Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23

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Lesson #3 From a Heart Attack: We influence others more than we think!


The day that I had my heart attack there was a whirlwind of events with many people involved.  After our initial visit at the doctor’s office my wife Sherry drove me to the hospital for my blood test.   It was then that we discuss who and when we should contact people to let them know that I was on the way to the hospital.  We figured it was a “just to be sure trip” with nothing important to tell so we figured we’d wait until we had the “all clear” and we’d let people know later what a wasted afternoon we had. 

Once the blood test was done to test for elevated enzymes we were told to get to the ER immediately.  We thought it was kind of odd at the time that we had to ask someone in the lab if they were going to show us the way through the hallways to the ER or if we had to find it ourselves.  Someone came out and we followed them.  Hey, maybe it’s not too bad; they didn’t even bother to wheel me up in a wheelchair.  At least I’m not gonna have a heart attack or something.

Once the ER realized my situation, everything went pretty fast.  Within minutes and while being prepped for a heart catherization I had my heart attack.  Sherry was trying to deal with the admissions person regarding our insurance, both her parents and my mom needed to be called, at church , during the middle of the service, with kids in various locations in the service.  Someone had to figure out what to do with the kids while our parents came to the hospital.  Fortunately, a good family friend, Chris, stayed with the kids that evening to keep them occupied.  While this is going on, I’m in the ER fussing about the consultant that I was to meet that night and all that I had to do in preparation for the next day’s offsite training I was coordinating for work.  There were six or more people in my ER bay, and probably 4 or five people had to be called in to work to staff in the cath lab during my procedure.    

Since my heart attack I have seen many nurses both in the hospital and out.  Of course I continue to have contact with my doctor, I had 12 sessions of Cardio rehab with 3-4 nurses at the rehab center managing all the patients in various fashion each visit.  While I was out of work my HR Coordinator Kristie had to cover for me, and of course my immediate family was a constant source of help and encouragement.   

I said all this to say:  You don’t live on an Island, you influence and affect others whether you know it or not. 

My heart attack affected and continues to affect many people.  The doctors and nurses, the medical staff that had to be called in for the catherization, my employer and coworkers, as well as the rehab people.   Apparently my heart attack has affected several men at church, or at least a number of women have told me it will!  And of course most of all my family was greatly impacted.  Our lifestyle at home has changed.  For one thing, no more do we have 3-5 boxes of ice cream open in the freezer!  My actions of eating what I wanted and as much as I wanted, my lack of regular exercise, and just plain procrastination of doing what was best no doubt assisted in my heart attack which has, as I said, affected many people, most importantly my family.  I am realizing that my heart attack even affects people with whom I will never have contact.  For example, the medical expenses for my heart attack cost tens of thousands of dollars which in turn can affect our insurance plan’s experience rate which in turn, while minimal, could have an effect on future rates.   The trickle-down effect of our influence runs further than we ever think.    

But just as my heart attack has affected many people positively and negatively in many different ways, I am reminded that everything I do and everything you do in the open and in secret will affect someone else.  My wife has a saying that she tells our children regularly, “You can choose your sin but you can’t choose your consequences or who will be affected by them.”  How true.  The things we do every day, those little things that don’t seem to add up to anything big, that candy bar, that extra hamburger, that lie, that secret sin,  affect not only you but those around you.  On the flip side, you can influence many people positively as well.  How you respond to crisis, how you encourage others, or how you exemplify integrity at work or with your family, these are just a few positive ways you can influence others. Stop and think about your day today.  Sit down and make a list of how you influenced others today both positively or negatively. 

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It is really amazing when we think about it how much influence we have with other people.  Even that cashier you cheered up by saying a kind word or that driver you yelled some “not so nice” words at, you influenced even them.

Now what about your family?  How are you influencing them?  Are you a positive influence or negative influence?  Are you pointing others to Christ or are you pointing others towards the world, the flesh, and ungodliness?  Even as Christians we can become too comfortable at home where we say and do things we know we shouldn’t.  Why do you think so many children that were reared in a home with Christian parents stray from the Lord?  I submit to you that in many cases they see our hypocrisy.

The following are some verses that I have found regarding influence.  I’m sure you can add many more to this list.

I Corinthians 15:339(ESV)) – Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.

Psalm 1:1(ESV) – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.

Proverbs 13:20(ESV) – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

I Peter 3:15-16(ESV) – But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Proverbs 27:12(ESV) – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 22:24-25(ESV) – Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 13:20(ESV) – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

As we can see, there are many Scripture passages that reference our influence.  See more here 

My point is what we do, good or bad, right or wrong, godly or ungodly, in secret or in the open, out loud or only in our minds, everything we do will affect someone else.  It may have an affect short term or it may be years before it affects someone else, but it will.

I came across the following video sometime ago and I thought it would be appropriate here. 

Mom, Dad, how are you influencing those around you, especially your children?  Are you influencing others towards what is right?  What about your health?  Are you, am I, setting a good healthy example?  Do we watch what we eat and exercise like we should?  The Bible says to the Christian, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  What kind of temple do you want the Holy Ghost to live in?  What about your spiritual walk with the Lord, do your children, friends and co-workers see you striving to serve Him or do they see you striving to please yourself or others more?

We all have choices to make in our lives and each choice we make WILL affect those around you.  It may be physically, emotionally, financially, and most important spiritually.  What do others see in you?  A heart attack waiting to happen, or someone striving to be healthy?  Do they see someone serving self or seeking God?  The first to answers in these statements (heart attack and self)  will bring pain, misery and heartache, the second answers (health and God) will  bring contentment, joy and peace. 

The question is not are you influencing others, the question is HOW are you influencing others?

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Lessons From a Heart Attack #2

The day started off like any other normal Sunday.  The plan was to go to Sunday School and then the morning service at our church, spend the afternoon taking a nap and for our evening service as part of our monthly ministry, take the 4 younger kids downtown to the Salvation Army to play their instruments in the service for the homeless men.  But this Sunday evening was going to be a little different in that we were to play a number of Christmas songs, have the men join in the songs and pass out Christmas sugar cookies that the kids baked and decorated.  This was going to be a great day serving the Lord and others.  As you’ve guessed, it didn’t end up as we planned.

We came home from the morning service and had lunch.  Seven out of ten Sundays we usually have spaghetti.  It is quick and easy.  Then it was nap time!  I lay down but couldn’t get comfortable.  No matter how I laid, I couldn’t get this pain in my chest to go away.  I took some Tums assuming that it was indigestion from the spaghetti sauce but it didn’t seem to help.  For about 2 .5 hours I tossed and turned with Sherry sleeping soundly beside me of course.  Finally I thought tea would help so I got up and began making the tea but soon realized that I really needed to see the doctor.  I felt stupid for going to the doctor’s office for something that was probably nothing.  They’d examine me, tell me to take some Pepcid or something and to be careful with what I eat from now on, but I knew something wasn’t right.

At about 4 PM we arrived at the doctor’s office and they began to run some tests.  My chest hurt with intermittent pain and my tongue was swollen and I was very anxious.  After an exam and a perfectly normal looking EKG, the doctor felt that it was an allergic reaction to the spaghetti sauce and gave me a steroid shot, Benadryl and a nasty cocktail of meds to chug down.  She continued to reassure us that she really felt it was not my heart but an allergic reaction and that the meds should help.  During all this time my pain continued to come and go and while I understood what the doctor was saying, something just didn’t seem right.

The doctor could tell I was very anxious and while she felt this was an allergic reaction and not a heart issue she decide that “to help her sleep better” she wanted to send us to the hospital’s lab to test for an enzyme that is secreted during a heart episode.  Was this her gut or training telling her to double check?  Or was it her way of trying to ease my anxiety?  Regardless, Sherry and I fully believe that it was the Lord prompting her to get further testing done on my heart.

stock photo : Drawing BloodWe arrived at the hospital lab and within about 45 minutes we were being told that we need to go up to the ER.  Once there, we stood around for about 5 minutes while my doctor, who had called in to the ER discussed my condition with the ER staff.  Within 15-20 minutes of arriving in the ER and while being prepped for the Heart Cath Lab I had my heart attack.  My EKG spiked showing the attack and then once the meds kicked in it went back to normal, this is what they expected to see with the meds clearing the blockages.  Within 30 minutes from arriving in the ER I was being wheeled into the Cath Lab.  Two 100% blockages were found and two 50% blockages, not what they expected to see with a good EKG.  A long stint was place in the front artery fixing both 100% blockages and meds will be used to treat the partial blockages.  As I said, the odd thing was that after the attack the EKG went back to showing a normal healthy pattern even with the blockages and remember I also mentioned that the EKG at the doctor’s office showed my heart function was normal as well.   As the doctor who did the stint put it, “He couldn’t trust my EKG’s”.  For some reason they were not picking up the blockages.   

Lesson #2:  Things are not always what they appear

You must be willing to consider more then what the initial tests are telling you and seek the root cause.   If you suspect the answer is wrong even when you’re told it is right, pursue wisdom, knowledge, understanding.

The more I live, the more I am amazed at how God has created our bodies and how complex we are.  Anyone that has any remote understand of our body’s complexity surely cannot believe in the process of evolution.  The fact that God has made our bodies to tell us when something is wrong by way of aches, pains, swelling and at times even by a sensation, a taste or odd feeling in an area of our body is truly amazing.   When the doctor told us she believed my condition was an allergic reaction and not a heart attack, I could not tell you why but that answer didn’t seem right, there had to be more to it.  I could not express it verbally at the time but she obviously could see my continued uneasiness and anxiety.  The first answer wasn’t cutting it and I was somewhat relieved when my doctor decided more testing was needed.

Our medical professionals are very educated and have spent years learning about our bodies, diseases and conditions and how to treat us as patients.  They have a lot of wisdom and knowledge and I for one am very thankful for their dedication.  Like all fields of science, a lot of their diagnosis and treatment plans are based on percentages and norms.  (This is because God has created our universe with order but that is another topic for study.  I’d recommend those interested in learning more about our universe and it’s order to visit Anwers in Genesis).  Doctors prescribe treatments and medication based on outcomes that have been consistently tested, verified and proven to work in most instances.  Yet given all of that precision and accuracy God did not create us to be robots but has created our minds to question things when the pieces don’t seem to quite fit.  Fortunately, most doctors are also willing to consider their initial assessments.  Their egos aren’t as big as many of us think.  They are able and willing to factor in additional information (a patient’s anxiety for example) and consider additional options and evaluations as needed.  Sometimes, even they must rely on their “gut” feelings as they too realize that the first answer is not always the right answer even when the test says it is the right answer.  I am living proof of this and am extremely grateful to my God first as well as to my doctor.

Allow me to insert a short rabbit trail here on how the first answer is not always the right answer.             A number of years ago, my wife was admitted to the hospital due to some medical concerns just shortly before the birth of one of our children.  It was time to do another check on the baby’s condition and so they strapped up a nearby monitor to check our baby’s heart rate.  As they watch the monitor panic set in, they couldn’t find the heartbeat!  Our baby was in distress and immediate surgery was being considered.  More medical personnel hurried in and things started to happen quickly.  Fortunately before too much time had elapse, my father in law looked at the monitor and read the sign attached, “Broken, Do Not Use”.  My father in law commented later that maybe they needed a new office at the hospital called the Office of Common Sense.  While somewhat humorous now, my point again is that sometimes we must push past what we initially believed to be true and seek the root cause.  The first answer is not always the right answer.

Let me ask you this question, how much is a husband worth to his wife or a father to his children?  My doctor could have easily assumed the allergic reaction was the only issue based on symptoms and test results and then she could have given me an Epipen injection and sent me home with a prescription.  She could have avoided the more costly, more invasive procedure and stayed with what seemed the most obvious.  But she knew something was not right, and she pursued it, even when the first answer appeared to be an easy one.  She knew a few extra dollars in cost was well worth what was at stake.  For that we are grateful. 

Now consider your spiritual life.  Far too often we live our lives taking the quick and easy answers, answers that are many times comfortable and acceptable; ones that don’t create a backlash or stir up controversy.  We don’t want to “make waves” so we go with the flow, what is expected, what everyone else is saying or doing.  The term tolerance comes to mind.  Tolerance can be a good thing but our society has perverted this term to mean acceptance of sin.  Oftentimes these answers may come in the form of a preacher or pastor expounding eloquently on the virtues of self acceptance and self reliance instead of teaching that man is depraved.  Unfortunately these “comfortable” and “non-invasive” teachings come from world’s philosophies that contradict the Scriptures. 

I’m reminded of a book written back in 1976 entitled “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas Harris.  I’m afraid many self proclaimed Christians have accepted this worldview.  The problem with this Navy psychiatrist’s premise is that we are NOT ok.  We all have a sin nature and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and as Isaiah 64:6 says all our righteousness are as filthy rags.  We need a radical change in our spiritual hearts and that is to willingly commit our lives to Jesus Christ and  be willing to allow His control in all areas of our lives.  In essence, we need to die to self and live for Christ.

Many Christians and unbelievers alike don’t mind the spiritual steroid shots (feel good sermons) and the spiritual placebo capsules (a quick superficial prayer, an all roads lead to heaven worldview or even an “I’m not that bad” attitude) for the “simple” answers to our spiritual needs, but unfortunately our spiritual needs should not be taken lightly.  I can only imagine what my household would be like today if my doctor had taken the “first” or “simple” answer of only an allergic reaction.  Instead of celebrating my birthday several days ago, my family most likely would be still mourning my death.  Just like many people don’t want to be bothered with actually dealing with serious medical conditions, so too many don’t like to pursue the more invasive spiritual answers that pierce our soul and convict us.  To consider that we might be spiritually going down the wrong path, injecting our lives with the feel good but wrong answers and downing the placebos of self and pride are ideas many don’t want to consider.  We don’t want to think ill of ourselves and our need for spiritual heart surgery.  Like my doctor who ignored “conventional” wisdom, we must be willing to count the cost of the pursuit and be willing to allow the action necessary to truly reap the benefits for our soul.

I believe the reason that many believers and unbelievers alike never go past what they deem as the easy or comfortable spiritual answers, is because of one of the following three reasons:

  1. We are afraid to know the truth and try to convince ourselves that ignorance is bliss and therefore we won’t be held accountable.  But we know that this answer is only an attempt to deceive ourselves.  Answer:  I Corinthians 3:18, I John 1:8, I John 2:4, Romans 14:11-12
  2. We don’t know where else to go to get the truth.  Answer: John 8:31, John14:17, II Timothy 3:16
  3. We really know the truth yet we somehow think that if we ignore it, it will somehow just go away.  This is the area where I think so many of those who name the Name of Christ fall.  Answer:  Romans 1:18-32, II Timothy 4:3-4, I John 1: 5-10, James 4:17

We all come to a point in our lives where we have to make a choice.  We can choose the answers that the world tells us is right and only address the superficial needs in our life or we can pursue what our sinful nature wants to reject and yearn for the more invasive answer to satisfy our soul.

Like the event that took me to the doctor on that Sunday, the answers we seek for our spiritual lives will have consequences – Heaven or Hell, in fellowship or out of fellowship with God.

Like my doctor who was willing to pursue her “gut feeling” even though the tests indicated nothing more needed to be done, we too must be willing to look past what the world says about God and His Word and seek the truth.  It is literally a matter of life and death.

If you’re getting that still small voice within telling you there is more to life then what the world has to offer, if it is telling you that the world’s “right” is really wrong, pursue the Lord.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your path, ask Him to guide you in your questions and search.  Matthew 7:7-8.  (John MacArthur has a great read on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit here). 

We must be willing to look past what appears to be the obvious and pursue the right diagnosis both in our physical and spiritual life, it really is a matter of life and death.

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Warning Signs: Lesson #1 From My Heart Attack

A heart attack rarely happens just out of the blue.  Oh, we may have been surprised by the event but if we think back over the years, more than likely most of us failed to address the things in our lives that got us to that scary point.  I am not a medical professional or even pretend to know a lot about heart attacks, their signs and symptoms, so for those interested in the details, I will refer you over to the American Heart Association at .  The purpose of this post is to point out one of the lessons I am learning the hard way from my attack.

I have learned the hard way that there are warning signs and red flags that we need to be not only aware of to avoid heart problems but it really does require action, for awareness does not always equal action.  Over the past 2 years I have been working on a design / implementation team of 10 people that has developed one complete benefits package for 35 companies, over 100 domestic locations and 16,000 employees.  One of the foundational philosophies or goals was to build the entire benefit package on wellness and wellness education.   And while being involved in such a project encouraged me to make some changes in my life, I still had more of a head-knowledge and not much of a heart-knowledge.  For the most part I knew the things I needed to do, but I figured that I wasn’t too bad off.  I knew I should work harder to eat better, but the ice cream and cheese sauce for the nachos kept calling my name.  And although earlier this year I had started to exercise regularly, I should have started years ago.  I knew the extra pounds around the waist were trouble, but hey, I wasn’t obese.  I had shortness of breath when I did yard work but a little exercise will fix that right?  I won’t say I was out of shape, because round is a shape, but I figured as I continued to exercise, various signs and symptoms would go away.  My “numbers” seemed fine, and although my Mom had quadruple bi-pass surgery at age 70 and my grandfather died from a heart attack in his late 60’s, I wasn’t near that age yet, I’m fine.  Heart attack?  Not me.  Warning signs and increased risk factors?  Not for me, I had rational reasons for all of those things.

So as I have thought over the past few weeks after my heart attack on December 11th,  I wondered what God wanted me to learn through all this?   I’m a slow learner and I have always told my wife, don’t give me hints, I don’t get hints, just tell me.  Well I think God decided to take me up on my “advice” also.  So one of the things I am learning (and I hope I really get it) is this:

Lesson One:  Don’t waste the Warning Signs and Risk Factors.

1.  If you ignore or take less than serious your health, over look the warning signs and don’t do what you should, you’re flirting with a shortened life.  Since December 11th, I’ve taken the time to imagine what my personal legacy that I am building to leave for my children and grandchildren may have been.  No doubt shortened and possibly incomplete because of my carelessness or half-hearted attitude of my health.  My doctor told us the day after my heart attack, only 50% of those who have my kind of attack make it to the hospital…alive.  It is only by the unmerited grace of God that I am one of those 50% to make it.  He gave me and my family a special gift for Christmas, pray with me that I don’t waste it.  Heart health must be a part of your being, who you are all the time.  Eating healthy for a day and then eating junk food for the remainder of the week does very little good.  I am still working on all of this to move it from a head to a heart knowledge and I suppose it will take me awhile.

2.  Like heart disease, there are warnings and risk factors with Sin and if we take these signs and warnings serious we can avoid the sin that creeps in quietly yet can do major damage.  I am reminded of a saying that was written in the front of one of my Bibles, it goes like this:  “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”  It is a reminder that just like our physical heart, what we feed our spiritual hearts and what we mediate on determines our future.  If our spiritual food is from feel good preaching, slick TV evangelists and their religious books and radio shows then we can expect a spiritual diet of marshmallows and whipped cream, just a lot of fluff with no substance.  What we need for our spiritual heart is healthy food, a daily diet of God’s Word, and biblical instruction.  And just like the need to eat some of the foods that we may not enjoy, biblical correction and conviction from God’s Word is necessary for our spiritual heart health.  Even if we eat right spiritually but we fail to exercise our faith regularly then we become “fat Christians”, always taking it in but never giving it out.

God has created our bodies to tell us when something is wrong but if we fail to listen to it a major crisis may be coming.  It’s the same with our spiritual life.  If we fail to heed God’s Word and listen to the Holy Spirit convicting us when we are headed for sin, we are headed down a path of great regret and sorrow.

Harkening to the warning signs of heart disease is easier said than done.   I guess right now I have a recent experience that helps to motivates me.  I pray that as the further I get I will be as motivated.  But ultimately doing what is right for my heart is an inward attitude.  It’s the same with sin.  We have a free will to decide to sin or not.  The question is what will we choose to do?

The following is a simple outline to help both our physical and spiritual heart.

  1.  Recognize that we are all tempted.  James 1:14   But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Temptation is not sin, yielding is.
  2. Flee temptation.  1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22;  I Corinthians 10:13  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  When tempted, remember God has given us a way to escape, look for it and take it.
  3.  Used God’s Word as a defense.  Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.   2 Corinthians 10:4-5  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;   My question for us is, how can you use the Word of God if you don’t know and memorize it?
  4. Focus on God and his Word.  Psalm 147 is a great passage about the glories of God.  Another way to focus on God is to sing hymns.  It is hard to sin when we are focused on God in some way.
  5. When we fail, and we will fail, repent right away.  Romans 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?    Proverbs 24:6   For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

So the next time we are tempted, are we going to heed the warning signs?  Are we going to go watch for the risk factors?  Are we going to have just a head knowledge of what we should do or will we take action?  Your action or inaction will determine your future.

(Thoughts and comments welcomed.)


Lessons I’m Learning from a Heart Attack – Intro

How I got here in the first place.

I guess it kind of creeps up on you.  One minute you’re a skinny 72 pound 7thgrader and the next thing you know you’re 46 and in the ER having a heart attack. 

 I always was a skinny kid and pretty active playing on a soccer team, Ti Kwon Do, tennis, etc. but like most people, as we get older we tend to get over run with life in general and the activities tend to change.  Torn tendons and multiple twisted ankles cause you to rethink playing soccer or doing most any kind of running.  Add onto that a pinched nerve resulting in numerous injections in the neck when the chiropractor can’t help anymore make you leery about strenuous exercise.  And those are my excuses and I’m sticking to it!

The long and the short of it is that over time, we tend to let things slide.  We make excuses for why we don’t do the things we know should do.  We add the extra salt to the steak, we start to have not one or two containers of ice cream in the freeze but have three to five going at a time.  We look at others and tend to say to ourselves, I’m not that bad, I eat pretty healthy, they’ll have “issues” way before I do.  I don’t smoke or drink.  I live a pretty clean life.  Hey, I even started back exercising 3-4 times a week 45 minutes a day this year.  I’m doing fairly well aren’t I?

So is all this why I had a heart attack?  I don’t know.  My doctor said even with the little extra weight he said he would not have thought I was a risk for a heart attack.  So was it genetic then?  Maybe.  I’m sure I didn’t help myself at all with some of the choices in foods I ate and my lack of serious attention to my health.  Could it have been as with Job were God allowed Satan to attack him?  Well, I’m no Job.  Maybe it was God’s way of getting my attention.  If so, why?  We can ask all the questions and still be wondering why, but the point that needs to be made is, it has happened, so what can I learn from this?  How is God wanting to use this in my life and in the life of those around me?

Over the next several weeks I hope to be posting some of the things I am learning from a Heart Attack.

(Comments, suggestions and insights are welcome)

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