relationship with God, how He has touched her life and her relationship with Him. I love the creativity, energy and passion Ms. Mimi puts into her poetry and I just thought you might just like to check it out as well!

Here is an excerpt from her poem:

He loves me despite myself

That is what I love about him
I have strayed, played, have been negligent in my treatment of him
Yet, whenever I call, he answers
I hang my heavy head.
Without questioning he forgets
each irresponsible thing I've said or done

He's the one.

Check out Ms. Mimi's blog to read the rest of this Awesome poem for yourself!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Getting Closer to God

I have had a lot of conversations recently about how to know God. People wanting to know how to hear from God, how to become closer with Him and how to take their relationship with Him to the next level. Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about how to get closer to God. (I also wrote an article entitled How to Hear From God on my website for more information.)

I personally approach my relationship with God as I would anyone with whom I wanted a close relationship. Someone I was dying to get to know better. For most people, this could accurately describe how you felt when you first fell in love. I was anxious to know what He was about, what He liked, and how I could do more things to please Him. I also wanted to know Him as my Father, my Friend, my Comforter and my Strength (all things that were promised in the Bible). In that God could be so many things to me, it was very important to me to build a solid relationship with Him. So, how did I do that? Initially, by reading the Bible (His letter to us), talking to other people, listening to good preaching and a little bit of trial and error. Here is what I discovered:

1. God Likes to Talk

God likes to talk to His children. All throughout the Bible, there are instances of God speaking to his people, his prophets, his servants and those who faithfully followed him. In Isaiah 1:18, God says ‘Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ (ASV) I like this verse a lot because not only does it show that God wants to talk to us, He promises He is open to us even in the midst of our sins. We may not like everything God has to say to us, but it is reassuring to know He wants to hear our conversation.

2. God Likes to Hear You Say Good Things About Him

A good example of a person who was close to God was King David. Though he sinned in his personal life (and was punished), God still considered him to have been pure in his heart towards God. I think one of the reasons for this was because David was tops in one area: he loved to praise God! A familiar passage of scripture can be found in Psalms 34:1-2, where David says ‘…..I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ David made a point of saying good things about God and openly displayed his affection and devotion to God no matter what anyone else thought. And, because of this, God counted David as a friend. As my pastor’s wife often says, if you were in a relationship with someone, would you want them to be embarrassed to talk about you? I think not….

3. God Has to Come First

The first of the ten commandments (in Exodus 20) says that we are to have no other gods before Him. We are also told time and again to love God with all our heart, soul and might (Deut. 6:5, 30:6, Matt. 22:37, etc.). That is the first and most significant commandment. Everything else God asks us to do comes after this first and most important command. It is important as a Christian that you build your relationship with God first – and from that, your relationships with other people.

4. God Gets Jealous of Competition

In the ten commandments, right after God tells us that He will have no other gods before Himself, He tells us in Exodus 20:5 ‘Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…’ God does not like competition. As a matter of fact, not only does He not like competition, He gets jealous when you have someone or something in your life that you hold in higher esteem than you do Him. That means husband or wife, children, family, friends, job, money, material things or wealth. Whatever it is - you can never put those things or those people before God. Remember – no one else is your God – but Him.

5. God Likes to Spend Quality Time With You

God says to Moses in Exodus 25:22 ‘And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat…’ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language defines commune as ‘To be in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity, as with one's surroundings’. And we are reminded that God is the One ‘Who comforteth us in all our tribulation….’ (2 Cor 1:4) Communing with God and being comforted by God all involved spending time with God. We are so often in a hurry, ripping and running from place to place, that we want what we want from in a hurry! Well, here’s a news flash - it doesn’t usually work that way. Most true spiritual work takes time. If you’re lucky, God will deliver you of your troubles right away, but, most of the time, He doesn’t.. Most things that you want from God will take time – and involve a process. A process of spending time with God, talking to God, listening to God, and spending good quality time with God. Saying good things about God, putting God first, and getting rid of (or lessening) any competition. That’s what it takes to be close to God.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

A Beautiful Marriage

All this talk about marriage, being single, having children and the idea behind commitment (please re-read previous entries for reference) have made me re-think what God intended for marriage. So, I read through some scriptures, and gave it some thought (and prayer) as I tried to re-focus on His intended will.

And, once again, I am reminded of the beauty of marriage as God intended it to be - a mutually satisfying, mutually loving, respectful and mutually desired state. No hint of a baby's daddy or baby's mama, sperm banks, two or three women (or men) 'on the side', fooling around or trophy wives. A whole lot of love, a whole lot of respect, and a whole lot of God is more like He intended for us.

Oh, how wonderful it would be to go back to God's original plan!

Following are some points that I gleaned from my recent study of God's word:

Genesis 2:23 - Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh

Notice a man leaves both mother and father to be with his wife. And also notice this is before there is any mention of children, friends or other family members. In other words, the marriage relationship comes first. The only One you should love more is God. Period.

Matthew 5:31 - ....But I say to you that whoever shall put away his wife, except for cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who is put away commits adultery

We divorce for so many reasons nowadays, but, most often I hear the phrase 'we grew apart'. As you can see, the Bible does not make provision for 'growing apart'. Except for adultery (and if an unbelieving husband/wife leaves his or her spouse), the Bible says you should stay married. So, again, unless you have a very good reason, if you are married, you should stay married.

1 Corinthians 7:3 - Let the husband give to the wife proper kindness, and likewise the wife also to the husband.

This should be basic, but so often it is not. A lot of people consider their husbands or wives their favorite 'target', the object of their misery, the causer of all their pain. The Bible says that, instead, we should be kind to our spouses. Kindness - wouldn't it be nicer if there were a whole lot more of that going around?

4. SEX SHOULD BE A MUTUAL PLEASURE (one of my favorites:)
1. Corinthians 7:4-5 - The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. And likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive one another, unless it is with consent for a time, so that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.....

This verse is basically saying that neither the husband or wife has the 'right' to continually say no. That means no 'holding out', playing games or depriving him or her of yourself. And, if you need to pray or fast for an extended period of time, to get your spouse's consent - let him or her know what is going on. Sex was meant to be a pleasurable coming together of a husband and wife. Is it that way for you?

Ephesians 5:25 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,

I love this verse as well. This scripture admonishes husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church - in other words, be willing to sacrifice himself for her. To nurture and care for her. To love her and to cherish her. (I could go on and on....) It even goes on to say that the husband should love the wife as much as he loves himself - and no man ever hated himself.

Ephesians 5:22 - Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

I'd love to be able to stop at the last scripture, but, ladies there are instructions for us as well. (And, yes, I have just as much of a problem with the word 'submit' as you do!) The best explanation I've seen of this passage is where John Gill says 'This is an instance, explaining the above general rule; which subjection lies in honour and reverence, and in obedience; they should think well of their husbands, speak becomingly to them, and respectfully of them; the wife should take care of the family, and family affairs'. In other words, that submission comes through love, not subjugation, humiliation or a master-servant relationship. But through love.

And, we are reminded that we are to submit ourselves to our husbands as unto the Lord. Now that's deep. For the Lord I will give my all. And what the Lord is saying to me is that that commitment must be the same as what I will give to my future husband. And that we (women) are to serve our husbands as if serving God. So, our husbands must love us without condition, and we must obey as if we are obeying the Lord. (Hey - don't get mad at me - I'm just interpreting!).

Let me know what you think. There are, I'm sure, numerous other scriptures in the Bible about marriage. The above scriptures simply represent my favorites. And though I struggle sometimes with the idea of a Godly marriage (especially this whole 'submission' thing), I would truly love to understand what God's original plan was for a husband and wife. All opposing views welcome!

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A Good Man is NOT Hard to Find

If you're anything like me, I'm sure you've either heard it, said it, read it or even (momentarily) believed it. Come on, everybody say it with me 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find'.

It has become the watch word of the single woman - explaining why we don't have a man, why we don't want a man, why our last man was bad and why there is little hope that we will ever find another (good) man. Of course, our reasoning goes, it must be that there is something wrong with all men. It couldn't possibly be me. After all, I am perfect (or close to it). I am intelligent, employed, in school, self-sufficient, spiritual, God-fearing, beautiful, affectionate, you-fill-in-the-blanks, and so on and so on. So, if I don't have (want, need, will never meet) a good man, it must be because there are no more good men. Right?


Let me say for the record, loud and clear, I DON'T BELIEVE IT. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND.

There - I said it. I feel much better now. Now let me tell you why I think this way.

It's clear from reading the Bible that marriage is the intended state for most men and women. Some of us will be blessed with the gift of single-ness, but, for most of us, marriage is our inevitable fate. So, my first point is this - if God intended for most women to be married, why would He eliminate all the so-called 'good men'? Does that make any sense?

My second point is this - I know there are good men out there because I see them every day. At my church. At my job. On the bus to and from work. At restaurants. In the grocery store. Alone. With their children. In business suits. Sometimes mopping the floors. In the latest Benz. In ratty old beaters. Why don't I think most single women 'see' these good men? Simply because most of them don't fit their notion of what a good man should look like. Along with God-fearing, we want successful - nice car, good-looking, fit, intelligent, articulate and well-groomed. And there's nothing wrong with seeking someone with these attributes (as long as you have them too!). But, you know someone I notice very often? A gentleman that works in my building cleaning up. Yes - I said it - he cleans. Every time I see him, he is quietly, efficiently doing his job. He is dedicated, he is humble, and he is very serious about what he is doing. I don't know his name and I don't know his background, but I am impressed by his dedication.

But how many women take the time to notice the man cleaning the floors in her building? Or who drives an older model car because he is working hard to support his children? Or one who dresses plainly and takes the bus because he is trying to hold down a job and go to school full-time? Be honest - not many.

The other reason I don't think a good man is hard to find is because our definition of 'good' is so darned skewed. We automatically equate it with what we see on the Hallmark or Lifetime cable channels - he will have all the right words, do all the right things, and know exactly how to meet our needs. He will be suave, and debonair and manly, yet sweet. Okay - let's all take a deep breath and just wake up (because, yeah - I want those things too - but I'm learning to accept my 'good' man exactly the way he is)!

Not every man knows the right thing to say. Or the right thing to do. Or can tell you the location of the most trendy restaurant. What you want in a man is one who is sincere - one who says what he means, is consistent and faithful and is genuine in all that he says and does. Those are the 'good' man qualities we should seek and so often overlook (if they are not accompanied by a certain look or level of income).

Okay - enough of my hang-ups. I just want to know - am I the only one who thinks this way? Is it really a lot harder than I believe to meet a good man? If I'm wrong, please let me know....

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Do Black People Still Get Married?

In a much read and discussed article, Joy Jones posed the premise (in the Washington Post) 'Marriage Is For White People'. This article goes on to highlight the declining rate of black marriages and black families that are headed by two-parents. Ms. Jones goes on to accurately point out how black women's choices are changing in the marriage landscape. That marriage is a goal when black women are in their early 20's and 30's, but as they financially prosper and build networks to support their single lifetsyles, they more readily begin to accept the idea of being a single parent. Here is a quote from her article:

Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man.

I completely agree with Ms. Joy's article. I realized that my mindset had changed in the last couple of years (I'm in my early 30's) from the idea of having a husband and children to one day having children. I found myself looking at adoption statistics, contemplating sperm banks and re-thinking my plans as a single person to include parenthood.

As a black woman and as a Christian, I have to say I think we have gotten way, way off base. Sure, it's hard to date and find a 'good man' these days, but they still exist. And though we are perfectly capable of raising a child ourselves, why should we if we don't have to? And I'm not talking about those who want to be married, but are not due to circumstances that have prevented it. I'm squarely focusing on those among us who have decided that men are not essential in the equation of our lives. Yes, I believe we can live 'happily ever after' by ourselves, but what does that mean for our society, our children, our neighborhoods and our legacy? Aren't the ideal circumstances upon which to raise children and build a nation founded on the idea of a two-parent family? Why would God espouse the sanctity of marriage if that state didn't represent His highest idea of a perfect union?

What do you think?

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Is the Maternal Instinct Real?

I was trolling the internet when I ran across this article about the maternal instinct:

LookSmart's FindArticles - Mother's Day: maternal instinct may be a myth. But this mother's son still sees something special in motherly love

Psychology Today, May, 1988, by Paul Chance

Now, I find the idea of whether or not women really have an innate maternal instinct really, really fascinating - mainly beecause I don't have kids. And, as a single, child-less person, I know for a fact that the thought of staying home and raising children full-time (with all the attendant diaper duty, early morning wake-ups, feedings, nurturing, rearing, cooking and cleaning) sends shivers of horror down my spine. And I know I'm not alone.

Sure, I get all dewy-eyed when I see a mom and dad with their cute kids (especially if they have a whole brood and they are all just so adorable), and, occassionally I fantasize about what my own children will be like - athletic, strong-willed, angelic :) - and then I wake up. I start thinking about how much child care costs and who is going to change these adorable childrens' diapers and how many games I will have to attend and do I really want to start carpooling? And my dream of having children once again gets pushed to the furthest corners of my mind.

So this makes me question whether all that stuff about maternal instinct is real. If I really had it, wouldn't I be rushing out to have children despite all my fears? The article I read insists that the maternal instinct is learned, not innate. This quote sums it up:

Then the Pill happened, and the '60s, and suddenly a lot of women were discovering that sex and reproduction were not inseparable. And just as suddenly there were a lot of women who didn't show much interest in making little ones. So it really does seem that maternal love is not instinctive.

The prevailing opinion among experts now seems to be that motherly behavior is the product of learning. Women have and love children only because they were trained to do so. That was what their mothers were up to when they encouraged them to spend countless hours with Barbie

That, however, seems a bit cold to me, so I'm thinking it must be a combination of the two. That the maternal instinct is both innate and learned. And, even if you don't have it to begin with, you can certainly learn it.

The Bible doesn't really say a whole lot about parenting either. There are admonitions about how children should be raised, but these injunctions are not addressed to one particular parent. And, in Bible stories, I have seen instances of both the mother and father interacting regularly with their children.

So - what do you think? Do you think the maternal instinct is a learned behavior or is innate?

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