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Jewell Chapel, a weekly time of spiritual focus for the College community, is essential to the identity and mission of Jewell.  Persons from across the campus are invited to prepare and share the weekly “500 Words”.  The general theme for “500 Words” is spiritual growth.  Speakers approach the theme in different ways.  How do you define spiritual growth?  What things contribute to spiritual growth?  What are some obstacles or challenges to spiritual growth?  Describe a time when you experienced spiritual growth?  How has the Jewell experience affected your spiritual growth?  Thanks to the members of our community who have contributed their “500 Words.”  I hope you enjoy and are inspired by their thoughts.

August 31, 2011
Victoria O'Dell

We live in a society which worships and idolizes the successful. Take a look around: musicians, actors, T.V. stars, Celebrity Apprentice, President Obama, The American Dream. It is easy to derive a definition of success from the culture which we are exposed to. Money, physical attractiveness, power, influence, popularity – these are just a few words which are encompassed by the word success.

It would not be difficult to argue that students, much like the students found at William Jewell, attend college to achieve this American Dream. Although there are countless other reasons for pursuing continued education, the vaste majority of students seek a degree with sights set on the prize of graduation, on receiving a diploma, and because of this, we aim for our dream jobs, cushioned salaries, and ideal lifestyles. All in all, we pursue our individual versions of success.
Although these ambitions may be ever present in our lives, as followers of Christ, our definitions of success, of what really matters, are to fundamentally different from the world. I have had the privilege this year of having my younger sister, Brittany, attend the same college as me. Coming from California, to say her presence at Jewell is nice, would simply be an understatement. Before her arrival, my prayer had been, and continues to be, the following: that Brittany would have success; not success as we think about in a worldly perspective, rather, success as defined by God… that the life of my sister, that my life, would be one focused, committed, to nothing less than actions which give God, rather than ourselves, glory.

God has a funny way of choosing people for his plans and work, and ultimately, a non-traditional definition of success. For example, if I were to select a leader, say, to fight in battle against an entire nation of Midianites, I certainly would not choose a man who was young, weak, and lowest in the nation of Israel. Furthermore, I would not take my initial army of 30,000 men strong and narrow the selection down to 300 of the weakest and most apprehensive soldiers to fight in the battle. But this story of Gideon, and his 300 weak soldiers, found in Judges 8, serves as a perfect example - they are the men God chose.

See, God uses the unexpected, the weak, humble, frail, often times cowardly, and by the world's definition, unsuccessful people. The bible is replete with examples: Moses, Thomas, Mary, Peter, to name a few. Here's the thing: when God lifts up a man or woman to his purposes, he chooses the weak because he receives the glory, because it points to him rather than to the person whom he works through. When Gideon's 300 weak an untrained men conquered thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers, no glory could be pinned to the Israelites. I imagine all that could have been said at the victory was "God is in this". Our lives are to bring success and glory in the name of God.
There is a pastor in Cleveland by the name of Alistair Begg. He says this: "God does not pledge himself to big names – he uses the humble – those who have an ear open to God's voice, have a will obedient to God's command, and have a life useful to sacrifice to his service".

Although my education at Jewell has enabled countless opportunities for experience and for worldly success, I have consistently been reminded that, "in the economy of heaven, all of my successes amount to nothing" – only that done for God, that which points to Him and points others to Him, can be measured with an eternal value. With this, I have been challenged, in light of what may be titled my Jewell, or worldly success, to ask the question: "can God use me?" In other words, "am I not consumed with myself, am I humble enough, that if God were to choose me for his work, only he would receive the glory". It is our faith and the desire to be used by God, with which our definition of what truly matters and amounts to value, must be challenged.


September 14, 2011
Tim Everly

James 1:22-25  22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

I have a confession to make. Every time the Powerball goes above $100 million, I go buy a ticket (yes, just one ticket) for each Wednesday and Saturday until someone wins. Each time I dream of secretly winning, not changing my lifestyle, but changing the world around me: Quietly helping my family and friends to get out of debt, anonymously giving money to Jewell, my church, and other ministries. Because really how can a guy like me make a difference in the world without the Powerball. First of all I have a job that expects me to show up at least five days a week…all year long. And not just that, when I get home I'm expected to share duties such as doing dishes, mowing the yard, doing the laundry, and watching the Bachelor. Plus I have so many other things to do: sports, dance, choir, orchestra, church, eating out, tucking in, hanging out, movie watching, game playing and vacationing. My life is too busy…the problems of the world are too big…is it truly impossible or simply inconvenient?

Slave-owner and American founding father Patrick Henry wrote the following in a letter to Quaker, Robert Pleasants, in January of 1773 after receiving and reading a book against the slave trade.*
"It is not a little surprising that Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart…should encourage a practice so totally repugnant to the first Impression of right and wrong.
"Is it not amazing, that at a time, when the rights of humanity are defined and understood with precision, in a country above all others fond of liberty, that in such an age, and such a country we find men, professing a religion the most humane, mild, meek, gentle and generous; adopting a principle as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive to liberty."
Henry uses the ideals of both his religion and his country to show the evils of slavery but goes on to say," would anyone believe that I am master of slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them. I will not, I cannot justify it." Henry never gave up his slaves.

How can someone who helped start a country that has changed the world, feel helpless to change his household and his community due to inconvenience? What is convenient about racism, poverty, hunger, sexism, war, and bullying. Millions of dollars may make a difference but individuals passionate about change in their own world will make a difference.
James 2:14-17 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.



September 21, 2011
Fran Webber

When Dr. Pratt asked me to do this reflection he suggested several questions as possible topics. These questions asked about various aspects of spiritual growth, such as how it might be defined, what things contribute to spiritual growth, and what things might constitute obstacles to spiritual growth.

In exploring possible answers to these questions, all I really discovered was that spiritual growth is actually a very hard thing to talk about. That is, I'm almost certain that I've undergone spiritual, personal, and intellectual growth during my almost four years since arriving at Jewell, but when I try to put into words the specific experiences that gave rise to this growth, or what this growth might consist in, I draw a blank. Events and encounters that have changed me come to mind, but I struggle to express precisely how these particular experiences have changed me. And even if I could catalogue all the concrete, observable ways in which I have changed from the person I have been, would this list of facts encompass the significance of what I've gone through?

In the face of this difficulty, I've found, it's very easy to slide into conventional sorts of wys of talking about spiritual growth. I've heard fellow Christians talk about "accepting Jesus," "becoming closer to God," or "discovering my calling." These phrases are meant to mark something that has changed within the person who utters them, perhaps in their personal habits, their conception of themselves, or in their understanding of the broader world. For some reason, though, these phrases don't resonate with me. I doubt, in fact, whether they mean much of anything at all. Possibly I'm just not a very good Christian. That might not be an unfair criticism.
But one thing I think I have learned is that having this sort of doubt is not necessarily incompatible with spiritual growth.

I doubt whether the idea of Jesus is something that is acceptable. An image from Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood always comes to mind when I think of the difficulty of Jesus, that of the primitive, ape-like figure that haunts Hazel Motes, which he desperately attempts to abandon, but can't seem to shake. Is such a creature really to be accepted, even loved and emulated?
I doubt whether one can become closer to God when I think of the radical transcendence of any kind of God deserving of worship. Is the Creator God, the God who sustains the universe a being with which a human can have any kind of meaningful relation at all?
Maybe you can see why religion makes me a little bit uncomfortable, and talking about my own faith and spirituality especially so. I suppose, at least, that this unease is a sign of growth.


October 5, 2011
Darlene Bailey

Good Morning!

It is Homecoming week on our campus! Always interested in history, I decided to see what I could learn about the origins of Homecoming. The tradition is about 100 years old and can trace its beginnings to college campuses in the Midwest, specifically Baylor, Missouri and Illinois.

According to Wikipedia, the very reliable sources of the NCAA, Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit have credited the University of Missouri with the establishment of Homecoming. In 1911, the Mizzou athletic director encouraged alumni to help inaugurate the new football field by "coming home" to attend the game against the University of Kansas.

Early homecoming events all had similar characteristics. Besides the football game there were rallies, parades, speeches and dances for students and alumni to create a strong sense of school pride and tradition. This hasn't changed much. This weekend, we will host a golf tournament, 5K run, breakfast for those who lived in "Old Ely," and lunch for golden anniversary graduates. We will also recognize dozens of alumni for their accomplishments as students and their contributions to the community since graduation. It's going to be fun!

Homecoming has had a bit of a different meaning for me since returning to Liberty. Some of you know that I am a proud graduate of Jewell with a degree in history. I was also a member of the jazz band…30 years ago.

In early 2009, I was presented an opportunity to "come home" and serve my alma mater. Intrigued by the notion of a new professional challenge and open to an opportunity to be closer to my family, I paused to ponder whether returning to Jewell was really the right thing. I was reminded by several of my colleagues in my profession of the old saying, "you can never truly go home."

I knew the Jewell I left in 1982 was a different place than the Jewell of today. I'm not confident the Jewell leadership of 30 years ago would have been open to a single female responsible for the administration of the ATHLETIC department, not to mention a single parent of an internationally adopted child.

My research revealed that most of the changes on the hill were positive while the commitment to the solid foundation of the liberal arts education I had experienced was still firmly in place. I also learned there were many great folks committed to making the experience ever better. So….. I decided to "Just Do It."

Similar to returning to your parents' house after being away, my return to Jewell has had an awkward moment or two. I am occasionally asked if I oversee both men's and women's athletics. I smile and say, "Yes I do!" I have also been asked if I know whose kid that is running around the Mabee Center. Again, I smile and say, "Yes I do!"

Maya Angelou said, "You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right."

Reflecting on my own journey and homecoming……. it's all right.



October 12, 2011
Nathan Rueb

Today I would like to talk to you about what it means to be Christian and at the same time a fraternity president.  I'm just going to let you all bring your assumptions with you regarding Greek organizations both at Jewell and in general. However there are a few points I'd like to make about my time in Greek life, as it has been a important factor in my college experience. There have been ups and downs in both Greek organizations I've been involved with, both Sigma Nu, where I was first (long story), and Lambda Chi Alpha, where I am currently president. The first point I would like to make has to do with my decision to run for the office in the first place, or more accurately, to accept the nomination. I did not really want to run. I wanted to read books and pursue other activities at my leisure. But here I stand. I accepted my nomination as a result of a sense of duty to my brothers. The organization had done quite a bit for me. It gave me good friends, friends who have had a transformative role in my life, who have had aided me in my transition from boyhood to manhood. (Really I think this process is probably still in progress.)  It facilitated a "growing up" process. Not only did it aid in the process but it also enhanced it because it did not have to take place in isolation. There was a large group of others who were going through similar trials who could help you.  And I was interested in helping facilitate that process for other young men, hopefully building on my process by warning them of making similar mistakes to myself. For, "When I was a child I spoke like a child. When I became a man I gave up childish ways." In short, Love is what ultimately motivated me. This love that I have for my brothers (and for all, ideally) is what keeps me serving in my role. And this love is a mirror of the love of Christ demonstrated on the cross. This is not to say a non-Christian cannot serve in the capacity I serve. In fact, some are more able. In fact anyone can do this, fraternity officer, member, or otherwise. But they've got to be motivated by this idea of love. Love is what brings fullness to things, especially human interaction. The most beautiful thing about love is that it is reciprocal, multiplicative and infectious. What I am trying to say is that I have grown from my time in office and it is in no small part due to brotherly love. That is why I view this job as a sort of calling for me. God wants me do things for others, rather than just sit around and do things I enjoy. Actually, I think this is a calling for all of us. As God has loved us, so must we love one another. 



      October 19, 2011
Cassidy Miller
This summer I worked with the Rainbow Network in Nagarote, Nicaragua. One morning I went to the office in and was called into a room with three other people. One man began reading a passage from the bible, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20)." As uncomfortable as I am with organized Christianity sometimes, I love the idea of Jesus and I love this passage. Actually, I like it even better in the words of Rich Mullins, "Birds have nests and foxes have dens, but the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man."
After reading this passage the four of us talked about Jesus, God, and the need for faith. A woman I had been working with, Flor, said that life in Nicaragua is harder than most other places, so the people need a god they can relate to. They need a god that can give them hope. She said that every day parents work hard, but their children still go hungry and that every day there are children who have to deal with things that they are too young to fully understand. She said that there is so much poverty, suffering, and struggle, but God is in their hearts so they can keep going because God gives them hope and a promise of a wonderful eternal life in His kingdom. Flor also said that Christianity should be different in the states because we live very fortunate lives, so we need God and the example of Christ to remind us of our brothers and sisters around the world who are not as fortunate.
Afterward, we held hands and prayed. This was the first time I had prayed in this way for a long time. Flor thanked God for me and my work, but mostly she thanked him for her riches, meaning her children, her husband, the roof over her head, her job, and the fact that her family has enough food to survive. It was then that I wept. 
I wept for the fact that Flor's riches were what we often take for granted in the States. Our riches are money, a big house, a car for each family member, electronics, and just all of our expensive stuff. I wept because many people claim to strive for a life like Christ, but they forget that Jesus was a homeless dude. He didn't live in a giant house with flat screens and vacation in Cabo. I wept because I don't know how or when we forgot about humanity. When did we lose sight of what is real and important? Our lives are so full of jobs, school, shopping, traveling, etc. that we sometimes forget to love. We sometimes forget what love is, and sometimes we forget to share that love with humanity. We sometimes forget that no matter what "God" is for each of us, the truth is that right now in this life all we have is each other


October 26, 2011
Ann Pittman

The heart breaking makes a sound, I never knew could be so beautiful and loud, fury filled and we… collide.

The heart breaking makes a sound.

Sometimes it's loud, like a freight train's horn as it rattles by you sitting in your car facing the tracks. Sometimes it's softer like the sound of your roommate's glasses under your left foot when you jump from the top bunk to the floor.

Loud or soft, it makes a sound.

It's nice when it's loud. You hear it, and your professor hears it, and your mother, and even your 82-year-old grandfather who won't wear his hearing aides hears it. And this is comforting. Most everyone will give you space to pick up the pieces… grief has struck and everyone knows it takes time to put your heart back together.

When the sound is softer, managing our hearts becomes a little trickier. We may not even recognize that the crack, that little pain, those wide eyes with the fluttering lids symbolize the breaking of our hearts, our ideals, our paradigms… ourselves.

I did a lot of laughing when I came to Jewell. I loved college and my gluttony for this new chapter of life was not without cause. I was getting a great education, making fabulous friends, eating delicious desserts at every meal…

But for as much as I loved my first year at Jewell, it did not pass without a tear or two. For "Responsible Self" I turned in a reflective essay to Dr. Walters at the end of the semester: a 17 page, size 9 font, personal novella about my struggles.

Life which had seemed so fun to explore, so easy to discern, so manageable became convoluted, complicated, and more confusing the further away from home I traveled.

You know what I mean.

You watch 60+ wild, beautiful animals killed after their owner set them loose and then committed suicide; you see the rebellions in Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, the cost of which we hope is worth the freedom; you read about the middle class marching on Wall Street and beyond, not welfare families, but people like us seeking justice in this shallow, selfish economy; the 13th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death passes and you know we're still not done hating the gays; and to top it all off, you can hear your suitemate throwing up her food every night and you struggle whether or not to tell someone.

The heart breaking makes a sound, I never knew could be so beautiful and loud, fury filled and we… collide.

Take hope.

The God who gives us the Ozarks and cherry pie and Arrested Development is the same God who gave Abraham a promise, the Hebrews manna, and Israel a Messiah. God has not left us without hope. The Spirit moves among us like a crisp breeze, breathing sustenance into fatigue and life into death. And we… collide… with God.

And in that collision the depravity and the divinity get all jumbled together and we begin to see it all is sacred so long as God is with us on the journey. So long as God is at home in our hearts.




November 2, 2011
    Brett Whisler


What is the purpose of God or why do people praise or center their life for Him? Do people serve Him and follow the biblical teachings to either achieve Heaven or avoid Hell? One who affirms such a statement would have no purpose on earth and essentially views God as an object. That person is using God as a means to an end; in this circumstance one is using God as a stepping stone for everlasting life or to evade eternal damnation.       
Instead one should grow spirituality to be more like Jesus, who spent His time on earth devoted to relationship. Take Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene: if He would have viewed Mary for her non-essential attributes and past experiences, then He would have never encountered the woman who’d become the first person to see Him after his Resurrection and Mark 16:9. We experience similar situations like this everyday at Jewell. When you walk by someone on the quad, you already have a predetermined thought of that person based on past events. These past events make up non-essential characteristics of the person. What if the person has been awake for over 50 hours; probably not reasonable to define that person as being grumpy after a long night of studying? We shouldn’t identify people without first having relational interaction. , according to both John 20
One should strive for these relational interactions. Something special happens when one limits his own knowledge and allows the other freedom to be creative. This is a divine experience and at the center is God. These divine experiences should happen between both God and the self and also with the self and others. Prayer is an example of this divine experience because it helps build a relationship with God. From John 15:7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted. Meaning God is giving us the freedom to be creative and will help us with our endeavors if his teachings remain conscious within us.
Nonetheless to grow spiritually one must also have these divine experiences with others. Remember passing that person on the quad, what if instead of judging and defining him or her, you find out how the person’s day is going and listen to what he or she  has to say . This relationship becomes both exclusive and inclusive, meaning you view each other with no one characteristic retaining any importance but acknowledging each are unique.
Therefore one should eliminate using others as a means to an end and defining them from their past experiences to develop and spiritually grow into the image of God who is relational. Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Jesus walked on earth encountering others and building relationships, and we should emulate just that. We need God while God needs us, without this there is no purpose for us on earth.


November 9, 2011
    Cameron Evans

My spiritual growth does not involve
         A divine referent No God or Jesus
My spiritual growth does not require
        Me to perform a particular algorithm
        No movement towards or away
My spiritual growth does not require

My growth is organic
        Like that of the sapling
        Or the bacteria, the fungi or invertebrate
My growth is mental
        It cannot be uncoupled from the physical
My growth is in passive watching

My spiritual journey to be sure
        Isn’t Empiricism replacing religion
My journey lies in the exploration of the self
        Others and the world around me
In my journey
        There are rarely solid facts
        Upon which to base ethical decisions

But my biology and psychology confirm one thing
        I have desire and that desire causes suffering
My biology brings pain when I am deprived of food or water
My psychology brings pain in suffering

Our awareness of pain unlike the amoeba’s can be denied
        Suffering is merely the denial of pain
This reflex denial is undoubtedly adaptively advantageous
        Yet we could do without it

Awareness applied to the self can be used to reduce suffering

Concentration first on the breath then on the mind
Concentration on the self can reveal to us our darkest animal natures

As I sit in meditation I realize my primate mind
        Who thought something so simple could be so difficult?
In meditation I realize my hopes my fears
        I realize this unending dialogue in my head

One cannot purge this animal of the mind
        This animal is you
        What you might identify as the self

With Mindfulness
        One can learn to rein in the creature
        To curb appetite
But absolute elimination of appetite is meaningless
        Unattainable, except in death
With mindfulness
        One not only appreciates the self
But the struggles of others

Others, like the self
        Are subject to the same
Cycles of rebirth
        of desire and frustration
        integral to the human condition

When one realizes
        The prevalence of suffering
One realizes
        The unity of mankind
        Ones interconnectedness with nature
One can develop
        A love without attachment

        can be changed
To promote peace
        To eliminate suffering
Within and among
        The self
And others

In action and in inaction
        One participates in karma
The laws of cause and effect

This is no magic moral transfer. Simply:

Negative energy propagates
        Negative energy
Positive energy propagates
        Positive energy

With mindfulness
        We can appreciate this web
Of interconnected karma
        Action and inaction
Cause and effect

Like the butterfly
        We too can flap our wings
To create catastrophic hurricanes
        Or we can choose to make a light breeze

My journey
        Is in better understanding
Myself and others
That informs right action
        Morality from the ground up

To paraphrase the fourteenth Dalai Lama

I don't know whether the universe,
        with its countless galaxies, stars and planets has a deeper meaning…
But at least it is clear
        we face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.
It is important to discover what will bring about that happiness.


November 16, 2011
Dr. Wolterstorff

Let me read you the opening 6 verses of Psalm 19. The opening music that you heard was a meditation on Psalm 19 by the Italian Renaissance composer of Benedetto Marcello. Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament displays proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there any words, their voice is not heard. Yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” The psalmist begins boldly, “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. “ And then he resorts to paradox, “day by day, night by night, their speech pours forth,” but there is no speech, there are no words, nobody hears any words. Yet their voice sounds throughout the earth and their words to the farthest reaches of the universe. So the heavens tell of God’s glory without talking, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork without words. Every student who graduates from William Jewell College will occupy certain social roles. You will eventually find yourself in some paying occupation, or so one hopes. You will all occupy the role of citizen, most of you will occupy the role of parent, and so forth, and one of the goals of collegiate education is to equip you for choosing and living out your future social roles. But liberal arts education aims at something else as well. It aims at enhancing your understanding; your understanding of the world, of human beings, of God. Now sometimes our human attempts at understanding are animated, motivated, by the desire to improve our lives, but sometimes they’re animated instead simply by love, love of understanding. I think at the root of liberal arts education is that kind of love. Were this disinterested love of understanding to disappear a fundamental dimension of liberal arts education would also disappear. Every now and then we find ourselves in awe at what we have come to understand. Awe at the astounding immensity of the world, or awe at the astounding intricacy of its parts. And such awe will lead the believer to move on from that awe to awe before the creator God. For the believer hears that immensity as telling of God’s glory, and hears that intricacy as proclaiming God’s handiwork. And so too, every now and then, we find ourselves in awe at the products of human creativity. Take your favorite example, Bach’s B Minor Mass. And such awe will also lead the believer to move on to awe before the creator God. For human creativity likewise tells of God’s glory and proclaims God’s handiwork. An additional comment is necessary. Sometimes, in your attempt to understand human beings, you will not be overtaken by awe, but you will be stopped in your tracks by the sheer horror of what we human beings have done to each other. Not awe, but horror. I visited two months ago the Holocaust Museum in Washington for the first time. That’s horror. If you in your four years of college never feel awe at what you have come to understand, or if you do but you’re never led to awe before God, I think something’s gone wrong. But so too if you never feel horror at what human beings have done to each other. Something is missing. Liberal arts education, at bottom, lives on awe and horror. So keep yourselves alive in college and for the remainder of your lives to awe and horror.


January 18, 2012
Kim Harris

See the two-year old child on the screen? Me at two years; at heart still me. While acting in a college production of The Diary of Anne Frank, I intuitively understood the God I [indicating screen/self) worship would not burn Anne, a Jew, in hell. But what about the seemingly contradictory scripture, “I am the way-truth-life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” My solution to this statement may brand me by some as reductionist: I believe God is love: pure, simple, horrifically complex. Jesus repeatedly reveals love, Paul defines it in First Corinthians [indicate Ann]. Love messages thread teachings of the Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius, many others. Love embodies TRUTH, brings LIFE, is a treacherously narrow WAY when hate is so easy. Faith that THIS God IS, occurs for this child [indicating screen/self] beyond proof-texts; occurs in life-texts [quick indication of audience] where energies flow between unseen God and [full indication of audience] seeable, wonderfully multi-layered realities. Under God’s tutelage my mind is not a threat to my faith, all questions are on the table.  God embraces/loves all, weeps when we fall into weakness, accident, manipulation by or of others; is joyful in our growth into love.

For me, a self-identified Christian, Jesus is a powerful metaphor for God. As a sweating, breathing human, I am drawn to the sweating, human Jesus who walked around apparently amazed at our propensity to hate self-righteously. Framable human Jesus reflects for me unframable God.  

At sixty-five years on my way to heaven, at the end of my forty-year teaching-theatre-on-the-college-level career to which I was called, while directing highly rigorous plays that ask difficult questions, this child [indicate] has realized humans remain primitive. In spite of our religions, philosophies, political theories, chemical/biological pathways, we are at each others’ throats as much as ever, using more sophisticated weapons, displaying the same glossed-over hatred for others. One character in a play I wrote asks, “Why is justice not justice unless blood flows?” Another of my characters answers that our mutual destruction might arise from the impulse to stay alive, be alive, live no matter the cost. I have become increasingly saddened by those who believe certain questions should not be on the table at a Christian college, certainly not analyzed on the theatrical stage. Theatre seems dangerous to some because of how it reflects life: good, bad, pretty, ugly. Often we do not want to see certain aspects of ourselves performed by other humans on stage. But the more I have helped students bring complex texts/characters to life, and the more there is resistance to difficult questions being asked, the more I appreciate the God I learned from my Mom and Dad: God who gave us the gift of reason, who wants our questions, our yearnings, who is earthy enough to write answers in the dust of our despair, our longing.

After my journey on this planet, I envision a huge feast hosted by God who radically loves and welcomes everyone to the tables of fellowship, everyone. God, love-defined, is a full enough picture for this kid.


January 25, 2012
Kent Huyser

It's not about you.

I only need four words this morning, not 500. But since I have 483 words left, let me expand on those four.

At some point I’m sure you’ve experienced a recurring dream, or at the very least heard someone talk about one they’ve had.

But have you experienced a recurring thought? Words that just pop into your mind from time-to-time?

Perhaps it is something particularly memorable that someone said to you at some point in your life. Fatherly or motherly advice you remember all these years later.

Maybe it’s something a high school teacher or a Jewell professor said that was an "aha" moment for you. Or maybe it is something that a spouse or friend said that really hit home. 

The words that echo in my mind are the four that I started with: It’s Not About You.

They certainly aren't the most sophisticated set of words ever strung together. You might say it's a rather simple thought. But these words are memorable because of the timing in which they were spoken to me -- the peak of my most self-centered time in life, which I generally define as my 20's. 

As a good friend and I compared notes about weekend plans, I lodged a complaint about an upcoming event I had to attend and started to talk in detail about the imposition that this event was putting me in.

Before I could finish my thoughts, I was rudely interrupted with those four words. And looking back on that moment years later, he was absolutely right.

It's not about me.

In Philippians chapter 2, verses 3 and 4, Paul writes:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.

And in James, chapter 3, verse 13, Jesus’s brother writes:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

In this age of YouTube and Twitter and Facebook, and check-ins to announce to the world that we've arrived somewhere, and tweeting status updates about any and every minute detail of our lives at any time we desire, the thought "it's not about you" can get lost rather quickly, can’t it?

Jesus died on the cross to give us eternal life. So it is about us, right? 

You can certainly make an argument for that. But is this how you plan to live out your life, making it all about you? Is this the theme for your life?

I know I’m not always listening when the Holy Spirit echoes these four words from the voice of my friend all these years later. I think the reason they enter into my mind so often is because I need to be constantly reminded of this approach to life.

It’s not all about me. And yet I still stray.

How about you?


February 1, 2012
Parker Artz

I think back to the first week of school at Jewell. One particular day after responsible-self, I was lying in bed feeling sick to my stomach after a discussion about the Bible, creation, and the origin of man. I just knew my professor was insane, especially after he implied that the earth might not be 6000 years old. My story was the classic --small town Christian boy meets liberal arts education and gets his world rocked. In short, my faith looks a lot different now than it did --it now involves more gray than black and white. It may sound cheesy, but I believe that I had to lose my faith in order to find it.

One of the most significant changes that has occurred in my faith journey has been a movement from  a private, compartmentalized, faith that mainly focuses on my beliefs and my behind the scenes spiritual practices, to an all encompassing, whole-life faith.

In 1938 there was an article in Homes & Gardens magazine that surveyed the quaint home of a politician. The article spoke of the man's love of art and antiques. It noted how the politician had a good relationship with his neighbors, loved children, enjoyed animals, was a strict vegetarian, and never smoked tobacco or touched a drop of alcohol. The man was none other than Adolf Hitler, the power-crazed, fascist leader of  Nazi Germany during WWII. In his private, behind-the scenes existence, Hitler may have seemed like a good guy, but this is not what determined who Hitler was. The truth about Hitler was found in his material reality.

Theologian Peter Rollins discusses how many people of faith have this idea that the truth of who we are is found in our private spiritual lives, but instead Rollins proposes that the truth of who we are is found in the totality of our being. He continues by proposing that Christianity is a materialistic religion in that, if it does not transform one's material reality, it is not true.

I look at Jesus and how he embraced whole-life-faith. It radically transformed his material reality and his interaction with the world. In a world where the rich used their wealth to exploit and oppress the poor, Jesus said blessed are the poor. In a world dominated by the Roman Empire where power was everything, Jesus said blessed are the meek. In a world that neglected the sick and physically impure, Jesus proclaimed blessed are the pure in heart. Gods reality became Jesus' reality. God's value system became Jesus' value system and Jesus was operating in a new paradigm calling him to rethink everyday life, and challenge existing structures to advocate for real change in the real world.

Think about it, how would your life be different if you embraced whole-life-faith and allowed God to truly transform your material reality and every compartment of your existence? Would it change what you buy, how you use your resources, the activities you choose to participate in, how you regulate your time, or how you care for the environment? Would it change your career goals or how you measure success? Would it alter the way that you interact with people you love...and maybe even those you don't?

Romans 12: 1-2  (The Message Translation)
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out.


February 8, 2012
Tori Litardo

Chapel Speech
“Be Pastoral and Prophetic”

I will never forget the words of Lindy Scott, the director of Whitworth University’s Costa Rica Center, during our program’s faith and practice seminar. “Be pastoral and prophetic,” he boldly stated to these 32 students who were on a four-month search of getting to know the heart of Latin America and the realities within. Those words were immediately engraved in my mind, for I was beginning to think that physical poverty was not the only issue in Latin America, but spiritual poverty was also gnawing at the hearts of many. This phrase was much more powerful than the cliché “world peace” or “fight for social justice” phrase that one hears quite often in the radical sector. Instead, these words pertained to scripture, pointing to something far more sustaining in an eternal sense.

To be pastoral and prophetic transcends the materialistic approach we often times respond with in the name of “social justice.” But in the midst of fighting for one’s justice, unless we become pastoral and prophetic, people’s souls will still long for a purpose, and people’s hearts will be left untouched. To be pastoral and prophetic is a beautiful thing that focuses on the transformation of humanity through the scriptures. Inviting one and all to participate with every gift, passion, and heart towards furthering the kingdom and liberating hearts through the good news. There is no formula for the phrase, just the understanding that the gospel changes everything. And when people gather and begin to experience a life of being pastoral and prophetic to those around them, it fosters a form of solidarity that begins to shape spiritual sustainability within communities. And when communities are formed more voices are heard and more hearts are transformed by the justice being sought in the name of Jesus. And when hearts are transformed through the good news a new joy and sense of purpose exceeds all promises of man. It’s with this mindset that not only Latin America is beginning to be transformed through this movement, but other areas within our community, nation, and world. When deep joy overcomes complacency, a new life has begun.

I made a decision that day Lindy spoke to live my life according to that phrase. A phrase that has given me a new responsibility to proclaim the good news and encourage spiritual community. But one alone cannot conquer this full task, for we are meant to work as community. How beautiful it would be to see a community like this further the kingdom in a way that creates unity within the city as a whole. To find a place of solidarity, to pursue our given talents, to serve, and to not only speak words of encouragement, but words of life where there once was emptiness. How wonderful would is be to not just see the poor clothed and the weary strong, but also proclaiming joy in their new found identities; identities that are founded on the good news that transforms everything.


February 22, 2012
Elaine Reynolds

“Remember o man that dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.”

These are the words that used to be said in my church when the priest marked a cross in ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday. Now days they have gone to a more gender neutral form, which I approve but I still have a fondness for the old.

What does it mean? It could mean ‘eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.’ That sort of fits more with Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, than Ash Wednesday.  I’ve learned a thing or two about Mardi Gras from my friends the Howells. Shiney beads, good food, music, dancing, laughter, King cake, costumes, ‘the world turned upside down’. 

But then on Ash Wednesday, the world turns back up right. And we are invited to “the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

None of those are too terribly difficult. But they are not easy.
If I honestly examine myself, that includes grading. And what if I’m doing D work lately? Am I prepared to do what it would take to improve?

If I repent, if I ‘turn from [my] wickedness’ what will I have to do? Not only what will I have to give up for Lent but what will I have to give up or take on for good?  One gets used to the view from a rut, limited tho’ it may be. But what might I see/be/accomplish out of it?

Prayer. As an Episcopalian, I have no excuse. If I can’t think of any prayer in my own words, I have the Book of Common Prayer. Or I can plaigerise the Psalms, as in Pslam 51, the choir anthem.  And even the Spirit prays for us in sighs too deep for understanding.

Fasting and self-denial.  Those are toughies. Can I step away from poor eating habits? Can I give up the extra hour in bed to go swim? Am I supposed to give up murder mysteries to have time for reading the Bible?

It’s hard to know what God requires of me at times. I do know that I have never been much of a party girl. But I also mustn’t forget that the ultimate end of  Lent is Easter. And that the purpose of Lent is not to depress me, because it reminds me of my shortcomings or losses in my life. It is instead to put me ‘in mind of the message and pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior’ and the God who desires not my death but rather that I might turn from my sin and live.


March 21, 2012
Austin Baragary

Why do people turn to faith? There are many answers to this question, and not all of them are necessarily positive. Today, though, I wish to focus on what I consider to be a very positive aspect of faith—happiness.

Many people turn to their respective faiths because they are able to find comfort there, and that makes them happy. The sense of fellowship, belonging, and understanding that comes from faith—whether it be a religion or a less structured spiritual path—brings joy to people’s lives. And isn’t that what we all want? While some might claim that such a reason is an insultingly simple understanding of their faith, I do not mean it in that way. We all want happiness, and that is something that faith can provide. I mean no judgment in saying that one turns to their faith for happiness. To me, choosing happiness is one of the greatest things that a person can do. For me, happiness is my faith. It is the path I have chosen for my life. I have chosen to embody happiness in the same way a Christian embodies Christ.

As I understand it from some research on the subject of happiness and faith, it is taught in Christianity that happiness is derived from living a life in service to God. In Islam, a happy life comes from living by the Qur’an. In Judaism, happiness is created by the individual—they must choose to live a joyful existence. Of course, these are all very simplistic understandings of happiness. And there exists a multitude of other faiths, each with their own understanding of happiness. I, however, am partial to the Jewish understanding of happiness. Happiness is something you choose. And from it flows so many other virtues like kindness, compassion, and love.

Of course, it’s very easy for me to choose happiness. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in a world where my greatest source of unhappiness is a bad grade on a test. For some, happiness is not such an easy choice. It’s hard to be happy when you are starving, when you live in a system that you want so badly to escape but cannot, a system that is designed to make sure that you will stay where you are.

But for those of us who can choose happiness—who realize just how incredibly blessed we are—we should. We should choose to be happy and to rejoice in the world around us—in our relationships, in a beautiful day, in our amazing opportunities. And we should take that happiness and use it to make everyone around us happy, to change their world to the point that making that choice is easy for them.  We must also recognize, though, that their source of happiness may not be our source—but as long as they can choose joy, and do so without bringing great harm to others, why should we care?

Now, Ellen DeGeneres may not be a spiritual leader, but she is someone for whom I have great respect. And I think she summarizes it best when she says, simply, “Laugh. Dance. Love.” So as we depart today, let me provide you with a second sort of benediction. Let’s go into the world to make justice, love kindness, and walk wisely, but also to laugh, dance, and love. Let us depart and be happy.


March 28, 2012
Tara Moreland

A year ago I went on a service trip to south Texas near the U.S./Mexico border. I was exposed to people suffering from the effects of extreme poverty and immigration conflict, violence, and lack of education. My faith and I had been on shaky ground before this trip, but the journey itself seemed to knock out from under me whatever foundation had been present on my religious path. The despair I felt for the people of this community made me resentful of the God that everyone around me was praying to for guidance. I thought that these kinds of experiences strengthened one’s faith, but for me, I was only left with confusion and anger. I returned from this trip faced with a question that I had avoided asking myself for some time: Do I even believe in God?

I allowed myself to accept that maybe this path of faith was not the one I was meant to walk, despite the fact that so many around me seemed to thrive on that path. What I felt from this acceptance was not relief or contentment, but a sense of loss, of pain. I tried talking with others about what I was going through, subconsciously trying to allow myself to be swayed one way or the other. I did not want to take ownership of this decision—I was afraid of the ramifications of each path: a life in which I would spend the entirety of unfulfilled, trying to force an ideology upon myself that was not what I truly believed, or a life in which I would feel empty and ostracized because of my choice not to believe.

What I have learned through this experience is that this state of confusion and pain is okay; it is unavoidable, yet necessary—we cannot grow without having to ask hard questions, because these questions have different answers for each of us. We cannot adopt someone else’s answers as our own, and why should we? They will not fill our hearts with the contentment we seek, anyway. I have not found my own answers yet, but I am learning to trust this process, not try and stop it, and take comfort in the knowledge that maybe not right this moment, but someday, it all will make sense. On those days I become discouraged and wonder if I will ever have clarity in my faith, I remind myself of a quote I keep written down and recite to myself often:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke


April 11, 2012
Francis Warren

It is a particular honour for me to be invited by your President, David Sallee, to speak to you today.  William Jewell’s association with us in Oxford is now thirty-nine years old.  On all my visits here I have been struck by the flourishing theatre and music departments; unquestionably among the finest in the United States.

My own appreciation of music began very early, and was closely associated with our Church.  My father was Vicar of a town called Epson, just south of London.  Epsom was a prime target of Hitler’s bombers during the Second World War blitz, and later of his rocket attacks.  My younger brother was born under the dining room table during one of the most ferocious bombings of the war.  To describe that noise to you would be impossible.

It is against this background of cacophony, falling houses, chaos, sirens, and five long years of onslaught that my spiritual life was shaped; in particular by the music, across the road from our Vicarage, in my father’s church.  Its music was a refuge in an alternative world of pure form and its delight, expressing intense emotions with graciousness and truth.  It was indeed the music of heaven.

The prayers, too, seemed written just for us, living as we were in blackout:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, Jesus Christ Those prayers seemed to understand the night sky of the Blitz, with its intersecting searchlights cutting the throbbing dark.

Look down, O Lord, from thy heavenly throne, illuminate the darkness of this night with thy celestial brightness, and from the sons of light banish the deeds of darkness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The morning collect, too, spoke immediately to us who had been through a night of flames:

O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord. . . Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies, that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries. . .

As we sang the Psalms, they also struck home forcefully:

The ungodly cometh on so fast: for they are minded to do me some mischief; so maliciously are they set against me
Psalm 56.v.2-3.

Mine enemies are daily in hand to swallow me up; for they be many that fight against me, O thou most Highest.  Nevertheless, though I am sometime afraid: yet I put my trust in thee.
Psalm 56.v.2-3.

I became a boy chorister, then later a Choral Scholar at Cambridge, all the time knowing how we had been delivered against impossible odds from invasion by Nazi-conquered Europe.  It was a miracle, the harmony of heaven had overcome the bombers and rockets of darkness, and had shaped my spiritual life with a certainty in the triumph of goodness and the generosity of God through the worst evil that man can do that nothing can shake.

To be in the fog-filled chapel of King’s College, Cambridge as the huge window canvasses flapped where the stained glass had been removed for safety; to hear, as the choir candles spluttered in the cold, Psalm 51 sung on Ash Wednesday – that prayer of penitence and for mercy, every third verse of which carried the soaring voice of a solo boy in Allegri’s unearthly descant, summed up all I have said.

I will end with the words of a friend of mine who died recently, who survived the same experiences only a few miles from me: Henry Chadwick.  He said:

Of all the arts, music is the one to which order and regularity matter most deeply.  But it is also the art with the greatest detachment from objects which we can touch and see.  It therefore has a power to take us into a world beyond matter.  At least for a few fleeting moments it can deliver us from the chance and chaos of our lives, and by its very transitoriness point us towards that which abides.

- Henry, Chadwick, Tradition and Experience: Norwich, Canterbury Press, 1994, p. 207


April 18, 2012
Evan Courtney


“I’m spiritual, but not religious.”  This is the catchphrase that is offered by so many people my age nowadays when they’re asked about their religious affiliations or beliefs.  Even people who may have held traditional religious beliefs who are in mid-life have started using that phrase.  To me, it seems that faith in God and religion has taken a back seat to individualized “spirituality”.  It makes sense, in light of the things we have to deal with in today’s world: the financial crisis, wars, genocide, starvation; the list goes on.  It seems no wonder that faith in an all-knowing, all-encompassing, all-loving God should start to falter under these conditions.

But what if we started to look at and think about God in a different way?  What if we stopped concentrating on what God may not be doing and started seeing what we, as images of God, can do.  And since we are images of God, isn’t God in all of us?  Are we not called to carry out God’s work and will?  What other way can God’s work be done but through us: humans.  Let’s stop concentrating on the idea of what a transcendental God is not doing and start doing the things that we know God would want us to do.  Let’s have faith in each other as one another’s God and realize that we have only one another as humans to rely upon for help and comfort and love.  Is this a fundamental change in the way most of us lead our lives?  Yes.  Our sedentary, passive lives will have to change to proactive ones.  Lives in which all humans care for one another, in which all humans have enough to eat, and where giving money to a foundation will not be enough.  We have to have faith in our universal humanness and take responsibility for our own well-being.

Now, you may be thinking this could never work because humans are fallible, humans make mistakes, humans cannot create miracles when miracles are needed, and that that’s where God comes in.  Well, according to those who have lost their faith in God and are simply “spiritual, but no religious”, God is fallible, God does make mistakes, and the miracles don’t come when they’re needed.  We have to be comfortable with the idea of fallibility and divinity resting together because the two are not mutually exclusive.  Christ was fallible, every prophet has been fallible, we stake our eternal lives on what they had to say, and they were humans.  If God had enough faith in humanity to send teachings through humans, shouldn’t we have enough faith in each other to carry out those messages?  Whether or not divinity exists on a level that transcends humans, I do not know.  What I do know is that divinity exists in all of us, and that we have only to look to each other for the kingdom of God to manifest itself.  The faith we are looking for is in all of us.


April 25, 2012
Sarah Cappo


“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

I have to admit that although I strive every day to live according to this quote by Maggie Kuhn, I am not always successful. And some of my peers might find this hard to believe. Because, when it comes to some of my values, like feminism, I do speak the truth. Quite frequently. And my voice rarely shakes.
However, I seldom find the courage to speak truth when it comes to my faith.

I was raised in a liberal, feminist, and Baptist household. Yes, you heard me correctly. Liberal. Feminist. And Baptist. I’m still trying to sort out for myself how those three values fit together. And believe me, I cannot for the life of me condense it into 500 words. But, I wanted to give some perspective as to where I came from, regarding my religion. So what is my religion now? That’s the tricky part.

I don’t know.

I can, however, tell you what I do know.
I know that I have faith.
I know that I believe in love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
I know that I believe in God.
I know that this God believes in women.
I know that this God loves everyone. Equally. End of story.
I know that I hope to see Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and the Archbishop of Canterbury breaking bread together in heaven some day.
I know that when I read the words of the Upanishads, of the Dhammapada, of the Qur’an, I read the words of a god that is strikingly similar to the God that I know.
That’s some of the truth that I have wanted to speak for the past 3 years. So why haven’t I?

Honestly, I was scared. I’m still scared. I love Jewell with all my heart, and I love the students that are here with me. But I look around and see my friends that are so confident in their faiths, in their religions. And I cannot help but feel inadequate. I found it so much easier to hold onto that Baptist façade than to be honest about what my faith truly is.

But today, I will be honest. In truth, it’s because of my Jewell experience that I am the woman that stands before you today. It’s because of classes like Responsible Self. Classes like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and Scriptures of the World. My Leadership Cornerstone Course and my Outward Bound Experience. Classes and experiences that have taught me not what to think, but how to think. How to become my own person and discern my own beliefs.
True, these have shaped my faith. But, perhaps more importantly, they have given me the courage to stand before you today and speak the truth.

And I am so happy I did.
So, believe me when I say this:
No matter if you’re Baptist or Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, Creationist or Evolutionist, 
No matter what faith you practice,

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”


May 2, 2012
Jeff Buscher


August 29, 2011… Exactly 6 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed the gulf coast, two Jewell students and I left campus, headed to New Orleans for our 6th journey to the gulf in as many years.  Joining 100 college students from across the country rebuilding homes in the lower 9th ward.  Our project was to build a porch… no problem, I’ve done that before… we get to the resident’s new home and realize, it’s a brick porch, OK, we can do that.  One week of hard work and a lot of cajun’ food, and the porch was ready for the professional bricklayer to do the detail work.  Faced with the challenge of trying something we had never done before, we had two choices, throw in the towel (Which one of our other team members did) or give it our best shot… Two Roads…

Two months later, Fall Break, and it’s time to lend a hand in another place that was recovering from disaster.  A dozen of us loaded the van and trailer and headed to Joplin.  Prior to the trip we recruited a team of guys that knew how to roof a house.  In three days our team tore off the existing roof, made major repairs, and had the new roof on, just as the sun was setting on the third day.  By fall break, everyone is ready to take some time off, and there are choices to be made, do your own thing, or serve others… Two Roads…

By January it was time to visit our friends in Embarcadero, Honduras.  We have partnered with them to build latrines and stoves and we have started a small store in their village.  They have taught us the importance of relationships and living a simple life.  It has been an honor to work alongside these friends and see their community develop over the past three years.  One afternoon in a community meeting, Marlone, one of the leaders, said this about their village, “Soon as we get electricity, we will be a model village.”  As a village, they have this amazing sense of confidence, and a willingness to work together to make their world a better place.

We are very close to concluding our formal relationship with this village, and we will soon find another village with whom we can partner.  Until then, the folks in Embarcadero have a choice to make… They can sit back and enjoy the improvements they have made in their community, or they can share their skills with neighboring communities, that face similar challenges.  Two Roads…

Do we dare allow our faith to inform our choices in life?  As we conclude another great year at Jewell, let’s celebrate the great choices we have made in our community, that have made this world a better place.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh – Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”





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