Saturday, February 21, 2009

A good loss for one who lost

You know by now that I love sports stories. But only the stories that make me cry! There's a lot of yuck in sports at any level. Coaches who go too far. Players who couldn't care less about anyone but themselves. Fans who act like the 4th quarter is real life and worth destroying the reputation of Jesus Christ for.

But then there are those stories I read of kids who step beyond the game to show that life is what happens off the court and that relationships will always matter more than the score. I love those and the one below is a good one. If you want to read a couple of others I've posted check out the ones here and here and the video in this post.

And yes, Angela, I really do love this and believe it even though we tell our girls to make sure their opponents feel their presence on the court...and I mean feel their presence. After all, that's why they give you five fouls, right?

Amid the grieving, a rare act of sportsmanship
Associated Press

The coach never considered any other option.

It didn't matter that his DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team had ridden a bus two and a half hours to get to Milwaukee, then waited another hour past game time to play. Didn't matter that the game was close, or that this was a chance to beat a big city team.

Something else was on Dave Rohlman's mind when he asked for a volunteer to shoot two free throws awarded his team on a technical foul in the second quarter. His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.

Only this time it was different.

"You realize you're going to miss them, don't you?" Rohlman said.

Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done.

It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39.

"She was young and they were real close," said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. "He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn't have time to grieve."

Womack was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players.

Early in the second quarter, Womack saw someone out of the corner of his eye. It was Franklin, who came there directly from the hospital to root his teammates on.

The Knights had possession, so Womack called a time out. His players went over and hugged their grieving teammate. Fans came out of the stands to do the same.

"We got back to playing the game and I asked if he wanted to come and sit on the bench," Womack said during a telephone interview.

"No," Franklin replied. "I want to play."

There was just one problem. Since Franklin wasn't on the pre-game roster, putting him in meant drawing a technical foul that would give DeKalb two free throws.

Though it was a tight game, Womack was willing to give up the two points. It was more important to help his senior guard and co-captain deal with his grief by playing.

Over on the other bench, though, Rohlman wasn't so willing to take them. He told the referees to forget the technical and just let Franklin play.

"I could hear them arguing for five to seven minutes, saying, `We're not taking it, we're not taking it," Womack said. "The refs told them, no, that's the rule. You have to take them."

That's when Rohlman asked for volunteers, and McNeal's hand went up.

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim.

His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn't take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on.

They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

"I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

Franklin would go on to score 10 points, and Milwaukee Madison broke open the game in the second half to win 62-47. Afterward, the teams went out for pizza, two players from each team sharing each pie.

Franklin stopped by briefly, thankful that his team was there for him.

"I got kind of emotional but it helped a lot just to play," he said. "I felt like I had a lot of support out there."

Carlitha Franklin's funeral was last Friday, and the school turned out for her and her son. Cheerleaders came in uniform, and everyone from the principal and teachers to Johntel's classmates were there.

"Even the cooks from school showed up," Womack said. "It lets you know what kind of kid he is."

Basketball is a second sport for the 18-year-old Franklin, who says he has had some scholarship nibbles and plans to play football in college. He just has a few games left for the Knights, who are 6-11 and got beat 71-36 Tuesday night by Milwaukee Hamilton.

It hasn't been the greatest season for the team, but they have stuck together through a lot of adversity.

"We maybe don't have the best basketball players in the world but they go to class and take care of business," Womack said. "We have a losing record but there's life lessons going on, good ones."

None so good, though, as the moment a team and a player decided there were more important things than winning and having good stats.

Yes, DeKalb would go home with a loss. But it was a trip they'll never forget.

"This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime," Rohlman said. "They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night."

Friday, February 20, 2009

When a plane goes down

Don't we all think about it? What would it be like to be involved in a crash? What would we do? What would we say to those around us? When the trial of imminent death arrives what will it reveal inside of us?

Andrew Jamison got to find out and provides a strong Christian witness for the presence and peace of Christ in that moment.

Andrew was aboard US Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson River. He's a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and did an interview with them that you can listen to at the CMDA website. He admits to the fears that came mostly after the crash with the water filling the plane. It's amazing to listen to him speak of what it was like to live through it.

They also speak very candidly about how this has been used by God to grow them both personally. They talk about assurance of salvation...the sovereignty of God...worry about loved ones traveling...trusting in God for all things...and just about the way God pulls us to exactly the place he wants us to be to know Him better.

And there's even a connection to our little town of Temple. He and his wife, Jennifer, are both 4th year medical residents at Medical University of South Carolina and are doing their matches right now in dermatology and family medicine. They mention in the early part of the interview that Temple, TX is one of the places they've traveled to before this fateful flight. Maybe they'll end up sitting beside some of us someday, worshiping together at TBC. If so, I'll be so glad to be able to tell him that I praised my God today because of his testimony!

HT: Ligon Duncan writing at Reformation 21

You might be a redneck if...

I really will get back to serious stuff! But for now, I'm needing some levity and God's providing...

Redneck Seafood

HT: The Blazing Center

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Looking in the mirror

Part 2

Yeah. Keep a close watch on yourself. Not someone else. I knew I should have turned it off then. But I was caught and I could feel it. No sense wriggling when the hook is set, you know?

Matt pointed out what he called the bookends of the chapter. At the front end you have the understanding that there will be those around you that are not believers, who will come and go in the church. At the other end is Paul's summary exhortation to Timothy that there is a way to live and preach the gospel that will as Paul says save yourself and your hearers. And in between instead of a bunch of things to tell them or to do for them, there are a list of instructions for Timothy. The focus is on us.

Here's the heart of what I received from his message...italicized sentences are Matt's...

Verse 6: Be trained in the gospel ~
Getting the gospel right matters. And mostly we have to distinguish between what the gospel is and what morality is. When we teach people what to do and how to live without the foundation of Christ crucified what you’ve done at best is restrain the hearts of people, but you won’t see their hearts transformed. If you don’t get the gospel right, you will inoculate your people to Jesus. You give them just enough of Him to never know Him. The gospel matters.

Translation: If we don't stop focusing on how people behave and focus them on what Christ has done, we will give them enough of Jesus to make them think they know Him, when all they will know is a how-to and how-not-to list that will never get them to the cross. We must give them Jesus. Let it stir up your affections. We must be experts in the gospel. Give them the cross so that when they see Him they not only recognize Him, but praise Him rightly.

When doctrine fades, worship fades. Seeing God rightly stirs the affections of the soul. If you see Him wrongly then even with affections this clarify this, Matt gave a great analogy:
Let's say I just feel really stirred up toward my wife. I don't know what did it. I just know that all of a sudden I love that woman. So I walk into our house and she's sitting on the couch...and I get down on my knees in front of her and just grab hold of her and tell her, "Baby, I just love you so much. I mean my heart hurts, I love you so much. I don't know if it's your black hair or your deep, brown eyes...but I am crazy about you."

And some of you may go, "Well, that's really sweet of you Chandler." And it would be really sweet...except my wife is a blond and she has blue it's going to go bad for me.

Seeing God rightly leads to us being transformed...leads to humility...leads to godliness.
God's already been working on me in this area. As I'm teaching through When I Don't Desire God, Piper is hammering this point right now. We must know the difference between justification and sanctification. We must know how to fight the good fight in a way that doesn't take the grace out of the gospel and replace it with all the stuff we do. Our goal must be to continue to follow Paul's example of being resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.

Especially in my home with the girls this can be so hard. How many times a day do we moms have to correct behavior? Stop hitting that. Eat that. Don't eat that. Don't say that. Say that. Don't touch that. Pick that up. Don't do that. You better do that. Don't jump on that. Don't throw that. Stop. Go. Come here. Come here. Come here! AAAAHHHH! Sorry...flashback to the toddler days...

But at some point as the girls grow in their ability to understand (which is much sooner than we realize) we have to move out of do's and don't's...well, it's not so much move out of them as reveal the undergirding of it all. We have to show them Christ. We have to reveal Him as lovely as He really amazing as He really worthy as He really that there is reason to obey. They have to see the problem of sin in them and in me. They have to understand who they are in that sin so that they can see the cross of Christ as amazing as it really is that God would send His Son to become sin for them...His enemies...while they were still mired in that sin. Christ died to free them to obey. We do it for love of Him, not to gain us anything with Him.

Oh, how hard a message it is to overcome in our kids when we've told them for years what good girls they are...especially when they do good for us. Good girl, Cassie! You cleaned your room! Wow, Brennan! You did great! Then we turn the message on them somewhere (or maybe we'll just let the Sunday school teachers do it!) and try to tell them that they are dreadful sinners in need of saving. And that their good works have earned them nothing but wrath. Hard transition, isn't it?

It hit home to me that I am as guilty as anyone out there at giving my girls morality instead of the gospel...which can leave them with the taste in their mouths that doing matters more than becoming. Oh, how far from the gospel is that message. They must know the heart of their unworthiness of God to feel the impact of the cross rightly.

Understand, I want my girls to know we're proud of be their biggest be the first to cheer and the first to celebrate them. But there must be an undergirding that it is who they are that we delight in not in their performance. I don't want to make wives who need to achieve and want men who will perform rightly for them. I want a generation of homes which permeate the grace of God that is given while we are yet sinners. Who pursue obedience because of His great love...not to earn it. Who stand for right though the heavens fall...not because it's the ticket to God's pleasure but because God is my right.

I can hear Candace in my what's that look like? Well, to start it means focusing on ourselves just as Matt has taught. The problem is what's coming out of me. I need to focus hard on the gospel. I need to understand rightly what happened on that cross. I need a clear picture of Isaiah 6...and Isaiah 50-54...and Ezekiel 16...and Ezekiel 36...and Zechariah 3...and Romans 1-16...and Ephesians 2...Philippians 2...and so many more.

It is not as easy as say this and do that...or stop that and start this...we must be transformed by renewing our minds in the gospel of Christ. We must know ourselves who we were and be amazed at this Christ. We must have a word ready to identify with their lead them to Jesus. Not to say Jesus doesn't like that. But that Jesus died for that. We must be ready to rejoice when they do any good in this world not because it means they are good little girls, but because it reflects rightly the image of God in us. We must become students of Scripture. We must know, deeply know what it is when we say gospel.

Can you feel it like can that you need work in this area? I've begun by starting a new John Piper book called Finally Alive. You can buy it here...but if, like me, finances aren't available right now, join me in reading it free online. I can't say enough how much I appreciate Desiring God and the fact that almost all of their material is free online. Also, if you just really want the book in your hands, but can't afford it...just call them. They'll let you have it for whatever you can pay. Promise.

The work is not in our words but in our hearts. And I know it. But I can feel myself wriggling on the hook. But this isn't even the hardest hit I took from his message...I know...exhausting isn't it? Now you see why I can't blog when I'm under the knife...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Looking in the mirror

Part 1

So, Matt steps up to the stage. I already know that he's going to be talking about the shepherd and his unregenerate sheep. I've watched the videos that talked about why Piper chose him to come. I know where I think this talk is going. Basically, he's there to answer the question what do you do about all those around you who say they're sheep, but don't act like it? We've all got those people in our lives down here in Texas. Almost everyone you know goes to one church or another. Or at least they say they do.

I went to jr. high and high school in a town with less than a thousand people in it. But still, there were six churches in town. You could find five more just by driving a few miles down the highway. Most Sundays all across Texas and the rest of the south the churches are filled with people. There may only be 14 people there, but that's because it's in the middle of no where, west Texas. There may be only five houses within 15 miles of it! But they're there...Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday nights...and if you're really religious, you're there for the business meeting before the service starts.

Down here, almost everyone in the stands on a Friday night would say they were a Christian. Truly. They might be able to name one or two people they know that "don't go to church"...and they'd be able to talk about that strange, white building that went up next to the jr. high. But not them...and not their friends. They're Christians. Unfortunately, too many of those claims for Christianity come from those that are basing it on what happened one summer at VBS or on the fact that their daddy was a deacon and their family has sat on the same pew at church since their great-granddaddy helped build it...see that plaque on the side? Going to church here is simply...what you do.

I heard Don Carson last night say...
The rising secularization...does not mean the diminishing of religion...secularization does not shut down religion. What it does is shift it to the periphery of life so that you can be ever so religious as long as it doesn't long as it's a just private that if anybody wants to say that their religion ought to change how people think and act and live, what laws should be passed and the like...No! No! No! You mustn't do that!
This is an attitude Matt Chandler knows too well in the Dallas area. He starts with the story of how he got to where he is at The Village. A funny, sad, angry story. At the end of it he says...
In December of 2002, despite my anger towards evangelicals, I became the pastor of a church of evangelicals in what Christianity Today called the “center of the evangelical world.” Despite the fact that my heart had always burned for the prodigal, God sent me to the older brother.
A little pang there. Isn't that true? Too often I'm just like the older brother in that story, wanting to know where my piece of the pie is. Not concerned, not burning with desire for the lost. Just sitting back at home, feeling proud of myself for keeping the faith, wanting my goat to throw a party for my friends. Yeah. Little pain there. I needed that.

But...onto those sheep...what about them? I'm ready. What's he going to tell us to do? How do you talk to them? How can I break through to those around me? How do you convince someone that they're not a believer when they think they are? Should you even try? I wait pen in hand for him to get started.

He tells us he's going to 1 Timothy 4. Really? I'm thinking. I start reviewing what I know of that chapter...don't let anyone think less of you because you're young...set an example...keep a close watch...on yourself. Uh-oh. I don't like where this is going. Yeah. I was right. I didn't like where he was going. But it's good.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Giggling in the dark

I mentioned that I was recovering from surgery. My Mom informed me not to do this without being abundantly clear that I was talking about "spiritual" surgery and not in a hospital somewhere, lying in a bed, unable to CALL YOUR MOTHER!! Yep. We moms can get a little emotional over our little ones...even when the little one is 40 years old.

So, clear up any confusion. I'm not recovering from any cutting on my body. But I am healing from some good surgery God did on my soul to sever some more flesh from the spirit he's sanctifying in me. And He got started while I was watching this talk from Matt Chandler. Before I post about his talk, let me tell you why all my girls were excited he had been asked to the conference.

Matt (May I call you Matt? Thanks.) has been used by God in an amazing way here in the Ransleben household. Brennan listens to him almost nightly. This came after months of trying to figure out how to settle her mind on truth as she lay in bed night after night, filled with anxiety...from what? You'll have to name it...because mostly she can't. Maybe it's something coming the next day. Maybe it's something happening 6 months from now. Maybe it's something that may never happen. But somewhere in that darkened room her fears would rise and her mind would race and the tears would fall. Night after night.

Then one night last summer, I was sleeping next to her in a hotel room and wasn't tired though I knew we had to turn the lights out for the girls. Don't you hate that moment? Well, I had come prepared with my iPod loaded with sermons. As we lay together in the dark, it was obvious she wasn't able to settle. We talked for a while about what might be concerning her...talked again about trusting the Lord...about talking to Him. I asked if she might like to listen to this guy I was listening to. He's pretty funny and was speaking about his kids which I thought she might like.

She pretty reluctantly agreed but soon started smiling along with me as we lay with our faces near each other, holding on to each other in the darkened room. Then giggles from her which, of course, caused her sisters to rise up to see what's going on. That made her relax even more. Mom and she shared a secret. Giggle, giggle. Her whole body sank into sleep as she listened because though Matt starts funny, interesting and even sarcastic and self-depreciating, it's not long before the truth of what he's saying penetrates deeply to the root of where I am turning from God. If you're like us, your body and mind quiet while the truth of God settles inside.

He's passionate about the Lord. His theology matches mine. His sarcasm makes me look kind. And his stories show that truth matters in real life. My kind of preacher.

Since that night, Brennan has gone to bed with earphones plugged in. She listens to the sermon from that first night over and over. She can literally quote most of it. But now she's heard almost everything he's ever said. She brings up the sermons when talking about life. She remembers them when she reads the Word. She tells me his points as well as her favorite lines as we drive together. But more than that, being under the Word through his teaching has settled the nights for her. As she listens, her mind shuts out the fears and fills with the Word. How grateful do you think I am for the gift of Matt Chandler to the church?

If you'd like to give him a listen click the link to the right under "Favorite People To Listen To". Brennan's favorite one is from 6.01.08 called "From Childish to Childlike". And when you get to the line, "That's old school, baby!"...think of her! That starts her laughing every time.

Another must hear is the series called The Cross (Parts 1-6). This was given between March and April of 2007. I can't recommend it strongly enough. I told this to Cassie shortly after Brennan began listening daily. She, I'm sure, thought like she always did when I tell her she's got to read this, listen to this, see this...Sure, Mom...whatever. I say it a lot. But she downloaded it to take on the Ukraine trip last summer with Wayne. She told me she thought she'd listen to them like Brennan does to go to sleep. Funny.

She griped at me when she got back for two reasons. First, she never got to sleep. How could I when they were so amazing?? And second, why didn't you tell me how great they were??? Everyone should listen to this!! I just said I was sorry. What can you do?

As I read back over this, you might get the impression that he's just a really good sleep aid! Promise that's not true. Even when Brennan does go to sleep during one, she immediately goes back to the last thing she remembers and starts from there. You won't want to miss anything he's teaching.

So, even though he is generally used to flay me open, I'm grateful...oh, so grateful...for the gift of teaching through Matt. Take a listen sometime and let me know if you agree. Tomorrow I'll let you know what I learned from 1 Timothy 4.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wedding cake #1

And hopefully the last. I'm not cut out for the pressure of a bride on her wedding day. Fortunately, she was happy with it. So for all of you who care...though why you would other than to have a chuckle, I'll never know...