Contemplations: Faith & Analysis Kickoff

Introduction

One might say that the notion of truth has fallen on hard times, but actually it has been a long-time coming. We see today the fruits of what was sown beginning in the Enlightenment, working its way into the modernist age. Although rationalism born out the Enlightenment is at odds in many ways with the postmodern age in which we now live, both are the result of humanism. If man is the ultimate measure of all things, then the radical relativism of postmodernism is the result of that presupposition. Spinoza opened the door to postmodernism, whether or not one wants to admit it, in his attack on Biblical truth and the existence of a personal God. Because of at least a Christian consensus, our culture did not feel the full force of the undermining of absolute truth for a couple of centuries. Now we see it in full force in every sphere of life from education to economics, and for sure in the political realm. One only had to listen to Biden’s speech the other night to know that we live in a time of full-blown rhetoric. Lest people think I’m picking on one political party, the same is true about the statements spewed by Trump. Unfortunately, much of the church under the guise of Christianity embraced the modernist form of thought as witnessed by the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy, modernist theology (Barth, etc.), liberation theology, and a segment of the emergent church that denounces the place of doctrine in Christianity. Without truth grounded in a solid foundation, the human creature is rudderless, directionless, and embraces the notion of a meaningless and purposeless universe.

Faith & Analysis Kick Off Time

Over the summer I previewed what was coming in the blog with the name change to Contemplations: Faith and Analysis. The September publication is the beginning of what I pray is a bright future for this blog. I have come to believe that the basic foundation for anything designated as the truth is the Christian faith. In the months ahead, and hopefully longer, I will provide analysis of what is transpiring in our culture and nation from a Christian point of view. Presently, we face a time when just about anything is acceptable other than an Orthodox Christian worldview. Contemplations, moving forward, will draw on a Reformed Christian framework to critique what is occurring in the realm of culture, politics, economics, education, business, the arts, etc. Although I will draw on the works of many Christians, I primarily will base what I write here on R. J. Rushdoony and his thoughts on Christian Reconstruction. Unfortunately, there is a much caricaturing of his position and, thereby, misunderstanding of what Christian Reconstruction is all about. Basically, it comes down to taking captive to Christ all areas of life. Due to Neo-Orthodoxy, and the modernist movements in the church, the concept of Christianity itself unfortunately means a variety of things to people. I will delineate where I’m coming from in this blog article

Reformed Theology

I embrace my faith from the perspective of an Orthodox Reformed theology. What exactly does that entail? There are several elements to my faith that I want to delineate here, but how they apply to an analysis of our culture via faith will come to light only in time across the months through my published blog articles.

Five Fundamentals of the Faith

First, I am Orthodox in that I hold to basic Biblical Christianity. The foundation of my beliefs lies on what I consider the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. These are 1) the eternal existence of the Creator Triune God and His creation ex-nihilo of the universe and all there within, and the Fall of man; 2) the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Works of the Holy Spirit; 3) the necessity of the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ and its apprehension by faith alone; 4) the death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Jesus Christ; 5) the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. The way in which I draw on my faith to critique the present climate of our culture will unfold in the months ahead.

The Five Solas

The Five Fundamentals of the faith delineated above can be somewhat correlated to what are called the Five Solas that emerged out of the Reformation. These are 1) sola fide – faith alone; 2) sola Scriptura – Scripture alone; 3) sola gratia – grace alone; 4) solus Christus – Christ alone; 5) Soli Deo Gloria – to God the glory alone. These Five Solas help sum up the Five Fundamentals of the faith described above.

T.U.L.I.P. Calvinism

As one whose faith is grounded on Orthodox Reformed theology, God’s sovereignty and His providential hand over our lives is at the core of what I believe. Unfortunately, Calvinism is another one of those terms that carries with it much caricaturing and misunderstanding. Hopefully, over the course of time I will make clear how this Reformed view of theology provides a foundation for analysis via faith of our culture and nation. The Five Points (T.U.L.I.P.) of Calvinism are: 1) Total Depravity; 2) Unconditional Election: 3) Limited Atonement: 4) Irresistible Grace; 5) Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.

Conclusion

The discussion above is only a thin layer of what Reformed theology entails. But it provides a basic starting and kickoff point for establishing a foundation for the analyses that will be forthcoming in the months ahead. Contemplations: Faith & Analysis will provide analyses through various formats – essays, ideas regarding Christian counseling, book reviews, political analyses, discussions of economics, and other formats. We are entering an election season, and this heyday of rhetoric unfortunately fits a postmodern mindset. The goal of Contemplations is to provide a thoughtful analysis of the culture from the perspective of Christian thought, particularly in terms of Christian Reconstruction as described by R. J. Rushdoony and the Chalcedon organization. .

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./September 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part VI – The Venture Continues

[This is the final blog in a series of six articles on this topic.]

Introduction

Throughout Parts I – V on this topic, I wrote much about my personal experiences regarding my stroke, hospitalization, and rehab. I don’t want readers to lose sight of the major theme that surrounds this venture, and that is the sovereignty and providence of God in our lives. He is sovereign and providential in everyone’s life. The blessing is that as believers in Christ, we can know that truth whether our lives run smoothly or hit hard turns on our journey.

God’s Sovereignty

There is nothing particularly special about the fact that I suffered a stroke. I know many individuals (most of them are Christians and are on my prayer list) who suffered or are suffering illnesses much more devastating than what I experienced. God brought many of them from the threshold of death to full healing from such diseases as cancer, myelofibrosis, diabetes, blood clots and amputations, COVID, heart conditions, and heart attacks. As believers in Christ, they can speak to their experiences and how their faith carried them through tough times, fear, and doubts. God is sovereign over all aspects of our lives. Not a sparrow falls of which he is unaware. I believe the difficult times through which we sojourn cause us to focus more on how God works in our lives.

Arthur W. Pink wrote two powerful works, The Attributes of God and The Sovereignty of God. In the former, Pink dedicates a chapter to the sovereignty of God. He states, The sovereignty of God can be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. . . He is the Most High Lord. . . Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. People will ask, if you believe in the Sovereignty of God, and that He is a loving God, then why did He let you or cause you to have a stroke? There was a time in my Christian life, such experiences and questions would have stumped me. And I’m not saying that I have any simple answers for them now. Not a day goes by that I find myself wishing I didn’t have the residual symptoms of my stroke hanging on. But I do not doubt that God is sovereign over my illness. Accidents don’t happen in God’s wise planning. As Tommy Nelson said in his sermon on the venture, we have to decide whether or not we are going to trust God in our understanding of why things happen to us. Some people recover from devastating diseases, and some don’t. One of the things that my stroke helped me solidify to some degree was the truth of God’s sovereignty and providence. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts at times, grow impatient, and find myself perturbed and angry because of my circumstances. That’s what prayer, confession, and communion with God is all about. I would never attempt to guess the reason why God allowed my life to be hit by a stroke. But one fruit of it is I have come to have a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence. In his work, The Attributes of God, Pink states further, quoting C. H. Spurgeon, There is no attribute more comforting to His children than God’s sovereignty.

God’s Providence

God’s providential care of each of us is the outworking of His sovereignty, His sovereign decrees, established before the foundation of the world. Arthur W. Pink, in his work, The Sovereignty of God says this: The Sovereignty of God. . . means the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. That God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. . . He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. If we reflect on the Book of Job, no one can question God or counsel Him on why He has done what He has done. If I had wallowed in the question of why God allowed me to have a stroke, I would have wallowed in a mire from which I could have never extricated myself. Thinking of my illness as a journey ( a venture) on which God is taking me, led me to rest in God’s hands when I had not the slightest idea about what my future held. I look back on that year that followed my stroke, and I have the comfort that God was with me all the way. One understanding of God’s providence is that it entails the means by which God establishes His sovereignty. As I’ve written on previous blogs, I can’t think of a better plan than the path I followed from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital to Denton Select to Day Neuro at Medical City. Add to that the return to Fort Worth Harris and the Pecan Creek Rehab facility following my sub-venture with COVID, and not a better and more caring plan could have been written out. Above all, the graciousness of the Terrell family to take me into their home for nearly a year exceeded all expectations. And here is the truth of the matter: I had absolutely no control over any of that pathway that I followed for a year. God’s providential care is the outworking of His sovereignty. The facilities, the doctors, the therapists, and my friends the Terrells were all the means that God used to providentially guide me through my care and rehab work. God is likewise sovereign in His mercy and love.

Conclusion

The venture continues. God is sovereign and therefore providential over every detail of our lives. As finite creatures, it is difficult for us to see the countless ways God works in our lives. John Flavel, in his work, The Mystery of Providence says, the greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. He states that it would not be worthwhile to live in a world devoid of God and providence. As long as our ventures continue in this life, God’s sovereignty and providence never cease in our lives. A good exercise for all of us would entail our looking back on our lives so as to recognize the various ways that God has been providential in our lives and write them down. Flavel challenges believers in Christ to reflect on God’s providence: It is the duty of saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence in all the states and through all the stages of their lives. The experience of my stroke is simply a reminder to me that God is providential. He always was whether or not I recognized it.

A. W. Pink in his work, The Attributes of God, delineates sixteen attributes of God. These various attributes are not discreet entities. God is self-contained, so His various attributes describe His being. When we hear or read explanations of God’s sovereignty, such as He does as He pleases, when He pleases with all the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, such a description may leave people cold, thinking that God is arbitrary, willy-nilly, or capricious in His dealings with out lives. Nothing is further from the Biblical truth about the Godhead. All of His attributes work together in who God is. As stated above, He is equally sovereign in HIs love and mercy as in his allowing difficult times in our lives. So people may ask, do you see your stroke as an act of God’s love? Every act of God toward His children is an act of love. The love that comes from struggles in life is the recognition that we share various types of sufferings with Christ. Moreover, such struggles are a means to understand more deeply our relationship to God and His providential care in our lives. As Paul stated in his epistle, God comforts us in our suffering so that we can better comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Throughout these six blog articles, I hope the focus on God’s sovereignty and providence stands out more than just my experience with a stroke. I pray that I have encouraged believers to think and focus more on how God works in their lives. If I have accomplished that goal in just a small way, then I’m truly thankful to Him.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

References:

Flavel, J. (1963). The Mystery of Providence.[Originally published in 1678]. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Books.

Pink, A. W. (1975). The Attributes of God. [Originally published 1930] Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Pink, A. W. (2017). The Sovereignty of God. [Originally published in 1918]. Swengel, PA: A. W. Pink Classic Books.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./ April 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part V – The Venture

[This article is the fifth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

After eleven days in rehab at Pecan Creek, Paul picked me up, and I returned to the Terrell’s where life took on its familiar pattern pre COVID. The question that remained was whether or not Day Neuro would take me back after having COVID. I asked my GP to provide a referral to Day Neuro since I had tested negative for COVID. The only thing left to do was wait. God’s providence shown through again. Only three days passed, and I received a call from Devlin at Medical City that I could return to rehab. I was set once again to engage this fine facility and group of therapists for all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. God’s grace displayed itself through the Terrell’s who transported me to and from Medical City three days per week. Paul and Jean’s daughter, Amy, transported me often, and on the drive into Denton from Collinsville, we would listen to Harry Potter audiobooks. The grace of God has many ways of showing itself. If our mindset is not right, we can easily miss how God’s lovingkindness works in our lives.

Medical City: Home Away from Home

Having gotten back on track at the outpatient rehab at Medical City, I discovered that it was a place with which I would gain much familiarity. The facility scheduled me to be there three days per week, three hours per day, for a total of nine hours a week. The work would be consistent, intense, and fruitful. The therapists there provided a tailor-made work out program for me that fit my needs perfectly. Each day, the facility scheduled a three-hour slot that entailed all three therapies. After having taken some time out for COVID, the therapists recognized I had more energy than I had previously to COVID. I reckoned this fact to be due to the infusion treatments I had received. I recognized that my energy level was up, so I was ready to engage rehab. I recognized God’s hand in everything, having returned to Day Neuro. I couldn’t have been at a better place for what my body required.

Physical Therapy

Rebecca served as my primary physical therapist, but others worked with me as well in this modality. Upon returning to Day Neuro, I was still wheelchair bound, but I had learned to do some things on my on, and I could transfer from the wheelchair to other activities without having to be lifted or carried by anyone. Physical therapy challenged me to move more, stand more often, and retrieve some of the balance taken away by the stroke. For the scheduled three days, daily routines included parallel bars, workouts on a stationary bike, standing from a setting and prostrate position, and walking practice with a roller. Progress felt slow but upon reflection, due to the skill and the persistent challenges by the therapists, my progress accumulated at an amazing speed. From my perspective, the balance exercises frustrated me the most. Constantly I experienced the angst of falling, but I never fell once the entire eight months I rehabbed at Day Neuro. I also worked with Mark, another physical therapist, who had attended Baylor, and was a solid Christian. Once again, God had placed me in a truly blessed environment. Every therapist had a particular saying that I remember. I hated mistakes, mishaps, and setbacks that I experienced. Rebecca and Mark would remind me that two steps forward and one step back was what rehab work was all about. Frustration on my part was nothing more than a blinder that would get in the way of what I had to learn. God most definitely used rehab work to teach me patience, a fruit of the Spirit, which I had not cultivated all that much across my life. I’m certainly not saying that I’ve cultivated it now, but I learned more about patience during this time than I had ever known before. Other exercises included the challenge of stepping up onto and over certain obstacles, as well as navigating a set of steps to ascend and descend. Three days a week of intense work paid high dividends following my eight months’ time spent there.

Occupational Therapy

Alex was my primary occupational therapist along with Carolyn. Although some of the occupational exercises overlapped with the physical therapy – e.g. walking with roller and cane – much of the occupational therapy focused on coordination skills, especially with my left hand that had been hit hard by the stroke. Exercises included working with cards, blocks, WiFi, puzzles, and weights, all targeting my strength and coordination. Alex had a saying that I remember fondly. I became overly frustrated with the WiFi tennis game. Noticing my frustration, she would say it doesn’t matter if you win the game but how well you’re learning to maintain you balance as you play. At the end of every tennis match the little figures on the WiFi would jump up and down as a statement appeared informing me that I had lost another match. I really got ticked at those little figures. Alas, Alex was right. I engaged several other activities in Occupational therapy that proved to be very practical. I worked on some typing skills, which helped me work on my computer at home. I also practiced transferring laundry from a washer to a dryer, then hanging the clothes up on a rack. The practice of buttoning the shirts increased the coordination in my left hand immensely. Additionally, this challenge provided me with confidence that I could engage some practical everyday functioning. Another challenge entailed the use of a storefront to shop for canned and other packaged items that I would place in a cart, and then return each item to its place on the shelves. This work challenged my standing balance and the coordinated use of my right and left hands. Carolyn helped me walk with a roller and cane. Her saying was that I was always harder on myself than anything else. Eight months of occupational therapy led to some great strides in my balance and coordination. One final task I accomplished involved my own cooking as I prepared some soup for a small lunch one day. It felt to me as if life was getting back on track.

Speech Therapy

Kayla worked with me as my speech therapist. The cerebellum stroke had paralyzed my left vocal cord. As I have stated in previous articles, my speech had reduced to a whisper, but eventually returned with a gravelly voice, causing me to sound like a bullfrog, although I’ve never heard a bullfrog speak. Kayla continued the swallowing exercises and e-stem work that Melissa had started at Denton Select. She increased the exercises, however, challenging me to do more swallows, including tongue-pinch swallows and what she called hard swallows. I began three different swallowing exercises with a fifteen-count and worked up to a 20-count. She also continued with the tongue exercises that Melissa had established. Kayla added timing to the tongue exercises so that my tongue received a good work out. I felt right away how both the swallow and tongue exercises affected my throat area and my speech. Kayla added a wonderful exercise that we called towel-crunch exercise. I used a rolled-up towel and would hold it under my chin against my throat for a full minute. Following that exercise, I would then do thirty crunches with my chin pressing the towel again to my throat. Without fail, both Kayla and I recognized that my voice would be stronger following the towel-crunch work. A perk in doing speech therapy included practice with certain foods to see how I could handle swallowing them. Ice chips, water, apple sauce, apple juice, and different forms of candies provided a good reinforcement for the work. After several weeks of speech therapy, I found an ENT doctor at U.T. Southwest in Dallas who injected my left vocal cord to see if it could begin to work again. My voice returned in full force for a couple of weeks, but defaulted to slight hoarse-sound bellowing from my throat. The good thing about the injection is that it removed the extra effort I was expending to talk in any length of time. Though my voice is hoarse today, I still do not have to expend any effort to carry on a conversation with someone. Kayla worked with me on voicing, blowing out air through a straw for as long as possible, and saying certain letters of the alphabet, holding the sound for as long as I could. The speech therapy reached its max not too long before my discharge date. I felt that my voice strengthened during my time with Kayla, as well as my ability to swallow certain foods. In fact, I begin to experiment with certain foods, which led to a saying that Kayla reiterated time and again. When I would tell her with what I was experimenting, she would say I can’t tell you not to do that, but I can say that I do not recommend it, which is something you need to know. I truly appreciated her skill and concern, but I must confess that I continued to experiment.

Conclusion

My discharge date from Day Neuro fell on October 6, 2021, three days short of exactly one year since my stroke. The work they put me through there did wonders for my body. When I began my time there, I was wheelchair-bound. Over the eight months of rehabbing, I graduated to a roller, and eventually walking with a cane. Presently I utilize a cane, and at times I practice walking without the cane if I’m on a smooth surface. If I do a long walk here at Good Samaritan out by the lake, I’ll still use the roller. However, the next goal is to engage the long walk with the cane. I well remember the day at Paul and Jean’s home when we put the wheelchair in storage. I hope soon to retire the roller.

This article is next-to-the-last article I’ll write on this topic. I can say without a doubt as I look back on events, God guided me everywhere I ended up. He guided me to the facilities and the very people with whom I worked, and no better plans could have been made. As I think back on all that transpired from October 9, 2020 to October 6, 2021, the only thing I can say is that I had no control over any of it at all. From Denton Presbyterian to Forth Worth Harris to Denton Select to Paul and Jean’s care, to Pecan Creek, to Day Neuro at Medical City, and finally to Good Samaritan where I now live, God providentially guided me to the facilities and the people that best worked for me. Praise His Name.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./March 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part IV – The Venture

[This article is the fourth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

November 20, 2020: Due to COVID-19 and a host of other political upheavals, 2020 had become an infamous, if not notorious year. I will remember 2020 as the year of the stroke. More importantly than that, however, the autumn of 2020 became a time that taught me just how much I did not know about the multitude of ways that God works in our lives. God’s providential care became a stark reality for me. And November 20th provided ample evidence of God’s grace because on that day Denton Select discharged me, and Paul and Jean Terrell graciously took me into their home. For the next eleven months they would put up with me while I rehabbed through the various difficulties that resulted from my stroke. Rehab included some home healthcare, and the personal care of Paul and Jean;the majority of my technical rehab work would come through Day Neuro, the day rehab facility at Medical City, Denton, Texas.

Grace Followed by Grace

If I typed out this narrative until my hands and fingers no longer worked, I couldn’t say enough to convey all that Paul and Jean Terrell did for me during the eleven months I was in their home. Not only did they prove to be loving friends that went beyond the call of duty in putting up with me for that amount of time, but as a Christian family, they more than evidenced the Spirit of Christ in which they believe and by which they live. Although at times I believed I was a burden beyond description, they never made me feel that way, nor gave me any reason to doubt the care they demonstrated toward me.

Another large piece of grace that fell on me through living in their home involved my attending their church, Grace Bible in Sherman, Texas. I learned that many people who attended that church had been praying for me since the beginning of my stroke. My time at Grace Bible entailed the blessing that always comes with being surrounded by committed Christians who were receiving solid teaching and pastoring from George Cline. I sat under that teaching for several months with the added benefit of getting to know many of the individuals there week-in and week-out. God’s providential care entailed not only my physical healing, but also my spiritual growth. The Terrell’s home and Grace Bible involved a one-two-punch that begin the process of putting me back on solid ground.

Paul and Jean themselves are solid Christians. Hence they shared with me some Christian videos they watched, some books they were going through, and Paul and I began to pray each night for various individuals in the church, as well as for the country. Through Paul I learned about ministries I had not heard that much about – Joel McDurmon, Douglas Wilson, James White, Bruce Gore, and others. I had heard of Rushdoony and his works, but we also revisited his ideas as well. Suffice it to say, my eleven months with the Terrell’s was a time of deepening friendship, prayer, discussions about the things of Christ, and just wonderful all-around fellowship. I could say it was just what the doctor ordered, but more true to the point, my time there was God decreed through his providential care.

Another added piece of grace came with where the Terrell’s lived. There home set in the midst of some trees and land in the small community of Collinsville, Texas. There is something about country living that’s an aid to one’s healing process. There home included a large porch that wrapped around the entire house, and it became the place where a lot of my work took place that helped me move from a wheelchair to a roller, and then eventually to a cane. As I progressed from a wheelchair to the roller, Paul graciously walked with me to provide balance so that I didn’t fall. I faced the threat of falling for several months, and more than a few times I needed help getting off the floor after a fall. Vertigo continued to plague me at times, but slowly but surely the dizziness vanished. I began to reestablish skills such as moving from the bed to the wheelchair, standing up to use the roller, and taking a shower without any assistance. Daily I worked on my balance, lifted some light weights, and strengthened my grip with the aid of Thera-putty. As I stated, being at the Terrell’s home allowed me to rehab. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise. God’s providence became my refuge.

For approximately two months, I worked with a home healthcare group, involving all three therapies: speech, occupational, and physical. After that time I felt ready to engage Day Neuro, which I had heard so much about. My doctor made the referral, and the day finally arrived. A phone call came from Medical City, and finally I would undergo some heavy-duty rehab work at the Day Rehab center there. I was more than ready, but I still didn’t realize how far I had to go.

Sidetrack: COVID-19

I rehabbed at Day Neuro for about two weeks, realizing that once again, God had guided me to the right place. I experienced progress through all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. The work was difficult but going well. Then one day riding back to the Terrell’s home with Jean from rehab work, I experienced a chill. Later that night I developed a fever of 100 to 101 degrees. The next day, Paul took me to a facility that tested me for COVID, and I tested positive. Through a referral from my general practitioner, Jean drove me to Fort Worth for some infusion treatments (Monoclonal Infusion Treatment). Once there, they took a look at me and decided to put me in the hospital, which was right next door to them. Once again, I was back in Forth Worth Harris Methodist. Fort Worth Harris admitted me for a week, and I received the infusion treatments everyday for about forty-five minutes to an hour. God’s grace continued to shine through. The people on the COVID floor were skilled, compassionate, and consummate professionals. I had a wonderful room on the fourth floor that looked out over the freeway. I remember watching vehicles pass by, and yearning for the day I could drive again. The virus didn’t really affect my breathing that much, but it drained me of all energy. I was truly wasted. My oxygenation remained in the 90’s if I laid still. If I moved it drop to the upper 80’s. For the lack of energy the infusion treatments worked wonders. But the COVID treatment didn’t end there.

Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center

Following my stay at Fort Worth Harris Methodist, because I had contracted the COVID-19 virus, I was required to undergo rehab at a facility that accepted COVID patients. I was transferred to Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center in Gainesville, Texas. I knew absolutely nothing about this facility. Once again, the transport took place later in the evening. As the transport driver navigated I-35E North from Fort Worth to Denton, and then I-35 North to Gainesville from Denton, only questions and doubts clouded my mind. Although I had experienced God’s constant care since I had suffered my stroke, I wish I could say that I confidently rested in this sovereignty, but instead fear had seized me because I simply didn’t know what lay ahead. I arrived at Pecan Creek between 8:30 and 9:00pm. I was taken to the COVID unit and to an assigned room. I felt as though the unknown had engulfed me. I had no idea what was in stock for me for the next ten days, which was the determined time I would be in Pecan Creek.

God’s Grace Abounds and Never Ceases

As it turned out, Pecan Creek had an active little gym where staff worked with members who required physical therapy. During my stay, physical therapy was the sole work I embraced. I needed it to regain my strength, work on my balance, and practice more with a roller. I became confident at moving from my bed to the wheelchair and vice versa. Also during this time at Pecan Creek, I developed the ability to go to the bathroom on my own. Likewise I became more confident in using the roller rather than my wheelchair to get around. The nursing staff there worked with me so that I learned to do my own nourishment through my feeding tube.

Although these perks were truly blessings from God, I learned that there were Christian believers on staff, and group Bible studies were available to patients. Unfortunately, because I entered the facility as a COVID patient, the group activities were off limits to me. But God’s grace showed up abundantly in another way. I worked with one physical therapist, named Marsha, who was a committed believer in Christ. Each day we worked together, and she would end our time with prayer. God’s providence once again landed me in a place where blessings abound, not only through the facility and its amenities, but also through the people who worked there.

Conclusion

My work at Medical City Day Neuro had been interrupted by my COVID episode. I had no idea if the facility would take me back after having COVID. I wanted to get back there more than anything I could otherwise desire. Pecan Creek tested me for COVID, and the results came back negative. I was COVID free. I hoped that my General Practitioner could make the referral to get me back in Day Neuro.

About five o’clock in the afternoon, Paul picked me up at Pecan Creek. The hard winter temperatures had set in. But the energy I felt was in the ozones compared to the day Jean took me for the infusion treatments in Fort Worth. I had seen either Paul nor her for those fifteen days. I felt blessed to be back in their home. After being back home for a couple of days, I received a phone call from Day Neuro. I was back in. Treatments wold begin for three days a week, three hours a day. God’s grace had brought me around full circle from the COVID episode back to rehab work. Even in the face of seeing God work in so many ways since I had experienced my stroke, I still found room for fear and doubts. As believers, we are truly blessed that God relates to us through his grace rather than on the basis of our merit. Day Neuro at Medical City was now my immediate future. I felt ready to embrace it with all I had.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./February 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part III – The Venture

[This article is the third in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

The Venture that God had in store for me moved forward, and once again I was in a transport heading up I-35W. Only this time I was heading back north from Fort Worth Harris to Denton to a rehab facility there called Denton Select. Once again, night had fallen, and I arrived in time to find some rest and get some sleep. The unknown lay opened as to what this rehab facility had in store for me. But God’s providence emerges in all places. I would find that to be true in Denton Select.

Rehabilitation Work

Life as a Christian is still a learning process as the believer grows in sanctification. I would learn about three types of rehabilitation into which I would be immersed over the next eleven months, even after leaving Denton Select. My rehab work would include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My desire to get better collided with my impatience, which produced irritation, anger, frustration, and the desire to just give up at times. This fact presented me with the goals I had to reach to grow not only physically, but also spiritually.

Physical Therapy

Daily prayer was a constant. My eyes were still affected by the stroke, so I couldn’t read anything in book form. Two highly skilled and compassionate physical therapists worked with me. They engendered in me the desire to work hard. I discovered rather quickly the reality of what is known as stroke fatigue. Regardless of my desire to be up for the daily tasks presented to me, there were days I possessed little or no energy. My lethargy frustrated me to no end because I really wanted to engage the therapies. Each day the hospital staff would post on a marker board my scheduled therapies for the day. Some days my workout included four to five hours of work, which wore me out, In the long run, however, I realized how much small increments of progress contributed to my overall physical health. Talk about patience as a fruit of the spirit. God used highly skilled people to teach me some much needed lessons.

My two physical therapists were named Kenlin and Jenlin. I never thought to ask if they were sisters with such similar names. My physical therapy led me to the Denton Select gym where I would work on balance, standing, walking, and muscle tone and coordination. All of these areas had been hit hard by my stroke. I practiced walking on the parallel bars. This exercise, however, presented a couple of problems. The stroke brought on vertigo, especially if I stood up or turned to my right or left too quickly. I had to learn to approach my environment slowly, cautiously, and not “multitask” while walking. For example, if I turned to look behind me while walking, I would lose my balance and fall unless someone caught me. This fact challenged my patience as well. I suppose that anyone in my position would want progress to occur quickly. Secondly, I developed orthostatic or postural hypotension. When I stood up, my blood pressure would drop to the point of making me lightheaded so that I couldn’t keep my balance. When this occurred, I could not engage the physical therapy exercise for that day, which was usually the parallel bars. I had to learn through God’s grace that speedy recovery is not the case with the kind or stroke I experienced.

Speech Therapy

Melissa, another highly skilled therapist, worked with me to regain my ability to speak. As I stated in earlier blogs, I lost my voice to the extent that I could only speak in a whisper. As time progressed at Denton Select, I regained a rough and gravelly voice that was at least louder and more clear than a whisper. Melissa worked with e-stems that she attached to my throat. She would send a current through them at a volume I could stand. This work allowed me both to swallow better and speak with a clearer voice. The swallowing therapy was important work because I still couldn’t swallow food, so I was being fed through a feeding tube that had been inserted into my stomach at Fort Work Harris. By the time I left Denton Select, I could swallow water, ice ships, and some apple sauce. I still had a long way to go before I could eat solid food. This therapy also led to my being tested in what are called swallow studies. I learned that with certain swallows that I could asperate anything I was trying to swallow into my lungs.

Occupational Therapy

Rebecca and Audra were my OC therapists. Some of what we did overlapped with PT. Otherwise I worked on several exercises for coordination. This type or work entailed some of the most frustrating experiences for me. My left arm and hand had lost some of its strength and much of its coordination. Many of the skills that Rebecca and Audra challenged me to accomplish were tough sledding, as they should have been. More than once Rebecca had to remind me that my saying I can’t do something wasn’t going to get it done. I had to try these skills so as to know how much progress was needed. Talk about patience as the fruit of the spirit! Both Rebecca and Audra were fantastic in challenging me and being patient themselves with my frustrations. They also helped me accomplish daily tasks, such as moving from my bed to the wheelchair, taking a shower, and moving up and down the hallway in my wheelchair. I also developed some coordination with my left hand.

Grace Upon Grace

I stayed in Denton Select for several weeks. I remember my release date: November 20th, 2020. The time that passed from the day I had my stroke totaled about six weeks. I clearly needed to keep that in mind because I wanted to progress much faster than I felt like I was. All together, six weeks is just not that long. If I could let go of my impatience, I could see that I was doing much better than I thought. The words from the Russian doctor at Fort Worth Harris returned to me. You are our super patient. We expect good things out of you. Well, I didn’t feel much like a super patient, but I did notice ways that my strength had returned to my body. Though frustrated at times, I did maintain some hope that was nothing but a gracious gift from God.

Then even more grace came my way. I had no idea, what my life would be like after leaving Denton Select. I had spoken with the doctor there about getting into a rehab facility called Day Neuro. The facility had been recommended to me by some of the staff at Denton Select and others outside of there. But God’s grace poured out upon me in another way. Two friends of mine whom I had known since the 80’s at Denton Bible Church, Paul and Jean Terrell, took me into their home so that I could rehab and recuperate. The blessings that flowed from their graciousness extended beyond any measurement that can be devised by the human spirit. Paul contacted the owner of the apartment I had rented at the time and received an okay from him for me to get out of the lease due to my stroke. Both Paul and Jean coordinated the moving and storage of all my belongings I had in the apartment. Paul made sure that my bank and other businesses had my change of address for mailing and billing purposes. For the next eleven months, this gracious family would put up with me while I battled through all the physical challenges of getting stronger so that I could eventually and hopefully live on my own. Once again, God’s providential care and grace fell upon me in ways that I could not even have imagined.

Conclusion

November 20th, 2020, 5:30pm: I checked out of Denton Select, sill wheelchair bound, unable to walk, having weak eyesight, snd a gravelly and whispery voice. But I felt the security of God’s grace as I was heading to live under the care of good, close, and loving friends. God’s providence had already led me to Denton Select and working with therapists like Melissa and Audra who were solid believers connected to Denton Bible. Once again, I didn’t know what the future held as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached in 2020. I knew however I was in good hands with Paul and Jean, and I was in the blessed hands of God’s providence that continued to unfold in ways I would have never even suspected.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./January 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part II – The Venture

[This blog article is the second in a series on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

October 11th, 2020: Night had fallen over 35W South. I was being transported from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital due to the neurological specialty unit in Fort Worth. The venture that God was taking me through had begun. I had no idea what my future held. Would I ever walk again? Would I lead a normal life again? As the days progressed, other questions emerged? Would I regain the ability to speak clearly? Would I regain the functions of swallowing and eating again? Would my eyesight return? Those early days in the hospital and rehab clinics presented many unknowns. As time passed, what I discovered is how little I knew about God’s sovereignty and providence. Such knowledge would come slowly to me, and it would be a difficult lesson to learn. Yet it would be a lesson as sweet as the drippings of the honeycomb.

Forth Worth Harris Hospital

I had heard of CAT-SCAN’s and MRI’s, but I was to become more intimately acquainted with them because I was going to undergo several over the next few days. Once again it was a venture of new experiences. When specialists placed me between two large radiation machines for a CAT-SCAN and slid me into a tube for the MRI, the seriousness of my condition couldn’t help but dawn upon me. Yet again, I was in the hands of skilled doctors, technicians, and nurses in a situation to which I had to submit and flow with as though I was on a river that makes up one’s life path. Both procedures verified that I had suffered a stroke that affected the cerebellum, pons, medulla oblongata, and slightly impacted the brain stem. Since the stroke occurred on the right side of my brain, it hammered the left side of my body. My balance and ability to walk were totally gone to the point I couldn’t stand up without help from a nurse or technician. I was bedridden and wheelchair bound. At first I could eat some food if I made an effort to swallow as much as I could on the right side of my throat. A nurse taught me how to do that by turning my head to the right as I swallowed. Over the next couple of days, I lost the ability to swallow and eat, and I noticed that my eyesight was becoming worse, especially in the left eye. Because I needed to obtain nourishment in someway, technicians place a feeding tube through my nose that ran down into my esophagus. Soon afterwards, I lost my voice and could only speak in a whisper.

Neurological ICU

For the first day at Fort Worth Harris, I was in an ICU or some kind of ER unit for patients with neurological damage. The thing I remember is how the doctors and staff went beyond the call as to how helpful and encouraging they were. One particular nurse gave me sponge tips to dip in water so that I could at least quench some of my thirst which was heavy duty. The problem was they didn’t want me swallowing too much because the stroke had affected my ability to eat and drink. Thirst weighed heavily on me, and I wanted water all the time. But it was not forthcoming. My prayers took on a life and death theme. I actually prayed that if I were going to be bedridden and wheelchair bound and unable to eat or drink, I wanted God to take me home. I think about those prayers these days. Were they right or wrong ways of praying? They were honest.

Neurological Floor

After only one day in the ICU/ER unit, the doctors transferred me to what I think was the third floor for patients with neurological damage. I went through another series of MRI’s to verify earlier results and to check if the stroke had gotten worse. Again, the nurses and technicians displayed their skills and compassion in amazing ways. During this time, I had a feeding tube that ran down my nose into my esophagus. I soon lost my voice all together and could talk only in a whisper. I would remain in that state for several weeks. Things began to add up in my mind. I couldn’t walk or get out of bed without assistance, my eyesight had gone awry, and now I couldn’t speak. The left side of my body had lost most of its coordination. My prayers continued to be for healing or to be taken home.

After a few days, I was moved across the hall, same floor, but out of the neurological unit to a general unit. I got to know the nurses real well in that room. They were highly skilled, compassionate, and would converse with me every chance they got. We had a running joke where I would try to trick them somehow into giving me water to drink. But they held their course. After a few days, I was glad to hear that the feeding tube was coming out of my nose, and I would actually have a small operation to place a feeding tube in my stomach. I hoped that my voice would return after the removal of the nose feeding tube, but it did not. My daily prayers were for continued and total healing. I would like to claim that my faith prevented me from having any doubts about my future held. Alas, I had doubts and worries, especially about being bedridden and my regaining my abilities to walk, swallow, speak, and see. To say the least I was scared. But I continued in prayers day and night.

On Display

I had seen movies and television shows where a doctor and a team of residents or interns observed patients. I never thought of going through such an experience. Nonetheless, a Russian doctor and her team of residents came to see me several times. The doctor said, you are our special patient because you are doing so well. And we have high hopes for you. I had been told by the other doctors that I was doing well, but I knew I had a long way to go. I didn’t feel like a special patient. It was interesting, however, to witness the doctor and residents observing me. In fact, I kept asking doctors if I were going to remain in my present state or get better. Obviously they couldn’t offer any guarantees, but they believed I would regain my functioning. or at least some of it. But it would take time. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and one I haven’t developed that well. But with the kind of stroke I experienced, patience is a must. During this time and even now, I’ve had my share of frustrations, anger, temper tantrums, and impatience. To develop the kind of patience needed to work through a stroke is a learning curve to say the least.

The Screaming of the Fallen

I had tried my hand at writing some poetry about a year or so before my stroke. Needless to say, I’m not a poet. Nonetheless, I was pleased with some of the things I had written. I coined a sentence, I hear the screaming of the fallen in a poem I titled DarkLand and another titled The Calling. As a Christian, I believe we’re all fallen human beings. On the neurological floor I heard other patients screaming, sometimes for help and alleviation of pain, and other times calling out people’s names who never showed up. I thought about the phrase, the screaming of the fallen. We are captured in these bodies, and our inability to shake them really comes home when we are injured or undergo a serious illness like a stroke. Every time a patient would begin to call out, I would pray for him or her silently in my room. Prayer is a force that something like a stroke will bring home to you in a hurry. For the believer, the comfort and hope come in knowing that one day we will see Christ face to face. Our bodies will be fully restored.

Conclusion

I learned all the nurses’, techs’, and doctors’ names who worked with me at Fort Worth Harris. I couldn’t have been placed in a better setting. The ones that were on shift when I left stopped by to see me and say bye. Although I considered it a real blessing to be at Harris, I didn’t realize it at the time, but God’s providence was carrying me along in ways I would have never imagined. My next stop in my venture would be a rehab clinic. I wanted to be placed in Denton Select Rehabilitation Clinic. God answered that prayer. Once again I was being transported back up North on I-35W. Still my future was clouded with many unknowns.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./December 14th 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT