Celebrating Pastor Craig 1.16.20

How does one reflect upon a friendship that spans over 40 years, especially when I don’t see him as a friend but a true brother in Christ. One of my first recollections of him was while he was involved in the youth ministry at the church I attended, he was the bar tender at a local family style restaurant. I remember seeing him at a glance which took me by surprise because he was wearing an Afro hair style. I commented to my wife was that not the youth guy at our church?
He eventually was ordained, received his doctorate, and was the associate pastor at the Long Grove Church. It was later that we discovered common interests in golf, hunting, sport shooting and fishing. When Craig was starting his ministry he was a pretty driven guy whose primary focus was the church. When he was chosen to be the senior pastor he proclaimed one Sunday that from henceforth all preaching would be from scripture and from no other sources. It was a huge turning point for me and the church body. He has never wavered from that commitment. He saw something in me that I personally had not seen. He began to mentor me in understanding God’s calling for my life. He guided the church to have an elder board and sought me to be the elder chairman and I remained there for nine years. It was through his guiding that I reached a deeper relationship with the Lord. Craig will tell you that if he had those early years over he would have spent more time with his family. He is now very family oriented and would do anything for them. As I served with Pastor Craig I had never seen a more graceful man. He was patient, kind, forgiving, exuding a true love of Christ. Having known him for so many years I can attest to Craig’s encouragement to those who had made mistakes, always reminding them of Christ’s love for them.
I left the Chicago area in 2014 but we talk at least twice a week about life in general. We are always planning our yearly fishing trip to Canada. Our group of guys that go can be anywhere from 2 to 12. We’ve been doing this for over 15 years. It is a special time that we gather from all over the country to commune in God’s creation. Craig for years would write devotions for us to study in the boat while we’re fishing. There are usually two guys in a boat and all during the day we personally go over the subject and then after dinner we all gather and discuss the devotion. One day it was really uncomfortable with rain, 45 degrees and windy – Craig was my boat partner. About noon I was so wet, cold and generally cranky I said lets go in and have lunch in the cabin. Craig was driving the boat that day and he said “no way because if we went in we would not come out again.” I couldn’t believe he was being such a jerk – I was shaking with hypothermia and practically begging for him to have mercy. No, he would have nothing to do with it – he was not about to give in. Finally, after threatening him with death he recanted. He later told me he was dying but he wanted to see me fume. (He lost his boat driving privileges when we are boat partners for the rest of his life – maybe not when in heaven but just maybe). To say the least he messes with people’s brains when he thinks there’s a laugh to be had.
Another time at the shooting club we frequented we would look forward to smoking a cigar after we shot. A man who worked for me gave me a box of cigars for Christmas and I offered Craig one. We smoked for about ten minutes and I commented how bad these cigars were – I was turning a bit green. He said “these are great don’t be such a wimp”. I excused myself and went home so sick I almost couldn’t get in the house – my wife said how terrible I looked and what was my problem. After explaining to her why she just said “serves you right for smoking!” I called Craig to see if he was OK and he again told me I was a wimp. Later he told me that he was so sick from that cigar but just wanted to mess with me.
I will never forget his compassion for me when my son died – no greater gift did I receive from my Heavenly Father than to have Pastor Craig there as I held the boy in my arms. No greater honor than to have him marry my son Andrew and daughter Evelyn. No greater memory to have him Baptize me. If a man’s life is a line Craig and I have gone to the mountain top and into the valley but we’ve done it together as brothers in Christ – can anyone ask more?