Posted by: gcarkner | December 15, 2014

Christmas Reading Corner

Great Read Suggestions by Gord Carkner et Amis

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding Freedom to Do Good. by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (IVP)

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Carolyn Moorehead. (Random House)

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More by Karen Swallow Prior. (Thomas Nelson)

Why Cities Matter: to God, the Culture and the Church by Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard (Crossway Books)

True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World  by David Skeel. (IVP)

Charity: the Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition by Gary Anderson (Yale University Press)

Can We Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions by Craig Blomberg (Brazos)

Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? by Philip Yancey. (Zondervan)

For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship by Daniel I. Block (Baker Academic)

The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context by Myron B. Penner (Baker Academic)

The Searchers: a Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joseph Loconte (Thomas Nelson)


Visit Regent College Bookstore at Gate One UBC for some great Holiday Reading

Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
T.S. Eliot reads his poem Journey of the Magi:
A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyr...

A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyramids of Giza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A photograph of three camels, taken at the Pyramids of Giza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Posted by: gcarkner | December 8, 2014

Brene Brown on Vulnerabilty

Brene Brown on Discovering the Power of Vulnerability

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American Scholar, Author, and Public Speaker

 Research Professor at the U. of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

1. We begin with the problem of shame: a fear of disconnection, alienation, a fear of excruciating vulnerability, a sense that I am not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, etc. Conclusion: I am unworthy to be loved, valued, cherished.

2. People who feel a strong connection to others have a sense of their worthiness; they believe that they are worthy, that they belong.

3. How do we get there? It takes a. Courage to tell people who you really are with your whole heart, including family. This leads to b. Compassion for others who are also not perfect or totally in control. This also leads to c.  Feeling of Connection as a result of practiced authenticity. It does take wisdom and work to move in this direction, take this posture.

What’s the Take Home about Vulnerability?

1. It is absolutely necessary to embrace your vulnerability; it makes you both interesting, attractive and beautiful. Be the first to say “I love you.” or “I’m feeling sad.” or “I am uncertain about the future.” or “I struggle to raise my kids well.” or “It’s not always clear what is expected at work.” The risk of vulnerability makes you more human. It is a courageous pursuit.

2. Don’t numb vulnerability because this leads to negative side effects like addiction, debt, broken relationships and obesity. Vulnerability is a risk but it also leads to joy, gratitude and happiness.

3. Don’t pretend that you are certain about everything; be willing to struggle and own it. Make space for others to support you, feed you emotionally. False claims to certainty will lead you to blame others for your problems and sense of unworthiness. Blame is a way to discharge your pain in unhealthy ways–the way of the narcissist.

4. Allow yourself to be seen. Take off that set of protective armour once in awhile. Love with your whole heart. Practice gratitude and joy (Ann Voskamp).

5. Say to yourself, “I am enough.” Don’t try to be someone else. Live your life and celebrate your story. This will make you a kinder and gentler person, more at home with yourself and others. You don’t have to be a super hero. It is important to step up to your calling or your domain.

David Wesley sings You Make Beautiful Things

Posted by: gcarkner | November 29, 2014

Advent Reflections

 Advent Reflections

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Just at the right time, kairos time, he comes to dwell among us in incarnate flesh: pulsating corpuscles, arms and legs running to greet us, face filled with compassion, hands breaking bread to feed the masses, words that give life and vision. Here lies the grand invitation to counter nihilism, violence, will to power, to search into the deeper things of life, reach higher for a transcendent encounter with divine Otherness. It is time to ponder the big questions of meaning, purpose and identity: the profound light that shines in the darkness of our world. There is more to this than meets the eye. We need our best philosophers, historians and scholars, poets and scientists to work on this investigation. There are clues to a great quest here. What kind of in breaking is this? How does it connect with our history? What’s the meaning of this virgin birth, this epiphany of grace, these angelic visitations, this gift, this cosmic wonder, this explosion of the imagination? Advent is that and a sign of more…

We have touched him with our hands, rubbed shoulders, felt his robust embrace, dined and broke bread together, listened to wisdom that set our minds on fire, felt his care and inclusion, captured a mission that drove us to reach the world with a compelling love. We saw him die and rise again, ascend through the heavens. Divine presence is with us in his Holy Spirit. It has unleashed an economy of grace and goodness, humility and compassion. The pregnant Mary sings her Magnificat, saying an awe-filled Yes to God’s work in and through her: “Things hidden for centuries have become so crystal clear tonight. Insight and justice have set up a new epistemology, a new way of knowing and being, a new world where love is the main game in town, where peace-making and blessing (shalom) are our politics. It is a new playing field, a new paradigm, a new human narrative. Infinite meets finite like a comet burning through the atmosphere; divine goodness ushers in hope of healing; a new future is born. Our people, our human race, have longed for this for centuries only in our wildest dreams, feeding on divine promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David. Once we could only hope for such wondrous things. Now they are tangible, palpable, life-transforming.” What a reality check Advent brings to us.

Christians claim Jesus as God’s Word (divine logos) made flesh, dwelling among us. Here God’s speech is embodied, full-blooded, not flat and lifeless, not reductionistic or atomistic. It is a sign, a communicative action (Kevin Vanhoozer, 2009), much more than the mere letters. It is poetic, prophetic, pedagogical, full of spiritual vitality revealed in a tangible historic person. The language of incarnation leverages the world and transforms individuals; it is strategically located within the human story, not a fantasy. The incarnation is the only adequate reply to the challenges of dissolution (loss of connection between word and world). There is much to grapple with as we see in Jens Zimmermann’s scholarship on the subject.

Christ the creative wisdom of God, and God’s active Word in creation, is enfleshed in the temporal-historical dimension of our world as the concrete Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ…. This is the Word through whom all things were made, and the Word hid in the eternal bosom of God, the Word who spoke through the prophets, the Word whose mighty acts defined the history of Israel. In Jesus the Christ this Word has become flesh, and the eternal has become temporal, but without ceasing to be eternal…. In Christ temporality and eternity are conjoined…. In the incarnation, creation, the world, time and history have been taken up into the God-man, who is the center of reality…. Faith and reason are inseparable because their unity is in Christ. (J. Zimmermann, 2012a, pp. 264-5)

Language (speech act) starts with creation: God spoke and the heavens, the stars, the seas, the plants and trees and living creatures, man and woman came into existence in abundance. They continue to do so (creatio continua). God’s word was enacted in a particular place and time in history. It makes space for new drama. There is intense presence and place; God has carved out space and time for his presence. When humans are addressed by God (the whole premise of Judeo-Christianity), they are drawn up into a divine dialogue, to reason and commune with their Creator, their ultimate mentor. They are identified, loved and valued. A perlocutionary act is a robust speech act that produces an effect in those addressed through the speaker’s utterance. God speech has impact in all of human culture. Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (R. Gawronski, 1995, Word and Silence) sees the Word of God revealed in three rich and powerful ways: Creation, Scripture, and Incarnation, three different types of language, each powerful in its own right, each complementary to the integrity and impact of the others, using both traditions of language culture. The incarnation is God’s megaphone to late modernity with all its challenges, conundrums, contradictions and struggles.

~Gord Carkner

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“But God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practice and our ponderings imply. He is forever trying to establish communication; forever aware of the wrong directions we are taking and wishing to warn us; forever offering solutions for the problems that baffle us; forever standing at the door of our loneliness, eager to bring us such comradeship as the most intelligent living mortal cannot supply; forever clinging to our indifference in hope that someday our needs, or at least our tragedies will waken us to respond to his advances. The Real Presence is just that, real and life-trasforming. Nor are the conditions for the manifestation of his splendours out of the reach of any of us! Here they are; otherness, openness, obedience, obsession.” ~The Captivating Presence by Albert Edward Day

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent… If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.”  ~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before…. What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.”
~Jan L. Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.”
~John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

“To have found God, to have experienced him in the intimacy of our being, to have lived even for one hour in the fire of his Trinity and the bliss of his Unity clearly makes us say: Now I understand. You are enough for me.” ~Carlo Carretto

“God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, trust is forged between word spoken and the reality of which it speaks, between the words we speak and transcendent realities to which we point. The Word became flesh … a human life … a work of art … a new humanism … a new community … a new social imaginary. Integrity is his name. Hope is what he offers.” Anonymous

O almighty God, who by the birth of the holy child Jesus has given us great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in this light we may see light. Bestow upon us, we beseech thee, the most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen ~ The Book of Worship

“God is coming! God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, Echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it?”
~Walter Wangerin, Jr., from “The Signs of the Times,” in The Manger Is Empty

How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.”—William Gurnall

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. “An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’“The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.” ~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus… When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore him as our true and only King.” Mark Zimmermann in Our Advent Journey

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Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.” ~The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1662

One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God’s grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can’t grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.” ~Michelle Blake, The Tentmaker

Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of grandchild-our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus’ final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.” Anonymous

Virgin by Luci Shaw

As if until that moment

nothing real

had happened since Creation

As if the world outside were empty

so that she and he were all

there was–he mover, she moved upon

As if her submission were the most

dynamic of all works; as if

no one had ever said Yes like that

As if that day the sun had no place

in all the universe to pour its gold

but her small room

Posted by: gcarkner | November 25, 2014

Erasmus and Merton: Soul Friends


Erasmus and Merton: Soul Friends

Ron Dart, Department of Philosophy & Politics

University of the Fraser Valley

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 The name of Erasmus will never perish.  ~John Colet (1)


Erasmus has published volumes more full of wisdom than any which

Europe has seen for ages.   ~Thomas More (2)


I am halfway through the Ratio Verae Theologiae of Erasmus, loving

the clarity and balance of his Latin, his taste, his good sense, his

evangelical teaching. If there had been no Luther, Erasmus would now

be regarded by everyone as one of the great Doctors of the Catholic

Church. I like his directness, his simplicity, and his courage. All the

qualities of Erasmus, and other qualities besides, were canonized in

Thomas More.      ~Thomas Merton  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (3)


There was never anybody else on earth like Thomas Merton. I for one

have never known a mind more brilliant, more beautiful, more serious,

more playful.    ~Mark Van Doren (4)

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.56.08 PMThere is no doubt that Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) and Thomas Merton (1915-1968) are two of the most significant and towering peaks along the ridge of the historic Christian mountain range. The slow ascent up such peaks takes much time, but the scenery seen from such heights opens up full vistas of beauty, insight and clarity. Both men, although separated by centuries of time, were soul friends. Many of their concerns were the same, and both expressed such a way of being in a most articulate and evocative manner.

It is quite reasonable to suggest that Erasmus and Merton had little in common, hence the folly of such an essay. Erasmus was raised in Holland by the Brethren of the Common Life, became an Augustinian monk at an early age, left the Order a few years later and spent the remainder of his years as one of the most prominent scholar’s in 16th century Europe. Merton was, on the other hand, raised by Bohemian artistic parents, lived a rather indulgent early life, joined the strict Cistercians in his twenties and remained a Trappist for the rest of his life. These outer differences, though, conceal deeper affinities, and it is these deeper affinities between Erasmus and Merton that this paper will examine and explore. Merton was the Erasmus of the 20th century just as Erasmus was the Merton of the 16th century. What is it, though, that makes Erasmus and Merton soul friends? This essay will all too briefly light, linger but not solidly land on nine areas that bind Erasmus and Merton together. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | November 23, 2014

Recovering the Virtues

Virtues & Vices of Human Creatures  

from Creation Care Specialist Steven Bouma-Prediger

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Respect & Receptivity: If life in all its diversity is a gift from a benevolent Creator, we should respect its innate, intrinsic and precious value—its creational integrity. Biodiversity (a rich and full flourishing fittedness) is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity. We as the human dimension of creation are only one species among multitudes, and so we should cultivate the earth in harmony with other creatures, so that we can all sing a symphony of God’s praises together (Psalms 104; 148). In other words, other creatures count morally or have moral standing. We have the same God-loved home, and are interdependent with other God-loved creatures on this planet. The virtue principle is to act to preserve diverse kinds of life. The opposing vice is conceit: to ignore or disdain other creatures, or just use or abuse them for our appetites or pleasure. Conceit has no genuine interest in another and will if necessary violate the integrity of the other through a lack of regard. A different kind of vice would be to worship the other creatures through an excess of reverence. Receptivity is a form of hospitality, which acknowledges our interdependence with the creaturely other; self-sufficiency is the vice that says we don’t have need of the other.  Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | November 10, 2014

Two Ways of Seeing Reality

Two Different Philosophical Paradigms

For a deeper understanding/grasp of the relationship between reason and faith, it is helpful to understand the impact of two distinct ways of engaging the world intellectually and philosophically: epistemological and hermeneutical. They constitute two different set of glasses as shown by philosopher Charles Taylor. These two perspectives emerged as a helpful talking point in a recent lecture on Middle European History at St. John’s College, UBC. A Rice University professor of Polish descent had a vastly different perspective to those who favored the German or British way of seeing this post-World War 2 history. They had two radically different ways of seeing the issues related to the emergence of Middle Europe after the Cold War.

  1. Epistemological Approach (Descartes, Locke, Hume). The set of priority relations within this picture often tends towards a closed world position (CWS). Its assumptions include the following:
  • Knowledge of self and its status comes before knowledge of the world (things) and others.
  • Knowledge of reality is a neutral fact before we (the self) attribute value to it.
  • Knowledge of things of the natural order comes before any theoretical invocations or any transcendence (which is thereby problematized, doubted or repressed). This approach tends to write transcendence out of the equation.

 Within the Epistemological View, the individual is primary and certainty is within the mind. The self is an independent, disengaged subject reflexively controlling its own thought processes, self-responsibly. The oft-presumed neutrality of this view is in question. The way of seeing is in fact a heavily value-laden approach or posture. It offers a whole construction of identity and society with its own distinctive priorities and values. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | November 9, 2014

Learning from The Great War

War? What is it Good For?…

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This year 2014 marks the hundred-year anniversary of the start of World War I, the conflict that introduced industrial-scale carnage to the world. Never before had science and technology—the mortars, machine guns, tanks, barbed wire and poison gas—conspired so effectively to destroy humans and nature, and effectively to disillusion a whole generation. Ten million soldiers died; twice as many more were wounded or disfigured. Civilians also suffered terribly. The so-called Great War called into question popular beliefs about human progress, morality and religion. It brought in its trail mass disillusionment. Yet for two extraordinary authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the war deepened their moral and spiritual convictions. Both fought in the trenches on the Western Front and used their experiences to shape their Christian imagination. The pair met in 1926 as young scholars at Oxford University and went on to produce epic stories of heroism. Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Lewis earned fame for “The Chronicles of Narnia,” a series of children’s books now considered classics. Their tales are fundamentally about a cosmic struggle between good and evil—a theme radically out of step with the cynical and fatalistic spirit of their age. The authors’ use of fantasy is not an escape but a steely realism that captures the human predicament. The stories, combining both tragedy and hope, have fired the imagination of a whole generation. It is a truly courageous and inspiring narrative.

  Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | November 5, 2014

C.S. Lewis Summer in Oxbridge

Videos of Lewis Summer Institute 2014


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Posted by: gcarkner | November 3, 2014

Brainy Foods for Postgraduate Students

Brain Foods for Grad Student Health

beyond coffee

The brain is important for cognitive function and mental health. When compared to the rest of the body, the brain consumes an immense amount of energy. It is the body’s first organ to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Dietary factors can affect multiple brain processes by regulating neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal transduction pathways.1 The following nutrients are important for brain health.

Dr. Andrea Goldson, PhD graduate of UBC in Food Science 2012,

Programme Coordinator, M Sc, Food & Agro Processing Technology at University of the West Indies, Jamaica

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | October 28, 2014

Recentering the Self

Loss of Center: the Shifty Identity of Nihilism

In a recent viewing of the PBS film Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen, one is reminded of the struggle of the young, highly educated woman struggling for her identity. First she is imprisoned in the Tower of London by her Catholic half-sister who has married Philip of Spain and wants to turn England back to the Catholic faith. This is a bloody time of burning Protestant leaders such as Ridley, Cranmer and Latimer at the stake. You can stand on the spot where it happened in the Broad Street in the heart of Oxford. Elizabeth is accused of conspiracy. This experience in prison helps shape her; she endures humiliation with strength and dignity even though she is King Henry VIII’s daughter (from Anne Boleyn).

Then her half-sister dies suddenly and she is thrust into the royal court to become sovereign of the country. The power struggles begin with her counsellors and advisors and several plots to assassinate her and take over the country. The counsellors want a strategic marriage as quickly as possible, in order to consolidate their power  as much as hers. Her other sister, Mary Queen of Scots, is also a threat, so she must be imprisoned in Dublin Castle. She both loves and fears Mary. Her big decision is to remain single, the virgin queen, and “have no man rule over me”. She manages to consolidate her power and fight off the Spanish Armada and rule for a full lengthy forty years. In all of this, she must find her true centre; she can ill afford to waffle; she needs trusted advisors who will speak truth to power. She has to know who she is and what virtues she stands for, if she is to lead her country, serve it well and defend herself from several plots and conspiracies. It is a time of both chivalry and treachery, honour and manipulation. She leaves a legacy, lives large, and wins the hearts of her subjects, establishing Elizabethan England for posterity. Read More…

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