A Walk In The Valley

Psalm 23: 4 –

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

On Saturday, July 2, 2005, we noticed that our next door neighbors were moving back into their house. They had rented it out for a few months, until the renter had gotten called to active military duty. Naturally, we offered to help them move back in.

We had just finished unloading the trailer, and I was out of breath…

Everyone was asking “Are you OK?” And I said, “Sure, I’m just out of shape.”

Returning home, the shortness of breath continued and started to worsen. After a few minutes of pacing around, I went into the dining room and put both arms on the back of one of the chairs and leaned forward.

Both arms ached and felt like I had strained a muscle. I began to experience a sensation that felt like my chest was being crushed and by now sweat was pouring off me. My wife was quite agitated and concerned. I told her that something was going on and maybe we should go to the hospital.

Things were pretty chaotic at this point. Our neighbors were there along with my wife and oldest son and everyone was talking at once. My son dialed 911.

My wife was insisting that I go lie down on the couch. By now my strength was almost totally gone. Both arms and legs were starting to tremble and it took all my strength to lift my head and stay conscious. I recall managing to whisper to her “Give me a few seconds.”

And I was left alone.

Presently, I went to the living room where I sat back on the couch. My son was still on the phone with the 911 dispatch, having been switched between different operators about 4 times. His irritation with the 911 system was pretty apparent.

In just a few minutes, we heard the sirens and a fire truck and an ambulance arrived.

The paramedic came in and asked a few questions and then connected the heart monitoring equipment. He ordered the stretcher brought in and I managed to get on it unassisted.

Loading me into the ambulance, one of the EMT’s started an IV. The paramedic looked at me and said, “From the indications I’m seeing, I think you are having a heart attack involving the anterior part of your heart. I’m not gonna mince words….that’s the worst kind. We’re heading to the closest hospital.”

En route to the hospital, he talked constantly, telling me to stay awake. He gave me a couple of baby aspirin to chew and swallow.

He stood up in the ambulance and grabbed the bag of fluid that fed the IV, and announced, “Your blood pressure’s no good. It’s 60 over 30. I’m gonna try to raise it.” With that, he began to squeeze the bag of fluid and force it through the IV.

A couple of minutes later, he said “Good…you’re up to 130 now.”

Arriving at the hospital, they rolled me into the ER and promptly started another IV in my other arm and did a chest x-ray.

The ER physician came in and said, “You’re in the middle of a heart attack. From what we can tell at this point, it’s really bad and we want you to know that we’re doing all we can.

“You need to have a heart catheterization and I recommend you go to Methodist since they do more than anyplace else.

“Right now we’re checking on the availability of the helicopter to take you there since it’s well over a 20 minute drive.”

Several minutes had elapsed since our arrival, so I was a little surprised to see the Paramedic who had been in the ambulance with me. He came over to me and said, “Something told me to stick around. We’ll get you to Methodist.”

As they loaded me back into the ambulance for the trip to Methodist Hospital, the ER physician offered these words of comfort to my wife,

“We’ve done all we can. It’s in God’s hands now.”

In the ambulance the Paramedic gave me a dose of morphine. He asked if that helped the pain and I told him no, it just made me feel like I could care less about the pain.

We got to Methodist in just under 11 minutes. En route, the Paramedic said, “They know we’re coming and they’ve notified the heart cath team. We don’t know if they’ll be ready or not, but if they are, you’ll go straight up to the cath lab.”

When we arrived at Methodist, they weren’t quite ready, so we spent a few minutes in the ER. Our pastor showed up and we were able to spend a few minutes in prayer.

As they rolled me into the elevator for the trip to the cath lab, my wife looked at me and said, “I’ll be waiting for you. I can feel God’s presence here with us.”

She told me sometime later, that as I was being wheeled into the dimly lit elevator she saw a bright light at the head of the stretcher. The nurses gave her a strange look, as if to say “Yeah, right.”

While I was in the cath lab, my wife encountered one of her customers in the hospital. He said he was lost and wondered what she was doing there. She explained to him the circumstances and let him know he wasn’t lost but that he was there to pray.

In the cath lab, the doctor introduced himself to me as Dr. Daniel. I later learned that he was the primary interventional cardiologist for the Methodist Care Group, and the lead researcher for the Indiana Vascular Institute of the Indiana Heart Center.

A few minutes into the procedure, all pain disappeared, the crushing sensation left and I could suddenly breathe again with no difficulty. Dr. Daniel had inserted a stent into one of my coronary arteries that had 100% blockage.

The next morning, Dr. Lee from the cardiology group came in and in broken English informed me “You very bad heart attack. You very lucky. You get here very fast.”

Four days later, I went home.

For most people, that’s pretty much the end of the story.

But there’s more to this story, a lot more.

Before I go into the details, I want to pose a few questions, just to keep things in perspective.

  • First, why did the Paramedic hold his ambulance and crew?
  • How is it we were able to make the 20 minute trip to Methodist Hospital in 11 minutes?
  • How is it that the #1 cardiologist in the State of Indiana was “just” standing by for my arrival?
  • How is it that one of my wife’s customers was “lost” and just happened to appear and offer up a prayer?
  • During my follow-up visit to Dr. Daniel, I asked about the mortality rate for the particular blockage I had. His reply? “Very high. That’s the worst kind you can have. You shouldn’t be standing here today.”

Was all this due to some incredible coincidence? How about good luck (immeasurable good luck, that is)?

The real answer is ……neither of these.

For the real answer, we have to return to the scene I described before, in the dining room in my house.

The events that took place in the space of those few short moments were beyond anything that I could ever dream or imagine.

The word “incredible” comes to mind – but even that fails to do justice to what took place.

As I leaned forward on that chair, my strength had left me. The room was turning dark and I knew that I was about to collapse right then and there.

But something was nagging me. In the midst of the turmoil and chaos, something was eating at me and I needed a few seconds to try and discover what it was that was troubling me so.

It was as if there was some dense fog swirling in my head and that was keeping me from discovering what was nagging me. Something was telling me that I just had to know.

After whispering to my wife to give me a few seconds, she went into the other room and I was left alone. It was then that it started to become clear.

A voice -an impression really- was telling me “Bind the spirits.”

What?!?

Bind the spirits.

I couldn’t believe it.

What in the world did any of this have to do with spiritual matters?

Yet it persisted.

Bind the spirits.

So I began.

I said, “I bind these spirits of infirmity in the name of….”

Before I could finish the sentence, I was interrupted.

I was interrupted by the most horrible, hideous laughter that I had ever heard. It echoed through my head causing me to jerk my head backwards in an involuntary recoil. I was stunned, shocked beyond words.

I was paralyzed with fear and a sense of dread as the reality of what was taking place started to sink in.

I was face to face with an evil so dark, so powerful, it defied any measure of description. The laughter was grotesque. Deep. Guttural. Arrogant. It was gloating over my condition. And I could sense its delight in my knowing what was taking place.

All the lies, the deception of a lifetime were gone. It was if a veil had just been torn from my eyes.

I was totally helpless. I was in the grip of an evil that is beyond our limited comprehension. It had come for just one purpose – to kill me. And there was nothing I could do.

I was overcome by despair and the worst feeling of hopelessness I had ever known.

My knees buckled. With each blink of my eyes it became harder and harder to open them. Even as consciousness was leaving me and my mind was clouded by confusion, despair and hopelessness, a single, solitary thought emerged.

Call on Jesus.

My initial reaction was “Where did that come from?

And then the voices……….. Are you crazy? You know that won’t do any good. How stupid are you? What’s the point?

And darkness swept over me, like a giant wave.

With the last of my strength, I forced the words from my mouth. Too weak to even make a sound, all I could do was form the words in a silent whisper – “My Lord Jesus.”

Instantly, I felt an arm around my shoulders.

Grabbing me. Lifting me up.

The cloud of confusion and despair disappeared. It was as though my mind had been emptied of any conscious thought  – except for a single voice.

The voice.

It reverberated in my head. The voice. Clearer than anything I had ever heard.

The voice.

It said, simply, “I’m here.”

I had to turn my head and look. I could see an arm, draped in a white robe. And a hand gripping my shoulder. And then I felt a hand touch my chest, filling me with a sensation of lightness and pure ecstasy.

Strength poured through me. The crushing sensation in my chest, which had been growing stronger by the second, started to subside. Suddenly I was fully awake and alert.

I walked into the living room and sat on the couch. I had an incredible sense of calm and peace, and I knew everything would be OK.

I was totally overcome by the presence still with me. And for that night, on into the next several days, I couldn’t even speak of it. It was fully two weeks, if not longer,  before I could start to talk about it.

While in the hospital, all I could do was respond to their questions and occasionally voice my readiness to go home. The sense of presence was just overwhelming, to the point that I must have been one poor conversationalist.

As I write this, it’s been a few months since these events took place.

Even now, I’m brought to tears and am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility when I consider what took place.

The Redeemer, The King of Kings, The Lord of Hosts, The Alpha and Omega, the Name Above All Names, The Ancient of Days, The Living Word, My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ……. rushed to my side.

Now you know.

This incredible series of events had nothing to do with coincidence. It had nothing to do with luck.

And it sure had nothing to do with me.

It had everything to do with God and the promises he makes to us.

Psalm 37: 40 says:

“And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: HE shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in HIM.”

Psalm 91 says:
Verse 11:

“For HE shall give HIS angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Verse 14:

“Because he hath set his love upon ME, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known MY name.”

Verse 15:

“He shall call upon ME, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.”

Psalm 18:17

“He delivered me from my strong enemy and from those who hated and abhorred me, for they were too strong for me.”

Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword……”

And especially, this passage from 2 Samuel 22:7

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and He did hear my voice…”

God’s word is alive, just as alive today as when Jesus walked the earth. His promises are just as faithful now as when the Word was first written.

And Jesus Christ truly is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was present and leading me that night. As much as I might like to take the credit, I know that I would never have even thought on my own to “bind the spirits” or to call on Jesus. The glory is His and His alone.

It’s pretty obvious that God has a purpose in mind. We don’t really know what that is just yet, but we know it will be revealed in His time.

As I write this, I’m now back at work. I have the great good fortune of working side by side with my beloved wife.

We work in a car dealership, specializing in helping customers through bankruptcy. It is a real ministry for us and God continues to bless us in our work.

The vast majority of our customers are Christians. We know that they are sent to us as they constantly tell us, “Something told us, we need to come see you.”

Not all are there to buy cars – some are sent for us to help in other ways. And some are sent to bless us.

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Comments

  1. Edna Dixon says:

    I have just finished reading your story.

    I had the pleasure of meeting your wife at the dealership, she is a true blessing to us in the middle of our bankruptcy and we are truly blessed with a new car and I tell everyone that it belongs to God, because without him this blessing would not occur.

    There are so many devious people who say they want to help us get ahead but they honestly want you to fail. I am encouraged by doing business with your wife that there are truly honest and sincere people out there who want nothing but good in our life. I can’t say enough about what a true blessing she is and I am encouraged to believe wholeheartedly in the Lord and He will see us through.

    Your story is encouragement, even for those who don’t believe, because it was God’s loving hand keeping your hand in His and walking you through your situation. Thank God for you and your wife. Keep trusting in the Lord.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Edna, and a special thanks for your compliments concerning Dora Lee.I know she’ll be tickled to read them.

  3. Randy Calaway says:

    Amazing grace comes to my mind, wow!

    The voice of the Lord is so powerful, Invoking His name beyond
    our imagination.

    I also think of the “peace that surpasses” understanding.

    That which we take for granted turns to gold in the presence of the Lord,
    when His Spirit guides us through the right time, moment, and down to the
    last breath. IN truth, he will never leave us nor forsake us.

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Randy – glad you enjoyed reading this.

      And you’ve really summed it up – “Amazing Grace.” It can’t be earned and it’s totally undeserved. It drives me flat on my face with awe and wonder. I truly cannot find the words to express this other than to just relate the story.

  4. Rev. Anthony D.Wallace I says:

    Joe,…
    My God, My God such a powerful testimony. The answers that we seek will not be found at our conclusion. They will, as revealed by Jesus, be found during the journey itself. I do have a similar experience and therefore blessed by the most high God to be sitting here experiencing your wonderful revelation.

    My wife was blessed to have met Doralee just recently and can you imagine that they would spent time discussing old hard ankles like you and I. I know that you can, the power of the Lord blessed each of us with the love of a lifetime.
    They dicussed us meeting over lunch sometime in the near future, so as the Lord wills I will look forward to an enlightening experience upon our meeting.

    Peace be Still,

    Anthony

    Rev. A. D. Wallace I

    • Anthony,

      Glad you enjoyed reading this – and I’m looking forward to our meeting as well.

      Be sure and ask your wife about DoraLee giving me a call while they were talking – I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

  5. VENEE' GAGE-ROBERTSON says:

    I’ve worked for 1st Investors for 10 years and I just recently developed a blessed relationship with your wife. She gave me your website today and it has blessed me so much. She suggested that I start with “Walk in the Valley”. When my father passed I experienced a simular moment of dispair but I remembered who he belonged to and where he was going and a peace that I had never known before came over me. I was able to be the rock for the rest of my family and help them understand that God loved him even more and had another important job for him in Heaven. I will share this site with my friends and family so they may also be blessed. God is always with us if we just avail our minds and hearts to him.

    • Venee’,

      Thanks for stopping by and I really appreciate your kind words. When we get to experience that sense of peace, that’s when we know – from our hearts – that everything we had believed and hoped for in faith, is true.

  6. robert toschlog says:

    Joe – this is an awesome testimony of God’s grace and mercy that he has for his children. He said in his word that he would never leave us nor forsake us but that he would be with us no matter what. His love toward us is so amazing. The song oh how he loves us oh how he loves you and me came to my mind when i read your testimony.

    How awesome the FATHERS LOVE is for his children.
    Thanks for your testimony it was a blessing to read – Robert Toschlog

    p.s. – met your wife today at Blossom what an awesome woman of God – may the lord Jesus Christ continue to bless you both.

  7. Joe L. Stallard says:

    I stumbled across your posting not by luck but by Devine intervention, I’m another Joe Stallard. I’m from Kingsport, Tn and bleed orange. I’ve enjoyed several of your postings and have added you to my favorites in order to rad more. Take care and God Bless.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Joe, and it’s ok to bleed orange. Lived a few years in the Knoxville area and visited the Kingsport area a few times. Gorgeous country there. Take care.

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