The Power of Friendship

Hello ladies, today I want to talk with you about the power of friendship:
Remember when you were a kid in your neighborhood or when you attended school for the first time and you decided to make friends with some nice kids who smiled at you or seemed friendly? Or were you the kind of kid who always had friends and you never seemed to know how you found them or dedicated yourself to have fun with them? Making friends, for some of us, was quite easy when we were kids. It often gets a lot more complicated when we are adults because our critical nature, sometimes filters out a lot of people from even making it to our friend finalist list.
But when we were children, we enjoyed our friends. Do you remember the adventures you got into with your friends? Did someone encourage you to steal fruit from a neighbors tree or grapevine? Did you used to play “house” together with your dolls or kick around a soccer ball? Did you spend time at the beach or play games with your neighbor? Or did the two of you hide from your little brother or sister who wanted to tag along on your adventures?
This Sunday, Sra. Sarah  Catarino (at Riverside International Church in Cascais, Portugal) gave us a beautiful sermon about the blessings of friendship. She used the friendship of Jonathan and King David as an example. She also touched on why it is important for us to have friends — real friends —in our life. This week I also want to share a message with you reminding us all about our friends and how we need to stay connected with them — even in the midst of this pandemic.
While many of us have been staying at home during quarantine, some of us may be distraught about not being able to meet with and talk to our friends in person. Others may be just fine being alone and may have even pushed away some friends so that they can pursue solo pursuits or spend time with family. But I am reaching out to you this week, asking you to think about your friends, those whom you miss and did not talk to for a while. There is a blessing in friendship and it is not just that you get to gossip and laugh with friends— you can also share your faith, your disappointments and your love.
So, if you have a friend that you have not talked to for a last few months, give them a call. They probably need to hear from you just as much as you need to reach out to them. Friendships are important — and it is not just me who says this — but God. In Proverbs 27:9, it is written that “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” And in 1 Thessalonians 11, we are told to encourage each other and build each other up. It is important to do this, because no one really knows what the other is going through unless they tell you. Sometimes, we keep things to ourselves that we should share with the people who care about us. And sometimes, the things we keep are struggles with fear, depression and anxiety. Your kind words and care could literally pick up their spirits and help turn their focus back on God.
I have a dear friend who I had not talked to in a while. We have maintained our friendship of 20 years — no matter where we are in the world. Whenever I talk with her, it is as if time never passed. We start right where we left off, talking about our children, university school work, married lives, families and personal pursuits. But when I recently talked with her, I found out that she had gotten sick, really sick with a virus that should not be named and she was really ill for the entire month of June. I did not know. I did not know, in part, because I had not been in contact with her. I had assumed that all was well. But I was wrong.
Luckily, my friend is recovering. But she is not 100 percent. Her hair is falling out and she seemed to anticipate some stress in her life trying to finish up her graduate degree and navigate her two young children’s schooling. I feel a great sadness because I missed being there for her. But I have today and today I can reach out to her and continue to check in on how she is doing and to listen and encourage her.  We may have friends who are not impacted by illness, but by fear, depression and uncertainty.  If that is you, call a friend and talk to them. If you don’t have a friend that you can call, then write me. I will write you back and pray for you. I don’t want any of you to feel alone, afraid and forgotten during this time.
It is important that we reach out to the people we care about because they are important and could use the encouragement and the people we care about should know they are important to us and that we are rooting for them in life and in faith.
So I challenge you ladies, to send an email to three friends or acquaintances you have not talked to in the last three months to check in with them and to offer them a few words of encouragement and love and a reminder that God loves  them and that you care about them. Your note would be like honey for their soul.
Have a wonderfully blessed week.

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Self-Care is an Important Part of Your Spiritual Development

Walking or running on the beach is part of my Self-Care routine. What is yours?

When I was a young woman in my 20s, I would look forward to warm, sunny weekend days because I could pay a visit to one of my favorite places — the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in Tennessee. It was a lovely private park, with nature trails, roads, secret passageways and boardwalks where guests could explore and reconnect with nature. It was not unusual to see people riding their horses there, or staff giving tours to young children about the importance of nature, or a guest stopping and admiring the beauty of a tree, flower or a deer. To me, this place had a more spiritual connection because it was one of a few places where I felt that I could connect with God.

The visits to this lovely center were no doubt beautiful and filled up my soul. I would wander around and enjoy God’s created beauty, feel the sun on my face and marvel of all that was happening at the plant and bug world. But more importantly, it was a place where I felt the presence of God; I could talk to Him and be open to whatever He had to say to me. I felt such peace while I was there. Other times it became a place I could hash out concerns or problems rambling through my mind. This place, this spiritual place, became an important part of my Self-Care and I hope that you ladies also have a lovely place to go to on special occasions when you need to feel the loving touch of God.
When we talk about Self-Care, there are usually a few bible verses associated with the practice. Here is one of my favorites: Come to Me, all of you who work and have heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Follow My teachings and learn from Me. I am gentle and do not have pride. You will have rest for your souls. 30 For My way of carrying a load is easy and My load is not heavy.”  Isn’t it great that God wants to take care of us and shows us that an important way to Self-Care is to give our burdens to Him!
When you look up the word “Self-Care” in the dictionary, it describes the practice of taking care of yourself, especially in times of stress. Self-Care is active and you must take a vested interest in your own health, well-being and happiness. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or selfish. In fact, Self-Care is self-love — so much love for yourself that you set aside some time just for you — to recharge your physical and spiritual batteries. And while Self-Care is about you — it is also about God. When you are less stressed, when you feel peace, you can probably be more receptive to what God has to say and what you can do for His kingdom!
So, what does Self Care look like? As a Christian, prayer tops my top Self-Care list. Spending time with friends is another form of Self-Care. Women’s Health Magazine, has several other examples, such as: taking a 30 minute bubble bath; exercising for 30 minutes a day; having a five minute dance party in your home (I do this to Kirk Franklin’s gospel music!); disconnecting from all electronic devices for the evening, day or weekend; or going for a long walk with a friend. I also can add a few more too: Set aside each day to meditate on the word of God. Meditation, according to health reports, reduces stress, high blood pressure and many stress-related illnesses such as depression and irritable bowl syndrome. It will also help you connect to God each day — our source; Other options can include reciting your favorite scripture while walking or exercising; joining a WhatsApp bible study for women and setting aside 15 minutes a day to read and write your sisters about your spiritual journey; writing in a journal about your prayer requests and praises; and setting aside time to talk to a loved one like a daughter, husband or cousin about God. 
Do you have a spiritual practice that you would like to share that has become a part of your Self-Care routine? How has it helped you? Would you be willing to share and talk about it in the hopes of helping others? Send us a note!
These days I am far away from Tennessee and the Reflection Riding Center. But I still find ways for Self-Care. I go for walks and runs by the beach. I don’t like bubble baths, but I love standing on my back porch, watching the landscape in the morning as I sip my coffee and try to convince my dog that he will not like my coffee. Every now and then, I drop a bit of coffee for him to lick up, which confirms that he does not like the bitter, sugar-free taste and he goes back to bed. LOL! I write in my journal and I have started a flower/vegetable garden.  Sometimes my self-care involves a sweet-treat such as brownies or ice cream!

A rose growing in our garden. There is something soothing about working in the garden and that is why it is part of my Self-Care routine.

Ladies, if you do not have a regular Self-Care program, you can start one. You can just set aside 15 minutes to do something nice for yourself — and you will see that after a while will have amazing  benefits to your health and well-being, but will also improve your relationship with God!
Have a wonderfully blessed week.
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Imposter Syndrome …

The other day I was reading a news article about former First Lady Michelle Obama in which she admitted that she struggled with “Imposter Syndrome,” and that it never quite goes away. She struggled to believe why anyone would listen to her, because she was just a girl from the South Side of Chicago.

According to Time Magazine, Imposter Syndrome is when a person thinks they are successful because of dumb luck and not because they are capable. A person might feel like a fraud or doubt their own education, skills and talents. An estimated 70 percent of people struggle with Imposter Syndrome at some point, according to Time Magazine.

Michelle Obama revealed struggling with her own worth  during a tour for her book, Becoming — a memoir and analysis of her life from childhood, to the White House. Obama is married to former U.S. President Barack Obama, who served the nation from 2009 to 2017.

As I read the article  about Obama, I had to admit that I also struggled with Imposter Syndrome — not just in  my personal life, but in my Christian life as well. I worked as a journalist and then a professor. Sometimes I wondered if what I wrote mattered to readers. And as a professor, I wondered if I had anything good to teach students. I also felt the same way as a Christian, wondering if I had anything meaningful to share with unbelievers, Christians in a crisis or just regular people I encountered at church or religious activities. I did not feel holy enough or saintly enough to be of service. 

I believe that other women struggle with the same Imposter Syndrome in their Christian walk and perhaps they allow this anxiety to interfere with the call on their lives. Sometimes God calls us to do things for Him and we look at where we were, instead of what God is calling us to do for Him. We see the mountain and forget that if we have enough faith we can tell it to move out of our way. Take heart ladies, even if you don’t feel up to the task or unworthy, if God calls you to do something it is because he deems your heart is ready. I am sure we have all heard the saying that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

The Bible is filled with examples of the faithful who were reticent to take on a task or who had some fear in their heart. I do not know if Joshua felt something akin to Imposter Syndrome when God called him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, but the word that God sent him, is medicine to any soul who feels like they are imposters in their faith and therefore cannot work for the Most High. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He defines us. He loves us. He trains our hearts. Look what he said to Joshua as he led the people: 

 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

— Joshua 1:9

So, the next time you feel like a Christian Imposter, or an Imposter at work or at school, look to God to show you and tell you who you are and for your strength. And remember that God is with you always.

Be blessed ladies. Have a wonderful week and Happy New Year.


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Trust the Master Gardener to Take Care of Your Growth

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of
Jesus Christ — Philippians 1:6

Hello Ladies,

I hope that everyone had a wonderful week. This week, I wanted to share  story with you about spiritual growth — and how it sneaks up on  you when you least expect it. I will tell you the story using my garden as an example.

In late spring I started a garden. I bought seedlings of plants and vegetables. My husband bought flowers and we planted them together in the garden beds. Everything looked neat and pretty, but nothing was growing. I bought a few tomato seedlings. I bought a few cucumbers, melons, zucchini, herbs, and berries and lettuce. Each day I would go out and check on the garden and then I would water it. I had hoped that I would have some lovely red tomatoes by the end of June. But I didn’t even have a flower bud. There were no cucumbers. Birds ate most of the unripe strawberries and blue berries and there wasn’t a broccoli floret or brussels sprout in sight! I kept watering and caring for the garden, even though I didn’t always want to do it. Still, no progress.

But then something amazing happened when I didn’t even see it. I had to go on a trip. When I returned less than two weeks later, you would not imagine what I found: My lettuce grew so much that I couldn’t possibly eat it all in a week. The kale grew too and had yellow flower buds on it; the blueberries were nearly ripe and the strawberries glistened and there were still some berries on the vine. I found a cucumber growing. There were tomatoes, lots of tomatoes. They were not ripe, but the green fruit was an indication of what could be a great summer harvest.

So here in lies the message. Sometimes in our faith walk, we do the work to being closer to God. We set aside time to pray to God and to meditate on his word. We live out our faith when no one is looking. We seek to serve the church and live our lives as if God and his angels are watching us (they are by the way and our friends and families too). We work in our communities to serve as the church because some of the people we interact with my never enter a church or get to know God until they see Him in us. We may also feel tired of doing work that may seem thankless. But it is not. When we least expect it or are about to give up the good work, we see a surprising amount of spiritual growth and great fruit that has developed that one day others can enjoy. In the book of Philippians, it says that God, who began a great work — us — will complete that work. We must trust that he will help us along the road to spiritual maturity and that we too will bear a garden of fruit. But we must also tend to our spiritual gardens believing that the Master Gardener knows and sees all and is helping us. In John 15:2 we learn that God is the best gardener — that he cuts off the branches in us that does not bear fruit and in the branches that do give forth fruit, he prunes them too — so that we may become more fruitful in our Christian lives. And all of our hard work and God’s pruning leads to the ultimate gift — a life with Him in heaven. Let us not be weary in growing closer to God and following the example of Christ!

So this week as you run or walk, think about how much you have grown. Don’t just focus on muscle tone or running distance, think about who you were before you knew God and how much you have grown in your faith. Think about your body, crafted by God, that moves quickly and with purpose. Think of the ways you have been blessed and how the fruit of your life can be used to bless others. Try this running meditation from the book of Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

Have a wonderful week!

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God’s Beauty

Taking in the beauty of God …

I forget about the beauty of God’s creation when I am angry, distracted or hurt.

I also forget that in His beauty, I find peace.

But when I remember this beauty and this peace, it is always as if we meet for the first time. This is how I felt this week while hiking in Ericeira with my family.

The sun was strong and the air crisp. And as I followed a path in the sand, I remembered how something simple could bring me such peace. This walk, this reflection on God brought me peace and comfort. It was self-care because exercise is good for me; but God took care of me as I meditated on His word and His beauty.

As I walk and meditate I know that there is a lot of evil and ugly in this world. But centering on God, I understand that His beauty overcomes this world and it brings light to the abyss. It is OK to forget about beauty when distracted, but when we refocus, we remember the beauty in the world, the beauty of a simple beach walk and the beauty of the sun on your brow. The beauty of God and His creation is available for all to see.

If you find yourself distracted, or angry or sad or even hurting, remember that in the midst of suffering there is God-given joy and that there is beauty in His peace. You can step away from the hurt to have peace in a walk, the smell of a flower, a glimpse of the blue sky or a midnight view of the constellations. Remember God created us — he crafted your eyes and your smile — just as he knit you together in your mother’s womb.

Remember to enjoy the beauty of God; Meditate on His words and His promises to you. Appreciate the Master Craftsman and His wonderful works.

A wonderful praise for a meditation walk is Psalm 19, verses 1-11:

The Heavens are telling the glory of God;
they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.
Day and night they keep telling about God.
Without a sound or a word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world.
The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race! The sun crosses the heavens from end to end and nothing can hide from its heat.
God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise and give us joy and light. God’s laws are pure, eternal and just. They are more desirable than gold.

Dear ladies, have a wonderfully blessed week and delight in God’s love and creation!

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Running for your life! Lessons learned when you continue to run …

Running the race of life can seem scary and lonely but God is always with us as we chart out new places and discover our self and his wish for our life. Never stop running the race!

A few months ago, I ran another half marathon. Every time I run a long race, it is as though I can feel God sending me a word of encouragement. I would like to share with you ladies two things I learned when I ran the half marathon in Mainz, Germany two months ago: Don’t look back; and don’t keep looking at your watch to find your pace!
First, lets start with not looking back. The half marathon took place on a cool May morning in Mainz a lovely city on the Rhein River. I ran the race with my friend Kim, and this was her first half-marathon. When we arrived for the race, we noticed that there were thousands of people running and we were at the end of the line. We were so far back that we ran nearly 10 minutes before getting to the start line! As we began the race, we noticed were still at the end and we weren’t passing anyone. We kept a steady pace, but every now and then I would notice my friend checking her watch. I would tell her not to check her timing or messages, that I would let her know our pace and that we were doing just fine. We were not in it to win it – we just wanted to finish!
I noticed a couple near us – they too seemed to be running their first race. The man kept looking back to see who was behind him. Sometimes, he spent so much time looking back that he didn’t seem to pay attention to where he was going and he fell down. He seemed so concerned with who was behind him that he couldn’t see where he was going. This immediately reminded me of the Biblical story of Lot’s wife in the bible. In Genesis Chapter 19, we learn that Lot and his family were fleeing Sodom (and Gomorrah) and they were warned not to look back, or risk being turned into a pile of salt. Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pile of salt. I also see another deeper lesson in this — that sometimes when we are running the race of life, and look back, we can fall because we focus on the past and not the present.
The same thing happens when we look at the time and doubt God’s promises to us because we are older or we have been waiting for years. Looking at a watch can cause anxiety when you run because you fear you are not going fast enough. When it comes to our faith walk, we might also be focused on time because we fear that God won’t keep his promises to us. As Christians we must trust that everything will be in God’s timing and he is in charge of the life watch. I share this message with you today because I have been guilty of looking back. I have also been guilty of checking the time to see how I am doing based on my timeline and not God’s perfect timing. I must trust God to take care of the time for me and to make the path ready for me to run it.
It is my hope, dear ladies, that you too, run your race with God in such a way that you do not get tripped up by looking at the past, or checking your watch to see how fast you are going. If we trust in Him, and follow His plan for our lives, then we can be sure that God will take care of the time, so that we can focus on the race. Have a wonderfully blessed day.

I ran the marathon with Kimberly Lecar, a broadcaster and Christian singer/song writer. I am proud to announce that Kim is doing the audiobook for Running For Your Life! which will be available for sale right before Christmas. Thanks Kim for being a great running partner and friend!

At the finish line!

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We Are All Lions!

The Lion inside us!

The Lion inside us!

One day my toddler daughter was fussing. She was unhappy about something and she began to complain. She wanted me to change my mind and do what she wanted or needed in that moment. A relative, who noticed this pattern in my daughter, looked as us both and said, “She is a lion. I feel sorry for you. My daughter was a lion.” My relative’s statement was to let me know that raising a lion would be tough for me. That lions required extra care because they are both stubborn, strong and sometimes too resourceful for their own good.
My relative’s comments alarmed me. But then I had felt comforted by them as years went on because I discovered something wonderful. I was a lion too. I do not know how many of you have heard of personality tests, but there is one that gives people the characteristics of certain animals. The animals are lion, otter, beaver and golden retriever. I had lived most of my life like a golden retriever. I can’t say I was happy with that, I just thought that was what I had to do survive growing up and what it meant to be an adult. A golden retriever has lovely characteristics: calm, easy going, dependable, quiet and humorous (weirdblog wordpress website, 2015). But I was no retriever! I had forced myself to hide my inner roar. But once I realized my inner lion, my life began to change – so I guess there is a lot to say about those who are true to themselves and work being the person God intends them to be. There is a famous Shakespearean quote from Hamlet, “To thine own self be true,” that applies here. Lions are strong-willed, independent, decisive, leaders, and practical. We lions have some crappy characteristics too: domineering, unforgiving, cold and my least favorite – unemotional self-sufficient (weirdblog, 2015). Ouch! It is no coincidence that when I could embrace the good and bad about myself that I could better navigate through life. Why be an otter, when you are meant to be a beaver? Do you, girlfriend, do you!
So, I write this message not to give you a lesson on psychology, but to point out that we all have different personality traits, yet God uses this diversity for his glory. And there is something else I need to point out: when it comes to our faith walk – we are all lions! God will equip an undisciplined otter to get that sermon written or to change the music for Sunday service. He teaches the cold lion the importance of warmth and reaching out to people not in your strength, but in your weakness. The quiet golden retriever learns to speak loudly like a lion when they see injustice in their neighborhoods or churches. And the negative, self-centered beaver becomes positive when sharing the gospel and concerned about the poor and hurting in their communities. It is no wonder we can be like lions in God’s kingdom, we are, followers of Christ Jesus, the original lion king.
This week, may you think about how God has equipped you to do amazing things – things you never would have thought you could do – but were able to do through the strength, love and mercy of Christ. Have a wonderfully blessed day.
For more information about the animal personality test, check out this link:

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Building bridges in our lives to cross to the other side

Hello runners and walkers! I wanted to share a story with you this week about not giving up when people think what you are going after is so out of your reach or just not possible. I hope to do that with a story about a man who believed that God called him to do something amazing, even though people doubted that such a man could follow God’s call.
I recently visited the city of Avignon France, a town that became famous in 1300s because it was a papal residence. The town houses an impressive stone fortress that served as the Popes home and court. It has quaint cobble stone streets, plentiful green spaces and much charm. Buried in the town’s history is a story about a shepherd boy named Benezet. If measured by today’s standards, Benezet would be considered strange, possibly mentally ill. He wasn’t clean and probably did not have great people skills. But none of that matters. You see, Benzet loved God. He believed that God spoke to him and gave him a charge: build a bridge across the Rhone River that would connect one part of Avignon with the other. Benezet told the people of Avignon but they laughed at him – who would lift the stones necessary to build the foundation, they wondered. Many had tried. None were successful. Then at a gathering by the River, as the legend goes, Benezet the townsmen tried to lift or roll a stone to start a bridge. They failed. Along came Benezet, who lifted the foundation stone and tossed it into the river. He was just 21 and had the strength of four men. Some legends say that Benezet built the bridge himself. Other stories say that the town folks, after realizing this was indeed a miracle from God, helped him build the bridge.
Today, the bridge has partially fallen down, but city officials have reinforced it so that it is safe. Tourism officials said that an ice storm destroyed the integrity of the bridge and only one-third of it stands. When you walk on the bridge you can look at the Rhone River and the beautiful landscape of Avignon. But more importantly, as you visit one of the two small chapels on the bridge, you can remember the story of Benezet, a brave man who heard God’s call and acted on it. May we all be so brave!
This week may we focus on the call God has put in our hearts and take courage to act on it. May we build the bridges in our lives that honor Him! I have added a photo of the lovely bridge as a reminder that there is nothing that God cannot do for us and nothing we cannot do if he empowers us to do it. Blessings to you all!
2015-04-04 18.24.32

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Winter Wanderings

Happy Holidays and Happy Winter!
During the winter, the sun seems to disappear, causing some of us to seek shelter indoors. But running and walking can be just as rewarding during the winter. There are no flowers blooming, but beauty surrounds every step. Dress warmly and don’t forget to stop every now and then on your journey to breathe in the fresh air, the beauty of God’s creation and to offer a prayer or two of thanksgiving.
Be blessed everyone!



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Our Favorite Things

Hello ladies. I hope that all is well and that you are having a wonderful week. I do not know if you saw the recent news reports, but TV mogul and talk show host Oprah Winfrey released a list of her favorite things for the 2014 holiday season. Her list is famous because when she hosted a talk show, everyone from her studio audience would go home with the gifts on her fancy list, which would cost thousands of dollars. Oprah no longer hosts a talk show, but she still released a list of her favorite things this holiday season — the 72 items will set you back $13,407, according to media reports. Some of the items include: $400 sunglasses; $1,000 luggage; diamond stud earrings; $400 watch; $500 dog bed; $120 coffee mugs and $700 head phones.
I write about Oprah’s list of favorite things because to some people, receiving one of these gifts would be the best possible gift they could receive this holiday season. But I think it is important that we remember that the best gifts we can receive are free: including the love of God. There are other gifts that are free: hugs from a loved one; smiles from your grandchildren; an act of kindness; a walk with a friend; the word of God. I leave you ladies with a list of my favorite things:
1. God’s love for me;
2. Seeing my daughter smile and giggle;
3. Running on the beach, on a trail or in a park;
4. Walking and enjoying the sound of nature;
5. Studying something you are passionate about;
6. Entertaining friends or family at home;
7. Listening to music;
8. Talking with friends;
9. Reading a book;
10. Eating popcorn with my husband and daughter — with lots of REAL butter;
11. Eating my favorite meal of a salad, French fries, and chocolate cake! Yup. I am a serious about the fries.
Ladies, I encourage you to compile a list of your favorite things this week, so you can go back to it whenever you want to be reminded of important things or if you get caught up in material things instead of wonderful experiences. Have a wonderfully blessed week. Keep running for your life.

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