Helping, Serving, Praying On the Track! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I love going to the gym at the YMCA. I really do. In this post, I saw how a chance encounter can be so touching and meaningful. For me, as well as for my friend.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, May 9, 2014

prayer is powerful

Helping, Serving, Praying On the Track! (#BestOf)

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my . . . oh, wait. No, that wasn’t me.

Well, I did wake up. I did get out of bed. And, I did bustle over to the YMCA for a quick work out. A couple of tiny twinges of arthritis this morning, but that’s okay. After all, I’m not a spring chicken any more. I managed to cross the threshold of the lobby in good time, ready and raring to go.

With so much else going on in my life, I haven’t been focusing as much on my gym time at the Y. However, I have been continuing to go to the gym! I want to keep consistent.

I am afraid I missed a whole week, several weeks back, what with the bathroom facelift and the carpeting change-over in our condominium. Oh, and the middle of a busy Lenten schedule, and with several other personal things going on. However, I am now back on track. And among other things, like my weekly yoga class, I have returned to the running track at the Y.

I just love the track! Something about being up there, working hard, concentrating on my pace (first, power-walk, then alternating with jogging). I often meet people I know on my way to, or coming down from the track. Or—in the case of today, when I arrived I happened to meet a good friend up there, power-walking already. It was great to see my friend. After I stretched, the two of us power-walked around the track. And talked! We sure do like to talk. Both of us do. (*grin*)

My friend asked me what was new since we hadn’t seen each other for a number of weeks. After giving a brief description of my new job, my friend suddenly said “Ow!” and stopped as the two of us were just rounding the far turn on the track. “What’s the matter?” I asked. I was concerned, and immediately felt for my friend. Then the story came out. A continuing medical concern, for several years. A new flare-up, and a trip to the doctor was indicated. I heard some concern and anxiety, too.

When my friend mentioned that this was the last lap around the track, I immediately asked whether I could pray—either right now, or later. “Now would be great!” said my friend, with a big smile. So we prayed, right there by the edge of the track, near the door.

I prayed for comfort, encouragement, for pain to go away, for the medical staff looking at what was the matter, for my friend to discover any good exercises to do in the meanwhile, and finally—for a good outcome, short term and long term, too. Talk about encouragement! We hugged afterwards.

Thanks, God, for the opportunities You give me for prayer. And thanks for my dear friend, too!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, March 12, 2015

For years, I have led prayer, coordinated prayer, and taught prayer. In several churches, and a number of settings, classes, and groups. This post shows me, yet again, that it is all meaningful. Just coming alongside of a hurting person, letting them know that I am there, I care, and will remember them in prayer? Makes it all worthwhile.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, March 11, 2014

prayer stone and bible

Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate!

I certainly have done quite a number of things in the past three decades. In the church, I mean. Anywhere from teaching Sunday school to driving the church bus. Leading junior church, or substituting as organist, to being a Stephen minister. Or sitting on the missionary committee, to serving as director of Vacation Bible School. And those are just a few of the positions or ministries I did before I started seminary. During and since graduation I moved into a whole different level of service.

God has gifted me with quite a number of gifts and graces. I certainly acknowledge that I have always enjoyed whatever I have done in the church. God has tapped me on the shoulder quite a number of times, too. I’ve risen to the occasion, pretty much wherever or whenever I am (or was) needed. I have come to think of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, since that is what I’ve been. A generalist, not a specialist. (Although I do have a couple of areas of specialty now, true enough. But this post isn’t about them. Maybe a later post will be.)

But let’s get to the point of this post. Enough with the background, you’re thinking.

I am a great partner in ministry! I’ve been doing service for a long enough time to realize that I work well in cooperation or in partnership with other people. Take the prayer ministry I am coordinating at the church where I’m a member. Sure, I coordinate the emails, and keep track of the prayer requests and praises. I readily admit that without the faithful praying people who receive the prayer emails and pray through them each week, the prayer ministry would fizzle and dry up.

I know that God is honored through the prayer ministry. I have also had people come up to me (out of the blue!) and bring me requests. Sometimes urgent requests, as well. I know I’ve mentioned them in at least one recent post, too. Of course my chaplain skills come to the fore, at a time like this. Also my Stephen training. And I can think of the material I studied in several seminary classes which is quite applicable, too.

Yes, it is a joy as well as a responsibility to need to step up to the plate, especially when I don’t even know it’s coming. When something sneaks up out of left field and hits a person, in other words. I am so glad I am there to help them get through the difficult time, or the surgery and rehab, or the expected-but-still-terribly-sad death, or whatever else might be some burden the other person is carrying. This evening, I had the privilege to pray for a frightened person after a confirmation of a disease from the doctor. This dear person is afraid and anxious. So, of course I will add this name to the prayer email!

Dear God, thank You for the grace and mercy with which You hear all of our earnest prayers. We especially pray for this dear one I just found out about tonight. Dear Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation:

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Looking back at this post, this was just one day before I heard about the position I now have. On this particular Sunday, I was attending church, singing in the choir, and talking with someone after the service. Or, was it listening? Regardless, God was in it.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 2, 2014

BK only kindness matteres

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

As I brushed off the car this morning, I groaned. Internally, I mean. Will this snow and wintry weather ever stop? I drove to church down the half-deserted streets. Despite my grumbling about the cold and the snow, I grudgingly had to admit that the glistening white coating of snow did help. It helped the trees and grass to shine as the sun peeped through the clouds. Such a sight helped raise my spirits, too.

True, I did dash into church late. Late for choir practice, due to a minor waffle iron malfunction this morning. My son had a friend sleep over. I made waffles in a hurry before I left, but the first waffle stuck in the (older) waffle iron. I couldn’t very well run off and leave the waffle iron full of half-burnt pieces of waffle, so I did scrape and clean it off. (sigh)

I enjoy singing in choir! I like singing, period. Especially singing in parts. The morning service went well, too. I really worshiped, most of the time. (It’s a challenge to keep my mind on worship at all times, to tell the truth. I suspect most people would acknowledge that. At least, part of the time.) Since this is the first Sunday of the month, our church celebrated Communion. That was good, too.

Benediction said, church service over, congregation dismissed, sanctuary cleared. I went downstairs with the other parishioners to the memorial room (under the sanctuary). But—another worshiper caught me before I entered the large room. “Do you have a minute?” Sure, I nodded. “How do I get a prayer request in the prayer chain?” was the follow-up question.

Instantly, my chaplain antennae started to vibrate. “You came to the right place. I keep track of the requests and email out the weekly prayer list.” All of which are true. But I still had this intense feeling that something was going on with my fellow church member.  The two of us stepped into a little out-of-the-way area, and I asked for more information about the prayer request. It turned out, there were two requests. I wrote down both of the requests on a scrap of paper I had in my pocket. I used active listening. I pitched my voice to be soft and gentle. And—I used my less-anxious presence to help my fellow church member feel more calm and

After I wrote down specifics on the person we were praying for, I continued to listen closely to what the fellow parishioner was saying. I was moved to relate a couple of my views and spiritual insights concerning suffering, pain and death. And afterwards, we both teared up, and almost cried. I felt that my presence was appreciated! Not only by my fellow church member, but by many at worship today. But specifically, the situation regarding the prayer request after service? That’s my act of kindness today.  I am so glad I was at the right place, at the right time. Or—perhaps I was in the place God intended me to be today.  Regardless, I wonder what God will send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation:

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

(the Best of) Be Kind—Reunite Kids and Moms (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 22, 2015

The post that follows is a post that means a lot to me, and a ministry I felt deeply about, for a number of years. Even though I am now in other ministries and have moved on from this loving, giving church, this particular ministry to incarcerated moms and their families continues. Thank God for loving, caring people who willingly give of their money, time and talents to help others.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 24, 2014

BK kindness workboots on

Be Kind—Reunite Kids and Moms (Feature Friday!)

The weather outside is frightful. As I look out the window, I think of blustery weather and dangerously low wind chills. A difficult time of year to travel, here in the Midwest. It’s even more of a challenge for people to travel, if they must rely on public transportation.

The prison ministry I used to drive for eases just such a challenge. The prison ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston reunites incarcerated moms with their children—for at least part of a Saturday. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois organizes transportation for children and their caregivers (grandmothers, aunts, and other family members or friends). First Pres Evanston is one of their transportation volunteers.

For years, this church has used their bus to transport loved ones to federal penitentiaries—for no charge to the relatives. The relatives transported are often on public aid, Social Security, or some other form of assistance. They have very little money to begin with, and often rely on public transportation. This makes trips to downstate prisons to see incarcerated loved ones almost an impossibility.

I was one of the main drivers for First Pres during most of the decade 2000 to 2010. I transported these relatives many miles on Saturdays. Never mind that I had to get to the church extra early to check out the bus, warm it up, and head off to the pick-up point on the south side of Chicago. (I didn’t mind. Really. Honest.)

That pick-up point—a huge strip mall parking lot next to the expressway—struck me as particularly sad. Shrewd, cynical shysters crassly make money (a LOT of money) doing the same thing. Transporting loved ones in similar situations, at a considerable profit. A few years ago, the price for one of these for-profit seats on the commercial buses lined up at the lot’s edge was in the area of $35 to $40. That was the price PER SEAT. If a grandma wanted to take two or three grandchildren to see their mom in prison, the cost would triple or quadruple. Way out of reach for those on a limited income.

I willingly gave up frequent Saturdays to drive the church bus, because I believed in being kind, offering what I had—some driving ability and a commercial driver’s license—for others. But I didn’t immediately make the connection with the words of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, specifically in Matthew 25:31-46. I finally got my elbow nudged from God: I helped these relatives to go see their loved ones, the incarcerated women.

So, yes. I was aiding them to do what Jesus directed in verses 36 and 39-40. (“What you did for the least of these.”) I had a small part in making the world a more nurturing place, a more compassionate place. And most especially, allowing children to have some kind of personal, face-to-face relationship with their moms.

Thank God there are people who still willingly give up their Saturdays to drive to prisons a long distance away. And I pray for ministries like that of First Presbyterian Church in Evanston and Lutheran Social Services. Bless them, and prosper their continued ministry. What a way to be kind and tender-hearted.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Not One Hundred Percent

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 8, 2015

What do you do when you aren’t feeling quite well? Do you drag around, trying to make do with what you can? Or, do you get plenty of rest? This blog post from a year ago relates a little about me and my day of being kind when I did not feel one hundred percent.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 9, 2014

Not One Hundred Percent

hospital-patient

I didn’t feel one hundred percent today. Sub par. Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of the house this morning. Once I had started the day and was outside, I felt better. (I ought to take my own advice, since that’s what I’ve said to my children for years when they don’t feel very chipper in the morning.)

I had the opportunity to be with a senior for a bit today. This senior needed some assistance and companionship, and I was happy to provide it. We didn’t talk too much, but this senior was content to simply sit with me there as a companion. I was very much aware of the ministry of presence. My being-with this senior was loving and giving of myself.

I know what the ministry of presence is, but some do not. Simply put, it is not a human doing, but instead becoming a human being. Simply being present with another person. I’ve been told by many people that my caring, less-anxious presence can be gentle and calming. Sometimes that’s what anxious or frightened or upset people need. And oftentimes, I provide it.

Several of my former supervisors mentioned this aspect of my character (my giftedness?). I think back to how I began this post, and connected it to a verbatim I wrote for my first chaplain internship. The verbatim concerned a senior couple at the hospital where I did my clinical rotation. However, one of the most distinctive things about that in-depth paper was one of the learning issues that I dealt with at the time. How do I manage to navigate and work when I don’t feel up to par? Not one hundred percent? I was not feeling quite chipper for the clinical day at the hospital, either. Yet God was still able to use me.

I did pray before I went to the floors for my clinical chaplain visits that day. It’s amazing. I wrote this particular verbatim almost ten years ago, yet I can still see and hear portions of the conversation and interaction in my mind. Upon reflection afterwards, I was awed by the openness of both the husband and the patient. God has given me an open heart and open ears to listen to people who are hurting. That’s a big reason why I went to seminary in the first place—to get further training in how to more intelligently, actively listen to people, and to walk with them as they go through difficult places in their lives. I am surprised at how little I did say to both of these dear seniors, reading over the verbatim just now. Yet the couple seemed really happy with my visit, and really wanted me to come back.

This situation in my verbatim was early in my experience as a chaplain. However, even then I used the ministry of presence. Today I come alongside of people, being with them. Sometimes I talk with them, and sometimes I’m quiet. For example, like I was with the senior I helped today. I tried to be a gentle, friendly companion, and I think I succeeded.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Unexpected Service—Serving the Homeless (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, December 19, 2014

you are not alone

Unexpected Service—Serving the Homeless (Feature Friday!)

Posted outside of the church I attended, some years ago, was a sign by a small tree covered in blue ribbons: “While celebrating One homeless Family, these ribbons ask us to remember the homeless with us today.” I had never thought about the Holy Family in that way before.

Some people in the 21st century probably are so accustomed to the Christmas story that their idea of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night is somehow associated with Christmas cards. But it was life as usual for these working people. An everyday way of life in Palestine. What’s more, being a shepherd was not a particularly high class job. The lowly vocation of shepherd was on the outskirts of society. A possible comparison today is to think of a person selling “Streetwise,” the news sheet sold for $2.00 outside of grocery stores and coffee shops here around the Chicago area.

And suddenly, the angel of the Lord came to these shepherds—came to people in homeless shelters, people selling “Streetwise,” people down on their luck, people on the edge, on the outs of society. The angel of the Lord came to them with good news. Good news. With news of God’s birth announcement. We can see God again breaking through, in an unexpected way, to an unexpected group of people.

Are some of these people the “underclass?” Are these people undesirables? Untouchables? Not to God. And, not to the Night Ministry, either.

As their website says, “The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of our community struggling with poverty or homelessness. With an open heart and an open mind, we accept people as they are and work to address their immediate physical, emotional and social needs while affirming their sense of humanity.”

The Night Ministry served over 138,000 individuals last year, including more than 12,000 young people (aged 14 to 21) who were homeless. Trying to live—to survive in Chicago on their own, without any family or guardian. The Night Ministry works to reach these teens, as well as adults and new moms who have nowhere else to go.

This vital ministry works in Chicago neighborhoods to build relationships and provide immediate, practical resources. They have a new Health Outreach Bus (replacing the old bus that had clocked over 90,000 miles), offering medical exams, treatment and HIV testing, as well as coffee, conversation and a sense of community. The Youth Outreach teams reach out to homeless and LGBT youth in the Lakeview neighborhood to offer non-judgmental support, guidance, food and self-care supplies.

So—especially during the holidays, at that time of the year when the thoughts of many turn to family and friends, this is an especially difficult time of the year. Think of these homeless people, far from family or friends. Send thoughts and prayers to them. Just as you think of that homeless (Holy) Family, two thousand years ago. I know God blessed that homeless (Holy) Family, as I pray God blesses the homeless in my own hometown, tonight.

@chaplaineliza

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Being of Service? What More Profound Way than Service to Country.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Flanders Field poppies

Being of Service? What More Profound Way than Service to Country.

Today is Veterans Day. I have heard about, read about the many sacrifices veterans have made, over the years. But I am also thinking of how this commemoration started. Armistice Day was what it was called. The ending of World War I, the cessation of all fighting. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour. That horrific, bloody, awful war. Ending, ninety-six years ago today.

I think, too, of that eloquent poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, so vividly portraying the poppies on the field of battle. Written almost one hundred years ago, this word picture from the point of view of the dead remains one of the most memorable snapshots in words of that terrible conflict.

War is never pretty. Sometimes for reasons of great societal conflict. Occasionally for moral reasons of profound purpose and rectitude. Again—war is never comfortable and pleasant.

I pray for all those who have served their country, or presently are serving. I pray for all of these military personnel, whichever country they are fighting for. Even if these countries are at odds with mine, currently, that still doesn’t make their soldiers and sailors and airmen any the less people. Human beings. Each one of them still has a mother, and other family members and friends. I recognize the humanity and the personhood in all of them.

Yes, in Flanders field and far beyond, we do commemorate these military personnel. My father was a veteran of World War II, and so were his three brothers. My grandfather served in the U.S. Army in World War I, in France. I honor these brave soldiers. And so many, many more. I honored them on Sunday, in the morning church service, and the whole congregation prayed for veterans and those currently in service, with a precious prayer.

I remember them today. On Remembrance Day. Veteran’s Day. We remember. God bless all those who are currently serving, and especially those who have served. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

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How to Pray? How to Serve.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 5, 2014

pink roses, again

How to Pray? How to Serve.

Today, this was my week to pray. I mean, for an intercessory prayer group I am part of. Each Wednesday, in round robin fashion, a member of the group offers prayers for the rest. By email. I know that there are more than fifteen members. I know that I have only met two others (and one is the administrator for the prayer group). But there is a cohesiveness in prayer. A fellowship and kinship that comes from gathering in prayer together.

Today, I had the opportunity to gather prayer requests (and praises!) from a friendly group that meets together each Wednesday morning. I had the privilege to pray for those who were at the group meeting, and those others we were missing. God, this is awesome. And, a privilege. And, exciting to be able to lift up many prayer requests and cries for God to act. For God to do or not to do, to speak or not to speak. God knows.

I get prayer requests from the most different sort of amalgamation of prayer email. And telephone calls. And people stopping by. Some prayer requests come from relatives or friends, concerned about their loved one. Near or far, that doesn’t matter to God. God will hear, God will encourage and support you.

I ask the dear Lord to help me to be welcoming. And honest, and caring. God, help me to be prepared with all the unknown events of the day ahead. And God, we pray for the sick, the shut-ins, for those who are far away. And, especially for those who do not know You. Thanks for loving me, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Of Service through Bible Study

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 22, 2014

flowers Isaiah 55-11

Of Service through Bible Study

Lots to do today! I had some email correspondence to go through this morning (at home), and then went to church to get ready for the bible study. A member of the board and I were talking, and before I knew it, it was after eleven. After the time bible study was to begin! So—the two of us dashed into the meeting room. I apologized up and down. But it seemed okay. Several people were practicing on special music for Sunday while they were waiting. I’m so glad I didn’t leave people just twiddling their thumbs!

I taught the next installment in the study. Good topic, although I felt the study wasn’t quite like the previous weeks. Somehow, not as insightful. However, I hope and pray that the church members who attended received a blessing from what we read today. I’ve always found it good to open the Bible and study more in depth, even when the questions were not as penetrating and thoughtful.

Contemplating on this makes me wonder: what does God think of us when we study the Bible? (Even when the questions don’t pack much of a punch . . .) I am leading the midweek study group through a series of studies on the titles and names of Jesus, found in the Gospels. Last week’s study was on Servant—we looked at Jesus in the Upper Room, and discussed Him washing His disciples’ feet. Excellent study, and wonderful discussion, too! But—not today. I tried to help the study along, but I wasn’t able to do as much.

I suspect God is pleased whenever believers gather to study the Bible. I know there are many places in the Scriptures where the study of the Word of God is praised and lifted up. I know many devout believers in God search the Scriptures regularly, and write commentaries and bible studies and other biblical and devotional literature. Moreover, they pray and meditate on God’s Word. And, I get to do this, too! I love to lead people in study. I relish teaching others about the Bible, letting them know more about the things I have studied diligently, over many years.

One verse does come to mind, regardless of whether I have an excellent study or not. As Isaiah 55:11 states, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Even so, God’s Word is living and active, not static. Readings from the Bible will always bear fruit. Regardless of whether the study has mediocre to poor questions, or whether the teacher is more or less dynamic. God has promised, and I believe in the truth of God’s promises.

So—I find I have the best team-teacher in the world—God. And, I can truly be of service when I teach about God: service to others, and service to God.

@chaplaineliza

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All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, October 21, 2014

be grateful you have a glass

All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

I was sitting in church on this gray October day. Quiet, almost sleepy afternoon. I went out into the larger office, passed by the administrator’s desk. My coffee had gotten cold, and I wanted to warm it up in the microwave oven. Lo and behold, I saw the shadow of a man through the blinds. I recognized him, and let him in.

He came into the hallway, and made a beeline for the pew against the wall. He had a hard luck story. (Of course.) I believed most of it. I have seen individuals similar to him and his partner. In poor health to begin with, continuing health problems, fired or let go from their jobs, long-term unemployed. What is a person to do? How can they get on their feet and start climbing when the bottom rung of the ladder is so high to begin with?

I was fortunate. There was a little money knocking around the church. (Unusual!) Plus, I gave him the last gift card from Subway. He really was grateful. More of the story came out after I sat with him in the sanctuary. Listening, actively. I asked a few, kind follow-up questions, just trying to get more information out of him. He was ready to talk, and how!

I’ve met people before who spilled the beans, told me all sorts of things. This man was very much after the same pattern. After listening for a while, and letting him know I actively heard him, I suggested closing in prayer before he left. Oh, boy! You should’ve seen his eyes light up! He was so grateful for the prayer. I had him read a few sentences out the prayer and resource section of the hymnal just before I closed, too.

I wish that I had had more money to give away this morning. But, alas, just about “all” I had to give away was a Subway coupon, and prayer. Prayer. What about that? How do you feel when someone has a real, deep need. Even a devastating need. What then?

I couldn’t help but think of the poor man in front of me, and his partner. And the verse for the month of October, too. Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” God, this dear man is dearly loved by you.

Sometimes, people ignore or even look down on those who don’t even have two coins to rub together. Help me remember these sad facts. God, help this dear man and his partner—and all of their family, too. You are so amazing, keeping track of countless events, and people, and places to hide. Help me, God, just like You come alongside of anyone who needs You. Thank You, Lord.

@chaplaineliza

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