Friday, August 29, 2008

A mark of common grace

Probably not a surprise to anyone that I've not been watching all the speeches this week at the Democratic National Convention. I had no real intention of watching Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night either. But as God would have it, I happened to turn on the TV last night just as he made his way to the podium. The cheers, screaming, chanting brought Aisley back in the room from brushing her teeth. What's the deal?? What are they yelling about? she asked. The democrats are electing Obama to be their nominee for president. I told her. She just shook her head, made a non-committal noise and walked away. She came back just a moment later and said Isn't it sort of a big deal? Because he's like the first black guy to do this? A pause...That's kind of funny to me. she said as she walked away again. I turned back to watch with tears in my eyes.

Aisley wasn't incredulous when she asked...taken aback... shocked... wondering what my reaction would be. Well, I'm sure she was a little shocked that I was watching considering she knows we hold very different views from Obama on so many issues that matter to us. But she wasn't shocked for the reasons I would have been at 12 years of age. It was no big deal to her that we were watching a black man accept the nominee for the highest office in our land.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed when I was 10 days old. Though desegregation of schools was begun in 1954 with Brown vs. the Board of Education, busing students to actually achieve integration of schools had only been happening for about 8 years when I was Aisley's age. There were no blacks in my elementary schools that I can remember. I know there were none in the entire town where I went to junior high and high school. Forty years ago, Obama was more likely to be killed in that crowd than applauded.

But there it was. A standing ovation. His wife was introduced and a white woman next to her, Mrs. Biden, stood in her honor along with the cheers of 80,000. His daughters were beaming, thinking about nothing other than seeing themselves on camera. The camera kept panning the crowd...tears streaming down the faces of blacks and whites, Hispanics and Asians. My heart turned to those young black men in our lives. There is a generation of these that have been left behind while so many others have made strides forward. (For an amazing, saddening look at this, click here.) But tonight, they saw their face looking back at them, reaching for the highest goal of political office and watching also tens of thousands cheering him on.

I was touched, deeply touched by the grace that God has chosen to give our country. The hate that was shown throughout the civil rights battles is only a portion of the truth that our hearts are desperately wicked. When God allows our sins to show, it is only a revealing of truth and only a small part of what we've earned. But when he changes the hearts of tens of millions of people to accept one another, to applaud one another, to support one another...He deserves the praise, adoration and devotion of those same people.

I know though that mostly God won't receive what is due His Name. Mostly we'll hear praise for Obama, democratic congressmen and supporters, hard working Americans, old people, young people...anyone but God. The Republican Convention won't be different, I'm sure. But some from both parties are joining me today, especially I think those who lived it and hated it. They will see this as an amazing gift to us...a moment when the common grace of God shown on our country, when hope was offered in a new way to millions of people.

I'll admit to you that as soon as he finished accepting the nomination and got into his speech, I muted the TV. I was having a good moment. I didn't want to lose it by hearing his strategy. But for a moment, I gave praise to God and used Barack Obama in the same sentence. Now there's a miracle.

Lessons from Mary

I mentioned in a posting from July that two friends had died while I was up in Lake Burton. Mary Bowles was one of them. She was a lady that I knew only by name and sight until about a year and a half ago. Then she came to one of the Bible studies I led. She had just turned 80 at the time...had lived over 70 years knowing Christ! She was forthright, opinionated, a little stubborn...which was easy for me to recognize since I see it in the mirror every day. She was also steadfast in proclaiming His grace to others...she was generous, social, active, outreaching to everyone (except toddlers...I'm not sure why she never could relate to them!).

Not knowing her well, I wondered what she'd think of someone half her age teaching her. I was delighted with her response. She talked over and over about how much there was still to learn about the love of God constantly overwhelmed her. She came with question after question, trying to reconcile what she had read in the Scriptures that week with what we were discussing. She prayed faithfully for others and cared deeply for their pain and suffering. She was always sharing about someone around her that she was trying to reach out to who was in the hospital or recently diagnosed with a dreaded disease.

Thinking about her life and the talks we had, especially in the last 18 months, led to several good lessons for me to consider...
  • I will die with sins still needing change, but the effort to put them to death should only increase to the end.
  • His grace will always be my only hope.
  • The faithfulness of God is not truth because of what He does for us, but because of who He is.
  • There will always be more to learn which should excite us every day to rise to see what He might reveal.
  • There is always ministry to do, no matter what infirmity you have or circumstance you find yourself in.
  • Though suffering from disease and death will come at us more and more as we and others close to us age, the compassion to meet that suffering will always rise to meet it. Our hearts should never grow hardened to others' pain.
  • A lifetime of learning will not fathom the depths of what occurred at the cross of Christ.
  • Questions need to be asked, even when you think at a certain age you should know the answers.
  • Prayer changes us, settles us, moves us to action, reminds us, secures us, draws us up from the pit.
  • God is my only hope in this age as well as the next.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

One more push

Next week is the deadline for the early registration discount to the Desiring God Regional Conference in Austin. I'm so excited that Cassie has signed up to go with me! Please consider joining us. Here's the description with links posted below that for you. I promise you will be blessed by hearing Piper teach.

Desiring God 2008 Regional Conference

The book of Job asks the earnest question we all ask: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Afflicted with disease, stripped of his wealth, and asked to confess to evil, Job reaches through his cloud of suffering and strains to touch his God.

As we ponder Job's misery, do we also see the threads of God's mercy in it?

We will all face suffering at some point in our lives; it is inescapable. But what makes calamity endurable is not that God shares our shock, but that through every flame of pain and flood of fear, his sovereign goodness sustains us and turns it all for our good.

For you who suffer, for you who will suffer, and for you who walk alongside those who suffer, we invite you to this conference to see and savor the One who suffered in our place, and who promises never to leave or forsake us.

Please join us for this two-day event on October 17-18 in Austin, Texas.


Cost & Schedule

Travel Info

Register Now!

If you give our Cassie a camera...

One of the best things we've ever purchased for our girls is a digital camera. They all have one now which at the time seemed like excess. Now we are so grateful. Every trip is documented from a completely different point of view. We think about the age of 5 or 6 is a great time to get started...unless they are still using objects as weapons.

Cassie and Wayne both had cameras in the Ukraine. I was looking for a specific picture and came across this small sampling from Cassie's memory card. It's not that I've not taken pictures of the same things from time to time. But my shots tend to be of the action going on. Cassie's are like still life. We can count on it, no matter where she goes, Cassie will come back with pictures of these four things...

Cassie says this is a piece of fish...sure it is...

On the other hand, maybe instead of worrying
about what we'll eat in th
e Ukraine,
we need to worry about not eating everything put in front of us!


Not the friendliest greeting Cass has ever gotten!

I wouldn't have even noticed this one,
but you can count on hearing from my girls:

Ooooohhhh! Mom, it's a puppy!



Sarah, Molly and Cassie...on their way!

I just love to watch when they're messing around...

Children draw Cassie like a magnet...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's not about the game

The first scrimmage is behind us. School has started. Our meal money stretches a little farther as Wayne is now eating three meals a day at the field house...except of course on Sunday when he eats breakfast with us! Our nights end with us hoping that he gets home around 9pm so that he can put the girls to bed and talk to them each for a few minutes. This is even on the weekends. Our updates on him will come from Cassie who sees him across the hall before her Statistics class.

Email is now the best way for me to contact him and I'm getting back in the groove of putting together my top three list...what I absolutely need to tell him vs. what I might just want him to know. Lots of things that are normally his concern become mine...minor repairs, dealing with bills, lawn care, most discipline issues, school forms and meetings, homework help, budgeting...He'll do it when he can and would love to do it more, but he's just not here. So, I try to whittle the list down of what I truly need his help on when just a few weeks ago I would talk to him about everything.

This life isn't unusual for many women across the state. There are more than 15,000 coaches in Texas public schools. And college and pro coaches make our husbands' schedules look good. More than that, there are lots of doctors taking call this week, leaving wives and little ones wondering if they dreamed that they heard him come in last night. There are firefighters who are leaving home, literally, for days. I know so many women whose husbands are gone for over a year to Iraq and Afghanistan, whose lives are in danger every day.

But notice something about that last group of people...doctors, soldiers, firefighters...they're out there helping people. Defending and rebuilding a country. Saving lives. They're not away from home and families for a game. They're not spending HOURS watching film of other games. Those soldiers spend hours in meetings plotting strategy for defending people not the spread or the Wing T. This is why I gear up for weeks before the season...praying, thinking, preparing myself...not really for now, but for that week about mid-October when money doesn't match the bills, and Brennan's sick again, and I'm needing wisdom about something going on with Cassie...and Wayne's gone from us for a game.

Then my flesh rages and rails against my life...I lose focus...I grow bitter in my loneliness and under the weight of all that I bear without Wayne. It's not worth it. It's not worth this. Why are we still doing this? For a game?? It's not worth it. Women who know me will begin to see the strain and fraying of my nerves. You okay? they'll ask. No, not really. The truth will rise out of me. I can't remember why we do this.

Many will simply reply that they agree! But a few women have been near me long enough to know what I long for them to say to me...Kim, it's not about the game. It's never been about the game. It's never been about the job. What job is worth this? I would go without so much before I'd ask Wayne to work 100 hour weeks for months on end. So, why are we still there?

Because Harry still doesn't know Christ. Because Tevin might see Jesus in Wayne. Because Lache (pronounced Lake) is being pulled by hundred different people who want to use him for their glory and gain. Because of the countless young men who get their first taste of what a real dad is like by being around my girls' daddy. Because no one sees them...not really. But Wayne does. He knows them. Encourages them. Is there for them. Loves them...because Jesus Christ first loved him.

A quick story to highlight it...I got a call during football season last year, right about the time I was losing it. Middle of the morning. Out of town number. I hesitated to pick it up because we were in the middle of schooling. But they were moving pretty good. Stranger's voice on the line, asking if this was Coach Ransleben's house. Yeah. I'm his wife, Kim. Can I help? This grown man tells me that I wouldn't remember him, but he'd been trying to find Wayne for a couple of years. Finally ran into a coach who knew where we were. He just had to call. He wanted Wayne to know that he wasn't the same as the kid he knew. He was playing arena ball. Had turned his life around. His older brother was a preacher now. They both came to Christ years back.

But he had to tell Wayne. Because, he said, Coach was the only one in his whole life to tell him that he could be somebody, that he was going to make it, that he believed in him. He told me about the conference at school with all his teachers when everyone of them were telling about how bad he'd been in class, how poor his work ethic, how they were sure that he was about to drop out and would end up like his parents...both in for assault, mom for prostitution. Then Wayne spoke up and said that he didn't believe it. He said this kid could be whatever he wanted. Wayne even said that day that he could play professionally if he wanted to. He was going to be fine. He knew what he had to do. He'd make it.

The guy teared up on the phone some 16 years later because a man believed in him. He never forgot it. He knew Wayne was a Christian. He watched him all the time. He really believes that God used that moment to pull him from a pit. Everything changed after that one meeting that Wayne can barely remember. He wasn't trying to rescue a kid. He was just living his life, encouraging kids, modeling as best he knew the Savior who saved him.

When you look at it from a distance, it's just a bunch of guys on a field, chasing a ball around. Crowds are never worth it. Nameless faces. But if you'd wait until after the game, you could look into their eyes...and if you have the heart of'll have compassion on them and you'll stay until it's very late in the day...past meal times...past the point when others would tell you that it's time to send everyone away.

Football isn't worth it. No game is. But it's not about the game. It's about God loving us and pouring that same love into us so that we might pour out that same love to those who are in need of a Savior. If football will bring us to these kids, give Wayne an automatic in with them, grant them the chance to see Christ lived out, grant the audience for the gospel...yeah, that's worth it.

So, when I falter this season...would you do me a favor? Tell me it's not about the game, it's about the Savior. Tell me to look away from the mirror and look into the eyes of the boys Wayne is with. Remind me that staying late and serving long is nothing compared to the gift that has already been poured out on us. Tell me that this light and momentary affliction is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory that is beyond compare.

A game? Of course it's not worth it for a game. But for our Savior?
Go, honey. Have a great day there. We'll be here. And we'll be fine. Go.

First days...Last days

Today was a day we've been working toward for years here at Ransleben Academy. Aisley is off to school! She began her 7th grade year this morning joining a few hundred others at Bonham Middle School. For those who don't know, we've been homeschooling her throughout her life. She was excited, if a little pale, as she left the van. But athletics was first period and there's nothing more familiar to her than gymnasiums and coaches. Then she has the next two classes with Kelly who's been her friend since they were 20 months old and in the same nursery class at church. We also met a couple of teachers who already expressed their faith in Christ and welcomed her as a former homeschooler. All this to say, God has been abundant in providing a way for her to thrive there.

As if that weren't enough, today marked the beginning of the end of Cassie's high school years. And to further mark the moment, it was the first time that I didn't take her to school since this summer she received this blessing. Twenty years of talking to seniors has shown us that this will be one of the quickest years of her life...and ours. Every thing that happens is marked by the words: This is the last... Last time for school pictures. Last homecoming. Last first day of high school. There isn't one day since she became a senior that we don't think in terms of her leaving. Plans for next summer, what stuff to keep in her room, what clothes we buy, what kind of car we purchase, how to change a tire and check the oil, why it's important to separate colors from whites...all of it happens with a view to sending her off, Lord willing.

Two big moments in our lives...but now that it's here, it is both more and less than I had imagined. It feels very momentous to have them both gone...and very strange to have just Brennan sitting at the table finishing up her World History lesson. The quiet is quieter than I thought it would be. I'm more grateful than ever to be able to give Brennan all of my attention. There is so much less to distract her as she moves from subject to subject. I've never been able to teach in that kind of environment. It's really, really nice.

But though I miss them today, it's less emotional than I thought it would be. No tears yet. I think it's because it feels today like it's time. Time to send off. Time to test out what God has been building in them. Time to have them go off and come back to tell about what they've seen and done. Time to grant them the opportunity to see Jesus for themselves as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and to praise God for giving them what flesh and blood could never reveal.

You often hear older moms exhort the younger to take advantage of all the time you have with your kids because the years fly by. I can echo that, but am still close enough to those younger years to remember how long the days are. Long years. That's what I remember. But through it all, Wayne and I have struggled to discipline ourselves to the challenge of not just parenting in the moment, but preparing to launch the girls for life. It changed the focus of what we might have said so many times.

It's one thing just to solve a dispute between sisters in a way that gets them quiet for a few minutes. Another to settle it in a way that gives them the communication skills to talk to their future husbands and children in a way that honors the Lord. It's one thing to do their laundry. Another to take the time to teach why it's done in a certain way. It matters less how I spend our money than to show them by spending our money where our treasure lies.

We started them off homeschooling not to keep them away from "out there"...but to give us a chance to spend as much time as possible getting them ready to go out there. God tells us in Psalm 127:3-5:
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
We feel strongly that Cassie and Aisley are sharp enough to be shot out...not too far yet though. We still want to be able to gather them up again. Find out where they need honing. See where we can strengthen. Make sure they are aimed right. And give us the practice we need to launch them further and further away...maybe even halfway around the world.

But that's another day. Today a few miles away is plenty far enough for me.