I couldn’t think of a better way to title this post… I wanted this to not only serve the purpose of sharing with you what I went through, but also to serve as a reminder to me if I ever start to go back to my old ways so here it is:
This past Friday morning I woke up after a long trip to Tampa, Florida that lasted the week. This was going to be a special day as it was the day before my son’s birthday. We were going to Sea World as a family in celebration. We were looking forward to this day for months. When I got up, the entire right side of my body was numb and literally felt partially disconnected from my brain. My right leg and arm would obey commands but both were very weak so I limped to the bathroom and started brushing my teeth thinking I must have been sleeping in a bad position and figured—hoped it would go away. After brushing my teeth I headed to the shower wondering how this would affect the gift God has given me if this were permanent. The thought truly frightened me. When I started shampooing my hair, I noticed my right hand was hardly moving while my left hand was promptly obeying commands from my brain briskly shifting back and forth across my scalp. This is when I knew something was wrong so I finished up, grabbed my iPhone, and googled the symptoms, but my phone was stuck loading the results. At this point the wife and kids were calling me out of the bedroom excited about what the day would bring. Sanban’s first words to me were “It’s the day before my birthday!” with a big smile on his face – Jake repeating the same words to me telling me as if it were the first time I was hearing the phrase. I immediately explained to Yoko what was happening to me but these symptoms – especially described in my state of mind just brought about more confusion in both of us so she went to finish up getting ready while I headed to the studio computer to see about buying Sea World tickets online. With the limp still in full affect and the symptoms not subsiding I decided to click open another tab and search the symptoms again. The results loaded with not 10, 5, or even 3 possibilities. Only two possible diagnoses – Stroke or TIA (mini-stroke). I immediately went to Yoko and told her – we need to go to the hospital. The drive there seemed like an eternity – wondering if more of my brain was literally dying every second it took to get to the hospital. Then we and everyone else on the road crawled to a stop, we moved forward what felt like a few inches, then another stop. We had never seen the traffic this bad on this road. What should have been a 10 minute drive looked like it would take forever. I could see the stress and the worry in Yoko’s face – her eyes gripping the road and cars in front of her almost as tightly as her hands gripped the steering wheel. I remember telling Yoko with a tear in my eye, “If this is it, you have to make sure the Music To Pray By Album master is published!” I know God created me for this purpose. As we continued to sit in traffic, my mind began to race – if only we would have called 911… if only we had got an ambulance… if only… After 50 minutes of waiting in traffic, I limped into the emergency room and told the attendant, “I think I’m having a stroke” and described my symptoms. She asked me to fill out a short form and with confusion I answered a few simple questions she asked at which point I heard her say to listeners unknown to me over a radio, “I have to call stroke protocol”. She immediately sat me down to take my vitals. They supported the stroke theory at which point she walked me back to a room where more than 8 doctors, nurses, and assistants were standing around a hospital bed waiting for me to lie down. I was ordered to take my shirt off at which point they began to place untold numbers of sensors on my chest and stomach. All these wires – what are they for? What do they do? So may questions in my head… So much confusion… “…what is your date of birth?!” “…what year is it?!” “…what is your name?! ‘Ronald John’ or ‘Ronald Johnssss'” I tried to keep up with all the questions, but that one particularly bothered me. “Ronald Johns” I said, or did I? They rolled me into a big machine all the while explaining what was going to happen. Answers were coming – I was so tired of all the questions. While the CT scanner was spinning around my head I prayed, “LORD, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for not taking care of the body you gave me. I commit to You that will change if I make it out of here alive. I promise.” So many promises broken. So many commitments unkept. Could I keep this one? Was I done? Was this the day God takes me home? My vision for Music To Pray By was incomplete. I had imagined 30-40 more years of creating music – bringing praise and worship to my King here on earth. This couldn’t be it could it?
The fog of “stroke protocol” finally came crashing to an end. A doctor stood at my bedside and said, “Good news! You’re not having a stroke”. He went on to say that I likely experienced a TIA or a mini-stroke and that I was going to be admitted to the hospital for further evaluation. I knew my kids would be crushed – no Sea World today. Once I was moved out of the emergency room to a hospital room, I began to notify friends and family of the news. The plan was to run more tests, get an MRI in the morning, then go home – just in time to prepare for church services. Yoko and the kids left to get me some necessities – extra clothes, my tech gadgets, my laptop bag, and my in-ear monitors as Billy had just sent me the mastered proof of the album and I was hoping after 5 previous rejected proofs from another mastering company that this would be the one. Once the family made it back, we spent some time together talking about Sanban’s birthday and the next steps, but it didn’t take long for the kids to get restless. Once they left, I broke out the in-ear monitors, listened and immediately entered into prayer, thankful that the circumstances weren’t worse. Thankful that this master could be the one after a month of disappointments. Thankful to be alive. Next on the to-do list was preparation for Sunday services. I immediately went to work – listening to the set list and charting songs tapping away at my bedside table testing the dexterity in my right hand. Things feel normal – that’s a good sign.. There… I was ready to go for Sunday Morning.
The night was long and sleepless. Every 2-3 hours someone was waking me up from my slumber to poke, prod, or interrogate me. “Now I understand why people don’t like to come here…” I thought as I tried to still my mind and go back to sleep for the 3rd time.
The morning came and the next thing I know I’m being wheeled to the MRI machine by a young man asking me a number of questions that would afford any clue as to whether or not there was any material on or in my body that would be susceptible to magnets. Once we were there, he explained what the experience would be like – 30 whole minutes of laying perfectly still – not my idea of fun, but maybe I could catch up on some z’s. I was given earplugs as if I were headed to the shooting range and once I was in the contraption, I understood why. There were clicks, bangs, and buzzes loud enough to likely do permanent hearing damage if it weren’t for the ear protection and the foam around my head to keep it still. 17 minutes in, the tech came on the intercom and announced I only had to endure for 3 more minutes. It seemed longer than the previous 17, but I made it! Now, the doc can tell me everything is fine and I can go home.
After the past 24 hours, I knew some serious lifestyle changes were afoot. I was good – “message received LORD.” Once I was in the room, I put the album on again – with my in-ear monitors, praying in my mind – keeping my promise not to miss a single day for at least a month – maybe my whole life. “This time with You LORD IS the most important time”, I spoke with my mind. I then pulled up my daily Bible plan on my iPhone and began to read and think.
Next thing I knew, the neurology doctor in a rush came into my room explaining that my MRI was good – no signs of a stroke, and based on all the evidence, I didn’t even have a TIA. I believe it was called a hemiplegic migraine, which meant there would be no prescription meds – just a change in diet and work on getting my blood pressure under control. Great news – relief washed over me. I was going home soon and this nightmare would soon be over. While discussing this, there were two circumstances that led her away from this conclusion. One was my blood pressure at the time I was admitted, and the second was that the symptoms disappeared sooner than they would have in the case of a hemiplegic migraine. While another assistant was looking at my heart using ultrasound, the doctor came back with one of my MRI pictures on her laptop were she showed me a very small area on the left side of my brain that indicated a full-out stroke. She told me that was dead brain tissue. I immediately began to wonder what was contained there that is no longer. Was it a childhood memory? Was it the ability to hear new melodies in my head? Was it something – a memory that was more harm than good? There was no way to know because it was gone. Depression – a familiar feeling as they told me I would have to stay at the hospital till possibly Monday. No church service – I was going to let my team down for the first time in as long as I could recall. As the seriousness of the circumstance began to close in on me, I began to text. First, my pastor and creative arts director so they could prepare for my absence. Then, my family – what to say to not cause too much worry? I felt fine, but I obviously wasn’t fine. I had a stroke – something that could have easily claimed my ability to serve the Kingdom of God here on earth – at least in the way I was used to and loved to.
Next came more and more tests to try and find the source of the vein blockage in my head. Was it a blood clot? Was it fatty tissue? There were scans, blood tests, more scans, and more tests. The highlight of the time in the hospital room were the visits from church families. It is truly a blessing to have the friends that I have. It helped to talk about the situation and communicate out-loud the re-plotting of my life’s course correction. Each visit ended with a prayer – prayers that truly inspired and encouraged me.
After the final exam Sunday Morning, I was so ready to go home and start my new life – a life I am truly blessed to have. They were not able to find the source of the clot, but they did confirm a hole in my heart – the song, “God-shaped hole” popped into mind and a smile across my face in an awkward point of the doctor’s explanation, but I didn’t care. I have a God-shaped hole in my heart – one that will remain there till I vacate this body to be with my Savior. This hole means that my lifestyle has to change in order for me to remain alive, but I am truly thankful for the second chance. I am thankful this happened to me as I already see in many ways God’s Will being worked out in it.
Now, I’m home with the family taking it easy. I’ve listened over the master again in the studio and I’m so excited about the end result! Billy has put the finishing touches on it and I should have the master in-hand today or tomorrow at which point it will be mailed in for replication and publication on the iTunes store. The whole process should take less than a month so it will likely be published before my 41st birthday and I hope and pray I will be given enough time on this earth to complete many many more of these projects as one of my life’s missions is to inspire God’s people to pray. More updates coming.
So much has happened over the past few months! I’ll start by sharing some pics of the new piano being delivered:
To be honest, I’ve been somewhat negligent at recording new content for the next podcast as there have been quite a few life-changes recently since I passed the CCIE Security.
First, and probably the biggest change is my departure from Soundwave. After over 10 years with the band, God has made it clear that I need to step down. The reason behind the decision was unclear at the time, but there have been a number of confirmations since.
Second, The Connection Church started a fourth service on Saturday Night last weekend. It was a HUGE hit, but this does come with a greater commitment of my time and also brings some clarity as to why I believe God brought me to the decision to leave Soundwave.
As the two little ones get older (now 4 and 6), they want to spend more time with dad, which I consider a true blessing. We are taking our first ever family vacation starting tomorrow and it’s going to be a blast!
With all this said, the next podcast release date is somewhat up in the air at this point, but I’ll keep you posted.
Hannah Fountain, my sister said a prayer over my latest podcast that I believe is truly anointed. They don’t have access to a studio so she recorded the prayer using her iPhone. I tried to clean up the audio a little bit, but if you focus on the prayer, I believe you’ll be blessed. Feel free to share with anybody who may be encouraged. Also, Hannah got references from Joyce Meyer’s healing scriptures and confessions. I pray this is as much as a blessing to you as it was to me.
Even with the time off I’ve taken and the lack of new podcasts, there seems to be a great deal of people using MTPB, which couldn’t make me happier. It is truly motivating to see how many this ministry has reached. Will the number ever reach 10 million in my lifetime? 10 million downloads if played and prayed to would equal roughly 5 million hours of prayer!
There is still more news and pictures to share so I’ll do my best to keep you posted. My goal for the next podcast end of September.
First, I want to say I’m sorry for being out of pocket for so long. I came nowhere near my goal for Music to Pray By in 2013. It seems as though other priorities snuck in throughout the year, and I wanted to share with you about some of them.
First, one that directly impacts this ministry – we’ve moved! We actually stayed in the same neighborhood, but upgraded to a little larger house that has more space for the studio. Now the piano has it’s own room where I plan to keep microphones at the “ready” at all times so there’s no setup when it’s time to record. There’s also more space in the control room for recording the band, which will certainly be a welcome change. Here are some pictures right after the move. I’ll be sure to update you with current pics once everything is setup:
There’s conduit running between the rooms for the MIDI and microphone cables. Most of the acoustic treatment is here and it’s just a matter of putting it up based on the designs Auralex provided. I hope to have the studio 100% ready by the end of this weekend.
We’ve kept our old home and are renting it out as a vacation home for those traveling to the Austin area since it is a hot destination for a number of reasons. We’ve listed it at homeaway.com. If you’re ever destined to the Austin area and need a place to stay, feel free to reach out! I know this GREAT church right down the street if you’re here over the weekend and would like to attend Sunday service.
Another major deterrent was the CCIE Security lab exam, which I spent countless hours preparing for this year. I took the lab in the middle of November and I did not pass. In fact, I left Cisco feeling as though version 4 of the lab is not passable. It was extremely discouraging, but I’m not going to give up and hope to try again mid-next year.
With regards to podcast 68, it is recorded and about 60% edited and hope to have it posted before the new year so stay tuned!
Our prayers have had a tremendous impact! While Yoko was in Okinawa visiting her sister, God opened up a perfect opportunity for her to share the love of Jesus with her sister, and Eiko agreed to pray with her and received Jesus into her heart! That which seemed impossible God made possible!
I had also asked for prayer that God would put in Eiko’s path believers. Before Yoko arrived in Okinawa, she was transferred to a hospice founded by a Christian, filled with Christians, prayer rooms, live worship, and New Testament Bibles! Out of all the places she could end up, this is truly a miracle.
One more update – Eiko’s health appears to be improving! In fact, she has improved so much that the staff at the hospice have encouraged her and her family to get a second opinion. She is also out of the wheelchair and is getting around more on her own. Still no official word yet on the cancer, but I believe God has fully healed her from this terminal disease! My prayer now is that she will fully recognize God’s Hand in all of this and give Him all the Glory – please pray with me, also that the Holy Spirit would give her boldness in her new faith.
We hear these sort of stories on occasion, but something this close to home just leaves me in awe of God’s Wondrous Mercy and Grace! Please continue to pray for her and her family as I believe through this the door will be opened for the rest of Yoko’s family to know Jesus! I post this with much love for you all and can’t thank you enough for your prayers as they have had a miraculous impact.
Our God is an Awesome God!
A quick MTPB update – Podcast 67 has been recorded and I’m in the process of editing. My goal is to get it posted this weekend or next so please stay tuned.
Our God is Faithful! This year has truly been life-changing for me, and I question whether I would have made it through without your prayers. I’m a little over 2 weeks away from my exam, and though I’m about 20-24 hours behind my study schedule, I have peace. I’ve already begun the editing process of Podcast 66 so it will hopefully be posted within weeks after my exam. My next consulting venture is a two-month long project in Houston so please continue to keep me in your prayers. For Jesus!
It is difficult to get into the details of what has happened to me over the past 3 months, but I feel it is important to share this with you. Mid-April was a huge turning point in my life. I had just left my job at AT&T to become a consultant with a much smaller company, the Soundwave tour was in full swing with weekly practices and concerts, there was my commitment to The Connection Church ministry leadership and worship teams, and Yoko and the kids were getting ready to leave for Okinawa without me for 3 weeks. On top of all of this, the enemy took huge advantage of a very weak point when I was under for a dental surgery. I literally thought I was dying and it was as though every Truth about our existence in God’s Word ceased to exist and my entire foundation was shaken to the core. I was flooded with more doubt and depression than I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. I began to spend every spare moment I could find listening to God’s Word in the car, praying, reading the Bible, but the “near-death experience” had me convinced EVERYTHING was meaningless. It was so crushing that it took me 3 days just to recognize it as a spiritual attack. When I did, the enemy no longer tried to hide the evidence of the attack, which increased exponentially with fear added to the mix – unexplainable fear. I immediately began to call and text family and friends to pray. That night, I sought after God and relied on The Holy Spirit more than ever.
Over the past few months, there have been victories, but there have also been struggles with depression, doubt, and fear like never before. A split-second thought followed by wave after wave of spine-chilling goosebumps, sometimes occurring over and over for hours! Throughout most of my life, the enemy has used my flesh with sinful desires and bad habits, occasional doubt, etc., but this was different. It was truly a non-stop war on my mind. I have never had thoughts enter my mind that made my soul cringe like this – thoughts I don’t have the words to describe, and the enemy would trick me into pondering these thoughts to the point of spiraling into deep, dark depression that would last for days. Over time, God began to bring into greater light the spiritual war that was going on. Truth in the scriptures like 2 Corinthians 10:5, prayer, family (especially my bro David), and the same Power that raised Christ from the dead gave me renewed hope and peace. Our God is so faithful!
I truly believe that God is doing some GREAT things through this ministry and the enemy is not happy about it. Prayer IS the way we wage this invisible war by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and this fact has never been more real to me. A few days ago when I posted on Facebook asking for prayer, it had been another very rough few days dealing with a weight of depression that had no explanation whatsoever. I could literally feel the depression lift as you guys prayed for me.
I hope this encourages you to pray continually. Pray for the state of our nation. Pray for those affected by the Colorado shooting. Pray for the unsaved in your churches. Pray for your pastors, your family! …and if you have time, I am eternally grateful for any prayers lifted up on my behalf. Satan is a formidable enemy, but GREATER is He that is in me than he that is in the world!!! – 1 John 4:4
I cannot believe it has been almost 2 months since I last posted any updates. For that I am sorry, but there is good reason. Now that Soundwave’s new album, “The Start” is about to be released, we have been intensely preparing for what God has in store for this ministry. Since my last podcast, we’ve done a weekend-long camp for some little ones, we’ve had a number of practices, and I’ve spent many many hours preparing some new technologies that should help us in a major way when playing live. We’ve also done four in-home pre-release concerts the past 2 weeks. Here’s a song from one of them requested by the host called “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan:
This weekend is DCYC, an event we’ve been a part of the past 2 years, and it continues to grow. So far, there are over 2,100 young people signed up to attend, and we are stoked! After this, I’m headed off to Canada for a week (work related), and the weekend I get back is our CD release concert in Lockhart.
Soundwave has a few more concerts in February and March, but I hope to record and post another podcast between now and the end of March. I actually recorded a podcast in December, but had technical problems again. I’ve also started work on the “Music to Pray By” album, and I’m torn between putting time and effort into that project and posting podcasts. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a balance.
With all that said, I am truly blown away at the number of downloads MTPB has had even without new podcasts. The site has just recently hit over 500,000 downloads with an average of over 1,400 downloads a day now. To those who continue to use this resource to enhance your prayer time – thank you. These numbers are truly inspiring to me.
It’s actually been up for a while now so most of you have probably already noticed. There were quite a few issues when it was deployed by the developers almost a month ago, but they are all fixed! The site is now available in over 50 languages which is also a huge improvement. This ministry reaches believers all over the world! Alex Anze is testament of that, and he has been a huge blessing to this ministry. Not only did he design the new album art as mentioned in this post, but he’s also responsible for this website. Below is the original graphic design he provided for the developers to use in building it. They did an outstanding job translating the graphic into what you see now and I’m truly thankful all this has come together. God is good! Feel free to comment on the design if you like. In the meantime, Podcast 63 is in the works and should be posted this Sunday evening.
Over the past few months, people throughout Texas have been praying for rain. We have had the worst drought in my lifetime this year. I took the family to Burnett for a “Day out with Thomas” and on the way saw some amazing damage this drought has caused. Here are some images:
These are very small examples of some of the damage. There have been hundreds of fires all over Texas, and as a result of this horrible drought, there has been a surge of prayer at church, schools, rallies, and in homes all across Texas for rain. There was the prayer event in Houston inspired by the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and now I believe we are truly witnessing an answer to prayer. The Bible has many examples of God’s people praying for rain and it’s very clear in Zechariah 10:1 Who sends rain. We’ve had modest amounts of rain over the past month but are in desperate need for more and theres some promising chances of rain in the forecast so please pray with me for Texas – that God sends thunder clouds full of rain! Thank You LORD for Your Grace!
I distinctly remember the times Joy Clayton spoke briefly during Sunday service at The Ark Family Church. The messages have always been inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting. Earlier this year, Kyle Kutter called me and asked if I would put together a piano intro and outro for “Moments of Joy“, a short podcast of these messages, and I considered it an honor. I thought to check this evening, and quite a few have accumulated over the past few months. They can be found here. What a blessing it is to be a blessing.
Pastor Alan and The Ark Family Church are largely responsible for the early beginnings of Music To Pray By. The church would have men’s prayer on Friday mornings, and the first few times I went, John Fernandez was at the grand piano playing music similar to what you hear in this podcast. Eventually, John asked me to sit in for him. I was nervous at the thought of playing live during prayer at first, but those were times I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. That eventually led to the original album, which led to this podcast. Pastor Alan has sent me encouraging e-mails in the past regarding his use of this ministry, which have truly inspired me to continue doing this even when I’ve felt like quitting. If you’re reading this pastor, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am living proof of Isaiah 55:10-11. Though I see dimly what God has done through this ministry (1Corinthians 13:12), I am truly excited about what He has planned (Jeremiah 29:11). To God be the glory.
About 5 days ago, Alex Anze, a podcast subscriber and graphics designer contacted me and said that he felt led by LORD to help the MTPB ministry by designing new album art for the podcasts “…in hopes that a better album cover might be more inviting to more people and so increase the number of praying people.” Today, I received the following image from him and all I can say is, …wow!
When I asked if it was okay to mention him in a blog post, he asked that it be made clear that he did this for the glory of God and not for self publicity – that this was a way of advancing the Kingdom of God and he’s glad and proud to have achieved something that may just do that. There may be some improvements to the website as well thanks to Alex’s generosity. GOD IS GOOD! Thank you LORD for Alex and for the work You’ve accomplished through him, and I pray you bless him in a very huge way!