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Activated

Points to Ponder: Facing Fears

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Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
—Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

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If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.
—Ecclesiastes 11:4 ERV

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Facing your fears robs them of their power.
—Mark Burnett (b. 1960)

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Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
—Dale Carnegie (1888–1955)

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Winners are those people who make a habit of doing the things that [others] are uncomfortable doing.
—Ed Foreman (b. 1933)

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Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.
—Napoleon Hill (1883–1970)

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You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
—Wayne Gretzky (b. 1961)

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You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
—Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

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Do the thing you fear and keep on doing it … that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.
—Dale Carnegie

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Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.
—Judy Blume (b. 1938)

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Waiting to develop courage is just another form of procrastination. The most successful people take action while they’re afraid!
—Unknown

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The greatest failure is the failure to try. When I die I want four words written on my tombstone: “At least he tried.” For the glory of God. You’ve got to take risks. That’s what brings abundance. That’s what brings success in life. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is.
—Rick Warren (b. 1954)

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[The things we need to do to reach our goals] may all be things that are uncomfortable at first. So what! Do it anyway! One of the ways to get through the discomfort is simply to do the thing you are uncomfortable doing.
—Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, The Aladdin Factor (New York: Berkley Trade, 1995)

 
 

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.

Activated

Slay the Dragon!

By Peter Amsterdam, adapted

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Throughout our lives, we encounter situations and opportunities that have potential to open new doors for our future. Sometimes, it’s very clear that God is opening a door; other times, we simply have a sense in our heart. There’s often an accompanying feeling of excitement and positive anticipation that calls us to advance into unfamiliar territory.

After preparing and evaluating a plan, we can find ourselves on the verge of making a decision and taking action. Everything is set, we’re ready to start. But then what happens? Why do we sometimes delay making the decision or avoid taking the needed first steps?

Often, the culprit is fear, and it can be paralyzing. In my own life, fear shows up in many ways. I’ve recognized there are times when I’m afraid of failing or of making a mistake or of what something might cost in terms of hard work and sacrifice.

Those are not the only kinds of fears that hold us back. Sometimes taking the next step involves asking for advice, financial help, or permission. In such instances, the fear of rejection comes to the fore. Even if we don’t take the time to analyze and identify our emotions and put these fears into words, they’re there and they hold us back. So what do we do about that?

God’s Word says: “There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ISV)

Having faith in God’s goodness and believing that He wants to bless us puts us on the path to overcoming fear. But this victory over fear can’t just be in our thoughts; it’s not just a philosophical or spiritual matter. God often expects us to face our fears and take action and move in the right direction. We have to come to grips with our fears and overcome them so that we can be free to pursue our lives and have the full experience that God intends for us.

Let’s say you’ve written a book and are looking for a publisher. In the meantime, you’ve decided to personally market your book by going to local bookstores and libraries. So you take your printed copies, and off you go to pitch your idea to store managers and those who have the authority to help you. But it’s not as easy as you thought it would be to ask them to promote your book. In fact, it’s so hard you don’t get a single order, and you toy with the idea of quitting. You procrastinate. You go to the bookstores, but then walk out again, telling yourself, It’s not the right time; they’re too busy today. Eventually you pull the books out of the trunk of your car, thinking that maybe after the school year (or holiday or summer or whatever) will be better timing.

This same scenario of procrastination that leads to inactivity can show up in any number of situations or circumstances. Other examples might include asking for a raise at work, seeking a scholarship for college, asking someone out on a date, wanting to take a relationship to the next level, looking for more responsibility in your job, etc.

If we have a dream, waiting will not help us achieve it. Telling ourselves that tomorrow is better for X reason is usually just an excuse. We’re afraid, and instead of admitting it and taking the chance of a step toward that dream, we talk ourselves out of it and then justify our lack of action.

We have to take the first step. Often, the longer we wait, the more nervous we get. We get used to things the way they are, and change becomes harder and scarier and more uncomfortable.

Growth and development require some discomfort. As my skiing instructor said, “If you want to get good at skiing, you’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

An important aspect of getting out of your comfort zone has to do with starting before you feel ready. If you wait until you feel like you’re “ready”… well, we know what that leads to—procrastination, distraction, perfectionism, and sadly, often total inaction. Realistically, you may never feel like you’re ready. But if you can muster up the courage to just start, even if you don’t feel ready, you’ll be miles ahead.

The sooner we take the plunge and endure those terribly uncomfortable first steps, the sooner we’ll get past that scary stage and start to have a lot more success. It’s a predictable cycle: decide what you want to do, be confident of God’s blessing in the matter, make a plan, commit to it, begin, do it again and again, and with time you’ll get better and better!

When you are faced with doing something that’s difficult for you, ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? When you answer that question and then determine that you’d be able to handle that worst-case scenario, it will relieve the tension and help you to face your fears.

Also, if you’re embarking on a new project or challenge that makes you feel uneasy and scared, it helps if you give yourself permission to be awkward and to stumble and to not be perfect. Realize and accept that you’re not going to be good in the beginning. In fact, you might fail at first, and that’s okay.

There’s nothing wrong with being awkward while you’re getting the hang of something new, so go ahead with whatever the challenge is and just say to yourself, It’s perfectly fine that I’m not very good at this yet. I’ll get better. I’m going through the steps to greatness.

When you lower your expectations for immediate success, it makes it easier to actually take the first step toward a new challenge. With this attitude, the “firsts” that we’re afraid of can become gateways to amazing progress.

Here’s a story that we might all relate to, as told by Rory Vaden:

I once heard a true story of a woman who was trapped in a burning building on the 80th floor. She was terrified of heights and enclosed spaces, and when the fire alarm went off, she refused to follow her colleagues into the stairwell to evacuate to safety.

The firemen did a sweep of the building and found her hiding under her desk, waiting to die. She was screaming “I’m scared, I’m scared!” as the firemen insisted she walk down the stairwell until one fireman said, “That’s OK, just do it scared.” He repeated it all the way down the 80 flights of stairs, until he brought her to safety.

We’ve all faced these moments in our careers—when you know what has to be done, but your fear holds you back. In order to stand out, you must develop the habit of acting in the face of fear. It’s fine to be scared—do it scared. It’s fine to be unsure—do it unsure. It’s fine to be uncomfortable—do it uncomfortable. Just do something. (“To Reach the Top, Do What Others Won’t,” CNN, March 12, 2012)

I’d say taking that first daunting step is the hardest part. The next biggest test comes in persisting. When you’re not good at something, you encounter a lot of seeming “failure.” But if you keep doing it over and over, and learning from the reactions you get, pretty soon you’ll be good and then great.

A new challenge can be very awkward, even scary at first. But if we deliberately put ourselves out there and do the very thing that we’re afraid of, it becomes easier and we get better at it. Eventually we will no longer be afraid. That is conquering our fears!

 
 

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Activated

The Seasons of Life

By Mara Hodler

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
–Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

This is a big life lesson. It is really good news … and not such great news at the same time. Regardless of how you may feel at the moment, what season of life you are currently living through, you can probably expect a change at some point, because, as we know, seasons come and go.

When King Solomon wrote the preceding scripture, he gave a lot of examples of the seasons and ways our lives can change:

A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to tear down and a time to build
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
A time to search and a time to give up
A time to keep and a time to throw away
A time to tear and a time to mend
A time to be silent and a time to speak
A time to love and a time to hate
A time for war and a time for peace.
–Ecclesiastes 3:2–8 NIV

One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible is given in the same chapter: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

I like the part that says “no one can fathom.” When I was a teenager, I had so many plans and ideas of what I wanted my life to look like. Most of the ideas I had were good, or at least okay. I wasn’t (only) dreaming of being a celebrity or millionaire. I also wanted to be able to rush to anywhere in the world that needed help. I wanted to help orphans and wipe out poverty. If and when I had kids, I wanted to raise them in an African village where we all worked together to help a community thrive. That’s what I wanted. It really sounded like a good dream; it still does sometimes.

But God had a plan for me that I did not fathom.

I’m still watching that plan develop, but I’ve learned enough to know that God’s design is so much more far-reaching than anything I could fathom. I’ve learned that God is present in both times of sowing and times of reaping. And something else I’ve come to realize is that both seasons are repeating.

A farmer plants his crops every spring and harvests them every fall. Each year. He doesn’t get upset that he’s planting again another year. He doesn’t scream out in frustration, I just did this last year! Why again? In the fall when it’s time to gather in the crops, he doesn’t tell himself, Yay! I’ll never have to do that again! The farmer knows the cycle will repeat every year, and he’s okay with that.

In that way, we should all make peace with the seasons in our lives. There is a time to laugh, and a time to cry, a time to sow, and a time to reap, a time to give, and a time to receive. It’s all gonna happen.

In Texas, where I live, the weather is crazy. One day you’re in shorts. The next day you’re pulling out your winter gear because there’s a cold front coming through. On the blistering hot days, of which today is one, it’s hard to remember that it also gets cold around here—even freezing cold.

It’s the same with the seasons of life. When the sad times come, it’s hard to remember that there’s also a lot of happiness. When things disappoint, it’s easy to forget about all the things that have worked out smoothly.

To God, one season isn’t more precious than another. He can use each season in our lives to bring about His design. Sometimes I think that God is smiling on me when things are going great, and that a trial or misfortune means I have fallen out of His favor. But experience has taught me that this is not so. A great artist will use lovely, bright colors—reds, yellows, purples, and blues—to convey inspiration, but not without the contrasts of black, the muted grays, and the blurred whites.

We need to trust the Artist. His work speaks for itself, and time and again, He has proven that He does indeed make everything beautiful in His time. Each of our lives is no exception to the high and low seasons. And neither is it an exception to the promise that it will be beautiful in His time.

 
 

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Activated

Soul Food

By David Brandt Berg, adapted

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The Word of God is the most powerful truth on earth.—Words that contain the very spirit and life of God Himself. (See John 4:24) The Word is the spiritual spark of God that ignites us with His life, light, and power. Reading, absorbing, and following God’s Word is one of the most important things you can do to build your relationship with Him. It’s what keeps you in tune with God and helps you to keep going God’s way. When you listen to God and His Word and obey His truth, you’ll be happy and fruitful. (See John 15:11; 13:17)

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) His Word is the very life of God. That’s what gives us spiritual life, food, nourishment, strength, and health. This is why a good wholesome balanced diet of His Word is essential if you wish to grow and stay close to Him.

Jesus Himself is called “The Word” in the Bible. (See Revelation 19:13; John 1:1,14) Jesus is the Word, the Spirit and the life, and you need to have a dose of Him every day, a good feeding and feasting and drinking, if you’re going to grow and stay healthy spiritually. Just as you have to eat in order to have physical strength, you have to feed and drink from God’s Word to have spiritual strength.

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) When you’re spiritually weak, it’s often because you haven’t really feasted on, been filled up with, and been strengthened by the good, wholesome, nourishing, encouraging and feeding truth of God’s Word. You can’t get so busy with other things that you neglect your inspiration, the spiritual food and nourishment that you need from the Word. There are times when I would have really gotten discouraged if I had not drunk deeply of God’s Word.

If you sincerely seek God as you read His Word, He will speak to you through it. And the more dearly you begin to love His Word and the more you study it and feed from it, the more you will grow spiritually and the more you will find that God can speak to you clearly and directly through His written Word.

When the Holy Spirit quickens a passage of the Bible or verse to you, applying it to your own personal situation, it brings the Word to life. The Lord will bring His Word to life and speak to you personally, giving you direction for your problems and answers to your prayers, as you read His Word. When He helps you apply it to a situation, it suddenly becomes alive. The Bible isn’t mere words anymore, or words that just run through your head, but it reaches your heart and you really get the point. “The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.” (Psalm 119:130 NLT)

The prophet Jeremiah said, “When your words turned up, I feasted on them; and they became my joy, the delight of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16 CEB) Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:12 NIV)

Jesus said, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42 NLT) What is the “one thing” that Mary chose? She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His words. Resting in the Lord and sitting at His feet and hearing from Him and His Word is so necessary. God’s Word is just that important.

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Spiritual food is necessary for spiritual survival.
—Dallin H. Oaks (b. 1932)
 
God’s presence is everywhere around us. God is able to penetrate and intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in His loving companionship will never be alone.
—Dallas Willard (1935–2013)
 
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955)
 
There are many means by which Christians are spiritually nurtured and fed, and God is not limited to any specific method to touch your heart, to reveal something to you, to increase your faith, or to uplift and inspire you. God wants to communicate with His children. The important thing is that we allow Him to speak to our hearts through the spiritual instruction we read, and to guide us in our relationship with Him and our spiritual lives.
—Maria Fontaine, current co-director of the Family International

 
 

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Activated

Walking with God

By Sally García

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In the very first chapters of Genesis, we read of an enigmatic character, Enoch. Though we know little about him now, it seems that Enoch was well-known in Jesus’ time, as the New Testament book of Jude records a prophecy received by him in relation to the Latter Days. (See Jude 1:14–15) This patriarch (born only seven generations after Adam) was also the father of the person who lived the longest in the Bible, Methuselah. (See Genesis 5:21,27)

The most interesting thing regarding Enoch is found in Genesis 5:24: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (NIV)

“Walked with God”—what do you think of when you hear that phrase?

Walking with God depicts harmony. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3) When we are walking with someone, we are usually side by side. We try not to go ahead or lag behind. Learning to walk in step with God is a lifetime adventure.

Walking with God is also symbolic of communing with God. Many of the great thinkers and writers, such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, and Søren Kierkegaard, habitually went on walks for contemplation. Adam and Eve communed daily with God, walking in the Garden of Eden. (See Genesis 3:8)

Walking with God is a way of life. The Bible tells us to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2) and to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) It also says to walk honestly, (See 1 Thessalonians 4:12) walk in truth, (See 3 John 1:4) walk in light, (See 1 John 1:7) and walk in wisdom. (See Colossians 4:5) All of which is summed up simply by saying to walk in Christ. (See Colossians 2:6)

Paul wrote of the life of Enoch, saying, “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5 NLT) Enoch pleased God so much that it seems one day he just walked with God straight into heaven.

A life pleasing to God is a simple life of walking in communion with our Creator until one day we finish our journey in this world and safely arrive at our heavenly home.

 
 

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Activated

Surprise!

By Mara Hodler

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How about those moments when life is moving along smoothly, it looks like you have a good view of where things are headed, you’re making progress … and then all of a sudden, surprise! A total about-face happens. Something that forces you to change and pushes you in a different direction. A complete game changer.

I find those “surprise” moments kind of scary. Having no control over a situation feels like a free fall. Not my thing! It’s at those times when my best-laid plans are strewn around me like worthless debris that I hear in my head the words, “Man proposes, but God disposes.”

I have the choice to just “go with it” or try to force and steer things back to my cherished plans. Really, it’s not so much of a choice as it is a mental attitude. Half the time, the outcome is obvious, and holding on to my plans is clearly only going to prolong the inevitable. Still, it’s hard to let go.

It’s like a good salsa dance. When two people have danced together for a long time, they learn to “read” each other and can ad-lib a dance perfectly and in perfect synchronization. In traditional salsa, the man is the leader, and the woman is attuned to his slightest pulls and guides, moving her body to follow his lead. When the couple is in sync, their movements become an extension of each other, and it’s amazing! A couple that is out of sync is pretty sad to watch. They step on each other’s toes, sometimes even fall, and at best, lack the gracefulness that the dance is supposed to convey.

I sometimes picture my life as a dance. When those “surprises” come into play, I can almost hear Jesus saying, Come on. We’ve been dancing together for so long, you know how to follow. Just let Me lead and I will make this dance spectacular.

I know in my heart that if I let Him take control, I won’t trip and fall. But it can be hard to surrender to His lead. Usually the reason is that I feel I’ve worked hard on practicing the previous routine and learning every step, and I don’t want to change. Sometimes I try to lead. And the results are, well … pathetic.

Surrender is not a common first reaction. It’s human nature to become attached to a certain outcome. We like to think we have control. We put a lot of energy into planning, and it’s hard to think that it can all be wasted by one event that nullifies our plans.

Here’s the funny thing, though: when it comes to dancing, all the routines, all the carefully choreographed dances rehearsed over and over are what allow a couple to abandon the planned dance and spontaneously create a whole new dance. In life, all the planning, the training, and following what you believe God wants you to do is what makes you ready to just flow with the surprise, whatever it may be.

Now a little note on these “surprises.” Many of the ones I’ve experienced seemed like “bad news” at first. I’ve experienced being denied a visa to a country where I had my dream job secured; having key coworkers move on just when I thought our projects were taking off; facing illness, accidents, work falling through; losing clients; and having bad weather botch the most perfectly laid plans. These things have abruptly taken my life in unexpected directions. Yet none of them ruined my life. In some cases, the path they set my life on turned out to be so much better than what I had planned or foreseen.

Some of the most amazing people I know recognize these troublous interjections as an invitation to a special dance. They trust so well that they are able to skip the struggle and sway in time. It’s very impressive to me, and I look at them with the same kind of marvel that I feel when I watch the synchronized dancing couple. I’m amazed at how the quick turns, dips, and bends of the dance of their life seem to happen gracefully and without struggle. The beauty of their peace definitely confirms that their approach to a “surprise” works better than mine.

The good news is that I can be sure there will be more surprises, and I have the opportunity to practice getting better at flowing instead of struggling. As I write this, I know that there are going to be unexpected happenings and events ahead that I could not have predicted. My prayer is that I will flow with the dance, and that I will not resist or struggle—at least not so much that I ruin the dance.

Jesus wants to make your life extraordinary, and He’ll use every little twirl, dip, bend, and lift to create the most beautiful dance, if you’ll just flow with it.

 
 

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Activated

Feeding Reading: Secrets to Success with People

By Chris Hunt

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The Bible is a rich storehouse of spiritual and practical advice, and examples of strong relationships are one of the recurrent themes. In fact, Martin Luther commented that the entire Christian life consists of relating to people around us. (“The Freedom of a Christian,” Luther’s Works, ed. Harold J. Grimm and Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1957), p. 365)

So what can we learn from the Bible about how to succeed with people?

 
Look for the good.

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
—Philippians 4:8

 
Treat others with kindness, the way you would want to be treated.

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
—Matthew 7:12 NIV

We should not live to please ourselves. Each of us should live to please his neighbor.
—Romans 15:1–2 NLV

Be gentle and kind to everyone.
—Titus 3:2 CEV

 
Be adaptable.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
—Romans 14:19 NIV

I am not anyone’s slave. But I have become a slave to everyone, so that I can win as many people as possible. When I am with the Jews, I live like a Jew to win Jews. And when I am with people who are not ruled by the Law, I forget about the Law to win them. I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can.
—1 Corinthians 9:19–22 CEV

 
Always forgive.

Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
—Matthew 18:21–22 NLT

 
Be supportive.

Share each other’s burdens.
—Galatians 6:2 NLT

I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
—Philippians 2:17 NIV

We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.
—Colossians 1:9 CEV

 
 

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