I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.—Psalm 34:1-6
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.—Psalm 90:12
For any of you who have not heard, it has been quite a week at Community Church of Susanville.
This past Sunday during our 11:00 service, Paul Moore, a longtime member of the church and a member of our elder team, had a heart attack while we were singing God’s praises. He fell to the floor unconscious, and the nurses in our congregation who responded couldn’t find a pulse. While someone called 911, they administered CPR as the rest of us prayed. They attached the AED, and when they shocked him, his heart restarted and he came back to us. EMS arrived and took him to the hospital, and from there he was flown to St. Mary’s in Reno. An angiogram showed no blockage, just a healthy heart and arteries, meaning it was an electrical/rhythm issue. An internal defibrillator was installed, and he was released from the hospital on Wednesday.
And so, some thanks and praise are in order. I’m so grateful for the folks who remained calm and did what needed to be done quickly and professionally. On a human level, it is no exaggeration to say that they saved Paul’s life. And I’m grateful for everyone else there, who prayed in their seats with great faith as we all waited upon God together.
On a spiritual level, God deserves a whole lot of praise for what happened Sunday. Paul and Meegan (his wife) tell me that every doctor and nurse they have interacted with has used the word “miracle.” The odds of surviving something like that were very, very, very slim. I saw Paul out running earlier that morning. If this had happened then, or when he was driving his family down the road to church, or in bed at night…. If Gene Ilten had not insisted that we have an AED in our building, and faithfully maintained the batteries for years…. If Paul had not been 15 feet from it, surrounded by several trained medical professionals, in a room full of prayer warriors….
So we praise God for His mercy and His power, and we rejoice in the way He used people to bring about this miracle. And at the same time, I think it’s important to acknowledge that despite the outcome, the experience was still upsetting. It’s not the kind of thing any of us expects when we are getting ready for church in the morning. For me, there are no seminary classes on what to do when someone nearly dies in the middle of a worship service. In the moment, I felt God with me, as I stood on the platform and led people to pray for healing with all the faith we could muster. But I’ll confess that internally I was also preparing myself for the worst. Dear God, what then?
When Paul left in the ambulance, after we had seen him get up off the ground and heard his voice, and knew that he was going to be okay, we continued on with the worship service. It seemed a little strange to do so, but it would have seemed just as strange not to. I preached a sermon that I don’t know if anybody heard, and then went straight to an elder meeting, where I counted the guys in the room and asked who was missing. Oh yeah, it was Paul.
That’s when I realized I might be a little shell-shocked. For the next couple of days, I found myself getting emotional at odd times, and choking up when telling others the story. It helped to hear Paul’s voice on the phone and get encouraging texts from Meegan. I’m so, so glad God saved my friend’s life. He has been so kind to us. Please continue to pray for Paul, and Meegan, and their boys Aiden and Caleb. Pray for all of us who were there on Sunday, because we’ve been through something traumatic, which can leave a mark even when it turns out fine. But mostly, just pray and thank God. Praise Him for hearing our prayers and responding with love and mercy and power. Praise Him for Paul’s life, and all the good things He clearly has planned for it. Praise Him for His kindness to us as a church. And praise Him for the reminder that even in the scariest moments, He is still in control.