She Has My Delight

It all started with one shimmering pair of pink cowgirl boots.

My then two-year-old princess, clothed in her leotard, would tug them on with a grin, then twirl with delight. And melt this daddy-heart of mine.

A tradition began, inspired by a row of cowgirl boots I’d seen in the home of a mentor years before. Each Valentine’s Day, my Abigail and I now head out on a date for her to select a new pair of cowgirl boots for the year. This last trip, I shared with her my request that when the day comes for her to leave our nest, she is welcome to take with her all the pairs that still fit. But the ones she has outgrown—those she’ll leave for me so that I might savor the years long passed, treasuring our memories of daddy and daughter in my heart. To relish with both ache and longing the reminder C.S. Lewis offers to us parents:

“Children are not a distraction from work. They are the most important work.”

Today there are already more outgrown cowgirl boots on the shelf than my heart can readily bear.

As a wise elder once said,

The days are long, but the years are short.

Never has a truer word been spoken.

It’s been said we only become the fathers we long to be by fathering. In the wise words of Dan Allender, it’s children, after all, who raise parents.

I’m not yet the father I long to be. But I am the father she has today. And I choose to be here.

On this day, I still have her. She is nearly 10, and radiant. Brimming with life, beauty, wonder, questions, and emerging shoots of wisdom set to burst forth.

Several months ago, Abigail confided in Cherie that she wanted a “promise ring.” We are still not sure whence the inspiration came to her. Though I too had a ring in mind, my original intention was for this day to wait a few years. But I have learned too slowly,

“Many are the plans in the heart of a man. But is is the purposes of God that prevail.” Proverbs 19:21

To be a student of her heart is one of the great invitations and sacred trusts of my life, and the life of every dad.

Her heart is now asking deeper questions, wondering deeper things about the heart of her dad and the heart of her Father in Heaven. So this day has come upon me. And I choose again to roll the dice of parenting and venture along the frontier of mystery and risk. Perhaps, in the words of Roosevelt, I may fail as I often do—but at least I will fail by daring greatly.

Father, come.

What is the promise this ring is intended by Heaven to signify? I have heard of girls who are given a “purity ring” when they come of age. A ring that seems to carry a sense of their pledge to keep themselves sexually pure until they are married.

But that is not the ring I have in mind for Abigail.

The ring that I want to bestow upon her is not an effort to make her promise something to me. Rather, I want to give her a ring that would communicate my promise to her. What am I promising? After prayer and inquiring of my wife’s wisdom born of the decades, I sensed this was my promise:

I choose to never, ever revoke my delight in her.

No matter what. I will not conditionally wield my delight in an effort to conform her choices to my will. No, I offer her my delight and extend to her a sacred place in my heart without condition. I promise that my favor and delight will always be hers.

The day came for me to present this ring to her. And as I looked into her not-yet-10-year-old eyes, I glimpsed a flash of future moments reflecting back to me. I felt warm tears on my face. Then, with the rush of whitewater rapids, the scenes cascaded through my imagination:

The first was her driving away in a car with a young man I barely knew, heading off to a school dance.

The next was an aisle at a wedding. Her wedding…and an aisle the end of which I never wanted to come.

Then I saw her at my bedside. I was an old man. She was radiant, the splendor of her maturity altogether lovely, offering me care beyond words.

I was nearly overwhelmed by the emotion of these unexpected glimpses around the bend of time. I did everything to come back to the present moment. Storing these up as treasures in my heart, I endeavored to simply offer the portion that was for this moment on this day.

Abigail, this ring is the symbol of my promise and devotion.

You are the delight of my heart,

and I promise that I will never withdraw my delight from you.

Nothing you do or don’t do,

nothing you say or don’t say

will ever justify me withdrawing my delight from you

or closing my heart to you.

With this ring, I give you the promise of my delight.

You are the delight of your father’s heart.

And with this ring, I give you permission and invitation.

I invite you to tell me if you ever experience me withdrawing my delight.

I promise to listen to you and to respond.

It is my hope that God will one day provide a husband for you who will nourish and cultivate your feminine heart in all its depth and wonder.

Yet today this is my promise:

With my sword and my strength,

I am with you to the very end.

I will always protect and always provide.

You are safe.

You are loved.

You are known.

And you will never be alone.

You are the delight of your daddy’s heart.

Though my flesh and my heart at times will fail,

Our Father will always be the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.

May this ring be to you a symbol of my enduring delight and the place you have in my heart that is yours and yours alone.

And with it, I pledge to always point you to our Father, who is the Father of us all.

May you experience Him chasing after you.

He has you, Abigail.

Your soul will always be safe in Him.

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Hours later, I came into the house from a project in the garage to find her at her art table, creating another piece of beauty. I caught a sparkle from her ring in the afternoon light. Its shimmer compelled me upstairs to her childhood room to look at her collection of outgrown boots yet again.

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I felt the paradox of grief of years lost and the hope of what time I do have. I consecrated my life to God again, quietly and simply, as a daddy. And I asked Him to lead me, as if He were me, living my life. Asked His life to flow into me and through me to my daughter’s heart.

On this day and in this decade, I ask you, Father, would you guide me in bringing Your heart as Father to the heart of my little girl?

Father, I confess how often I blow it as a dad.  Father, I ask that where I lack maturity I might excel in affection and pursuit of her heart. I am deeply in need of growing as a student of her heart. Cultivate in me an increasing capacity to see her as You see her, to delight in her. Father, apprentice me to become the kind of father who is no longer capable of withdrawing my delight.

So that she might receive time and time again the miracle of validation—the gift of being known and received for who she truly is.

So that through me she might know You as Father, and in every circumstance, find rest and restoration for her vast and ever-expanding feminine soul.

Through my pursuit and my delight, by day and by decade, may her heart grow to know,

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring to a flourishing finish on the very day God appears again in his fullness…” (Philippians 1:6 MSG)

Abigail, may you and every daughter be able to say, from the depths of your being, far deeper than words,

I am the daughter of a King.

My Father is with me

And goes before me.

I will not fear.

Because

I am His.

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We are not yet who we will one day become. Yet we are the fathers they have today.

What will you do to communicate, to model your unconditional delight in your daughter?

What will you do to become the kind of father in a decade who offers even deeper delight to your daughter?


Justin – A special thanks to you for making these pictures possible. You capture soul with your camera and work in the unseen spaces in the lives of so many to bring light into darkness and to give voice to the sacred in all things. Thanks for your strength. It’s changing the world…

#029: Plank and Speck Wrap Up (The Marriage Series – Part Three) [Podcast]

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The offer is Life.

Yet that abundant life is often found in the least likely of places.

What is the most effective path toward the much looked-for restoration in the heart of your spouse?

Join Cherie and me in this second half of a conversation in which we reflect on the particular elements of Reality as Jesus reveals what can bring more life to our marriages than we ever thought possible.

Jesus, we choose to pause.

Jesus, we open the gate of our soul and trust that You are reliable and fully capable of providing a way where there is no way.

In this episode we offer some reflection questions for deep consideration. Take the time to stay with God in those questions until you are led into the more He is making available.

With deep anticipation,

Cherie and Morgan

Note: If you haven’t listened to the first portion of this conversation on The Plank and the Speck, you’ll want to start here first.

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#028: Plank and Speck (The Marriage Series – Part Two) [Podcast]

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Jesus and His words… are essentially subversive of the established arrangements and ways of thinking. That is clear from the way they first entered the world, their initial effects, and how they are preserved in the New Testament writings and live on in people. He himself described his words as “spirit and life” (John 6:63). They invade our “real” world with a reality even more real than it is.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Where are Jesus and His words subverting your established arrangements and ways of thinking? How are His words and way invading your “real” world with a reality more real than it is?

A mentor encouraged Cherie and me to immerse ourselves in the four Gospels, taking our places as Jesus’ apprentices, attentive to what He said and taught. We are discovering much treasure, including Jesus’ teaching on what is wonderfully Well in the Reality of the Trinity; and we are discovering much challenge, including sobering insight into what is still unwell within and between us, where is it not “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Yet even in the revelation of what is unwell, Jesus’ words insist on the Good News that the Kingdom is open to us right here and now, even in these places.

Particularly, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7 on “the plank and the speck” has revealed something unwell in our marriage and illuminated a way back into the joyous Kingdom-Among-Us.

Join Cherie and me in this second episode of conversations reflecting on the particular elements of Reality as Jesus reveals that are becoming the new and reliable foundation for the house of our marriage.

Jesus, we give You permission to subvert us. Open our eyes, subversive Christ.

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#027: Venturing Toward the More (The Marriage Series – Part One) [Podcast]

 

If we are relational to our core, fashioned in the image of the One who is Three, then it is in dynamic relationship that we participate in the unending Life of God. And among human relationships, there is none more brimming with the loving potential to both expose our “not yet” and to beckon us forward than marriage.  

In The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason writes,

The book of Proverbs as a whole takes a view of marriage that remains proverbial to this day: there is nothing in the world worse than a bad marriage, and at the same time, nothing better than a good one.

Man, if we haven’t tasted that truth, for better and for worse.

As we reflect on our marriage and on the stories others have shared with us, we hear Love’s offer that pain need not be the final word. Rather, we are finding that the pain in our marriage is becoming a spiritual trailhead of sorts, inaugurating a journey to increasing expanses of goodness and life.

“You are a rare couple. You are choosing not to just phone in some prescription and call it good enough.”  

These were the words that marriage counselor spoke into the lives of good friends of ours last week. When my buddy shared them with me yesterday, they became a mirror, causing me to inquire in my own soul—could the same words be spoken of my marriage? I was reminded of how much easier it is—at least in the short term—to settle, find some medication for the pain we experience in our marriage, and simply call it good enough. It is far riskier to let the pain be a teacher, guiding us to risk both the belief and the action toward choosing the more.

Our friends’ choice for more surfaces a question: Am I willing to forsake the shallow waters of good enough and set out into deeper waters where it is all frontier?

Seventeen years ago, having very little acquaintance with what it really meant, Cherie and I included the following poem by Sir Frances Drake on the final page of our wedding program.  

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, 

when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, 

when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 


Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; 

when having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity;

and when in our efforts to build a new earth, 

we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. 


Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, 
where storms will show your mastery, 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. 
We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, 
and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. 

Now, with a bit more experience, more pockets of pain, and yet a growing vision of the Goodness of Trinitarian Reality, we take hold of these words afresh, drawn forward by the promise that we do not go alone. There is one who offers His kind, competent—though unnerving—leadership if we are willing to follow.

Our need is great: there is much that is hindering love. We are in need of deeper submersion into the Life of the Trinity; we are in need of the continual exposure of our imposing blind spots; we are in need of deliverance from our vast entanglements with the narrow self-life and all the harm it brings to us and to our marriage.

Yet our hope is greater still: we want it all, the full portion of what is available between a man and a woman in marriage.

We want to uncover and experience all the treasure hidden in this mysterious union as two become one: all of the transformation, joy, co-creativity, ecstasy, play, intimacy, shared mission, and unending giving and receiving of love, honor, cherishing, and delight that is available.

In the spirit of a shared expedition, with joy and a healthy dose of trepidation, Cherie and I offer this series of Become Good Soil podcasts as we venture out toward the more in our marriage.

Together may we seek, ask, and knock unceasingly in order that as it is in the Trinity who is Love, it might be in us and between us and through us.   

God, you have our yes.

And, friends, we invite you to set sail into deeper waters with us as we all risk believing there is more.

With all our hearts and hope,

Morgan and Cherie


Looking to go deeper into the mystery and possibility of the full portion in marriage? Consider these onramps to the Narrow Road.

Intimate Allies by Dan Allender

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Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge

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Love and War Video Series

Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason

 

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A Celebration of Boyhood

It wasn’t at all what I expected.

A long driveway meandered up a gentle rise under an extensive canopy of Colorado ponderosa pines. On my left, a creek drainage harbored a well-worn treehouse. Early evening light highlighted bikes, skateboards, paintball guns, and other boyhood accessories, all of which testified to a world of adventure and play.

I was a young man, fresh out of college and brimming with questions that were only assuaged by the lives and stories of older men. I tried intently to put words to my questions and to risk the vulnerability of seeking proximity to older men to whom I could bring my curiosity.

Now 20 years later, I recognize the bedrock of my desire for proximity to elders was the longing to be initiated by a Father into the world of men.  

The longing for masculine initiation is common and unquenchable in men, not by accident or cultural imposition: it is our common desire because it is for this we were made.

The elder I sought out that long-ago evening was named Mark. He was the father of five young boys and an executive for the same company where I was low man on the totem pole. Every time I ran into him, he stood out from the crowd, generating a larger-than-life atmosphere around him.  

He had something. Better said, he had become something, someone. Someone whose masculinity inspired me and to whom my soul desired to be near.

It has taken me years to articulate what drew me to Mark. Now I have words for it: Mark was a man who had been effectively initiated into the world of men. He was a man who had faced the specter of death and passed through into a Life greater than his own. From that place of initiation, Mark was connected with the life of God in a measure that was unhinged from circumstances and unable to be destroyed by the things of this world.

When Mark invited me to his home, I had no idea where he actually lived. His directions had me leaving the city behind and traveling into a little pocket of nearby wild. Finally arriving at his driveway, my first thought was of the length of Mark’s commute; my second, of the length of his driveway and how much shoveling it would take to dig out after a winter storm.

Mark’s joyful greeting interrupted my shortsighted inner calculating.

After a brief exchange, I had to ask.

“Mark, what caused you to move way out here?”

He paused, considering my question with soulful sincerity before slowly responding.

“By moving here, I bought my five sons two more years of childhood.”

The substance of his response steadied my young heart. He was articulating a portion of Reality in God’s Kingdom that the world around me had all but forgotten: boyhood in all its wonder is an invaluable stage of masculinity that is worth fighting for. And it is a stage that every boy must experience and every man must recover if he is ever going to take the full journey into manhood.

So it began.

Again. Yet another category of divine disruption as Father continued the apprenticeship of my masculine soul.

In over two decades of proximity to men, I have observed a handful of themes that run through the stories of most men I encounter. No theme is more consistent—and few are more tragic—than the premature end of the stage of boyhood. For so many men, boyhood was cut painfully short as they grew up too fast and too soon.

This premature end of boyhood often happens as the result of one of two forces. The first is the agony of the unanswered question of his masculine soul, “Do I have what it takes?” For many boys, the quest to answer this essential question compels them to forsake boyhood and seek early entrance into world of men in hopes of finding an answer there.

The intolerable agony of an unanswered question is what drove my good friend Bart to lie about his age in order to be hired for a demolition job on a construction site at the age of 14. The ruthless foreman did everything he could to drive the little boy off the site. During one of Bart’s first weeks on the job, he took a fall from the top of a 10-foot ladder while removing ceiling insulation. Bart ended up in the emergency room because of a nail that had punctured his boot when he hit the ground, driving its way up through his foot until it protruded menacingly from the top. Bent on proving himself as a man, Bart was back on the job site later that afternoon; nothing would stop him from proving to his boss, to the world, and mostly to his dad, that he had what it takes.

For other men, the premature loss of boyhood is imposed upon them by abruptly changing circumstances in their family of origin. This was Greg’s story. When Greg was 12, his dad was caught having sex with the church secretary, a woman barely half his age. At the time, Greg’s dad was a pastor in their small town, and the rumors of the scandal quickly took their toll. Both their family and their place in the community began to unravel overnight. Within days, Dad fled the house and the town, choosing a new life with this younger woman, leaving Greg’s mom alone with two young daughters and a son. On his way out the door, Greg’s dad said these final words to his young son:

“You’re the man of the house now.”   

Greg is 44 and has spent the past 32 years reaching to recover the boyhood he abruptly lost that afternoon on the front steps of his childhood home.

Whether at the hands of unfathered fathers or through a personal search for validation from an unanswered question, the stories of many men follow a similar narrative:

The reality of Boyhood is cut violently short.

With the loss of boyhood comes the loss of the ancient path, the tried and true road, of masculine initiation that alone provides rest for the masculine soul.

It took me almost a decade to begin to identify with why Mark chose the long commute to work: preserving and relishing in boyhood was one of Mark’s greatest aims as a father. And our Father was inviting me to make it one of mine as well.

I suppose that’s why Joshua’s first formal rite of passage in ManScouts was celebrated with mounds of Chick-fil-A nuggets, limitless cans of regular Coke, and pictures highlighting his boyhood adventures.

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I rolled the dice.

As much as we might learn, there is no detailed roadmap for masculine initiation. Though the themes are similar, each man must walk his own path and lead his son as only he can, given their particular context and narrative. Yet there are ancient signposts and universal themes—and a Father who precedes us in order to illuminate a path to lead the soul of the boy into life as an initiated man.

Cherie dropped Joshua off on a winter night, leaving him to walk into a warm room filled with celebration and masculine love. His smile said it all, as he looked beyond the mounds of Chick-fil-A nuggets to the handful of the men who love me and him and with whom we share life.

I said,

“Son, tonight is for you. It is a celebration of your boyhood. You are welcome here.”

In time we shared a short film of images from his first 10 years of life, classic shots of boyhood adventure and play.

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We then gathered in a circle, one of the most sacred circles of which I’ve ever been a part. My son at the center, seated on the top of a ManScouts treasure chest he would soon learn was part of the gift of the evening for his next decade.

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On this night we participated in a contemporary expression of an ancient rite contiguous with preceding cultures and epochs of human history. Each man spoke words of blessing over Joshua, and together we presented him with gifts, inviting him into communion with a company of men and with a Father who orchestrates it all.

But something even more fundamental than a passage into the company of men was taking place.

Before it was a passage, it was first a celebration of boyhood. The central message we communicated was this:

“Joshua you are a boy, a delightful and radiant boy.  

Tonight we celebrate your boyhood. We welcome it, bless it, and invite you to savor every bit of what the Father has for you as a boy.

And also, we begin tonight with your welcoming into the fellowship of men. I have been entrusted with only a portion of what you need as a man. But look around this room. Each man brings a different expression, a different portion of Father’s heart. Only together can you see the Father and experience His love, and only together, in a fellowship, can you cultivate a knowing of what it means to be a man. And through that discovery, you will come to know the uniqueness of the man God fashioned when He fashioned you.

You are welcome here. As a boy, you are welcome among men.

In time, you will embark on a Vision Quest and enter the trials and challenges of masculine initiation.

But today, we invite you to savor boyhood. And today we celebrate boyhood with you.”


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The gifts we gave were meant as an outward expression of what we carried in our heart.

  • A set of Legos to continue to cultivate play, adventure, and imagination
  • A wooden sword handcrafted by master craftsmen at Bastian Woodworking—both real and also playful—as a symbol of the boyhood warrior who carries a practice sword but will one day brandish steel
  • A ManScouts treasure chest to hold the symbols and story of this decade set before him, adorned with the names of God’s chosen men who will participate in portions of the initiation of his soul

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Lingering. Permission. Delight.

With our bodies, our words, we said what only the Father can say:

You are my beloved son, my favorite son, in whom my soul is well pleased.

We did everything in our power to celebrate boyhood. To savor it. And through our love, to remove pressure on the masculine soul to grow up too fast and too far.

Everything is beautiful in its time, Solomon once said.

That day, the celebration was boyhood. And with both my repentance and my strength, I was able to pledge my fiercest commitment to preserve, protect, and supernaturally partner with the Father to lengthen boyhood, as long as we both shall live.

“Thanks, Dad.  I’ve never felt more loved in my whole life.”

Those were the words of my son as we drove home on that snowy night.

Those were nearly the identical words spoken by Alex’s son and JD’s son as they followed suit in their own time and in their own way, fighting to celebrate boyhood for their ever-maturing sons in the months to come.

The boy needs permission and possibility to be a boy if he is ever to become a wholehearted man.

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Jesus makes the impossible possible.

In the same way we too need permission and possibility to recover what was lost in our own soul as a boy.

The loss of boyhood is one of the great destructive realities that keeps most of us from ever becoming wholehearted and true. And the recovery and restoration of boyhood, for us and for our sons, is one of the great promises of the Kingdom of God. Whether at 12, 22, or 62, we are invited to turn to the Father and ask Him to restore the boy in us and to teach us to celebrate the boy in the hearts of our sons and the men we love.

We are reminded of the scandal of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to Galatians: through the Life of Jesus, we have full access to everything the Father has:

  • If you are a son, you are also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance… (The Message)
  • Because we are His, we can access everything He has…(The Passion Translation)
  • Through this bold redemption, we have received full rights of sonship… (NIV)

And now, one of our central tasks is to practice receiving this reality and to mature into the more that is being made available in this day and in this decade.

It’s been over two years since that joyous celebration of boyhood.

We are now poised on the eve of Joshua’s Vision Quest. From the foundation of boyhood, we can now set our hearts on pilgrimage to the deeper frontier of the masculine soul.

Mark chose to move to the edge of town to recover two more years of boyhood for his sons.

What will you do for the boy entrusted to your care?

What will you do for the boy within your soul?

You are not alone.

And it matters more than we have been led to believe.

Strength and Honor,

Morgan


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#026: I Love Beer More than Jesus [Podcast]

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By day and by decade.

These words have become a mantra for my masculine soul. A sort of North Star as I attempt to orient and re-align my life with the Reality of God and His Kingdom.

Allen Arnold and I had an opportunity to share some dialogue and prayer regarding how we’re choosing to orient our souls at the beginning of this new year.

In the podcast, we reference A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, which I’d recommend strongly as a read to launch this next year.

I also reference Gerald May’s Addiction and Grace.Also, as part of the podcast I reference a blog from a January past titled I Love Beer More Than Jesus.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer offers these words:
In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of [God’s people] there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct ‘interpretations’ of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

Friends, be encouraged. You are woven into a redemptive community. A fellowship that spans the globe of like-hearted men who will not be satisfied with less than the full portion of what is available under Heaven.

As you set your face like a flint toward another year of choosing to become good soil, know you are not alone. Nothing is wasted.

Let’s keep going.

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