God asks the question… "…for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" Jeremiah 30.21b I know that this question is rhetorical and the context is messianic but all I know is that it has become […]
God asks the question… "…for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" Jeremiah 30.21b I know that this question is rhetorical and the context is messianic but all I know is that it has become […]
The blog of Leadership Journal/Christianity Today, a controversial album by one of the greats and a book that is the theory behind the praxis of reaching this place we call the USA…
James Lucas gives us the ingredients to embracing the paradoxes of God and living with the mystery. His components in part are… a truth an opposing truth a willingness: We choose to press the two truths against each other as […]
Lucas describes an ancient way of interpreting the Bible, one that he argues Jesus used, it’s called "halakic reasoning." Simply put it is holding "both strands of a paradox in tension and balance, knowing that with God both sides must […]
This weeks Blog, Album and Book of the week includes action figures, a classic and a book with an an interesting question…
James Lucas in his book, "Knowing the Unknowable God: How Faith Thrives on Divine Mystery," calls it the shocking truth. What is it? God is still hiding things from us and this creates mystery and tensions for us that we […]
The kingdom of God is about mystery. It is about a God who has purposely hid that which is most vital to life. There is a reason Jesus calls us to "seek" the kingdom. It isn’t that it is lost, […]
I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the side columns of my blog. Up until now I have had a typical blogroll where I list some of my favorite blogs. The only problem is that there are […]
I can’t believe what turned up at the used book store the other day. "Simple’s Uncle Sam" by Langston Hughes. The store knows to call me if any title arrives by Ellison or Hughes. They called and I dropped what […]
Nunc Dimittis is the last of the original Christmas Carols that were sung around the time of the birth of Christ. "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your […]
If we can understand what the angels were doing than we can BE angels too! The passage clearly says that they were proclaiming the gospel. "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news (gospel) of great joy that will […]
The Gloria (Lk. 2.14). This third original song of the season also has some jazzitude. But in order to see it we need to ask the right questions. Hermeneutics seeks to discover meaning in what is being said. Jazzaneutics sees […]
The Benedictus If Mary resembles Billy Holiday then Zechariah is more like Nat King Cole. The Benedictus (Lk. 1.67-79) at it core is a love song in which old Z sings about how "Unforgettable" his God is. The first word […]
Improvisation in the Magnificat I am mesmerized by the Magnificat. How did Mary master the skills of improvisation at such an early age? Jazz singers take old songs and standards and make them new–that is exactly what Mary was doing…
The Magnificat in Jazz When I picture Mary singing the Magnificat I envision a smoke filled room, clanking glasses and the low hum of conversation that ceases when she begins to sing from her soul. With the poise of a […]
Dr. Luke never met Jesus. So when he wrote his Gospel he had to interview those who were first hand witnesses. (Lk. 1.1-4) As he spoke with Mary the mother of Jesus, John the Baptists father, the shepherds and Simeon, […]
Have you noticed? It has been a little over a year since the displaced residents of New Orleans began arriving in our home towns all around the nation. We have put them up in our homes, welcomed them in our […]
I just saw Catch A Fire. If it’s still playing in your area go and see it!
If you love the Hammond B-3 organ then you must hear Brother Jack McDuff. He is one of the most obvious links between jazz and the church. Drawing upon the soul of the saints and one of the halmark […]
When posted my entry below I had no idea…may he rest in peace.
If you are wanting to learn about jazz in a fun and unique way, check out Ed Bradley’s JazzCast. On a weekly basis, Ed Bradly does a radio show that you can listen to on NPR or listen on line […]
Syncopating the scriptures… "I am…I am…I am." Jesus set us up with that bass line each time finishing it a different way but then he adds a surprise on his final use of the phrase in John 15. "I am […]
Syncopating the scriptures… Let’s see what happens when we search for the off beat in the Gospel of John. One of the main beats that John built in to the telling of the life of Jesus was the "I Am" […]
Swing is one of the halmarks of jazz. It is what gives the music life and momentum, it is what causes your toe to tap and your head to nod. This is accomplished through what is known as syncopation–accenting the […]
"It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing." Duke Ellington
I love this picture! John Allen’s authorized biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu, is fresh off the press and chapter 9 has a suprising title…
Speaking of the American Dream, Aaron McGruder called it quits! His comic strip, The Boondocks, has been a unique commentary on American life. Grandfather moves to the suburbs (i.e. the boondocks) and then his two grandchildren come to live with […]
Barack Obama’s long awaited book, "The Audacity of Hope," hit the bookshelves today. Up until now we have known a lot about his personal story but little about what he thinks about the issuies and his vision for the future […]
Be honest. Did you watch?
Desmond Tutu says that Ubuntu is a way saying that, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." It is the realization that, "A person is a person through other persons. It is not, "I think therefore […]
Ubuntu is a way of doing community among some tribes in South Africa. When they greet each other they do not say, "Hello" or "How are you?" rather they say Sawu bona–"I see you." When someone greets you in this […]
"Yet there is more to jazz than music, and it is there, paradoxically, that its influence is profound." John F. Szwed "If you plan on continuing a tradition, it might be a good idea to find out just what […]
Charles Mingus is one of my favorite bass musicians. He was a genius composer and he also saw the connection between jazz and the Pentecostal movement.
I’m dying to see "The Last King of Scotland." It opened on Sept. 27 but in my city it’s only showing on one obscure screen and they aren’t running it until this weekend. What gives! It’s the story of the […]
Today I had the pleasure of teaching a New Testament class at my Alma Mater Colorado Christian University.
Harvey Cox, in his book, "Fire From Heaven: The rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century." Makes the following observations about this form of our faith. "In recent years I have heard […]
"William J. Seymour is one of the top ten Christians of the 20th century." Christian History Magazine. Today, Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing forms of the Christian faith–some 600 million people follow Jesus in this manner. Few know […]
Scott McKnight had an interesting post on how our view of the gospel effects the diversity of our church communities. Check it out at Jesus Creed. AND Soulful Rod Garvin, Postmodern Negro, and Steve Kightopia are teaming up to launch […]
He was named one of the Top Ten Christians of the 20th Century by Christain History Magazine. What effect has he had on your faith?
Being a jazz theologian is not good for one’s ego. You may find yourself in Ezekiel 37 and teaching about how God led this prophet to "prophesy" to the very dry bones. You might even point out how this passage […]
In a world of $200 dollar shoes endorsed by millionaire athletes Stephon Marbury is a breath of fresh shoe leather. The two time NBA All Star will take the court this season in $15 dollar shoes ($14.98 to be exact)! […]
I’m a compartmentalizer. I know I’m not unique when it comes to this inadequate way of being. It shows up in so many ways. Why do I hide my weaknesses? Why do I have to think things through in one […]
I have always felt an affinity with and for South Africa. When I compare their freedom struggle with ours here in America I see many paralells. There are some indigenous blogs that are worth checking out if you want to […]
One of my favorite definitions of what jazz is comes from "Ken Burns’ PBS Documentary "Jazz." If you have not seen this, it is worth saving up your pennies to purchase. You’ll find a treasure trove of interviews, music, images […]
I found, "The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America," by Joseph L. Graves to be a fascinating read. In this book, Graves, deconstructs race by looking at its’ history and challenging long held assumptions, such as, blacks […]
I’m turning the "comment" function off on both of my blogs…at least for now. Why?
Race is a tension that has been introduced into our culture that is wrought with internal conflict. The effects are deeply psychological. There is a video worth watching that drives the point home. It’s called, "A Girl Like Me," and […]
Race is inherent to the American experience. The next season of Survivor is going to divide the teams up according to race. Most people attend churches and live in neihborhoods that resemble their ace. The price of a private adoption […]
To talk about jazz is to talk about race. To choose a jazz based faith is to face race head on and to let it’s questions and tensions fuel one’s faith. A jazz based faith is not a race dominated […]
It’s that time of year again. The 2006 Black Weblog Awards are in the final stage of voting. There are finalist in a number of categories. I am familiar with two of them and, in my opinion, they are worthy […]
"Call and Response" are hallmarks of jazz because it was incubated in the black church. Preacher calls and congregation responds…horn calls and piano responds…Langston Hughes calls and Ralph Ellison responded. Langston Hughes wrote his famous poem, "Harlem: A Dream Deferred" […]
In the prologue of Invisible Man, the narrator seeks light in his darkness by iluminating his hole with 1369 light bulbs. The number is a tribute the the year 1936. That was when he moved to New York City and […]
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post…I’ve been doing a little traveling and speaking, but now I’m back to my normal life. A final quote (for now) from "Invisible Man" and a question that I’d like your […]
Ralph Ellison shows us that jazz is more than music. His novel, "Invisible Man," is a jazz text. As a jazz musician, he decided to see if jazz could exist in another medium–Eureka! Most jazz compositions begin with an opening […]
Red, White and Blues On Independence Day I bought some slow gin and celebrated with Ralph Ellison. In Ralph Ellison’s, "The Invisible Man," the narrator was fond of eating a special desert while listening to Louis Armstrong sing, "What Did […]
Ralph Ellison was a jazz trumpeter and lover of jazz in general. It was Ellison who said that "American life is jazz-shaped." He then went on to demonstrate this when he wrote, "The Invisible Man." Ellison wrote a lot about […]
Now playing at my other site, Improvisus (aka–JT’s Jazz Joint): MAINLINE DECLINE Join me over at my other site…just look to the top of the left hand column and click on Improvisus. See you there!
It’s 3:54 a.m. and I can’t sleep. There is a longing in my soul for you and me to be one. For the Body of Christ to be a body. For us to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer in […]
I’m trying to learn how to understand the pain of those around me. John Howard Griffin became "Black Like Me," choosing to live a pain that was foreign to him. There is a reason why jazz musicians will choose to […]
I’m re-reading Black Like Me. Years have passed since I first followed John Howard Griffin’s amazing journey of a white man living as a black man in the Deep South in the late 1950’s. If you don’t know the story, […]
Ensemble Community has a variety of assumptions. When somebody shows up at a jam session it is assumed that they have an instrument and that they have spent a lot of alone time honing their chops. There are Jazz Standards […]
What is Christian community? Normally we only define it in terms of the present–who are the people that we know, worship and pray with. If we get radical, we also realize that community is not just about who we know […]
Jazz and Christianity are communities of the past, present and future. Not to long ago I went and heard my favorite horn player, Hugh Ragin–he’s an amazing person and artist. He’s been rehearsing his current band a lot and they […]
Ann Pederson, Associate Professor of Religion at Augustana College makes the following observations about jazz and community as she draws upon the work of Paul F. Berliner: "Paul F. Berliner’s Rich Study of the jazz community includes a chapter entitled […]
Community is essential to being a Christian…but what is it? Is it being in a small group at your church? Is it having significant relationship with others? Is it the people who live in your same geographic space? How we […]
I just added a list of "Jazz Links." Just scroll down and you can find them at the bottom of the right hand column.
“Let’s talk about Jazz…There is no such thing as jazz improvisation without a jazz musician who knows already what the score is, who understands the bass line, who knows the melody, and who has spent lots of time and energy […]
Creativity is born out of tension. Jazz came about when a group of people had to live as "unfree in a free land." That’s tension! But tension sets the stage for creativity and creativity leads to Tertia Quid–The Third Way.
I sometimes feel like the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 when he spend considerable time talking about marriage only to say that he is not talking about marriage. I talk a lot about race and life on the hyphen because […]
Moses understood what it meant to live life on the hyphen. We aren’t sure when it happened but some where along the way he found out that he wasn’t who he thought he was. Being the child of a Hebrew […]
The Gospel reconciles us to God and each other. All too often we build churches on half of the gospel—the me and God half. Recently, Bill Hybels has undergone this second conversion and is speaking rather candidly.
If we are going to fully incorporate the Gospel in our life then we need an additional conversion. Not one for salvation, but one that shows that salvation has arrived in our lives. This “second conversion” occurs when we awaken […]
Ray Bakke calls it the "second conversion." Malcolm X called it a "Psychic Conversion." It is what happens when we realized that we are not just individuals but also part of a group. It occurs when we realize that our […]
James Cone, the father of Black Theology, also indicts the Christianity of this land. In 1999, he took 21st century descendents of slaves to task, in his book "Risks of Faith." (p111) "Our church is an impostor, because we no […]
Born in 1818 as a slave in Maryland, Frederick Douglas struggled deeply with the true definition of a Christian. He wrote the following in, "A Narrative Life of a Slave." "Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of […]
I once had a conversation with Carl Ellis in which he led me through the Salvific Paradigms of Jesus. We usually want to know if someone is “born-again.” But how many times did Jesus ask someone to become “born again?” […]
How one answers this questions depends a lot on whether or not you approach it from a Classical or Jazz based perspective. I’d love to hear what you think–What is a Christian?
I’ll spend a lot of time on Louis in days to come but here’s a final thought for now. What made him such a great ambassador for jazz? What accounts for his world wide influence? Some say it was his […]
Jazz before Louis Armstrong was a localized art form and after Armstrong it was a world wide phenomenon. What was it about this man and his music? As you read the lyrics you can hear his voice… I see trees […]
I was just listening to "THE MAN"…Louis Armstrong…The Apostle Paul of Jazz. We have much to learn from him about how to go global. "Satchmo" was short for satchelmouth because of the size of his mouth!
Can we do what the writers of scripture did? Take the 23rd Psalm. Classically speaking we should seek to understand all the ins and outs of the sheeping business, as many have, and we can benefit much from the metaphor […]
What if we are meant to understand the scriptures by doing them? For example, when we read passages like Nehemiah 1 or Daniel 9 we discover two men confessing the sins of their people. What does it mean to […]
When we read our Bibles, where do we find the meaning? Is the meaning of our Bibles in what the author is saying or doing? If the main point of the scriptures is primarily in what is being said than […]
Where is meaning located? In classical thought, meaning approached cognitively and this approach has had a profound effect on the way we read our Bibles. Hermeneutics is an approach to reading our Bibles using the classical empirical method. The basic […]
This is the greek god Hermes. Have you thought about how you have been relying on him to read your Bible?
I’ve struggled with this last post on hyphenization because of how deeply it is touching my soul. Forgive me for playing it safe. The beauty of a jazz musician, "lies in their ability not simply to hit a musical note […]
Slaves were "de-Africanized" almost immediately. But upon arriving in the new land, "Africans in America needed not think even for a moment that they were American’s. The beatings, lynchings, and the psychological demoralization of having to call someone ‘master’ experientially […]
The term "hyphenated American" was popularized in the 1910s by President Theodore Roosevelt, responding to the increasing fractionalization within the nation along ethnic lines. In an October 12, 1915 speech to the Knights of Columbus, Roosevelt said, "There is no […]
As you can see from my profile, I describe myself as "on the hyphen between African and American." Let’s do a quick survey… Are you an American or a hyphenated-American? Why?
Here is a final reflection inspired by James Cone (and yes, these have been pictures of the man himself). So what color is Jesus today? Jazz is all about the moment. Moments that may or may not be reproduced. Jazz […]
I’m out of country for a few weeks…the dark continent…the place that provided much of the the source material for this thing we call Jazz. I don’t think I’ll have much time for posting so I’m going to re-run some […]
I’ve been gun shy of the Emergent Church Movement for a while now. Yes there are aspects I like…but so much of the new postmodern Christian thing still feels very modern to me. Especially as it pertains to race, class, […]
I believe that "The Beloved Community" by Charles Marsh is a must read for anyone who beleives that theology is meant to be lived. As a Jazz Theologian I am convinced that the knowing is in the doing; that is […]
So what is unique about America? (hmmm…The Constitution…Baseball…and???) The answer to reaching a culture is not without but within. In the same way that the Apostle Paul used the unique cultural setting of Mars Hill we must learn to exegete […]
It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to describing the culture in which we are immersed. We are as much Modern as we are Post-modern. Modernity has taken root as it pertains to urbanization, economics, individualism and […]
If we are going to reach our nation we must understand it. If we are going to make the gospel accessible to every person in a wholistic and culturally relevant way, then we have some hard work to do so […]
Domestic—Indigenous to a particular country Missiology—The study and practice of Christian mission American Christians need a Domestic Missiology!
I’m not a lover of Coltrane’s music; truthfully, I find it a bit annoying . So why do I find myself listening to it all the time? Specifically his signature album, A Love Supreme. Recorded in 1964, seven years after […]
A break from Coltrane to tell you about a blog you are going to want to be familiar with. www.emergingcity.com It’s a prophetic urban Christian voice of faith, action and imagination. Check it out…make it your home page…read it often! […]
It was a sound, a droning sound unlike anything he had heard. God met him, revealed Himself to Coltrane through a resonance. “It was so beautiful,” he told his wife as he hopelessly tried to reproduce it on a piano. […]
I started this series of posts on Coltrane but my real life has me a bit busy. Sorry. I should be back to the blogosphere soon. Coltrane is a fascinating man who had a God-experience in 1957 that changed his […]
Let’s talk some Trane…John Coltrane. Talented…struggler…and spiritual seeker. There’s even a church named after him. (www.saintjohncoltrane.com) Over the next few posts we’ll talk about his music, his demons and what he might teach us about a jazz approach to spiritual […]
Have I read “Blue Like Jazz?” No. Donald Miller seems like a wonderful man. I’ve skimmed his book (especially the chapter on “Penguin Sex”) and can tell that Miller is extremely creative and a wonderful writer. The reason why I […]
Since starting Reflections of a Jazz Theologian, I have received two questions frequently, mostly in private emails. Have I read, “Blue Like Jazz?" And, “Who am I?” The answer to the former is "No." The answer to the latter is, […]
Forever they sat in perfect communion and conversation. Somewhere in eternity past a triune desire came into being…to fill the empty spaces around the table. The second member of the Godhead rose from his seat only to return with a […]
In the background one can faintly see a hill, tree and house. Some say the hill represents the journey & trials of life; the tree symbolizes the life that comes from the death and sacrifice of the journey; and the […]
God the Father, sitting on the left, lifts his hand, blessing the Son. God the Son, sits center, two fingers pointing toward the Spirit. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Holy Spirit. All one, distinct yet equal. […]
Created in the 15the century, Rublev’s Icon is based upon the obscure story of Abraham and the three visitors by the oak of Mamre. Drawing upon that revelation of God, Rublev undertook to capture the mystery of the Trinity in […]
Haiku 3 lines Lines One and Three have five syllables, Line Two has 7 syllables No rhyming, similes, metaphors or narration. Usually about nature or a moment. I’m not that proficient at these but I’d thought I take a shot […]
Whitney Balliett said that jazz is… “The Sound of Surprise.”
Ray Charles has an answer to what jazz is…he once released a jazz album entitled… Genius + Soul = Jazz
If we are going to talk jazz theology then we must first ask, "What is jazz?" Complete the sentence, "Jazz is…"
"If the classical approach to theology has been called ‘the queen of sciences,’ the jazz approach to theology could be called the ‘queen of the arts.’ The latter investigates God’s dealing with people in the joys and trails of daily […]
Ellis puts it this way, “…God is not just classical. God is jazz. Not only does he have an eternal and unchanging purpose, but he is intimately involved with the difficulties of sparrows and slaves. Within the dynamic of his […]
We need Classical Theology. Carl Ellis points out its importance.“Like classical music, the classical approach to theology comprises the formal methods of arranging what we know about God and his world into a reasoned, cogent and consistent system. Classical theology […]
I have read Carl Ellis’ book, Free At Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience, at least once a year for almost a decade now. Save the scriptures, Free at Last?, has influenced my life and ministry more than any […]
“The word improvisation derives from the Latin im + provisus, meaning “not provided” or “not forseen.”
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, tells of a time when he attended a show for an improv comedy group. “They would get up onstage, without any idea whatsoever of what character they would be playing or what plot they would […]
Kirk Byron Jones in his book, The Jazz of Preaching, tells this story about Mr. marsalis "Wynton Marsalis was playing, "I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You," unaccompanied. At the most dramatic point of his conclusion, someone’s […]
What do you say about Wynton? Artistic Director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center; Pulitzer Prize winning author and a jazz genius…a modern day jazz icon. The recording is not great but close your eyes and take a listen…
A few years ago, Rosa Parks was at the church of which I am a part. She was standing in our lobby, along with about 20 other people, when she said, "I’m tired, could I take a seat." I ran […]
So why all this time spent on timing and precision? It determines how we approach God. Jazz is not against timing and precision, but jazz deals with time differently. "In a jazz performance, while every bar of music should take […]
So we know that precision is neccessary…especially when it comes to a fine German automobiles. We also desire precision in our relationship with the Lord…wrong thinking about God is a guarantee of wrong living before God. So how do we […]
Many of us have heard that the goal of biblical interpretation is precision, that is, to determine the original meaning of the text. What an impossible task! I remember the first time I taught the scriptures after taking an hermeneutics […]
"In particular, for better or worse, three features of modern clock time decisively shape our lives and our thinking." writes Os Guiness. Feature One: Precision–All of humanity needs to measure time, but with the move from using the the sun […]
Most often we state the quality of our relationship with God in terms of precision and exactness. "How is your prayer life?" Munutes! I usually think of my relationship with God in terms of minutes. Did I pray more minutes […]
One of the major differences between classical and jazz theology has to do one’s relationship to accuracy. It’s been called the "heresy of exactness," by Brad Braxton and the "tyranny of time" by Os Guinness. Whatever you call it, it […]
Buddy Bolden was a little crazy. New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. The Big Easy was anything but easy, though it was very unique setting of pain diversity, and depth. Many say that Buddy Bolden was the father […]
"Jazz evolved hand in glove with American culture…it is essentially an African-American musical phenomenon that evolved out of the unique historical, cultural, and social currents of eighteenth- and ninteenth-century New Orleans. The factors that underlie its emergence are many, but […]
In light of the last post on “What is IT?” Perhaps a better question is, “Who is IT?” Grammy award winner, Wynton Marsalis tells this story about “IT“ “Now, my younger brother Ellis couldn’t understand all this fuss about jazz. […]
Just the other night I was part of a group. Young and old. Rich and poor. Black, Latino & white. Farmer types and Hip-Hop. I was at a local jazz club. What is IT about jazz that produces this kind […]
Ensemble "A unit of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect. From the French meaning ‘together.’ From the Latin, meaning ‘at the same time.’" (dictionary.com) In jazz one needs an ensemble. What about theology?
Essential reading for the Jazz Theolgian. This book is for anyone who wants to see a master Jazz Theologian at work. Carl Ellis is the President of Project Joseph (www.projectjoseph.org) and seeks to bring reformation and renewal to the church. […]
Here’s a sample of "So What," the first track off of Miles Davis’ landmark jazz album, Kind Of Blue. What differences do you hear between Ellington & Davis?
Here’s an example of jazz, pre-Kind Of Blue… Duke Ellington–I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good. What do you think?
"Kenny G is an acoustic musician who plays the soprano saxophone, the instrument identified with Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane, two of the icons of jazz history." (Jazz 101, John Szwed, p21) I don’t think that Kenny G is a […]
Kenny G. He’s played with Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Aretha and Grover Washington Jr. He holds the world record for the longest note ever played on a saxaphone…over 45 minutes! But is Kenny G jazz, classical or something else? Why […]
"Emily, a young woman in Thornton Wilder’s play "Our Town"…dies in child birth, but is granted a unique experience: the Stage manager allows her to return from death and live one more day of her life with her family. Although […]
To talk about jazz is to talk about race and race relations in America. Jazz initially arose out of the pain of America’s original sin of slavery. Inspite of its’ emergence from such conditions, it proved to be convergent. Even […]
Classical music–Formal music performed as written, able to be reproduced. The skill of the musician is measured by one’s ability to imitate the original. Jazz music–Dynamic music, unable to be reproduced. The skill of the musician is measured by one’s […]
It is said that in parts of Africa, "hello" is replaced with "Sawu bona." Translated, "I see you." The reply is, "Sikhona." Translated, "I am here." One author writes, "The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, […]
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