Accepting Change Saturday, Feb 28 2015 

Isaiah 43:1-7(NIV)

1 But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created1 you, O Jacob, he who formed2 you, O Israel:3 “Fear not, for I have redeemed4 you; I have summoned you by name;5 you are mine.6 2 When you pass through the waters,7 I will be with you;8 and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,9 you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.10 3 For I am the LORD, your God,11 the Holy One12 of Israel, your Savior;13 I give Egypt14 for your ransom, Cusha15 and Seba16 in your stead.17 4 Since you are precious and honored18 in my sight, and because I love19 you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid,20 for I am with you;21 I will bring your children22 from the east and gather23 you from the west.24 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south,25 ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters26 from the ends of the earth277 everyone who is called by my name,28 whom I created29 for my glory,30 whom I formed and made.31

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

DEVOTION – Michael Arnum (Massachusetts)

When I was younger, I welcomed change.  That was probably because I either instigated the changes in my life or at least seemed to have control over them.  Life was full of new possibilities as I went off to college, learned new things, and made new friends.  Change was everywhere, encouraged, and embraced.

Now that I am older, I realize that life sometimes leads me to places I don’t want to go.  I have become resistant to change and often try to cling to the status quo.  My head knows that this is impossible, but my heart remains stubborn.

We often don’t see “the big picture” in life; only God does.  Change can bring about anxiety and fear, until we recognize that God is with us in midst of all change.

Letting go fear begins when we trust in God.  When change comes, we can ask what we may learn from the situation.  We can look for what God might be trying to teach us, which can lessen our resistance to change.  And we can pray that we will be able to cope with change and allow God to guide us through it.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Fear decreases as faith increase

PRAYER: O God, walk with us today and be our guide through whatever changes may come.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE FACING CHANGE

Behind Prison Walls Friday, Feb 27 2015 

Philippians 2:12-18 (NIV)

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,1 13 for it is God who works in you2 to will and to act according to his good purpose.3 14 Do everything without complaining4 or arguing15 so that you may become blameless5 and pure, children of God6 without fault in a crooked and depraved generation,7 in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold outa the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ8 that I did not run9 or labor for nothing.10 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering11 on the sacrifice12 and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.13 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing,

15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.
16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

DEVOTION – Scott Wierenga (Michigan)

Nearly four year ago I began counseling prison inmates in alcohol rehabilitation.  I tell these men about what Jesus has done for me;  I am a recovering alcoholic with over 20 years of sobriety.

Most of the inmates are serving long sentences for murder or armed robbery.  However, my colleagues and I seldom hear foul language, and the men are genuinely happy to be with us.  They never complain about having to spend 23 hours each day locked up in a small cell.  We don’t hear complaints about the food or about the lack of air conditioning in summer.  They never speak of harshness by correction officers or stringent prison rules.

What we do hear over and over again is this question:  “Why do you guys drive 40 miles to spend your evening with us, of all people?”  We explain to them that we can’t keep what God has given us – sobriety and a future – unless we in turn it away.  We want to share the good news of god’s love with them as well.  We tell the prisoners we also come to learn the lessons they can teach us.  Already we have learned not to complain and to be grateful for all that we have.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What have I thanked God for today?

PRAYER:O God, teach us to be grateful for the ways you care for your people, whether we are inside or outside prison walls.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PRISON MINISTRIES

God Empowers Thursday, Feb 26 2015 

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.                            

DEVOTION -Esmar Ferreira (Cwara, Brazil)

After 10 years out of the job market, I was invited to participate in a work group to develop fund-raising projects to benefit the community.  The group was composed of a social worker, a psychologist, and educational psychologist, and me, a psychology student.  Among these colleagues I often felt small and unprepared for the challenges.

In moments of weakness, we are tempted to let our insecurities and limitations grow.  Suffering generates anxiety, and we end up hiding our potential and withdrawing from the opportunities God has in store for us.

What a relief to know that God has plans for us, plans for our welfare and not for evil and distress!  Knowing that God trusts us gives us the strength and courage to face our challenges and to realize our potential and our gifts.  “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”  (Rom. 8:37).

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We are all capable because God empowers us.

PRAYER: Thank you, God.  Even when we doubt our abilities, you hold us in your loving arms and show us how capable we are.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WITH A NEW JOB

Keeping The Sabbath Wednesday, Feb 25 2015 

Mark 2:23-3:6 (NRSV)

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”                            

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.                            

Mark 2:27 (NRSV)

27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;

DEVOTION -Matthew L. Reger (Ohio)

We were headed to church one Sunday morning when my dad made a turn in the opposite direction.  I asked where we were going, and he hold me we were going to worship God in a different way that day.  Always up for something new, I was excited about this adventure.  He explained that we were on our way to visit his friend’s grandmother.  Since his friend had moved away there was really no family to visit with her.  For the next hour we sat in a small apartment that had a distinct musty odor,  spending time with a deeply appreciative and lonely woman.  When the visit was over, we left with a promise from my dad to return.

That happened over 30 year ago.  After that initial visit, my dad continued to regularly visit this woman.  He would converse with her, fix small things, and sometimes help with grocery shopping if needed.

My dad showed me another among many ways to worship God and taught me that worship does not have to be limited to a church service.  Worship in church is important because it is done in a community that loves God and wants to express that love.  That is exactly what my father and I did when we visited this woman.  We shared God’s love with her.  It is the same lesson that Christ demonstrated; helping those in need is always a good option.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What is a new way I can worship God today?

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to keep the Sabbath in our deeds by remembering that we are to love others because you first loved us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WHO ARE HOMEBOUND

Where We Don’t Want To Go Tuesday, Feb 24 2015 

Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee1 along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow2 to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”3  39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup4 be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”5 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me6 for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.7 The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”8 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour9 is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

John 21:18 (NIV)

18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

DEVOTION – Pamela Williams (Pennsylvania)

Recently my mom endured several hospital stays and a stint in a nursing facility for rehab.  Though weak, she still managed sparks of wry humor.  One afternoon as I fastened her hospital gown, she pasted on a smile and said, “I sure can relate to that verse about someone else dressing you and taking you where you don’t want to go.”

Later, I pondered Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:18.  Like Mom, we all occasionally face circumstances over which we have no control.  What do we do?  Jesus’ next words offer the solution:  “Follow me” (John 21:19).  Jesus left an example for us to follow.  (See 1 Pet. 2:21.)  How did he handle the prospect of unavoidable pain and suffering?  What did he do when he knew what was necessary but still hoped for a way out?

To answer these questions God led me to Matthew 26:36-46.  Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals four steps he took that we can follow.  First, we can pray, and then pray some more.  Then, we can accept what cannot be changed.  Next we can submit control to God.  Finally, we can step out in faith, assured that God will go with us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: In tough times, I will remember to pray and step out in faith.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, in the circumstances we are powerless to change, help us to relinquish control to you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FAMILIES CARING FOR AN OLDER ADULT

Choosing Forgiveness Monday, Feb 23 2015 

Genesis 33:1-4 (CEB)

1 Jacob looked up and saw Esau approaching with four hundred men. Jacob divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two women servants. 2 He put the servants and their children first, Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 He himself went in front of them and bowed to the ground seven times as he was approaching his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him, threw his arms around his neck, kissed him, and they wept.

Galatians 6:1 (CEB)

1 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too.                            

DEVOTION -Mari Leigh Fanning (Alabama)

As I listened to our pastor his greatest sin and failure, I felt shock, disbelief, and disappointment.  Then, suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a more powerful feeling.  My heart burned with compassion and mercy.  I had been given a glimpse of God’s heart.  As the pastor stood before us, pleading for forgiveness, the words were whispered in my spirit:  “You are forgiven.”

We are children living in a fallen world; we all fall short.  How do we respond when our bothers and sisters sin?

Genesis provides a beautiful illustration of a brother’s love and forgiveness.  Jacob had stolen Esau’s inheritance and blessing.  Many year later, when the brothers were reunited, Esau made a choice.  He could have held on to resentment; instead he chose to receive his brother with grace and mercy.

Faced with the transgressions of our fellow believers, we can choose to be bitter and to place blame.  Or we can choose to reach out with loving arms to lift up our brothers and sisters when they stumble.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How can I offer the grace of Christ to fellow believers?

PRAYER: Merciful God, thank you for your unending grace.  Thank you for loving us no matter how many times we fail.  Help us to extend your love to our brothers and sisters.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHURCH LEADERS

First Sunday In Lent Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

Exodus 3:1-14 (NIV)

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro1 his father-in-law, the priest of Midian,2 and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb,3 the mountain4 of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD 5 appeared to him in flames of fire6 from within a bush.7 Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called8 to him from within the bush,9 “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”10 5 “Do not come any closer,”11 God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”12  6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”13 At this, Moses hid14 his face, because he was afraid to look at God.15  7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen16 the misery17 of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned18 about their suffering.19  8 So I have come down20 to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land,21 a land flowing with milk and honey22–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites23 and Jebusites.24  9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing25 them.  10 So now, go. I am sending26 you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”27  11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I,28 that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  12 And God said, “I will be with you.29 And this will be the sign30 to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, youa will worship God on this mountain.31”  13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’32 Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.b This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM33 has sent me to you.’                              

Exodus 3:14 (NIV)

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.a This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM1 has sent me to you.’ ”                            

DEVOTION -Sungho Lee (California)

in the Hebrew Bible, names represent hopes, dreams, and the characteristics of persons.  For example, Jacob, after wrestling with an angel was given a new name, Israel which means “the one who struggled with God.”  Knowing the name of a person can give insight into the origin, nature, and the dreams of the person and his or her family.

That’s why Moses asked God this question:  What is your name?  Knowing God’s name could tell us many things about God!

God said. “I AM WHO I AM!” In some translations, God said, “I shall be who I shall be.”  Both translations are possible because the Hebrews grammar allows for both (“to be” or “to become”).  When God says “I AM WHO I AM,” God is actually refusing to be defined by one word.  God is saying, “I am free.  I am not defined.  I am the Creator, not the created.”  When God said, “I shall be who I shall be,” God was saying, “I am the one who causes things to be.”  I am the Creator of history.

Though we may desire to define God more narrowly, knowing that God is “I AM WHO I AM” can give us more confidence in God.  God is free, undefined, and is present in all aspects of our lives.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How do my names for God limit my faith?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for the gift of creation and the limitless gift of your presence with us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TO BE OPEN TO THE MYSTERY OF GOD

Excess Baggage Saturday, Feb 21 2015 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

18 “Forget the former things;1 do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing!2 Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert3 and streams in the wasteland.4

1 Peter 5:7(NIV)

7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

DEVOTION -Lenore Warton (New South Wales, Australia)

Last year my family experienced two quite different vacations, one by van and one by plane.  As we packed for our plane journey, weight restrictions and bag sizes challenged us.  We were used to traveling in our van with plenty of room, so we could take much paraphernalia.  But for the plane travel, we had to be very particular – weighing each article and packing and repacking our suitcases until they were under the required weight.  This made us much more aware of which items were really necessary to take with us.

God is showing me that just as on our van holidays, I drag along unnecessary things on my life’s journey.  I guess I think I’ll need them; but in reality they are baggage from the past, habits that I don’t need, thoughts that flood my mind and weigh down my spirit.

Becoming Christians means we are to start a new life – parting with our old life and our old ways.  Gradually, as we pay attention, we can see God’s Holy Spirit revealing our destructive attitudes and habits.  This process frees up space in our minds and hearts to fill up on the freedom that Christ – through his suffering – has won for us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Instead of being weighed down by old baggage, I can be free in Christ.

PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, help us listen to your Holy Spirit to discern the old ways we need to get rid of, and give us strength to let go of them.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WEIGHED DOWN BY THE PAST

Toward The Light Friday, Feb 20 2015 

Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles a from Jerusalem,14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. b

×

References for Luke 24:17

  • Į 24:17 – Other ancient authorities read [walk along, looking sad?”]
18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, c who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,

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References for Luke 24:19

  • į 24:19 – Other ancient authorities read [Jesus the Nazorean]
20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. d Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.

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References for Luke 24:21

  • İ 24:21 – Or [to set Israel free]
22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah e should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

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References for Luke 24:26

  • ı 24:26 – Or [the Christ]
27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us f while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

John 1:1, 4 (NRSV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

4 in him was life, a and the life was the light of all people.

DEVOTION –   Terry R. Tuley (Tennessee)

My younger brother and I spent our boyhood years hunting raccoons at night in the forest near our southern Indiana home.  One dark and cloudy night we forgot to set our compass.  After about an hour, our two hounds had run so far that by the time we caught up to them, we were lost.  We wandered in the deep woods, trying to find our way back to our vehicle.  Finally, we remembered what our dad once taught us:  “If you are lost at night, don’t wander around.  Look through the trees and try to find light in the distance.  Go toward the light, and it will lead you to safety.’  So that’s what we did.

We Christians sometimes lose our sense of purpose.  Like the two disciples walking to Emmaus, we can become discouraged when we lose sight of Jesus.  All the disciples needed was a little light to redirect their lives.  Once Jesus revealed himself to them, their faith was renewed.  they sais,  “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

The light they needed was in the words that Jesus spoke to them.  Whenever we are troubled and wandering through the darkness of this life, we can look for Christ in the words that he spoke in scripture and in everyone and everything around us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  Today I will look for God’s light around me.

PRAYER:  O God, help us to see your light in our daily lives.  May the direction we choose lead us closer to you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS:  BROTHERS

Jesus Loves Me Thursday, Feb 19 2015 

h2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (NIV)

15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving1 to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart.2 Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly3 we are being renewed4 day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.5 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.6 For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

DEVOTION -Nancy C. Todd (Kentucky)

My mother-in-law hadn’t spoken in several months; at least, she hadn’t spoken words we could decipher.  The ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease had taken over her mind and body. We often wondered what she was thinking, what she felt deep inside.

One evening, my husband and I were taking turns feeding his mother her dinner.  As we sat with her, I began to sing softly,  “Jesus loves me!  This I know.”  For an instant, her face brightened and she nodded her head.  “Yes, that’s right,”  she said clearly, the way she had spoken years before.

It lasted for only a moment, but that was enough.  My mother-in-law couldn’t feed herself.  She couldn’t speak.  She didn’t even know who we were.  But deep in her soul, Jesus’ love continued to sustain her.  Nothing – not even Alzheimer’s Disease – “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to see your love even in the most difficult situations.  In Christ’s name, we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO WORK IN NURSING HOMES

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