MOTHER DAY by liaoqinmei


									                   Naomi – A Portrait of Enduring Faith
                           Mother’s Day, 2009
                       Gages Lake Bible Church
                         Pastor Daniel Darling


I’m honored to speak and to preach on this great holiday, Mother’s Day. I think
it’s wonderful that America still has the decency to set aside a national holiday to
honor its mothers. As a father of two children, I’m more keenly aware of the
impact, the hard work, the sacrifice, and the powerful influence of a mother. I
happen to think I’m married to the best mother in the world.

I also happen to think that God richly blessed me with a mother who cared for
me, loved me, led me to faith in Jesus Christ, and raised each of us with
distinction and care.

A Little History of the Holiday
In the United States, Mother’s Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward
Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic) as a day
dedicated to peace. Howe organized Mother’s Day meetings in Boston every year.
In 1907, Philadelphia’s Anna Jarvis campaigned to establish a national Mother’s
Day. Jarvis persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate
Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second
Sunday of May. By the next year, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in
Jarvis and her supporters wrote to ministers, businessmen and politicians in
their quest to establish a national Mother’s Day. It was successful, and by 1911,
Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. In 1914, President Woodrow
Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national
holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May.

Ideals and then Reality
As we set aside this day to honor mothers, a lot of preachers wrestle with the best
text to preach. Because while mother’s day can be a wonderful holiday,
it can also be bittersweet. Some of you have not had the blessing of
being mothers. Others of you have lost mothers recently and you’re
still feeling that pain. And still there are some here who have had
complicated relationships with their mothers.

Perhaps the most popular text on what it means to be a good mother and
generally, what it means to be a woman for God, is Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31
has long been used as a pattern for woman seeking to please the Lord.
In fact, bestselling books have been written on this passage of
Scripture. Entire ministries have been founded promoting its ideals.
And many Christian women have used this as inspiration. But quite
often Proverbs 31 can be discouraging for woman, because unless
you’re a perfect women, you fall short.

In her book, Amusing Grace, Rhonda Rhea writes, “Oh let’s get real. The only
place we’ll find Super Mom is in the comics-unless, of course, we’re talking about
that incredible Proverbs 31 super hero, Virtue Woman. That virtuous woman has
long been a wonderful inspiration, a super motivation, and a great frustration for
those of us who feel we can’t measure up. While the Lord has used her to send me
in the right direction more than once, I have to confess to never having actually
arrived at the destination. The destination, as you might guess, has been to
become Mrs. Proverbs Perfect-Martha Stewart, Mother Teresa, June Cleaver, and
Wonder Woman all rolled into one strong, industrious, benevolent lump of

If you see an “S” on my shirt, it’s most likely a stain and probably means I’m
having another bad laundry day. But if I were labeled a heroine, the “S” would
have to stand for something more like “Survival Woman”! The basic goal for
Survival Woman is to keep my five children in relatively clean underwear (in case
they’re in an accident), make sure they don’t run with any sharp objects, and raise
those children without misplacing any of them.

What the Lord has for your ministry may not be exactly the same as the Proverbs
31 Woman (you can now breathe a great sigh of relief). You don’t have to do
everything she does to be successful (another sigh). True virtue is becoming a
woman who loves, serves, and honors the Lord.

If you honor your God and love your children, then you are Super Mom. And
Super Mom still keeps her finger in Proverbs 31. Save the superhero syndrome
for the comics.”

Now you mothers out there can breathe a sigh of relief!

From Super Mom to Real Mom
One of the things I love about the Scriptures is that God not only put in there
passages like Proverbs 31, which stand as a goal, an ideal, but the Holy Spirit
also saw fit to include in the pages of our Bible the stories of real-life
characters. Sinners like you and me who had hearts for God but who
often failed and were human, weak, and sinful.

In fact, some scholars have said that 70% of the Bible is story,

It is one of these narratives I want to discuss today. The story of an
often overlooked woman named Naomi.
Naomi played a major role in the unfolding story of the Scriptures: God’s plan of
redemption that began with Adam, went thru Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the
Hebrew people, thru David’s family, and on into the lives of Mary and the person
of Jesus Christ.

Naomi’s story is often overlooked. She’s seen as a mere footnote to this beautiful
loves story in the Old Testament between Ruth and Boaz. And when people do
sit up and take notice of her, many have criticized her as a woman of
small faith and a bitter disposition. But I think Naomi has been
unfairly targeted.

In fact, if you look at her life closely—as we intend to do—I think you’ll
see a pattern of enduring faith in God. You might even call her the Job
of the Old Testament.

The Scriptures are full of stories of inspiring women. The reason I
chose Naomi was because I think in her story you find the stories of
many woman we know.

She represents a mother who has lost children.
She represents a mother who has lived in poverty and struggled to
raise her children.
She represents and
She represents mothers-in-law.
She represents widows.

Naomi’s life represents the gritty endurance required by woman who follow after
God. Her story is proof that God is a God of grace, that mankind is a fallen
creature, and that there is a reward to hanging on in faith when our
circumstances are bleak.

I’d like to invite you to turn in your Bible’s to the book of Ruth.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth. If you get to 1 Samuel, you’ve gone too far.

I’ve basically divided Naomi’s life into four sections, which you see
there on your study sheet. We’ll consider each one and what they say
to women today in the 21st century.

   1) A Happy Mother

The beautiful love story in the book of Ruth is set in a time of absolute turmoil in
the nation of Israel. It’s the period of the Judges. In fact, if you read the last story
in the book of Judges, it is tragic story of immorality, violence, and greed. Four
separate times in the book of Judges it characterized the character of the people
this way, “They did that which was right in their own eyes.”
Let’s read the first of Ruth, chapter 1 and get a sense of this family.

1 Now  it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine
in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country
of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was
Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon
and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of
Moab, and continued there. Ruth 1:1-2 (KJV)

So here we have a family. From all appearances this is a god-fearing family. The
name of the husband is Elimelech, which in the Hebrew means, “God is King.” In
the midst of Israel’s idolatry and immorality, there was a family who feared God.
What a great testimony. It reminds me of Noah’s family. If you read
the book of Genesis, it describes the world in Noah’s day. Same as in
Elimelech’s day. Noah and his family feared God and so did
Elimelech. Even though everyone else in Israel bowed their knee to
false gods, this family said, “God is King.” Two spare thoughts before
we continue:

       Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more
        abound.” When you look around, you see the increasingly sexualization
        of our culture. You see the shifting in attitudes and conscience about God.
        You see the church losing its influence. But don’t despair. Because
        God always has a remnant. He always has a people. And God
        always is in charge.
       Be that person. Don’t give in to the culture, be the person that is
        different, righteous, marked. Other families may abandon God, but
        can your family say, “God is King?” I hope so.

But we see here that something happened. There was a famine in the land of
Israel. It is likely that this famine was a direct result of God’s judgment on Israel.
This was one way God got people’s attention. Years later, God would use a famine
to judge Israel, in the days of Elijah.

Now it’s hard to wrap our minds around what a famine is, because we
here in America are blessed. Very few, there are some who go hungry,
but few experience such poverty that there is no food available
anywhere. In those days, there were no social safety nets.

The famines that Israel experienced were often severe, some lasting for years
(Gen. 12:10; 41:27; Jer. 14:1-6). During famines, starving people resorted to
eating such things as wild vines, heads of animals, garbage, dung, and even
human flesh (2 Kings 4:39; 6:25,28; Lam. 4:4-10).

So Elimilech took his children from Israel and went 50 miles to Moab. Now a few
thoughts on this move. Most preachers, commentators, authors I’ve studied feel
this was a bad move on the part of Elimilech. He should have trusted God, they
say. Israel was where God called his people and they should have stayed there.

We do know that Moab was not one of God’s favored places, by any means. Moab
fathered by an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. The
descendants of Moab were a wicked people who worshiped false gods, who
conquered Israel for a time. In fact, in Psalms 108:9 it is said that God called
Moab his “washpot.”

A few thoughts about this move:

      Now, I’m not entirely convinced that going to Moab was a sin. Just like I’m
       not entirely sure that Abraham sojourn to Egypt to find food was a sin
      It’s easy in hindsight to say that they should have stayed and trusted God
       to find them food. But if you’re starving and your family is literally
       starving, I do believe that survival is important. As a man, it’s your job to
       provide for your family. These men took it seriously.
      We should trust God, but God also gives us a brain and feet and hands. For
       instance, God promised to protect David and make him king, but was
       David foolish to run when Saul tried to kill him? I don’t think so. Is it
       foolish to lock our doors here at the church? Is it foolish to have a security
       system in your home? Is it a lack of faith to have health insurance and
       other safety nets? No, I believe those things, if readily available, can be the
       means God takes care of us.

All that being said, as we will see, this family’s move to Moab wasn’t a
successful one. Elimilech died and the two sons died. Which brings up
some very practical points about today:

      Your faith in God is tested in a time of a famine. I see people get all fired
       up about faithfulness to God, but the first trial that comes, they bolt for
       greener pastures. They begin missing church because of this reason or that
       reason. It’s like they can trust God to a point, but faint in the time of
      The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I once heard a man say,
       “the grass that’s greener on the other side maybe artificial turf.” That’s
          o It’s too easy to bolt a difficult marriage. But a second marriage
              may not be any easier.
          o It’s too easy to quit a job that’s hard or a boss that’s too tough. But
              that next job may not be any better.
          o It’s too easy to quite on a church that doesn’t quite meet all of your
              perceived needs. But that new church may not be any better.

But I want to get back to the main character of our message today. Here is
Naomi. And up until now, her life is idyllic. She has a wonderful, God-
fearing husband. She gave birth to two boys. Everything a woman
could want. Her name meant, “pleasant or cheerful.” And right now,
you can see why she was pleasant and cheerful. But life was about to
get much, much tougher.

A Heavy-Hearted Widow
Let’s continue on in this story.

3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And
they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah,
and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. Ruth

Naomi already had moved her family to a new country and a new culture. Don’t’
discount how hard this was. They had to assimilate and live out their faith in an
entirely foreign land.

Now, her husband dies. Now we don’t know when her husband died. Was it right
after they moved? Was it a few years later? It seems that her husband died and
then her sons grew older.

So stop and think about how hard Naomi’s life was until this point. She’s a
foreign lady with two young children. How does she raise money? How does she
feed her children? There were not a lot of options for women to work in those
days. There wasn’t a social safety net for widows.

And yet Naomi raised her children in the Lord, in a culture and an
environment that was against her. She likely lived in poverty.

This tells me that God has his hand on single mothers. We know the ideal
family situation is a mom and a dad at home, but we don’t live in an
ideal world, we live in a fallen world. And so you single mothers, you
have it hard, but God can work thru you to raise your children in the
Lord. God is with you and watching over you. I salute you.

Then her sons grow up and they marry Moabite woman. Now it wasn’t expressly
forbidden in the Levitical law to marry Moabites, but a woman who wasn’t Jewish
would not be allowed in the camp of Israel for ten years. It certainly wasn’t
encouraged by God.

Somehow Naomi managed to raise two sons who grew up and got
married. But life would just continue to get harder for Naomi.

A Hopeless Woman
Let’s continue our story. It’s a single line, a single verse in your Bible that you
easily pass over to get to the good stuff of this romantic story of Ruth. But to
Naomi it was devastating.

And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her
two sons and her husband.
Ruth 1:5 (KJV)

You have to know something here about Naomi’s situation. The culture back then
was such that women had rights and privileges and opportunity only thru the
men in their lives. Wives were identified by their husbands. And if the husband
died, it was their sons who would take care of them.

A woman longed to have a son, because a son would ensure that the mother was
taken care of the rest of her life. But Naomi lost both of her sons. Do you
realize what this meant to her?

      She had no way to make a living or support herself. There was no social
       security or life insurance.

      She was past childbearing age, so there was no hope of future sons.

      Often widows had to take to the streets, to sell themselves, just to survive.

Naomi was left with nothing. I can’t imagine for a minute the pain of losing your
children. There is an old saying that you’re children are supposed to bury you and
not the other way around.

I had the privilege of attending the Lake County Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
The speaker was former Illinois Attorney General, Jim Ryan. I was touched by
this man’s courage and faith. He and his wife lost two of their children. One was
due to a brain tumor. The other suicide. He spoke movingly of the pain and the
numbness he felt when he heard those words. He said, “when the hospital
chaplain came in, I saw his word’s move, but I almost didn’t believe it. It was

Some of you have experienced that pain. You’ve lost children. I want to say to
you today, that God’s Word speaks to your situation. God knows the
pain and He feels is as acutely as you do. He lost his son.

I want you to see in Naomi the key to enduring faith in those hard
times. In spite of all that happened to her, we see that she never lost
faith in God. I’m sure it was weak at times. I’m sure it was tested at
times, but she kept her eyes on God.

4) A Heartfelt Surrogate
So here is Naomi. She left Israel with a full life and she is about to go back empty.
But life isn’t over for her yet. It’s just beginning a new season of faith and hope
and ministry.

I want to show you five keys to Naomi’s enduring faith:

   1) She kept her eyes on the Lord.

6 Then  she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the
country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD
had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 Wherefore she went forth out of the
place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the
way to return unto the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in
law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye
have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 The LORD grant you that ye may find
rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they
lifted up their voice, and wept. Ruth 1:6-9 (KJV)

Did you notice that she kept saying, “The Lord, The Lord.” Even though
she lived in a land of false worship, she didn’t’ succumb to the pressure to give up
her faith. I’m sure friends told her to abandon Jehovah, but she never did. Her
words and her speech, in the midst of her grief, spoke of an gritty reliance on

She returned to Israel. Why? Because she heard that God was blessing his people
again. She wanted to return to the place God intended His people to be.
The place of blessing.

I want to say this to you. The best place for you to be when your suffering from
loss or a trial is where God’s presence is. And that place is the church, the body of
Christ. Many are tempted to run from the church when it gets hard. But we need
to run to the church.

   2) She considered others before herself. See, Naomi knew that her
      daughters-in-law needed to stay in Moab. Why? Because they could still
      marry and be taken care of. But if they left and went to Jerusalem, they’d
      be outcasts. They were Moabite woman. No man would marry them. This
      was selfless advice. Often in a time of trial, we use it as an excuse to be
      selfish. You’ll hear people say, “Hey, you deserve to be selfish now, you’ve
      been selfless too long.”
   3) She had a real faith that was visible to others.

   14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother
   in law; but Ruth clave unto her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is
   gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in
   16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following
   after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will
   lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou
   diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more
   also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was
   steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. Ruth 1:14-
   18 (KJV)

   Now Ruth made a courageous decision here. She decided to go with Naomi to
   a land where she might very well be considered an outcast. But we often
   miss a big, important point here.

   Why is it that Ruth wanted to go with Naomi? She said, “Your God is
   my God.” Apparently, Ruth saw in her mother-in-law a glimpse of God. Let’s
   remember that Ruth was a Moabite woman who worshiped the false god.

   But Naomi’s faith was apparently so strong that it caused Ruth to come to
   faith in the one true Jehovah God. It was a faith expressed in the midst of a
   great trial. A faith that endured the worst life has to offer. And she came out
   with her faith intact. It was so strong it had a powerful impact on her

   I want to say this. The faith of a godly woman has a tremendous impact on the
   world around her. I think of my mother-in-law’s faith. She is a woman
   very similar to Naomi. She’s endured some of life’s worst
   challenges. And yet I see in her a gritty, determined faith. Is she
   perfect? No. Was Naomi perfect? No. Could you find flaws in her
   life? Sure. But on the whole, she trusted and loved the Almighty.

   4) She had a rock-solid trust in the sovereignty of God.

Let’s look a little closer at Naomi’s faith.

      In verse 6, she automatically credits God with bringing Israel out of the
       famine. She didn’t say, “Yeah, the crops are really good this year” or “Wow,
       they found a great way to produce in Israel.” No, God did it.
           o You can look at your life and give everyone else credit:
                   The stock market was up that year.
                   Business was good.
                   We worked hard.
                   Or – God did it.
      In verse 9, she tells the two daughters-in-law that it will the Lord who will
       determine their fate in Moab. Do you tell your children this,
       mothers? Or do you say, “Make your own way” or “Get a good
       education?” You should say, “I pray the Lord deals kindly with
      Her own personally story is anchored in God’s sovereignty. Let’s read:
   19 Sothey two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass,
    when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about
    them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not
    Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I
    went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why
    then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the
    Almighty hath afflicted me? Ruth 1:19-21(KJV)
       o Most people read this and say, “Wow, what a bitter old lady.” But
           that isn’t entirely fair and true. Let me explain:
                Notice she says, “Call Me “mara””. Which means bitter. But
                   what she is saying is this. I’ve had a really hard, tough, life.
                   But this is God’s doing. The Almighty has dealt with me. In
                   other words, I don’t’ understand it. But God is
                   sovereign and I trust him. God gives and God takes
       o You see, this is real-life faith. People think the Christian
           life and faith is an endless series of smiles and cartwheels.
           People think that if you’re not wearing a goofy, Ronald
           McDonald smile in the midst of tragedy, then somehow
           you’re not godly.
       o No real joy, godly joy, is the deep-down sense that God is
           in control, He is allowing these things to happen and he’s
           in charge of my life. That is faith. It’s barely hanging on.
       o You will have some bitter moments. Life won’t always be
           “Naomi” - pleasant. Much of it may be “Mara” or bitter.
           But if you keep your eyes and heart on God, you’ll get thru

    5) Lastly, Naomi poured her life into others. Naomi was a widow, a
       childless woman, a single woman—all wrapped up in one. Her sorry
       was untold. And yet she didn’t let her status stop her from impacting
       God’s kingdom. The story of Ruth and Boaz is one of the most enduring
       romances in history. You know the story, because it has cosmic
       implications. But this wonderful story, of a Moabite woman, who
       represents us, the sinner being bought and paid for by Boaz, who
       represents Christ—this story wouldn’t have happened were not for a
       faithful woman named Naomi. We know the story, so I won’t
       repeat it here. But a few thoughts:
       a. She used her life as an example of faith. Ruth became a
           woman after God simply by watching the life of her
               i. Woman, single, widowed, divorced, you can do
                  this. You may not have children, but you can be an
                  example and witness to many children and many
                  young women.
           b. She used her tragedy to motivate her to better the life of
              others. She was left without a husband as was Ruth, so she
              was determined to make sure Ruth had a husband.
                  i. You may not have children, but you can help those young
                     women who do and give them advice, help them, and be
                     their support.
           c. She used her influence to help build the Kingdom. Because
              of Naomi’s faithfulness, Ruth married Boaz and thus was grafted
              into the line of Jesus Christ. She was the most unlikely member of
              God’s royal family. It is a demonstration of God’s grace.
                  i. Women, I want to challenge you. Whether you’re a
                     Naomi or not, you can have a powerful influence
                     that can bring others into the Kingdom of God.
                 ii. I think of our Awana workers. I think of their
                     tireless effort. I believe their will be hundreds of
                     young kids in Heaven because of their love for God.

I’d like to share a few thoughts about Moms before we begin our message today. I
get a lot of emails throughout the week and this was one I thought was
appropriate for today:

You Know You're a Mom When ...

1. Your feet stick to the kitchen floor .... and you don't care.

2. When the kids are fighting, you threaten to lock them in a room together and
not let them out until someone's bleeding.

3. You can't find your cordless phone, so you ask a friend to call you, and you run
around the house madly, following the sound until you locate the phone
downstairs in the laundry basket.

4. You spend an entire week wearing sweats.

5. Your idea of a good day is making it through without a child leaking bodily
fluids on you.

6. Popsicles become a food staple.

7. Your favorite television show is a cartoon.

8. Peanut butter and jelly is eaten at least in one meal a day.
9. You're willing to kiss your child's boo-boo, regardless of where it is.

10. Your baby's pacifier falls on the floor and you give it back to her, after you
suck the dirt off of it because you're too busy to wash it off.

11. Your kids make jokes about flatulence, burping, pooping, etc. and you think
it’s funny.

12. You're so desperate for adult conversation that you spill your guts to the
telemarketer that calls and HE hangs up on YOU!

13. Spit is your number one cleaning agent.

14. You're up each night until 10 PM vacuuming, dusting, wiping, washing,
drying, loading, unloading, shopping, cooking, driving, flushing, ironing,
sweeping, picking up, changing sheets, changing diapers, bathing, helping with
homework, paying bills, budgeting, clipping coupons, folding clothes, putting to
bed, dragging out of bed, brushing, chasing, buckling, feeding (them, not you),
PLUS swinging, playing baseball, bike riding, pushing trucks, cuddling dolls,
roller balding, basketball, football, catch, bubbles, sprinklers, slides, nature
walks, coloring, crafts, jumping rope, PLUS raking, trimming, planting, edging,
mowing, gardening, painting, and walking the dog. You get up at 5:30 AM and
you have no time to eat, sleep, drink or go to the bathroom, and still
managed to gain 10 pounds.

15. In your bathroom there is toothpaste on the light fixtures, water all over the
floor, a dog drinking out of the toilet and body hair forming a union to protest
unsafe working conditions.

16. You buy cereal with marshmallows in it.

17. The closest you get to gourmet cooking is making rice crispies bars.

The ORIGIN OF MOTHER'S DAY gives a brief historical overview of what has
been our nationally recognized day for nearly a century. I think it is q good thing
to corporately recognize mothers, especially in these days of severe feminism and
anti-traditional family by a vocal minority. In my opinion, mothers may not be
unappreciated as much as under appreciated. The cliché, “more is caught than
taught” is certainly true of mothers. They communicate by how they live,

—Amusing Grace, Rhonda Rhea. Pages 49-51


One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house.
His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with
empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his
wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house.

Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been
knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall.

In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family
room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes
filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on
the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread
by the back door.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes,
looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had
happened. He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled in the bed in her
pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day
went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?"

She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from
work and ask me what in the world did I do today?"


She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it."

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