Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rock 'n Soul

Death his unnatural, God didn’t create us to die. Sin causes us to die. Jesus causes us to live after this physical death takes place. It’s simple yet profound. Because it is unnatural when it does happen it gives us a bunch of emotions and things our natural selves can’t really handle, so it takes some unnatural things to help cope with them. I witnessed the greatest unnatural event I’ve seen in quite some time last night. The funeral service for Tom Russell was held last night on the North side of town. I had no idea of what to wear, if I wear black I am saying I am mourning, or so tradition says, but I don’t want to be disrespectful to the family or tradition. I decided to not wear black because this was a celebration of life, not a horribly loss of hope. Hope lives on with this loss though. Brief story before we continue though, as it was told last night.

A young girl goes with her church on an outreach event held at a prison. They begin talking to inmates as they return and continue to serve there. A young man asks this girl if he can start writing her. She agrees and they begin writing back and forth. Love is sparked between this distance, paper, and ink. She has this best friend who she tells about this inmate and his great heart for God. One thing leads to another and they start praying that he will get released because they want to be together. He has served 8 out of the 20 year sentence. They pray and pray. This best friend begins feeling like God wants him to do more than pray. God uses this man to put feet to these prayers. God is in this thing the whole way. He is just starting his business as an eye doctor and has a shop a couple doors down from where the girl works at a Christian book store. His first couple of clients were officers that worked at the prison this man is at. The next couple of clients are higher ups at the same prison. He starts asking questions and gets this unanimous response, “There are two people in the prison I would go out on a limb for and he is number one.” So this guy now goes to Sunday school and just tells his class that he wants to raise money in order to get a lawyer to start trying to get this man out of prison. A man pulls him aside and tells him that his brother was saved in a prison ministry and that whatever he is short at the end of raising money to get the legal proceedings started he would take care of.

They start talking to a lawyer and eventually get a hearing. The reason this hearing was possible was Tom had made such an impression on the staff of the prison and this girl through his letters. He also impacted this best friend as she shared the letters with him. He said that the things written in the letter were so profound and things he had been learning at theological seminary. Tom used his time in prison to really get to know God and Jesus. He was the real deal and everyone knew it. In 1984 they got a final hearing. The attorney had a good relationship with the judge that was supposed to reside over the entire deal, so this was another thing that they had going for them. When they got into the court room another judged showed up though. The girl sat as this all happened and prayed aloud. After the judge and attorney had their exchanges the judge says that he will be released today. Tom is released and this girl who he met through a ministry got married. Lori and Tom Russell started a life together.

A true change happened here. This man lead a family straight to Jesus. This church building was filled; people were actually standing in the back. As family members told stories during the service it was apparent that the entire room was filled with people who knew Jesus because of Tom. They spoke of his way of living life to the fullest, always smiling, laughing loud, and how infectious of a personality he was. People loved this man. I didn’t event know him, I met him twice, and by the end of this service I felt myself loving this man and everything he was. The one thing you could not get around when talking about him was his complete devotion to Jesus. He and his wife raised three kids who all know Jesus and are great kids, doing great things. Zack is an amazing graphic artist, caring, and determined young man, Max is a teenager with his head on straight too, he wrote this poem that brought me to tears about his Dad, he is a star football player at his high school, Chelsea is a beautiful soft spoken girl who just exudes what love is, she is soft spoken and humble. All of this is because of a man’s devotion to Jesus. Tom Russell is a great man. I know that walking away from that service. It was a true celebration of life that night and it was amazing to hear so many stories of how he impacted anyone he was around. The service closed with slide show of his life set to a great Peter Framton song, “Do you feel like we do?” The chorus repeats a question, “Do you, you feel like I do?” I hope I feel life the way Tom Russell did. I hope I can impact people the way he did. What a beautiful story of redemption, amazing what one person can do for the kingdom, stunning what truly following Jesus looks like.

It was an honor to be at that celebration service and I have been impacted for life because of it (as well as discovering some new music I need in my life).

Zack approved this writing, thanks brother.

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