All posts filed under: RELIGION

Living a Life of Gratitude Can Change Your Perspective on the World

By LaReeca Rucker This article originally appeared in The Clarion-Ledger circa 2011. Jackson resident Andi Barbrey watched a celebrity she follows on Facebook write about what she was thankful for daily, and Barbrey decided to do the same. “One day, I thanked my dad for always staying calm even though he raised three girls,” she said. “Last night, I had a rough day at work, and I said I was thankful for beer,” she laughed. “But I try to be thankful for things that have made a difference in my life. Doing the updates really makes you think about it every day.” Gratitude has attracted a lot of attention from psychological researchers in recent years in the field of “positive psychology.” It examines topics like quality of life, virtues, character and happiness, said Stephen Southern, professor and chairman of the Mississippi College Department of Psychology and Counseling. Southern said gratitude has been shown in studies to reduce stress while improving health, physically, mentally and emotionally. “Gratitude is a key ingredient in quality of life,” Southern …

Let’s make Mississippi an ‘American Idol’

In light of the controversial events that have transpired because of Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 locally and nationally, with protests by notable Mississippians and some companies refusing to do business in the state, the yin and yang of the universe decided that on the last season of one of America’s top-rated television shows, two Mississippians were selected to showcase their artistic talent – one of the fine things Mississippi is very well known for – and a Mississippian won the contest. Within every place and every person, you can find both good and bad. For far too long, Mississippi has had a reputation of ranking last in many categories. It has become trite to recite the list. The state has the highest high school dropout rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest obesity rate, highest poverty rate, worst economy, and the lowest life expectancy in the country. Mississippi students have ranked last in school performance, and the state has one of the highest unemployment rates. We read these studies over and over again, and …

What it means to be ‘The Hospitality State’

Mississippi is historically known for a progressively delayed (and often stalled) civil rights legacy. In the minds of some throughout the U.S., the state’s name will be forever linked to the opposition and violence that occurred in Mississippi in the 1960s – opposition and violence that resulted when fellow Mississippians stood firm, demanding the basic, inalienable right of equality, affirming that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to be treated as such. Mississippi is also historically known for many good things, some of which include generosity, a rich literary and artistic history, and the notion that we are “The Hospitality State.” In light of Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign House Bill 1523 (authored by Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton) – a bill that would allow Mississippi business and government workers to deny services to any citizen based on their religious beliefs – (essentially anyone they choose not to serve for any “religious” reason) – it might be wise to reexamine what it means to be “The Hospitality State.” Should hospitality …

One day at a time

Anyone who has ever faced health issues will appreciate this saying. I’m not sure who the first person on Earth was to utter it, but in my opinion, it is one of the wisest thoughts that has ever been expressed. Unfortunately, you won’t realize the depth of wisdom this idea carries until you struggle. When every day is difficult, it’s important to take things one day at a time – and sometimes one hour at a time and one minute at a time. One day may be bad, but the next three could be good. Hold onto hope. Stay positive. It can be overwhelming sometimes if you speculate about life too far ahead. So be mindful of the moment. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save

Entertaining angels: Mississippi man donates kidney to man he met while hunting

The hunter spent his spare time chasing deer in Mississippi when he wasn’t chasing fires. Starkville firefighter Rob Robinson, 44, had been stalking bucks in his home state for years, but when he learned that Kansas, the state where his sister resided, was one of the best places to turkey hunt, Robinson made several trips there throughout the years until he scored a record-breaking kill in 2007 that ranked seventh in the world. Motivated by success, Robinson decided to go for the “Grand Slam of Turkeys” in 2008, and wandered upon 1,600 acres of farmland owned by Gillan Alexander in Nicodemus, Kan. He had no idea that when he knocked on Alexander’s door, he would eventually save his life. The chance meeting later led Robinson to donate a kidney to Alexander. This weekend, the two will hold a fundraiser for an organization they have created called Forever Outdoors. It will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 17 at Starkville’s Tractor Supply at 1301 Greta Lane. The organization will take wounded veterans on hunting excursions, help …

Mississippi native Faith Hill answers questions via Facebook

“Mississippi Girl” Faith Hill took a moment last week to answer fan questions via Facebook. Here’s what they asked, and here are some of her answers: Q. What is your favorite Tim McGraw song? A. How could I choose? He has a million! “My Best Friend” is a really great one. Q. Faith, you are my inspiration to follow my dream of being a country singer! I’m a bit curious as to what your inspiration was? A. I was one of two people who listened to country music at my high school. I definitely wasn’t part of the “cool group” at the time! But when I saw Reba for the first time in concert, I wanted to do whatever it took to make it as a musician. Lots of hard work! Q. What’s your favorite gospel song? A. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Q. What is your favorite memory from the past shows at the Venetian? A. Other than the time on stage with my husband in front of such an intimate crowd, …

More of the story: Miss Mississippi contestant Kennitra Thompson fought for her life against Stevens Johnson Syndrome

When Kennitra Thompson was 6, she told her mother she wanted to become Miss America. The determined little girl convinced Patricia Thompson to purchase a few blank VHS tapes to record the annual pageant, and she repeatedly watched the videos, studying the winners and learning to emulate Miss Americas like Heather Whiteston (1995), Angela Perez Baraquio (2000) and Erika Dunlap (2004). At 13, she entered and won her first real pageant, Miss Junior Teen Jackson as number 135 out of more than 200 contestants. Other pageant wins followed. Then, Thompson was crowned Miss Metro Jackson and got to compete in the Miss Mississippi Pageant for the first time last year, bringing her a step closer to the Miss America crown. This year, she’ll return to Miss Mississippi as Miss Rankin County Southwest, but a lot has changed for Thompson in the last few months. When she walks on the stage wearing a swimsuit, audience members may notice that her body is blemished with scars or “warrior wounds” from the life-threatening illness she recently battled. Kennitra …

More of the story: Mississippians believe in faith, family and “Duck Dynasty”

It’s obvious when checking my Facebook  feed, that there are many Mississippians who relate to and love the reality show “Duck Dynasty.” I have watched a few episodes myself, but didn’t quite understand why this show was liked by so many people I know until I interviewed several of them recently and learned that it appeals to their most cherished values – having a strong work ethic, having a strong family and having a strong faith. All of those values are apparently wrapped up in the reality show about a family who struck it rich by selling duck calls. Here’s another interview with Justin Byrd, a youth worker at a Corinth church, that didn’t make it into today’s story because of deadlines. Byrd, a Corinth native who attended Alcorn Central High School and Northeast Mississippi Community College, who is now attending Grantham University while serving in the Mississippi Army National Guard, said he became a fan of “Duck Dynasty” when the series premiered. “I am a die hard duck hunter, and have been for about …

More of the story: Christian artist Brandon Heath comes to Mississippi and talks about “Blue Mountain”

When many Mississippians hear “Blue Mountain,” they think of the 135-year-old, private Christian college supported by the Mississippi Baptist Convention in the Appalachia region of Northeast Mississippi. It’s a place Christian singer Brandon Heath never knew existed when he created a fictional location called Blue Mountain set in Appalachia that is the theme of his new album by the same name. As a child, Heath often visited his parents who lived outside of Knoxville, and on the drive, he’d soak up the sights and sounds of Appalachia. Struck by the mountains, his imagination ran wild as he envisioned that they were the backs of dinosaurs. For his latest album, Heath wanted to write character-driven songs with their own stories, but he needed a framework. He conceptualized the album theme after a friend recited a C.S. Lewis quote about Blue Mountains. “In the distance, they are mysterious and majestic, and you can’t touch them,” he said, “but when you get up close to them, you realize they are just brown and green. They aren’t blue at …

Survey: Jackson a city of believers: Ranks 5th for ‘Most Bible-Minded’ out of 96 regions across nation

Jackson residents read the Bible and believe in its accuracy more than most people in the U.S., according to a new report released by the American Bible Society. Based on random telephone and online interviews with 42,855 adults conducted during a seven-year period ending in 2012, Jackson ranked fifth as one of America’s “Most Bible-Minded Cities.” Cities that embrace the Bible most also include Knoxville, Tenn., Shreveport, La., Chattanooga, Tenn., Birmingham, Springfield, Mo., Charlotte, N.C., Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va., Huntsville, Ala., and Charleston, W. Va. The “Least Bible-Minded Cities” include Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., (tie) , Albany, N.Y., Burlington, Vt., Portland, Ore., Hartford/New Haven, Conn., Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Buffalo, N.Y. Conducted by Barna Group, the study analyzed 96 geographic regions across the U.S. Findings also show a trend related to population density. Of the top 25 Bible-minded markets, only three have a population greater than 1 million households: Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. “I find this most interesting as this, perhaps, flies in the face of more general religious …

One more day to live?

If Myrtle resident Belinda Davis had only one more day to live, she would wake up and cook the best meal she had ever prepared, invite loved ones to her home, laugh with them and pray. They’d travel to her father’s house, the place she loves best, and reminisce about their lives together and future in heaven. I would stay in touch with the world by cell phone, reaching out to my family and friends that were not with me,” she said. “I would end the day with hugs, a prayer and a huge piece of chocolate.” If tomorrow was the last day of Ridgeland lawyer John Moore’s life, he would spend it with his wife and children (ages 1 and 5), “doing all the things my kids love to do — playing outside, eating junk food and laughing with each other. We would ride bikes, play on the swing-set, eat whatever we wanted and enjoy our time together.” And if Alan-Michael White of Dumas knew he had only one more day to live, he’d …

Interview with Fred Luter: First African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention

I also cover religion for The Clarion-Ledger, and last week I got to speak with Pastor Fred Luter Jr., the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shortly after his appearance here at the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Luter said he hopes his election will spark change in the denomination, and he’s determined to do his best. Senior pastor of the 7,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans addressed Mississippi Baptists Wednesday at First Baptist Church Jackson. He called Friday for a phone interview sharing a few more thoughts about his ministry. Born in 1956, Luter entered the ministry after surviving a motorcycle accident in 1977 and began preaching on a street corner every Saturday at noon to anyone who would listen. “When you first get saved and born again, there’s such a boldness, you really don’t think about anything else,” he said. “There was some positive and some negative responses. A lot of people were just kind of intrigued that I would do that. They didn’t understand why a young person would …

An afterlife e-mail – Brandon woman receives message from late husband

To the outside world, their relationship sounds like a fairytale. Brandon resident Missy Parker, a teacher at Northwest Rankin Middle School, and Clinton native Ross Parker, a Mississippi College grad who had worked for Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co. more than 20 years, met four years ago while serving in Pinelake church’s singles ministry. They dated two years and were married Oct. 16, 2010, becoming a blended family with four children. “We lived a marriage of serving one another,” said Missy Parker. “Every morning, for a year and nine months, we woke up and read the Bible together. We would then discuss the verses and try to figure out how they were speaking to us. Together, we were obedient to God.” The two had made a commitment to one another before they married. They began each day with words of affirmation and admiration for each other. “We promised to serve one another first, and then to think of ourselves second,” Parker said. “We spoiled one another rotten. We would have been honeymooning for 50 …

We love Lucy: Mom celebrates 30th birthday with fundraiser for orphans in Ethiopia

Before they even began dating, Tupelo residents Anna and Russ Polsgrove talked about their desire to adopt.In 2008, several years after they wed, conversation turned to action. After reading blogs from families who had adopted children from Ethiopia, Anna Polsgrove felt a sense of urgency. “Every time I saw a picture of an Ethiopian child, I felt as though I could be looking at my own,” she said. “For some reason, our hearts were drawn there. After seeing the first picture of our sweet Lucy, we knew why.” Today, Anna Polsgrove is trying to raise $30,000 in 30 days during June, the month of her 30th birthday (June 9), with a 30/30/30 project. It will provide funds for an organization called Bring In Love that places orphaned children with widows in that country. “I wanted to do something special to celebrate turning 30,” Polsgrove said. “I had seen someone else do 30 random acts of service, where she did 30 nice things for other people on her birthday. That got me to thinking. I decided …

My interview with Mike Seaver

So I recently got to interview Kirk Cameron. I realize that he has become somewhat of a controversial figure because he has become an outspoken Christian evangelist, but I just remember him as Mike Seaver on Growing Pains, a show I religiously watched growing up. So it was kind of fun getting to speak to him. Here’s the story: If you’re marriage is experiencing Growing Pains, a former teen heartthrob turned Christian actor/evangelist will soon make an appearance in Brandon to tell you that marriage is a Love Worth Fighting For. Kirk Cameron, who starred in the 1980s television show Growing Pains and has since become a popular Christian film actor, will appear Saturday, Aug. 18, at Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon. “The Love Worth Fighting For marriage event is a very special event that came out of the movie Fireproof,” he said by phone. “That was a movie that so many people saw and loved that we decided to turn it into a live event and bring it to the community.” Cameron said it’s …

Getting back on the horse

Near the end of the school year at Brandon’s University Christian School, the art teacher gave his first period students large canvases, leftover paint and the freedom to go at them Jackson Pollack-style. Danielle Parkman, 14, dipped her hands in color and splattered it against the white – tossing pink, blue and red across the rectangle. Then she threw it on her friends, who laughed and retaliated until, pretty soon, everyone was engaged in a colorful, carefree mess of creativity. It is her most vibrant memory of the day her life went black, canvas wiped clean. On that day, May 12, 2009, her mother, Julie Parkman, a wife and mother of three, had a lot on her mind. In two days, her eldest son, Mitchell, would graduate from UCS. He was away on a mission trip with his father, Louie, but they would return that evening. On May 14, the family would leave for the Bahamas, and she couldn’t forget about Danielle’s upcoming horse show. After work, she drove to register her daughter for the …

Apocalypse Now?

Society is obsessed with the apocalypse. Consider zombie movies, the Mayan calendar’s Dec. 21 “end” date, a TV show called Doomsday Preppers and religious figures like Harold Camping making their own predictions. While some find evidence of this in the Bible, a Millsaps religion professor’s new book offers a more hopeful interpretation of “apocalyptic” biblical texts. Revelation, often read as a end-time prophecy, should be read in context, said professor Benjamin Reynolds. He is the author of Between Symbolism and Realism: The Use of Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Language in Ancient Jewish Apocalypses 333-53 B.C.E. “Often when people argue about the Bible, they accuse each other of taking this or that passage out of context,” he said. “My book is all about providing that context. It examines the language of ancient Jewish apocalypses like Daniel and Revelation in painstaking detail.” Christians from the apostle Paul to Martin Luther have believed the apocalypse would take place in their lifetimes. Reynolds said evangelical Christians are not unique in that regard. “But what is unique in modern America is …

Kala Harvey’s story

Kala Harvey spent Nov. 24, 2008, attending Northwest Community College, where the former high school valedictorian was one day away from finishing her first semester. Around noon, she and sister, Candace, took their brother out for his birthday lunch, and around 6 p.m., the girls reconnected to take their usual fitness walk. Within moments, Candace heard the sound of a speeding vehicle approaching from behind. She turned, and saw it coming toward her on the wrong side of the road. Candace reached for Kala to pull her out its path, but missed by a hair. The car struck, knocking the teenager upon the windshield, then tossing her against the hard pavement. “They had been gone about 20 minutes when I received the call,” said mom Alma Harvey. “Candace was screaming and crying. I went to where they were and found Kala in critical condition. I didn’t really recognize her, but I recognized what she was wearing.” A helicopter airlifted Kala, 18, to The MED in Memphis. Doctors were not encouraging. They could find no sign …

The vow

Megan Robinson, 24, and Peter Huwe, 25, met in a Mississippi College chemistry class and, eventually, discovered some chemistry of their own. On June 30, the couple will tie the knot in Gulfport, and they hope to be $25,000 richer thanks to the E! Online Say Your Vows Wedding Contest – a promotion for the movie The Vow that opens this weekend. “A couple of weeks ago, I was watching E!, and I saw a commercial for the contest,” Robinson said. “It said write the vow that you would say to your fiance on your wedding day. The next Thursday, I got an email saying that we are one of the finalists out of thousands of entries.” Peter and Megan are one of five couples vying for cash, a wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, wedding bands, registry gifts and a honeymoon in Los Cabos. Huwe, who is quadriplegic, broke his neck in 2005 in a diving accident. Megan’s vow reads in part: “I have always said, what you lack physically, you make up for 100 times …

Mr. Henry

Since my story that ran in The Clarion-Ledger today was chopped for space, here is the full version. Blogs allow me as much space as I want: On cold mornings, Mr. Henry would come to work early and crank all the vehicles so they would be warm inside when the other bus drivers arrived. He kept a list of all the children on his bus route, recording their names addresses and birthdays so he and his wife could send them birthday cards and small surprises throughout the years. And when he battled cancer and underwent chemotherapy, Mr. Henry continued to ride the bus with “his children” on the days he felt well enough, even when another driver was behind the wheel. Henry Wiltcher, a man who told others his mission was to be of service to the world, did it by driving a bus. He passed away Thursday after spending more than a decade as a Rankin County School District driver, and he is being mourned by teachers, students and colleagues — many of whom …

The Mississippi Mass Choir

Jackson resident Mosie Burks, 77, thought she’d live a quiet existence after retirement and travel the country with her husband, but 15 years ago, she embarked on a journey that gave new spiritual meaning to the term “the golden years.” At the suggestion of Mississippi Mass Choir Music Minister Jerry Smith, Burks auditioned for a spot as a singer. “I just really went for the heck of it,” she said. “I had no notion they would choose me. I told them I felt I was of age, and I wanted young people to have the privilege of being a part of it instead.” But Burks soon began to rethink things. Shortly after being selected, she performed a song called When I Rose This Morning that topped the charts, affirming that she’d found her new calling. The lyrics are about waking up with faith that God will take care of you. Today, some consider Burks the face of the Mississippi Mass Choir. The group released its ninth album this week called Then Sings My Soul. It …

Do you know what Babalu means?

I Love Lucy fans are familiar with the word “Babalu.” Ricky Ricardo frequently belted out his signature song, a Cuban standard, at his Tropicana nightclub before it was renamed Club Babalu. The song references Babalu-Aye, a deity of Afro-Caribbean origin in the Santeria religion – a faith that blends African religion with some aspects of Christianity. The singer cries out to Babalu to bring his lost love back. It’s also a word that Jackson restaurant owner Al Roberts tucked away in his mind, thinking it would be a great restaurant name. The Fondren eatery Babalu Tacos & Tapas opened five weeks ago at 622 Duling Ave. Three classrooms that were part of the old Duling School were transformed into the space. Enter and your eyes are drawn to a wall projection of vintage I Love Lucy clips. “I was in a restaurant (out of state) that had a small screen that they were showing cowboy movies on,” Roberts said. “When I saw that, I thought we could put I love Lucy on it.” The restaurant’s …

What my Golden Retriever Taught Me About God

While walking her sister’s 10-year-old golden retriever, DeKalb native and author Rhonda McRae had a spiritual epiphany. “I was just enjoying how much Sadie was enjoying the walk,” McRae said. “The thought occurred to me: I wondered if this is how God feels to give me joy. “It kind of opened up a new way of thinking about God’s love for me. Then I started observing her behavior, and the book came out of that.” What My Golden Retriever Taught Me about God ($11.99, P&R Publishing, 2010), chronicles McRae’s year-long spiritual journey with Sadie. McRae said you can learn a lot about God from a pet, and it’s an idea many churches across the nation have implemented by creating pet ministries that visit nursing homes. Some even offer pet food pantries and pet-friendly church services. “I didn’t really decide to write a book about Sadie,” said McRae, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson who works in the corporate communications department of Baptist Medical Center. “That was just the process of what God was …

Henna Night

Henna Night, a simulated Turkish wedding ceremony, was offered this year by Ridgeland’s Turkish Raindrop House, a nonprofit, educational, charitable, social and cultural organization that operates in six states, including Mississippi. Its purpose is to introduce Turkish culture to American society. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save