Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Today is the first day of class for the Acts-Revelation class that Randy Harris and I co-teach. We have 76 freshmen Bible/ministry majors. Randy's in Brazil today, so in his honor, I'm dressing in black. Not quite all black--Randy's daily uniform--but close. Thanks to Steve Puckett for pointing me to the witty writings of reallivepreacher.com. How to find a church by Gordon Atkinson (see www.reallivepreacher.com) I keep getting e-mails from people who say, “Your church sounds nice. I wish I could find one like that.” Let me guess. You’re looking for a cool church, filled with authentic Christians who aren’t judgmental but also have convictions, and are hip and classic in just the right mixture. A church where people forgive each other, love children and worship in meaningful ways. A church with a swingin’ preacher who makes the Bible come alive, tells great stories, is a wonderful inspiration—and plays too. A church that isn’t liberal or conservative, but seems to transcend weak-ass categories like those. A church where the hunger for truth is honored, and people can disagree but still love each other and share a plate of tacos. A church where people are committed to “The Christ Life”—and it shows in the fabulous and creative ways they love the world. That what you’re looking for? I got ya. I understand. Here are some tips to help you in your search: • You won’t find that church. • Open the yellow pages. Tear out the entire church section and burn it. Offer prayers for your journey while warming yourself at the fire. Dance if that’s your thing. • Surely I don’t need to say anything about churches that have billboards and commercials featuring preachers with $200 haircuts. • Dedicate yourself to this quest. • Call denominational offices in your town and ask if they know of any spectacularly unsuccessful churches. Explain that you do not want a church that is huge and famous and full of all the right kind of people. Tell them you are looking for a ragged bunch of pilgrims who might be meeting in a laundromat or someplace like that. • Try the Quakers. You’ll have a hell of a time finding them, but that’s the point. • Find out if there are any “house churches” in your area. Not every house church is what you’re looking for, but your odds are better. These are Christians who have decided not to have buildings. They put a high premium on authenticity and relationships. Think guitars, Ritz crackers and singing Jesus songs with a baby in your lap. • Let’s talk about my first tip again. As I said, you won’t find the church you’re looking for. Go ahead and grieve. You’ll have to make do with a silly bunch of dreamers and children, prone to mistakes, blunders and misjudgments. • Find some people you can hang with—people you can trust. Be patient. You’ll change them and they’ll change you. You’ll meet somewhere in the middle. • Relax. It’s all good. God might use this journey to teach you something. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you might pick up some friends along the way and start your own church. All you need is coffee, a Bible and a couple of kindred spirits. • Don’t skimp on the coffee. Get the good stuff.


  • What a great read! I'm going to have to start reading this guy's stuff...really funny. I think the saltiness of it makes it even more "authentic."

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/11/2005 06:55:00 AM  

  • Great article. And he's right about the coffee. It's Dunkin Donuts here. You can sing off key, go way over time, but don't forget the Dunkin Donuts coffee!

    By Blogger James, at 1/11/2005 07:11:00 AM  

  • Knowing that I would never find the perfect church (until heaven at least) hasn't been the problem. It's knowing where to draw the line between imperfect and unacceptable. That's a tough one for me.

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 1/11/2005 07:30:00 AM  

  • There's nothing quite as encouraging as leading a meaningful worship song, glancing out and seeing someone take a huge gulp of coffee. Don't get me started.

    By Blogger RPorche, at 1/11/2005 09:06:00 AM  

  • I have a growing belief that there are people, a lot of people, who are moving near the edge of engaging in the launch of a house church or simple church or "emergent" church from their current church situation. They are good and faithful members of larger program type churches who are getting burned out, frustrated, tired, and perhaps even disillusioned by the "Church Inc." feel of church life. They do not believe their current church situation to be evil or heretical, but it is no longer sufficient, if it ever was.

    Perhaps I am merely tipping my hown and and showing my own cards (I'd be lying to say I wasn't), but maybe there is something afoot (some might say amuck) in the way church is done.

    My hope is that the larger church body will not impose "large churchness" on people who might be pioneers on the front end of something wonderful. I hope larger and established churches will be filled with a desire to support rather than repress these pioneers, who might be on the leading edge of a new kind of evangelism that can reach people with the loving power and presence of God in ways the big church can't. Perhaps the Kingdom of God will come to "lost" people in little communities that no one ever heard of as powerfully or even more powerfully than it has through the megachurches and such.

    Maybe, just maybe, reallivepreacher is onto something.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 1/11/2005 09:55:00 AM  

  • The Arabica coffee plant produces a small, bean sized fruit that ripens from a green color to a dark red color. I am confident than the Bible was mistranslated. The Plant of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, aka our beloved coffee plant, was the true forbidden fruit.

    I have been a fan of reallivepreacher for a little while & find his edginess refreshing in a religion that gets a little stale to hear sometimes, but never stale in practice.

    By Blogger Beaner, at 1/11/2005 10:36:00 AM  

  • I've also been reading reallivepreacher for awhile and love this guy!! For a real laugh check out his blog entry for December 17. I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.

    By Blogger Candy, at 1/11/2005 12:06:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/11/2005 02:41:00 PM  

  • Thank you, Learner. I thought I'd stumbled onto the script for an "R" rated movie at times. Surprising to me, to say the least. It kind of took some of the humorous edge off the story being told, which saddened me, quite frankly.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 1/11/2005 03:52:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/11/2005 05:35:00 PM  

  • As a youth minister, I find sometimes find myself wondering if I should even have a job -- especially when options like these are presented; makes me want to be one of those pioneers. I'm not making light of what I do, but "large churchness" does not always allow the authenticity our world craves and I long to share. And I love coffee.

    By Blogger Adam, at 1/11/2005 05:48:00 PM  

  • As a youth minister, I sometimes find myself wondering if I should even have a job -- especially when options like these are presented; makes me want to be one of those pioneers. I'm not making light of what I do, but "large churchness" does not always allow the authenticity our world craves and I long to share. And I love coffee.

    By Blogger Adam, at 1/11/2005 05:48:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Beaner, at 1/11/2005 06:02:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/11/2005 06:28:00 PM  

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    By Blogger SG, at 1/11/2005 07:47:00 PM  

  • Ok so good guys who use bad words sometimes still do have good points, like the point talked about today. Creamed corn, creamed corn!
    I think I have seen some of the ideal characteristics from that ideal church in a lot of churches... I have also seen some less than ideal traits. I think sometimes I try to blame too many of my shortcoming in my walk with Christ on my church family. As if the only thing holding me back from being all I need to be in Christ is the group of fellow strugglers I worship with...pretty lame. I may be alone in this. I needed to hear what realalivepreacher had to say in this article. Thanks for sharing it with us Mike!

    By Blogger SG, at 1/11/2005 07:48:00 PM  

  • "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

    By Blogger Brandon Moore, at 1/11/2005 10:18:00 PM  

  • "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

    I might be misunderstanding this, but to me it seems to be more talking about building others up according to their needs, rather than making them feel bad about a view or opinion they have on a rather trivial matter.

    By Blogger Brandon Moore, at 1/11/2005 10:22:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/12/2005 05:35:00 AM  

  • I used to say that I would never pick up a hitchhiker who smokes, or permit someone to smoke in my home. That was until I realized that God was placing a bunch of smokers in my path for me to trip over in my efforts to share news of His Son. I had to change my view of smokers or be left out. I think the same principle is true about "bad" language we run up against.

    Get over the language issue! Surely letters arranged in a certain order to produce specific words are not a turn off to those who want to connect with a clueless world. We're not that wussy, are we?

    By Blogger MarkS, at 1/12/2005 05:44:00 AM  

  • Just so I'm sure I'm understanding what is being proffered here. Are y'all saying that the good end justifies the use of any vehicle, method, means to arrive at that end? Forgive me if I disagree. Going into a saloon to help some poor soul lost in alcohol, or giving a visitor the comfort of being able to smoke in your house, or maybe in part of your house, away from kids and asthmatics, or reaching out to one that is stoned but looking for help to break their addiction, okay. But must our own personal witness be brought down to the same level as those that do not know the LORD or have a relationship with Him? Again, I think not.

    It isn't as though this pastor doesn't have time to reconsider his language, after all he IS writing not speaking in an informal conversation. To me, this speaks of purposeful shock for shock value (sic). His story gets lost in the wonderings of "why".

    As far as size of church is concerned, that is a very personal decision, according to where God wants us to serve and minister, much as what gifts we put to work for Him have to do with which ones He has given us. I really don't think it's a matter of 'either - or' big or small congregation. Each one has a wonderous purpose in God's Kingdom, imho. Personally, I'm often prompted to say "Being in a big church, for me, is rehearsal for Heaven." :o)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 1/12/2005 06:12:00 AM  

  • Learner - for the record, I removed what I wrote a short time after I posted it because I thought that I let my emotions get in the way & I re-read it & thought it sounded a little too harsh. I'm really pissed that you re-posted it. You can NOT make your point by using scripture about unwholesome talk or I might ask you how many ladies in your congregation keep their heads covered. The important stuff when seeking Christ is TRUTH & I seek out people who are being true in their humanness, not some fake, Bible-quoting person who acts like they've got it all figured out. I will pray for you that you will LEARN more about the heart of people & the voice of those who might differ from your view of a Christian, but see people like me as ones who seek the truth of God, the will of God & who love the Lord with all our hearts.

    By Blogger Beaner, at 1/12/2005 06:52:00 AM  

  • Typical C of C-- majoring in the minors.

    I don't know if the old story about Tony Compolo's "give a damn" sermon is true or not, but in light of this thread, it certainly resonates.

    By Blogger Phil Richardson, at 1/12/2005 07:14:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/12/2005 08:07:00 AM  

  • I'll admit to being a bit surprised to see the line of expletives in Real Live Preacher's December 17 post. I'll also have to admit that I might be likely to issue forth something similar if I was in the same situation. (I would likely use the milder form of the same word. But it would be the same sentiment.) I'd feel guilty about it when I was done, though. :-)

    I would certainly say that when negative nasty things flow out of your mouth it can be a symptom of what is in your heart. (Whether they flow out using curse words or not.) I can't really see that the post in question was a symptom of anything except a sense of panic. But, I could be wrong. (As I often am.)

    There is a blog I've been following for a few months now. It is a Christian person's blog: there are posts about discipleship and church. Some of the language used there is not what I would expect to see on professed Christian blog. I would guess this person is in their mid to late 20's. I am wondering if it is more characteristic of that generation to feel as if it is not that big of a deal to use words like that?

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 1/12/2005 09:22:00 AM  

  • Learner - The words I typed in my first comment were mean. I repented of them & erased them after I thought about them in my heart. What you did to me was to bring up my sin, wave it in my face & hold it up before all the other Christians as a bad example. What you did to me was to hurt me after I had already decided what I said was wrong - kind of like a kick after I'm already down. I am a real person with real feelings & emotions & you are the type of Christian that makes other Christans feel unholy or unacceptable. I apologize if I have offended you, but I meant the "fake Bible-quoting " comment as a generalization. I make mistakes. If you want to check out how Jesus feels about this kind of stuff, then how about this - the Jesus who is my friend, is the man in the Bible who holds the tear-streaked women in his arms & gently tells them to sin no more. You should hear what he says to the Pharisees!

    By Blogger Beaner, at 1/12/2005 09:45:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/12/2005 10:15:00 AM  

  • Beaner - Thanks for the maturity in removing something you had written that you regretted. (I've read very quickly through these comments, and I don't think it's still there now.) Wouldn't it be nice if we had that delete option with everything we said? Oh that my life had a control-alt-delete function!!

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/12/2005 11:20:00 AM  

  • When I was 19, I was disillusioned by the church I was attending and was spouting off to my mom about it. She said, "Steve, when you find the perfect church you won't fit in. You're not perfect." Gentle words that have revisited me over the years as I have been frustrated with my fellow travelers.

    I try to remind myself to be thankful for those people who honor me by sitting beside me and worshipping with me and all my imperfections.

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 1/12/2005 11:50:00 AM  

  • Steve,

    Wow! Your mom had a good answer. Wish I had said that! Who knows, maybe I will!

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 1/12/2005 02:01:00 PM  

  • I found out last night at singing practice that Mike taught my son's Bible class. Thank you Mike for being such a wonderful teacher and inspiring my son. I cannot believe this blog is still continuing, but since it is, I will comment also. I do not read blogs on a regular basis, nor do I have one or write one. But, last night after practice someone commented on how they do not like the "organized" church. My comment was to go and find one you do like. The immediate reply was "Mike Cope said there isn't one." After reading Mike's blog I know where that quote came from. However, all day I have been fretting because my comment back was to ask if she was "spouting" these same sentiments to the fellow members of the church. She replied no, but why shouldn't I. I said to be careful what you sow lest you cause discont. Upon which I flitted out the door.

    I went right home and pulled out my Bibles and concordances trying to decide where the holy spirit pulled that one from. I'm usually not adept at quick comebacks. Actually I could not really find what I was looking for which made me more accept. About 2 this afternoon I got online and put the quote in and found two or three scriptures using that verbage so I felt a little better.

    However, my biggest comment is this (first let me tell you I have been a C of C church goer from the diaper stage and am an extremely conservative person, although I actually read scripture in front of the church a couple Sundays ago; see we can change.). If you get some people who would like a house church atmosphere (or want to worship on a hill with guitars and other hippie stuff I can't remember) at some point you will began to have problems to solve. Such as, what happens when your house church gets so popular that the house is not big enough. (Get a building). Who decides what time we should meet (doesn't that make you a leader? Hmmm organized) (I say that tongue in cheek). What happens when the person leading the church has to start paying for the Lord's Supper out of their own pocket (Take up a collection). Then who keeps track of the money? I think you see my point, although I agree that churches need to let loose a little bit, I do like organization and think to some degree it helps. I believe this is how churches in buildings were started in the first place. Knowing the person who I am talking to will read this I want to say thank you for making me think about some good issues. I guess you could do what Mike says and start your own church. :)

    Have a wonderful day and sorry this is so long. JL

    By Blogger Janet Lyn, at 1/12/2005 02:04:00 PM  

  • Some may have perhaps read the article a little more literally than I did. To me it had the freshness of Anne Lamott (another writer whom some who've posted must be sure not to read!).

    I'm guessing reallivepreacher preaches for a real live church. I certainly do. And I love it.

    But it is a tongue-in-cheek way of asking us to get past some of the cheap commercialism and shallow niceties and to seek to live in authentic community for the sake of the world.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/12/2005 02:31:00 PM  

  • "Cheap commercialism and shallow niceties" Can you be more specific please?

    By Blogger Janet Lyn, at 1/12/2005 02:37:00 PM  

    I don't like cuss words either but the the reallive preacher man has a point. I especially like his Comment Rules of Etiquitte which can be found here.. http://blogs.salon.com/0001772/2003/07/12.html (you may want to check those out)
    And I hesitantly suggest that comments about other reallivepreacher posts, as in the posts not mentioned by Mike, should be left on reallivepreachers blog, not Mikes. BUT that is merely a suggestion.

    Hope you all have a great Wednesday!

    By Blogger SG, at 1/12/2005 02:40:00 PM  

  • I think you did just fine, SG. No chance of getting banned from THIS blog! :-)

    Mike, I also thought of Anne Lamott when I read this article. My wife & I adore her and want her to move into our guest room.

    I like reallivepreacher, too, but he'll have to get a hotel. And his own coffee.

    Thanks for the fresh perspective. As always.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 1/12/2005 06:23:00 PM  

  • I need to regain a little focus. Although I don’t know whether or not Jesus ever let fly with some “colorful” language, I feel pretty certain he was more than familiar with it given his questionable habit of hanging out with fishermen and prostitutes. I try to encourage my children to avoid profanity – mainly because I still consider it a poor substitute for a broader vocabulary. I have to admit though that for some situations there are no appropriate words.

    What word describes the feeling you have when you ask a young mother if she would like to talk to her husband who has suffered extensive third degree burns before you sedate him, put him on a ventilator, and fly him to the burn center? You can’t bring yourself to tell her that he’ll never talk to her again....but she knows. The word that came to my mind might shock you – but it couldn’t begin to disturb you as much as the situation batters my soul and shakes my faith.

    I have a friend who lives in a country less than 600 miles off the US coast. Most of us know that country vaguely as a place of chaos, failure and poverty. Some of us didn’t even know we had been there when the cruise ship docked at a Disneyesque paradise fenced off and secure from the unseen reality. Children there die of starvation everyday as we battle the scourge of obesity here. I’m afraid that in heaven there’s a word for this – I’m afraid that it’s a word so vile and evil that the living creatures around the throne would recoil in horror at its sound (if it were possible for them to stop praising God.) I’m afraid that it’s such a word that if I heard it my ears would turn to stone from the sheer perversity of it or more likely I would fall down dead from shame.

    I don’t mean to discount the power of words – the danger is almost certainly that we don’t acknowledge their impact enough. The truth is though that whatever comes out of my mouth, there are darker things in my heart. God knows every one of them and He loves me anyway. When my vocabulary fails me, the Spirit intercedes with groans that I can’t express.

    God won’t mistake my inadequate words or their baser substitutes for a hard heart – I can cut others some slack.

    By Blogger jem911md, at 1/12/2005 11:35:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/13/2005 05:29:00 AM  

  • Learner, I agreed with you about the 'heads up' re. the language expressed by 'reallivepreacher' - however, I must wonder why the necessity to give the impression of attack when you address the host of this blog? If you have a problem with your brother, in this case Mike, how about taking it to a private conversation rather than attempting to embarrass him in a public forum? Doing so would, imho, also be more in line with what we KNOW Jesus asks us to do. Don't you agree?

    And that, dear fellow believers, is all I'm going to say about this thread. I really MUST get back to packing since I'm moving a week from Saturday. Yipes!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 1/13/2005 05:49:00 AM  

  • Learner - Thanks for the rebuke about not answering Janet Lyn's question. You may have noticed she posted late yesterday afternoon. I have a Wednesday night gig that takes a bit of my time. I preached last night and stayed with people until late. Exercised this morning and then took car pool. So I'm sorry I'm not responding quickly enough for you. By the way, as a father, husband, teacher, minister, coach, etc. -- I don't think I've made any promises to answer everything on the comments. Just don't have the time. Sorry. Some days I can. Others I can't. I try to write a few things to get discussions going. That's about it. If that doesn't work for you, this may not be a blog for you.

    That said . . . Janet Lyn, good question. Please see my earlier posts about being consumer-driven vs. missional. I think those will answer your questions. Too many people are looking for churches that "meet their needs" rather than churches that equip them to live for the sake of the world. And churches too easily fall into that marketing trap. Reallivepreacher points out that often churches use yellow pages and billboards to reach the "church shoppers." True seekers are usually only reached through nitty-gritty relationships.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/13/2005 06:09:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/13/2005 06:31:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/13/2005 06:32:00 AM  

  • Let me say this more clearly. I'm so thankful for the large blog community that's here. When I first started, maybe it was possible to answer all comments and questions. But I can't now. I'm sorry if some thought I would. For one thing, there are too many sometimes. For another, I'm not a big fan of Q&A with anonymous people (anonymous even though you now have to sign in).

    I will say this: I will (eventually) answer every single e-mail that's sent to me (on the address I've provided a couple times before) that is signed with a real name. If it's an address I'm unfamiliar with, please put something on the topic line that will keep me from wiping it out with the daily spam.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/13/2005 06:33:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Learner, at 1/13/2005 06:46:00 AM  

  • Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. Unlike Learner, I'm suprised you have time to read through all the comments with all the activities you do (mentioned at Zoe). I did not expect a reply, but am glad you provided one. As I stated yesterday, I don't blog and can't believe I am getting this involved but I would ask a favor please? I went to try and find your previous blog you said to read on commercial vs. mission and you have SOOOOO many blogs it would take me all day to find the correct one. I may be pushing my limits, but could you please (or anyone for that matter) direct me to the name of the specific blog article you wanted me to read. Thank you and have a wonderful day. JL

    By Blogger Janet Lyn, at 1/13/2005 07:38:00 AM  

  • Somewhere in the bowels of H-E-double-hockey-sticks, our collective enemy guffaws.

    An idea that poses a real threat to the forces of darkness - Atkinson's suggestion that imperfect people quit looking for the perfect church and begin looking for ways to live in community with one another - is muted by an argument over what constitutes unwholesome talk, which many of these exchanges, in my mind, are not.

    This is where the blog forum fails. We don't know everyone's name. We can't see faces. We can't hear inflection or tone. Nor can we reach over and slap someone upside the head when it's so desperately needed.

    Worst of all, we fail to give each other the benefit of the doubt and believe that our fellow followers on the other side of an issue might really be trying to honor God with his/her position.

    Instead, we get our panties in a wad over a dissenting opinion and then begin drawing lines in the sand, flavoring our ripostes with dollops of sarcasm and scorn.

    I'm always game for a healthy disagreement. So I'm not calling for less of that, just more honesty. For example, my guess is that Mike isn't really grateful for Learner's "rebuke" or sorry that he can't respond to every post as quickly as Learner would like. A more honest answer might be, "Learner, you are really getting on my nerves. I've got half a mind to cuss you out right here."

    And I doubt Learner is truly asking about cowardice and manhood, even though there are question marks at the end of those sentences. It sounds to me like he/she is really saying, "Mike, you're a coward for not answering this question." Or, "Mike, it takes a man to defend himself in a public forum instead of hiding behind private correspondence."

    Besides being the best policy, honesty is always a prerequisite for being in communion with God. So if we're going to really make this a free exchange of ideas, let's take the gloves all the way off, be generous with others but honest with ourselves, and quit making this an online pissing contest.

    (Calm down. Piss is in the Bible.)

    By Blogger Grant, at 1/13/2005 08:49:00 AM  

  • Janet start with Friday September 10th and go back through July.

    By Blogger SG, at 1/13/2005 08:59:00 AM  

  • As a new and inexperienced blogger, I'd like to apologize (not really, Grant) for posting anonymously this morning as A.Traveler. Anyone who has previously heard my rants in person knew it was me anyway. In any case, my profile has been edited so that I can stand behind my opinions.

    I still maintain that there are much greater obscenities than 4-letter words that we make compromises with everyday. Let's maintain some perspective about things that really matter.

    By Blogger jem911md, at 1/13/2005 09:25:00 AM  

  • Thank you CG. I appreciate your help. JL

    By Blogger Janet Lyn, at 1/13/2005 09:57:00 AM  

  • This blog is becomming a chat room.

    By Blogger MarkS, at 1/13/2005 10:09:00 AM  

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