Our Family’s COVID-Trip

As you may know, our family had a 3-week Staycation with COVID-19.  Many have said that we were the first they knew who caught this virus – we probably won’t be the last.  We received many phone calls, texts, and well-wishes during our quarantine, and many were just plain curious about our experience.  Since COVID is all the rage these days (other than some persistent rioting), I thought I would offer our perspective of this virus for your entertainment and enlightenment.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus is more than just a virus.  It is a political football.  That complicates the issue and the way people view it.  We have more than just a virus: we’re dealing with the fear caused by the virus, the panic inspired by the news media, and the anger and frustration of so many.  Facebook is a magnifying glass for these things.  Facebook is no place for the faint-of-heart, what with all the extreme opinions spouted there.  As for myself, I have found the coronavirus rage very unhelpful.  I think many would like to look at Facebook without being subjected to the daily badgering and rage-flash.  COVID would be so much easier to deal with through good-sense measures if people didn’t feel the added pressure caused by adamant memes on Facebook.

This virus hits everyone differently.  Continue reading “Our Family’s COVID-Trip”

An Insider’s Look at the Coronamadness

Depending on who you talk to, my family and I have exposed ourselves as “socially irresponsible.”  We have contracted COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus.  I’ll admit it: we weren’t wearing our masks in the car.  We shared air with people – people not in our immediate family.  We accepted handshakes from people, even when no recent use of hand-sanitizer was in evidence.   As a result, we have been banished from society for a period not to exceed six months, given that we follow all protocols to allow for successful reentry into society.  People in our circle of contacts must now face hard realities and reexamine their interactions with our family. They must determine whether they should invite space-suited medical professionals under white canopies to jam a q-tip up their nose and swab vigorously for 15 seconds. 

While our family does penance for this egregious lapse of sound judgment and social consciousness, some assure us that the stigma of having contracted the coronavirus will not be too severe.  Besides the fact that some refuse to attend our church right now, lest we infect them in our absence, they say that the primary fault for this breach falls to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the fact that we live in a red state that “opened too early.”  The shut-down was both prudent and necessary to crushing the curve and stopping the coronavirus, and if we had only stayed the course, we could right now be eating our furniture and scavenging our yards for mealworms like the people in New York.  Employment?  Who needs that?  It would be better to starve to death than to contract COVID-19.

Let this be a lesson to all of you, lest you too contract this vile virus: social distance.  Wear a mask.  Stay home from church.  Work from home.  Unless you work on a road crew.  Or a fast-food restaurant.  Then, make sure you wear gloves when you take my money and pass my food and take the next guy’s money and pass his food. 

And so, from the basement of my shelter-in-place safe-space, let me offer a few observations, only slightly less facetious than this introduction. 

First, it is human nature to look for a scapegoat.  My family and I traveled out of state the week before the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus.  We flew to Baltimore, then two of my kids flew on to Indianapolis while three of us drove up to Pennsylvania.  Our friends in Pennsylvania have solemnly assured us that our secret is safe with them.  They promise not to tell anyone in PA that we have this disease.  They don’t want people who don’t have the virus to know that we do, because those people might blame us when they get it.  Never fear: if someone gets the coronavirus before you get it, they gave it to you. 

Of course, we figure that we picked up the coronavirus either in the airport or on the airplane or in one of the nearly 100 different yard sales we visited in Pennsylvania (yard-selling being PA’s official team sport).  But you can be assured that if anyone we know gets this disease between now and Christmas, it came from us.  That goes for all the states we visited, including but not limited to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming.  And maybe Nevada.  It would be dangerous and irresponsible for people to visit our church at this time since we infected our entire church, and it is now only a matter of time before we all catch it.  We trust that those who have been joining our services via live stream are taking appropriate precautions.  Be sure you take your phone out of the case before applying the hand sanitizer. 

Second, it is great entertainment to see people skid into a complete 180 on the significance of COVID-19 once they know someone who has it.  During the months when our church limited attendance to 10 people, we were treated to a regular barrage of rants against the shut-down.  When we asked everyone to wear masks, people greeted me at the door with mask factoids: the CDC says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; the WHO says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; Dr. Fauci says masks are essentially non-essential.  This virus is silly, a scamdemic, ridiculous, pointless, absurd, just a little virus, you can’t stop it.  Then, Pastor Mallinak contracted the virus, and lo-and-behold, we need to shut down immediately, we shouldn’t be bringing anyone to church, we shouldn’t be having church, we should all be wearing masks, we shouldn’t even look each other in the eye.   Okay, I made that last one up. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Nobody should change their view of COVID-19 because Pastor Mallinak contracted it.  We shouldn’t be saying, “Wow, this must be serious if he caught it.”  I mean, yeah, I do have the special pastor force-shield that would, under normal circumstances, prevent my contracting the garden-variety diseases that afflict the common man.  Unfortunately, I left it home with my mask when I hopped on that airplane. 

Seriously folks, if you thought the disease was nothing before you knew someone who had it, don’t let little-ole-me change your mind.  As in most cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of your life in those ultra-dangerous days when your mother dropped you off at the church nursery, unnecessarily exposing your feebly beating heart to a whole myriad of life-threatening respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is no fun.  It has a high misery-factor.  You won’t be lying in bed, thinking about how fun it is to be sick as you scroll through Facebook.  It acts a lot like the A-strain flu.  Which many, many people have had and passed around to others with whom they don’t share an address. 

Third, we are so glad that our nation decided to “crush the curve” on this one.  That way, we could catch the virus in the summer when things are back to “normal” instead of in the spring when things are shut down already.  Because you know of course that the goal all along has been to “stop” the coronavirus in its tracks.  The best way to fight a virus, as we all know, is to shut down the world around it so that it will only pass to one person at a time.  The virus will magically run out of people to infect if we all live in isolation from each other, as you well know.  Follow the data.  If we just stay home until they develop a vaccine in a year and a half, we can avoid infecting people.  And there won’t be any new virus in a year and a half.  Besides, the government prints the money. Unemployment pays. 

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/504903-hhs-secretary-the-window-is-closing-to-stop-coronavirus-spread

I recognize that the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, and some are especially vulnerable to this disease, especially while attending church.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to be careless about the lives of those around them.  Please don’t stop by my house and ask me to cough on you.  Please do your part to avoid this disease.  I don’t want to see it spread through my church or anyone else’s church.  And apparently, churches are far more contagious than protest riots or work environments. 

At the same time, I hope I can encourage my friends and loved ones to keep things in perspective.  More than once, I have had someone tell me that I am the first person they knew who contracted this virus.  Please don’t let the fact that my family has it change your mind about this disease.  It isn’t the end of the world, nor does it change a few basic facts about viruses – mainly that they will work themselves around at will, and we really can’t stop a virus.  None of us are likely to die from it.  If you happen to catch it, you will miss some work, you will be uncomfortable for a few days (maybe longer), and you won’t want anyone else to get it.  Do your Christian duty – love your neighbor enough to be careful around them.  Stay home if you are in one of those “high risk” categories.  Look for people you can help, encourage, or share the good news of Christ with.  Keep your spirits high.  Stay in the Word.  Be full of joy and gratitude.  Trust the Lord.  All will be well.  God hasn’t lost control of anything. 

Blessings!

The Turning of the Tide

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

This past Sunday marked the end of a rollercoaster week for us, and I would like to take a few moments to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

Like every other pastor in America, I have spent many sleepless nights over the past two months.  We have been navigating uncharted waters, and it has seemed to me that every week has required a fresh decision about what we should be doing.

Before I tell our story, let me just say how much I respect my fellow pastors.  I have known that God has filled His pulpits with men of conviction and quality, but this crisis has made it even more clear to me that we have some truly outstanding pastors around our county.  Many decisions have had to be made, and the opinions and positions that have been taken seem to cover every extreme of the compass.  Yet, in discussions with dozens of pastors, I have observed one certain truth – that every one of them has acted on what they believed to be right and have sought to bring God the honor that He deserves.  I count myself blessed to serve as a contemporary with these men.

Our church decided early on that we should follow the health guidelines that were issued by our state.  Though our Governor has been great in the fact that he has not used a heavy hand to control us, yet we believed that we should exercise caution in this thing.  We added services in order to accommodate our people and give them the opportunity to be part of a service every week, and the majority of the church has had to suffer through online services for nearly two months now.

Continue reading “The Turning of the Tide”

Upheld

Two years ago, while our church celebrated our 60th anniversary, a pastor friend commented to me that throughout his ministry, there had only been a couple of years when he didn’t feel like it could all end tomorrow.

Sixty-two years ago, in a small living room on the corner of 29th and Adams, Berean Baptist Church of Ogden was born. From those humble beginnings, God has seen fit to uphold us until this day. Due to the current worldwide situation, we were extremely limited in what we could do to celebrate our anniversary yesterday. But I thought a few comments would be appropriate.

As part of our 60th-anniversary celebration, we recruited a young man to help us create a documentary about our church’s history. Pastor Nate Warren grew up in our church and now pastors a small church in Elwood, Indiana. Among other things, he is very talented in videography. He did an outstanding job helping us to record our story for our posterity.

When we set out to make this documentary, we definitely had our children in mind. We wanted to preserve this history for them so that they would know our story. We tried to get this done while some of our oldest members were still with us. We are so glad we did it when we did. A few short months after completing the documentary, one of the key figures in our church went home to be with the Lord. We are so grateful that we were able to record her testimony before she left us.

But once the documentary was completed, we thought we had something that could bless and encourage every Pastor. Let me explain.

The story of Berean Baptist Church is pretty amazing, all things considered. We aren’t a large church. We aren’t a famous church. We are an average-sized church in an average-sized city in America. Yet, God has seen fit to carry us through some unusually hard Providences through the years. In our first twelve years, we went through six different pastors. The longest any pastor stayed between the year of our founding in 1958 and 1970 was three years. One pastor stayed for three months.

In the late 1980s, we survived a devastating church split that followed, not surprisingly, on the tail of a building project. But again, God saw fit to Providentially preserve our church.

No doubt, the hardest Providence in our history came with 9-11. Two days after terrorists turned airliners into missiles to bring down the World Trade Center, our Pastor, who was visiting Fiji at the time, was swept out to sea and drowned. The story of how God worked through that time still amazes us.

We named our little documentary, “Upheld.” We believe that word captures the gracious way God’s sovereign hand has worked to sustain and preserve our church over these years. “Upheld” comes from one of our church’s favorite hymns: “How Firm a Foundation.”

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

Once we made the documentary, we felt very strongly that it could encourage other pastors. After all, ministry is warfare.  Trials and troubles are not unique to us.  God sustained our church in unique ways, but we are not uncommon in that regard.

We thought that you might enjoy seeing what God has done in our church, that it might encourage you in yours.  Churches have struggles and experience many setbacks.  It can be useful to hear how God has sustained others so that we can look forward to what God will do for us.

You probably won’t know many of the people in our story. And since we don’t have a famous church, you might not be all that interested in our history. But we think that if you take the hour or so to watch this documentary, our story might encourage you that God can uphold you too.

A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God’s notice. A small church might be comparable to a sparrow – unknown, humble, obscure, in some ways the off-scouring of all things. Yet God is big enough to care about the small stuff, to hold the sparrows in His righteous, omnipotent hand.

I hope you will consider viewing this history. We don’t publish it so we can be famous. We like it just fine outside the spotlight. But we want to encourage you with what God can do. Our history is, ultimately, the history of every church. We all face trials and triumphs, crushing disappointments and uplifting victories. Our history is not the story of extraordinary people. It is the story of ordinary Christians with an extraordinary God.

In many ways, we have gone along for the ride. God has carried us through some stormy seas. He has sustained us and upheld us, and we want this documentary to be our expression of gratitude for all he has done. What God has done for us, we are very confident He will do for you too.

Alternative Medicine, Lyme Disease, and the 6th Commandment

Thomas Ross wrote an article a couple of years ago on the Oasis of Hope.  A friend of mine recently shared it on Facebook.  Not noticing that it was a couple of years old, I posted a comment on it, and from there have enjoyed a small debate with Thomas on some issues that matter to me.

First things first, many who know me know that my wife contracted Lyme Disease about 6 years ago.  It was a life-changing event for us.  My youngest son, who is now 11, has repeated the fact that he cannot remember when mom wasn’t sick.  We have been blessed by the friendship and encouragement of many friends who have sustained us with kind words and constant prayer for us.  This sickness has introduced us to hardships that have at times threatened to undo us.  Yet we can also say by the grace of God that we are not yet overthrown.  These things have introduced unspeakable blessings into our lives that we could not ever explain to anyone.  We have learned some valuable lessons, and we continue to learn.  As we have discussed these things, my wife and I have recognized that, prior to her sickness, we were not very compassionate people, especially towards those who are sick.  We trust that God has changed us in this regard.

In Thomas’ article, I took issue with one particular statement he made:

…by rejecting the Biblically-based scientific method for unconventional “medicine” that does not work you are violating the sixth commandment by rebelliously refusing to preserve life.

Thomas has done stellar work at exposing some of the excesses of the “alternative” side of medicine.  In many cases, he is correct in his view of these things, though I generally disagree with his one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare.  I do, however, take issue with his suggestion that the pursuit of alternative or unconventional medicine amounts to a violation of the 6th commandment.

In the course of our discussion, I posted links to a couple of articles about the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease, which led to Thomas offering an educated opinion on the controversy.  You can read our entire discussion here. For the reader’s sake, I include his entire quote here:

 Dear Bro Mallinak,

Thanks for the links. I do not have time to get into a discussion of whether chronic Lyme disease is what the medical consensus claims or whether thousands of doctors, insurance companies, colleges, researchers, etc. are all part of a conspiracy to suppress the existence of the disease. I am skeptical of the conspiracy thesis for reasons such as those discussed here:

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/chronic-lyme-disease-another-negative-study/

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/does-everybody-have-chronic-lyme-disease-does-anyone/

While I recognize that this can be a very emotionally charged issue for many, the fact that blood tests evidence that people who claim to have chronic Lyme do not have antibodies for Lyme disease (or only residual antibodies from the previous existence of the undisputed normal Lyme disease), the fact that the treatment protocol advocated by chronic Lyme partisans does not seem to work better than a placebo, and other similar factors would appear to be much more likely explanations for insurance companies not covering the alleged disease than a conspiracy between hundreds of competitors who want to drive each other out of business, as well as non-profit researchers, medical colleges, etc.

However, as I mentioned above, I do not have time to discuss this matter at the moment, although I would be interested, as I have time, in reading your responses to the questions I asked if you wish to reply to them.

I am quite satisfied, though, that if alleged chronic Lyme is the reason for my alleged “overstated bloviation” and chronic Lyme is the proof of medical conspiracy theories, that my statement is quite able to stand, and I could in good conscience repeat my overstated bloviation again, as, to my mind, the conspiracy theories appear to be what is overstated, not the scientific consensus.

I trust that neither of us will take personally or view disagreement here as an attack on one or the other’s integrity, compassion, etc.

Thanks for your comments.

I do not know whether Thomas has any kind of medical degree or medical training, but he certainly has more of an understanding of the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease than most people I talk to – so I will credit him for that.  He has a very decided opinion on the controversy as well, which is not unusual for Thomas.

After infection with the Lyme bacteria, a very small percentage of those infected will experience ongoing effects from the bacteria.  The controversy among doctors revolves around this question: Are the Lyme bacteria still living and reproducing in the body, or is it simply “residual antibodies” that are present?  Doctors are divided on that question. Those who consider them to be “residual antibodies” tend to identify most with the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).  Those who believe the bacteria still to be alive in the body identify with the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).  Both sides include legitimate, certified medical doctors.  Both claim research to support their viewpoint, and both offer very different approaches to dealing with the disease.

In the beginning stages of our battle with this disease, my wife and I went exclusively to IDSA doctors, first at our local hospital, then at the University of Utah, and finally at Johns Hopkins University.  With each doctor, we experienced a different level of knowledge about the disease.  Each doctor educated us a little more as to what we were dealing with, helping us to understand the disease and its effects.  Each doctor recommended basically the same solution – which was pain management through a variety of techniques, including opiates, narcotics, over the counter pain relievers, counseling, meditation, acupuncture, diet, and exercise.  Through the U of U doctor, my wife was admitted to the headache clinic at the U, and that doctor attempted to treat the constant, migraine-level headache that has been with her since she first contracted the disease.

We did not pursue the meditation or acupuncture recommended by our conventional doctors.  The drugs they prescribed were very hard on my wife.  She has never functioned well with that level of pain medication.  When she took those drugs, she wound up curled up on the bed, unable to move or function at all.  When she woke up, she couldn’t stop crying.  The doctors told us to give it a few weeks and she would be better, but she wasn’t.  She reached a level that frightened me, more than once, and we finally decided that this treatment was doing more harm than good and stopped taking that medicine.  At the headache clinic, the doctor decided to wean her off one particular non-opiate, non-narcotic pain medicine, which we were happy to do.  Unfortunately, the doctor took her off the medicine too quickly.  For 2 weeks, my wife lay flat on her back, unable to eat, only able to trickle water down her throat.  After 2 weeks, fearing for her life, I took her to a doctor to ensure that she was not dehydrated or starving to death.

After about 6 months of treatment at the headache clinic, the doctor told us that she could do nothing to help my wife’s headache. This doctor recognized that the Lyme Disease was the cause of her headache, and acknowledged that her headaches were not a “residual” effect, but were caused by the Lyme bacteria.  Conventional approaches to pain management simply were not effective with this extenuating circumstance.

By this time, we had been treating my wife for about a year and a half to two years.  We recognized that conventional medicine did not have a solution to the problem, and we decided that this was God’s will – we would simply submit to what he had brought into our lives and stop pursuing treatment. At that time, we had exhausted every remedy offered by conventional medicine.

As the months rolled by, my wife’s condition only worsened.  While on a visit to my parents, I decided to stop by and visit with my childhood family doctor.  My parents have gone to him for many, many years, and continue to see him to this day.  He plays an active role in the training and certification process at Indiana University and is a well-known and respected doctor.  He graciously cleared his lunch hour and visited with us for an hour and a half, explaining more about the disease and discussing treatment options.  We told him everything we have done to treat my wife, and he acknowledged that we had done everything that conventional medicine has to offer. He visibly cried as he told us that he honestly did not know which direction we should go in our pursuit of relief from this disease, but that the one thing we must not do is to give up.  He told us that we had to keep fighting the disease.

Because we had exhausted every option offered to us on the conventional side, we began to pursue alternative treatments, particularly antibiotic therapy.  Though these treatment options have not brought an end to her suffering, they have enabled my wife to experience some of her best days dealing with this disease.

Whether those who suffer long-term from the effects of Lyme Disease are experiencing “chronic” Lyme or “post” Lyme, whether the bacteria is alive or “residual,” it is undeniable that a certain percentage of Lyme patients experience long-term damage from the disease.  As the doctor at Johns Hopkins explained to us, the greatest damage caused by Lyme Disease is to the auto-immune system.  Because Lyme Disease is such a powerful bacteria, it has a way of jolting the auto-immune system into hyper-drive.  The doctor explained it in military terms. Suppose a foreign army invaded our country.  We would send in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Forces, and Coast Guard to drive them out.  That is what our auto-immune system does when we contract Lyme Disease.  But as she explained to us, with some patients, long after the foreign army has been driven out, the auto-immune system continues to respond to every threat, even one as mild as a paper-cut, with an all-out assault.  And that is the cause of the constant, unrelenting pain.

The most effective treatment of Lyme Disease today attempts to kill the bacteria through antibiotic therapy while at the same time attempting to focus the auto-immune system on fighting the disease rather than attacking the rest of the body.  My old family doctor told us that “if anyone ever tells you that they have found a way to control the auto-immune system, get up and walk out of the room immediately.”  He is right, of course.  If medicine could cure a broken auto-immune system, that would bring an end to all disease.  Yet in recent years, science has made significant advances in helping the auto-immune system to fight diseases, including cancer, in our own bodies.  Some of these advances have come from conventional medicine paying a little more attention to the unconventional approaches to sickness and disease.

Of course, some in the ILADS community will insist that the bacteria is still alive, and that is the reason the symptoms continue chronically.  I will confess that I do not have a decided opinion on which of these is correct.  I will leave that to the more educated people, like Thomas.  He calls it an “alleged” disease.  My wife and I shared a good laugh about that.  Her alleged disease is allegedly causing her a lot of pain, even at this moment.

Because Lyme Disease is not life-threatening like cancer or heart disease, and because it is not widespread, universities do not invest money into research on this disease or focus on finding a cure for it as they do with other diseases.  So while IDSA doctors debate ILADS doctors on the merits of various treatment options, the patients continue to suffer.  Unfortunately, many insurance companies have sided with IDSA rather than allow their customers to pursue treatment as a free market would dictate.  In our case, we have been blessed to belong to Samaritan Ministries, who has graciously allowed us to pursue alternative treatments.  We know plenty of Lyme patients who have traditional insurance, and who are denied coverage.

One of our IDSA doctors told us, as Thomas noted above, that “the treatment protocol advocated by chronic Lyme partisans does not seem to work better than a placebo.”  He was referring specifically to antibiotic therapy.  He explained that the antibiotics work because they contain levels of Tylenol and anti-inflammatories.  The antibiotics can be dangerous when taken long-term, but he told us that if we went on a regiment of Tylenol and ibuprofen (also dangerous in the long-term, by the way), we would experience the same relief.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.  When we stuck with his regiment of Tylenol and ibuprofen, my wife experienced no relief from her pain whatsoever.  But when we began to visit a Lyme-literate doctor who put my wife on antibiotics, she experienced the most relief she has in this long battle.  Over the past couple of years, in fact, this treatment has given us the best, most consistent relief of any treatment we have tried.

Our current doctor, who is a licensed Medical Doctor, told us that for many years, his patients would come to him and say, “but Doctor, I’m not better.”  And he would assume that it was all in their head and they needed to get over it.  But the more he treated patients, the more he recognized that many of them were not making it up.  When he realized this, he also realized that the limitations placed on him by “Best Practices,” the standards conventional doctors are held to, did not always allow him to treat his patients the way they needed to be treated.

I believe in science.  I believe in the scientific method.  I believe in conventional medicine.  If you have cancer, I would plead with you – please, don’t go for all the kooky nonsense treatments that are out there.  Use the tried and tested.

But I also believe in free markets, and modern-day conventional medicine is not necessarily friendly to this.  Doctors who treat Lyme patients in particular, when they use alternative or unconventional methods, have wound up losing their licenses.  At this point, a handful of states (I think about 13) have passed laws in order to grant doctors a little more liberty in their pursuit of treatment.  That is a good thing.

I am not a medical doctor and have no medical training.  I do not have Thomas Ross’ research abilities, and I have no doubt that he can refute much of what I say.  I only know that my wife has suffered much, and as her husband, I must attempt to help her however I can.  Antibiotics have helped her where the narcotics and opiates prescribed by conventional doctors did not.

I cannot make judgments about Thomas Ross, about his compassion, or about his motivations for writing what he does.  He certainly does his homework, and he is very passionate about medical issues.  I do not say that his arguments are without merit.  Nor do I pretend to know what he would do were he in my position.  I cannot pretend to know what he has had to deal with personally as far as health and medical treatment is concerned.  Should God allow a similar circumstance into his life, I would assume that he would do everything in his power to relieve the suffering of his loved one.

Whether he would take the route that I have taken or not would be his decision.  If he decided that the conventional route is the only route, I would not accuse him of violating the 6th commandment.  I don’t think such a sweeping condemnation is appropriate.  On my part, I sometimes believe that if I were to stop pursuing alternative treatments, that may very well be a violation of the 6th commandment.