Monthly Archives: June 2011

What’s a Shiny Soul?

I recently attended a Writer’s Symposium at The Harris Arts Center and met some very interesting and inspiring people. One of them, Mr Bill Barker, called me a name. He called me a “shiny soul”.  

That prompted me to wonder: “What exactly is a shiny soul?”

I gooogled it and got nothing satisfactory. So, I’ll offer up my own opinion. A shiny soul is something you can quickly identify when you see it. Yeah, I know that’s a lame answer. That’s why I’m going to share with you the words of my Grandma. She identified a shiny soul this way when I was still very small:

“Granny, why does it seem like bad people try to beat up on good people?”,  I asked..

Grandma fanned herself in the thick night air on the front-porch, “What do you mean child?”

“Well, it seems like the better you try to be sometimes – the worse people treat you”,  I said on the front step.

Grandma stood up and put her hands on her hips, “Child, do you see that light right there on the front porch?”

“Yes”, I said looking at the light perched precariously on the old front porch just underneath a badly patched roof.

“Well, God tells us that your soul is a light unto the world just like that light right there”, Granny paused to look at me and turned her head back to the light. “You see all them bugs around that light?”

“Yes Granny”, I said still looking at the light as mosquitoes, moths, and unidentifiable bugs flung themselves at the light repeatedly.

“Well, in the dark all these bugs are looking for the light just like evil does. Evil looks for the light too but for a different reason. Evil seeks to drown out the light, or worse, to cause the light to go out”, Granny still had her hands on her hips. “This porch-light is just like your soul” , Granny bent down slowly and placed her arm around me, “I’m sorry to tell you this child, but the brighter the light the bigger the bugs!”

My eyes grew wide. “Child you talk with your eyes just like your Daddy. There’s no reason to be afraid.” Granny put her hands on her hips again. “The bugs cannot put out that porch-light no matter how hard they try because the electricity keeps it going. That’s why you need God. God gives you faith. Faith is like electricity for the soul. Faith tells you to keep on shining, and what’s more, to keep shining even brighter when evil comes because it’s always the light that turns the evil away”, Granny gave me a firm squeeze. “Evil shrinks in the light. The Bible tells us this. So when you feel evil creeping up on you child,  then you just pray to God and shine your light that much brighter and evil will always flee.” Granny took her hand off my shoulder and threw it  toward the night just like an umpire calling someone ‘out’. Granny bent over and kissed me on the head, “You just wait and see.”

When I’m in trouble, discouraged, angry, or sad, I think back on those words and they never fail me. When I feel surrounded, discouraged and like I should just go back to bed, I think, “The brighter the light, the bigger the bugs!” That always makes smile. Then I think about a woman with only a third-grade education who taught me more about life than college ever did, and I feel like shining that much brighter.

What do you think a “shiny soul” is?  Who’s the shiniest soul you know?

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Hope: The Centerpiece of Life

Hope is one of the great “intangibles” like love, compassion, and understanding that we all need to thrive. The human race is poor indeed without hope. We need hope to get out of bed every morning, to turn a doorknob and trust that it will open the door, to put a key into lock and trust it will turn, to use our money and pay for our transactions, and to keep doing this day after day as we work toward a future for our families. But, what happens when you lose hope?

First, nothing. You go through the motions of the day mindlessly as an act of habit for a time. But after a while something else creeps in: Doubt. Then you ask yourself, “What’s the point?”. Logic cannot explain why we move forward in life. Logic would say that we do it to pay the bills. Why? Because we need a home for our families. But, if there’s no hope for a future – what is the point? Then the questions that lead to real self-destruction come: That drug might help me, why not take it? That sexual interlude might make me feel better, why not do it? That shiny new thing might make me feel better, why not buy it? In the case of Nadia Sulman, “More kids might make me feel better, why not have 8 more?”. But I digress… The problem is: The why-not-actions have to be performed over and over again to try to fill the hole in the spirit where hope used to be. Pretty soon you have a negative feedback loop with all the power of a black-hole that will suck the life from you and everyone around you. You see, when hope is lost by one, others suffer. ALWAYS. Why? Because you are someone’s brother/sister, father/mother, son/daughter, neighbor, friend, example, employee/employer, and a community member.  All  are affected by your actions. We become selfish when we lose hope and selfishness can be as destructive as an emotional-atom-bomb.

I refer to certain people as “Emotional Vampires or Emotional Terrorists”. You know the type – they always see the glass not just half-empty but “just about empty”. No matter your encouraging words, they have an overwhelmingly negative retort. Leaving you and those around them drained.

A pessimist is defined by John Maxwell this way: “A pessimist is a person who, regardless of the present is disappointed in the future.”

What makes an “emotional vampire/emotional terrorist” aka a pessimist? Bad circumstances? Bad upbringing? Just a bad break? A bad decision? I think it’s hope that comes from faith. Hopeful people recover from a bad decision. Those who don’t have hope – usually don’t. People around the world and here at home have serious problems and some live in dire circumstances and still they have hope. So it must be more than just external circumstances.

Consider Job the long-suffering servant of God. When he lost his possessions, his family, his health, his friends, his livelihood, and his home Job clung to one thing: Faith. Faith translates into  hope. So it’s not surprising that Hope is mentioned many times in the Book of Job.

Job 8:13 “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.”

Job 11:18 “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.”

That’s how I sleep at night. I rest in the word’s of God and my faith. I have hope that the Lord will see me safely through the night. This is not easy for me as the victim of TWO home invasions. But I realized, at an early age, that I had a choice: Be paralyzed by fear or Live in Hope.

For those of you who lament, ‘Yeah but that’s the Old Guy in the Old Testament’ then let me reference someone who is both hopeful and living in difficult circumstances today: The Dalai Lama. He was exiled from his own country. He is a man without a country and without a family and without a true home, yet he is hopeful and despite his circumstances happy.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
— Dalai Lama XIV

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways–either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.”
— Dalai Lama XIV

So to those of you who have hope I ask you this: What gives you hope? What’s your bedrock of faith that hope springs from?

Out of Focus

I may be alone in this, but as I get older the laser focus of my youth has been replaced with a sort of multi-taksing-attention-deficit-disorder. I find myself wondering why I went into the Kitchen for the fourth time and what was so important that I went after it four times. As I stand there in the kitchen, bewildered, I wonder if I’m slowly losing my mind or getting early onset Alzheimer’s.

Somewhere between raising children, climbing that corporate ladder, and trying to “work on myself” I left something behind – my mind!  I once could sit down and churn out 30 pages worth of writing without an iota of effort. Not now. My mind seems to wander and I lose my focus.

This condition complicates everything but makes sitting down to write really, really hard.  I think of a thousand things I need to do that have nothing to do with writing. I get up and do some of them and others I forget before I actually get there to do them – like whatever was in the kitchen. Yeah, I know this sounds like procrastination, and it is. But, it’s part of the same problem – being scatter-brained. How did this happen? When did this happen? I guess I’ll never know for sure, so I guess it’s just best to deal with the problem at hand.

I find that a routine helps. Praying helps. It helps to get some distance sometimes too. Oh, and lists – lots and lots of lists. My husband has already learned the chant “if it ain’t on the list – it don’t get done”. His question is usually, “Which list do I put this on? The to-do list, the to-get-list, or the to-want-list?” I usually respond, “The to-wish list?”

Am I alone in this? What do you do to find your focus? (I could use some help here).