Relying On Him

It was one of those weeks where you never really catch up on sleep – and just when you think the drama has come to an end, there’s a new twist and turn. From family drama to challenging professional interactions, arguments over nothing caused by irritability, and life-changing, deep conversations. From a margarita infused laugh fest to sober tears and lots of pain, there was all of it.

I’m not sure why but whenever life enters that spectrum where success suddenly doesn’t seem to matter all that much, interesting things happen. You’re at work – but you’re not really at work. You’re in the car driving, but your thoughts are taken back to your own memories of pain. You make it home safe, but you’re not sure how.

This week a family member made the strong, challenging decision to break off an emotionally abusive relationship and I couldn’t be more proud. But it’s hard to break away from something that we’ve become used to.

In a way, “love” can become as addictive as a drug, the dopamine that had been released during close times together creates a spiritual tie of sorts. It binds us closer, creates that need for closeness; and that’s one of the many reasons it hurts so much to break a relationship off.

The light that is at the other end of the tunnel is worth it though. I remember the time in my life where I was in a relationship where the other individual wasn’t all-in, but I was – it hurt a great deal to end the relationship one fateful May evening. But what I didn’t know is that just a little while later – on an October evening, I’d meet a woman that would love me wholeheartedly, forgive quickly, and encourage and champion growth together. It was no longer the endless, perpetual cycle of stagnancy; I made financial gains, spiritual gains, and relational gains. “He makes all things new.” Even you. And even me.

My heart has been overwhelmed with the pain of others recently. Thinking about all of the addictions that some wrestle with and that I’ve had to overcome personally. Allowing myself to feel the pain my family-member is going through. Spending valuable time on my phone outside talking brothers off the ledge.

It’s times like these that make me wonder – how does anybody do it that doesn’t know Jesus?

I mean, seriously. How?

Several times over the last week, when someone has overstepped their bounds and interfered with my life and I’ve wanted to lash out in anger, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last week, when someone was feeling the same pain that I’ve experienced in the past, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last year, as a brother in Christ confesses their battle with purity, and I’ve done the hard thing of giving them tough, Gospel inspired love, calling them to repent and then lovingly embracing them – I’ve had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

So when you ask, how does the eldest of five, newly married, constantly busy, “rock-star-legend” (according to my wife) retail salesmen manage to keep it together (most of the time)? The answer is, I am His. My strength is His. I rely on Him.

I know Jesus, and I want you to know Him too. He saved my life, saved my marriage, gave me hope, and rose again – giving every sunrise new mercies.

There’s a new beginning each day. And we get to live with that hope, because of Him.

I’m praying for you, dear friend, as you’ve taken the time to read this – praying that you would know Him too.

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Start Loving Others

The most common thread in the advice I’ve received on writing is to start. Don’t get so caught up in mapping out your thought-process and attempting to steer things the direction you want to go. Just do it.

I think there’s a lot of truth there and I’ve seen it play out in many areas of my life. Love someone? Just tell them and then prove it by showing them they’re the most important person in your world. Ready to lose weight? Then put down the bread and get out of bed, sleepyhead (had to throw a cheesy rhyme in there somewhere).

Meeting with a childhood friend of mine was encouraging this morning. There are some friendships that you have in life that just never die. Perhaps they fall asleep for a long hibernation but once back together your hearts can pick up right where you left off and this guy is that kind of friend. Some people have the gift of making whoever they’re with in the moment feel like the most important person in the world; I think it’s because he’s allowed his heart to become like Christ and he genuinely loves everyone.

That’s something to aspire to – isn’t it? Loving everyone. That’s so, so hard. Think of the difficult coworker that just rubs you the wrong way – you really do not even want to try to establish a relationship with this individual but perhaps that’s sheer laziness on your part. After all, everyone’s deepest desire to be known – to be connected. All their pushing and shoving and stiff-arming is likely fueled by a distrust of others because of others that have hurt them. What difference a little genuine love could make in their life.

I think of the times I was hurting inside the most. In these life-chapters I had frequently bullied friends and family into a corner and told (not asked) them to stay out of my life. Isolation is the companion of the fool that goes his own way, because community requires accountability. It was in these isolated, depressed, anger filled moments that some of my best friends in life took the time to draw me out – to get me to share my feelings and make myself vulnerable again. Only then, in the light, could I be healed.

So today, I challenge you and I challenge me, to start loving others. It’ll likely be one of the more emotionally taxing things you do today but it will also probably be the most rewarding. And who knows – it could build a relationship between you and the other that could pay off dividends in the future. Because chances are, you aren’t the easiest person to love either.

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Good Mornings

Today is a Good Morning. It started with waking up at 5:00AM to make sure I could meet with a friend of mine at 6:30AM for breakfast and coffee – two of my favorite things – one on one time with a bro and delicious, bottomless mugs of Ethiopian blend coffee.

I don’t know why I don’t do this more often – wake up and get after it. Force myself out of bed for the benefit of the rest of the world, as well as myself. By waking up I took the time to invest on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level with another person and I’ve jump-started the rest of my day. I’m awake, alert, and ready to go long before I have to be clocked in at work and ready to go.

There’s a reason why you feel better on the mornings that you just get out of bed versus the days you snooze the alarm over and over again.

Today is also a Good Morning because it’s Good Friday. Today, we remember the day that Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in the early hours of morning due to the anxiety of knowing what was to come that evening. Betrayal. Pain. Death.

And yet, we have the luxury of knowing that Sunday brings freedom from death because Christ escaped the grave and overcame death so that we don’t have to. By His blood, our sins are paid for, our righteousness has been bought at a price and all who have faith and repent can be saved. Incredible.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that our Savior, Himself, had to experience betrayal of a friend. The betrayal of a loved one or friends can sting and cut you down, the pain seeming to linger for a heart’s eternity. But there is hope – there is a Sunday for that. By experiencing the true love of Christ and His forgiveness over our own sin and darkness, we can be granted the strength and opportunity to forgive and release others of their transgressions to us.

I think the greatest example I’ve witnessed of this is my beautiful wife and the times I’ve hurt her with the words I’ve said or the actions I’ve taken. But something has always set her apart from anyone else I’ve given my heart in the past, she has always been capable of forgiveness. She’s always been filled with the Spirit, capable of a love deeper, more passionate, and more loyal than any I’d experienced before. It was because of this that my heart was drawn back to Jesus back in 2015 and because of this that I made her my bride in 2017. And it’s because of God’s redeeming work in my heart and in my life that I’m capable of loving her with that same kind of love in 2018 and beyond.

Perhaps you’ve been following along in our Psalms Study and you’ve seen the weekly tidbits of wisdom gathered from the Scriptures and I’ll do what I can to continue that at my writing leisure. But I felt today was the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that they can have a Good Morning too. The love of Jesus is available to you – you just have to make yourself available to it. And that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? (Because what if…he doesn’t come through this time, he doesn’t answer your first prayer, he forgets what you’ve been through…)

It’s worth the unknown, because He’s never left me hanging. In my moments of need, I’ve allowed myself to become anxious and worried time and again and it’s never added a minute to my life just as promised in Scripture – but somehow, someway, He always comes through for me. Let Him do the same for you.

Let this morning be the first of many Good Mornings.

good morning coffee

Psalm Study Week 4 (Psalms 22-28)

Sitting in my hotel room in Denver I find myself challenged to maintain the discipline, to keep the dream alive and write. So here’s the 4th installment of our Psalms study. If you’re not enjoying it – that’s okay. I’ll get back to my more traditional style soon enough. But for now, writing weekly and maintaining a daily discipline of being in the Word of God has been extremely beneficial for me and my marriage.

  • Psalm 22:11 “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
    • We’ve all bee in this place before – of feeling as if we are alone and there is no one around to help us. Sitting in the corner of our bedroom on the floor, crying out to God – “If you’re there and you hear my cries, then show yourself to me! Let me hear your voice, O God!” I love the authenticity of David’s heart in asking the Lord to stay close to him. I relate. Lord, stay close.
  • Psalm 23:6 “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
    • I am terrible at believing the promises of God to be true. One moment I’m singing his praises and the next I am complaining about how difficult making sales is and how hard marriage and family relationships can be. Through conversations with my friend here in Denver we were discussing a simpler way of looking at life – of focusing on each moment of each day and just being present. I think if I were to just be 100% where I’m at all the time and not so consumed with worry about the future, I’d learn to be truly thankful. Thankful for the cup of coffee I enjoyed this morning, the mountains I climbed this afternoon, my wife dancing around like a goofball in our hotel room as I write this making me laugh and pause and thank God for her. Surely, Lord, your goodness will follow me all the days of my life.
  • Psalm 24:3-4 “Who may ascend the mountain of the LordWho may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
    • For me, this is a good reminder of how holy our God is. I think we often take it for granted that we can communicate with God whenever we want to. There was a time where we needed a priest to intercede on our behalf in the temple. But then came a time where the curtain in the temple was torn in two, Jesus rose from the grave, and became our Savior. The Holy Spirit prays for us when we do not have the words to pray ourselves. And we have an open line of communication the throne-room in Heaven. How cool is that? How mighty is our God? Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
  • Psalm: 25: 7, 15 “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
    according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good… My eyes are ever on the Lordfor only he will release my feet from the snare.

    • Aren’t you so thankful there is forgiveness? We’ve all made decisions that were not the greatest. We’ve all done something that we regret. He’s separated our sins from us as far as the East is from the West and remembers them no more. And how true is it that when our eyes are set on the Lord, it is then His strength, guidance, and healing power that releases us from the snare of sin.
  • Psalm 26:1 “Vindicate me, Lordfor I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
    • May this become increasingly true of my life. What a power-statement.
  • Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
    • I don’t know if you’re familiar with me or not, but anything involving waiting is not for me. I hate waiting. Patience is a virtue and I despise it. But how frequently have I attempted to take things into my own hands and then regretted it? How frequently it would have been so much easier if I had just waited for, and then listened to, the Lord? Many, many times. Wait on the Lord, for He is Good and Faithful.
  • Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
    • I am weak, but He is strong. I find rest in His harbors. He keeps the waves from crashing down on the decks of my ship and tossing me into the sea. My heart trusts in Him. I can’t help but tell you that He is Good. So, so Good.

Downtown Denver beckons. St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness need my attention so I must run for now! But I hope these verses encourage you as much as they encouraged me. Please let me know how I can be praying for you and what you’ve been learning in your Psalms Study!

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Psalm Study Week 3 (Psalms 15-21)

Sometimes life takes over and you fall behind on your writing. What matters is that I’m trying to become more consistent and disciplined with it – right? Here is “Week 3” and what I learned along the way. I’ll also do what I can to write Week 4 in the next couple days so we can all be caught back up!

  • Psalm 15:1-2 “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.
    • The last year or two I’ve been a part of a group of men that hold each other accountable to living holy and blameless lives, protecting their marriages from scandal, and doing the hard work of cleaning their hearts from the inside out. You may have heard it said, the Lord is not concerned with whitewashed tombs but he is concerned with the heart – and that’s what my message (and blog) has always been about. You may have it all together on the outside – that’s wonderful. But when was the last time you opened up your heart and really dug to the root of your weaknesses? Can you really, confidently pray to the Lord and ask Him to examine your heart, for it is blameless?
  • Psalm 16:8-9 “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.

    (The bullet list formatting wouldn’t work beyond this point in the blog for whatever reason. I’ll have to come back and edit later on, but the show must go on!)

    What I found to be so important in Psalm 16: 8-9 was how David’s focus could not be shaken. But placing his eyes on the Lord, his lot was secure. Because his heart is glad and his tongue sings praise, his body also will rest secure. I could go for some of that rest. Come, Lord – show me what that kind of rest and peace looks like.

    Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

    Can the same be said of my heart? Can the Lord look into my heart and see that I have planned no evil – that I have not uttered a slander against a brother or a sister? And what about you, dear friend? O that we may experience this sort of holiness!

    Psalm 18:37-39 “I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.

    What an excellent battle-cry! What a testament to the confidence we should have in the Lord. Just makes you want to go workout in the gym and prepare yourself for battle against evil. Death has no sting and we’ve got the power of God before us. Earlier in the chapter, David is writing and describing the majestic power of the Lord and how he has rescued him from deep waters. The imagery is beautiful, powerful, and descriptive and I’d encourage you to go back and read it when you have the time. What an awesome God we serve.

    Psalm 19:11 “By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

    “Them” is referring to the instructions of the Lord found in Scripture. I think this is an excellent reminder of our need to be in the Word daily, meditating on it day and night, as it instructs the heart and leads us toward great reward.

    Psalm 20:6 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

    Who doesn’t like #winning? May the Spirit call you out of deep waters and anoint you and your ministries. May He send His angels to deliver us in times of battle and may our shouts be shouts of victory and not wails of defeat.

    Psalm 21:7 “For the king trusts in the Lordthrough the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.

    Recording artist Thi’sl writes of Christian men being kings. Royalty in the eyes of God, heirs to the throne. A king that trusts in the King Of Kings will not be shaken. I want to be like that when I grow up!

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Psalm Study Week 2 (Psalms 8-14)

Here we are two weeks into the study of Psalms and I can already feel the Lord stirring my heart. It’s so cool to see how God’s Word is living and active, useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in discipline. I’ll follow the same format as last time, highlighting my favorite verses from each chapter and sharing my thoughts along the way.

  • Psalm 8:5 “You have made them (mankind) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Parenthesis added for context.)
    • As Allie and I discussed this chapter, this verse struck us as awe-inspiring and left us with questions – like, what is the heaven hierarchy? What are angels, really? And while I’ve learned a great deal growing up about these kinds of things I did not want to pretend that I really knew the answer so we’ve prayed and asked God to help us learn more about the topic as we go along. But really what is cool about this passage is how we’re only a little lower than the angels like Gabriel and the Lord has chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4), and crowned us with glory and honor.
  • Psalm 9:9 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
    • This is truer than true. I think of all the times I’ve found myself in a burdensome time and it’s as if my heart’s gravitational pull is prayer. The sad reality is that this is often the only time many of us choose to pray. A plane strikes the Twin Towers and suddenly we are a nation of prayer again. Kids are senselessly slaughtered in an elementary school and we pray. He’s designed us in His image and our default is to run back to Him for comfort in times for calamity. I’m so grateful the Lord is my refuge and my strength, my stronghold in times of trouble. I think I’d also like to get to a point in my spiritual walk where the Lord is with me always and I’m in constant communion with Him.
  • Psalm 10:1,4 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?… In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
    • These two verses are not exactly correlated but they both really stick out to me. Verse 1 reverberates an honest question that I feel we have all asked God at one time or another. We’re in the valley and we’ve been praying and crying through our depression and hardship for days and God seems nowhere to be found. Where, Lord? Where have you gone? Is the question of our hearts – the honest, heartfelt plea. I read a blog earlier this week by Hannah Brencher that went as far to say that the valleys of life are where we do the most growing. And often she’s found the trial passes once she’s had the strength to stand up and start walking again. Far too often we just sit frozen in fear and expect God to take the pain away – but what would we learn from that? A good father disciplines his children. Verse 4 just seems like a good reminder for all of us – when we allow pride to overtake us, there is no room in our thoughts for God. Are you consumed by the Lord’s love for others, or are you so enamored with yourself that you’re deaf to His gentle whispers calling you home?
  • Psalm 11:6-7 “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.
    • Now I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of righteous anger. Right here, we see where that natural anger comes from. Created in His image, we can’t help but clench our fists when there is wrongdoing in the world. For some reason I find this verse encouraging. All men will be called to account for their wrongdoing in the end and on the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur on their heads. The upright, on the other hand, will see his face. Sign me up.
  • Psalm 12:1-2 “Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.
    • Are we sure David didn’t sneak back into modern-times via time-machine and write this passage for the modern-day? Gracious Savior, come quick. Right? It’s just so disheartening to see all of the hatred and deception in the world, the lying, stealing, and cheating to get whatever you want. It burdens my heart to know I’ve taken part in it myself a few times along the way. I’m thankful for the Lord’s grace and His redemptive work in my life. I’m also thankful for David’s writing here as it relates to my present-day outlook on life as I read the news, surf my Facebook newsfeed, etc. “Lord, so few are faithful, so few say genuinely nice things and actually mean them without having some form of deception in their hearts.”
  • Psalm 13:2 “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    • In the moment, it seems like the enemy will remain triumphant over us. In that pit of despair. The good news is his diminished victory over us won’t last forever – it’s only a minor victory of a particular battle. Light wins the war that wages within. This is another reminder that I can pray honestly to God. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”
  • Psalm 14:5 “But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
    • “They” is referencing the wicked, those who have trampled on the oppressed and ignored God’s calling back Home. I interpret a tone of “there they go again – surprised by the fact they feel empty and lifeless…” And the Lord’s heart is that it should be no surprise you feel dead inside when you’ve accept Death’s lies avoided Life’s truths. I’m comforted to know He is present with the righteous at heart.

Well friends, that wraps things up for this morning. I’ve gotta get myself to work. I hope you’re enjoying following along. Read Psalm 15 today and tune in next week for the third installment of our Psalm Study.

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Darkness Better Run And Hide

I’m not sure that I could pinpoint the exact moment when I became more aware of the world spiritually but I’m aware now. As I write this, I feel like the crazed lunatic that I used to judge thinking, “They must be some sort of weird charismatic Christian for believing in spiritual warfare, and that they’re ‘under attack’.” But as someone who’s been going through a sort of spiritual renaissance for the last couple years – with a sober mind and heart, I can tell you that there are forces at work beyond what the eye can see.

Allie and I watched a documentary last night on Hulu about the Menendez Brothers. It was a horrific account of their trial for murdering their own parents and the defense was set up around the fact that one of the sons had been sexually abused by the father. On Facebook earlier, I came across post after post filled with hate and despair in relation to homosexuality, gun-control, and the immorality of others and the dark pain it’s left behind.

As I watched, read, and took in these stories and accounts from others it was almost as if I was being smothered – my chest felt heavier, the world seemed grey (even though yesterday was relatively beautiful), and hope seemed light-years away. A pen could drop and we’d hear it, the faint sighs of our shallow, defeated breaths filling the living room. It was then I realized that we had to pray.

We turned to God and asked Him to be protect us from this darkness, to send his angels to watch over us, to heal our hearts in the areas that they’ve been broken, and to help us to live lives filled with joy and victory – that our season of feeling stretched, exhausted, and smothered would be taken from us. Then we had conversations with some other friends and heard about the heaviness in their lives and the demons were back, ready to whisper lies in our ears that it was only a matter of time before our hearts and souls would be crushed by darkness too.

My wife shared with me this morning that she couldn’t sleep very well last night. Kept awake 1-3AM with the spirit of fear and darkness bearing down on her. And in a text-message she just shared with me, “I kept praying and singing worship songs in my head last night while I was awake to try and combat it.” After insisting she wake me up in the future so I can sing, pray, and cry with her, I told her that’s probably one of the most attractive things she’s ever told me about herself. She’s a fiercely beautiful woman with such a strong heart, refusing to give in to darkness no matter what comes our way.

She’s supportive of my writing and gets excited when I share my heart with the world; she prays for me when I ask her to and even when I don’t; she does the silly things I ask her to do like make homemade granola and she doesn’t complain about it. When I met Allie in October, 2015 I was lost to the ways of this world – womanizing, drinking too much, and had given up on Jesus if we’re being honest. I tell her often that she’s always been Jesus in the flesh for me. She’s called me back home. My heart has been softened to His love again and she’d attest to the heart and life change that has occurred since. Now, when I encourage, pray for, and write letters/blogs I am a different man, one that is heavily influenced by the Lord.

As I study Psalms and see David’s heart – open, honest, vulnerable, outspoken, fearful and fearless in the same breath (Week 2 of our study will be published tomorrow or Wednesday, FYI) I cannot help but see myself. David had some appalling weaknesses and a volatile spirit and yet he writes 150 chapters of the Bible with his own pen and is credited as the man after God’s heart.

Genuinely pursuing a relationship with God was never promised to be easy, but it’s the most powerful relationship in the universe. Marriage was never meant to be easy, but it’s the most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have – and it’s designed as a mirror image of what our Father in Heaven’s love is like for us. People are broken and come from hurtful backgrounds – they have hurts, hangups, and habits that were designed to be healed in a loving community but that’s made difficult when society thrashes back with hate, judgement, and vengeance. And start genuinely pursuing God and you better believe a legion of demons will be heading your way. Satan hates when someone else is revived by the Light. We must call on the Lord and FIGHT BACK. We cannot simply shrink back into the corner of the room and allow darkness to consume us. We must sing, cry, dance, shout, and declare victory over darkness. It has no place here! Satan has no authority over me or you or anyone else – unless we give it to Him.

The words we speak over ourselves are powerful. The Lord brought the world into existence with his words and He’s created us in His image. More often than not, we prophecy our own demise. “I’m fat” and so we stay fat. “I’m broke” and so we stay broke. “I have an addictive personality” and so we stay addicted. What if we broke that cycle and said, “I’m a fighter” and so we fought. “I’m handsome” and so we embraced our positive physical attributes and worked on our weaknesses. “I’m rich” and so we spent more time thinking about what we have, rather than what we don’t – and no longer consumed by a spirit of lack, ended up with more than we could have asked for or imagined.

Stop allowing Satan to use your own words against you. Make amends. Apologize, forgive, and move forward. We can consume our minds with our history or we can became an active part of His Story.

I am redeemed, recovered, renewed. I am bold, confident, awakened. I am alive, well, and strong. I am honest, integral, and through with running from God.

I am a man after God’s heart. A man in pursuit of his wife alone. I called to ministry and to writing – to encouraging without relent.

Satan hates me and will continue to send his deceptive, horrific, dark, deadly lies my way and I will fight him. And in Jesus, I will win.

“I have good news,” I told Allie, “I’ve read the Bible and Light wins. Darkness better run and hide.”

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