Do you want to be a Lion or a Shepherd?

I was perplexed this week when I saw people posting that “I want to be a lion who refuses to talk, walk, and sleep with Sheep”, As I thought about it more I realized this is what is wrong these days in our world. How can we find Unity if we choose to not associate with others who we think aren’t like us? Luke 15:2 reminds us “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus was the true Lion. He knew who He was and what His mission was in life. He obviously did not refuse too talk, walk, and sleep with Sheep.

Jesus goes on to teach, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”

So, I am confused. How can we create Unity (Uncompromised Never-ending Intensity Toward Yes), if we won’t talk or walk with those sheep who are looking for someone who is strong like a lion to follow? Maybe I am missing something but this thought process seems to be one of arrogance rather than leading others with a servant hearted humility. Another way of putting it is “If we are always looking up to God, we won’t have time to look down on others” Let’s also remember those who think of themselves as lions now, were shaped by others as they matured. What would have happened if those who taught you the way had chosen to not “talk, walk, or lie down” with you when you needed their help?

A.W. Tozer says, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” Isaiah 11:6 reminds us,

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

The little child Isaiah writes about is Jesus. My encouragement is to change the saying from “I am a lion, not a sheep” to “I am brave and fierce enough to be a shepherd to the sheep”. People who will help others to lay down in green pastures, let them enjoy the beauty of still waters, and lead them through tough times because they trust us and see out care for them.

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How did Easter cause you to seek God?

UVA Easter Sunrise Service

Charles Stanley reminds us that we need to be mindful of our priorities. Where do you invest our time and energy? What or who occupies our thoughts?  “As important as our earthly pursuits, responsibilities, and relationships may be, they cannot compare to the value of a life spent seeking the Lord.” The beginning of the year brings New Year resolutions? Easter brings the hope of a new life and the promise that our lives can be made new when we look to Him. How did you seek the Lord during the Easter season? I hope it was a time of refreshment and led you to a renewed desire to reorient your priorities so that life can be all God intends for it to be.

What does it mean to be renewed/refreshed? Why is it important? It is getting warmer outside again. As you walk by a pond, stop and look at it. It may look fine but in fact, it may be stagnant which can lead to fish kills and the rapid growth of floating green organic matter. It happens when there isn’t a constant exchange of living water that keeps a pond environment alive and healthy. Water comes in and fills a stagnant pond during a rain or a snow melt. But there is no outlet to keep the pond water fresh. The same can be said for how we live. Our lives can become stagnant because we are set in our ways which keeps us from receiving the fresh ideas and living water God wants to give us. Like a pond, we have to have an outlet to get rid of the stuff that holds us back from being a better version of ourselves so God has room to intervene and make us better.

Easter gives us that outlet. It comes in two ways. Confession and Forgiveness. 1 John 1;9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This becomes the outlet that takes away the toxicity from our hearts. Forgiveness does the same thing. Buddha says it this way, ““Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” That is why Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer to ask God for forgiveness and then do the same thing to others.

So let’s remember that Easter is not just a one Sunday deal but an event that happened which changed the world forever. Let knowing God sent His Son to die be the living water that brings hope to your life every day. How awesome is it that gives us the outlet through confession and forgiveness to let go of the old so that we can be continually be refreshed and molded into the people for which God created us.

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It is Holy Week. God wants to be in a relationship with us

How is your Prayer life? If you are like me, you wish it would be better. Tim Keller writes in his book, Prayer, that it should be like the medication you take daily to make sure you remain healthy. You know it is important and therefore, you try never to take the pills. Prayer should be the same way. Taking the time to pray daily helps us live our lives in the way in which God intended. Through the help of the Holy Spirit it brings us into a relationship with our Father. Craig Denison describes it this way. “”If you ask for a deeper friendship with the Holy Spirit, you will find he is the best friend you have ever known. This is because “friendship with the Spirit is like any other friendship in that it develops over time. Like a new friend, you must get to know his character and personality. Spend time just talking with him, listening to him and allowing him to work in your heart and life. Prayer is your gateway to experiencing the things of God. Walk in relationship with him, follow his guidance, and make a new best friend in the Holy Spirit.”

For the regular readers of this blog, you know I wrote about having the proper “swing thoughts” as we go through our days. The Masters was this week. I read two different stories that helped me think about why we might find it hard to pray regularly.

The first was about someone who caddied for someone who was playing in the same group with Tiger Woods. When he found out that this was happening, his first thought was, “what will I say to him if I get a chance?” He didn’t want to say something stupid. He wondered if Tiger would even acknowledge him. This is true for many of us when trying to pray effectively. “What is it God wants for me to say to Him?” “Does He even care what is going on in my life?” This Holy Week answers that question. He sent His Son to die for us BECAUSE He wants to be in a relationship with Him. That relationship allows us to communicate with Him. Like Craig Denison shared, “Prayer allows us to develop a stronger friendship with God so that can develop the the proper “swing thoughts” on how to live.

The second story was about the Scottie Sheffler who won The Masters even though he four putted the 18th hole. It solidified his #1 ranking in the world but Jim Denison shared this interesting fact. “Before Scheffler could win the tournament, he had to do something very important a few months ago: RSVP to his invitation to play. According to the New York Times, Augusta National sends invitations each year to golfers it wishes to invite to the tournament. They must signal their intention to play before they are permitted to compete.”

Want to be better about praying? Like Scottie Scheffler, You must first signal your intention to receive the gift God has for you. He has invited you to be in relationship with Him. Your first prayer needs to be, “Thank you Lord for giving the opportunity to communicate with You.” Then know it doesn’t matter what we say as long as it is sincere and honest because He really does care what is going on in your life. One prayer will lead to another and your faith will become stronger as you watch those prayers being answered. Why not make this Holy Week a significant moment in our life? Where you began to pray regularly with the proper swing thoughts allowing you to see life from God’s perspective. Close your eyes. Let your swing thoughts be Seeing (Visualize) it, Feeling the Love He has for you, and then being free to let yourself trust Him for the outcome versus trying to do it all on your own.

Happy Easter week everyone. For those of your in Charlottesville, join us for an Easter Sunrise Service in the UVA Amphitheater. We will be there from 6:45 am to 8:00 am. Please subscribe to this blog if you want email notifications for when new content is posted. I can be reached via email at

How Significant Moments propel our lives forward

Have you ever had a “Burning Bush” experience? I am guessing your answer is no but if you think about it, I am also guessing you have had your own “holy/significant moments”. I am reading through Exodus right now with some friends and wrote this prayer after reading about Moses’ burning bush encounter with God. “Lord you are my refuge and my foundation. You are my encourager and my strength. Let me step forward like Moses saying, “Here I am! The question then remains, “how do I have the courage and confidence to go where He wants me to go?”

The story in Exodus confirmed what I wanted to write about this week. I hope to encourage you to think back to those significant moments that changed the direction of your life. The snake turning into a staff and the arm healed of leprosy allowed Moses to be reminded that God is with Him no matter where he goes. The wonderful book, “Hinds feet in High places” by Hannah Hurnard, teaches us how to look back so we can be encouraged to move forward. It is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear.” She does it by keeping pebbles in a satchel to remind her of the times the Shepherd helped her when she wanted to turn back.

What pebbles do you have in your satchel? If you have never done it before, take some time to look back on your life. When you do, you will see that you persevered in those moments which makes it easier the next time a big decision needs to be made or you are going through a hard time. For me, like recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it strengthens my faith. Remembering those past moments allows me to have an even stronger faith that God is with me and will walk me the most difficult of times.

My son and I are golfers. We were talking the other day about how to handle a tough conversation. He shared with me the concept of “swing thoughts”. You see in golf as Dave Cook writes in the book, Sacred Journey, , visualizing allows your brain to prepare the proper swing thoughts so you can hit the right shot.. Dave shares we must “See it, Feel it, Trust it”. If I can see the shot, feel the swing I need, I can then trust that I will hit the ball properly. The same concept can be used in our lives as we look back on the significant moments. If we have the proper swing thoughts, we can make sure we say the rights things, not overact or get defensive, or maybe even forgive someone who has done your harm. Looking back and seeing that you made it through other tough situations will help propel you confidently into the next one. The confidence comes from having the right swing thoughts where you reach in your mental pocket and pull out the pebble reminding you that you will get through whatever challenges you next. It may not be as cool as a burning bush, but I can assure you God is there encouraging onward toward being the best version of you.

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Sometimes, it is better to just listen

It has been a wild week. So many things coming at me from so many different directions. God spoke to me in such amazing ways through scripture and via folks much smarter and stronger in their faith than me. Each one came just at the right time. They lifted me up and helped me navigate the challenges and stressful situations that were on my calendar. I share them with you hoping that they will help you in the same way they helped me.

Henri Nouwen wrote: “I really want to encourage you not to despair, not to lose faith, not to let go of God in your life, but stand in your suffering as a person who believes that she is deeply loved by God. When you look inside yourself, you might sometimes be overwhelmed by all the brokenness and confusion, but when you look outside toward him who died on the cross for you, you might suddenly realize that your brokenness has been lived through for you long before you touched it yourself.”

David wrote Psalms 3 after he ran away when Absalom declared himself King. It is appropriated called the morning song. “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Isaiah 55:9-11 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it”

If you have taken the time to read what came my way this week, I hope you too will go into this coming week knowing God is with you and meets you no matter what circumstances your facing. To face these extremely challenging times, you first need to know who you are and where your identity lies. My identity is in Christ and the way Carol Wimmer describes what that means is how I will end this week’s blog.

“I am a Christian”

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,”
Now I’m found and forgiven.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say… “I am a Christian” I’m not holier than thou, I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow.”

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The power in learning how to wait

Like Advent, Lent is another season where we are taught to wait. This blog originated after my recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome. GBS paralyzed me from my head down. March 17th marked three years since my arms went back over my head.
“We will be encouraged and strengthened in our faith when we recognize the ways in which God is operating. These glimpses of His handiwork will motivate us to stay the course and help us maintain a godly perspective on life.” This Charles Stanley’s quote reminded me of the fact that God has made many wait until they were ready for what He had for them to do. Sarah, Moses, Noah, Esther, Ruth, John the Baptist, Paul and yes, even Jesus, all were made to wait. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill lost elections before being raised up to do great things. We remember that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but forget that his sisters, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother needed His help, but Christ delayed before traveling to their home (John 11:3-6).

As we wait over these next four weeks to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, ask yourself, ”for what are you waiting?” Have you made a request to God that hasn’t been answered? Are you asking for relief from some type of adversity? Change your question to, ”what is it that you are preparing for me? What do I need to be doing to be ready for the task ahead?” It really is a matter of perspective. No wonder they say ”patience is a virtue”

The season of Lent is a time for personal reflection. If you are facing what seems like a dead end, why not take the time to stop and check out what is around you. Like the Israelites in the desert, what might look like the end, may just be a bend in the road that though longer, will take you where you are meant to go. As Charles Stanley shared, no matter what challenges we face, ”we are to stay the course with the proper perspective”

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In the Prodigal Son story, which character(s) are you?

We all are the main characters in our own stories, the central planet in our life’s universe. Everything revolves around us. Dottie’s mom summed it up best by saying, “wherever I go, there I am”. Likewise, we all become the support cast for other people’s stories as protagonists, antagonists, serving minor roles, or even extras in your story.

A life changing book for me was Henri Nouwen’s Portrait of a Prodigal Son. Back in 1992 Henri Nouwen received permission to visit the museum which houses the Rembrandt masterpiece daily and even into the night after the museum was closed. Nouwen spent literally hours and days alone sitting in a chair gazing at each character in the painting, studying every detail in hopes of discovering its spiritual reality for him. Before being introduced to this book, I had studied and given talks on this Luke 15:11-32 parable more times than I can count. It wasn’t until I read this wonderful portrayal that I realized there was more than one main character in the story. I have no excuse because the 1st verse starts with “there were two sons and if you know the story, the father also plays a huge supporting role in Jesus’ teaching.”

The lessons most of us learn from or try to teach in the story is 1) How selfish and greedy the younger son is in asking for his inheritance. It is like he is saying Dad, “I wish you were dead” 2) The same son after squandering all he has been given realizes he would be better off as a servant to his father than living the life he had created by his stupidity. He chooses to go home and ask forgiveness knowing he is unworthy of any kindness from his father. 3) We learn how strong a father’s love is for a child. He has waited for this day; yearning for his son’s return and offers nothing but love and forgiveness. The moral to the story is quite obvious. We learn from these two characters that God knows we will screw up as we think we know how to live life best without Him. We also see that He will be waiting for our return and when we do, He will welcome us and restore our position of being his children. Isn’t it great that there is a happy ending for this wayward child? But wait, is it really a happy ending?

This book did not end well for me. Why? Because like I shared earlier, verse 11 says “there were two sons.” When I started reading what Nouwen wrote about the older brother, tears began to stream down my face. I had never seen what this passage of scripture was trying to teach me. Why? I am the oldest son in my family but my role in this story is I am always trying to do what is right and seeking the approval of my parents, family members, etc. It was like in 2nd Corinthians 3:14, “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.” Gratefully, a veil was lifted and I saw myself before God in an entirely new way. I could not relate to the Prodigal. What I was made to see was my “older brother self-righteous mindset.” My Father you owe me attitude was just as bad as what the younger brother had done. It was like a slap across the face when my thinking I could earn God’s love was not unlike what the younger brother had done by asking for his inheritance.

The sad part of this lesson from Jesus is, unlike the child who came home with a repentant heart, we don’t know if the older brother ever realizes his selfishness. Verse 28 says, “he became angry and refused to enter the celebration for his wayward sibling.” I am so glad this particular blind spot of my character was removed. Like the Father waited for the Prodigal, I know he also kept watch hoping the older brother would see the error of his ways and return to the party asking for the same forgiveness his brother had rehearsed over and over on his way home. I am so glad I read this book many years ago. It allowed me to realize God’s forgiveness and joy because, like the Prodigal Son, I had returned into His waiting and outstretched arms. I also know when I stumble and find myself back in an older brother mindset, God is always there to love and encourage me forward regardless of how many times it happens.

I hope you will take the time to read and meditate on Luke 15:11-32 and then read this insightful book. When you figure out which character best suits you, ask your loving Father to forgive you. He promises to restore you to your rightful place as an heir to the throne, his adopted Son or Daughter in Christ. Romans 8:17

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Stop Listening to others and Talk to yourself

Do you let others tell you who you are or who you can or can’t be? How can you make sure you live the life God created for you?

There are encouragers in this world but there are also those who want nothing more than to discourage us. They want to “rain on your parade” by saying what you are trying to do won’t work or can’t be done. In many cases, it is because they don’t want you to get to a better place than them. Isn’t it so easy these days to look around and wish you were someone else. Social Media allows you to see people living what look to be wonderful lives and having the kind of success for which you are striving. The discouragers or the people whose lives look so easy can make us feel second rate causing us to think, “I could never be that kind of person”

Listening to or watching others can cause us to go down a mental rabbit hole which causes us to say things like, “I can’t, I will never, There is no way, or I wish.” That is why God says to Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The lesson here is we are to speak the right things into our minds and our hearts instead of letting others tell us what kinds of lives we can live. A coach shared this thought process with me years ago. “Do not let others plant bad seeds by saying it can’t be done or that we aren’t good enough. Instead, allow only good seeds to be planted and then pick the right people who will encourage, nourish, and fertilize those positive thoughts. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” That faith; those good seeds planted in your heart will allow you to slowly but surely cross the T off I Can’t; turning your mindset to I CAN! Why, because you BELIEVE.

So what will you speak into your life today? How will you keep from letting the negative thoughts ( the bad seeds) from strangling the wonderful things you want to accomplish? Meditate on this, the Word of God. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32 Free for what? To live the incredible life God has for you. One that produces abundance beyond anything you can imagine. John 10:10 Then go out and show others that goodness and mercy is what the Lord intends for all of us.

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Fearful or being Prudent?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬  I wanted so much to travel next week to our company’s conference in Las Vegas. Many of my agents were going and I wanted to be there with them. I registered and made my plane reservations. This was going to be the time where life was going to start getting back to normal. Last week I regrettably decided not to go. This weekend marks when Guillain Barre Syndrome changed my life forever. As much as I wanted to be there, I was unsettled. I could not find a peace that given my experience with GBS (a rare, autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis) it was worth the risk as Covid can, although rare, can cause a sequential Guillain Barre episode. I would rather not have that experience again.

Since cancelling my travel plans, I have been wrestling with did I do it out of fear or was I making a prudent decision? Timothy writes that we are not to have spirit of fear but in the same sentence he says, God gives us a sound mind. If I am honest, I have found it difficult that most folks I know are back to living their lives as they did before Covid. I see the pictures of everyone travelling, gathering for parties and being in crowded sports arenas. Like going to Vegas next week, I have been tempted to throw caution to the wind so I can enjoy these things again. I do not want to live my life in fear but at the same time I would rather not see if getting Covid would bring on the rare chance of a GBS relapse. Not just for me but for the people (including my wife) whose lives would be impacted should it happen. I also struggle when I am the only one who has a mask on at the functions I do attend. I wonder if folks see it as a weakness and I know it makes some feel uncomfortable to be around me because they aren’t wearing a mask. And so I wait for an answer to is it fear or being prudent? Friends help me with this answer by supporting and understanding why I remain somewhat tied down. Some even said, “Are you crazy?” when I shared my thoughts on going to the company conference. For those who follow this blog, you know my faith and those around me have been what has gotten me through what is now a three year journey.

Wearing the mask is the easy part. I know many don’t think it matters and express they have the right to not wear one especially if they are vaccinated. For me it is personal choice and it has in my opinion been effective. Since wearing a mask, I have not even had my once or twice a year cold. My doctor says he continues to see a very low number of patients with the flu. If wearing a mask keeps me from getting sick, I will continue to wear one in crowded places where I don’t know who I am with or who they have been around who might be sick. Travelling in public transportation is for another day in the hopefully not too distance future.

When I do; “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1,2 If He made the heaven and the earth, I can certainly trust that He has made me of sound mind and will provide me the peace to venture out knowing He is with me always. Until then As Jodie Berndt shared on Twitter recently, ““Friendship doubles our joys and divides our griefs.” “We need to cultivate a spirit of humility—one that is quick to celebrate someone else—instead of a spirit of criticism and contempt? freely.” Let’s be generous with our love, coming alongside others in their hard times and, even more, in their rejoicing.”

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Learning how to follow, helps us to better lead

Make no mistake. All of us are called to be leaders. Stop for a moment and think about who is looking for you to lead them through their lives or even a challenging moment. Are you willing to step up and if so, are you prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with being a leader?

Dave Anderson shares to be a good leader, we must first learn to be a good follower. “Before West Point expects cadets to become leaders, they train them how to be good followers. America’s leadership university designs the entire freshman (plebe) year around the idea of followership. Before you can effectively lead others, you need to understand how to be a good follower.” That way we can harken back to what it felt like to follow someone who set a positive example of what leading others looked like to you and how it may you feel. Dave goes on to say and I paraphrase, “The definition of Selflessness is putting the needs of others before our own needs, desires or convenience. When we can learn to do that as a follower, it creates a habit that will prepare us to do the same thing when we are called to lead others in the future.” Check out his character test here. Be honest 🙂 How did you do?

Another term for selflessness is servant heartedness. Think about how you felt when being served. Doesn’t it make you want to go out and serve others so they can be made to feel the same way? It is what I call “turning the word gratitude into a verb”. Being served by others will help us learn the impact we can have when we serve them. One lesson that is very hard to learn for one in a leadership position is asking for or accepting when offered, someone’s help. The misnomer here is that leaders are to be strong and not show a weakness or vulnerability. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Think about a beautifully wrapped present that someone wants to give to you. The present doesn’t become a gift until the person receiving it accepts it. Its purpose is left unfulfilled. My friend, Kim Farrar, says it this way. “I cannot bless you if you won’t accept what it is I am trying to give or you say how can I repay you?”

John Maxwell writes, “If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, then you’re not really leading.”

Who is God calling you to lead? Even if only one person comes to mind, be the best leader you can be by finding ways to serve them well. Love and care for them as God loves and cares for you. That way you can confidently move lives forward (wink, wink, Liza Myers Borches) implementing what Dave Anderson writes about Followership. That it is a foundation to leadership. Someone who learns to be a good follower, will be more prepared to be a good leader.” There is noone better to follow first than our Lord Jesus Christ. When we do he promises in Matthew 4:19 to make you “fishers of mankind”.

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