Crystal Greiner

I got a call while with my buddy Dave at breakfast this morning at 8:30am.
Crystal Greiner, one of my teens for the past 4 years, who had drifted away the past 5 months of so died in a house fire last night. Crystal was a sweet girl, who had a soft spot for God, even when her friends didn't. Last January she made a serious committment to Christ at a Winter Retreat, all of her own, with no "peer pressure" (I was there, and it was sincere and real). She wasn't really living "the Christian life" the past couple of months, but 2 things come to mind when I try to justify her eternal destination:
1) No one knows what she was thinking in the last few moments and what prayers she may have said.
2) Maybe I am Calvinist... or at least maybe I will be for the funeral.

Her parents (unchurched) asked me to perform the funeral and I was with them from 9am until noon and at the school until 2 after that. This has been my first experience bringing comfort to a family from the first hours, through the funeral home consulatation, straight through the funeral. I buried one of my teens 2 years ago, but I knew Crystal much better and her family has allowed me to be much more involved from the beginning.
It is tough being "the pastor", sitting in a stranger's living room, comforting a mom you casually know who has lost her only daughter, a half-hour after finding out yourself. So I cried for them and with them. I was strong for them. I was weak with them. I prayed for us. I was present. I will be present in the days ahead. Tough days ahead.

My Schedule This Week:
Wednesday 6:00-8:00 PM Hal's Visitation Hours
Wednesday 6:15-8:45 PM Youth Group Christmas Parties (JH an SH)
Thursday 2:00PM-? Hal's Funeral
Thursday 3:00PM-4:00PM Crystal's Family Visitation
Thursday 4:00PM-8:00PM Crystal's Open Visitation
Friday 11:00PM-Noon Crystal's Open Visitation II
Friday Noon-?? Crystal's Funeral

My eyes really hurt, my heart aches and I feel a bit numb.
Prayers for peace and comfort, and the ability to pass both of those on, are deeply needed and appreciated my friends.
Read more

Hal Fogarty

Hal Fogarty died yesterday.

Most of you never knew him, but all of you should have. Hal was a man who was committed to seeking the heart and mind of Christ. After a bad run-in with the gnarly beast of church politics in the his 20's he lingered on the outskirts of the institutional church for the next thirty years, preserving his families steadfast commitment to the way of Christ through their home life. This is where I met him, on the outskirts of our church four years ago, bouncing in and out on Sundays with very little relational contact, save a few close friends from his childhood who attend the Naz.

When I really met him was about a year ago, when we discovered that we had a common desire for true Christian community and common distaste for what we had been raised to believe that was (not to mention our similar disliking for Constantine and things of that nature ;-) ) When we began to gather at Fuzzy's Hal was our sole older presence for a while. We turned to him for year-worn wisdom that was based in Scripture written on his heart. I often would listen to Hal and think that he had hidden more Scripture in the usable part of his heart and mind than anyone I knew. It flowed from his lips as you spoke. There was always a word of instruction, encouragement or praise on his lips that came straight from God's Word. He lived his life on that word alone, in a way I have seen few others approach.

Cancer came chasing him a year ago, but it only chased him further into the arms of his Abba. It set him on fire for his God and in pursuit of community that he knew he ought to be a part of. God's hand touched him and after a Cleveland Clinic visit the cancer receded. A little over a month ago we discovered it was back, and that this time it was worse than before. Following an intense time of prayer one morning the 10-15 of us in that room knew that Hal had decided either God would heal him or no one would. It would take a miracle if he revisite the clinic and it would take a miracle if he stayed home. He elected to live by the faith he wore on his sleeve and trust the divine hand of the Father. I felt he simply knew he was ready and that God was ready to take him home. There was a peace about him. A release.

It's still difficult. It is difficult because I didn't talk to him the past two weeks. It is difficult because I didn't get to say goodbye. It is difficult because I can still hear his voice. It is difficult because I can still hear his voice mail telling me he wasn't going to the Clinic in the morning. It is difficult because I can still hear his fingers plucking the strings on his acoustic guitar bringing life to songs that were waiting in Scripture for him to put music to. It is difficult because this is the third significant person in my life that I have lost in the past 8 months (Grandma, Jimmy and Hal). It is difficult, and yet somehow joyous according to our faith. I know this to be true with my mind, but I will have to let my heart catch up on that one, because joy seems far from me tonight.
Read more

The Role of Conflict in Community?

What is the role of conflict in community? I think that it is bound to occur, but I could be wrong.

I understand the source of conflict in a typical church. Drastically opposing philosophies of how to minister, how to worship, how to dress, how to do politics, how to do life… but in community, in “true church” many of those drastic differences seem to fade as the “one-mindedness” emerges.

Yet, I have found that difficult times will arise. That tense situations do occur. That feelings still get hurt. False impressions are sometimes given. Communication breaks down. And… conflict happens.

I am the type that tackles hard feelings and sticky situations head on. If my feelings are hurt, or even more so, my wife’s, I deal with it, in the most expedient way… often too expeditiously. I sometimes hurt others feelings. I sometimes say too much. I sometimes come off too harsh, but it seems better than holding things in, allowing them to brew and fester and form chasms between me and those I am in community with. I feel that as we deal with these things conflict may occur, but it is conflict for the greater good. We learn more about one another. We embrace one another. We are more raw, more real and more honest with each other. On the other end of the conflict lies deeper community, more sincere unity and a greater understanding of the one mind/spirit/body concept we find in Scripture.

The one mind/spirit/body concept puts meat on its bones through conflict. I recognize areas I am too judgmental in. You recognize areas you are too overbearing in. I recognize ways I am too harsh. You recognize areas you are too passive. We both recognize ways we can better relate to and understand one another. Isn’t this one of the primary tasks of the body of believers… to become one body, one mind, one spirit? I don’t seek out conflict, but I see how it leads us further along that path.

Obviously I had a conflict with someone I love, someone I am in community with and I feel bad about it. They hate conflict. They hate dealing with the issues. They would rather avoid them and move on. I recognize this is just a different personality, but as a result my frustrations are magnified in their mind, and form a perceived gap between us in their mind. I only write all this because I am rather confident they don’t read this and it is a good place to get feedback on the place of conflict in community. So please respond with your thoughts… and your frustrations concerning conflict in community.
Read more

Rich People Prejudice

Life is so weird. It really, really is. I can barely believe how much our lives have changed in the past year.
* Our family: with addition of Halle.
* Our community: with the addition of Halle (ours) Zoe (Joe & Heidi's) and Dance (Benji & Sarah's).
* Our community: with the addition of the Cornwells, the Williams, the Hites and the Hoys... all of whom we didn't know very well a year ago.
* Our community: the way we gather, the times we gather, the reason we gather, the way we live
* Our church: making some drastic moves from philosophy to practice) toward true community and away from the "7 Day a Week Church" model that seemed to be our goal for so long.
* Our pastor: We are really growing together, and all the fights we have had "together" have truly helped us get past some seemingly unconquerable walls between us and into brighter days. * Many more, but on to the main point...

* Our Perspective (okay maybe this has been a 3 year gradual transition): We view the body of believers... the church... so differently now, that there are very few (if any other) places that we could survive in my current vocation/fulfillment of my calling (???)
* Our Goals/Desires: A church called this week that we used to actually think was one we wanted to end up at, but our desires are so radically different now. When I heard the pastor had called I didn't even remember to check my voice mail before I left the office, because it is so unappealing to me now, and my feelings were affirmed by Kelly. Why? Partly because of leadership style there, partly because of the style of the church, partly because of the history of the church and partly because of the demographic (too white, too large, TOO RICH). The too rich thing is a huge issue for us...
Confession: I have a really difficult time being around rich folks. There, I said it. I am repulsed by their wealth. When I go to their extremely cool, extremely large , extremely expensive homes, my mind goes to work first thinking of how cool the house and all their stuff is and then figuring out how many families could comfortably live there... or how many modest single family homes could be built for the price of their plasma screen... or how many starving children could be fed for the price it takes to fill up their gas guzzling SUV each day... or any number of other number games and secret judgmental mind activities.
In short, rich folks cause me to stumble. I stand in erroneous, assumptive judgment over them because I can't justify the way they are living. I allow bitterness and anger to creep in between them and me. I have even been priviledged to be surrounded by a couple families in my church who are loaded and yet responsible; who give a higher percentage of their income than most could imagine, who use their wealth to further God's work, to feed 5-10 children, to provide for numerous inner city ministries, but my mind still sees them as the exception to the rule... and to be honest, even within that exception I still catch myself struggling with some of their decisions and thinking of other ways that money could be spent.

So... on top of the fact that Kelly and I have no desire to leave our "church"/community, on top of the fact that we don't want to start over at any church (let alone a more traditional "modern" minded one), on top of the fact that the surrounding don't suit us, on top of the fact that we really are happy here and even more excited about what God has in store... I just don't think I can go be a part of a rich, yuppie church, because I am prejudice against rich people.

I know I need to get over that... let me know if you have any ideas... other than prayer and avoiding them (both of which are too easy to come up with).

1 more thing: I really love my wife. Seriously. All of who she is.
Read more

The Hope on the Other Side

Every time I post I intend to start posting daily, or at least weekly, and then another frenzy of activity attacks. So it has been this past month. Our Fall Retreat, followed by Upward Evaluation Week ("Hell Week"), followed by my Master's Class, followed by Thanksgiving Vacation... so maybe I could have blogged during vacation, but anyways.

In the mean time; meaningful discussions have continued, new conversations have emerged, hope continues to develop and I see light at the end of my tunnel more each day. I am even more up to date on your blogs (those of my friends and fellow travelers) than I have ever been, thanks to Eric S. making me aware of (Gloria a Dios'!).

As I read through what we are all writing, as I note the common threads, as I sort through our often pessimistic perspective I truly see hope emerging. I see God raising up a new breed of believers. I see Him forming a fellowship of followers who value the things Jesus taught us to value, and are seeking new ways of living this out together, whether we are in the same town or separated by state lines. I see God re-fashioning the image of a "Christian" and of "Christian Living" in our collective mind, and I take great joy in adding and subtracting to that image every time I read many of your thoughts. Most of all, I look forward to the day when our discussion and language can focus more on what our lives do look like, and less on what they shouldn't look like. I anticipate a day when the cynicism and criticism gives way to inward (or even communal) reflection, and optimistic discussion of what God is leading us into, rather than the negative vibe that focuses on what He is leading us out of.

Yet... I know we still have a ways to go, or at least I do. I know that I have much more to complain about, much more to deconstruct, much more to work through and flesh out, many more Pat Robertson comments to appalled by, several more Republican guilt trips to be annoyed by, numerous paradoxes in the lives of Christians I see and the gospel they claim to follow that will drive me crazy, and an untold number of other issues that will tick me off to the point that I feel the need to blog (or journal) about it.

My Hope: I know the Gospel promises joy, peace and life to the fullest for those who love Christ, so I know that is what lies on the other side of all this. I don't want to settle for the counterfeit version of this "life to the full". So, I journey on through this passage in our lives in great anticipation of what is ahead.
Read more