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Living on Purpose: Why, my soul, are you so downcast?

Dr. William Holland

Posted December 6, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

Since before the world was made God has known you and loved you. He has never taken His eyes away or ignored you. If you were to write down all the blessings and victories He has given to you, they would prove He has called you, has been guiding you, and has many wonderful things planned for your future. Do you believe this today? Is your life heading in a direction that you are excited about, or are you downcast?

At this time of year, it’s common for many people to be filled with a mixture of emotions. Some are dealing with anxiety, while others are walking through a time of sadness and loneliness. Maybe something negative happened this year and you have not recovered from it. Maybe you have experienced a terrible loss and are in agony while trying to appear that everything is alright. Along with 2022 coming to a close, we have the new year just a couple of weeks away and fear of the unknown can be a little stressful.

Has disappointment in the past, caused you to not be as confident or optimistic as you once were? Of course, we all have times in our lives when we are upset and feel that nothing is going right. Don’t worry, you are perfectly normal. Life is a series of ups and downs and no matter how jolly of a personality you may have, there will be seasons when we search deep within ourselves to see if we are being attacked or maybe we need to forgive ourselves. Whatever the case, it’s easy to wallow in our sorrows, but when we turn our attention away from ourselves and focus on loving God and those around us, the dark clouds begin lifting, and the joy and brightness of God’s presence will fill our hearts.

I want to share God’s word with you from Psalm 42:5 and repeated again in verse 11, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” This is a passage from David and if you study his relationship with God, you know he had his share of sorrows, but he also learned how to encourage himself. He wrote this when his son Absalom committed treason but even through something as devastating as this he expresses that hope becomes even more empowered when everything seems hopeless. He examines his own heart and comes to the understanding there are times we will not comprehend why we are going through trials, but we are to obey and glorify God while we are waiting for our answer.

Instead of going to bed and covering our heads, let us look beyond our pity party and focus our eyes on the goodness of the Lord and how much He has done for us. Sometimes we are so absorbed with what we are going through, we forget all the things He has helped us with and saved us from. I had two situations today that could have been tragic, but God intervened in them both. I was driving on the bypass and was getting ready to change lanes when at the last second I saw a car beside me out of the corner of my eye. If I had turned into that car, the outcome would not have been good, to say the least. My wife kept talking and was never aware of the situation as I breathed a sigh of relief. The second situation involved me being on a ladder this afternoon on the front porch. I thought I was on the bottom step but I was actually on the step above and fell onto the concrete and into the storm door. I broke the door and have a few bruises, but miraculously I was not seriously injured.

With two near misses on the same day, I’ve been humbly counting my blessings. I know it’s easy at times to feel sorry for ourselves, but instead of feeling cast down, may we consider where we would be without God’s constant mercy and compassion. Hope is a small word like love and joy, but it contains the power of the human soul to trust God and live every moment as if His promises are going to be fulfilled in our lives. Often we are troubled because we are focused more on what we interpret as a disappointment than on praising God for providing another opportunity to appreciate His goodness.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Terminate Constitution

Posted December 6, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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The Word Merchant Highway

Tom Poland

Posted December 6, 2022

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

Upon taking a writing position long ago, the boss of bosses shot me a sideways look, “So, you’re a word merchant.” Clever, I thought, but as time wore on so did he. A tyrant, nothing he said or did pleased me. Others, too, it turned out. “Word merchant” took on a bad taste. One sour negative human can ruin most anything can he not? But that was long ago, and when he went to the bad bosses graveyard, my fondness for the expression, in time, returned.

Tom Poland signs books at the Sweet Tea Local History, Evans, Georgia.

Word merchant, one who sells words, is slang for writer, but you won’t find it in the dictionary. Call me one if you like, because I do, in fact, sell words at some level—books and speaking engagements. But I have come to think of myself as a blue-collar writer-historian and entertainer, if making people laugh counts. I never intended to, but here I am traveling the Word Merchant Highway. I’ve been on the road steadily now for many years, but the pace quickened in 2015 when I had three books come out after a period of writing some label “prolific.” The year of the great mask aside, most years have been busy ever since.

A spate of book events kicked off 2022 in January when I spoke to a DAR group in McCormick about South Carolina’s back roads. Later that month I traveled to Suwanee, Georgia, to talk about the old Sunday drive tradition, which is just about dead now. RIP ye old tradition.

The year began to roll and events in February and seven events in March had me on the road across South Carolina. April brought talks on “Growing Up Southern” and “South Carolina Back Roads;” May, June, and July found me on back roads spreading the gospel as “Folk Medicine,” “Mysteries of the Carolina Bays,” and “82 Miles Along The Coast” go. My route ran from Georgia to Camden, to the Sandhills and beyond.

Come August I found myself along the Savannah River in Evans, Georgia, talking about compelling sights along the Georgia-South Carolina border. After a lull, the road took me to the fresh faces of the University of South Carolina’s Honors Class where we had a good discussion about writing—Finding Your Voice.

I could go on, but I’ll sum things up by saying drives to Savannah, Aiken, Edgefield, Greenwood, Abbeville, and other places brought me good times with good people. As I’ve written before, you don’t meet unpleasant people at book and writing events. Among the wonderful groups who book me on a frequent basis are libraries, museums, Daughters of the American Revolution, Huguenot Societies, private groups, universities and colleges, historical societies, and others.

December 17, I’ll close out 2022 in downtown Columbia at the Mast General Store, a tradition for me, something I’ve done for four years how. Each holiday season, sitting among stacks of new books, pen ready, I meet the nicest people. The creaky wooden floor (sounds just like a true general store), people in holiday attire, and holiday music give me the Christmas spirit. Parents with excited kids, folks with man’s best friend on a leash, and old friends make the four-hour event pure pleasure.

Come January 2023, I’ll hit the Word Merchant Highway anew. I already have a dozen events on my 2023 calendar. I’ll be going to Darlington, Greenwood, Chapin, Elberton, Georgia, Ridgeway, Greenwood, Aiken, and Conway, and as I used to announce on the public address system for Greyhound and Southeastern Stages, points in between. I already have an event on my 2024 calendar in Richmond, Virginia. That seems far off but the Word Merchant Highway can turn expressway. It’ll be here before I know it.

Other events are sure to come, and I look forward to seeing some of you down the road, the oft-traveled Word Merchant Highway.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

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

Georgia native Tom Poland writes a weekly column about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture and speaks frequently to groups in the South. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, stating, “His work is exceptional to the state.” Poland’s work appears in books, magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the South.

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If people were leaves…

Tom Poland

Posted November 30, 2022

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

Suppose people changed colors like autumn leaves. Would it be a better world? It just might. For sure it’d be more colorful. Think about that. Say it’s late November, and your fingertips redden. The tips of your ears take on a bit of red. Each day red covers more of you. Then one fine fall day, you glow all scarlet, basking in autumnal glory. Now you have to get through winter and hope you don’t shrivel, brown, and find yourself gone with the wind, though that day is coming. Put that aside for now.

Two leaves fight the unveiling of their true colors.

It’s a dream as far as people taking on palettes of pigments that rival the leaves of autumn. And yet, colors define us. There’s a saying “He showed his true colors.” You’ve heard it. Someone pretending to be nice reveals at last that he’s not such a nice guy. Just as easily could be a she. Bad character and bad habit don’t discriminate.

If people were leaves… it came to me on a cool November sunrise when I stepped outside to look at my leaves. The backlight of a rising sun lit up ’em like so many lanterns afire. But two green leaves seemed to fight the flood of color overtaking their comrades. Those two leaves caught my eye, and a refrain came to me. How many times have I heard someone say, “He/She really began to change after we married, and let me tell you, it wasn’t for the best.” You’ve heard it too.

Though these two leaves were fighting change, their true colors nonetheless were coming out. Suppose you could see peoples’ true colors emerge even if they didn’t want you to. Like Pinocchio’s nose, a change in color would tell us to not to believe a word old so-and-so says. And don’t dare trust that fellow with your money. Marry him? Might stave off some bad decisions wouldn’t it?

Avoiding such characters would just be too easy though, and it’d rob some of us of our ability to see through people, to read them with accuracy. It’d damage our radar. On the other hand we could tell when someone likes us more than they admit.

No, people don’t change colors like leaves but what if they did? What if our bodies involuntarily reacted to situations as a chameleon’s does? We’d possess a type of lie detector, a revealer of character and more. Did you see him back down from that bully? He turned yellow as mustard. When she saw the object of her affection with another woman, she turned green as grass. I saw him a month after she moved away. He’s still blue as blue can be. Man his joke embarrassed her so much she turned red as a beet.

People use the seasons as a metaphor to describe the passage of life. “Old Bill? He’s in the autumn of life.” All is promising in spring, flourishing in summer, transitioning in fall, and fading come winter. All that works for me, but how revealing it’d be if people turned colors like leaves. Avoiding liars, cheats, crooks, and bad choices would just be too easy. We’d leave such people in the dust.

Here in the autumnal South, it’s often cold at daybreak and hot at noon. By sundown a chill reasserts itself. And through it all leaves turn burnt orange, cinnamon, red, gold, and I’ve even seen tints of blue. We look on in awe, thankful deep inside, that we can’t steal the show. For we’ve learned one thing about a person’s true colors. They don’t lie.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

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

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: 218 GOP Votes

Posted November 29, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: Using God’s speech filter in our conversations

Dr. William Holland

Posted November 29, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

As I’ve prayed for spiritual awareness over the years, the Lord has been patient with my lack of understanding and has graciously allowed me to labor in the area of communication. When having a conversation with someone, listening intently helps to discern what is on their mind, but most importantly it’s even more important to listen to God in order to know how He wants us to respond. For the Christian, there is no higher responsibility than to monitor and examine every thought and word before we release it.

It’s common for most people to express whatever they feel like saying. To the individual it’s the right of their independence, for the rest of us it’s known as not having a speech filter. The unrenewed mind when left to do and say whatever it wants is often referred to as foolish according to the book of Proverbs. For example, the attempt to bring instruction to those who do not think before they speak is the basis of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like them.” Wasting time trying to explain only makes them more confident. If we choose to argue with someone who is not thinking clearly, we stoop to a lower level and make things worse. Since unlearned people despise wisdom, they enjoy drawing others into a conflict where they use deceit, become angry, and scoff at opposing ideas.

Seldom do we meditate about what we are going to say but we are reminded in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for wrath rarely produces the righteousness of God.” The world is filled with differing opinions about everything and it does not take a lot of effort for a heated argument to arise. Being disciplined is difficult because we feel that we should stand up for what we believe. This can be true on the right occasions, however, the most important thing is to obey God. We should speak when He anoints us to give an answer, and if He says to be silent we should recognize this particular situation is not a divine appointment.

Matthew 12:36-37 goes even further by warning us that our speech is being recorded and will be used in our judgment. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” It’s wise to be cautious when it comes to joining in certain conversations and to not be so eager to expose our worldviews. If a controversial topic comes to the surface, we may bite on it or we can wait and sense the attitudes and spiritual atmosphere. I’ve heard people say, “it’s no one’s business what I believe” and “I never talk about religion or politics.” evidently these individuals are convinced it’s more comfortable to avoid serious discussions than be a part of them. On the other hand, I often encounter those who courageously (or arrogantly) charge out of the gate with both barrels blazing. Whatever the case, it’s good to have our spiritual antennas up and be ready to discern what is really going on and how or if God is planning to use us. 

So, aside from our deeds having an impact on our integrity and respect, it seems our speech actually identifies the type of person we are. Matthew 7:17-20 uses symbolism to describe every person as a tree and what we do and say is the fruit we bear, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.” It’s true we all make mistakes and constantly need to repent for our failures each hour, yet as believers in God, we must strive to seek His power to improve our communication with one another. Whether it be with our spouse, our children, or at work, is our communication holy, healthy and wholesome? Are we representing Christ in our conversations? Our words reveal our awareness of His presence and this is what the Christian experience is about.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Leadership change

Posted November 22, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Time

Tom Poland

Posted November 22, 2022

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

You know the song. “Time Is On My Side.” The Rolling Stones released it in 1964. Time was on my side back then, yes it was. It’s not today. And so for some reason, songs about time play in my vault of memories. As they do, a jukebox of images, sounds, and words return.

“Time,” the Pink Floyd classic from The Dark Side of the Moon, takes me back to 1973 when I worked as a ticket agent for Greyhound and Southeastern Stages in Athens, Georgia. In graduate school at UGA, I wandered, a lost soul. A desert lay before me and I had no choice but to cross it. It took time.

Chiming clocks and ringing alarms introduced “Time’s” fateful words. “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.”

The ceaseless movement of the hands of time.

The words summed up my life at that juncture, a beautiful frittering of time. A genius recorded the clanging, ticking, and chiming clocks in an antique store, engineer Alan Parsons. Twenty years later, that’s a lot of time, Parsons released “Mr. Time.” Then a ripe old 45, perhaps Parsons felt his mortality. One line resonated with me. “When the minute’s up, so are you.”

And what about the Stones “Time Is On My Side?” It’s a lament for lost love. “Now you always say that you want to be free, but you’ll come running back.” Well, maybe not. Maybe we’re better off when some people just go. Go on, get out of here. Don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out. By the way, Jerry Ragovoy wrote the song, a huge hit. Time really was on his side.

And now Harry Chapin sings “Cats In The Cradle” in a packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina. It’s 1981. The song tells of a father’s lament that he never took time to do much with his son. “There were planes to catch and bills to pay.” The song’s end? The boy grew up just like his father, too busy to spend time with his retired dad.

Chapin died weeks later, July 16, 1981, when a tractor-trailer hit him from behind on the Long Island Expressway. At the age of 39, his minute was up.

The Beatles recorded a masterpiece, “Yesterday.” Paul McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream one night. The words about time and a broken relationship came later. “Yesterday” is the most covered song in history. Over 2,000 artists took the time to record their version. But Sir Paul composed it.

“It fell out of bed,” McCartney said. “I had a piano by my bedside, and I must have dreamed it, because I tumbled out of bed and put my hands on the piano keys and I had a tune in my head. It was just all there, a complete thing. I couldn’t believe it. It came too easy.”

Working in his sleep. He made good use of his time I’d say. Many do not. They fritter it away. Not me, not anymore. As I write this column for you, dear reader, it’s not quite 1 a.m. I like to make hay when the sun doesn’t shine. Seems I have more time, purer time after the midnight hour. No one bothers me.

Here’s the thing about time, it’s evasive, as slippery as a bar of glycerin soap. People like to say when I get the time, I’ll do … fill in the blank. No, when the time comes to do something you promised, there will be no time. Do it today. Tonight. Now. Time’s not on your side like you think it is.


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: We have much to be thankful for

Dr. William Holland

Posted November 21, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family but many times I become distracted from the intended purpose. Between football, conversations, and pumpkin pie, it’s easy to forget how much we have to be thankful for. Sadly, many have forgotten or maybe they have never known the history of human suffering that is associated with the Pilgrims. It’s been recorded that the new colony was focused on giving God thanks for His blessings and protection as William Bradford is quoted, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, to again set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. Thus, out of small beginnings, greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of God have all the praise.” Clearly, the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony praised God and appreciated Him for all they had. Today the meaning of Thanksgiving is often lost under an endless avalanche of media hype, sales advertisements, marketing gimmicks, and aggressive commercialism.

Like all Christians, we give thanks to the Lord for loving us and rescuing us from eternal darkness and death. We could never express to our Heavenly Father enough how grateful we are that He sent Jesus to redeem and forgive us with His blood. I realize there are hard times and many difficult situations, but we are fortunate to not only have His promises of hope and peace here on Earth, but He is also preparing a place for us in Heaven. I published a book a couple of years ago called, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and it’s about becoming determined to develop an awareness of God’s presence all the time instead of just when we are in church or need a favor. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth-century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” details his discipline to become so sensitive to everything going on around him that he might consider all situations as an opportunity to manifest the attributes of Christ.

I realize that most people keep a busy schedule and do not always wake up in the mornings and thank God for all of their blessings. Why is this? Well, we have a tendency to take important things for granted like our good health or even the air we breathe. We become so occupied with trying to make decisions and leaning on our own understanding that we forget that God is helping us and always has our best interests in mind. It takes serious dedication to continually concentrate on how worthy He is of our gratitude and adoration. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” Psalm 34:3.

So, we see that Thanksgiving is about expressing our love to God, and those who desire to know Him personally will discover that our devotion is not based on what He can give us, but just on who He is. Above my fireplace, there’s a log engraved with Matthew 22:37-38 and I often ask God to reveal to me the depths of this spiritual truth. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Every word that has ever been spoken and every book that has been written can only scratch the surface in describing God’s endless generosity and glorious majesty.

This season let us consider our Thanksgiving holiday as more than a day off from work, a traditional celebration, or a Black Friday sale. May it be a state of mind where we can truly worship Him for our daily blessings and our eternal salvation. It’s wonderful to have a roof over our heads, good health, and a long list of His benefits, but we are especially grateful for His infinite grace. It’s my prayer today, that I will never become spoiled with His blessings, but every moment to be sincerely grateful for the privilege to know Him, and be compelled to demonstrate His love and compassion to others.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Pancho Villa’s Fighting South Carolina Gamecocks

Tom Poland

Posted November 15, 2022

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

A fighting Calhoun Falls’ rooster bound for Mexico. Photo courtesy of Laura Hester.

I’ll file this column under the category, Fowl History. Did Mexican Revolutionary War General, Pancho Villa, ride a train to Calhoun Falls, South Carolina to buy fighting gamecocks? Did he? Read on to unravel this tale of fighting gamecocks in the early 1900s. And read on, knowing I thank Emily and Laura Hester for their knowledge and proof of this unusual story.

Hop aboard now. In the late 1880s the Savannah Valley Railroad ran through Calhoun Falls. The rail ceased service sometime later but apparently one could still get a train up that way, for in the early 1900s Pancho Villa rode the train to Calhoun Falls. There a famous cockfighter, Samuel “Tobe” Hester, kept pens filled with fighting chickens. Pancho Villa, real name, Doroteo Arango, wanted a pen of his own.

One Mrs. Henry Hester recalled that Pancho Villa stayed at the old hotel in Calhoun Falls while his men stayed in railroad cars on sidetracks along the depot. Villa, of course, had his own private railcar, but the old hotel, which looked like a five-star resort, suited Villa.

As the chicken transaction took place, locals gathered at the depot to hear Villa’s men sing Spanish songs while cooking supper. As they crooned, the train platform held crates of gamecocks bound for Mexico, not the mortal frying pan.

Rooster lodging in Hester, South Carolina, near Calhoun Falls. Photo courtesy of Emily Hester.

Photos of Pancho Villa’s fighting gamecocks in Calhoun Falls endure. In a grainy, soft focus, black and white image we see a Mexican in a suit and tie wearing what seems a Panama hat. He’s holding a gamecock perfect enough to adorn the USC block C logo. Three men flank him, one being Tobe Hester, perhaps. Another photo shows the depot, well pump and tank, and along the horizon the Tobe Hester house and many a pen housing roosters fit for a revolutionary.

Yet another photo, found online, shows Pancho Villa and his fighting men standing with their rifles by their side. All wear bandoliers filled with ammunition. Fighting chickens and fighting men soon to do battle. The caption reads, “Pancho Villa comes to Calhoun Falls. Picture of Pancho and his men who made many trips up to Calhoun falls, S.C. to buy some Hester fighting chickens.”

Pancho Villa came by his blood sport ways in an honest manner. Violence ran through his veins. The son of a field laborer, he found himself orphaned at an early age. When the owner of the estate where Pancho worked assaulted his sister, Pancho killed him and fled to the mountains where he spent his adolescence as a fugitive. Later he dodged a death sentence when a stay of execution sent him to prison instead. He’d go on to govern the state of Chihuahua and emerge as a victorious leader of the Mexican Revolution helping to end Victoriano Huerta’s regime. Later, when Villa and revolutionary co-leader Carranza turned on each other, Pancho Villa killed 17 U.S. citizens at Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, to send Carranza a message. “Don’t mess with a rooster-fighting revolutionary.”

Pancho walked the hard streets of life. He had little education but demonstrated skill as a soldier and organizer of men. Killing was in his blood, and he made for an effective revolutionary. Years later, Pancho Villa would suffer a fate similar to his roosters.

Pancho’s fighting gamecocks are long gone. Some died in combat. Others retired, too tough, perchance, for the frying pan. And Pancho? Assassins ambushed him July 20, 1923, in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico. Just 45 years old, he died in a barrage of bullets.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

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

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