My family has been a huge blessing and encouragement to me and even more so since my Heart Attack this past December. They have willingly accepted without complaint the various changes that we have made in our home and have repeatedly helped to keep me accountable to the things God has been showing me. I am grateful for each member of my family, for their love and compassion towards me and their willingness to help pick me up when I stumble and encourage me as I continue to grow in His grace.
Although from my view, I have felt I was the direct target of God’s love through my heart attack and it was for my sanctification I am blessed that my family has allowed God to show them lessons to apply to their lives. As I said in “Lesson #3 From a Heart Attack: We influence others more than we think! we can influence those around us positively or negatively by how we respond to the events that affect us. I have asked the ladies in my home if they would be willing to write a short post about how God has used this heart attack in their life and they have so willingly agreed.
This first post was written by my beautiful and loving wife Sherry. She is my best friend, a wonderful encourager and the joy of my heart.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the importance of gratitude. It can be so easy to take things for granted; whether that is material things, opportunities, or people. God has blessed Donn and me with a strong relationship where we daily express our love to each other and regularly express gratitude, yet this experience has made me even more conscious of noticing the little things, the daily things, and not just noticing them but expressing them to my loved ones. On December 11, 2011 I could have lost the opportunity to ever again tell Donn what he means to me. I could have lost the opportunity to ever tell him again that I love him, or that I appreciate the way he makes me feel safe and secure. I could have lost the opportunity to ever tell him how handsome I think he is, how much I love to hear him laugh or how much I love spending time with him. Forever gone to me could have been the opportunity to say thank you for the little things like taking my dish to the counter, bringing home a candy bar to me or filling the gas tank up for me. I could have lost the opportunity to thank him for working so hard to provide not only for our needs but most of our wants too. I could have never had the chance to express to him again how much his spiritual leadership means to me and how proud I am of him. It is easy in the daily grind to overlook these things or come to expect them therefore letting them loose their meaning. Along the way it’s easy to become “thin skinned” allowing ourselves to get hurt over insignificant things, those things that didn’t bother us when we were just beginning our relationship together. This experience has opened my eyes to how precious TODAY is, for it may be all we have. The Bible reminds us in James 4:14 “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Tomorrow is not promised to us or to our loved ones so I need to make today count because tomorrow may be too late.
Another thing that really hit me is that today’s actions, whether good or bad, have consequences. I may not see the consequences right away, but they are there and will eventually make themselves known. The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will reap also.” Eating that second helping on a regular basis, or often in our case, that bowl of ice cream each night before bed, adds up. I may not see it on the scales today, or even this month but if I keep it up I will eventually see those results. If I lie, I very well may get away with it, but if I lie on a regular basis I will eventually get caught. If I’m too busy to weed my garden it may not make a difference this week or even next but eventually the weeds will overtake the garden and ruin the hope I had for home grown veggies. Neglecting one’s health may not seem to make a difference now, but a life style of neglecting it will eventually reap unwanted results. Donn’s heart attack reminded me that choosing to indulge in the wrong food, or refusing to get the exercise we all know we need is not something that only affects me. If Donn had died from his heart attack it would have affected many more people than just him. I am not an island unto myself. What I do matters not only to God, but I need to also stop being self focused and realize that the things I do affect many more people than just me and I need to act accordingly. The other week Donn and I were up very early and were headed to the gym and Donn said to me, “Remind me again why we are doing this.” He was just being funny, but it made me seriously think about an answer and later I told him, “We are doing this so one day we can be a part of our grandchildren’s lives.” Too often I am guilty of not thinking through the long term consequences of my actions and I am seeing how this experience has reminded me of that importance.
I would like to end with this last lesson I learned and that is, God needs to be my all in all. Though I love Donn beyond words my identity needs to be in Christ Alone. My ultimate security, fulfillment, peace, joy, love, satisfaction needs to be found in my relationship with Christ. Yes, God has placed people in my life who help to enhance these qualities, but I need to look to God as the one who truly meets these needs in my life. This means I need to have a thriving relationship with Him. Just as it is important to not overlook what Donn means to me or has done for me, I need to not overlook all that God has done for me. He loved me enough to sacrifice His son on my behalf so I wouldn’t have to pay the penalty for my sin. People fail us, people leave us, yet God is always faithful. In the fear I experienced as I was all alone at the hospital and Donn was having his heart attack, I can say “the peace of God which passes all understanding kept my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7) Had God chosen to take Donn that day I would have experienced the greatest loss of my life, yet I knew no matter the outcome God would sustain me. Yes, I would grieve, I would hurt, I would be tempted to not want to carry on, yet I know without a doubt that God would carry me through anything He allowed in my life. There is no greater comfort and no greater lesson I could have learned than that. —Sherry
Thanks Sherry for caring for me, showing me that you love me and most importantly, loving God, for without a deep and abiding relationship with God all other relationships will ultimately fail. Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Lesson #5, Part 3
Recently for a 4 week period, I had the opportunity to share these lessons with the family Sunday School class that we attend. Because I am not a regular teacher, preparing for these weeks has distracted me from completing part 3 of the fifth lesson.
It is neat to see how God directs others in their message preparations to match up perfectly with an ongoing theme that God is showing and using in our lives. Since my last posting, during an outreach ministry in our local city park, our pastor preached a message to our church and park goers on the Brevity of Life. Then again on the eighth of August, he preached on Applying Wisdom. It never gets old to see God working to overlay teaching from different sources to drive home a point we need.
In my last post I said that I wanted to discuss how wisdom is applied in two general ways and while I didn’t say what these two ways were it in the blog, I did in our Sunday School class and these were: to our physical life and to our spiritual life. But the more I began to mediate on it I was reminded that this was the wrong approach. To apply God’s wisdom to the root of our being is to apply wisdom to our spiritual life because our physical life is only an outworking of our spiritual life.
In the last post we ended discussing Psalm 90:12 which says:
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
And we talked about the purpose of numbering our days which is to apply our hearts unto wisdom. We briefly went through the topic of what is wisdom and how to obtain it. Because my pastor did a great job in his message several Sunday nights ago, instead of me spending many words expounding on a topic that he has done a masterful job in doing I want to refer you to his message on the topic of Applying Wisdom. You can listen to his full message here. So get you Bible out or go to your favorite Bible website, turn to James chapter 3 and listen to Pastor Bryan Ferrell as he does some expository teaching on Applying Wisdom.
So what did you think? I trust you took the time to listen to Pastor Ferrell message and found it useful. As you can see from the link, there are many other sermons available from Pastor Ferrell available at your fingertips. Why not add this link to your favorites!
On my next blog post (which I hope to have posted a lot sooner) I will wrap this topic up and plan to have a few posts from my family on how God has used this experience in their life.
There are several reasons that I am writing these blog posts called Lessons from a Heart Attack. First, for some personal accountability. It has been six months since my attack and I need to continuously be reminded to stay on track, both physically and spiritually. We have seen how easy it is to slip with good intentions. By posting these lessons online, I am in a small way allowing myself to be seen by all and become accountable in a more public way. The second reason I am posting is a hope that you, the reader might glean something from my ramblings. I hope that these posts might be a catalyst for you to do more of an in-depth study in areas that are of interest or that may be convicting.
So let continue on…
Several hours after my heart attack and having settled into my hospital room, I still didn’t grasp the severity of what happened. For some reason I wasn’t overly concerned and I began telling people I was ready to return to work the next day. Of course that didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or denial or both but in my mind I truly felt as if nothing serious had really happened to me. Of course while I didn’t think it was much to get overly concerned about apparently someone wasn’t as nonchalant about the whole situation and being a typical guy, I didn’t pick up on the “hints” from that somebody. My better, smarter and much wiser half was getting a “little” annoyed to say the least about my “no big deal” attitude. She recognized the seriousness of what had and could have happened and I didn’t. (Note to self: Check to see if there is an online course on how to recognize hints from your wife.)
To be honest I don’t remember exactly when but at some point during those first few days following my attack our doctor told us that 50% of the people who have my kind of heart attack don’t make it to the hospital. This comment actually took several weeks to sink in before I realized that every second person who had the kind of heart attack that I had… DIED.
Here are some stats according to buzzle.com :
Approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack in the United States every year, from which as many as 500,000 die.
Out of these 500,000 deaths recorded in the United States every year, 250,000 deaths occur on the way to the hospital.
In case of heart attack, 50 percent of deaths occur within an hour of the attack before they could get proper medical help.
According to a World Health Organization study, almost half the cases of heart attacks in the world are attributed to high blood pressure.
Heart attack is one of the most common health issue(sic) in the United States, with at least one case of the same for every 20 seconds and one fatality every minute.
Sudden death from a heart attack is more common in women than it is in men. According to the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction, women under the age of 50 are twice as likely to succumb to a heart attack as opposed to their male counterparts.
In 2010, heart attacks are estimated to cost the United States a whopping $316.4 billion in order to provide health care services, medications and, not to forget, lost productivity. (In the first month from my heart attack, mine cost $77,000) With so many complications to its credit, heart attack is undoubtedly one of the most serious ailment in the world. And hence, it is better off to resort to the practice of healthy living and keep such health issues at bay.
Lesson #5 from a Heart Attack: Don’t forget the brevity of this life.
My life could have easily been over at the age of 46 leaving a beautiful and loving wife and 5 wonderful kids alone without a Husband or Dad. The reality of this thought brings serenity to the moment.
We are reminded by the Psalmist that this life is short. In Psalm 90:10 we read, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
And yet 70 years is not promised to us. Recently, on two occasions I was once again reminded of the brevity of this life. One day while at lunch, during the course of my developing this post I received notice that the son of a co-worker was severely injured in a vehicle accident. He was 20 years old and fighting for his life. A week past and this young man’s earthly struggle ended. One moment he was carefree and living his life to the fullest, now he is gone. Then again almost two weeks ago, I received an email telling me that a 21 year old young man who our family has known for 15 years died after a short battle with cancer. We all no doubt have similar examples of the brevity of this life. A young mother dies of cancer with a loving husband and 3 or 4 children grieving their loss. A soldier, mortally wounded in Afghanistan, or maybe a father in the “prime if his life” dies of a heart attack. We all have sobering examples. Death comes so often when we least expect it.
As we continue to look to the Scriptures we read more about the brevity of our lives.
Job 7:1 Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
Psalm 39:4 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Psalm 78:39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
Proverbs 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
Luke 12:13-21 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
James 4:14-15 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.
I Peter 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
At a Liberty University graduation event in 1997, Billy Graham told the students, “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.” Here is a man who lived a full and biblically successful life for God, at this writing he is 93 years old. He is someone we would say has lived a long and full life, yet he acknowledges life’s brevity compared to eternity.
Many years ago I had the occasional pleasure of ministering with an old time evangelist by the name of B.M. Page. He had printed up and handed out bumper stickers that said, “Cheer up, you’ll soon be dead.” While an odd phrase, this saying brought many to contemplate their future and the brevity of this life. He too lived to be in his 90’s I believe, and he would admit as well that the brevity of life was real. Most of us will not live as long as these two godly men yet their lives were considered brief compared to eternity. How much shorter will most of ours be?
Come back soon, to continue on with the second part of a three part post discussing Lesson #5.