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I Had a Stroke
EPH5:18a-20 and ITH5:18
18a Be filled with the Spirit,
19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,
20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thess. 5:18
18. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
It was Thursday, October 7, 2004. I had a busy day planned. It began with a meeting of the Ministerial Association at the church. I got to church around 9 o’clock and began putting out refreshments around 9:30. I put some Bagel Bits in the oven to heat. I made coffee. I noticed a little light tingling in my left hand, but it soon passed and I paid no attention to it.
Now I must make a confession. When alone, I talk to myself. I have been told that is all right as long as you do not lose the arguments. I talk to myself, I sing to myself. I cannot sing. I sing to myself anyway.
But about 9:30 on that Thursday morning, I suddenly realized that the sounds that were coming out of my mouth did not correspond at all to the words I thought I was saying. I could not talk. I could think the words. I knew what I wanted to say, but the sounds that came out were gibberish.
I was not much afraid. I was stunned. At first, I could not believe it. I tried to say Bible verses, names—they all came out mumbled half-syllables. Rather stupidly I thought, “I cannot attend a meeting like this. I cannot even say hello to people.”
Then I realized I had a stroke. It took me several minutes from the time I realized I was speaking gibberish to admit I had a stroke.
Then I knew I had to do something. I cut off the oven. I was thinking clearly enough to do that, but I was not thinking too clearly, because I left the ministers a strange note. I wrote: "I think I am having a stroke. I am going to the doctor. Have a nice meeting. Tony."
Rev. Randy Gardner of First Baptist Church said when he saw that note, he thought, “I know Tony has a sense of humor, but surely this cannot be a joke.”
Anyway, after leaving the note, I got in my truck and drove to Family Medicine (about 2 miles). That was foolish. The police and fire departments are directly behind the church. Whitesides Laundry is next door. As I said, I was thinking none too clearly.
But the Lord was with me. I make the trip to Family Medicine without incident. Then I wrote another note. “I am having a stroke right now. I can not talk. My name is Tony Grant.” The receptionist looked totally shocked as she read that note. She ran for a nurse. The nurse came running out with a wheelchair. She rolled me back to an examining room and begin to take my vital signs. Dr. Crotwell soon appeared and began examining me.
They called 911 and had me transported to Piedmont Medical Hospital. The ride was bumpy, and the ambulance seemed to sway lot as it went around cars, but it got me there, and that is what counts.
I have heard horror stories of severely ill people waiting for hours for treatment in emergency rooms. That was not my experience. A nurse was taking my vital signs again as I was rolled back to examining room. The emergency room doctor showed within a minute to give me a preliminary exam and to order a battery of tests. Within half an hour a neurologist arrived. (He had called by Family Medicine before I left York.) I was tested and probed and scanned.
To my surprise, the doctor told me I had a previous stroke sometime in the past, a silent stroke. So this was my second stroke. Fortunately for me, It was a minor stroke in that only a small part of the brain was effected. The part that was effected was my speech center.
I spent the remainder of Thursday undergoing medical tests. They gave me a sleeping pill that night that put me under until about six o’clock the next morning.
I had one more test the next morning –for blood clots around the heart. They sedated me for that too. The hospital released me about lunch time on Friday, but I was so wacked out from all the medicine, I came home and slept all afternoon. I woke up ate a couple of pieces of toast, went back to bed and slept until the next morning.
Then began recovery. The neurologist prescribed an anti-stroke medicine, and I take it faithfully. I am doing speech therapy. In the beginning, I had to struggle and strain to make the words come out. On that fateful Thursday, I could not even say my own son’s name or my granddaughter’s name, but by repetition, by spending the time and effort, I am making progress.
I am making progress in my attitude also. At first I was just immensely frustrated. This was the first time in my life I was in the hospital as a patient. Now do not get me wrong; Hospitals are great places to be if you need to be there, but no one claims that a hospital stay is a pleasant thing. Plus, being unable to talk is the most irritating thing I have ever experienced. I was angry at my body, specifically my brain, for betraying me in this way. I was frustrated because I thought I had taken steps to prevent this. I exercise. I try to eat right. I take medicine for my high cholesterol, but I had a stroke anyway—two strokes.
As some time passed, and I reflected further on what had happened, I developed a different attitude. It was probably because I exercised and ate right and took my medicine that the strokes did not kill me or permanently paralyze me. Moreover, I see the strokes as a warning. I had a whole battery of tests in the hospital which probably I needed to have. I am now on an anti-stroke medicine. I now recognize that I need to exercise more and be more faithful to my diet.
Above all, in spite of the stroke, I have cause for thanksgiving. The doctors and therapists expect full recovery. Thanks be to God! I am alive this day. I can smell the grass and touch the trees. Thanks be to God! I attribute much of my rather quick recovery this far to the many prayers that have been offered up on my behalf. Thanks be to God!
I heard a little story about thanksgiving. A woman was visiting a farm, and she noticed a pig limping in the backyard with a wooden leg. She asked the farmer, "What happened to the pig?" The farmer said, "Betsy is a wonderful pig. One night the house caught fire, and she oinked so loud she woke us, and we got the fire truck in time to save the house." The woman said, "That’s really something!" The farmer continued, "That’s not all, one day my youngest fell in the pond, and Betsy oinked so loud that she got our attention, and we were able to pull my daughter out of the pond in time." The woman said, "That’s really amazing! But I still don’t understand why the pig has a wooden leg. The farmer said, "Well, when you have a pig that special, you don’t want to eat him all at once!"
The farmer’s gratitude did not run very deep for the three legged hero. A lot of people treat God the same way. No matter how good God have been to them in the past, they ask, “What have you done for me lately?” I am here to testify that God has always been good to me; God was good to me even in the midst of a stroke, and I say, “Thanks be to God.” I know that thanksgiving is a month away, but today is a personal day of thanksgiving.
In the scripture passages from Ephesians and 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul is talking about praise and thanksgiving. Notice he says to give thanks “at all times and for everything.” He says we are to praise God “in all circumstances.”
Paul is talking about an attitude toward life—an attitude of praise. Christians are called to live a God-centered life. The basis for a God-centered life is an attitude of adoration and worship and thanksgiving.
Notice that Paul says we are to "give thanks in all circumstances because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." People who are in the will of God are a thankful people. The opposite would be, that if we are not thankful, we are not in God’s will
But you may wonder, How can we rejoice and praise God "in all circumstances?" It is as I have learned in last few weeks a matter of perspective.
The Christian perspective is that most of the stuff that happens to us on this earth is trivial. Whether I had a stroke and died, or had a stroke and lived and died eventually of something else is not very significant in the universal scheme of things. What is significant is my life in Christ. If I am alive to Christ and dead to all else but Christ, I can rejoice in all things. That is not to say that all things are good; Many things that happen in this world are not good; but I rejoice in Christ not things.
Paul suffered from a troublesome health condition which he called a thorn in the flesh. He was also run out of town, beaten, whipped, imprisoned, betrayed by friends, naked, cold, hungry, shipwrecked, and stoned because of his faith. Yet, Paul never stopped giving thanks. He was not giving thanks for being beaten, whipped and imprisoned. Paul does not give thanks for the bad things that happen to him. No sane person would. Paul gives thanks to Christ in the midst of bad circumstances.
I do not believe God expects me to grateful than I had a stroke. I am not thankful for difficult circumstances. I am thankful in difficult circumstances for Jesus Christ.
That is a God-centered, Christ-centered perspective that leads to an optimistic, joyful attitude. A Christian should never have a sour, complaining spirit.
I heard about a lady who was known as an incurable grumbler, who always, in all circumstances found something to complain about. At last, her minister thought he had found something which could bring only pure unblemished happiness. She owned a farm, and her harvest that year was overflowing. When he met her, he said, with a beaming smile, “You must be very happy, Jane. Everyone is saying your potatoes are the finest in the county.” The lady said sourly, “True they are pretty good, but what am I going to do when I need bad potatoes to feed the livestock."
If we are looking for something to complain about, we can always find something. During the Exodus, the Israelites grumbled because they had no food so God miraculously sent manna to cover the ground each day except the Sabbath day. Then they started to grumble because they had only manna to eat every day. They had a miracle - straight from God every day, but because it was an everyday thing, they were quickly bored with it and wanted something else.
When the Israelites focused on what they did not have, they failed to see all that they did have. We are constantly adding to our prayer list things that we do not have, but we should be adding to our praise list for what we already have.
We have Jesus Christ who is the very source of life. And we have the blessings Jesus gives in this life. It is good to be alive. It is good to feel the wind in our face, to see the sunrise, to fall in love, to see our new born child for the first time, to have our grandchild or parent or friend hug us.
In an experiment in New York’s Central Park, an advertising firm dressed a man up as a blind man and gave him a cup to collect money. One day they put a sign around his neck that read, "I’m Blind." That day he collected about $4.00. The next day they dressed him the same way, placed him in the same place but changed the sign to read, "It’s Spring and I’m Blind." That day he collected nearly $40.00. That day, those people realized how blessed they were by the beautiful flowers, birds, the sunrise and sunset.
We need to realize how blessed we are and always give thanks.
Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet. Unlike many old writers, Kipling was one of the few who had opportunity to enjoy his success while he lived. He made a great deal of money at his trade.
Once a reporter said to him, "Mr. Kipling, I read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word; Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, "Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that."
The reporter cynically reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here’s a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now, you give me one of your hundred dollar words." Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred dollar bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks."
Kipling was right! The word “thanks” is a hundred dollar word. It is one word that is too seldom heard and too rarely spoken and too often forgotten. If we would all adopt an attitude of thanksgiving into our lives - our lives would be changed. We would savor each day and appreciate the presence of Christ in our lives every day, and appreciate the miracle of God that is life on earth. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 12/06.04