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So, I am at the Orange Conference. I have never been before, and I wasn’t really sure what it was all about, except for that it was mainly for children and youth ministers.  At the opening session, Reggie Joiner spoke about the concept behind Orange, and the importance of enabling and partnering with parents to teach children about God and pass on the faith.

This is not a new concept for me.  This was a main theme woven throughout all of my youth ministry classes in seminary, but Reggie said something that hit me tonight which I have never thought of before:

“God is not interested in the perfect picture.  He is interested in writing the story.”

Now, that’s good.

So many times as the church we try to make people fit into a certain mold that makes life easier for us, that makes us comfortable.  We want our churches to be made up of perfect families, with perfect parents, and perfect children.  This will never happen.   This is not real.  Reality isn’t comfortable.  It is hard.  It is painful.  It is messy.  It doesn’t make sense.  It can’t be contained.

It is broken.

Families are broken.

We are broken.

I am broken.

Tonight, for the first time I really realized that my family is broken.  If my family had to fit into the “perfect family” mold (aka: mom and dad who are still married and children–who don’t have problems, are rebellious, or talk back) I would be a horrible failure.  You see, my family is broken.  When I was 17 my father died.  This wasn’t a choice I made; it was something that happened to us, but it irrevocably severed my family.  My family doesn’t fit the mold anymore….actually it never did.

There are other reasons, which I will not go into because it is neither the time nor the place, why my family does not fit the mold.  And, you know what….I’m okay with it.  Because God is bigger than my brokenness.

God is in the business of restoring and redeeming our brokenness.

Our broken relationships.

Our broken families.

Our broken hearts.

God wants to use our brokenness to show the world that He is THE GOD who restores and redeems broken people.

This is just one of the many things I love about Cornerstone.  We are not just a church of broken people (every church is that) but we are a church that doesn’t hide that we are broken.   And, you don’t have to hang around Cornerstone very long to hear the stories of redemption and restoration that God is writing in the lives of these broken people.

And, I am one of them.

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“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV)

I’ve bee dwelling on this all day….soaking it in….letting it rearrange my heart, mind, soul.  And, all I can think is, am I that person?  Have I let the Truth so transform me that my life reflects the purpose of Christ–to offer his life as a ransom for many?

I love the way The Message puts it:

“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

There are people all around me that are held hostage–to their sin, the lies they have been told, their past, shame, doubt, fear, hopelessness, loneliness, despair.  What is my life doing to rescue those who are held hostage?

The word “ransom” literally means “something that is paid or demanded for the release of someone/something from captivity.”  Jesus life was the ransom required for mine to be released from captivity.  What is my life a ransom for?  Is my life being offered as a ransom for those who are lost, those who are dying in captivity at this very moment?

One of the best pictures I have ever seen of this is the movie Man on Fire. (I want to preface this by saying that this movie is rated R for a very good reason.  I am not condoning the movie itself, but the message cannot be denied.  Yes, it is violent and inappropriate at points, but the message is one that transcends the method of presentation.  I love this movie because it convicts me.  It struck something within me that any “Christian” movie has yet to even graze.)

Man on Fire tells the story of a man, Creasy, who is hired to protect the daughter of a very important man, who lives in Mexico.  Creasy vows to protect the little girl, Pita, through whatever means necessary, which he follows through with. Ultimately, Creasy is faced with the decision to give up his life in place of Pita’s.  He must give himself over to the men who have kidnapped her so that she can be rescued from her captivity.  And, might I add, it is based on a true story.

The last scenes of the movie play out this sequence beautifully: (It’s a little long, but worth the watch)

Creasy was willing to be the ransom for Pita.  What/Who am I willing to be a ransom for?

If Jesus came to seek and save the LOST (aka not the ones who already knew the Truth) which He did by being a servant and giving his life as a ransom, and I am called to be becoming like Him……what does that mean for me?

And, am I really ready to know what that means for me?

This morning at Cornerstone, we had the privilege of having Matt Dean, a long time member of Cornerstone and founder of Grace Campus Ministries, speak the word of God to us.  Matt and his wife have felt God call them to move their ministry to college students from Auburn, AL to Hong Kong, and they are being obedient to the call.

While it was good to hear about what God is doing in Matt and April and Grace Campus, something other than that was stirring inside of me as I listened to him this morning.  It was more than just a “see how God is using me and my family to reach the unreached,” message; it was a “get up off you hiney, because God is asking you to do the same thing” reality check.

For me it was a Holy Spirit throwdown inside my soul.

You see, here’s the plain truth….I would sell everything I have and move to another country right now to tell people about Christ.  I would give up everything, which I have offered God before, to be on the “mission field” with God.  I would go anywhere…Africa, China, Russia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Romania…you name it.

But, that is not where God has called me.

When I was about to graduate from college I told God that I would go anywhere he asked me to go.  I was ready for him to say “Amy I want you to move to Tanzania.”  But, what I wasn’t ready for him to say was, “Amy, I want you to go to Texas (and go to seminary),” which is exactly what he did.

When I was about to graduate from seminary and leave Texas, I told God the same thing, “I will go anywhere for You.”  I was ready for the jungles of South America.  But, what I wasn’t ready for was for him to call me back home, to Auburn, AL.  And yet, here I am.

So, as I sat in worship this morning, listening to Matt share his heart, I was on the edge of my seat.  In my heart I was saying, “God, send me.  I am ready.  I will go anywhere for you.  Count me in.  Just tell me where you want me to go, and I am there!”

And, oh so tenderly my Father pulled me in close to himself and said, “Amy, you’re already there.”

Let me share a few statistics with you that Matt shared this morning:
— There are more than 2 billion people in the world who have never heard/read/seen the name of Jesus.
— In America there is 1 Christian worker for every 300 people.  In China there is only 1 worker for several million people (and yet the church is growing exponentially there!).
— 90% of the world’s pastors are in America ministering to 8% of the worlds population

And, one of my own:
— 70% of the world’s population of teenagers is outside of the United States, but 90% of the worlds youth ministers are in the US

This is hard for me to sit back and watch happen.  This is wrong.  Something needs to change.

But, I am here in Auburn, AL.  God has called me here to reach those who have yet to be reached.  I am taken back to the statistic that in America there is 1 Christian worker for every 300 people, but in other countries it is 1 to millions.

And, the question that kept coming to me this morning was, “What’s our excuse?”

There shouldn’t be a single person in America who hasn’t been touched with the Gospel, who hasn’t heard the Good News that Jesus Christ has rescued them from sin and death and reconciled them to God.  We don’t have an excuse.  At least not a good one.

There is only one reason that we are not reaching our country for Christ: we don’t care about lost people.

This hit me so hard this morning, because all of my life, all I have wanted to do was go overseas.  A part of my heart will always burn for missions, but this morning I realized, in a very real way, that everywhere is my mission field.

So, where is your mission field?  Mine is Auburn Junior High, and Drake Middle School, and Auburn High School, and Auburn University, and Starbucks, and Wal-Mart, and…..

What are you missing because you are always waiting for “real” ministry?  What’s your excuse for not reaching the people you live life with everyday?  Is is because you don’t care?  Because I have a feeling that you do, and it’s time you we did something about it.

My heart is heavy.

This week has been a hard week, from Facebook ruining my Tuesday (I’m not sure how something that doesn’t even really exist can ruin a day, but it did for me) to my heart being broken over my own insecurities and inablility to trust my Father with the things I desire the most, to my early morning experience with Jesus and the brutal reality of his death.   I feel like I have been beaten.  My eyes are tired from lack of sleep.  And “this morning” when I woke up from the few hours of sleep I could grab after spending the night in unrest and then the early parts of the morning at our Maundy Thursday service at Cornerstone, I was faced with the reality that in those moments, 2000 years ago, my Savior was nailed to a cross, dying.

He was NAILED to a cross!!

His blood was pouring out of his broken body.  He was beaten.  He was tortured.  And, as I woke up I realized that it was noon and the darkness would have fallen by then, as Jesus hung on the cross.  His death was immanent.

The GOD of the universe DIED!!

I know this phrase is overused, and I hate that, but I can’t help but be reminded that I am the one who put Him there.  It’s not a guilt trip, it is reality.  I am the reason He was on that cross.

And, the blood that poured out of his wrists, and feet, and back, and head….it covers me.  Just like the Isrealites were passed over when they put the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of their homes, I have been “passed over” because of the blood that Jesus poured out over me.  GOD didn’t just spare me from death, He took my death.  He rescued me from what I couldn’t rescue myself from.

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself sitting right in the middle of my brokenness.  I felt stupid and foolish for letting it get to me.  I needed to be focused on what I was supposed to be doing.  I needed to be preparing my heart for washing feet and serving communion that night.  I didn’t have time to be distracted by the things that were breaking my heart.

In the middle of all this, a friend sat down beside me and asked me how I was doing.  As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t lie to him, and I began telling him (in the vaguest way possible) that I felt broken and defeated, and that I felt so distracted from what I needed to be focused on (aka — being the “put together” leader whose heart was prepared for washing feet and serving communion), and that I didn’t feel like my heart was prepared for the task before me.

His words to me were that I was exactly in the place I needed to be… I was broken.

Brokenness seems to be a constant theme in my life, and sometimes I wonder how long I must be broken.  I have found myself pounding my fist to the sky asking God, “When will my heart be healed?”  But, last night early this morning, as I washed people’s feet and served communion I was reminded that it was Christ’s brokenness which allowed salvation to be poured out.

I am RESCUED;  I am HEALED because He was broken.

And, the brokenness I feel is just a fraction of a fraction of the brokenness he endured for the sins of all mankind.

Isaiah says it better than I ever could:

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Let these words sink deep into your soul today as you think upon the death of Jesus, our Savior.  He carried our pain.  He carried our sorrow.  He conquered our brokenness.  Soak in this reality.

I know I am.

Yesterday I was cleaning up my apartment, getting ready for our junior high girls life group, and I was sweeping the kitchen floor.  First off, I love things being clean, but I hate cleaning.  So, I don’t clean as much as I should, which is why I managed to sweep up a huge pile of leaves and dirt and trash that had collected on the floor over the week.

As I was trying to sweep, Bella (my beautiful and rather energetic border collie) decided that she wanted to be wherever the broom was.  Now, Bella has adopted a fear of the vacuum cleaner, but for some reason loves it when I sweep.  I think she thinks it is some sort of game.  I also need to say that Bella will eat/destroy ANYTHING she comes in contact with.  She is the dog that would eat someone’s homework.  So, naturally she finds things on the floor that I didn’t even know existed and manages to eat them.

Back to the sweeping….I finished sweeping and had all of the trash in a neat little pile, ready to be swept up in the dustpan.  I turned around for one second to get the dustpan, and when I turned back around, Bella was sitting right in the middle of the pile, just as content as she could be….eating the trash.

I was so frustrated because I worked so hard to get all the trash in one place, and there she was sitting in the middle of it, not just destroying it, but eating it.

I just wrote it off as her being a stupid dog (I know I shouldn’t call her stupid, but sometimes she is), and in that moment, a little voice spoke in my head “Amy, you are just like her.”

Wow!  I immediately defended myself against the accusation. “I would never sit in a pile of trash, much less eat it.  That’s so gross, and I’m not that stupid.”

“You do this everday,” was the only response I got.

My heart broke because it is true.  I sit in my pile of trash everyday, just as content as I can be, consuming it, and letting dirt and filth cover me.  My pile of trash is the sin in my life that I just won’t let go of, because, honestly, I like it.  I don’t like having sin in my life, but there is a reason that I keep finding myself back in the pile.  Just like my precious Bella, I enjoy it.  It’s fun.  But, it’s also disgusting.

I am so broken over this, but that isn’t enough.  I have to get up and get out of the trash pile.  I have to trust that God is good, and giving up those sins means that He can replace them with something better, something real, something beautiful.