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Fish’n’Chips in Moffatt

We had been home for several weeks from our trip to Europe when I received a text from our Georgia traveling companions. “We’ll pick you up in twenty minutes for fish’n’chips in Moffatt.” Moffatt, Scotland, it was, a place we had all enjoyed so much along with Scottish driver friend John Lewis. I smiled as I typed in my answer: “Sounds intriguing but a bit too far.”

Moffatt was a place I’d never heard of before this trip. It was a former burgh in Dumfries and Galloway, its population 2,500. It’s on the Annan river, one of three rivers that originate within a few meters of each other, then flow three different directions. We found the little town so friendly and inviting. John showed us the statue of a bronze ram and told us its story. The sculptor, he said, unveiled his creation to a nice gathering of villagers. There was a respectful silence and then a young boy called out, “Why did ye leave the ears off?” John said the sculptor was so humiliated to have left the ears off that he committed suicide. But the village erected the ram, a fine symbol of a wool producing area.

Now, truth be told, that sculptor did not commit suicide, not then at least, because there are several pieces of his work created in later years. And as to the missing ears? The ram has curly horns, big showy horns. Who could be sure whether or not he had ears, save God alone? We liked the old ram and had our picture made with him.

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Now, to back up a mile or one hundred, we had a big day before we arrived in Moffatt. Our road trip took us from Lockerbie all the way to Edinburgh viewing breathtaking sights along the way. I’m sure John Lewis must have wondered if we’d ever seen sheep before since we exclaimed so much over them. Actually, we’ve even raised a tiny flock of woolies and hair sheep in South Georgia. But there were so many in Scotland, thousands, white against those beautiful green Scottish hills, pastures divided by stone walls or hedgerows, even some regular fences. We enjoyed also winding roads, villages, and farms, glistening streams, and then the dignity and character of old Edinburgh. John was an excellent guide who told us so much as he skillfully twisted and turned in city lanes to give us all good views of Sir Walter Scott’s memorial, government buildings, kirks, and the Castle so majestic, and maybe forbidding, high on its craggy hill.

On the way back toward Lockerbie, north of Moffatt, John pulled over at a high overlook and invited us to see the Devil’s Beef Tub, one of South Scotland’s geographic oddities. We looked way, way down into the dark depths of a valley formed by four hills. John said it was named Devil’s Beef Tub because a Scottish clan named Johnstones, also referred to by their enemies as devils, used to cross the English border centuries ago, steal cattle, and bring them to this valley to hide them. I later read more interesting tid-bits about this unusual valley, some true, some probably not.

For instance, a Covenanter in 1685 is said to have tried to outrun enemy dragoons by climbing a side of the Beef Tub. He didn’t make it, according to the story. Much more recently, a woman lost control of her vehicle and plunged 500 feet to the bottom of Devil’s Beef Tub but was not seriously injured. No word about how she got out. Supposedly, her vehicle is still there. Sir Walter Scott included a description of the valley in his novel “Red Gauntlet”: “It looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A damned deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is.”

Scott’s description gives me a chill. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that valley for I’m sure I could never climb out. But it was beautiful that afternoon, from the top. The dark purplish shadows didn’t seem forbidding with bright sunshine around us.

Then we arrived in Moffatt and met the bronze ram statue. That’s when someone spotted the fish’n’chips shop and we realized how hungry we were. Harley was always hungry for fish’n’chips having enjoyed them so much when he and Debi lived in England years ago.

When we walked in the shop we found it busy with locals as well as tourists, with a friendly proprietor and a staff eager to make us happy. Just the warm tasty smells made us happy.

Now you have to know a little bit about fish’n’chips to appreciate our feast that night. Of course, anyone who’s been in Britain for any length of time would have at least heard about this iconic meal. Fish’n’chips is to England what a hamburger is to USA. Before our trip, my friend Sue Nell told me “Eat some fish’n’chips for me.” So–what you get is one or two very generous portions of golden batter-fried fish (a white sweet fish) along with a pile of what we call French fries, called in Britain chips and in France frits. A bottle of vinegar will be handy so one may sprinkle however much they want over fish and chips. The fish was perfectly golden and so crusty, not greasy at all, and the chips were really wonderful. We had enjoyed fish’n’chips in Portsmouth, Deal, and West Wickham and would have one more chance near Bromley. But the Moffatt fish’n’chips were the freshest, the crispiest, the most delicious.

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After supper we wandered along the street, window shopping, and back over to see the bronze ram again before we started back to Somerton House in Lockerbie.

A lovely day with friends, not to be easily repeated, but always warmly remembered.

So, yes, I would buckle into that British car with the rest, if I could, and happily set out for fish’n’chips in Moffatt.

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The Oak that came to Breakfast

It isn’t often (thank God!) that a tree breaks in for breakfast. Well, he didn’t eat any eggs and bacon or a bite of cereal. And he didn’t quite sit down at our table. But he did try his best to join us for our second cup of coffee Monday morning.

It was a quiet sunny July morning. We were making plans for our day which included some normal kind of yard work for Charles and his gardener, Ulysses, and a lot of laundry for me since we’d enjoyed having five great grands sleeping over for the weekend. Just as Charles reached for the Bible to read our daily devotion a terrible cracking, swishing thunderous sound jerked us both to our feet and away from the window.

With a shower and shudder of falling leaves and limbs the giant oak in front of our house settled on our carport roof, one big elbow on the main roof of the house, branches brushing dining room, breakfast room, and carport windows. We ran out to look and there he was, our largest tree, our giant red oak, roots still flipping wet earth into the ivy.

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Yes, that’s our house–under the tree.

The smell of fresh oak pervaded the yard. Birds flew in and out of the new forest come down. Stray branches slid off the roof. My heart thudded in surprise and amazement. We looked at each other and could hardly make words come out.

We started taking pictures and sending messages to family and friends. Charles called Joe Porter of Nationwide who very soon came to look and set our claim in motion. After a call, Danny Thomas from Thomas Tree Service also came. He shook his head and said, “Doc, it’s going to take the big crane. Get ready for those big ruts you hate so much. And I don’t know when I can come. We’re trying to get Reno and Whigham out from under the rubble right now. One family has a tree in their living room.”

We are almost giddy we are so thankful the tree didn’t cause worse damage, didn’t hurt anyone, and fell while we are here to see about it. A very large limb landed neatly beside the air conditioner, maybe a foot away. The tree largely hit the carport, not the main roof, and, because of the solidity of our house, the tree didn’t fall through and crush our car. Ulysses, moments before the fall, was picking up debris in the path of the tree but had moved on before it fell. Our great grands had all gone home and weren’t playing around the concrete seat at the base of the tree or filling the bird bath that sat directly in the tree’s path. In fact, the bench and bird bath weren’t even cracked nor any windows broken.

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The giant red oak–up close and personal–for breakfast.

It remains to be seen how much damage our house did sustain. The roof has been compromised, of course, gutters and down spouts ripped off, tiles torn and dislodged, and much more we can’t yet see. In one place a limb has jabbed a hole in the carport ceiling which then cracked like an egg. There’s a large hole in the edge of the overhang and more will show when the tree comes off. But it could be so much worse.

We’ve stood around the fallen giant and speculated about its untimely–or timely–fall. We thought this was a healthy oak. Sure, it leaned some but probably had for 75 years. It appeared healthy and strong otherwise. But now we can see signs of deterioration inside.

Why did the oak fall when it did? We had a bad storm Saturday night. Why didn’t it fall then? Danny says that while he was driving that morning towards Reno to work on fallen trees he said to an employee, “We’ll have more tree calls. Some get unsettled in a storm and don’t fall for a day or two.” His phone rang just then and it was Charles calling about our oak. If we’d been listening to the oak Sunday afternoon we might have heard occasional mysterious creaks and groans as it slowly got ready for the big downfall.

I just say–that oak wanted to join us for breakfast! Maybe he wanted drive-through service.

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Tools That Really Work

IMG_0167Among the things I’m thankful for are simply those tools/gadgets/machines that do what they’re supposed to do. I heard about the PC user who threw a computer out the window because it wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. And there was the “little moron” joke about the roofer who threw nails away, one after another, because they were upside down. But what about the faithful can opener which, time after time, neatly opens a can? Or the mixer that mixes, the juicer that juices, the iron that heats and the fan that oscillates?

We have an apple slicer. Just position it with apple stem in the center and press down. Voila! A beautifully cored and sliced apple perfectly portioned. Such fun! This is something the children really like. Charli likes to slice an apple and take it to school in a zip-lock. Good thing about that thing-a-ma-jigger is it doesn’t have to be plugged in.

Same for my trusty funnel. No strings attached. Place the funnel in a jar and ladle jelly in with no mess. I even made my own enlarged funnel from an upside down gallon milk jug with its bottom cut off. And, oh my goodness, the right ladle, how nice that is! Or the right spoon for a stirring job. I have an old Dollar Store spoon that is stained and scarred, apt to break any day. I’ve looked and looked for a replacement and there simply isn’t one out there, even at the fanciest kitchen store. I handle that poor old spoon with great respect. It’s just the right size for stirring a small pot, for dipping from a mayo jar, and for scooping flour into a cup.

But of course there’s a need for things that require power.

There’s the blender, good for making lemon slush, kumquat marmalade, and smoothies of magnificent concoction. When Charles Douglas is in the mood he can make a mean smoothie. He throws in almost everything but carrots and mushrooms and watches our faces to see if we like his latest recipe. I recently discovered a new use for the blender. I was making loaves of herbal bread and needed parsley and rosemary chopped very fine. Yes, the blender made green snippets in seconds!

I had a crepe maker for several years. A smooth rounded surface heated perfectly, then dipped in thin pancake batter turned out such neat little crepes. We could roll almost anything up in a crepe and the children would eat it! (We didn’t try mush-rooms!)

Thomas, one of my Birmingham grandsons, noticed I really like shoulder massages. For Christmas he gave me an electrical neck massager. It fits around my neck like a dog collar and, while I’m reclined in my chair, will give me a luxurious workout. A cup of coffee adds to the luxury.

And I mentioned a can opener. What is more satisfactory than a can opener that works? I remember the fights and groans and blood and tears using those old cranky things. Then there were all kinds of “dreamy” can openers, some of which worked if you held your mouth just right. My mother gave me a can opener (a nice simple one) and a paring knife not long after I married. She said I would never survive without those two things. I think she was right! When you find yourself cooking in someone else’s kitchen those are the things you simply have to locate. My present can opener is a jewel of a utensil and I don’t care if “she” hears me bragging on “her.”

Oh, did I say anything about the coffee maker? Who can carry on without a coffee maker? Of course coffee makers never give off the totally friendly aroma that a coffee pot on a wood cook stove does. But the brewing is mighty quick in the mornings.

A waffle maker is a really fun device. If I just remember to spray top and bottom with baker’s spray and spoon the right amount of batter in, I can produce a near perfect waffle. I remember fondly my mother making waffles. She made hers in a waffle iron that she set over an open flame on her wood burning stove. It was a trick to know just when to flip the iron over to put heat on the other side. I loved to watch her. And, even better, loved to eat some waffle drenched in honey or molasses. Since there were many hungry mouths for her to feed, we only got a small portion at one time. Hmmmm. I wonder if she ever did get even a scrap of waffle!

All this being said about tools and gadgets, it’s easy to complain about things that don’t work. I just thought today was a good day to praise the ones that do what they’re made to do.

And I had this thought too. Are we, as God’s instruments/utensils/tools, doing what we were intended to do?

Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

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Conversation

One day Charles and I dropped by the Mitchell County Animal Hospital on a day Dr. AlexGreenberg was the veterinarian. His Great Dane named Sir was trying to be a pal to the orange hospital cat. I took a series of pictures of Sir’s attempts at “conversation” with While Drs. Greenberg and Graham were conferring with each other. Later, I showed five-year-old Kaison these pictures and made up a conversation between the dog and cat. Kaison became the cat, I the dog, then we switched roles. Following is a semblance of the conversation we made up.

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Everything’s New

IMG_0242Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3-4

When Charles and I were students at the University of Georgia our campus minister invited a Rabbi to come to the Baptist Student Center a few days before Easter. The Rabbi and our campus minister, Brother Dick Houston, presented a combination Passover meal and Lord’s Supper, correlating the two. There were bitter herbs to taste with explanations of their meanings. There was meat from an unblemished lamb. Then there were wine (or grape juice) and unleavened bread with a graphic explanation of how Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies of old and became the perfect Unblemished Lamb to pay for our sins.

I don’t remember what all the herbs were and certainly not all the words, but I remember being so thankful that Jesus died for us, that we no longer need stumble along offering strange sacrifices that we hope will “work,” but instead can know without a shadow of doubt that we are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

These verses from I Peter tell me five things to help me celebrate Easter:

  • We can bless God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by worshipping Him.
  • He has saved us according to his abundant mercy.
  • He has begotten us “again,” re-created us who already were made in His image.
  • We now have a lively hope, not an insecure possibility, a “lively” hope.
  • Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we too can live.

Springtime is full of symbolism pointing to the new life in Christ. Flowers are bright and beautiful, sprung from the brown cold earth. Trees are budding. Grass is so bright and green. Birds are full of song, starting new families. I’m reminded of a friend years ago who, every Easter, very deliberately bought new clothes, “from the skin out,” as she put it, to represent her new life in Christ.

Eggs, little chicks, baby bunnies, all are examples of new life. As Easter Sunday approaches, I’m thinking about the dozens of eggs we’ve colored over the years and the hidings of eggs in jonquil bunches, beside tree trunks, perched on forked limbs, disguised in a ruffle of leaves. I remember the squeals of the children as they race to find the eggs, how some children focus completely on good hiding places and methodically fill their baskets, while others watch fellow hunters to see where they’re finding them and pass right by some real beautiful specimens.

And always there’s at least one lost egg. Invariably. We hiders make mental notes and all but swear that this year none shall be left unfound. But it always happens. We just recently found half a plastic egg in the back yard.

And now it’s almost time to hide them again!

I like to color with crayons at least a few eggs with symbols of the true meaning of Easter on them, a cross, a fish, a Bible verse. Not only is it a joyful exercise for my soul, but it takes me back to the old, old days when crayons were all we had, no food coloring or “magic” sheets, no plastic eggs.

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the whole year. Our church’s music last Sunday, under the able direction of Cameron Crapps, set the stage for us to worship with bursting hearts. I can hear some of the phrases singing in my head: “I will rise again…” “That’s when love broke through…” “Let the grave be opened.”

When Christ’s love is allowed to take over, Everything is New!

Happy, blessed Easter!

Come worship with us at Cairo First Baptist Church Easter Sunday at 10:30. You will be glad you did!

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An Iron Kettle

image000000I was at an estate sale when I saw it. It wasn’t one of the things I bought but I wanted to. Just because of all the warm memories.

I bought an old hymnal, an edger with dried clay on its blade, a tiny Hispanic doll made of woven straw from Ecuador, several tiny memo pads with colorful bird pictures, and a marble topped foyer table. I didn’t know where I would put that heavy black kettle and I left it there amongst various other iron pieces–corn stick pans, irons, a waffle iron, several skillets, etc.

That iron kettle had so many stories to tell, I’m just sure. It was larger than the one I remember, probably held a whole gallon of water. The spout was generous, the handle a little crooked from some escapade. I could imagine mornings of long ago when that kettle stayed on the back burner all day long, ready for producing hot water. The iron was a bit ashy looking as if it had only recently come out of hiding in this modernized electrically equipped house. Some restorative measures might have made it perkier.

But then a big iron kettle like that isn’t intended to be perky.

Mamma’s iron kettle was almost a part of her wood burning stove. If there was a fire in the stove, the kettle was humming, steam issuing from its spout. Whether it was time to prepare a dishpan for after-supper clean up, or make a pot of tea, or hand wash some laundry, the water was ready. But there were times when the need for hot water was more dramatic.

I’m guessing that kettle supplied the hot water for the births of eleven babies my mother delivered at home. I don’t personally remember those times, although the eleventh birth brought me my dear little sister and I do remember the occasion very well. Not from the perspective of the kettle but from the perspective of a three-year-old wanting Mamma to tuck her in bed and not understanding why that night was so different from others. The doctor and my Dad were very kind to me that night when they finally let me see my Mamma with an incredibly small pink wiggly bundle beside her.

Then there were the times Daddy prepared to drive the old Packard and it wouldn’t crank up. There was a hasty call for hot water and someone would take it on the run to pour in the cold radiator. Sometimes a push-off was required also before the motor “turned over.” I’m told my older brother Charlie, when he was a little tyke, lined himself up with the rest to push the Packard. But when the rest let go as the car picked up speed, Charlie was still holding tightly to the bumper, his little feet flying over the ground. Big sister Pat ran to rescue him!

When Mamma opened a little block of yeast for making bread she’d reach for the kettle and pour hot water over it in a bowl to dissolve it. If Daddy had lumbago Mamma would send someone to fill the hot water bottle to apply to his back. On cold mornings when Mamma gave us kids a quart of cocoa to take to our woodland schoolhouse, she’d heat the jar first by pouring hot water over it in a pan–so it wouldn’t crack when the hot cocoa came in contact with the glass.

If Mamma or one of the girls needed hot water fast and the kettle had gotten low, they’d take a griddle off the stove and set it aside, then set the kettle right next to the flame. Soon the water would be boiling. I can remember, too, the white enamel pan with a red rim we used for what we called “spit” baths, or just to wash our hands and faces. Mamma declared war on dirty faces. She said she hoped her mother had dirty faces to wash in heaven or she wouldn’t be happy. I think she hoped that would be true for her too because she sure liked to make our faces clean.

When Daddy killed a chicken for Mamma to dress, she depended on a good full kettle of hot water for scalding the chicken in the de-feathering process. If I hated the killing of the chicken in the first place, I also hated the smell of scalded skin and hot feathers. I was amazed recently to hear one of the grandchildren talking proudly about how she’d helped de-feather some quail.

When brothers brought in the milk morning and evening, the girls would strain the milk and then wash the milk buckets, ending with scalding them good with water from the black kettle.

I’ve seen my handsome father shaving in the kitchen with a straight razor and, of course, water from that kettle.

Amazing, isn’t it, how many pictures you can see in your mind prompted by one simple object. Now I wonder if I should have bought that black kettle. I can just see its face drooping a bit when I finally turned away after considering it for the second or third time. I hope someone else finds it who can give it another life.

Hey, I saw this Bible reference on the Piggly Wiggly sign this week: Romans 15:13. I looked it up. Here it is: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

That’s my prayer for you!

 

 

 

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My Friend Billy Graham

How could I be so brash as to claim Billy Graham was my friend? I never talked to him, even on the phone. I never received a personal note or letter. I never shared a cup of coffee or glass of water with him. I never shook his hand.

Yet I confidently do claim he was my friend. He was America’s pastor and he had the God-given talent of reaching by television, radio, movies, and the written word into our very homes, sharing the love of God in a personal and compelling way. The man who took the message of Christ’s grace all over the world was never rude or arrogant or unkind, just straightforward and real, as much so to us in our living rooms as to the millions in huge arenas.

I miss him from this planet. But I rejoice with him for being reunited with his Ruth, his friends George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and for seeing Jesus face to face. And I can’t imagine his joy as he meets some of the millions who are in heaven because of his messages.

I was eight years old when I first listened to Billy Graham on his radio show “The Hour of Decision.” The year was 1950. My father only listened to a few shows but that was one of them. I guess I knew it wasn’t something a kid of my age should volunteer to listen to so I took it all in from a tiny attic room right over Daddy’s study. I was fascinated by the way Billy Graham talked so fast yet so clearly. I also liked to hear him say “God bless you real good” at the end of the program.

Not long after his show was aired, Billy Graham held a tent revival in Atlanta. Because of rare circumstances, my mother and I accompanied my big brother John to one night of that crusade. I had already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus and knew that I was a redeemed child of God. Maybe that’s why that night was so very special. I remember the smell of the thick sawdust on the floor and how thrilled I was to see Billy Graham, even if he was so far away he was only about an inch high.

As a teenager in the 1950s I was stirred by the occasional messages I heard on television as Billy Graham spoke to phenomenal crowds. We acquired a book about Graham which had black and white pictures of him and his family. I started praying for them. Ruth Graham’s writing was an inspiration to me. I wanted to write like that myself.

Early in my marriage to Charles Graham (no kin to Billy!) he was asked to be chairman of the committee preparing for and presenting a BGEA movie, “Time To Run,” in our small town. That very rich experience gave both of us opportunities we couldn’t have imagined. I was a counselor following the movie for several showings. I counseled a sweet twelve year old girl who gave her life to Jesus. In the years of following up her commitment with visits, a backyard Bible club, and prayer with her family, we built a friendship I cherished. She died of some rare disorder when her son was still quite young.

My church in Cairo, about 1990, provided a bus for a large group of us to go hear Billy Graham at the civic center in Tallahassee. He was no longer the young preacher speaking so fast trying to get all his words in. His hair was white, he leaned on a stool, his words were more measured than before. But there was the same passion, the same zeal, unsquelched after all those years. And the power of God Almighty was present that night as crowds responded to his call for commitment.

I have read several of Billy Graham’s books and gained spiritual strength from each one, “Angels,” “Just As I Am,” and others. But the little paperback “It’s My Turn” by Ruth has given me recently the sweetest peek into the Grahams’ home life. I’ve been reading it in small segments to my Magnolia Place devotional group. Ruth kept the home fires burning, literally, while Billy was away for sometimes weeks at a time. But she sometimes traveled with him. She tells of once when she was counseling at the London Crusade in 1954. She sat down beside an attractive young woman and asked if she could help her. The lady said wistfully, “I just wonder what it would be like to wake up and find yourself married to that man!” Ruth answered her, “You’ve asked the right person. I’ve been doing it for the past eleven years.” Ruth followed up that funny story with her statement of surety that if she could have picked from all the men in the world, she would still have chosen Billy. She said she would rather see a little bit of him than a whole lot of any other man.

But back to Billy’s books. I have his very last book. I’ve read several that he thought might be his last one. But this really is: “Where I Am.” I’ve peeped into it just enough to know from, Franklin’s foreword, that Billy based his title on John 14:3 which is words of Jesus saying, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Where I Am. Billy told his son Franklin with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–that’s where I am.

Worldwide Pictures, an arm of BGEA, has done videos of classic crusades by Billy Graham. I just watched one including clips of the London 1954 crusade. Consistently, throughout that crusade, and all his ministry, we could hear Billy preaching “the Bible says,” and emphasizing that the awesome actions, the swelling crowds of converts, was because of God and only Him. And even now as I hold my iPad in my lap and watch the young Billy preaching so passionately, a message comes up on the screen telling the viewer how to find help, how to know he/she is going to heaven. Billy’s gone to heaven, but his ministry is still going on here!

Someone has said that perhaps Billy’s death will bring on a greater revival than ever happened in his life. I think that would take the participation of all God’s people, all of us who claim to be Billy’s friends and, more importantly, friends of his master, Jesus.

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