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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Bogus Electors

Posted Jan. 24, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: Resisting the temptation to be discouraged

Dr. William Holland

Posted Jan. 24, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with a wonderful lady as she shared with me about her health issues and other concerns. Suddenly she stopped and wanted to know if she could ask me a serious question. I said of course, and she proceeded to relay that she felt silly asking me about salvation, especially with her being a church member since she was a child. She wanted to know how she can know that she is going to heaven? I do not believe this is anything to be embarrassed about, in fact, it’s rather common as I examine my own heart and soul often. I could sense the heaviness of doubt was stealing her spiritual joy, and this stress can escalate into fear and anxiety. I spent some time reminding her about the spiritual fundamentals of faith and salvation. I suggested that she be honest with God and tell Him how she feels. After I left, I continued to think about how easy it is for any of us to drift away from the peaceful harbor of hope and spiritual confidence and how important it is to keep a positive perspective and remain focused on God’s perfect truth that can never fail.

The opposite of peace is being anxious and we often experience fear and worry when we are uncertain about what is going to happen. This negative energy has the intention to consume us and control our mind and will continue to haunt us until we choose to battle against it. Spiritual warfare is a reality, and it’s the believer’s responsibility to call on the Lord for help as we defend against being overwhelmed by the darkness of panic, pity, and depression. Living in divine peace is not something that happens naturally and like optimism is a learned behavior. People or circumstances cannot dictate our thoughts unless we allow it. Everyone is held accountable for their choices with how they respond and react to every situation. We realize we need to trust God and that He calls us to stand strong in times of adversity, but this state of mind will require persistent prayer and self-discipline.

 

Faith believes that nothing surprises God which includes Him understanding the trials and pain we are suffering. Being convinced that Christ will intervene and provide for us along with accepting that His authority and power is greater than any problem that might threaten us will bring comfort and assurance. Constantly reminding ourselves that God is listening, and that He is aware of everything that is going on in our lives is the path to trusting and resting in His perfect peace and security. Psalm 29:11 declares, “The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” There is no greater confidence or joy than to be filled with God’s presence. Spiritual peace is far beyond our physical emotions as His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His love and compassion is stronger than what is tormenting us and chases away our worries and distress as He floods our hearts with courage and fortitude.

 

Be encouraged today, Jesus is victorious and His promises are guaranteed to quiet our soul and replace our restlessness with safety, confidence, and calm. Proverbs 3:24 reminds us, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” One of the many names for Jesus is the Prince of Peace and soon He will return and establish His kingdom of purity and joy for all eternity. We celebrate this truth and look forward to experiencing the freedom from conflict and chaos, but we do not need to wait until then to embrace this lifestyle of trust and hope. If we choose to abide in God’s presence no matter how intense the storms are raging, we are safe under the shadow of His protection. The world is growing darker but the increase in confusion cannot diminish God’s truth on which we stand. It’s only when we drift away from His promises and lean on our understanding that we become troubled and perplexed. Give him your worries in exchange for His tranquility. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Crow Tastes Pretty Good In Snow

Tom Poland

Posted Jan. 24, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

My last column criticized I-20 as a barrier to snow in the classic South. “Winter after winter, radar reveals blue, pink, and white blotches rolling north of I-20. Below it? Green blotches of rain. Southerners who live along or south of that band of asphalt can forget snow. It’s a latitude thing.”

The weather gods heeded my lament, and down came the flakes. So I’ll take a smidgen of credit or blame (in the eyes of some) for the January 21-22 snow.

I stayed up past midnight watching flakes tumble past floodlights. They stuck, as we say, and I knew I’d better write an apology column. It’s one I’m glad to write. I like a snow or two but year after year we get none where I live. That changed overnight.

I’ll confess a little crow marinated in snow tastes pretty good.

Come daybreak I went onto my deck with a yardstick—three inches. That qualifies as a blizzard in the land of green blotches of rain. As the coffee percolated this morning the laughter of children playing in snow drifted through woods, and that brought back childhood memories. On those rare, snow-blanketed mornings when I happened to awaken first, I could tell something was different. The world seemed muted. A strange, soft silence reigned. Peeking through the window, I got a jolt. Snow had fallen throughout the night, and I had missed the show.

Few things rival the spellbinding beauty of quarter-sized flakes cartwheeling through the air. Back in boyhood, mesmerized by tumbling flakes, I knew good would come from those non-identical crystals. No school. A snowman. A friendly snowball fight. Skim a layer off the car roof into a bowl, mix in sugar, vanilla extract, and milk and, voilà, ice cream.

A snowfall made for a time of adventurous survival too. Those rare days of childhood snow sometimes knocked out the power. That meant tomato soup warmed over gas space heaters. It meant too wet clothes and freezing hands and toes. And even that misery held its own peculiar brand of joy.

No matter how much or how little snow we got, it merited movie making. Somewhere a brittle strip of film sits in a canister. My Dad, as many dads did in the ’50s, bought a Bell & Howell 8 millimeter camera and made home movies. To this day, I can see a snowfall he captured on film. It’s April 8, an amazingly late snow. Our dog, Duke, romps in the snow. Mom holds up a handmade sign giving the date and the snow’s depth of eight inches. The film jerks and swings wildly. Suddenly someone else is filming and my father runs into the camera: red from the cold, his heavy 5 o’clock shadow evident. Closer he comes, his face near the lens. Mom always said that shot made him look like an escaped convict. He was but 32 years old. He was a boy playing in the snow. Snow makes children of us Southerners. That’s its true beauty.

Sixty-four years later in the South Carolina Midlands, we’re children once again. I should have known that as soon as my I-20 no snow column hit the presses it’d snow right away. It did, and I am glad, and I’ll say it one more time. Crow tastes pretty good when you’re looking over a rare Southern snowy landscape.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Everything and Nothing: The Real Wife

Aïda Rogers

Posted Jan. 19, 2022

By Aïda Rogers

I imagine everybody gets a surprise or two after they get married, so imagine mine when I realized the person I married was already married – to his wood stove. It took a few years for me to catch on, but boy, am I clear on this now. Ten years of scouting for wood, piling it into the truck, trunk or trailer, hoisting it out of the truck, trunk or trailer and into another pile to await extradition via wheelbarrow to another pile where it hangs out until energy is mustered to guide it on its continuing journey to ash – this is not a bride’s dewy dream of romance.

So let it be said that I’m not in love with this process. It is not with a smile on my face that I participate in his need for contained fire within the home. “Love is patient, love is kind,” I chant as I lug in a canvas bag of split wood, trailing bits of bark and dirt to be swept up someday. My jaw sets when I’m called outside to help with the log-splitter, a motorized miracle that eliminates the need for crosscut saw and ax. (I guess I should be grateful.)

Using the log-splitter isn’t so bad once you start. The sound of thick oak or pecan cracking is as pleasurable as watching the steel blade driving into the wood. Sometimes the logs behave, cleaving open to reveal beautiful colors and grains. Sometimes they’re rotten, falling to pieces. A few times we’ve destroyed the homes of ants and termites. Often, stubborn logs take multiple times to split. Curses fly.

But lots of cursing surround this mistress. That’s because a wood stove demands so much. You must procure decent wood and you must stack it neatly. You have to get on your knees to start it; you have to get back on your knees to clean it. I call it a blood sport: Anyone handling raw wood knows to expect mysterious streams of red to appear.

I don’t like it.

And I don’t like the way not just our winter days but year-long lives are dictated by this queen, this witch, forcing conversations about whether we have enough wood or if it’s covered when it rains, seeping over to friends and neighbors who alert us to piles of wood they’ve seen or trees they’re having cut, making sure we get what’s left. Firewood whores, that’s us.

Sometimes I think I’ve become an accomplice, a wingman, to someone else’s addiction. Because that’s what it is, something that needs feeding, tending, worshipping, even theft if you count taking wood that isn’t legitimately yours.

But.

This wood stove, this thing, was in this house before I was, and fire burned in this man’s heart decades before we met.

And I just have to say, on a cold night when that wood stove is burning, and we’re feasting on pork chops and sweet potatoes we roasted in its coals, and our dogs are happy beside us knowing that soon they’ll be licking our plates to a spotless shine, that wood stove is a very good thing.

Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Sedition

Posted Jan. 18, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: God wants our heart not just our problems

Dr. William Holland

Posted Jan. 18, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

God is faithful and is always with you, protecting and watching over you whether you believe He is there or not. Just because you cannot sense Him intervening, it does not mean He is distracted working on the other side of the world. There is an old saying, “God’s care for His children is like the Sun: It’s constant. Even though the clouds often obscure it, this does not mean it’s not there.” And Isaiah 59:1 reminds us, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” Even if you have made some serious mistakes, it does not mean He does not still love you or has forsaken you. Maybe He is just patiently waiting for you to give Him your life instead of just your problems.

You may be beating yourself up and thinking this is one of the worst times of your life but be encouraged, there is wonderful news! Have you ever considered Romans 8:28 as a promise directly to you and your problems? Listen to this again, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” This is a very popular passage in the Bible and for good reason. Many times we do not receive the enjoyment and nourishment from God’s banquet table because we are so focused on our situation. If we would spend the same amount of energy on prayer that we do on worry, I believe we would see more victory and less discouragement. Since God is working behind the scenes to make things work out for us, we may not be demonstrating enough patience with Him. Maybe He is trying to show you something very special that you would not have been able to see any other way.

It has been said the majority of great things which have been done on the earth, have been accomplished by those going through difficult times. Mature Christians are to be like steel when it is “tempered” with heat to make them pure and strong in experience and wisdom, yet covered with velvet as they manifest God’s character with compassion, humility, and sensitivity. Instead of spending all of our time trying to figure out why things happen, we can seek to know Him more intimately. How will this help? Because He is the only one who has all the answers and knowing and loving Him is how we learn more about everything. Learning and accepting this truth about the endless commitment of God’s love toward us is a revelation of His unfailing covenant to be with us now and forever.

Knowing that Jesus suffered on the cross because He loved us, allows us to see the lies of our adversary when he tells us that no one cares or that we are hopelessly lost. With the increased spiritual sensitivity which Jesus is waiting to give us, we can start making good decisions and get back on the right path of God’s will. A. W. Tozer is quoted as saying, “Man’s mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably.” Included in this quest to be transformed into God’s image is the fact that Christ will help us become victorious in whatever area we need to overcome.

New Year resolutions commonly include trying to resist food cravings as we admit that our minds lead and control our bodies. It’s been said if you do not want temptation to follow you, stop acting like you are interested. Don’t run from it, just look it in the eye and defeat it. Another example is having a problem with cursing, which by the way is a terrible witness. We can ask God to put an alarm on our minds and tongues to stop us before it is too late. It’s much better to be aware of our sins before we commit them than to ask forgiveness after the fact. What many fail to realize is that once our testimony is compromised we may never have an opportunity to share Christ with that person again because the enemy will always remind them about that time when we lost control. If we are determined to allow God to renew our minds, this will bring a positive change to the way we live!

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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The Great Dividing Line

Tom Poland

Posted Jan. 18, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Yet another dud weather storm forecast teaches me something. When the next Ice Age arrives, its frozen sheet will grind to a halt where I-20 crosses the Southeast. (Assuming civilization lasts that long.) Winter forecasts prove over and over that I-20 forms a great dividing line as snow goes. Like some bully holding candy out to a kid then snatching it back, snow teases those along the shadow of I-20.

Winter after winter, radar reveals blue, pink, and white blotches rolling north of I-20. Below it? Green blotches of rain. Southerners who live along or south of that band of asphalt can forget snow. It’s a latitude thing.

No snow. That delights folks who hate snow. It disheartens Southerners who yearn for the white stuff. As Izzy, that lame name for a winter storm, churned through, I looked for flakes. Nothing. Then I noticed ice coating pine needles. Great. While those north of the dividing line enjoy snow we to the south get raw cold rain and possibly a destructive ice storm.

Over and over, dud winter forecasts build us up, then let us down. When winter radar and forecasts set snow to swirling in the heads of children and a few adults, me among them, I think of good things. One, the way snow softens and smoothes the landscape. Second, how snow revives childhood memories. I’d wake up on a morning when bluish light seeped through windows. Pulling back the curtain, there it was—that crystalline miracle. Fresh snow meant a walk through woods. With boughs crusted white, creaking branches sporting a white meringue, the woods seemed magical.

My boots crunched and squeaked as creatures of the woods revealed their trails. Dad and I tracked a rabbit. We found it still as stone melding into leaves of brown. Seeing it came as a shock. Raccoons and birds stenciled wintry patterns onto snow, that powdery wildlife preserve where animal prints reveal how alive the woods are.

Those memories retain their magic to this day. And it’s good I have them because I-20 is a killjoy, a spoilsport, a wet blanket of cold rain. Were I a weatherman, I’d never predict snow south of I-20 in the classic Deep South. I’d strike a country twang and say, “Here’s your forecast. No snow for those of you below I-20. You can wait a month of Sundays. No ways snow’s gonna happen.”

But here we are deep into January with February, the coldest month of all, yet to come. They’re already predicting another winter “event” next weekend. Is there a chance we’ll have snow? No. Whatever lame name the next weather event sports, I assure you it won’t drop flakes south of I-20. It’s the wrong latitude for snow. It’s the wall that stops flakes in their tracks. It’s the great dividing line.

I recall not one white Christmas. I remember at most a handful of decent snows. So, when I want to see snow down South I look forward to dogwood’s blizzard of white. When all those ivory bracts tumble to the ground, it’s a snow I can count on year after year, above and below the great dividing line. And best of all you can enjoy the show without getting cold. Dogwoods, the South’s real snowstorm.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: Those who desperately seek God shall find Him

Dr. William Holland

Posted Jan. 10, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

I realize that my thoughts are not that important, but what God has to say contains the power to change what man cannot change. May we choose faith over fear and allow our hope to be larger than our doubt! Did you notice that I said we have the choice to decide which side we are going to believe. Yes, but brother Billy how can I choose life? Well, Deuteronomy chapter thirty is an amazing place to start when trying to comprehend God’s plans for our lives. Verse 19, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

These instructions and promises were being directed to the nation of Israel, but we can also incorporate spiritual principles like this into our lives today. God is saying to everyone that obedience unto Him will empower and renew our minds while imparting a clearer understanding of His perfect will. Our responsibility is to hear His word and then speak it forth in faith as we press forward in our quest to surrender our will so that we can accomplish His will. Men and women have always had choices to obey God or be rebellious and He is declaring that our decisions have much to do with whether we are blessed or cursed. We also notice that following His commands is associated with long life while on the other hand refusing to have a reverential fear of His holiness will bring judgment. Having a carnal nature always leads us to deeper levels of corruption and wickedness.

Do not confuse your current path with your destination. Just because it’s cloudy and storming today does not mean the sun will not shine tomorrow. We can have joy and peace on the inside no matter what is happening around us. An African proverb says; “however long the night, the dawn will break” which reminds us of the passage found in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.” The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it because it is eternal. May we always remember that if we are walking with God, Satan can never defeat us. The devil is allowed to tempt and influence us so that we might be discouraged and make wrong choices, but the Bible promises in James 4:7 that if we have the perseverance to resist him, he will flee. Satan came to Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 and Christ stood strong against him. We read in verses 10 and 11, “Then Jesus said to him, away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

As many of you know, my wife is a two-time cancer survivor. She has walked through many dark valleys, but today we rejoice as she has been cancer-free for 10 years. She agrees with the old saying that it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up! When we are facing a crisis, we have three choices: We can let it define us, we can let it destroy us, or we can let it strengthen us. Cancer or any disease cannot stop love, shatter hope, dissolve faith, destroy peace, silence courage, steal eternal life, or conquer our spirit. I Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Faith does not go to bed and pull the covers over our head. The Bible talks a lot about spiritual warfare which is a reality for every Christian soldier. My new book is called, “Receiving our Healing – Going to war on our knees” and reveals that God wants to give us miracles, while also explaining what He requires from us. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual healing is included in the blood atonement of Christ and within this covenant, we can receive His promises. Nonetheless, to walk in the power and authority of His Spirit, we must know who He is in us, and who we are in Him. Jesus is our deliverer, our healer, our Redeemer and Savior, the King of kings, and the Lord above all lords.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Noble Ruin of the South

Tom Poland

Posted Jan. 6, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

When man abandoned it, the traffic diverted west, and the forest began to claim it. Today, sycamores, cedars, and oaks console it, and wind and water song replace the hum of tires. If you know when and where to look, you can glimpse this noble ruin of the South.

A mere second, my glimpse, but it whispered, “Take time to visit me,” so I did. I knew the place would give me a good feeling, and it did. The place? The old U.S. Highway 25 bridge that used to straddle Turkey Creek.

“Used to, you say?”

“Yes, men cut away its mid-section.”

Now like bookends, its truncated ends stare at each other across a westward-flowing creek. You won’t see books suspended midair, but this place is a book, and it deserves to be in a book, and I just might put it in one.

In winter light, the north end looked Romanesque. The snow-white limbs of sycamores added brilliance to the dry brown of January, and the azure sky reigned perfect, not a cloud in the sky. Only man’s orange safety netting, a band-aid of sorts, marred the setting. Rains had the creek swollen and muddy, a chocolate-colored torrent.

I like ruins. I’ve been to Rome’s Coliseum. I like going to the Glendale Ruins up Sparkle City way. I’ve never been to Cumberland Island’s Dungeness Ruins, but I will. Best of all I like the ruins beneath my nose, the ones no one cares about but me. And so it was I found myself walking toward this old bridge. On the way in I walked past coyote scat and a deer stand. A refugee from the Old West and primal instincts seek safe harbor here near this bridge to the past.

When I got to the old bridge, right off I noticed that missing midsection. I noticed, too, two strange steel towers, green moss, white quartz embedded in gray cement, and those dazzling sycamores—a majestic setting for majestic ruins. This bridge speaks to me. “Like you, I was younger and essential once, but to see me is to see your future.”

Time and something called progress leave many a bridge behind. Many get razed, like the vanquished Silas N. Pearson/Cooper River Bridge. But the old Highway 25 Bridge stands still, and it gives me that ancient Rome vibe. It’s truly a bridge to the past. I think of old makes and models of cars and trucks it ferried north and south. Old Coca Cola trucks. Women in labor. Men bound for labor. Surely an old crew from the abandoned chain gang camp five miles south worked the highway here. Come torrid summer days I bet they leaned over those cement guardrails and dreamed they were swimming.

The chain gangs are dead now. All those trucks and cars rusted to death. Those who built the bridge are dead. Those who traveled it? Many are dead. When you and I are dead, it will still be there as it holds its place among the ranks of forlorn bridges forced into retirement.

On a cold, windy afternoon I stood on the old bridge’s south end watching the newer distant bridge ferry traffic across a creek turned small river when rains come. None, I daresay, knew a man was watching from the past, but I was, a witness to God Change. I watched them speed along oblivious to the old bridge and God Change who’s patiently waiting for them as well.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few

Dr. William Holland

Posted Jan. 3, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

What if we knew Jesus was returning in five days? I would think that many people would prepare to meet Him, but is this not the expectant attitude we should have every moment? I believe the Lord is calling for people to repent and rededicate their lives to Him before it is too late. We never know when our last day or hour will be. Lately, several people I knew have left this world unexpectedly and if anyone is ever going to yield their will and have a personal relationship with God, today would be the perfect time to call upon Him and become born again.

Jesus perfectly understood what His purpose was along with the hopeless condition of the world. He did not have time to waste and realized the more He preached and performed miracles, the more people would be inspired to reach out to God in faith and be given access to Heaven. This is why He relayed God’s message wherever there was an audience. He was never intimidated and did not allow the mocking unbelievers to bully Him from doing His Father’s will. I ask myself, how determined am I to tell others about Christ? For many Christians, having a cross on their key-ring is about as far as they want to go with the Lord, but are we not called to have a burden for the lost? Have you ever considered the same reason we are afraid to be an extreme radical witness for Jesus is the same reason we are not interested in praying or worshiping Him? Many have never become desperate to do God’s will but rather just want enough of Him to get by. Even though we can have all of Jesus we want, it’s obvious that a majority only desire a comfortable amount.

Have you ever witnessed an individual carrying a large wooden cross? When I see this, I’m reminded of God’s demand that I abandon my plans and embrace His.  As I pass by, my heart is pierced with emotion as I imagine how Christ suffered and died on the cross, and at the same time I’m convicted that I do not have the courage to do this. I realize the passage found in Matthew 16:24 did not necessarily mean to literally carry a cross around town, but we are commanded to lay down our will so that His character can be seen within us. But why would I be embarrassed to remind everyone about the greatest event in the history of the world and is the foundation of my life? Am I afraid that people would point and laugh, honk their horns, and shout insults toward me? Persecution is common for those who stand for God. So, what causes someone to build a large cross, put it on their shoulder, and carry it along the highway? It’s simple; the love of Jesus has become so overwhelming within this person they will do whatever it takes to be used as a messenger of the gospel. When we lose our concern for where people will spend eternity we have lost our commitment and faith to follow Jesus. The Christian soldier is not embarrassed to witness and testify for His glory. They walk into the flood and the fire because they know that many souls around us are lost and need to be saved.

My wife’s mother was a faithful Christian, and we were very close through the years as we went to church together and spent a lot of time talking about God and the Christian life. She was always listening to sermons and praise music and reading the Bible and spiritual resources every day. Jesus was all she wanted to talk about and I was reminded when writing her eulogy, that she had written personal letters to several family members over the years as a way of reaching out to them concerning their salvation. She loved her family and was concerned about where everyone would spend eternity. This was another way of telling them how much God loved them. She was known to be a Jesus fanatic and sometimes her aggressive approach to evangelism made people uncomfortable, but she was sincere and cared so much that she did not fear what others thought about her. Our love for God and all people will reveal our true identity when we stand before the Almighty.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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