Common Slaves

Common Men; Uncommon Master

Alice: Radiation, Week 2

Ten down. Something like 17 to go. Early mornings, lots of miles, SpongeBob, Cheerio’s (with honey!), sedation, and radiation. That’s our routine. It’s amazing how fast it becomes “normal.”

It’s working. Alice’s smiles, giggles, and sparkly eyes are once again rather common sights and sounds in our old house. And that’s been wonderful.

But the joy is somehow tinged with sadness, too. This is how it goes with her kind of cancer. You knock it down, it comes back. You feel like you get your girl back, but in the back of your mind you can’t help but think you have to lose her again, and that stinks.

I try not to live there. I’m trying so hard to live in today, and if I must look to the future, I want my gaze to skip from tomorrow until 10,000 years from now, when faith is sight, tears are gone, and death is fully and finally swallowed up by completed redemption. But sometimes I fail at that. Continue reading “Alice: Radiation, Week 2”

Alice: Radiation, Week 1

Well, it’s Friday night, and we made it through the first week of radiation.

And there was much rejoicing. *yay* Continue reading “Alice: Radiation, Week 1”

Small Churches; Big Problems

If only leading a church was as easy, trouble-free, and glamorous as it looks on TV! Indeed, it is a high honor, and an inestimable privilege to be called to be a part of the local church. But since the church’s inception, the church has battled scandal, division, ravenous wolves masquerading as sheep, attacks from without, and attacks from within.

A small, rural church is usually just one conflict from major, destructive division or even extinction, and those conflicts can appear from just about anywhere for almost any reason.

Understanding, navigating, surviving, and healing from church conflicts is the subject of the Common Slaves Conference. Continue reading “Small Churches; Big Problems”

“Lord, give the doctors wisdom,” we instinctively plead in our desperation.

The wise doctors don’t give us the answers we wanted.

We immediately cry out, “Lord, make the doctors fools!”



Alice: Prognosis

I left our saga in “Limbo Land,” the land of unknown between initial diagnosis and confirmation/prognosis. I’ll pick it up there and catch you up…

Last Monday or Tuesday morning, Alice woke up particularly irritable and ornery. I wrapped her up in a blanket, then in my arms, and as we laid on the couch, I figured I’d try to make up a story to tell her. Lewis did that with Narnia, so how hard can it really be?

I didn’t get far, but managed to come up with a frog she named “Ribbit” who went fishing. “Dad, I wanna go fishing.” Continue reading “Alice: Prognosis”

Alice: Thoughts From Limbo-land

At this point, we don’t have much more to say as far as Alice’s condition. Writing helps sort out the scattered thoughts of a beleaguered mind, so what follows is more therapy than journalism.

We’re home, awaiting the pathology results and then the process of working through treatment options. More thoughts on that a little later. I call it “limbo-land” because we’re sort of in our old “normal,” wondering what the new “normal” will be like when treatment starts. In the meantime, we talked with her doctor and reduced her steroids to half of what they were, and that’s having some favorable results.

Alice effortlessly ate 4 boiled eggs for lunch today. To say she’s been really hungry is like saying Spurgeon was an ok preacher. She’s been voracious. Hopefully the reduced steroids help curb some of that. Our biggest challenge is trying to help her not eat constantly, especially when everything in us wants to dote on her every wish. Continue reading “Alice: Thoughts From Limbo-land”

Alice: Biopsy Day

First, Shelly and I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. As I write that, it sounds so cliche, so let me try again. The bride of Christ, often belittled and maligned for her dysfunction, has dazzled us with her tenderness, compassion, and affection. Jesus doesn’t marry down, and although His work with His bride isn’t done yet, we’ve been privileged to see something of what He sees in her, and I have to tell you, it’s awesome.

Let me catch you up… Monday was Alice’s birthday. What a bittersweet day that was. I always take the kids for breakfast on their birthday. Rock Creek Cafe. I barely managed to hold it together as I wondered if this would be the last one I’d ever have with Alice. I gave her all my bacon when she wasn’t looking. She held one up, “Want one Dad?” That’s Alice. She just knows how to do it. And she can eat pancakes, my word. A plate-sized, 1/2″ thick pancake, and she ate most of it, with three strips of bacon and a cup of apple juice. That’s my girl! Ate more than me that morning, that’s for sure. I gagged down a couple eggs and some toast. Continue reading “Alice: Biopsy Day”


note: Since I (Joe) am not on social media, but we have many friends with whom our only contact is through the digital pipeline, I’m going to use this site as a platform to share my heart and thoughts about our little Alice. Please know that we’d love to hear from you, but for reasons our own, leave your comments here on the blog instead of Shelly’s Facebook, and we’d greatly appreciate it.

In various conversations around the dinner table over the last couple of months, my wife and I occasionally discussed the fact that it seemed the “light” had gone out of our little girl’s eyes. This was significant, since Alice’s full-featured smile could infamously light up a room of any size. She has seasonal allergy issues, so we chalked it up to that, and did the whole Zyrtek Allegra Claritin thing.

Then she seemed a bit more unstable from time to time. Shaky might be a better word. Not much, just a little. But still our happy little girl (and she still is, by God’s grace!). Last Tuesday I came home, and she met me at the door, which she often did, and as we talked together, I noticed her eyes weren’t quite tracking with each other. Not crossed, and not really a lazy eye, just not quite in alignment. Continue reading “Alice”

One of the challenges of ministry in “small” churches is the nagging suspicion that God will judge our ministry like we do, which is often based on our ability (or lack thereof) to produce fruit, or by comparing our results with the industrial strength, professional, polished fruit bearers. John Piper offers some helpful and encouraging thoughts here:

thanks to Pastor Charlie Handren for passing this along

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