All posts filed under: SPIRITUALITY

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 …

The Force is always with Star Wars fans

By LaReeca Rucker In 1983, I saw my first Star Wars film. “Return of the Jedi” was my introduction to the movie franchise, and I was hooked, because I wanted to look like and become Princess Leia. I wanted to ride speeder bikes through the thick, green forests of Endor; hang out in a village with adorable Ewoks, save Han Solo from the carbonite chamber, and command The Force as skillfully as a seasoned Jedi Knight. Throughout most of my childhood, I lived in a Star Wars fantasy world inhabited by me and my next door neighbor, who believed he was Luke Skywalker. Almost every day, we went on adventures to other planets in a galaxy far, far away. He often saved me from disgusting aliens like Jabba the Hut, and I was a beautiful princess who sometimes saved him – a feminist before I knew the word. We piloted space ships, killed alien creatures, and battled other evil forces with lightsabers, all underneath the big oak tree in my grandmother’s backyard. She often watched …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Spiritual books

Here are a few religion books that came across my desk recently, in case you’re looking for a last-minute gift this holiday season. * Power, Freedom and Grace – Deepak Chopra writes about living from the source of lasting happiness. He considers the mystery of our existence and its significance in our eternal quest for happiness. Amber-Allen Publishing * Speaking to the Soul – Vicki K. Black, a deacon in the Episcopal Church for more than 20 years, offers daily readings for the Christian year. Based on the Episcopal Cafe’s popular column Speaking to the Soul, these spiritual readings for each day are from many Christian sources — from prayer books to saint biographies. Morehouse Publishing * Songs in Waiting – Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal priest, offers spiritual reflections on Christ’s birth with this celebration of Middle Eastern canticles. The book contains spiriutal meditations that focus on the ancient Middle Eastern songs celebrating the birth of Jesus. Morehouse Publishing * Healing Words for the Body, Mind and Spirit – Caren Goldman discusses 101 words to …

Grave Secrets

Did you know that the religious iconography on tombstones sometimes tells a symbolic story about how a person died? Or that in 16th and 17th century America, it was common to find graves with skulls and crossbones on them? Check out this recent article in The Clarion-Ledger called Grave Secrets. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save