Good News?

I’ve been on Remicade more than three months, now.  Before that, I was on Humira and Enbrel (not simultaneously) for nearly a year.  Because of my high deductible, I didn’t get an MRI when I was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis.  Remicade obliterated my deductible so I finally had an MRI on my sacroiliac joints this past Monday.

My doctor advised me that it’s possible that the test wouldn’t show any inflammation, but today I received the news that I have inflammation consistent with ankylosing spondylitis. This is good news.  I don’t carry the HLA-B27 gene, so this shows that we are treating the right disease, we just haven’t found the treatment that works for me.  For starters, we are increasing my Remicade dose to 8 mg.

I don’t know if that will help as I think my problem lies in my superhuman metabolism.  Medication doesn’t stay in my system long.  The dentist has to give me extra novacaine and the symptoms still have nearly completely subsided when I get home–only a ten minute trip.  It’s the same with surgery.  I’m not aware of waking up in the middle of a procedure but I came close when I was ten.  I was at the oral surgeon pumped full of nitrous oxide. I remember hearing the nurse telling me to breathe deeply right as I was waking up.

If I could take Humira weekly I’d be in pretty good shape.  I remember around seven days out of fourteen where I was pretty normal.  The problem is that the medicine isn’t approved for weekly dosing to treat my illness.

All in all, it’s good news.  A pastrami on rye would be better, but I’ll take what I can get.

Just Like Paradise

The old David Lee Roth tune comes to mind this morning, yet it is antithetical to how I’m feeling since Thursday’s Remicade infusion.

This visit ended with a twist of sorts as my hips were injected with steroids in an effort to curb some of the pain.  Instead, at least for now, they are stiff and achy; it is reminiscent of having to chisel and pry and hammer a worn out strut.  (I am no mechanic, so any repair I make involves pry bars and hissy fits.

As soon as I complete my shift at work, I’ll be back in bed like the past couple of days.  This is only a bonus from my typical searing pain in my lower spine. My upper spine feel like it has been contorted by a gorilla.  I think farmers give their sick horses better treatment when they lead them out to a pasture, gun in hand.  And no, I’m not implying anything as I’m against euthanasia.  I’m not above whining, though.

I’ve been feeling pretty horrible the past six weeks or so.  I have had my share of hiding in the bedroom.  I’m just frustrated today.  

(Cue DLR) — THIS MUST BE JUST LIKE LIVING IN PARADISE.

Another Typical Day

Almost 2 1/2 months since my first Remicade infusion and I’m still trying to determine how much it is actually helping.  I just came off a flare up that lasted about a week and a half.  I’m still not feeling terrific.  Granted, I have had some days where I felt pretty good, but I don’t know if Humira is better or not yet.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a real bear and when my symptoms are excruciatingly apparent, they seem to be increasing in severity and scope.  My lower spine feels as if it is bathed in flames and the pain in my hips is increasing.  Then there is the newest symptom.  When I lay on my back, my chest hurts in the sternum area.  

I’m curious to know if you can stack immunosuppressants like bodybuilders do steroids.  I figure if I get some relief from Remicade and some from Humira, that could be favorable.  Granted, the risks are elevated, but why worry about the cancer you might get tomorrow if you are enduring crippling pain today?  

I’ll see the rheumatologist on the sixteenth when I get my next infusion. In the meantime, I’ll just lurch like Godzilla.

BBQ Chronicles:  Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue–Jefferson, TX

Yesterday was one of those rare days when both my wife and I were off work. We had planned on some type of outdoor family adventure, but the rainy weather made us modify our plans.  Plan B was to make a short trek to Texas for some delectable barbecue.  I brought, Alli, my oldest daughter to Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue last year when I started my journey to visit the TM Top 50 joints, so I already knew that we were going to get a respectable meal.

 

Spare rib, fatty brisket, and sausage.
 
Alli and I asked for untrimmed fatty brisket–sliced.  I’ll have to admit that there wasn’t much of a crust, but the perfectly rendered fat made up for it.  The meat was a bit blandish, but it did have a nice smokiness and was deliciously tender. Any joker can chop shoe leather and slather it in sauce, but it takes a certain level of expertise to smoke up a slab of fork tender meat.  My wife, Heather, and I had a second dose of brisket in our swamp fries–a devilish concoction of hand cut fries smothered in brisket, jalapeños, onions, and cheese.  Hand cut fries are the best and when they are paired with BBQ, they are phenomenal.

 

The fabled swamp fries that might be the Fouke Monster’s main staple.
 
The spare ribs had a nice smoke ring.  There wasn’t much rub induced flavor, but they were nice.  They gave the perfect resistance when bitten.  No mushy meat and it came clean from the bone.

The smoked sausage was forgettable.  It gave a nice hint of fire as if they were hot links, but I should have passed on it to make room for some smoked turkey.

The barbecue beans were punched up baked beans from a can, but man, they were punched up.  I really enjoyed them.

I also asked the pit master what he puts in the sauce that gives it its sweetness. He immediately responded with brown sugar.  When I pressed him, he gave a bit of a sly smile but wouldn’t give it up.  I detected a fruity note, perhaps cherry.  Whatever he sneaks into his sauce works.

Aside from the lack of bark on these delectable morsels and the tired sausage, everything was great.  I’m a bit surprised because my favorite from our smorgasbord was the swamp fries.  Incredible.
Explore the following links for more BBQ exploits:

Bartley’s BBQ

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

Hitch-N-Post

Bob’s Bar-B-Que

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q

Dreamland

Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue

Opposing God

I was reading a Franklin Graham post on Facebook when I was reminded of the dark times we live in.  The subject of the post was concerning the legalization of homosexual marriage in Ireland.  We all know (whether you admit it or suppress it) that God defined marriage between one man and one woman.  We can force a square peg through a round hole and “redefine” anything we wish.  But that doesn’t make it true.  

I enjoy reading peoples’ responses on Facebook.  Sometimes you read something poignant, but most of the time it’s thoughtless bumper sticker rhetoric.  “Don’t Judge” is one of the most popular remarks.  I can understand that coming from a pagan, but professing Christians say it too.  It seems to escape these people that they are guilty of judgment when they tell people not to judge.  But to have so-called Christians disregarding scripture?  Is this the New Intolerance?

We must not do what is right in our own eyes.  We can see where that path leads by reading Judges.  I think that is the disconnect.  What do the statistics say regarding Christianity in America?  Seventy percent?  Eighty percent?  These statistics are so misleading because most of these people only like a Jesus that approves of them.  Their Christ didn’t die for their sins.  

Realistically, I wouldn’t be surprised if America is only ten or fifteen percent Christian.  The other sixty five percent are wannabe poseurs who think Matthew 7 teaches that it is wrong to judge and that God won’t punish lawbreakers.  These people think that they are good because they go to church, or not.  Maybe their worship is their own private affair when they are watching American Idol or cheating on their taxes.  It’s a smokescreen.  That own “private worship” business is oftentimes justification for their lawless hearts.

It’s no wonder that pagans call us hypocrites because we act just like they do.  We stand on the Bible regarding homosexual marriage, but we forget about divorce.  We appear to be the wet blanket at the party when we oppose sin instead of upholding virtue.  It’s not a matter of preference.  It is a matter of right and wrong.

We don’t define sin.  God does.  Yet, we tell people to avoid sin because it is wrong or even gross.  Try looking at sin from God’s perspective.  All sin, divorce, rape, murder, homosexuality, blasphemy–all sins aren’t merely aberrant.  God views sin as abominable.

Why can’t we just let people persist in their sin?  It’s not hurting us Christians.  That’s not what Paul says.  He states, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭32‬ ESV)  Our approval of sin or even our winking at sin is an abomination.  

If we encourage any sin, we are in rebellion.  If we stand for and support sin, we may as well be participants.  We are opposing God.  How can a Christian call himself a friend of God when he behaves like an enemy?  He can’t.

Unborn Again

I was listening to Paul Washer today when I was reminded that Christianity isn’t about morality or being a good person.  This is oftentimes the message that unbelievers hear.  A common belief is that God is loving; therefore, He will overlook my sins because overall I’m a pretty good person.  After all, I’ve never killed anyone.  I even help old ladies across the street.  But the truth is that I’m not good.  It doesn’t matter what I do.  It is impossible for my good works to overcome my bad ones.  

In reality, I have no good in me apart from Jesus.  Yet people despise the godman and attempt to earn their own salvation.  When we get caught up in religion, we are no more saved than the unregenerate.  

Paul Washer had an analogy that clarified this.  Suppose a preacher went to visit a member of his congregation at his house because he has not been attending lately.  The man says, “Preacher, you’re right.  I need to get back in church because it is good for me.”  The preacher confronts him on his drinking.  The man retorts, “You’re right preacher.  I’ve been getting drunk a lot lately.  I like boozing but I need to quit because that’s what’s best for me.”  Now the preacher confronts the man about his infidelity.  The man says, “I know it’s not what’s best for me.  I need to quit carousing.”

The following Sunday, the man comes to church and fellow church members are amazed that the preacher was able to lead a sheep back into the fold.  The truth is that this man never was a sheep.  He’s just a goat attending church.

We shouldn’t be doing what we hate doing because it is good for us.  It’s not like force feeding yourself kale because it is heart healthy.  If we are secure in Christ, what we love should be a reflection of that.  If we love our sin we aren’t saved.

This reminds me of a former friend.  After sharing the gospel many times, he claimed that he has “accepted” Christ.  After only a few weeks, he shed his identity with Christ as easily as he allegedly identified with him.  He actually says he was born again (but no longer).  One cannot be saved only to become unsaved.  Either you are born again or you are not.  

It is clear that he doesn’t know what it means to be born again.  He never was born again.  He was blinded by his own wisdom and goodness.  He doesn’t realize that he is a bad man in need of a savior.

There are people just like him in the church.  They are caught up with religion or self righteousness.  They don’t understand that keeping law will not save them.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey God, but we don’t follow God’s laws to be saved.  We strive to keep the law because we are saved.

Counting Down

My first Remicade infusion was April 20.  My second was May 7.  I’m taunted by short bouts of relief.  I’m aware that it can take three months to begin to enjoy the effects, but when you are in the middle of a flare up, you can’t even see thirty minutes into your future.  You can’t see beyond the pain.

At times it feels like my lower spine was smashed with a framing hammer.  My hips don’t feel much better.  At least I’m reminded of my disease because too many days of relative comfort make the pain fade into a fog where you can’t quite grasp the enormity of the crushing torment.  That is perhaps the greatest gift.  Those are the days where I’m completely disconnected from my illness because I can’t quite remember how crippling it feels.  The memories rush back as you stagger like Frankenstein, though.  

It feels like I made a mistake when I made the leap from Humira to Remicade.  Humira works for me, but I dared to try something new to see if I could feel more normal.  I’m drifting in agony and my dad decides to text me about my sister.  About some sort of reconciliation.  I’ve played that game before and boundaries are more important than dealing with something hopeless.  Don’t get me wrong.  I wish her the best, but we have never been close.  We are strangers linked by blood.  After you sift the details, we are still strangers.

I rattled off a laundry list of what I endure daily, and to look at it, it is rather depressing.  I told him that I haven’t had a pain-free day in almost six years.  I told him I have days where I don’t know how to survive another thirty minutes, so if God grants me another thirty years, that is 262,800 more hours of desolation.  Sure, some days are better than others, but the pain always lingers.  It prowls waiting to consume me.  And I’m devoured moment by moment.

I don’t think he ever considered my problems.  He just wants to repair a dysfunctional family before he dies.  Good for him.  He just needs to pick a new family on which to focus his efforts.  (I hope that last sentence was properly structured.  I was thinking of grammar nazis and prepositions.  If not, I really don’t care as I think an alien is erupting from my spine right now).

When I wake up in the morning, my focus will be counting the hours until I can go back to sleep.  An Ambien induced slumber that allows me an unconscious respite.  My little slice of heaven.

Mooyah–Tyler, TX

I was on my way home from a Mercy Chefs deployment in Van, TX and had planned on stopping at Stanley’s in Tyler, TX.  They have excellent barbecue.  In fact, I’d say they have the only barbecue in fifty miles.  All other claimants in the area do not produce barbecue, but an abominable imposter.  Sadly, Stanley’s is closed on Sundays, so I had to think fast and settled on Mooyah Burgers, Shakes & Fries.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I was encouraged when I saw fresh cut fries on the menu.  I also thought the burgers looked promising.  I was thinking about Five Guys fries and a punched up burger as I consider five Guys’ burgers as consistent, yet average.  If I hadn’t shelled out eleven bucks for a burger, fries, and a drink, I could have better enjoyed an otherwise unenjoyable burger.

The bun was soft and squishy like an old lady’s flabby neck (I mean this in the most complimentary way).  The size of the party was impressive.  The sheer number of available toppings and sauces were unmatched.  The flowing grease mustn’t be confused with juiciness, though.

At first, I actually thought I was assaulting an incredibly juicy burger, but the unpleasant liveresque aftertaste coupled with grease that coated my throat, I quickly realized that I had stumbled into a nightmare.  I’m not opposed to excessively greasy burgers, but this was no enhancement.  This was obscenity on a bun.  This was equivalent to grazing on a minefield of back acne. 

If you want some tasty fries, Mooyah will satisfy.  If you are still lusting for decadence, pass on the burger and get a peanut butter and banana concrete at Andy’s Frozen Custard down the street.

One More Day

I finally started my new medication to treat my ankylosing spondylitis.  I had my first Remicade infusion Monday.  Now I guess it’s time to wait and see.  The nurse told me that it could take up to six weeks before I feel any effects.  Six weeks is a long time.  I hope I get relief sooner than that.

I’ve been going to physical therapy for a few months to improve mobility as well.  There is nothing better that the fuzzy sensation from the electrical stimulation machine.  It helps alleviate pain so well that I was prescribed my own TENS unit.  I finally got it yesterday.  I went to bed with it on my lower back and kept it on while I worked today.  I took it off a couple of hours ago and the pain has increased in intensity and determination.  Pain seems to be intentional in gaining your attention.  The object isn’t finding a cure.  The object is to make it one more day.

One more day.  I’ve dealt with five and a half years of one more days.  Swapping medications and waiting for the new one to establish authority over my illness makes those days longer.  Those days are harder.

I want to just vegetate on the couch like I used to when dealing with these flare ups.  I’m working again, so I have to suck it up.  I have other responsibilities.  “Suck it up, Princess,” is something I occasionally hear.  Sometimes I hear it from myself.  

I’m not trying to turn this into a whine fest.  This time yesterday I was telling myself, “One more day.”  I’m saying it now and I will likely be repeating it tomorrow.  I’m confident the medication will help.  If not, I can go back to Humira and those dreadful injections.  At least they are somewhat effective.  I’m hoping for even greater relief on this new medication adventure.  (I would say drug adventure, but that sounds more like an excursion with the late Hunter S. Thompson).

Just one more day.

Can You Really Separate the Two?

It seems like everyone is crying about it these days.  Especially the atheists.  Some people bang it like a cheap drum.  It’s the tired battle cry of separation of church and state.

The original intent was to keep the state out of the church.  The individual should be able to believe and worship as he sees fit without government intrusion.  Unless, of course, you want to slaughter babies.  Baby slaughter is unacceptable in all circumstances unless the baby is preborn.  I only wish that was a bad joke, but abortion is big business.

The First Amendment is also supposed to be a safeguard against state-sponsored religion.  The mere thought of that makes me shudder.  As a Christian, I believe that Christian values are beneficial to society, but we have seen time and again that the government can wreck even the best of intentions.  The government has a knack of turning A T-bone steak into a crap sandwich.  This protection should include worldviews.  This atheistic “freedom from religion” movement has reached a fervor that rivals the intensity seen in many religious circles.  This is where I take issue because I believe this rabid secularization violates the original intent of the First Amendment.  I would be less inclined to take exception if this anti-religion witch hunt didn’t appear to single out Christianity.  

For example, Christians are being targeted for their views on abortion and homosexuality.  Muslims certainly hold unpopular views regarding homosexuality as the Koran calls for their execution, but Christians are challenged if we make a stand that opposes sin.  It’s not that we arbitrarily decide what is sinful and what is not, God has determined that.  We are exercising our faith when we are being obedient to what God tells us in the Bible.  We are considered intolerant if we uphold God’s word.  The godless insist that we essentially renounce our faith if someone gets their feelings hurt.  The Christian mustn’t be compelled to violate his conscience which is a sin for both parties involved.  

These protests are more insidious than merely overlooking sin.  The hidden reason is to seek approval.  Affirmation of sinful behavior is what is desirous as if this was a matter to be resolved in the court of opinion, not in God’s holy court.  Christians must remember Romans 1:32 lest we be inticed to ignore our conscience.  Paul states, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”  Christian, do you think it is harmless to leave others to their own devices as long as they are pursuing “happiness?”  Think again.

This atheist goal is less about keeping Christianity out of government than it is about separating the Christian from God.  If it was merely to have freedom from religion, then one could come to the conclusion that these opponents to religion would be equal opportunity offenders.  Instead, the main thrust seems to be against Christianity.  If the atheist truly believes that God is some contrivance, why does he expend so much energy to dismiss him?  We can agree that Santa Claus is a fictitious guy, but where are the Santa protesters the day after Thanksgiving at the mall?  Perhaps they are standing in line to tell Santa if they’ve been naughty.  

Mall Santa lives on because he really is a fake, but the atheist doesn’t simply oppose a make-believe Jesus.  The atheist attacks him with such veracity that Psalm 14:1 gains credibility.  The Psalmist writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”  After all, only a fool is foolish enough to entertain such a thought.

I'm just a hack who likes to eat.

Would you Consider?

Psalm 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth

Anky..Spon...What?

Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis can be difficult but I manage one day at a time!

1 Peter 4:12-16

Christian Worldview Blog

Christians Anonymous

There is No God, Nor Human Soul; There will be No Eternal Life.

Black Belt Apologetics

Defending the Christian faith with evidence and logic

SBC Open Forum

Where Southern Baptists Can Be Informed & Engaged

The Teenage Nazarene

Christianity From a Teen's Point-of-View

Recipes for Life

Just trying to take better care of the bodies the Lord gave us

Biblical Thoughts

Thoughts about life situations from MY biblical perspective

Born From Above

The Truth, The Bible, God's Son, Yeshua The Messiah

Does God hate me?

LGBTheology and more

Please Ma'am, let me finish my thought

thoughts and stories by Steve Elkins

A Wise Life

A blog by Lisa Price

Not For Itching Ears

Calling the Church Back to The Cross

violetwisp

short commentaries, pretty pictures and strong opinions

Stone City Blog

A collection of blogs written by men in prison.

ChosenRebel's Blog

Pastoral Care for Missional Leaders and Church Planters

livingroomtiger

all about the mommies--providing encouragement and finding humor in the midst of the crazy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 214 other followers

%d bloggers like this: