The Benefit of Darkness

Some people will insist that a Christian should never go through a dark time in his life. The idea is that “joy unspeakable” should empower a perpetual smile even in the middle of imminent doom.

What’s more, it’s the people in the Church who most often criticize the discouraged and depressed, treating them like whatever is bothering them could not be bad enough to challenge their faith, that is, if their faith was genuine.

It doesn’t help, either, when the rest of the world’s problems are weighed in the balance with ours. It’s like, “There are people being burned alive for their faith and you’re having a spiritual identity crisis?” It’s no different than saying, “If you think YOUR pain is bad, you should feel MINE.”

There’s songs and sermons galore about persevering through the storms of life and coming out stronger on the other side. There’s even much talk about joy in the midst of sorrow, about peace in the midst of spiritual attack. But what I don’t think I’ve ever heard is a recognition of the value or benefits of the “dark” times we may experience.

When I say I’m in “a dark place,” what does that mean? For different people it can mean different things, of course, but what do you typically think about? What do you associate with dark places?

I’ll tell you what I’ve seen in the dark places: anger, regret, sorrow, resentment, bitterness, resignation, self-doubt, self-hate, weariness, loneliness, helplessness, worthlessness, and a “deaf heaven” and “bootless cries” (to borrow from Shakespeare). It’s probably not necessary to tell you of the thoughts that accompany such darkness.

So how could there be any benefit to such darkness, such despair? How could there be any value to such moments? Well, I’ve wondered that, myself. Yet is our God not sovereign? If truly redeemed, am I ever out of His hand?

There exist rare and refined elements which offer solutions to problems yet to be discovered. In other words, there are things that, until they were discovered, we didn’t even know we had a need for them. Sometimes these things are discovered in the remains of previous failures.

I have come to believe that the strongest faith is produced in the dark, when all appears lost, when all efforts have failed, and when there’s nothing solid left on which to stand. Faith is then the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

The strongest faith can only be found, not in just weakness, but when there’s no strength at all.

When I’ve messed up so much and so many times that I’ve not even a single seed to plant in a dry field with no rain in sight, faith is the evidence of the crop to come.

The benefit of darkness is the failure of myself and the hope of Him who will not let me go.

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Five Things I Expect from a Sermon

Not long ago my wife and I visited a particular church for the first time. I don’t want to tell you where it was or who did the preaching because what I’m about to write is not flattering. And should I tell you where we went, you might think what we experienced was the norm, when it might have not been.

Believe me, I know what it is like to be judged by one poorly delivered sermon. Heck, I’ve even been misjudged by an expertly delivered and totally biblical sermon! Therefore, I don’t want to disparage a pastor after hearing him only once.

However, what I expect from a preacher is rarely delivered these days. Honestly, it’s like every time a new preacher steps up to the pulpit, the voice of the Dread Pirate Roberts whispers in my ear, “Get used to disappointment.”

What I typically receive is a topical sermon based on a topical series that starts with a text and only comes back to it when mentioning the sermon title.

Sadly, what I have grown accustomed to are “how to” sermons loosely based on biblical principles but often drawn from Scripture verses taken out of context.

But what is it that I expect? Not much, just five simple things.

  1. WHAT I EXPECT… are sermons that exegete the Holy Word of God, even without artistic and often unnecessary alliterations.
  2. WHAT I EXPECT… is a preacher who will take the Bible, read it, explain it, then make application, not the other way around.
  3. WHAT I EXPECT… is to be wowed and amazed by the wonderous, Holy Spirit-inspired, inerrant Word of God, not the delivery of the one tasked to preach it.
  4. WHAT I EXPECT… is a sermon that treats passages from the Bible as revealed Scripture, not just supporting references.
  5. WHAT I EXPECT… is nothing more and nothing less than what we read of in the book of Nehemiah. There we read of when Ezra built a “pulpit” of wood (a raised place from which to be heard) and, along with a few others, opened up the long-forgotten Law of God and read it to an attentive, standing crowd.

So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

Nehemiah 8:8 KJV

If the above verse isn’t clear enough, the CSB renders it, “They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.”

When you add application to the above formula, that’s when you get good preaching.

That’s what I expect.

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More Offensive Words, More SMH

The University of Southern California School of Social Work has decided to eliminate the world “field” from its curriculum and replace with language that is “more inclusive” and less likely to offend.

To be clear, it is not USC as a whole, only the School of Social Work.

The reasoning is simple: going out into “the field” to work “may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign.” In other words, using “field,” as in going out into the field to do social work, is racist, specifically anti-black and anti-immigrant.

I’m not making this up. Unfortunately, it’s not joke, either.

Folks, how much more of this are we going to have to endure? Would it help if we simply did away with that nasty, imperialistic, white privilege language of English and replace it with something else? That might be the easiest and least offensive option!

For example, we could go back the native languages of the American continent since they were here first. We could switch from English to Cherokee or Creek.

Or, since we are including immigrants in this, not just slaves, we could surrender the English language to Spanish! Because, as we all know, the Hispanic and Latin nations never sent slaves into the “campo” to work.

Wait! Doesn’t “campo” sound a lot like “campus”? It definitely sounds like “camp.” Do you know how many people have been placed in camps to work? We can’t use that word anymore because there are connotations for Russians, Jews, Christians, Japanese, and Muslim terrorists that are not benign.

Maybe this is more complicated than I thought!

Just think for a second of how many other words are also racist! What kind of language will we have left if we ban them all?

  • Cotton
  • Hoe
  • Whip
  • White
  • Pick
  • Row
  • Soil/Dirt
  • Beat
  • fence
  • chain
  • link
  • guard
  • dog/hound
  • rope
  • knot
  • string
  • up

Because, when you’re already thinking about something, when it’s on your mind all the time, just about any word can be associated with that something.

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The Downward Spiral of Admitting Depression

Dear readers, now that the end of the year is upon us, I know that many people in the world aren’t feeling excited about tomorrow. I get it. Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I still feel an underlying sense of foreboding.

But what about all that stuff like “God is in control” and “God’s got a plan”? If that’s true, why feel down, discouraged, or depressed? And why, of all things, feel a sense of dread?

Well, all I can say is that if you feel both ways at the same time, you and King David (the Psalmist), a few prophets, and I have something in common.

Knowing that the Lord’s hand is not weak and His arm not short does not change the fact that you and I are living in mortal bodies affected by the constant onslaught of circumstances which drain us, both physically and mentally.

The sad truth is that even though you and I may believe there is hope, for our Hope is Jesus, we may still find ourselves battling the feeling of hopelessness.

Now, who am I to suggest how another comes to be in this situation? It’s hard enough to explain my own feelings, emotions, and circumstances, much less try to piece together the puzzle pieces of someone else’s life. However, I do want to attempt to validate what some of you might be feeling if you are at the point of needing help.

The problem with admitting you are depressed, especially to the point of danger, is that by doing so one risks making things even worse. Admitting depression often takes away the very things for which we fight to hold onto, the things that give meaning to our existence. Therefore, in order to maintain a sense of purpose and keep the light at the end of the tunnel lit, we hide the pain, hope to God things get better, and force our faith to the surface for others to see, essentially faking it, sort of, until we make it.

Why is this? I’m not a licensed therapist or clinical psychologist, but my best guess is because what we believe, albeit true, is always in a fight with perception, pride, physiology (and I didn’t plan on alliterating those points, but it would make a good sermon outline, wouldn’t it?).

Therefore, what do we do? We leak as little as possible without spilling our guts, just enough to put a few more gallons in the tank so as to make it through the desert.

Can you relate? If so, let’s encourage one another. God does still reign, His mercies endure forever, and because of His steadfast love and faithfulness we are not condemned.

Faking it till we make it isn’t really the best option.

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Let’s Talk Pronouns

You know, it’s been a while since my last contribution, but you can chalk that up to new living and working conditions, along with much more time spent on my new YouTube channel.

But here I am, an hour and fifteen minutes away from time to walk out the door, so why not address one of the big topics of the day?… PRONOUNS.

Before I offer any advice, we should back up for a second and look at the definition of the word.

pronoun

■ noun a word used instead of a noun to indicate someone or something already mentioned or known, e.g. I, she, this.
—ORIGIN Middle English: from PRO-1 + NOUN, suggested by French pronom, Latin pronomen (from pro- ‘for, in place of’ + nomen ‘name’).

Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

It’s only when you get into the kaleidoscope personal pronouns that things get crazy – and yes, I used that word.

I mean, it’s one thing to learn the proper usage of words that already exist, but when people just start making up words, it’s nearly impossible to avoid offending someone!

So, I have a suggestion. Why not go back to biblical (as in KJV style) English of centuries ago? Let’s start referring to people as “thee” and “thou.”

But what about when we are talking about thee in the third person? Oh, I got that, too!

We could use words like the one, the ones, the fool, the sinner, the Gentile, the lost, the one vexed by demons, or even the one in darkness.

Here is an example of how that could work:

Three people are standing in the mall. One is eating godly food and drinking sweet tea from a certain chicken restaurant, while the others are eating warm sushi and drinking bubble tea.

  • Girl(?) with blue hair says, “Hello, my name is Brill and I identify as a bug.”
  • Guy(?) standing next to the bug says, “Hello my name is Susan, and you look hot in your black sport coat and jeans. What’s your name and what pronouns to you prefer?”
  • I respond in the following way. I reply with, “Thou art kind for noticing. I thank thee,” then ask the one with blue hair, “Did thou say that thou art a bug?”
  • “Yes,” answers the blue-haired one vexed with demons, “and my preferred pronouns are bug, bug’s, and bzzzt.”
  • “Get thee behind me, Susan,” I exclaim! “There’s a 5-foot insect about to steal thine sticky fish flesh!” Then, calling upon my exterminator skills, I spray Raid in the bug’s face and proceed to stomp her when she falls to the ground.

Or, I could just refuse to play the game and use the language that reflects reality.

What think thou?

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When Sheep Attack the Shepherd

Another pastor was asked to resign. Why? Because of moral failure? No. Because of unethical practices? No. Because of poorly performing his duties? No.

He changed some things. He wanted to do some things that the deacons didn’t. Oh, it didn’t matter what the congregation thought or what impact the pastor’s ministry was making on the community; he went afoul of the deacon body and was asked to resign.

Men … and I’m talking to all you deacons out there… you seriously need to go back to the locker room, sit down on the benches, and let your Coach – GOD – explain to you how the game is supposed to be played. He wrote the Rules, rules which are never to be overruled by your bylaws.

First, there is no place in all of Scripture where you will find justification for deacons running a church. The fact that so many do is a sad testament to how poorly the Word of God has been taught in so many of our congregations. If you really want to get specific, there are no biblical examples of committees making unilateral decisions, either. The ONLY biblical example is that of pastoral leadership with deacon support WHEN NEEDED. See the 6th chapter of the Book of Acts.

Second, should a congregation follow the biblical guidelines and select men to be deacons, they should only do so because the administration of resources meant to minister to the needy within the congregation has become too burdensome for the pastoral leadership and is thereby distracting from the study of the Word and prayer. There is NO biblical precedent for the pastoral leadership of a congregation to be in any way handicapped by the decisions of those elected to serve the congregation and assist the pastoral leadership. There is NO biblical precedent for committees within the congregation to have veto power over pastoral leadership, either.

Third, there is very little evidence in Scripture to support unlimited tenure for those who serve in the role of deacon. On the contrary, biblical precedent leans more heavily toward deacons serving only when there is a need, and only when the pastoral leadership deems it necessary (again, see Acts 6). There is even reason to argue that new deacons should be selected by the congregation and approved by the pastoral leadership every time there is a change in pastoral leadership (compare Acts 6 with 1 Timothy 3).

Fourth, there is no biblical precedent for deacons to be self-governed, mutually accountable, or convenable as a body. Doing so adopts a secular business model that may promote efficiency and manageable productivity, but it in nowise mirrors the pattern of congregational and pastoral oversight as found in Acts 6.

Fifth, the spiritual requirements of deacons (AND their wives) should be taken as seriously as that of a pastor.

Therefore, based on the above points, there is no more biblical support for a group of deacons – servants – to request the resignation of pastor any more than they would request the revocation of a fellow congregant’s membership within the local assembly of believers. It is not the role of the servant to negate the role of the one/ones served.

To conclude, in local congregations where the ecclesiastical structure is autonomous and limited (i.e., Baptist, etc.), thereby affording the body the right to elect the pastoral leadership deemed sent by God and affirmed by the Holy Spirit, beware how you treat the man of God. Although he be only a man, by your common vote you have affirmed before God and heavenly witnesses that he is to be your shepherd, subject to the Great Shepherd, and that you will submit to his leadership where it is biblical, and Spirit led. To conspire, undermine, and circumvent his leadership is to invite discipline from the one who sent the “gift” (Ephesians 4:11-12) to you.

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You Can Still be Thankful for Stuff Even AFTER Thanksgiving

It’s Black Friday, and I know that most of you are probably tired of one season and ready to move onto the next.

However, before you start spending all that money on sale items, why not take a moment to remember how blessed you really are, like at this very moment.

I got a very late start on putting out a Thanksgiving video for my YouTube channel, but I published it, anyway. The reason is because regardless of what time or season of the year, we still have things for which we can be thankful.

Whether or not you are a watch fan, I believe you will enjoy this video. If you don’t have time to watch it all, at least skip forward to the 10th reason we can all be thankful.

Blessings to you all!

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Filed under America, community, hobbies, Thanksgiving, watches

The Religious Underpinnings of an American Holiday – Thanksgiving

Just as with so many other things in this politically correct life, there are those who want to make a case against Thanksgiving, at least the religious underpinnings it brings to the dinner table.

As with Christmas, there will inevitably be those who want to keep God out of Thanksgiving.

There has been so much debate over the level of influence religion (specifically Christianity) had in the founding of our great nation, the United States of America. Many have argued that our forefathers wanted nothing more than a completely secular society void of anything sacred.

Others have argued that our Founders, if anything, might have been tolerant of religion, but never had any propensity toward the public expression of Christianity, especially in governmental affairs.

But facts are facts.

Just Facts

Although they came a while after the first celebration, the following excerpts, taken from early Thanksgiving proclamations made by our Continental Congress, clearly show where the soul of our nation was at one time.

From the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation made by the Continental Congress, November 1, 1777

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to
set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and
PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings
of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that,
together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession
of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest
Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive
and blot them out of Remembrance…

That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education,
so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing
Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom,
which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

May I ask a question or two? What about the above quote sounds totally secular? What about the above quote gives the idea that the majority of Congressmen were nothing more than deists?

You see, we can argue all day long about the current state of our nation, but at its founding there were men in government who were not afraid to encourage our people to pray, praise, give thanks, and repent for our sins. I read nothing about thanking the Indians for corn.

As a matter of fact, what I read in these early documents was a call to be thankful, even in the midst of hard and difficult times. These early congressmen all agreed that even though we were at war, God was merciful, and the gospel needed to be proclaimed throughout the world! Can you imagine that kind of thinking coming from Washington today?

United States Congress, October 20, 1779

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of
December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies,
and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech
him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with
wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts
and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine
grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper
the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners
of the earth; that he would smile upon the labors of his people and cause the earth to bring forth
her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take
into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him
signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind; that he would
graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to
contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into
his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the
basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and
safety. as long as the sun and moon shall endure, until time shall be no more.

Notice the prayer that God would “graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations?” Therein lies the big difference between a Christian nation at war and a Muslim jihad.

United States Congress, October 31, 1780

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and
calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and
thankful acknowledgments… and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace…

…to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause
the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

United States Congress, 1781

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be
religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on
that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our
manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please
Him to pardon our offenses, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and
relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give
success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counselors,
judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and
favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to
bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters
cover the seas.

And just one more, 1784

[May the Supreme Ruler of the universe] bless all mankind, and inspire the
princes and nations of the earth with the love of peace, that the sound of war may be heard of no
more; that he may be pleased to smile upon us, and bless our husbandry, fishery, our commerce,
and especially our schools and seminaries of learning; and to raise up from among our youth, men
eminent for virtue, learning and piety, to his service in church and state; to cause virtue and true
religion to flourish, to give to all nations amity, peace and concord, and to fill the world with his
glory.

Argue all you want, but I consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday, one that should be encouraged by our government. At least that’s what it seems our Founding Fathers would have wanted.

Please share this. I’d appreciate it.

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Filed under America, Christianity, Thanksgiving, worship

Would Someone Help Me Understand?

Lately something has been on my mind. It’s not something that’s openly in the news or often talked about, yet it’s everywhere you look, if you’re looking.

Please don’t get offended or triggered by what I’m about to ask, just help me with it. Call me ignorant, if you’d like, but ignorance is only a lack of information or understanding, and there is nothing wrong with that – unless it’s willful.

Here’s the question:

Why is transitioning to look like the stereotypical appearance of the gender to which you’re transitioning not an affirmation of the very stereotypes with which you disagree?

    You see, I’ve been around long enough to remember life before yesterday, even before Obama. In a not-too-distant past Barbie was condemned for her looks because she seemed to exhibit what culture deemed “feminine.”

    I can remember when the supposed male-dominated culture’s idea of female looks included long hair, makeup, dresses, high heels, extended lashes, bras, silk stockings, and a certain sway of the hips when walking. If all done right and in the correct proportions, a man could look at that package and say, “Man! What a woman!”

    Oh, but then came the biker chicks, the tomboys, and all the “butch” females who railed against the stereotype. Looking “female” was about being whatever you felt and not limited to what culture expected. Girls didn’t have to wear dresses and makeup; they could have short hair, wear wife-beater shirts, and still prefer the opposite sex.

    Yet, what do we see today? Biological males who claim to female that can only be satisfied if they change their appearance into the epitome of the stereotype to which actual women of the past rebelled!

    Why can’t a man who wants to be a woman still be a woman yet look like a man? Why can’t a woman who wants to be a man retain her feminine appearance while assuming all the roles of the male of the species? Why does transitioning necessitate the changing of appearance when appearance is only supposed to be skin deep?

    Seriously, help me understand, because I really don’t get it.

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    Filed under Culture Wars, General Observations, self-worth

    Goodbye, Middle Georgia

    The Last Night

    It’s really hard to believe it, but tonight is the last night I will be sleeping as a resident of Georgia. Tomorrow is the day we load up the U-Haul and head back to Tennessee.

    Gone will be the quiet, star-canopied nights when I would sit on the steps of the back porch with my little dog and listen to nothing, except the sound of crickets, coyotes, or a cow somewhere across the way.

    Tonight will be the last time I look at that old church lit up in the distance, the church I had no desire to leave.

    Lots of Water

    If you think of our time here like the old metaphor, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since we moved here in 2019. I mean, what better way to start a pastorate than be faced with an unprecedented pandemic? What fun!

    But over the last three years we have had the wonderful opportunity to meet many sweet people, not just through the church I pastored, but out in the community. To begin with, there was the old black man that worked the morning shift at McDonald’s. He was the most enthusiastic person I think I’ve ever met!

    Back in 2020 I started painting. That led to meeting many friends down at the farmer’s market in Sandersville. Honestly, I’m really going to miss seeing those folk on Saturday mornings. For over 2 years I sat through hot and cold, even when I didn’t expect to sell much, just to hang out with and encourage them. And, on top of that, one never knew who you’d meet that was just passing through.

    Covid took its toll, of course, and we lost a few friends, some very close.

    My mother came down with pancreatic cancer while here, yet she rarely missed a church service, unlike most of the rest of the congregation. I held her hand and sang “Amazing Grace” as I watched her life slip away. She just stared at me the whole time. I’ll always wonder what, if anything, she was thinking.

    Goodbye to the Culture

    Funny thing, growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I thought I lived in the South. Well, I was evidently mistaken. I wasn’t Southern enough to put up with gnats, enjoy pineapple sandwiches, or own a truck (even though I really wanted one).

    Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot down here that was wonderful and refreshing, but on the other hand, some of the things that annoyed me back in Tennessee were only made worse down here.

    For example, where I was from a church was rarely more than one hundred years old. Down here their age regularly exceeds two centuries. Unfortunately, so do the family influences. Nothing is done quickly, and nothing is done without the approval of a select few (and that does not include the pastor). There is no hope of ever becoming a local if you just learned about kaolin and never picked cotton.

    Back to Pavement

    So, after tomorrow, it’s back to the fast-paced, bumper-to-bumper life of the blacktopped world. No more dirt roads. No more small-town limited government. No more knowing your sheriff or praying in public, even before a football game.

    Next week it will be the 4 or 6-lane highways, the world’s fastest internet, 4 or 5 local television stations, a major newspaper, tons of restaurants, gang shootings, murder, drugs, and routines that sap away one’s life.

    But that’s the way it’s got to be, Georgia. We had our good times, but we weren’t meant to last.

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    Filed under America, community, General Observations