Archive for category Columns

Living on Purpose: There are real heroes all around us

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

We hear a lot about heroes in this day and age. Accomplished athletes are seen as idols for throwing around a ball along with blockbuster fantasies that portray individuals who can fly and use their incredible super-powers to save the universe. However, in the real world, it’s encouraging to know there are humble and hardly noticed heroes all around us. These selfless individuals have no desire to be praised or even recognized. They are a special group of human beings that are not only determined to accomplish what God has called them to do but sincerely willing to sacrifice their life so that others can live. The following story is an example of one of these heavenly secret-agents.

Irena Sendler was a Polish nurse and social worker who worked in the Warsaw health department during World War II. In a short window of time between 1942 and 1943, she along with a small band of co-workers led a courageous effort within the Warsaw ghetto to secretly smuggle at least 2500 Jewish babies and children from facing the certainty of the German concentration camps. She and her team were members of the Zegota, an underground organization established in 1940 by the Polish government for the purpose of rescuing Polish Jews. With permission from the Nazi’s to enter the ghetto to help segregate the city’s 380,000 Jews, she came up with a plan to secretly smuggle babies and young children to safety. They used every idea possible to rescue the innocent, which included hiding them in toolboxes and under gurney’s, sneaking them into ambulances, taking them through sewer pipes or other underground passageways, wheeling them out in suitcases, and leading them out through an old courtyard which led to the non-Jewish areas. She carefully recorded the names of the children on cigarette papers and sealed them in glass bottles which she buried in a colleague’s garden. After the war the jars were dug up and the lists handed over to Jewish representatives. Attempts were made to reunite the children with their families but sadly most of the parents had perished in the Treblinka death camp.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Being reunited with our parents forever

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

I went for a quiet walk the other day, to relax and sort my thoughts like the stacks of messages and notes on my desk. While gazing at the clear sky and breathing in the cool air, it dawned on me that it’s been almost two years since my dad passed away. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. I realize that many people grew up without a father and I’m very sympathetic about that. Thank God, there are great step-dads and step-moms that have stepped into difficult situations and have been a much needed tower of strength and stability in the life of a child. Then I realized, that everyone who manages to enjoy a normal life expectancy will eventually outlive their parents. This means that most of us will be required to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye to those who were always the center of our universe. Whether you have already walked through this valley or if this event has not yet happened, we will most likely be left to continue in our winter years without our mom and dad.

When my wife Cheryl and I were married, our parents were in their early forties and everyone seemed so young and filled with dreams and expectations. I guess this is why we were in shock when her dad passed away four years later from cancer at the age of 48. She remembers as a tom-boy, crawling under cars and watching him work on them. She did not have a clue what he was doing but just enjoyed spending quality time alone with him. Working on an old car was probably aggravating to him, but to her, it was exciting as she was like a nurse trying to figure out what type of wrench to hand him next or more than likely what size hammer he needed. Soon after we married, we rented a little house in town and on Saturday mornings after I left for work, her dad would stop by with donuts and they would have some coffee and talk. Through the years I’ve listened to her mention about how much she misses him and what a large part of her security and safety disappeared. Now I understand.  Read the rest of this entry »

Leaving Your Mark

By Tom Poland

Photo by Tom Poland

Of all the trees down South, beeches and white birches gets picked on the most. The love sick, the egotistical, the passerby, and all manner of folk love to carve sentiments into the trees’ vulnerable white bark. Arboreal graffiti I call it. The temptation’s just too much. People feel compelled to leave their mark. I’ve yet to do that, though if I have I don’t recall it.

In my sojourns across Georgialina I’ve come across beeches and birches with many a name, initials, and whatnot carved into them. I suppose if a tree can have tattoos, then many a beech and birch do. Tattooed trees. Some are lightly scarred. Others heavily. I recall a tree standing near the path to Badwell Cemetery covered with carvings. Seems if a tree is isolated … somewhere in obscurity, the more likely it is to provide a canvas for knife-wielding folk. A bit of privacy is essential to do your work. Of course, trees aren’t the only place people leave their mark. Sit at a railroad crossing and watch the cars roll by … lots of graffiti … often quite clever. People leaving their mark.

Back in March, my brother-in-law, Joe, and I were checking out some aquatic plants growing in the family pond. Or beaver pond. Or mine hole, which it is. Manganese. We walked the edge of the water and as we did I asked Joe if the old birch tree still stood, the one with initials in it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: What would it take for us to believe?

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

When the holidays of Christmas and the holy week come around, I cannot help but wonder what the general population thinks about the spiritual significance of these events. I realize that Christians are more involved with these celebrations because of their personal connection with Jesus Christ, but we must also admit there are many different levels of commitment and enthusiasm. In the last few years, the big screen has produced several Christian based movies and however you feel about them, at least someone is trying to relay the life of Christ when He physically walked the earth. I saw the movie, “Risen” the other night and after it was over, I thought about some key moments within the film. I’m encouraged whenever I see someone believing when they see a miracle, but I’m also reminded that everyone will not believe in Jesus whether they see one or not. Jesus declared in John 20:29, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Yes, Jesus spoke divine truth and in only three years made a huge impact, but His message was generally not embraced by the masses and neither is it today. Why? Well, the most disturbing reason which is also revealed in this movie, is that many individuals will absolutely never allow themselves to surrender their will to God.  Read the rest of this entry »

Content marketing is undermining true journalism

In one of my darkest moments, I considered entering the content writing market. I even reached out to a company and they offered me an assignment. They said 1,500 words in 48 hours on a topic I knew nothing about, complete with multiple interviews over the weekend. I told them no.

One, there was simply no way I could line up all the interviews. Two, I’m an extremely fast writer, but two days for a 1,500 word assignment is insane.

Third, it occurred to me that this would be setting a precedent, one that was by no means sustainable and, quite honestly, cruel.

I also knew that whatever they were paying it wouldn’t reach the 10 to 20 cents a word professional journalists gets paid.

Sadly, far too many young, desperate writers are eager to do this in the name of getting exposure, experience, and clips.

However, it’s a losing racket … for everyone.

Across the nation, writers are being taken advantage of by these content farms, and their low pay is driving down pay for quality journalism.

Even worse, the public, in particular younger readers, are increasingly unable to tell the difference between actual reporting and an ad.

Equally as troubling, content farms, certain news sites, and some writers have come to believe that this new paid-content writing is journalism.

Some experienced publishers will even tell you that times have changed and the walls of separation between advertising and editorial no longer apply.

But the rules of journalism haven’t changed. The standards we have to keep have not been altered. And true reporters have not given up the values that we hold dear and which allow us to function as the so-called Fourth Estate.

Even in these desperate times, I’m glad that so many of my colleagues across the state are unwilling to trade their honor and integrity for a pithy paycheck.

And yet I’m saddened that an entire generation doesn’t care that the vast majority of editorial content they consume is not the work of journalists but of marketers and PR agents. For this new generation, the promise of having your byline or your face on a video for a piece of pay-to-play content trumps any sense of journalistic independence.

As columnist who has written about politics for 15 years, I find this deeply disturbing even though my skill set as a writer is opinion writing.

Yes, I’m taking a side. Yes, I’m trying to win you over. Yes, I want to throttle those who I believe are doing wrong.

But those opinions are mine. No one paid me to have them. No one asked me to say something I didn’t believe. This is in stark contrast to this new breed of writer, the one who writes glowing profiles about an advertiser, who pens a must-do list dominated by a news site’s clients, who cuts buzz-worthy videos commissioned by the local conventions and visitors bureau, the dominate hospital system, the city government itself. These writers have mistaken pride of place for prostitution.

For a community to thrive, someone must be willing to tell the facts as they are, not as a client wants them to be. For a community to survive, columnists must be free to express their seasoned, experienced opinions, not write slobbering love letters to the sales team’s clients, complete with doddle hearts and lipstick kisses..

Journalism matters. Independent columnists matters. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Those of you who believe that, keep fighting. We can’t let these marketers and content farmers win.

Give ’em hell.

Chris Haire is a political columnist for the Charleston City Paper and a writer for various other outlets.

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Living on Purpose: God is faithful and just to forgive

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Repentance is a common theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 55:7 declares, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord.” Matthew chapter 4 and verse 17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The most common translation of the word “repent” means to turn or return and more specifically from a theological perspective it represents turning away from evil and turning to God. Though most of the world is in denial, our heavenly Father has a very strong desire, actually a demand, for us to resist sin and be transformed into His image. This has never been a popular message because with us being notoriously rebellious and often referred to as depraved, we have a built-in urge to do what we want. We hate to be told how to live and proudly call it freedom, but God calls it disobedience. The gospel reveals that saving us from ourselves is why Jesus went to the cross. First Peter 1:18,19 says, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

Many people commonly want to know what they have done that is so bad, and why do they need to ask forgiveness? For anyone to believe they are exempt from judgment is a huge problem because we are all sinners and cannot save ourselves. Unbelievers want everyone to leave them alone while many Christians have a tendency to relax in a false sense of security. The world is trying to avoid dealing with a guilty conscience but Christians can also drift away and become lukewarm about their need to live in the constant awareness of God’s presence. Wherever you are today, repentance is an honest, regretful acknowledgment of sin with a sincere desire to be spiritually cleansed and accept God’s invitation to begin a brand new life in Jesus Christ. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins might be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19.  Read the rest of this entry »

The bad haircut behind the Benghazi investigation has had it with Trump and partisan politics

You may know Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) as a man with the most notorious haircut in Congress, but he also has wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor.

It’s something U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), knows quite well. The two frequently rib each other, with most of the jokes centering around the mangled mop on top of Gowdy’s head.

It’s a bond that’s so strong and genuine the two have even penned a inspirational book together, “Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country.” It’ll hit stands April 3.

And then there’s Gowdy’s 2016 barber shop-set, campaign ad which trumpeted his conservative credentials, while also poking fun at his series of bad hair days. The tagline: “Trey Gowdy: Consistent Conservative, Inconsistent Haircuts.”

All of this is in stark contrast to the role Gowdy played during the Benghazi hearings.

Gowdy attacked the investigation with the ruthless tenacity that made him a champion prosecutor. But his critics said his task was less about uncovering the truth of what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, than it was to paint a case that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to protect U.S. citizens — and then tried to hide the facts about the attack.

Unbeknownst to the public, the Congressman had grown disillusioned with Washington. And on

Jan. 31, 2018, Trey Gowdy announced he wouldn’t be running for re-election. Instead, he hoped to return to law, where, he said, there are jobs that “both seek and reward fairness.” It was a clear jab at Congress.

Not long after, a different image of Gowdy began to emerge, one that frequently supported Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russian investigation.

Although Gowdy tsk-tsked Mueller for not cracking down on leaks, the Congressman praised the former FBI director’s apolitical, blemish-free career.

Gowdy was also one of the few Republicans to counter the House Intelligence Committee declaration that it had found no evidence that Russia had attempted to get Trump elected, saying, “It is clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy.”

Prior to that, Gowdy took issue with the common assertion that the Devin Nunes’ memo offered proof that the Russian investigation was a Democratic-led witch hunt against Trump, a witch hunt solely supported by the partially discredited Steele dossier.

According to Gowdy, there were plenty of other reasons for the investigation, like the meeting at Trump Tower, the email sent by Cambridge Analytica, and George Papadopoulos’ meeting with an Australian official. And there are few more authoritative voices on the memo than Gowdy: He co-wrote it.

Flash forward to this week. Gowdy may have defended Trump’s firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the Congressman condemned any move to fire Mueller.

On Sunday, Gowdy spoke very pointedly, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “When you are innocent, if the allegations are collusion with the Russians and there is no evidence of that, and you are innocent of that, act like it.”

Gowdy even issued Trump a very clear warning if he tries to stop Mueller: “I would just counsel the president, it’s going to be very, very long bad 2018.”

Clearly, Trey Gowdy is no longer bound by partisan obligations. You might even say he is well on his way back to a world where fairness matters and those who seek it are rewarded.

Chris Haire is a political columnist for the Charleston City Paper who sheepishly admits that brisket is better than pulled-pork barbecue.

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Trump’s tariffs will make the housing industry slowdown even worse

According to some misguided narratives, Donald Trump thrives in a chaotic environment, purposely sowing confusion and discord with each heavy-handed pronouncement.

Those wishing to craft some reason for Trump’s behavior are every bit as hungry to assign a strategy to his actions where there is little more than erratic doodles on the page, the kind you might find in the notebook of a pre-teen girl where loopy love notes to “Tiger Beat”-boy of the year Johnny Orlando are written alongside hurried sketches of Hello Kitty, rainbow riding unicorns, and a flood of hearts capable of drowning the pharaoh’s army.

When it comes to public policy, Trump isn’t so much a bull in the china shop as an attention-deficit toro who isn’t even aware he’s in a china shop, despite the sound of crashing plates, the sharp shards cutting into his shanks, and the display cabinets filled with rows of porcelain finery. It’s all right there before his eyes and yet he simply doesn’t see it.

This is not a plan. It’s a problem.

And few industries are beginning to be impacted by Trump’s room-wrecking taurus then the housing industry.

Although the industry has bounced back from the disastrous days of the Great Recession, it still hasn’t reach the highs of the reckless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac era, when loans were thrown out as wantonly as condoms at the Olympic village — the chief difference between the two: in one case the customer was protected, in the other … not so much.

While 2017 was a reasonably good year — new home starts jumped from 1.17 million to 1.2 million — 2018 isn’t off to a good start.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, single-family home sales were down 7.8 in January 2018, followed by an additional drop of 0.6 in February. The price of homes has also gone up 0.6 from January and 9.7 percent from February 2017.

One significant factor at play here: the lack of skilled laborers. As a result, houses are taking longer to be finished and costing more to build.

These aren’t bad jobs, of course. They’re well-paying, and although physically demanding, good honest work, the kind that the American dream is built on, the kind that sent scores of kids to college, the kind that built the suburbs where so many of us live.

Today, many of those jobs are increasingly held by foreign-born workers, many who are targets of the Trump administration.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, immigrants made up 24.4 percent of laborers in the construction industry in 2016, a number that has risen steady from 19.9 in 2004. Even at the construction peak before the Great Recession, the percentage of the immigrant workforce topped out at 22.8.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.1 of male foreign-born workers are involved in the construction business, compared to 8.1 of native-born male citizens.

All of this is why the NAHB has called for measures that are more in line with the look-the-other-way, laissez faire attitudes of the pre-Great Recession era and less like the nationalistic, build-a-wall and deport-them-all policies of the Trump administration. Simply put, the association wants more immigrant workers and they want to make it easier for them to work in the U.S.

Even though the NAHB repeatedly claims they want to protect the nation’s borders — they never actually say how — if you read between the lines, you’ll see the builders association really doesn’t want much reform at all. In fact, they want to make sure that employers remain only responsible for the immigration status of their direct employees, not their subcontractors. This, of course, allows big contractors to ignore the vast of number of unauthorized workers on their sites while they put on a Make America Great Again cap to block out the hot summer sun.

With Trump in office, and his rhetoric remaining fiercely antagonistic toward the immigrant labor force, you can bet that current worker shortage is only going to get worse. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that fewer and fewer skilled hands are willing to risk traveling to a nation which has branded them murderers, drug dealers, and rapists and where white nationalism is dangerously on the rise.

But that’s that only part of how Trump policies are harming the home building biz. Trump’s recent softwood tariff has made lumber prices skyrocket, while the new tariffs on steel and aluminum are sure to take off as well.

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, the price of softwood lumber has increased 15.6 percent since February 2017 while iron and steel are up 7.1 percent for the same period — and the tariffs have only recently gone into effect.

As a developer, you’d think that Trump understands just how important a system favorable to immigrants and lower tariffs are to the continued vitality of the construction business. And you know what, he probably does.

But he’d rather appeal to his base than help a vital American industry and the men and women who desperately want to move into a new home without breaking the bank.

Chris Haire is a political columnist for the Charleston City Paper who sheepishly admits that brisket is better than pulled-pork barbecue.

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Living on Purpose: Prayer is the least and the most we can do

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Recently, my wife Cheryl was talking about the need to increase her prayer time and I was definitely agreeing that praying is very important in our spiritual life. In the middle of our conversation, she said, “we should turn our cares into prayers” and that instantly caught my attention. I love catchy phrases and told her that I just might borrow that slogan! We all have worries and cares but for some strange reason, many times we do not consider praying as our highest priority. In fact, for most of us, it’s usually a last resort. Similar to prayer, I’m reminded of the fire axes that are mounted in glass cases and reserved for emergency use only. Sadly, we often forget what a great price God has paid in order that we might have the privilege and opportunity to communicate with Him. It’s been said that prayer is the least we can do and yet the most we can do.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the bridge of intimacy was severed between God and mankind and forgiveness became a temporary covering instead of a permanent removal. This infection of sin not only prevented our Creator from indwelling the heart of the individual but the restoration of our relationship was also not possible until Jesus went to the cross. The crucifixion and resurrection allow us to see that God loved us and wanted to be with us so much that He sent His Son as a ransom for our soul. The blood of Christ was the only payment that could redeem us. So today, instead of going to a priest and having them to intercede and slaughter an animal for our forgiveness, we can approach Jesus Christ directly and invite Him into our life as our personal Savior and Lord.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Atlanta Angel

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Writing amounts to solitary confinement. The hours alone reward you though when a book comes out: meeting folks who love books. When book events conclude, people linger to talk. More than one will say, “I’ve got this idea for a book ….” Nearly everyone has a story to tell, but some people are a story waiting to be told. That is the case with a lady I met not once, but twice, courtesy of the writing life.

Over the last three years I’ve presented my work at more than 200 events in Georgia and South Carolina. The places range from restaurants to churches, libraries, museums, civic clubs, schools, colleges, and centers where silver-haired folks gather. Remembering all who cross my path isn’t possible but now and then a Reader’s Digest “most unforgettable character” comes along. Among the unforgettable walks Miss Jean Rinehardt Bridges.

Miss Jean and I met at a book event. She tarried a bit until most folks had wandered off and then she came up and gave me her card. On the back she had jotted down her website where I could read her stories. On the back in parentheses, she had written (novice). Time went by and I lost touch with Miss Jean.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: God is more than enough

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

We’ve all heard the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” but did you know this is actually from scripture? We read in Isaiah chapter 40 and verse 12, “Who has calculated the waters in the hollow of His hand, and who has measured the heavens and determined the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Today, if you feel that your crisis is too much for God to take care of, if you believe your problem is too big for God to handle, and if you are convinced your enemy is just too powerful, God wants you to know that you are not seeing life in a correct perspective. God is for you and this means that nothing or no one is greater than His power. You and God are a majority no matter how bleak your situation. He is saying to stop confessing how huge your problems are and start declaring how awesome your God is! Doubt see’s God through the eyes of our emotions but faith see’s our circumstances through the eyes of God. Pray and believe that He is in total control and that He always wants the best for your life. Just for a moment, let’s stop and consider how powerful God is and how we can know that nothing is too difficult for Him.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Mother’s Lonely Peach Tree

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

The old folks planted fruit trees. Pear, apple, cherry, wild plum, and peach trees. Pecan trees too. Vineyards of wild grapes … scuppernongs and muscadines. Folks in general don’t do that anymore. Why should they? Just go to the store and buy fruit that’s waxed and arranged in pretty rows. Nary a tree in sight. Dependent on strangers we are.

Well, it wasn’t always that way. From my deep well of memories rise a small fig tree and one lonely peach tree. I see it now. Lean, green, with tiny peaches. With my back to Mom’s hummingbird feeder looking “11 o’clock way” near the wood’s edge, I still see where it grew. Try as I might, though, I cannot see it in bloom but I remember peaches. Not much bigger than their pits they were; I picked them too early.

Somewhere down the line that tree died. Died of loneliness I suspect. Bereft of an orchard to comfort it. To show hot it looked. It’s no more, but memories of it live on and that tree was on my mind when I trekked into Edgefield County a chilly March 1. I got up at 5:15, threw on the coffee, made ready to leave, and arrived in Peach Country just after sunrise. A heavenly sight waited: peach trees in bloom by the scores. Clouds of pink, pale red, coral, a blushing performance of delicate blooms that mesmerize. Case in point. As I was packing up camera gear just off Highway 19, three women pulled in. They rushed over to a tree, posed, and began snapping photos of themselves.

“The trees are beautiful,” I said.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Fear not, for God is with you

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

God has promised in His Word that we will never be alone and I consider this blessed assurance as a foundational pillar that supports our faith in Him. I trust Him completely and shudder to imagine drifting like a ship on the open Sea without a sail, a compass, or an anchor. May we be reminded that God is always with us, He knows our situation and always wants the best for us.

When we think about why we are here on this planet and what God’s plan is for us, we realize it would be wise to study His holy instruction manual. We observe Jesus in Matthew chapter 28 and verse 10 having a private conversation with His disciples. While trying to encourage and give them final instructions He said, “Teach these new followers to obey all the commands I have given to you and be sure of this: I am always with you, even to the end of the world.” This was not just a passing gesture like, “take care and I hope we meet again” this was a literal promise confirming that He was sent to dwell within those who give their life to Him now and forever. Many other passages declare that we are never alone once we invite Jesus to be our Lord such as Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: An ordinary man with an extraordinary mission

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Like many of you, I’m very sad about Billy Graham passing away. Those who are younger will probably not have the familiar connection with him like some of us older folks, but nonetheless, I’m sure his books and recordings will continue having a beneficial impact on future generations. Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents always dialed in our old television set to watch Billy Graham evangelistic crusades and even though as a typical child I thought church services were somewhat boring, I would still sit and listen. In fact, I may not have realized it at the time, but I’m convinced his messages had a positive effect on my spiritual calling and helped influence me into a life of ministry. Here is one of his more popular statements, “Being a Christian is more than just an instant conversion, it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Jesus.”

He had such a mesmerizing voice and would speak with such passion that you could not help but feel this was a truth that was being relayed from heaven. I believe his sense of urgency along with expounding the ever-important subject about Jesus being crucified and where we are going to spend eternity caused his audience to be riveted to their seats. I recall when my grandparents would come to visit and if Billy Graham was on, my dad would tune in as his parents also appreciated Mr. Graham’s ministry. My grandmother would pull out her handkerchief and every now and then she would wipe a tear from her eye. I did not understand what was going on at the time but after I grew up I realized she was being blessed and moved deep within her soul.  Read the rest of this entry »

Granddad’s Cow-Charming ’65 Chevy

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Granddad Poland farmed but never drove a pickup, not that I recall. In a battered old car, he’d bump through pastures festooned with yellow bitter weeds, clunk past a lonely persimmon tree and ranks of white-faced cattle. Herefords, they were. From afar, those cows would amble Granddad’s way and when his jalopy closed in they would break into a stiff-kneed trot. To see the old man’s car was to see feed and hay.

My best friends, the children of field hands, and I sat in the back of Mr. Johnny’s cars. Sometimes we rode on the trunk, sometimes on the fenders. We were invincible and we were oblivious. The era of Jim Crow was upon us but Joe Boy, Sweetie, Jabe, and I knew nothing about all that. We were comrades in arms united in our quests to knock down red wasp nests, catch bluegills, dine on tomato-red persimmons, and swim in ponds sometimes blue, sometimes muddy. We lived like kings.

Granddad wore a felt hat and overalls and could cuss the horns off a billy goat. Whenever I was in his presence, I felt the need to hush up. Outside of cussing, Mr. Johnny didn’t talk much, so neither did I. And maybe that was good. For what I remember from our drives through pastures about lightning bug time pleases me still. The grassy hillsides … the fertile fragrance of pastures … the lowing of cattle … the distant line of dark trees it seemed an artist had sketched and fishponds smooth as glass where bullfrogs commenced to sing and fireflies lit up clumps of grass.

When the car shut down with a shudder and we sat still as stones, country sounds embraced us. Wind, lowing cattle, the distant hoot of a barred owl. Nary an ambulance, fire truck, or police siren. “Sigh-reen” as the country folk are wont to say. “Did y’all hear that sigh-reen last night?”  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: A practical way to live in God’s peace

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Every now and then I’m asked why I do not express my thoughts about political and social issues. Of course, I have personal opinions about all that is going on just like you, but do we really need more repetitive commentary especially when it comes to confirming how disturbing the world has become? How could I help anything by joining in with the crowd to criticize and argue about problems which are politically and socially divisive? I’m not saying we are to avoid or hide from strife and confusion but rather to limit our intake of negativity in order to keep from being emotionally overwhelmed. Since I am not a political analyst, I intentionally refuse to become tangled up in meaningless merry-go-round dialogue. Instead of multiplying the sorrow about what we already know, we can choose to seek a refreshing word of hope that can inspire and bring encouragement and this is what I’m focused on. Spiritual peace is not something humans can give to each other but it’s a gift from God when an individual seeks His presence. He is the only one that can renew a mind and transform a soul.

It does not take a genius to correlate the world’s anxiety to the daily overload of shocking and discouraging information. Thanks to the ever-increasing wonders of technology, we have a constant access to an endless flow of darkness and strife. It seems many are subconsciously drawn to having their senses stimulated by a constant news-feed, even though a large majority of the content consists of devastation and suffering. With television crime dramas, violent action movies, vulgar music, pornography, vicious video games, and horror films being so popular, I honestly wonder if many people are becoming addicted to tragedy. Is this attraction to sinister and disturbing events, along with the fixation for real-life crisis situations, causing us to lose a healthy perspective of reality? The gospel is called the good news for a life-changing reason and it’s vital to balance our intake of information in order to preserve our sanity and protect our spiritual peace. Let us remember that Jesus came to deliver us from evil and to give us victory over the darkness of sin. “Casting all your cares and anxiety upon Him; for He loves and cares for you” I Peter 5:7.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Longing For Pine Pollen

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Cold weather? Stay up North. My dash says it’s 48 degrees as I drive by a swamp, yet singing frogs drown out my heater fan. They must be pleading for warm weather to arrive. Well, let me tell you, warm weather can’t get here fast enough. Just the other night, I told a lady I couldn’t wait to see daffodils and pine pollen. Yes, pine pollen. The color of spring is gold. Bring on daffodils and bring on yellow dust storms, sure signs winter is loosening its grip on the land.

Now generally I detest the yellow stuff but I detest the cold even more. So let the pollen blow o’er us like fine cornmeal. Truth be told, pine pollen is more like flour. In fact, “pollen” is Latin for “flour,” and patientia is Latin for patience. Here it is February and late March’s peak pollen seems a million years away. Patient I’m not. Release millions of pounds of yellow flour now so a party can take place among the branches. Sooner than later, I hope, we’ll find ourselves in the midst of carousing woodlands. Trees will be mating. As the party fades a bit, rain flushes spent pollen into the streets and it swirls about in lemon-colored puddles. Lovely.

I can’t wait to spray off my deck. I can’t wait to see the yellow stuff tracked across my hardwood floors. Can’t wait to yellow arcs streak across my windshield. As abundant and free as it is, you’d think some folks would have found ways to make money off pine pollen. Well, they have. According to some so-called health food distributors, pine pollen has more than 200 fully bioactive nutrients the body needs. Something in pine pollen, they say, improves the body’s metabolism. Maybe so. (It elevates moods. Just thinking about swirling clouds of yellow lifts my spirits.)  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: Hopefully, cancer will soon be defeated

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

It’s very sad, but most of us have known someone with cancer or maybe have heard a doctor tell us that we have the c-word. My wife Cheryl has battled this disease on two different occasions but with surgery, radiation and lots of prayer, the Lord has allowed her be cancer free for over 12 years. Whatever the situation, its normal to experience fear and anxiety when it comes to severe illness and in times of distress. May we remember that God is not only aware of our problems but also has the power to take care of them. It’s evident that most people at least subconsciously believe that God can heal because when someone they know is sick, they always ask for prayers and that is wonderful. Nonetheless, we are also recognizing the Lord is very involved in the medical community as He continues to give science the intelligence to comprehend how the human body functions and inspirational ideas for new treatments that can help us overcome diseases. In whatever way our Creator chooses to intervene, we are forever grateful for His mercy and compassion.

I was listening to an interesting conversation the other day by a man named Jay Walker, a respected visionary that researches cutting-edge medical advancements. He said that every day the medical world has a deeper understanding about cancer and is on the brink of discovering new life-saving procedures and medicines. He explained that finding a cure for cancer could happen in the near future but for now, the attention is more focused on helping those who are diagnosed with the disease to live a relatively normal life. As genetics and biomedical technology has advanced over the years, we have seen other serious diseases become manageable and it’s widely believed that cancer treatments will also continue following this pattern. Mr. Walker went on to say, “For the first time in the history of the world, humans are learning how to control the operating code. Scientist are now able to manipulate the DNA, and are at the cusp of understanding the instructional layer that creates the proteins which in turn creates the tissues, systems, and organs of the body. It’s almost as if we’re inventing reading, writing, printing, and thinking all at the same time in the form of scientific medicine.”

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Whispered Prayer From Stall No. 1

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Life experiences fuel writing, which is a mysterious thing. Something happens and it sends your mind to places long forgotten. Writing’s beautiful. You startle yourself with a luminous phrase. Writing’s frightening. A thing sends your mind to places you avoid. Something last week sent my mind to a time I dread and it has me rethinking how I travel this road called Life.

I was to speak at a complex where elderly people congregate. I was minutes from speaking when a tad too much coffee sent me to the Men’s Room. I began to do what men do when I heard whispers, loud whispers. A man was sitting in stall number one. All I could see were his white walking shoes and one of those HurryCanes standing upright by his feet. I never saw his face. Not once.

I don’t believe he could hear that well. He didn’t know I was in the room with him. His whispers were loud. “Oh Lord,” he prayed, “Just once let me sit next to someone without losing control of my bowels. Just once, Lord, help me, please.”

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but, caught in a moment, I had no choice. TMI, I know. He continued to pray and in an odd amalgam of memory and empathy “Mr. Piano Man,” Billy Joel’s song popped into my head. “There’s an old man sitting next to me. He says, son can you play me a memory. I’m not really sure how it goes, but it’s sad and it’s sweet, and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

When he did wear a younger man’s clothes, I wonder if he ever thought this day would come. Or maybe some infirmity struck just of late. I debated writing this column. It seems like an invasion of privacy but the next night a friend casually said, “Tom, I’ve been thinking about killing myself.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: As far as the east is from the west

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Someone said, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, including the ones we miss. Let us not weep over chances we have missed, but rather for the ones we did not take.” When I look back over my life, I can see where I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’ve also missed out on some wonderful opportunities. Maybe you are saying the same thing. If so, I encourage you to resist the temptation to live in regret. Humans are fallible creatures and we all make wrong choices but at least our disappointment reveals that we care and that’s a good thing. James Joyce said, “mistakes are the portals of discovery” and there is no doubt they can be a significant part of our learning process. I realize that living in denial is much easier than forgiving ourselves but repentance is a more worthwhile endeavor than living with the overwhelming feelings of guilt and condemnation. The truth is we can either embrace the inclination to allow these negative thoughts to haunt us and flood our heart with sadness or we can resist this emotional torture by calling on the Lord to heal our heart and renew our mind. God’s plans and ways are bigger than our mistakes and lost opportunities. He is not only ready to forgive and restore us, He can fill our life with confidence, hope, and victory!

It’s common when suffering from regret, to be reminded of certain individuals that we secretly blame for our failures. However, as the water is long gone under the bridge, there is no need to hold on and replay the scenarios of what could have been – you’ve suffered enough. It’s important to consider that walking around in this negative and stressful state of mind can lead to depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems. It would be wise to make a list of those we need to forgive and sincerely pray while making sure our name is at the top. You see, unforgiveness holds us in a spiritual and mental prison and giving it over to God is the key that opens the door to freedom. We are the only one that can choose to put an end to us living in the misery of an unchangeable past. Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any.” The Bible refers to the devil as the “the accuser” of the brethren and this is where these negative voices are coming from. Some may try to pretend these situations never happened or that maybe they will all just go away which sounds nice, but running away from reality does not work. Being honest with God and ourselves is the pathway to peace.  Read the rest of this entry »