The Innocence of Children and the Meaning of Symbols

The Innocence of Children and the Meaning of Symbols

Yesterday was Celebration Sunday at our church. Every year on the Sunday after VBS we have a celebration of all the children who gave their hearts to Christ during the week and the children who were able to hear the message, even if they did not act on it at the time. We have old style carnival games and blow up slides and bounce houses and little entertaining things like face painting. It’s a big party. This year I got roped into volunteering for the face painting, even though painting is far from my comfort zone and I was intrigued by something.

We had 5 different designs: Snowflakes, A Dog, A Pirate, A Snow Leopard, and a Rainbow. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a lot but for volunteers that have no idea what they are actually doing… it’s interesting, though the kids looked great in their painted faces. During my hour I had several little girls ask me to paint the rainbow on their face.

A Aymbol is what you make it

An approximation of the rainbow face painting option.

It looked a little like this rainbow that I drew on Paint. With the recent decision made by the supreme court I started thinking about the rainbow in the light of homosexuality. Then I realized… These kids don’t think of the rainbow like this. They are 6 at the most, 3 at the least. (Or the ones I had were)

They wanted this rainbow painted on their face because rainbows are pretty! They are cool pieces of nature. To these kids it did not represent gay pride.

Long ago when Noah and his family and all the male and female animal pairs got off the ark God made a rainbow in the sky as a promise that He would never flood the earth again! The rainbow, though taken as a symbol of gay pride, has no meaning to these children other than a pretty splash of color.

There are so many symbols flying around right now it’s crazy. We have the confederate flag under debate in the wake of the Charleston shootings, rainbows have been on my Facebook feed so much I’d really appreciate seeing some old version black and white photos… one person went so far as to say their Facebook feed looked like the confederates and a skittles factory got into a fight. It’s crazy!!!

People are blaming the confederate flag for racism. They call it a symbol of racism… I don’t think so. They want it banned, and while I am a Christian I do not believe that it’s the answer. The confederate flag is just a flag! A symbol is what you make it. If it is a piece of your heritage then that is what it is, if it is a representation of your sexuality that is what it is. If it’s a bunch of pretty colors, it’s bunch of pretty colors.

In high school I didn’t think about gay pride, it did not matter to me. I decided to braid my own lanyard to put my school ID on… I made a rainbow. I was not thinking of gay pride. I just put colors in the ROY G BIV pattern I had been taught in art classes and in science classes (regarding prisms and color spectrum). I liked the pattern. Until someone pointed out what its meaning had become. Then I gave the lanyard away and made something in blues and greens and browns, natural colors that I researched as having so sexual or political meaning.

Did you know the first time I encountered the word “gay” was in Black Beauty by Anna Sewell… a classic book about the life of a horse? It had something to do with a pony trotting in a gay manner down the street. Gay meant happy. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation. For the longest time that was the only meaning of it I knew. When someone used the word on me as an insult (I think they were telling me I was stupid or dumb) I thought they were telling me I was happy and told them, “No, I’m actually kinda pissed off right now so you might want to back away.” (I was a strange child and I talked funny.)

We had a speaker yesterday from Holy Wow Ministries who told us that when He first went to church and heard the name Jesus Christ he thought the pastor was swearing.

Even words only mean what you take them to mean. These days anything can be taken offensively. Whether it be a flag, a selection of colors, a word, a symbol.

The swastika originally was a Sanskrit symbol meaning “good fortune” or “well-being” and likely represented the sun rising and setting in the sky and the continuance of life as it spins. Now when we see it all we think of are Nazis and the millions of Jews they murdered in their cause. In reality the meaning of the symbol is opposite of what we think.

The point I’ve been repeating and trying to get across: A symbol only means what you think it means.

There is no way to please everyone.

People these days get offended very easily… you know it’s true.

Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, about two thousand years ago, the Romans ruled the Mediterranean and most of Europe. The Roman army was the fiercest army since Alexander The Great. No one withstood them for long. In the end, everyone fell. The Romans, like all societies had death penalties. In a time where there were no more enemies to fight (for they ruled the world) the soldiers were virtually reduced to officers of the law and nothing more. But they trained and they trained. They were great fighters. But they had nothing to fight so they took their duties seriously as peacekeepers and jailers.  Whenever an enemy of the empire was sentenced to death they took great care to learn how far a man could go in regards to pain. They became experts at inflicting pain and death. They wanted to set examples which would be remembered. No one wanted to endure punishment at the hands of Roman soldiers.

The worst method was one that could last for days if done right. People dreaded this sentence. It was horrifying, involving dislocated joints, blood, lungs and internal organs being crushed by the weight of your own body. The pain of being unable to support your own weight as you hung there, nailed through the wrists or hands and through your feet to wooden beams by something akin to a railroad spike… Crucifixion. The cross looked somewhat like a capital “T”, the ones that looked like a lowercase “t” were reserved for those whose crimes were to be posted above their heads. This was s symbol of death and pain, and the cruelest way to die. There are few methods of death worse than this, and even most of those few do not last as long as being crucified. When people saw a cross they were afraid. (There were bound to have been a few exceptions)

One day all of this changed. There was a man among the Jewish people. His name was Jeshua (J pronounced as a Y). He was the son of a carpenter. He did no wrong to anyone. Yet, the Jewish leaders did not accept Him, they did not like His teachings. His teaching threatened their religious power. They tried several times to trap Him in religious debates, but every time He answered perfectly, putting them to shame. He was more than the son of a carpenter. In fact, the carpenter was not His father.

His father was the God of the Jews, the Israelites. One day the Jewish religious leaders convinced the Romans to try Him and execute Him for He had proclaimed himself King of the Jews. This was treason. Now, they could have easily labeled him a mad man and left him alone, but his following was too great. People loved Him, Jews and Non-Jews. He taught them to love one another. He taught them that no one was beyond saving. More than that, He taught them to live as they should, with love and with compassion. So they had him captured, tried, and killed.

He was sentenced to die by Crucifixion, the people chose to set a proven murderer free over him. When the day came for Him to die His body was already ravaged from the lashing He had received. Yet He was made to carry His cross, in its entirety, a weight of around 300 pounds, to the sight of His death.

While He was on the cross He refused wine, water, and anything that might relieve the pain. He died slowly and painfully, several times before his betrayal and while He was enduring it He asked His father, if it be the will of God, let Him not need to do this, let Him live, but he needed to die. He was a sacrifice. In the end they drove a spear through His side to be certain He was dead. During the last three hours of his life the sky turned black and the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, the earth shook, tombs broke open and holy people were raised to life and appeared to many within the holy city.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can not begin to imagine how gruesome a sight He must have been, let alone the terror as all of this happened… 3 hours of darkness in the middle of the day, earth quakes, and the dead rising.

He was taken and buried in a tomb, dead. Guards, Roman soldiers (the best in the world), were placed outside the tomb with a large stone sealed to the entrance. Within 3 days something happened. Death lost its hold on Jeshua. He came back to life. He had been the sacrifice for our sins. You and I know Jeshua by a different name, Jesus.

For many people the cross went from being a symbol of death and pain, to a symbol of hope and relief.

A Symbol is what you make of itSymbols are what we see them as. The confederate flag is a symbol of racism to some, to others it is a symbol of their southern heritage or states’ rights. The Rainbow can be a symbol of gay pride, God’s covenant with Noah and his family, or just a pretty occurrence in nature involving sunlight and water. The cross is a symbol of death to some, but to Christians all around the world it is a symbol of hope. Christ died and got off the cross. It is a symbol of what He did, what He went through to save us and take the punishment for our sins.

If someone were to ask me not to wear my cross, or to refrain from putting up images of one in my yard or house, or anywhere else because it offended them, you could bet that I would never comply with that willingly, because for me the cross is not offensive, it is not a symbol of death, condemnation, or pain. It is a symbol of hope for me, a symbol of relief. Because Christ died on the cross and then defeated death.

Symbols are what you choose to see them as. If a child can ignore the meanings that a symbol has taken on, why should we let ourselves be dictated by the meanings of the symbols. Being offended these days, is a choice. We have become a society where we are intolerant of symbols, opinions, and pretty much anything that we do not think of as agreeing with our own beliefs, and it is a sad world where the government must be asked to ban a flag, or people feel the need to take offense at the sight of a rainbow or some stars.

Symbols mean nothing, unless you give them meaning. To me, the confederate flag is meaningless. I am a white-heterosexual-Christian female from the NORTH of this country. The flag means nothing to me. Rainbows to me represent the covenant made by God when he promised never to destroy the world as He did in Noah’s time, no matter how bad it gets. Mercy! Rainbows are a symbol of mercy to me and therefore remind me to be merciful and not to condemn the people who wave it as their banner, because God will not do that, not again. His son will come first.

Supreme Court Rules on Gay Marriage

Supreme Court Rules on Gay Marriage

Recently I have heard a lot about the supreme court ruling on Gay Marriage, and while this blog is new I feel that I can not remain silent.

WordPress has put up their gay pride banners. Facebook is offering the option to overlay your profile picture with the gay pride rainbow. And I do not care for these things. I do not agree and I feel that this picture I found on Facebook sums up my opinion quite well and should sum up the opinions of all Christians, though some obviously believe very different. However I think this opinion aligns with the gospel better than other opinions.

I do not support homosexuality or gay marriage. It goes against my beliefs. I believe that God intended sex and marriage to be between one man and one woman, not two people of the same-sex.

I also believe that the Bible tells us this, that Jesus said:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:34-35 NIV

Now there are people out there who will tell me that Jesus was talking to his disciples, telling them to love each other and not “outsiders,” but here’s the thing: Jesus loved everyone!!! The disciples were poor people, fishermen, sinners, and tax collectors. Christ preached to the gentiles as well as Jewish people. Therefore in reality, though this was during the last supper, Jesus was speaking to all of His followers. God knows everything and Jesus, as His son, also knows everything. He knows the plans of God. He knew that this command would make it into the Bible for anyone who is willing to read the Bible to hear. We are to love everyone:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. – 1 John 5:2-4 NIV

You see, loving each other does not mean that we have to agree with each other, it does not mean that we have to show physical affection, but it does mean that we should follow God’s commands. We do as he told us.

There is something else that Jesus taught us:

At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say? They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

But Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – John 8:2-11 NIV

Jesus pointed out the sins of every man and woman in that room. They were so willing to stone this woman to death, yet they themselves were marred. WE CAN NOT JUDGE!!! I have sinned. You who are reading this, have sinned, we have all sinned. We have no right to tell people how to live so long as we are not perfect. Judgement belongs to God and God alone. The most we can do is strive to be perfect, but only in our own lives. All that we can do is live God’s commands. Show them the love of Christ. Christ called us to be kind to one another. Lift each other up. That is what he did to people, to sinners, to those who were despised by the world. If we follow what God tells us, what Christ tells us, we are showing love to people. We are loving them in the best way we can, by loving God, we love them, for they are children of God, perhaps defiant children, but still children of God.

It is not our place to judge.

It is not my place to judge.

It is not your place to judge.

I believe in what the Bible says about homosexuality:

[Men] Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does as one does with a woman; that is detestable. – Leviticus 18:22 NIV

Leviticus is the 3rd book in the Old Testament of the Bible. A lot of people like to say that because Christ died for us the Old Testament laws, the laws of Moses, are irrelevant and no longer have a place in society. In that case let me ask this question: Is it alright to commit murder? How about lying? Stealing? No! The answer is: No! and if this does not convince you… It’s mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible too!

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters not adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor the drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV

The Bible directly references male homosexuality and there are those that would say, well this clears the lesbians then… not exactly… God does not judge you based on your gender… sorry… He made sex to be between one man and one woman, not between two men or two women or more of either. For those of you who still say that Jesus death made the laws of Moses irrelevant let me explain something to you.

When Christ died for our sins it was not so that we could sin and still go to Heaven, it was so that we could be forgiven of our sins, which are a part of our human nature thanks to Adam and Eve’s original sin. The death of Christ did not abolish the rules. It did not mean that everything was “legal,” for lack of a better term, in God’s eyes. It meant that we had a way of being forgiven, well and truly. No more sacrifices, no more punishments.

This is not to say that people who commit crimes should not be punished. Thieves and murderers and those that bear false witness in a court of law and those that do any kind of harm to others should not be punished. But for things like homosexuality, that only truly hurt the people committing the act (whether they know it to be hurting them or not) should not be punished, at least not by us, that is God’s place, not ours. There are certain laws and punishments that must be in place for society to maintain order. Banning homosexuality, polygamy, adultery, and other sins that are considered lifestyle choices does nothing in maintaining that order other than make people angry because other people don’t follow their beliefs.

As Christians we have a right to our beliefs. We are commanded to love one another by loving God and obeying Him. That does not mean that we have to partake of these sins. We are a beacon of hope and light. (Even if not everyone realizes it.) As human beings and creations of God they have a right to free will and to choices. By making the right choices we can show them what they are missing out on by sinning. If they don’t want to hear what we are telling them it is their choice… You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink… and they will eventually find that out.

With that last statement I would like to add that I am not condemning those people to Hell or to the wrath of God. I pray sincerely that every sinner could find God and repent. In no way are these people condemned. They have a chance. The jury is out until they face the judgement of God. Until them no sentence has been passed. It’s like when a prosecutor is seeking the death penalty (in this case the eternal death penalty) and the jury has yet to decide if the defendant is guilty. There is a way for them to be declared not guilty. Accepting Christ with a sincere heart, repenting, and changing their way will wash them clean of their sin and they will be judged not guilty. The penalty will not be carried out.

There is no condemnation in my heart.

I am not judging. It is not my place but His.

To those that bully these people because of their sins: Look to your own sin first as I shall look to mine. It’s what God commands.

We can all live together peacefully. We can associate, but not partake. We are missionaries and we must take life calmly and patiently. We can have friends who are sinners and non-believers. We are all sinners and once were all non-believers.

To those who have decided that I hate them and who call me names because I don’t agree with you. This is what you have fought against. You have fought for the right to express your beliefs without being bullied or judged, so please cut down on the hypocrisy (on both sides of this argument) and allow me to express my own beliefs. I’m not calling you names. I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you. I am still your friend. In fact I love you! You do not have to partake of my faith and my lifestyle, as I do not have to partake of yours. Remember that.

12 Resolutions Every Writer Should Keep

Keep an open mind… change is a good thing… try everything at least once… so long as it does not compromise who you are.

Good writers can create miracles out of thin air and research. They don’t do anything but sit in their mom’s basement and play video games. It is RARE that these writers get anywhere in their career. Great writers thrive on experiences. They incorporate them into everything. You might be sitting here and thinking that you don’t need to because you write fantasy or futuristic science fiction… newsflash: so do I. I used to think that I did not need experiences to write fantasy… boy am I finding out that I was wrong. I may not be able to ride on the backs of dragons but having ridden a horse and felt the scales of a reptile sure does help… there aren’t too many blanks to fill in outside of those.  On top of it human emotions are hard to write about when you’ve never experienced them. The feel of a first kiss or the last look in a loved on’s eyes as they go into that good night… I have never experienced these things… I have had family die, but I’ve never been there and I’ve always been afraid of people so non-familial relationships haven’t been a thing. (yeah I know, I’m a college student, it’s pitiful) And change… change is a good thing! It’s the stuff that experiences are made of. I will have you know that I hate change, that doesn’t mean I fight it. I told someone awhile back that I hated change. He all but told me I was in the wrong line of work as a writer. But you know what, I’m trying to break myself of that. I am trying to like change… basically I’m trying to give myself Stockholm syndrome is how he put it… I’d say that’s an apt description. so I’m going to keep repeating this… CHANGE IS A GOOD THING!!! over and over. Change leads to new paths and new paths lead to great writing.  But remember this: Everyone has a moral code, a set of rules and lines that they do not cross. If something causes you to cross your line, don’t do it… if it’s illegal I certainly don’t recommend it, but if it is legal but goes against your faith or you beliefs then don’t just don’t. If you’re a pacifist don’t go out and pick a fight just so you can write a good bar brawl scene… twist so that you can work your own beliefs into it… use the experiences you already have. If it’s something like spelunking or base jumping, or rodeo riding… things that sound fun… go ahead and do it. Try new foods, travel to new places. Learn things. Do things. It’s good for you and you’ll get tons of new material to work with. but don’t let it compromise your morals… no one should ever do that.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something.

There are things that I don’t enjoy… change is one of them… grits are another. My mom used to buy grits instead of oatmeal on occasion so I would try them… I never acquired the taste. I don’t enjoy the texture, or the bland taste, and I don’t find that adding anything helps either. It’s just my opinion. You may absolutely love grits, or be from the south where in some places you’re considered a heathen for not liking them. But don’t be afraid of what other people think. I was told that this was my stubborn pride talking here, but it’s not. It’s truth talking. there’s a blogger here on WordPress I follow who goes by the pseudonym Opinionated Man… he will tell you that you should never be afraid to voice your opinions. They are yours. If they offend other people… oh well. That is their problem, not yours. Every now and then I read something he’s posted and I find that I am offended. I debate the pros and cons of arguing with him… then I tell myself, no that’s his opinion. He has his and I have mine. If you don’t like something it’s OKAY!

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

Talk to people, watch them, listen to them.

People are everything. We share experiences with people. They are the basis for our characters and feelings and emotions. Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to experience something but we can watch another person as they experience it. Observe that, take notes, 3rd person limited narration is pretty popular. Listen to what others have to say. Even if it is not what you want to hear. If nothing else you will be able to argue something in your writing. Just do yourself a favor and make sure you have the whole story, avoid looking like an idiot. People are everything. Character driven stories are the best stories and real life people will give you the bases from which to build those characters.

Write everything… even what you don’t enjoy.

It doesn’t matter what it is, an experience, a memory, a genre… write everything. You’ll notice there is an awful lot of poetry on this blog compared to short stories. That’s because I write poetry. Yet frankly. I dislike the craft. There was a time when I did write a lot of poetry. I enjoyed it, it was a stress relief that did not take a lot of time to complete. Then I discovered fiction and log narratives… this is now my favorite thing in the world to do. There are other genres I don’t like… creative non-fiction being one… yet that is exactly what these articles I write are. Write in ways you do not enjoy because it will make you stronger. Write down the memories and experiences that you do not enjoy because A) no one will see them unless you want them to, and B) it generates ideas and fuels more writing about things that you do enjoy. These things will only make you stronger as a writer and as a person.

Don’t react in extremes.

Trust me… just don’t. In a minute I’m going to talk about something similar but do me a favor if someone tells you that they don’t like something you wrote don’t start bashing them or threatening their well-being. (I had someone do this to me because we had a disagreement about religion… I lost any respect I had possessed for him so quickly it’d give a snake whiplash.) It always comes back to bite you in the arse. Believe me. If you say something here and now you better mean it. Don’t ever say or do something you can’t back up… eventually you’ll be forced to put your money where your mouth is and when you can’t the hyenas will be all over you.

Show Don’t Tell.

You’ve probably heard this a thousand and one times before… well you’re hearing it again, this time from me. Actions speak louder than words. Have your characters do something rather than speak. Dialogue tags are great, but action is better. Instead of saying that someone looked scared paint a picture, tell us what makes them look scared to you and/or the narrator. Show the reader, don’t tell them. It’s much more effective if you lead the cops to the murder scene and show them what’s going on than if you say: “Yeah there’s a dead body and a lot of blood.”

Be your ideal character… live the lives you write.

Writing and reading are sometimes described as living the lives you always wanted to live. The people who have realized this are absolutely accurate. But the fact that they don’t act on it… makes me question their sanity. If you often write characters who think before everything they say, stay calm no matter what is going on, and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and the people they care about… be that person. Don’t let anything get in the way of living the life you want to live. However, remember that under no circumstances should you ever compromise yourself and/or your moral code, and breaking the law is not a condoned action… but still live your dreams and live your worlds… (not to mention if you do make it big fans always find it intriguing when the author is similar to their favorite character. 🙂 )

Be honest.

Don’t lie to your readers… yes, the first article I ever posted on this blog was all about how authors are liars. We write about things that are not real and make you believe that they are, if only for a little while. but this is what differentiates an author from a true liar. We are honest in our lies. If you are going to say something or write about it, be sure that you can back it up. Don’t give your readers falsehoods. Spin them worlds that don’t exist sure enough, but make them real. Make the truth… when I was kid I used to tell lies… a lot. All the kids in my class were interesting, they went on vacations, did interesting things so I used to lie about what I did on my weekends and breaks when really all I did was sit at home and read day and night. Sometimes I would tell them about events that happened to characters in my books, as though they had really happened to me. For me fiction and reality became blurred… I don’t think that there were a whole lot of people who knew what I really did… that or I’m giving my skills at deception way too much credit… I never talked about it. I wanted to be accepted… I wasn’t, not really. Don’t do things like that. In writing and in life. Who you are is who you are. Don’t be ashamed of that. Don’t lie to make your work sound better. People appreciate honesty believe it or not. It may hurt, but they believe it. Sure, go ahead and say that you write things that aren’t real so you can’t really tell the truth. Right there, that’s a lie. There are basic human truths that apply everywhere. Don’t expect that you can do whatever you want. Because really you can’t. It’s the hard truth. People behave in a certain way, they do things in a certain way… it’s in their nature. Don’t lie about it.  Then again… remember that beauty isn’t the only thing in the eye of the beholder… truth is right there holding her hand.

Smile, Laugh, Enjoy Life

No matter what happens, enjoy it. You only get one life. As writers we get to live so many different lives. Enjoy them while you have them. Smile, be happy. It will improve your quality of life… science has even done some research into that…  and if your life is improved your writing will follow. Laugh, even at the sad things and the bad things… laugh and you’ll get a different perspective… a new way to look at things. It’s therapeutic, and on top of it by laughing at things that you don’t like or that terrify you you’ll overcome them… and that’s what most people want in a good story… they want triumph… so have some for real and you’ll make it look better than real when you write it.

Forgive but NEVER Forget… as a writer and as a person.

As a Christian, that’s not what I’m taught… I’m taught to forgive and forget… but I can’t. I’m not a blind idiot. Forgive people for the things they have done… but don’t forget it. A) It’s good material, and B) a good writer never forgets. As writer’s we are one of not too many professions that can go back and mend fences and fix mistakes. Don’t forget where you left them or where others left them. It’s a unique opportunity. Never forget anything. You’ll regret it when you write or say one thing and then do another. People look for that. They’ll jump on you. On top of it, don’t forget the people who don’t like your work or give you a bad review. They can come in handy later, especially if they change their tune later on down the road.

Don’t give up.

No matter what. People will tell you that you don’t belong. They will tell you that your work is nothing, that it means nothing. Don’t listen to them. There will be times when you read your own work and you hate it, you will believe that it is pointless to continue trying. You’ll want to give up. But giving up is just another way to say you are admitting defeat. Don’t do it. Show them that you belong. Be the writer that you want to be.

Write.

Every day. Write something, anything, everything. If you stop, one day you’ll realize you can’t do it anymore, at least not to the degree you once did and you will never forgive yourself. Don’t ever stop writing.

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