Saturday, June 28, 2008

Today is Ashley's birthday...



And Cricket and Maggie wanted to celebrate as well.




Thursday, June 26, 2008

FOR 6-25: An Update on the Update

  • Okay - so I tried to be all culturally savvy and emotionally poignant and make a reference to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. That should've been STEEL MAGNOLIAS instead. Whatever. It was meant to be a reference to a movie showing strong Southern women. You GOT the reference, even if the movie used as a inspiration to illustrate the strong, Southern woman was initially wrong. Cut me a small amount of slack - I'd written that after watching an episode of the new DOCTOR WHO, so just be glad I didn't call my mom a Dalek.
  • For those of you who've asked, the names of my family are Henry (dad), Patsy (mom) and Lea Anne (sister). 
  • THE REAL UPDATE- WHAT THE MRI SHOWED: yesterday afternoon, my dad was wheeled out for an MRI, and the results showed that there has been NO spread of cells to an other areas, so for now, the cancer is "isolated" in his lung. This is REALLY good news. This afternoon, he's scheduled for a PET scan, and following that, the oncologist will be coming in to talk treatment with him.
  • FOR LAUGHS - so, my cousin, who is an allergist in Tupelo, gave my dad a call phone yesterday, so that he could have one in his hospital room and my mom could just keep the one that they currently share. So, my cousin gave my technophobe dad an iPhone (!?!) to use. Other than causing an insane surge of jealousy in me (not really, but my eyes did bulge when I heard what he got), it also made me laugh when hearing from my sister how she was going to have to train him to use it. THAT would be worth flying home TODAY just to watch. :)

Thanks for all the emails, comments, and beautiful, inspirational messages that I've gotten as of late. They have all helped more than you can possibly imagine. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

An update on my dad's health: two words

And they're the two words I never wanted to hear: it's cancer.

As many/most of you know, my dad was taken to the hospital last week because he wasn't feeling well in the least bit. Turns out that the old goat was diagnosed with pneumonia, and was immediately placed on a series of fluids to rehydrate and drop in a ton of antibiotics to knock the bug out of his system. After he was on the mend from this, the doctors decided to have him take a few x-rays to see if they'd cleared his lungs out of crud, and the x-rays revealed a...spot...on one of his lungs. So, as is the case, further testing was needed.

Both the x-rays and the pulmonary endoscopic thingamajig that was done today revealed a malignant growth on the on the upper quarter of his right lung. His entire left lung is clear, but the placement of the growth on the right lung is going to make surgery not an option. He will be meeting with the oncologist today and tomorrow to discuss radiation and chemotherapy treatment options.

On the plus side, the doctors he's seen have all remarked that it was a blessing in disguise that he came in when he did - otherwise this might have gone unnoticed and untreated for YEARS to come. Leave it to my dad to turn pneumonia into something good...and, they've all remarked that his somewhat speedy and strong recovery from the pneumonia could be a good sign that he'll be able to stomach (literally and figuratively) the treatments he'll receive. I spoke with him on the phone about fifteen minutes ago (9:40 pm EST) and he sounded good, and in good spirits, and he was able to tell me of the small feast he's had now that he's able to go back to eating. I think he managed to fit in seven meals into a five-hour timeframe.

On the downside, as many of you can well imagine, my mom is playing the dutiful role of a Southern woman shouldering all this with stereotypical strength and resolve (see FRIED GREEN TOMATOES for a reference point; and for those of you who will understand this other reference - it's evident she went to the W for a year of college). While she's in the process of staying and playing strong, it is wearing away at her. My sister is stepping into the role of trying to assist coordinating a plethora of visitors, translating what the doctors say into real English, and just being a rock for my mom while I'm here in Miami. Ashley and I have bought tickets to fly home after the 4th (because by that point - barring any unforeseen complications - my dad will be home, undergoing treatment, and might need some help around the place) - which means I have to be the supportive big brother/eldest son from a distance of a thousand-plus miles. This is, of course, working wonders for my mental and emotional state.

Right now, outside of just sending prayers/good thoughts (your preference) for my family, the doctors treating my dad, and really for my sister - there's not a heck of a lot anyone can do. And I say this upfront, because many of you will in the most sincere heart ask what it is that you CAN do. And I thank you for your love, your understanding, and your care and concern.

Me? I'm just going to try and stay focused on the positives so far, keep reminding myself that there's nothing I can do, that the situation is out of my hands (and in the hands of a God whom I have nothing but faith in), and not drink myself into a caffeinated frenzy - because those of you who know me know that I'm going to be throwing back a crapload of coffee over this.

As news breaks, I'll be sure to pass it along.


Peace,
-Sonny

Friday, June 13, 2008

MOSAIC MIAMI NOTES FOR 6-8-08: Deliverance

Two items of note before we begin: (1) this is somewhat long, so you might want to get a cup of coffee before you start reading, and (2) some of the notes/ideas/examples were borrowed from a sermon by Rob Bell...but with some interesting variations (I always like to cite my references; thanks, grad school, for drilling that deep into my mind).

Let's begin:

MOSAIC NOTES – 6-8-08: DELIVERANCE

Kevin is in Los Angeles today - apparently he needed a break from the weather in Miami - asked me speak this week

I know - Kind of like getting tickets to
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O’BRIEN and finding out Joan Rivers is guest-hosting

Last week Kevin started a series dealing with issues of maturity - going to keep that theme going this week

Asking me to speak on maturity alone elicits laughs from some people who know me - “Physician, heal thyself” - but at least I’m not talking about dogs or toys this time. That’s progress.

Today we’re going to look about those times where we find ourselves in situations that place us in something well over our heads - we’ll look at the maturity it takes in both ourselves and in our community to be able to look a little past the brokenness of it all and start to seek and understand the deliverance that awaits us.

Let’s dive right in to this and see where it leads us.

[PRAY]

Turn with me to the book of Philippians - chapter one - little bit of back-story - Paul, one of the main authors of the New Testament, was sitting in jail at the time he wrote this letter. Wrote this to the church at Philippi as a letter of encouragement and thanks (hinge on to that idea) for all their support - both physically and spiritually - over the years.

In this letter, he talks about the stuff you clearly expect someone in jail to be talking about: joy, grace, peace…then starting in verse 12, he leads into a brief explanation about his stay in jail, and how his “
circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel (NASB).” All he has written about his situation kind of culminates starting in verse 19:

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The word used in verse 19 for “
deliverance” translates in Greek to the word “soteria” - not synonymous with deliverance the way we normally think of it, but instead means preservation or salvation.

When I read this pass and saw word “
deliverance,” I thought of another passage that references deliverance - the “Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6. Verse 13 states: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

This usage of the word “
deliver” by Christ is totally different from the one Paul uses in Philippians - the Greek word (or Aramaic, if you’re a fan of a certain Passion film) Christ uses is rhuomai - means “to draw out of danger and to liberate - to drag, to pull.” Same word Paul mentions in Romans 7:24 when he says “What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue (deliver) me from this body of death?”

You can see there’s a difference between these two forms of deliverance (
soteria & rhoomai): in the deliverance that Christ prays for us and asks for us to pray for ourselves and in the verse in Romans that Paul speaks of, deliverance is a rescue mission, because we’re under something that we can’t handle - interesting to note that this deliverance from is the burden of our own sins and not a situation - because it’s something we can’t free ourselves from that will lead to death. It’s something imperative - a call to action - that has to be done.

The deliverance that Paul is praying for in Philippians 1 isn’t that immediate form of deliverance. It’s a more passive form of deliverance in some ways. Funny enough, because if it was me, I’d be praying to get out of jail. I’d be rhuomai-ing like mad. I’d want to be able to play a Monopoly card.

The deliverance Paul is talking about in Philippians - soteria - is also earlier referenced in the Bible by a guy named Job (job - absence of one in my life right now, which is why I’ve been able to research all this fun stuff) - for those of you unfamiliar with the story: Job was a man who lost everything (family, possessions, wealth, health - you name it) all because God allowed him to be put into the middle of a trial.

Unlike what I would have done - Job refused to blame God for all of the misfortune that he found himself in. Put yourself in his shoes - wouldn’t you immediately begin asking for deliverance out of it?

Kind of interesting to note that the Bible does not state outright how long Job was under each trial - the Bible says that he lost his family & possessions “one day” then he got hit with being covered by sores on his body “one day” after that, with no delineation of the time between problem A and problem B, nor of how long he had these sores on his body.

Eventually, four of his friends - Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu - came to try and comfort him, but instead started criticizing him because of their “understanding” of how God works.

In Hebrew culture of the day, it was “known” that if you were suffering, it was always the result of sin. Leprosy? Psoriasis? Ingrown toenail? Blight on your camels? You did something to cheese God off. Daniel Powter would not have gone over big in OT times. You never suffered simply because of circumstances - it was something YOU did against God and so God was gonna get’cha with His wrath.

Isn’t it comforting to know that today we’ve moved beyond that line of thought and that religious leaders don’t preach that idea any longer…

In chapter 10, Job questions God about why all this is happening to him.
Starting in verse 2:
I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?

Why is a bad thing happening to a good person? Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted to just shake your fist at the air and ask if God is love how can what you’re going through be fair?

After this, in chapter 13, Job makes this key statement starting in verse 15:

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this [this situation I am in] will turn out for my deliverance…

For my
soteria - my salvation.

Kind of like Paul, and totally unlike me, Job showed amazing resilience in the face of all this, not cursing God, not saying “Poor me” but instead just trying to understand why he was in the situation he was in. Looking for deliverance and not taking the attitude of “this is not what I deserve.”

Also of interest to note that the three major world religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - include Job in their texts and reference him as a example to look to in terms of perseverance in trials. That’s how powerful this story is - cuts across boundaries and illustrates patience.

Turn just a few pages to the right to Psalm 40 - you will see again another example of deliverance - this time from David. If you’re at all familiar with the story of David - this is a guy who needed deliverance several times: first from a crazy king who wanted him killed, and eventually from his own sin and destruction. In Psalm 40, David says:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

Had to sneak my U2 reference in here somehow.
40. Go download it. Legally.

Whether you’re looking at David or Paul or Job or yourself as an example - more often than not, we find ourselves looking for deliverance out of something. It might be a situation at work, it might be some kind of struggle you’re going through at home or with a friend…the locations of the slimy pits might change, but if you have EVER been in a bad situation before, you know what that cry, that need for deliverance feels like.

The question is: what form do we want the deliverance to take? Do we want the deliverance of rhuomai or soteria - we want the liberation but not necessarily the salvation - sometimes, we want the moral of the story without the lesson - kind of like the person who’d skip to the end of the last Harry Potter book to see how it ends.

It takes a certain level of maturity to be able to accept that sometimes we’re given to a deliverance we might not want.

This is an example that many of us might be more than a little bit familiar with: when was the last time someone asked you “Excuse me, sir/madam - do you know how fast you were going?” And that someone has a nice uniform on with a sidearm. The joys of getting a speeding ticket.

Now - how many people think that they know the keys to getting out of a ticket (dad’s example of new tires - crying - just confessing the truth). We think if we can either make an excuse for what we’ve done to break the law or if we even confess it outright, we can get out from under the condemnation of the law - but in reality, while yes, that might be easier on our wallets, our driving records, our insurance and our attitude - what (at the risk of sounding like Mr. Rogers) do we really get out of that?

Still grumble when drive past area where you go the ticket, but you THINK about your driving - even if it’s just for a little while, don’t you?

Can I make a confession? There are times that I find one particular passage in the Bible to be completely annoying. It’s one of those passages that’s like the Christian equivalent of a Hallmark card. It can be found in the book of James, chapter 1:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3 (NIV)

One of those verses that’s great to quote to other people, but it sucks when you’re on the receiving end of it. “Really? My trial is a great joy? Why don’t we explore the verse about how if one member of the body suffers all suffer with it?”

I think that for me, one of the reasons I like the passage in Philippians is that it’s written from a “me” standpoint instead of a “you” standpoint - look at Paul’s writing in verse 19: “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.” It’s personal. It’s an idea - a phrase - that I can own and relate to.

I also think it’s key to look at what Paul said in this letter - when he said that this situation would turn out for his
soteria, he didn’t say that he would get out of his current predicament, nor did he say that his suffering would end.

This in some ways parallels Christ in Gethsemane when He prayed that IF the suffering could end for it to end, but if not, He would accept it.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Matthew 26:36-44 (NIV)

One question we need to ask is: has God ever made a promise that things would not be difficult? Or did the opposite occur - did he tell us that the world would hate us, that life would indeed be a struggle?

It’s great to know both internally and through God’s word that there is no condemnation for those who are redeemed in Christ (Romans 8:1-2) and that eternally our slate has been wiped clean and God’s not going to force us to go through life with this scale, balancing out the good VS evil in actions (“you did this, so now you have to do this”). It just hurts that the here and now isn’t like it’s going to be.

Unfortunately, you only need to go and look at the bookshelves at any given bookstore and see that some of the most popular, most well-selling authors and books in the faith section are about prosperity - and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with prosperity, hinging everything on the idea that salvation equals puppies and cupcakes for everyone here on earth or that we’ll ALWAYS have puppies and cupcakes is little more than a lie.

Jesus gave this in parable that explains it better than I ever could:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

Heard a guy say once that “The times we’re called to press through something are the times when something is pressed upon us.” Paul illustrates this perfectly in Philippians 1:19 and in the maturity of the attitude he carries in his situation.

FROM
THE HOBBIT, CHAPTER 7:"Do we really have to go through [Mirkwood]?" groaned the hobbit. "Yes, you do!" said the wizard, "if you want to get to the other side. You must either go through or give up your quest. There are no safe paths in this part of the world."

I made the interesting and almost intelligent comparison last week when speaking with someone that when I look at the scars in my life - be they real or emotional - that I choose to not see them as areas I’ve been hurt in, but instead to see how I have healed and what I’ve been delivered out of.

It would be easier to look at these scars and remember the pain - the pain of the wound might have taken a moment, months or years to develop. The healing took MUCH longer, and continues to take much longer. It took a while before I could look at my scars and not wince.

Again - think about the speeding tickets…you slow down, you check yourself because you remember…

There’s a passage in Deuteronomy that parallels this idea. The Israelites had been delivered (…there’s that word again…) out of Egypt and were in their 40 years of wandering, awaiting their promised land.

Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. Deuteronomy 7:21-22 (NIV)

Moses told the Israelites that God would destroy Israel’s enemies, but not all at once. God had the power to destroy those nations instantly, but He chose to do it in stages. In the same way and with the same power, God could miraculously and instantaneously change your life or circumstances. Usually, though, he chooses to help you gradually, teaching you one lesson at a time. Rather than expecting instant spiritual maturity and solutions to all your problems, slow down and work one step at a time, trusting God to make up the difference between where you should be and where you are now. You’ll soon look back and see that a miraculous transformation has occurred.

We might find ourselves in a situation we want deliverance out of - and we want the instantaneous, microwave salvation but God has decided that - for whatever reason - we need to be in the moment, to be IN the healing and not just go “oh, wow, I’m delivered.” I find it humbling that Paul - who in my opinion had the RIGHT to complain (being in jail and all) - never did, and did not question the fairness of his situation. Instead, he looked for support in the prayers of others and the help given by the Spirit (v. 19).

It would be incredibly easy to look at any and every situation - from the most life- and heart-shattering circumstances to the day-to-day battles we find ourselves in - and pray - PLEAD - with God for us to be delivered. To be granted rhuomai from the situation. And there’s nothing that says we shouldn’t ask for it (again - see ref. of Jesus in Gethsemane).

Maturity comes in the (albeit considered by some cheesy) lines found in the Serenity Prayer: God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

In what should be the favorite book of the Bible for coffee drinkers, look at Hebrews chapter 12, starting with verse 2:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

If ever there was someone who had the right and the just cause to cry out for ruhomai - it was Christ. But He knew that the suffering He endured would turn out for OUR soteria. Would be easy to simply say, “Yeah - well - He was (is) the Son of God, and knew what was going to endure and what the outcome would be.” True, but he was also one of US - The God we serve breathed this air we breathe - and his temptations were always against Him in His human form (bread - safety - ego). I will argue that it did take some maturity to be willing to be in the midst of the trials He suffered and not look for the easy out (“Dad?”). And He is who we’re supposed to look to as our example.

Yes - there will be times when God can and will (and does) deliver us outright of the situations we’re in. And I’m not going to lie - it’s easy for me to pull a James 1 and say something to the equivalent of “everything will be alright.” But you’re living in the situation. You’re dealing with it right now.

And please understand that I’m not advocating that what you’re in is easy - that I’m not saying “suck it up, deal with it, move on.”

It’s easy to give advice. It’s harder to live it. There have been plenty of times I’ve found myself in situations where I either wanted the world to end or I thought that it was about to, that there was no way that things could get better from the here and now.

Maturity - both spiritual and emotional maturity - is found when we can take that first step of knowing that we don’t have to suffer alone (v. 19 in Phil. 1) - that we can take the first step of seeing a scar not as an anchor to a past hurt, but as a sign that healing is coming (in fact, it may already be here, and we just need to be aware enough to admit that there’s a promise that’s better than the pain we have) - that being able to confess that although we might not understand it all, God does, and that our soteria - salvation - is there, waiting on us - that we don’t lose heart in that God can and will give us that out - and that His hand is not hidden (“
God…is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hey, June...

You know what I love? How when there’s a sizeable gap in the times when I post something on here, someone (or some ones) from my past find this insane little blog and email me. That’s one of the reasons why I keep this thing going.

That, and I’d probably freaking just explode if I didn’t have a creative outlet.

So let’s begin where we left off, shall we?

OFFSPRING SAID IT BEST: WHY DON’T YOU GET A JOB? Yeah, so, anyway, about my employment…as of right now, I am gainfully unemployed, a drain on society, a leech upon Ashley…however you want to turn the phrase. Of the multiple options often referenced in this blog, one I turned down, one never materialized (lack of funds), and one is in a holding pattern until – at the earliest – July 1. Now, for most human beings, this time off would be seen as a blessing and a welcome change of pace. I mean, I’ve been employed in at least a part-time capacity since I was in middle school, for crying out loud. To be sure, I’ve been moderately busy for the last ten days or so (the apartment has never been cleaner, for one thing). And…I’ve been reading. And writing. Quite a bit. And I’ve limited my time on-line (which in some ways explains the lack of postage on the blog, since the Internet sucks your soul in). So, I’ve been productive, but not in a way that one might measure by society’s standards.

So, screw society. I’m on a Sabbatical.

The most amazing part to me was that on my last day of employment, my boss and some of my students wanted to take me out to lunch. That was cool. It was also the last day of my employment in the field of Student Affairs, a career I began almost 14 years to the day. And I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate sendoff: my career began at Miami with absolutely no fanfare, and it ended exactly the same way. We went to eat at the same restaurant I ate at my first day on the job, and the two people I ate with that day (Eli & Valerie) were there as well.

Yes, I am that big of a dork that this symbolism meant something. Also, I had to smile a little bit at the fact that my career began under a magnolia tree (the W) and ended under a palm tree (the U) – that it started when I took a full-time job that I thought I’d only be working temporarily at and ended with a temporary job that I thought I’d be working full-time at. God enjoys book ending my life, apparently.

LOOKING FORWARD TO LOOKING BACK In part of my off time, I’ve been rediscovering quite a few things from my past that either meant a lot to me: I read the first Omnibus edition of James Robinson’s Starman (recently released, which you NEED to read, if you’ve never read it before), and found and purchased some music at iTunes that makes me proud of (Altar Boys) and moderately embarrassed at (One Bad Pig) my misbegotten youth [SIDE NOTE – if anyone has a copy of The Awakening’s Into Thy Hands, I would love, love, love a copy of it]. Also, I’ve begun to fall in love with Netflix (between the classic DOCTOR WHO series available and that I have just now – yes, just now – seen the pilot episode of the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, I think this could be the greatest time-waster ever created).

AND HE KEEPS TALKING This past Sunday (6-8-08), Kevin was out of town (visiting the Mosaic LA community) and he asked me to speak. Notes will go up sometime in the next day or so – I don’t want to over saturate the market for fresh Sonny writings, you know.

REACH OUT AND… I will begin soon rectifying the fact I haven’t emailed a lot of my friends in some time. Expect strange and beautiful messages to show up in your Inboxes soon, but until then, feel free to email me at
sonnylemmons@yahoo.com - my currently functioning email addy.

SPEND YOUR MONEY OR SAVE YOUR MONEY Go see Don’t Mess with the Zohan for great mindless humor (with a surprisingly serious message). Go see Iron Man for the best **** superhero movie in the last few years (until The Dark Knight opens). DON’T go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull unless you want to feel the happiness of your childhood draining away. Read Final Crisis #1 by Grant Morrison to see what DC Comics should be doing. Read any random issues of Justice League of America to see what they should not be doing.

That’s all for now. See you in two and two.