First of all, my deepest thank you to the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire for your prayers, notes, cards, flowers, and gifts as I have been recovering from my March 5th heart attack. Laurie and I are touched beyond words, overwhelmed by your concern and prayers for us. Thank you for your care. I knew I was being carried well to the throne of the Great Physician.
After three weeks of being at home, I began working twenty hours a week and am now approaching thirty and thirty five hours per week. It has been a challenge to work around three mornings of cardiac rehab and a flurry of initial medical appointments. Within the next two weeks with rehab completed I hope to be traveling again. Yet I am aware that seventy hour work weeks are no longer feasible. My diagnosis is very good. I sustained such minimal damage to my heart, the cardiologist believes over the next year the muscle will regenerate itself. He also believes I will need about six months to adjust to the prescribed beta blocker, so please forgive me if I fall asleep during a Zoom meeting!
The cardiac episode and the recovery have been a rich time with Christ. Because of COVID, once Laurie left me at the emergency room, she was no longer able to be with me. I was feeling a bit lonely as I was being made comfortable in the cardiac care unit, when I met my first cardiac care nurse. He was a young man from Uganda, who apparently having read that I was a Baptist pastor, struck up a conversation about Jesus. I am laying in a hospital bed in Lebanon NH, my chest and arms still hurting, and I am met by a Ugandan Christian who unabashedly talks with me about God’s healing! He became my spiritual companion for his two twelve hour shifts that weekend.
At about 11:00 p.m. on March 5th, having been formally admitted at about 6:00 p.m., I became unstable again. As the cardiac team gathered around me, they communicated that I could be entering a second heart attack. It has not been uncommon in my life to know Christ’s closeness, but these times are seldom of my own choosing. But underneath and beyond this new round of pain, Christ drew close, and I experienced a total absence of anxiety, worry, and fear. If I was to enter a second attack, Christ was close as the molecules of oxygen in my lungs, and all would be okay. It was as though all emotion was absent, save the presence of Jesus Christ. It was like entering a cloud of holiness and safety, peace and wholeness, and an absolute knowledge that all would be well. At midnight the pain dissipated and left me, and the cardiac team abruptly said, “you are stable again.” The pain never returned, and the next morning I was the proud owner of stent placed in the major coronary artery.
For three weeks at home, I prayed over and thought about Friday evening March 5th, and one of my ruminations was this: We are all prone to wander into spiritual amnesia, in small accumulative increments, forgetting how real, powerful, and present is the resurrected Jesus Christ. He who died for my sin, to break the power of evil and death, rose again, not only as an action in human time and history, but even now loves individuals with an eternal unfathomable love. He keeps busting into our miniscule worlds even when we have had accumulative small bouts of spiritual amnesia. A friend who was part of a spiritual formation group I was part of, put it well: “I am just a small pebble along the path, but I am a pebble who is deeply loved.” As another friend in the same group once articulated, “I am never alone, Trinity plus one equals four.” I have wondered as the physicians were fixing my heart, was Christ freshening my heart, blowing a fresh wind into it at midnight? I can’t adequately express how grateful I am that Jesus the Christ, the Father’s Son, the One who gifts the Holy Spirit, is truly, absolutely the Resurrection and the Life. As an apostle once wrote to us, God breathed words, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” What more could I ask for?
Thank you again for all you have given Laurie and I over the last several weeks.
In Jesus name,
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