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Monday, October 11, 2021

Psalm 115

metal-texture-silver-gold-scratchedSilver and Gold

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

From footnotes, This is “a response to the enemy taunt, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . [I]t ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations, expresses a litany of trust of the various classes of the people in God, invokes God’s blessing  on them as they invoke the divine name, and concludes as it began with praise of God”.  (Senior 726)  True silver and gold are trust in the work of the Lord’s hands. There is no need to exact revenge.

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was another look at the character of silver and gold.  In Wisdom 7:7-11 they are seen as useless as the lust for power and control because all truly good things come from God, and God values our prudence and humility above supremacy.  I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches as nothing in comparison with her, nor did liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. 

When we feel ourselves struggling to gain an upper hand or to mercilessly wield authority that has been vested in us, we must give God thanks for the goodness we have seen; and we must turn to songs like this one that remind us of our proper place in the universe: The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth is given to us . . . It is we who bless the Lord. Hallelujah! 

Amen. 


A reflection written on October 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.726. Print.   

Image from: http://www.goldingot.org.uk/gold-and-silver/

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Jeremiah 10

shepherd-in-wilderness1Christ the King

The pagan gods and cult idols must be carried about, for they cannot walk . . . but Jesus walks among us.

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, they cannot speak . . . but our God speaks to us constantly.

Fear them not, they can do no harm, neither is it in their power to do good . . . the Holy Spirit comforts and abides with us always. 

No one is like you, O Lord, great are you, great and mighty is your name.  Who would not love you . . . for it is your due!

Today we hear a message from Jeremiah affirming all that we know to be true. False shepherds will fall away; the One True Shepherd will gather the lost to bring them home. This King of all carries us on his shoulders – rather than asking us to carry him about. This King of all accompanies us everywhere – even when we feel alone or betrayed, not only when we are happy or joy-filled. This King protects, guides, guards, and loves us – even though we stray, complain and stumble.

This King will never falter, never err, never abandon even one of the flock. This King directs our every step if we only allow it. In his Old Testament frame of mind, Jeremiah asks Yahweh to punish Israel’s enemies. In our New Testament perspective, we pray for those who harm us, we intercede and ask forgiveness. Just as Jesus does. It is when we feel the most alone that we might also most feel God’s presence. If we wish to feel in control of our lives, we must abandon ourselves to Christ. If we wish to feel inspired and passionate about all we do, we must first welcome the Spirit into our hearts to accompany our prayer. If we wish to be treasured, we must first care for those whom no one loves. If we wish to be one with our brother, Christ the King, we must first be sister and brother to our enemies. And we must ask that God show them – and us – mercy.

You know, O Lord, that man is not master of his way; man’s course is not within his choice, nor is it for him to direct his step.

Love us, O Lord, and call those who have wandered far from you.  Pour out your grace upon us, so that we might hear you and respond to your call.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ and King, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on November 21, 2010, the Feast of Christ the King.

Image from: http://agapegeek.com/2011/06/26/understanding-how-to-be-led-by-the-spirit-of-god-your-introduction-to-the-good-shepherd-part-1/ 

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ezekiel 12: While they are looking on . . .

NaysayersBeatsMysapceHeader2[1]In today’s Noontime we are reminded that we do not have to fight against the obstacles in life’s journey that loom so large.  It tells us that when barriers to freedom are gigantic and overwhelming we cannot struggle against them.  It says to us that we must turn to God in trust and obedience.  We must do as Jesus does even while the naysayers are looking on. 

Going into exile was an embarrassment to the “chosen” people.  They who had always been miraculously protected by Yahweh now found themselves going into captivity at the hands of the very pagans whom they had previously conquered in battle.  The Israelites have discovered that while they fought against the barbarian outside of the city walls, it was the enemy within that doomed them.  Corruption and deceit in their own community had decayed their society to the foundation.  There is no other outcome to expect than the one they are living . . . they are to pack their baggage in full view of the enemy, and then they are to dig their way through the broken walls of the city to march into captivity.  And all of this while the unbelievers are looking on.

So many times we find ourselves living among rebellious people, and we sometimes cannot even tell if we have become one with the idol worshipers.  We feel as though the world has gone mad and we are one of the few sane ones who remain.  In our Noontime journey we have reflected on how to weather the whirlwind when we see and hear it approaching; today we reflect on how to journey faithfully into captivity . . . while the world is looking on.

There is a remnant left by Yahweh: Yet I will leave a few of them to escape the sword, famine and pestilence so that they may tell of all their abominations among the nations to which they will come; thus they shall know that I am the Lord.  This just yet merciful God is always willing, and indeed eager to give his people another door to salvation, another opportunity to return.  God will vindicate us even in the darkest and most painful of times even while those who deny us are looking on.

There are occasions when it seems as though we alone are able to see what others cannot.  Circumstances and events speak loudly to us while they only whisper to those around us or speak not at all. The prophecy we hear and see and then repeat for others falls on stubborn ears.  The world mocks those who live simply so that others may live.  Society denies truth so that deception might reign.  Many favor the apparent security of tangible comfort while few remain faithful to the Spirit who is willing to abide while those who wish us gone are looking on.

Ezekiel describes a vision today that seems a long way off and yet is present in the Spirit within.  Ezekiel says that in a distant time to come there shall no longer be any false visions or deceitful divinations and yet this word is fulfilled by Christ in us today.  Ezekiel tells us of a future in which none of God’s words will be delayed any longer and yet this future lives in us today because God loves us so . . . even while the naysayers are looking on.

Let us spend time with this prophecy today.  And let us see that, despite the naysayers, Ezekiel’s vision lives in us in this present moment through the promise, the rescue and the love of God.


To read more about weathering the storms on our journey, type the word whirlwind into the search box on this blog. 

The opening paragraphs of today’s Noontime were written on August 12, 2010.  Today’s post is an amplification of that reflection.  

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Exodus 32: The Golden Calf

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Golden Calf

Even as a child I was impressed with how quickly Aaron slid from one role to another: loyal brother, facilitator of the making of the Golden Calf, loyal brother once again.  He appears to get by unscathed and I remember thinking that he must not be very bright, and this is why God let him off so easily.

Some scholars say that Aaron went along with the crowd because it would have been impossible to go against the unhappy throng.  Others point out that Aaron presents an argument we hear often even today; You know how prone the people are to evil.  They said to me, “Make us a god to be our leader; as for Moses . . . we do not know what has happened to him”.  He further argues, “They gave [the gold jewelry] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out”.  I was amazed, when I first heard this story, that there seemed to be no consequence.  Yet Aaron rallies, aligns himself with Moses and the others who want to stand with him rather than against him, and he escapes the violent death that awaits those who remain against Moses.  A coup takes place, blood is spilled, the Hebrews muddle on through the desert.

I am thinking of the many golden calves I have seen erupt from the fires of anger and jealous, fear and anxiety.  I am also thinking of how many times I have been asked if I am for or against and how I have answered.  I am also thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:30, Mark 9:40 or Luke 11:23: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does gather with me scatters.  And I am grateful for God’s generous mercy.

As a child I knew I lived in the black and white world my parents had created for our family.  In that world the most frequent – and most dreaded – punishment for infractions of rules was the dreaded three word sentence, “We will talk”.  Sometimes we waited days or even weeks until Dad or Mother would nod and say, “Now”.  We would have worried and gnawed over all of the arguments we might present for our innocence and we had thrown out all that were false.  We ended up with the unvarnished truth.  During the waiting time we would have sorted through the varied outcomes of the impending conversation.  And in the end we were so eager to unload our conscience and to confess to our waywardness that we provided our own best castigation.  We came to see that we had been wrong.  We admitted openly how we had strayed. And we were anxious to enter into and complete any penalty we were to suffer.  It was a wonderful form of coming to terms with what it was we had done, why we had done it, and how we ought to be dealt with.  My husband and I used similar strategies with our own children when golden calves appeared in our home and we met with the same success in raising ethical, thoughtful, merciful children.  God’s generosity and mercy cannot be outdone.  God’s love and patience cannot be matched.  And for this we ought to give thanks.

Each time I see the adulation that surrounds a golden calf in my family, community or workplace, I pray for the kind of patience my parents taught us.  I ask God to bring me wisdom, good timing, and the fortitude to witness to falsehood in a way that will be effective.  And I pray for the good counsel and right thinking of the Holy Spirit.  When I allow God’s waiting time to pass, I find I have more success than if I lunge forward on my first impulse with my first reaction.

The people we read about today become unhappy about their circumstances and so they create an immediate world of superficial happiness as they revel and play around an idol of their own making.  They quickly learn that there is a price to pay for self-centered thinking . . . and that golden calves often leave us standing against our God.


a re-post from October 28, 2012.

Image from: http://abwbibleperiod8.wikispaces.com/Ch8A+The+Golden+Calf

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Joshua 23: A Final Plea

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jericho

It is clear that Joshua understands his people when we read today’s Noontime scripture.  He has brought them from the edge of the wilderness into the fertile land that God has promised them.  He has led their troops, solved their squabbles, and he has kept them faithful to God as they live side by side with pagan peoples.  He has one final plea.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a time for reflection and introspection. Today we have an opportunity to consider that we stand before Joshua, a man who knows our story. Let us listen well.

Strive hard to observe and carry out all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, not straying from it in any way or mingling with these nations while they survive among you.  We might recall here the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 that we considered in our Continued Progress NoontimeGod does not call us to wipe out all who oppose or stifle us; rather, God asks that we learn to grow amid those who would pull us from our steady progress toward God.  Joshua calls likewise to us today, encouraging us to follow the voice of God, to grow in wisdom.  When we allow God’s wisdom to counsel us rather than succumb to our own petty fears and whims, we will have responded to this final plea.

At your approach you have driven our large and small nations, and to this day no one has withstood you.  One of you puts to flight a thousand because it is the Lord, your God, himself who fights for you, as he promised you.  We so quickly take credit for our successes and blame God for our failures.  It seems we cannot withstand the truth of our own existence.  When we remember the so many big and little triumphs of our lives in the light of God’s goodness instead of the brightness of our own effort, all anxiety, resentment and envy melt away.  We cease to compare our circumstances to those of others; we see our lives for what they are: a continuing response to – or a willful turning away from – God’s call.  Joshua asks us today to consider the origin of our security and achievement; and he reminds us that God alone governs all.  When we admit that God’s strength and fidelity are gifts we receive without even asking, we will have demonstrated our own willingness to respond to this final plea.

If you ever abandon God and ally yourselves with the remnant of these [pagan] nations while they survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that . . . they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes.  Joshua worries, of course, that his people will disappear into the societies that surround and live side by side with them.  He knows how easily we can be convinced that daily prayer and faithful worship have little effect upon us.  He understands our weaknesses because he has managed the in-fighting and back-stabbing that happens when people come together in a common cause.  He also understands our strengths because he has led a stiff-necked and cantankerous people successfully by following God’s counsel rather than the shallow wisdom of oracles; he has deferred to God’s plans and put away his own.  Joshua recalls the covenant they have agreed upon with God and that it invokes reward or doom; he reminds his people that God always keeps his promises. When we willingly turn away from the siren call of the idols that clutter our lives, we will give witness to our own commitment to God, and we will have answered this final plea.

This chapter closes with a description of God’s Wrath and before we become frightened by these images let us remember that Christ comes to fulfill the Old Testament Covenant and to replace it with a new Law of Love.  When we remember that the God of wrath we see described here is actually the God of Love that Christ shows us . . . we will have little trouble – and much reward – when we respond to Joshua’s final plea.


Adapted from a reflection posted on December 11, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblebios.com/joshua/joshua.htm

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1 John 4The Spirit of Truth

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Casting out fear, recognizing the anti-Christ, remembering that we are God’s little children, loving because we are first loved by God.  John, Peter and Paul all try to convey to the faithful the importance of remembering Jesus’ message that we follow those who live in the Spirit rather than against it.  They warn Christ’s flock about the cleverness of the darkness; they tell us that our journey through a life of narrow gates will be a refining experience that will sharpen our perception so that we better discern real truth from falsehood and deception.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of  life that God has promised to those who love him.   (James 1:12

Peter, the foundation on which Christ builds his Church on earth, describes the subtle way that darkness will intrude on our thinking, and he reminds us of the surety of the consequences for succumbing to that darkness.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Paul tells the Thessalonians – and us – that we must stay away from even the fringes of evil; its power to deceive it is far too potent for us to combat.  Iniquity often disguises itself as goodness and we may be taken in and taken over before we even recognize that something ugly  has dressed itself up as a radiant goodness.  Paul tells us to . . .

Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace,sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.(1 Thessalonians 5:21-24)

Today we spend time with the Beloved Apostle as he too warns us that our faith is a powerful guardian against malevolence.  In his beautiful letters that describe the ineffable experience he has as Christ’s companion, John calls us to a faith in God that will overcome the dark enemy . . . for whatever is born of God conquers the world.  John writes these things to us who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that we may that we have eternal life.  And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him. 

This is the spirit of truth we are asked to seek and identify.

This is the Spirit of truth we are called to follow.

This is the Spirit of Truth we are invited to live.

May we answer this call, this invitation, this voice of God.  And may we follow this voice willingly for it brings us to our only sanctuary against the false teachers who roam the world dressed up in glorious garments that have the appearance of goodness and light . . . but which are in reality woven of the glittering deceit of dishonesty and fraud.


A re-post from November 17, 2011.

Image from: http://extraordinarylivingbydrscotty.blogspot.com/2011/09/running-from-hell.html 

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Zechariah 10The New Order

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Written on February 17 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Golden Calf – Exodus

The teraphim are household idols, used for divination but incapable of true healing, redemption, comfort or transformation.  Those who have relied on wealth and influence will no longer hold power; change is in the wind.  Those who have been led by false shepherds will be visited by the true king; a rout by a new king’s soldiers is predicted.  Those who have wandered aimlessly, searching for the true shepherd will be brought back; the exiled will return home; the faithful will be rewarded.

In the Old Testament readings at Mass this week we hear again the story of Noah.  God sees how wicked man has become and he regrets having created him.  Later he promises to never destroy his creatures again.  In the New Testament readings we have seen the supreme patience of Jesus as he continually instructs his followers in the ways of the New Kingdom, the New Covenant, and the New Promise.  There is a New Order . . . yet they struggle to understand.  He even rebukes Peter (Mark 8:27-33) and scolds the others for not understanding his feeding of thousands from a few fish and loaves (Mark 8:14-21).  These humans God has created seem to believe more in their teraphim than in their God.  And we are so like all of these people.

So we pray . . .

Lord God in heaven, Lord God on earth, Lord God within us, Lord God among us, open our eyes that we might see your new order as you opened the eyes of the blind beggar in yesterday’s Gospel (Mark 8:22-26).  Open our minds and hearts so that we might better hear your call to newness.  Open our lives to you so that we might better understand the new order of your world.  Teach us to cease lusting after money and goods.  Instruct us in your new way.  School us in the ways of the gentle heart and eager mind.  Remind us to throw out our tiny household gods and rely firmly and only on you.  Visit us with your Spirit.  Continue to walk with us as Christ.  And harbor us who wander as wretched sheep in the safety of your enormous arms.  We ask this each day and every day . . . as we strive to remember who you are . . . and how much you love us.  Amen. 


A re-post from September 6, 2011.

Image from: http://www.perplexicon.net/2009/12/false-gods-and-theologians/

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Hosea 4Open to Newness

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A re-post from August 1, 2011.

We will need to look at notes in order to understand the references in today’s Noontime and the following information is from THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE.  Ephraim (note verse 17) was the tribal area that remained in the northern kingdom of Israel after the Assyrian invasion.  The wood and wand (note verse 12) refer to any carved idol or utensil used in the practice of divination.  Ritual prostitution practiced in Canaanite shrines was introduced into sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh (note verse 14).  Gilgal here (note verse 15) is in reference to a sanctuary in the north in Bethel where there was an association of cult prophets (2 Kings 2 and 4:38); it is not a reference to Gilgal in the south where Joshua sets up memorial standing stones (Joshua 4).  Finally, the priests are in for heavy criticism because they are seen as the ones who lead the people away from God as they set up a schism between genuine and cult prophets.  All of this information helps to clarify the link between the prophet Hosea’s deep sorrow over his wife Gomer’s prostitution of herself and the descent of the nation of Israel into this same harlotry.  Hosea sees the individual and collective return to idolatry as a seal of the fate of the nation and its people.  They are all caught up in the coming whirlwind of disaster.  (Senior 1112-1113)

The psalmist reminds us that: The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths but speak not; they have ears but see not; they have ears but hear not; no breath is in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all those who trust in them.  (Psalm 135:15-18)  If only we humans might remember that in the end . . . these little gods cannot forgive us, save us, redeem us or love us as God does.

We have reflected during our Noontimes that little gods creep into our lives without notice and it is in this way that we become unwitting collaborators in the creation of an illusion; today we look at how a nation of people who have been blessed by God turn away from God’s goodness.   The children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm from the Hans Christian Anderson collection is an apt allegory not only for Hosea’s society but for our society today.  We have only to determine if we number among the adults who have ceased to think for themselves . . . or if we are the astonished child who announces: The emperor is naked!  Like the child, Hosea cries out to the people of Israel.  And like the child, our prophets of today cry out against the obtuse among us.

When we become frustrated with a herd mentality that drives idiotically toward the precipice or when we give up all hope that the small voice of truth might be heard above the clamor of a self-deceiving crowd, we must turn away from our little gods of anxiety and desperation and turn to God, for it is God who best understands what is to be disbelieved and dispossessed.  And it is God who knows well how to convert the darkness of despair into the beauty of joy, for it is in the darkness that God plants the seeds of new life.

And so we pray . . . Good and forgiving God, remind us that we have only to be open to a newness that you will bring out of the ignorance and despair we witness today.  Show us the newness born of the dark that is your compassionate healing and eternal transformation.  Amen.  


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1112-1113. Print.   

Images from: http://thefigureofspeechprod.info/coming-soon.html and http://blogs.attask.com/blog/strategic-project-management/the-emperors-new-clothes

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Isaiah 44: Chasing Ashes

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cyrus the Great

Founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus inherited a small kingdom and expanded it to include what we know today as Iran and much of Turkey.  He captured Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and although he did not worship the God of Israel, he proved to be “a beneficent king who allowed captive people to return to their homelands and restore their places of worship”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 669). We cannot know his motivation for allowing the Jewish people to return home after exile, but we do know that Cyrus II – the Anointed of the Lord who becomes the Liberator of Israel – believed in Marduk, the mythological god of Babylon.  As many have commented, we can never anticipate the wisdom or plans of God.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Many times I wonder how God has chosen the agents who do God’s work: stumble-bum leaders, hard-edged colleagues, the apparent liberal who leans toward conservatism, and the seemingly empty-headed support personnel who deliver wisdom during crisis.  I have learned to be on the lookout for God’s anointed even as I try to steer clear of false idols; and I wonder about my own fidelity to God and my success as his agent.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Isaiah warns us against replacing God with idols that bring us no help and cause us too much maintenance work.  Smiths and carpenters do not reflect, nor have the intelligence and sense to see that the bits of iron and wood they fashion into idols are no god at all . . . Half the wood was burned in the fire, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meant which I ate. Shall I then make an idol of the rest, or worship a block of wood?  Like these smiths and carpenters, we daily set up little gods to worship when we worry about our next meal, the clothes we will wear to the gym or pool, the roof on the house or the brakes on the car that need repair, our position at work, the fussy chair of the civic committee on which we serve.  When we set aside our prayer time with God because we want to fret about these worries, we have surrendered to our little gods.  He is chasing ashes, a thing that cannot save itself when the flame consumes it . . .

Volcanic ash cloud

We might wonder as we reflect on today’s Noontime how it is that God has so much patience with us when we turn to the inanimate to fuss and cajole the objects in our surroundings into pleasing us.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much forgiveness with us each time we return to him that he continues to encourage us and grace us with his presence.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much imagination that God will use a believer in a pagan god as the anointed one to help the faithful return from an exile their own corruption gained for them.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much compassion for each of us that despite our times of coldness and our turnings away, God continues to heal, restore, redeem and save us.

We might wonder how it is that God loves us eternally and wishes to be with us forever . . . despite the countless times we leave God to chase after ashes.

Volcanic ash

We might wonder . . . and yet God is the one who pours out water on the thirsty ground, knits us his offspring in the womb, pours out his spirit on us, and lays blessings on our descendents. 

We might wonder, yet we need not . . . for God chases after us . . . even as we chase after the ashes of our own folly.


For more information on Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) who appears at the end of Isaiah 44, go to this site and also follow the link to farsinet.   http://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 669. Print.

Images from: https://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/  and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 24, 2011.

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