Moody Thinking

“Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” — Inigo Montoya

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

UTLSI

leave a comment »

Written by Jeff Moody

September 12, 2014 at 7:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

last trip to St. Jude

leave a comment »

Written by Jeff Moody

June 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Grieving and Cancer’s Return

with one comment

We found out this week that after 17 months Lela’s cancer has developed in her right eye. They caught the tumor very early and the doctor thinks that the one laser treatment will be enough to kill it. We will return for a follow up visit in 2 weeks to check on that tumor and to make sure there are not any more.

Although we knew this news might come at any of Lela’s scans, Mandy and I began to be optimistic that we might not have any future developments. This was the most comfortable I have ever felt going into a scan, but that optimism will be gone for future scans. Retinoblastoma often develops multiple tumors, so the death of this one tumor does not mean that we will be clear.

This week has brought considerations of expectations, grief, and how we handle this news. I confess that I often struggle with frustration, sadness, and anger over the fact that my 17 month old who has already lost an eye has cancer again. However, this is not new grief; we experienced these same feelings in April of last year. This year, they are not as shocking but carry the added weight of expectation, of the thing you feared actually happening.

There are two pitfalls that we can fall into and one middle road that I think is the best for us. I do not presume to make any definitive statements on how to handle grief, but I do want to share what we have learned in the hopes that other people may benefit. I confess that I often fall into these pitfalls and that this journey is one of continuing to grow in faith.

I recognize that people reading these comments come from all sorts of faith and non-faith backgrounds. Mandy and I are Christians and trust God as the foundation of everything we believe. While I do not apologize for discussing God’s presence, I am aware of the possibly controversial nature of this subject and understand that others’ perspectives will not match my own. I hope that this recognition will allow people to continue reading, even if we disagree on this important point.

The first pitfall is to ignore the pain of suffering in the pursuit of some unrealistic optimism. This optimism stems from overly trusting what appears to be good news from doctors or a view of God that does not include suffering as a part of his will. I do not doubt that things like prognostics and statistics are helpful guides for what we can expect, but they are not an end in themselves. Our doctors have been very honest with us in letting us know that much of what we know about childhood cancer changes frequently based on new research. In addition, cancer, in its most reduced form, is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. It makes sense that the data about the human body’s abnormal behavior would be constantly shifting. Statistics, while helpful, lack the ability to predict the future. Statistics tell us what has happened, not necessarily what will.

So, we do not put a lot of stock in what we hear. This does not mean that we ignore our doctors or attempt to circumvent their advice. Rather, we try to put the right amount of mental energy into what happens in the now and what will happen in the future. We trust that God has put us under the care of the doctors at St. Jude and we trust them completely when it comes to Lela’s care. We do not expect them to predict more than they can.

Other iterations of this optimism occur through a misshapen view of God and his will. Many of our Christian ideas center on a God who exists to make me happy, reward my good behavior, forgive my bad behavior, and prevent bad things from happening to me (Sociologist Christian Smith terms this “moralistic therapeutic deism”). I find this notion of God that is so prevalent in our society to be weak and disingenuous.

People like to toss around the term “It is God’s will” in Christian conversations, but I often wonder if we really understand what this idea means. True, in some mysterious way, Lela’s cancer happens under the umbrella of God’s sovereign control of the world, but I will also say that I have no reason, scriptural or otherwise, to say that God caused Lela’s cancer. Adam and Eve’s fall caused all creation to fracture, and I believe this cancer comes as a part of a world broken all the way down to a brand new human body. True, God could have intervened and stopped these cells from their abnormal growth, but he did not, and we have to trust him even in the midst of this process. I have shared evidence of God’s faithfulness throughout this process, and it seems like a weak faith that would question his presence when the news is bad again.

If I truly believe in the God of the Bible, then I know that suffering of all forms is part of daily life. The crux of our faith is God coming down from heaven and taking suffering he did not deserve in order to reconcile God to man. The Bible is filled with the suffering of God’s people, so a true faith in this God shows that suffering itself is a necessary part of life and constantly used by God for his greater will.

In the end, faith in God is not faith that he will take Lela’s cancer away and that everything will be okay in our earthly lives. We could get incredibly bad news today, about any member of our family, so our trust has to rest on something greater than a hope that God will keep us from suffering. God promised his presence through the Holy Spirit. He has revealed his presence to us over and over again. We trust that we are in his control no matter what may happen in the future.

We also struggle with the potential of grieving so much that it paralyzes us. I believe this feeling extends from a shattering of expectations of God, the world, and self all wrapped in some small feelings of selfishness: “How could this happen to me?” If I truly trust in God’s sovereign control and gracious presence, then I cannot fall into this grief that interprets my suffering as something greater than what is really is.

Somewhere between these two pitfalls, Mandy and I are learning to grieve well. We have learned to cry when we need to cry and to be optimistic when we need to be optimistic. We do not avoid feelings of grief in the name of some misguided notion of Lela’s doctors being greater than what they are or by a faith that does not grapple with the reality of suffering. At the same time, we cannot allow the grief that we feel to paralyze us. We have to keep moving in faith, through the tears of grief and the moments of good news, toward whatever God has in store for us next. I think this is the nature of true faith presented in the Bible, especially in Jesus, who experienced the greatest amount of suffering of all.

The pitfalls of over-optimism and over-grieving are always present here, and both lead to a rejection of God in the name of self. We must simply trust that what God has for us today is indeed enough for us today, and trust him. We long for the day of Christ making all things new, when things like childhood cancer are no more. Until then, we must keep walking.

Written by Jeff Moody

September 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Shifting

leave a comment »

As you might have noticed, my blogging has become all but extinct since I started the Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee.

Reading and writing blogs was at one time a therapeutic practice, but I now spend most of my time reading and writing. By the time I get around to a blog idea, it usually has enough energy to feebly rise to the surface before being crushed by my need to read John Milton or John Dos Passos or John Steinbeck or John. Please do not read this comment as a complaint. I love what I get to do on a daily basis, but it means that my writing energy usually has to be directed elsewhere. So I am shifting a little.

I am letting the domain “moodythinking.com” expire because it is not worth spending the $15.00 to keep it going if I blog so little. You can still reach the blog at moodythinking.wordpress.com, you know, in case you want to read my thoughts on whether or not Zack Morris is a government created superhero.

I plan to post occasionally, and the link will be posted through twitter (@moodythinking) or facebook.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff

Written by Jeff Moody

February 11, 2012 at 5:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Parallels

leave a comment »

I mentioned in the last post that I would use the blog to let you know about  projects. So… here goes:

I am currently starting a project about John Milton and C.S. Lewis. Perelandra the second book of Lewis’s Space Trilogy sends the protagonist from Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom, to Venus to perform some mysterious task that will have lasting impact. The task turns out to be preventing the fall of Venus (Perelandra) by working to keep the Perelandran Eve, known as the Green Lady) from succumbing to the temptation of a supernatural, though limited, human/demon.

Lewis published this work shorty after his seminal Preface to Paradise Lost, and the parallels between Milton and Lewis abound. I am focusing specifically of the form of temptation as it is presented by Milton, interpreted by Lewis, and modified in Perelandra. I want to present a conversation between Paradise Lost  and Perelandra with Lewis’s Preface as the bridge between the two.

I am also working through creating a critical edition of part of Ælfric’s De Temporibus Anni. The project involves transcribing from 3 manuscripts, collating, translating, annotating, and providing critical commentary as well as a glossary. There is something remarkably pure about dealing with manuscripts. Every letter change or stray mark begs for an explanation. Though I cannot answer all or even some of them, the questions make the project more enjoyable.

Finally, I am writing a critical study of the lack of civil discourse surrounding the publication of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. This book created a firestorm amongst Evangelicals and I am exploring how both sides set up straw men to attack and thus could not establish grounds for civil discourse. This portion plays small in the entire controversy, but it does show a problem within Evangelicalism in the willingness to attack quickly without full analysis.

This experience has been both difficult and rewarding for my family. Mandy and I feel we are growing in our faith, but these moments have come through a difficult process. God worked in so many miraculous ways to bring us here, yet I find myself leaning back on my own ability in my mind. This leaning normally results in anxiety because I trend toward self-doubt. God has been reminding me of his sovereign control over all aspects of my life (including my work at school) and his promise to never leave or forsake me. Academic life naturally has a tendency to turn one in on himself with its constant self-promotion and marks of achievement. I have to be aware of the fact that this inward focus can quickly become an idolatry of self if it is not balanced with a heavenly perspective that is God-centered.

I have a strange memory that recalls random and mostly insignificant details from my childhood (read: most of the entire Saved by the Bell show). I had a Sunday School teacher named Billy McGehee that always had some news of the world to share with us.

So, in the words of the great Billy McGehee, “Those are the facts.” This is also the guy who said, “Everybody knows that a bow-legged woman can’t hem a hog in a ditch.” Do with it what you will.

Peace.

Written by Jeff Moody

November 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Other Shape

leave a comment »

I am about halfway through the first year of my Ph.D. program, and I finally feel like my family and I are settling in to a rhythm. I knew that this experience was going to be challenging for all of us, but there was really no way to prepare for the multitude of changes. We have been pressed and squeezed and the result has been that we are ultimately growing closer to each other and to Christ. We are different, better people because of this process.

To this point, the blog has served for me to give you my grand eloquent thoughts (sarcasm, he seemed to say) about the goings on of my life and in the world. So much of my time is now spent neck-deep in whatever I am studying, so I will now utilize the blog to relay the things that I am learning as a student and as a teacher/tutor. At times, I will focus on one specific text or category. Often, my thoughts will be limited to random musings, as they have been since this blog’s inception.

Either way, feel free to comment below or on facebook or whatever new technology presents itself between now and 5 seconds from now.

We are studying John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost in my 16th and 17th century poetry class. The poem is masterfully, albeit mysteriously at times, developed. I am often left in awe of Milton’s imagination and also wondering what he might be “saying” in the text about God, man, Satan, the political climate of Britain at the time, etc. Critics have debated the many of facets of this work for quite some time, and I hope to add something to the debate at some point in my career. I am tentatively writing about John Donne’s use of graphically violent imagery in the Holy Sonnets for this class as well, so you can expect posts on that subject soon.

Rather than continuing to ramble on about Milton, I will leave you with his masterful description of Death as approached by Satan:

The other shape, 
If shape it might be called that shape had none 
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb, 
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed, 
For each seemed either; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell, 
And shook a dreadful dart; what seemed on his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on. 

--Book II, Lines 666-673.

 

Written by Jeff Moody

October 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Apologies

leave a comment »

Busy schedule of school and teaching = lack of blogging time and lack of the ability to organize my thoughts quickly and concisely. I hope to have some time to blog in the next couple of weeks. But here’s a quick list of what’s on my mind:

Love my family. Miss my family at times. Mandy handling a lot. Very thankful for her. Visiting churches. Getting involved with small groups. Old English. 17th Century Poetry. Rhetoric and Composition. Tutoring. Teaching. Tutoring. Teaching. Continental Philosophy and the current strand of post-postmodernism.

Savell turned 1 and has a very funny personality. Ollie really loves his little sister and playing chase all over the back yard.

The Braves will win the wild card. The Braves will not win the wild card. Auburn has a decent office and a terrible defense. They have a young team, so losing a few games is to be expected. The Colts will continue to be terrible without Peyton Manning.

Learning to manage my time and redeem every moment. Living on less… a lot less. Mowing the grass. Allergies. Trying to stay in some sort of shape. Knoxville has a lot of hills. Allergies.

The “abortion is genocide” people were on campus last week with their graphic signs. I have more to say about this approach, but I cannot for the life of me string together a coherent response.

This post serves as a quick glance into my head and as an opportunity to organize my thoughts. Thanks for reading. I hope to have a more cohesive thought to blog sometime soon.

Written by Jeff Moody

September 19, 2011 at 8:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized