Posted in Uncategorized

“We are making pianos.”

“In the third chapter (of 1 Thessalonians) Paul prays, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you : to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father.” He is not praying for something that has been done or for something to be done for unconverted souls, nor for something that is impossible to have done now. And in the fifth chapter he is still praying for the same thing, and that it may be done now. We give you Scripture texts that need not the least twisting or turning to bring them to bear upon this subject. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

This doctrine is not of man, but is taught in the wondrous words of the Son of God, when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with an thy heart, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,” and is taught in the catechism: “The chief end of man upon the earth is to glorify God, that he may enjoy Him forever.” Amen.

Noiselessly, stone upon stone, grew this great temple of God, built of stones made ready before they were brought. “There was neither hammer, nor ax, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building.” So is the house on high built of “lively stones,” ”a holy priesthood,” the eternal temple of our God. But the quarry is not a quiet place. There is heard the sound of hammers and chisels. There drills are ringing, and workmen shouting and running and sweating. There goes a blast, and there a great ledge of rock comes thundering down. The quarry is a place of business, and there is the noise and whirl of eager activities, as souls are excavated and fitted for the symmetries and the symphonies of heaven.

A man who had never heard a piano before was so thrilled and enraptured with the wondrous melody that he started off to find the piano factory, expecting there to be ravished by the many, mingling strains of music. But he found only the whirl and buzz of machinery, the rasping sound of saws, the clatter of hammers, the patter of hurrying feet, and dust, and din, and stroke, and shout, with which the work went on. Wait a while; nor chide the din and rush and shout; we are making pianos.

But these “lively stones” after they brought into line, are to be polished. A short time since they were shapeless hard-heads or rough boulders of granite. You can see your features reflect in the massive pillars that rise in front of the court house in Chicago.

God polishes with life’s tests and trials until His saints shine.” – Vivian Dake

These words were just a small part of a message preached by Vivian Dake, Free Methodist founder of the Pentecost Bands in the later 1800’s, as he spoke at a Presbyterian church in Attica, IN. These “Bands” of 4 young men or women were being sent out all over the United States, Europe, and Africa. One of the “Pentecost Bands” of young women sent out by Dake in 1889 was a vital part of founding the Free Methodist Church here in Champaign, IL (originally in Urbana, IL, 1890). Led by Rena Brown, what they found here in Urbana was a famine, as mentioned in Amos 8:11, “Not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

We pray that our lives can be used by God to protect against such a famine returning.  Not only that the words of Scripture would be read aloud & heard, but may they be lived out and actively transforming lives by the power and New Creation Life of the Holy Spirit – setting all people free from that which wounds and oppresses, bringing healing and redemption as it bears fruit for the Kingdom of Jesus.

To read more of the life, ministry, and writings of Vivian Dake, click here.

Posted in Different Learning, Different Moments, Uncategorized

“Uber” Exciting

This past week, ride-sharing app “Uber” opened up in our city, only to be followed the next day by “Lyft” as well.  Decatur, IL was finally getting “on the map” in a way that seemed to echo finally being included in “Craigslist” a few years before.  Certainly we’re no Chicago, but we are a greater-area population of about 85,000 – and potential for growth as we were also recently identified as #3 most affordable housing market in the WORLD.

uber-redesign-russellwarwickI’m a confessed extrovert, and love meeting new people.  So it wasn’t surprising to my wife when I joked about signing up as an Uber driver, not as a money-making venture, but for fun.  Even after quickly moving through the process, snapping pictures of my documents like insurance and registration, and getting notified I was approved – I didn’t think I’d find myself driving anytime soon.  Although as a pastor there was another layer of appeal.

Fridays are my “day off”, and the rest of my family was occupied at our homeschool co-op.  My wife told me to take the morning to enjoy.  As I sat at Panera, reading the latest edition of Harpers, I flicked the “Online” toggle on my Uber-Driver App, and officially became available.  I figured, it would be fun to give a ride or two, in the midst of my morning coffee.  Ten minutes later, it was obvious Decatur didn’t need many Uber drivers around 9am on a Friday.  Almost an hour in, I realized it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the morning reading with coffee.

Then it happened.  I don’t even remember much about what the alert looked like. All I could think of was “There might be several Uber drivers getting this same notification, I’d better accept it quickly!”  Boom.  I accepted.  Then I looked at the address.  It wasn’t far, so I loaded up, made sure the radio wasn’t blaring princess music, and began to follow the built-in navigation system within the Uber app.

As I eased my family mini-van into the driveway of a nice quiet neighborhood, a smiling middle-aged man and his wife emerged with two suit-cases.  I quickly asked his name to confirm, though it seemed pretty obvious he was definitely my fare.  I helped load his luggage into my trunk, and opened the door for both he and his wife.  As I started the van, I slid the “Start” button on the Uber app, and asked him where they were headed this morning.  He smiled and said the airport, which I’d kinda anticipated from the luggage.  There was only one issue:

The airport he was talking about was 1.5 hours away in Peoria, IL.

For a brief second, I thought he was joking.  I think he caught my surprise, because he clarified, “You saw that when you agreed, right?”  I looked at my clock, and saw I had just enough time to get there and back before the family came home for lunch.  Why not?  I was honest, however.  Laughing, I confessed I’d not seen it, but it was no problem – let’s go!

He and his wife were very kind, and were in good spirits as they were heading out of town on vacation.  Their flights had been changed last minute, and they decided to try Uber since it had proved useful in previous times of transportation need when they’d visited larger cities.  They even tipped well, although Uber does not require this habit.

Altogether, I enjoyed my coffee and met some new people whom I was able to offer God’s blessings to for their journey ahead, as I dropped them off for their flights.  They’d paid Uber about $75, and I received about $55 of that (plus their gracious tip!).  Probably the most I’ll ever cash in with Uber, since I was just doing it for fun.  I was thankful that their few hours of need happened during my few hours of availability.

I also learned an important lesson: Before you agree to help someone get somewhere, make sure you know where they want to go.  (That’s probably a deep profound truth, eh?)  Next time I’ll make sure I check the request fully, before accepting.  I suppose I could be glad they weren’t heading to an airport in Chicago, or Canada…? lol

Thanks, Uber.  That was fun.  Maybe we’ll do it again someday.

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Make Fans & Influence People

I grew up in Michigan, and bleed red for my Detroit Redwings.  I still have love for the Hawks and Blues.  I’d love to see a “Hawks/Blues vs. Wings” Stanley Cup Final series someday.  I’m even training my daughters to love hockey, and they’re constantly asking me throughout the season how the team is doing.  My oldest daughter melted my heart recently when she used the name “Datsuk” in a large game of charades some families were playing.

I’ve been wanting to take my girls to watch a local hockey game, ever since hearing the “Decatur Blaze” had come to town.  Even though it was a church-night, I headerdecided to try it once last month.  We were all bundled up, and ready for action.  At an inexpensive $5/person, I wasn’t too worried if they ended up getting too tired to stay for the whole game.  On the way in, the friendly woman selling tickets asked my girls if they were staying after the game to skate with the players?  Giant smiles on their faces, they looked at me.  As if I had any power to deny.

As it turns out, the team Decatur Blaze was supposed to face Saturday night had their franchise folded suddenly on Friday morning.  Instead of locking the doors for the weekend, the Blaze wanted to use the opportunity to offer something special to their fans.  A black/white scrimmage was put together, with plenty of fun and talented puck handling.  The atmosphere was still pretty exciting for a fan-base that was cheering for and against the same team, ultimately.  Our girls chose the black team, and were not disappointed.  Even though it was obviously a bit more fun than competitive, there was still some great puck handling and teamwork.  Watch out for these future stars, like # 95 from Illinois, Micah Young, or Slovenian #11, Luka Znidarsic.  We even had some great local talent represented, in #52 Ty Gehrken and #58 Ryan Redpath.

The night was made even sweeter, as my girls were invited to come help collect the “Chuck-A-Pucks” between periods.  Getting on the ice, and seeing the Zamboni made them even more excited to skate after the game.  So when the time finally came, close to 9pm (keep in mind, these girls usually head to bed around 7:30), they were first in line for their skates.

Here’s the problem:  I was skating solo that night.  My wife was attending the local production of “Peter Pan” with her parents, and I was pretending to be the image1(7)responsible adult that night.  How could I juggle three girls who’ve never skated before?  As we walked awkwardly toward the ice, my girls and I had no idea what to expect.   The loud music and low lights seemed fun, but also very distracting.  That’s when the first hand reached out.  Wearing #88, and coming all the way from Belfast, UK, Gareth Smyth instantly become a part of my daughters’ life.  For the next hour, I successfully navigated caring for all three girls, and even took some pictures/video to prove it.  Whenever one of them struggled away from me, there was usually a helpful Blaze jersey skating nearby.

As 10pm approached, I knew my girls needed to head to bed soon or they’d never make it to church in the morning.  Being the responsible father that I am, I spoiled the party, and promised we’d skate again soon.  As my girls skated around in their dreams that night, they’d solidified their love both for ice skating, and for a sport who’s players show heart both between buzzers, and after the game.