A Story of Inspiration

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A truly moving story of inspiration from our pianist at Triune, Russ Long. Thanks, Channel 4 News for the story. Link to the video:

Triune pianist uses music to inspire people fighting addiction

Transcript from Corey Davis of WYFF News Channel 4:

A man who once struggled with addiction is now using his passion for music to inspire others.

Deb Richardson-Moore, pastor of Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, said she tries to make her last sermon of the year about where people will be one year from now.

The hope is that someone will make an effort to overcome their challenges, whether it be gaining sobriety, finding a job or a place to live.

Russ Long was the motivation of her sermon Sunday afternoon.

He’s the pianist at the church and said he was addicted to pills when he was hired two years ago.

Long said at the height of his addiction, he bought and used 80 to 90 black-market prescription pills a day and said he cleared out his mother’s retirement fund to support his habit.

“I had sunk so low, I had to look up to see rock bottom. That’s how far I was down,” said Long.

Long is now sober after rehab and a long road to forgiveness.

“I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching, I’ve had to reach really deep and try to forgive myself. I think that’s the most difficult thing,” said Long.

Richardson-Moore shared Long’s story with the congregation before she revealed his name.

Long’s brother and mother were there for support as the church erupted into applause when Richardson-Moore told the congregation that the story was about Long.

Long took a seat at the piano, wiped away tears and shared his passion for spiritual music.

He played a selection that brought the congregation to its feet.

“There’s so many things that I have to be grateful for. The fact that I’m alive, the fact that I didn’t get robbed or murdered or arrested. The fact that I have the most incredible support from my family who love me unconditionally,” said Long.

Long said he has brittle bone disease. It causes his bones to break easily. Long said he had 50 breaks and fractures throughout his life and he became addicted to pills three years ago when he tried to get treatment for the chronic pain.

Long credits his sobriety to faith and a strong support system.

He hopes someone else will be able to share their story of transformation next year.

“There is no happy ending with addiction. There is no shining star. It does not end well. The most important thing is keeping your heart open and making that first step. I promise, it will change your life forever,” said Long.

The Triune Mercy Center offers information to help their members find ways to overcome addictions and many crisis situations.

 

My Favorite Gift

I have already received my favorite Christmas present this season – a bright red baseball cap with sequins and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Not that I would have known it was Our Lady of Guadalupe, had her name not been scrawled across the hat, right between the sequins and serenely smiling face.
When people see me coming — and oh, they will — “Protestant pastor” will not be their first thought. But I cherish the cap because it was a gift from one of my longtime parishioners at Triune Mercy Center. A man who spent the last nine Christmases homeless.
When I arrived at Triune in 2005, Lee was among the surliest of my new congregants. He spent every weekend sleeping in our dining hall, his head cradled on his arms. When spoken to, he grunted. When asked to take out trash, he rolled his eyes.

A couple of years in, I asked Lee to help me serve communion one Sunday. To my surprise, he agreed.

Together we made our way along the altar rail. “The body of Christ broken for you, Denise, Sippio, Pete, Robert. The blood of Christ shed for you.”

I uttered the words and handed over the bread. Lee followed with the tray of communion cups.

Three weeks later, he caught me after a service. “Communion is next Sunday,” he mumbled, slouched against a wall. “Do I have to help you again?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes, you do.”

When the next Sunday rolled around, he backed out. But then we started noticing that he was helping out in the dining hall. He set up tables and chairs, took out the trash. He served the tea. Then he started making the tea. He brewed the coffee.

We talked about him at staff meetings. What’s up with Lee? What’s gotten into Lee? Nobody knew.

But he was a different person. He wouldn’t sit down and eat until everyone else had been served.

One December morning, I was going to visit Fourth Presbyterian Church for an alternative gift fair. I stopped in our kitchen to see if the coffee was ready. It wasn’t. “Don’t worry,” I told Lee. “I’ll get some at Fourth Pres.”

Ten minutes later there was a knock on my office door. There stood Lee with a steaming cup of hot coffee.

I just stared. “You brought me coffee?”
“You were taking so long the men were going to drink it all up,” he replied. Gruffly.

Lee still had a drinking problem. He still lived outside — in a tent, during good times. But after that day, he brought me coffee every Sunday morning. He and I were unlikely friends, yet friends nonetheless in this ragtag community we call church.

He was the illustration I used when I told proponents of outcome measurement that there is a point to church, to relationship, even when sobriety and housing and employment don’t happen. There is a way someone can be “with us” in the same way Emmanuel is “God with us.”

One day this spring, Lee entered rehab at a Veterans Administration clinic in Asheville. He got a job. He calls every Sunday to let us know how he’s doing. On the first Sunday of Advent, he rode the bus to Greenville and dashed into the middle of our worship service where I sat on the front row, listening to the offertory. He handed me that blazing, garish, flashy, quite lovely paean to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We Christians will mark this Christmas amid fear of terrorism and cataclysmic climate change and racial strife and domestic shootings. The truth is, most of us aren’t in a position to do much about any of that.

What we can do is be with our brothers and sisters. As Emmanuel promised to be with us.

A Nice Piece

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Duke Divinity School hired Greenville freelancer Kelley Bruss to do a story on Triune for its online Faith & Leadership site.

Kelley spent several days with us and really got it right. Here’s her story:

The joy and mess of incarnational ministry at Triune Mercy Center

Notes from the Sunroom

I’ve always been fascinated by where writers write.

 That was the question I always asked when I interviewed authors for The Greenville (SC) News, where I worked for 27 years. “Describe to me where you write. What’s in there? What’s the view from your window?”

When we built our house decades ago, the desk was in an upstairs bonus room, with oddly configured dormer windows that restricted any view. I dreaded going up there, and could hardly make myself do it. Then we moved the desk — a cast-off from a friend, painted white — to the sunroom. Two walls are all windows, no curtains. I look out over my wooded backyard and my neighbor’s. A third wall is all bookshelves, many of them doubly lined with books I need to take to the used book store.

The room is just steps from the kitchen so I can get frequent coffee refills.

Ah….. Bring on the mayhem.