Sunday, December 27, 2009

This has been a very strange Christmas

What can I say – this has been a very strange Christmas but a very good one.

The strange part came mostly from the weather. Leading into the week, the reports were for a major winter storm. All of the forecasters were saying leave early and come back late. We were going to get hit by a major storm that would shut down Iowa. Well, it didn’t really happen. At least not around here. This was the Christmas that reminded us that weather prediction is still an inexact science. This was a storm that just didn’t want to follow any of the usual patterns. As a result, the predictions were way off. Let me be clear – I am NOT faulting the meteorologists. They did their best. All of the potential for what they were warning of was there. It just didn’t materialize where they expected it and in the way they predicted. Instead of snow, we had rain. Two degrees colder and that rain would have been a foot of snow. Anyway, we had a white Christmas without any major inconvenience. Very nice for my home town.

The good parts were many. Christmas eve I started with a 4:30 children’s service at our church. The Rev was in charge of this service so I really wanted to be there. What a treat. There must have been at least 60 little ones up front for the children’s message. The excitement and spirit of these little tykes was infectious.

This was the high point of the season. The Rev had been building to this night all Advent season. She had gone in with a plan to tie all of the services of Advent together and she pulled it off. When we went in on the first Sunday of Advent, we were greeted by an empty chancel area. The pulpit was gone, as was the Lord’s table and the baptismal font. There was nothing but a pile of old lumber and a couple of old saw horses.

As we progressed through Advent, each week we saw more. The next Sunday we found the beginnings of the stable. Then we saw more coming into shape. By Christmas Eve we found the stable complete with a manger and straw spread around. The Rev had set out to give us all the opportunity to experience Christmas anew and she succeeded, at least in the eyes of many of us in the pews. I heard many very positive comments in the lounge after the services. Of course I don’t hear many of the negative comments but if something really bombs, people are usually not shy about who hears their comments. Well done Rev – I’m very proud of you.

Speaking of proud – Christmas Eve was a night to remember for me. After being very emotional in the Rev’s service at 4:30, I went to hear my daughter sing at her church at a 7:00 service. This was mostly a more “conventional” hymn service – well that’s what I thought I was going to anyway.

The highlight for me was hearing my daughter sing “Oh Holy Night”. This is one of her showcase pieces. The choir director has written an arrangement just for her. She is featured and backed by the rest of the choir. This night was divine. I have to admit though, I made the mistake of closing my eyes so i could concentrate on the music. I was carried away by the music. Tears started to form in my eyes it was so beautiful. And then, at the end – when she hits the high note in the final chorus – I totally lost it. I was sobbing. Yes, I was totally embarrassed – but also very proud and very moved.

Then this hairy, smelly old goat herd came wandering into the sanctuary looking for his lost she-goat Ellie. It was Pastor Paul. I had heard that he would occasionally go in character to deliver his message but I had never seen him in action. Well what a treat. Paul did an excellent job of telling the story of the shepherds and what it really meant when they came to visit baby Jesus. I have seen many speakers use gimmicks like this to make a point and many times it comes off hokey. This one was right on. Paul did a great job of portraying the character and using the character to communicate his message. Then he finished by actually finding his goat Ellie. A real she-goat in the sanctuary, that was a first for me.

It has been a great Christmas – I hope it was for you as well. As we all look forward to the new year and a new decade may the Lord, whose birth we just celebrated, bring you


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Block by Block Merry Christmas

Kurt Warner, the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, is a Cedar Rapids native and has been active in supporting the recovery in our hometown after the flood of 2008. He couldn't be in town yesterday but his family was out spreading a little Christmas cheer.

Readers of this blog will recognize Block by Block. You will know that I am very impressed with the work of Block by Block and the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub that organizes this effort.

Yes, folks the recovery continues. It has been a year and a half since "the flood" but it will take years to fully recover. Please keep this community in your prayers.

Merry Christmas and as always . . .

Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas Char

Merry Christmas Char from Dave Sundberg on Vimeo.

I had a lot of fun the other day. I went in to the church and we did a video for one of our members that is stuck at home. This craziness is compliments of the staff at the church.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

I want to tell a story. A story about myself. A story about how I can misunderstand a very simple situation.

A very wonderful lady in our church died this past week. This lady made a point of saying hello to me every Sunday. I appreciated the recognition and the effort she went to each week to acknowledge my existence. What I misunderstood was her motivation. Let me explain.

Each week, after the service, this lovely lady would seek me out and tell me that I had been sitting in the correct pew. On those rare occasions that I sat in another part of the sanctuary, she would find me and comment that I hadn't been sitting in my regular place.

Now, I understood that she was trying to be sociable and supportive. She had been one of the first to welcome me to the new church when the Rev and I were assigned to this parish. And I had heard many times, that she was one of our supporters within the congregation. What threw me was how she said it.

I misinterpreted her statement that I was sitting in the correct pew. I took it as a statement that she was checking up on me and making sure I was attending the services regularly. When she said, "You were sitting in the right pew this week", what I heard was , "Good boy, you were at church today."

Well, the past few weeks have taught me that I am not as good at reading people as I like to think I am. You see, very few people knew that she was ill. She didn't go into the hospital until the very end. When the doctors finally got a chance to examine her, she was past being able to recover from her illness. But more importantly for my learning at least - they also discovered that she was well into the early stages of dementia.

When I heard this I understood that, for the past few years, what I had taken as admonishment was actually gratitude. She was thanking me for sitting in the same place each week because then she could find me. What so many of us took as mild rigidity was merely her efforts to put some order back into a life that was progressively becoming disordered. She needed me to be in that same pew each week to bring a little piece of stability to her Sunday morning.

I hope that I will be able to learn the lesson that this wonderful woman has offered me. I need to put this on my Christmas list and cherish the gift she has offered me.

I hope that this Christmas season will bring unexpected gifts to you as well. And as always, I pray you will find. . .


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Cantata at Lovely Lane UMC

"Tis the season", as they say. The season for holiday parties. The season for holiday parades. And the season for Christmas music at church. The Rev and I took a break last Sunday from duties at St. Paul's to hear our daughter sing at her church.

Here is a brief - 2 minutes - clip, (I hope) of that performance. I've never done this before so I'm not sure if it will work.

We had a great time seeing old friends again. This is the church that sent the Rev out into the pastoral world. The church were we raised our family. We still have a lot of friends at this church. To be frank, I hadn't realized how much this church meant to me until I went up for communion.

Then we got to listen to the choir and hear our daughter sing. This was a great day.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when I remember what it really is all about. I find my self getting caught up in the activity and the stress and tend to forget we are celebrating the birth of Christ. It is important for me to take these breaks to find my center again.

I hope that you are able to find your center, and not forget that, for those of us who try to follow Christ, this is not "the holiday season" - This Is Christmas.

Merry Christmas. And may this season bring you


Friday, October 30, 2009

This is NOT a Halloween Horror Story

It seems to me that it is a stock joke to refer to the Post Office and it's workers whenever you want to give an example of poor customer service. How many times have you listened to a comedian tell some horror story of trying to get something accomplished at the local Post Office? Well I want to tell of a different story.

Let me give you the set-up. The Rev and I are planning a vacation this next summer. After nearly two years of dealing with the aftermath of the flood, we want to get out of Dodge. In fact, we want to go far, far away. That means I need to get my passport renewed because it expires February 1, 2010.

I'll admit it - I've been dragging my feet. I just didn't look forward to the hassle. I imagined I would have to go down to the Post Office, get in line, and deal with a bored office worker who's only goal was to get through the day so they could escape to their home.

Well, I'm very happy to tell you that was NOT my experience when I finally went out today to get this off my task list and get the Rev off my case. This ended up being a very pleasant and enjoyable interaction with a very lovely and competent lady at our main Post Office. Her name tag said she was Kim and I'm sorry now to say that I did not get her last name.

I had gone online and visited the State Department's website about passport renewal so I had what I hoped were the proper forms all filled out. I had my old passport and I was ready to mail everything in to start the process. I just needed two passport photos. The site said that many post offices were able to take the photos and when I checked our Post Office website it said they provided that service so off I went to the post office. I figured I would just get the photos taken then I would step off to the side and prepare my package to be sent off to the Passport Processing Center.

When I got to the post office I was relieved to see a sign that assured me they could take my passport photos, but I couldn't see where that might be done. I must have looked a bit lost as I stood away from the counter checking out the area because Kim called to me from the counter and offered to assist me. I told her that I was renewing my passport and needed photos.
"No problem - I can do that for you." "Let's see what you have there.".
I emptied my envelop of forms and materials on her counter and she took over. She checked my form to make sure it was complete and signed. She took my photo, she got me a mailing envelop to send it in and pointed out the address where it needed to go. She reminded me that I needed to include a check for $75 to the State Department. In short, she walked me through the whole process and she did it with humor and a smile.

Kim didn't just do the minimum. All I really asked her to do was take my photo. Kim took it upon herself, as a professional should, to see to it that everything was in order and sent off correctly. When I left, I didn't have that nagging feeling that I left something out. I knew it was done and done right. Kim sold me more than 2 passport photos and postage for a letter.

I'm thinking Kim may reappear in one of my training sessions with my sales staff. She is an excellent example of excellent customer service.

Tomorrow is Halloween. Enjoy. And when the day is done I wish you -

Friday, October 16, 2009

Block By Block

I haven't written about the flood recovery in a couple of months. That doesn't mean that it is over. Not by a long shot. Today I want to introduce you to a community effort that is really making a difference in the Time Check area that I spoke of last spring. That effort is called Block by Block.

Block by Block is a program created by a coalition of the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub, Four Oaks, and the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. Here is how they describe it on their website.
~ ~ ~

What is the goal of Block by Block?

More than a year after the historic flood on June 13, 2008, there are still hundreds of Cedar Rapids homes uninhabitable or unoccupied. This has led to safety issues and larger concerns; what will happen long-term to affected neighborhoods and the people who live there?

The community needs a visible, immediate sign that there is organized progress.

Block by Block is a solutions-based, relationship-building approach that identifies and assists neighborhoods that want to come back to life. The program builds on the tremendous work already done by blocks, providing resources to make each property on the block fully habitable. Once an area is identified and a construction plan is set, private dollars, paid oversight and volunteer labor will rebuild the neighborhoods one block at a time.

The Block by Block development strategy is designed to create hope and encourage all property owners on the block to either reinvest in their property or arrange for a solution other than abandonment.

The goal is to complete eight blocks by the end of the 2009 calendar year. Limiting factors may include block participation, funding and weather-related delays. The real solutions come from within the block and work outward; each neighborhood moves forward by working together, communicating their needs at neighborhood meetings and supporting each other to bring back their block.

~ ~ ~

The money to start this program came from private funding. The initial seed money came from

John & Dyan Smith $1M

Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation $700K

United Methodist Church $200K

The goal is simple - go block by block to coordinate and support residents to reclaim their neighborhood. Nobody is required to participate and each homeowner is responsible for their own renovation. But the focus and the support has been a great asset to the homeowners. As you might imagine, participation has been very high in each block. I see on their website that the initial goal was to complete 8 blocks this first summer. I have been told that number has grown as the success of the program has become clear and many more blocks are wanting to be a part of this program.

There is still a great deal of work ahead before we can claim to have recovered from that flood last summer. But it will be programs like this and efforts of groups from within our community that will make that recovery happen.

Please keep our community in your prayers and as always, I wish you


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Guess I Didn't Really Want That Bottle of Coke

As I headed out the door for my meeting at church today, I told my self I should stop on the way and get a bottle of coke to get me through the meeting. No problem - I thought - I'm running a little late but I drive right by the Kwik Shop on the way, I'll stop there.

As I came up on the corner for the store I couldn't believe all of the traffic. No way was I going to be able to turn left into the Kwik Shop. No problem - I thought - I'll just go across the street on the right to the pharmacy - I can get a Coke there.

Ah yes, this is much easier - a right hand turn into the parking lot and there is even a parking spot right at the door. I went in and selected my bottle of Coke Zero. This is now my drink of choice - real Coke taste with zero calories. Off I go to the counter to check out. When I got up front I found just one register open and there was a line of 5 people ahead of me. Bummer - I'm gonna be late for my meeting if I don't watch out. Oh well, the line will move quickly - I thought. Then I hear over the loudspeker - "Manager to the front please - manager to the front counter." Wait a minute, this line isn't moving. Off to my right I see the pharmacist. He has come up from the pharmacy counter in the back of the store.
"My computer is down, is yours working?"
"Mine's down also", said the clerk. "I tried to call you but the phones are dead too."
Then the clerk turned to us in line and told us he couldn't do anything until they fixed the problem. Oh well, I guess I'll just put this coke back and go to my meeting. I don't have time to wait - I'll be late. So I put the coke back and drove downtown to the church.

It wasn't until I got to the church that I realized that I was half an hour early - cool, I have time to run over to the grocery store, it's just two blocks away. So off I went and this time I had no problem buying a coke. They didn't have a Coke Zero in the case but a Classic would do just fine. I grabbed my coke, paid for it, and got back to the church just as the rest of the people were starting to arrive. Hey, this is going to be alright - I thought.

As I was settling in I grabbed my coke and then I noticed that it didn't seem to be as full as they usually are. Oh well, maybe it was just a little glitch in the bottling - no problem - I thought.

I went to open the bottle and that was when I realized why the bottle looked to be a little short on volume. The seal on the bottle had been broken - someone had opened this bottle, taken a swig, and then put it back in the case.

Well, I guess I didn't really want that bottle of coke after all.

True story.

May all your bottles be full and your lines empty.


Monday, September 07, 2009

A New Beginning

In my last post I celebrated the 60 years that my parents have been married. Well today I want to recognize a new beginning.  The marriage of my daughter Katie to her Nick.  Last Saturday the Sunbob clan descended upon the little town of Hopkinton and two families were united.

It was an outdoor wedding and Mother Nature couldn't have been kinder.  The temperature was a very mild 78 with just enough breeze to keep us cool and keep the bugs away.  It couldn't have been better if I had programmed it on a computer.

As you can see, the mother of the bride was looking great as well.  I haven't seen the Rev looking that happy in a long time.  Many people have asked if she presided at the service.  Well, that was the original request from the bride but my love decided that she wanted to be the mother of the bride for this occasion and not the pastor.  We had the very gracious and capable services of the groom's aunt for that duty.  Kim did a wonderful job.  And that was not an easy task when you realize that there were at least four other pastors in attendance.

And I am proud to report that I was able to pretty much keep it together throughout the service -  at least until the reception when I got to dance with my daughter.  I'm afraid that was when I really started to get emotional.  This is my baby - and she isn't a baby any more.

Let's just say I fully approve of this marriage and wish them both, all of the love and happiness that I have been fortunate to have found.

It has been quite a summer.  An ordination in June, the celebration of 60 years of marriage in August, and now the beginning of a new marriage.  Unlike last year, this has been a great summer.  What a difference a year makes.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

60 Years Together

The Sunbob clan had a great time last weekend. We all got together to celebrate my parent's 60th Wedding Anniversary.

All five of the sons descended upon the homestead and brought along our families to boot. We couldn't remember the last time that everybody was together in one place at the same time.
Here you are - 4 generations and all you are missing is one daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Here are the sons in ascending order, left to right, youngest to oldest. Yes the bearded one is me. It's not easy getting all of us to stand still long enough to take a picture. We have too much fun when we are together. I must say, that one of my true pleasures is being with those four. Unfortunately our lives have scattered us around the country and it takes an event like this to get us all together.

But the real pleasure was honoring my parents. I am very fortunate to have two excellent parents. I don't really know how to put it into words. I guess I'll just say that their love, caring and support has been a great gift throughout my life. I can only hope that some day, maybe when the Rev and I celebrate our 60th anniversary, someone will be able to say the same about me. If I succeed in accomplishing that - it will be a tribute to these two.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Am Because We Are

The sanctuary was rocking tonight. We are hosting a mission team from Christ United Methodist Church in Rockford, Il. 99 strong - youth and adults - and they know how to travel in mission. Usually with a group like this you will find a youth pastor, a few adults and little else from home. But this group brought a church - complete with pastor, music director and band, AV system (video and sound) and all any group would need to be in service to God and the community.

The Rev and I really enjoyed being in worship with them tonight. They go out during the day and work hard rebuilding our community and at night they gather in the sanctuary to worship. The worship service was full of energy and great music. We sang, we danced in the aisles, we prayed and we rejoiced in the community of faith. The message tonight centered around the south African philosophy of ubuntu - I am because we are. The pastor did an excellent job of sharing this message of the importance of the interconnected community with her western audience that has been raised on individualism. I thought this message was especially suited to a group who has interrupted their lives to travel to another state to do the dirty work of reconstruction.

Kudos to this group from Illinois. You brought an energy and life to that old sanctuary the likes of which it has not hosted in a long time.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Returning to the scene of the crime

This was a great Sunday for the Rev and me. Rev was invited to preach at Lovely Lane, the church we had attended for almost 20 years and that sent the Rev out to minister.

This is the church that raised our children. I think our daughters spent as much time there as they did in our home. Our older daughter is still a member of this church - refusing to follow Mom to her new church, even though it is just as close to her apartment across town. This is where she sings in the choir and where she feels grounded in Christ.

This is also the church that listened with us when the Rev was first getting that stirring that she needed to follow Christ in a new way. They supported us and, as is the tradition in our denomination, when the time was right, they stood up and said, "this woman has the calling and we are sending her out to serve God." They supported us with their words, they supported us with their love, and they even opened up their purses and supported us with their donations. This is a very special place in our family.

Needless to say - preaching here is not easy for the Rev. The pressure she puts on herself is enormous. It doesn't mater that I remind her that she is loved here and with that love comes forgiveness. The Rev will settle for nothing but her best effort for this congregation.

Well, I'm here to tell you that she did not disappoint - herself or me. She did a wonderful job telling her story of her journey to ordination and thanking this congregation for the very real and important part they took in making that happen. I don't know if they needed to hear it, but I am thankful they gave us the opportunity to share it.

Some Sunday's are very special. This was one of those days.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

A summer's day drive in Iowa

Yesterday the rev and I took a drive in the country. It was a beautiful day for a ride. The temperature was mild and the sky was full of those puffy clouds that look like suspended balls of cotton.

Our destination was "Hoptown" were our daughter will be married this fall. We wanted to visit the historical site were she plans on having the service. This was my first visit and what I found was a pleasant site of an old college long since closed, in a small Iowa village. This will be a very nice setting for the "momentous day".

What I really enjoyed most was the drive getting us there. We took the back roads into the village. It was a newly repaved county road that wound through the hills of northeast Iowa. We wound through the corn fields and the bean fields. The beans still look to be very early but the corn was definitely doing well. Much higher than the old "knee high by the fourth of July" standard that the rev and I grew up with. Now if the prices could just recover a bit, it looks like the farmers, at least in that area, could have a good year.

We wish all of you a pleasant Independence Day and in the true spirit of this day . . .

We wish you peace.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pictures of the "EVENT"

Christy, our in house photographer, came by today with pictures from the ordination. We spent the whole morning going through her collection of images. Here is our pictorial study of the big day.

This is quite an event and like all such events - it starts with the procession.

Then, of course, we sang some hymns.

Then we heard the Bishop preach.

Finally the Rev is at the rail.

And here is the big moment, the laying on of hands.

Finally, it is time to move on.

And here is the Rev - wearing the stole for the very first time.

The Rev and I want to thank all of you who have helped and supported us this past seven years. There are so many names and so many pictures that there is no way I can put all in this simple blog. But please know that you are appreciated.

And as always we both wish you

Sunday, June 07, 2009

It Is Done

It is done.

We made the trip to Ames. We marched into the hall, the bishop laid on his hands, then a bunch of us laid on our hands and it is done. The Rev is now officially an elder in the United Methodist Church.

It was a great two days. Both of our families were well represented. The Rev's mother escaped from her nursing home and joined the two sisters and the brother to be on hand. Three of my brothers made the trip and brought my parents along as well. And of course both of our daughters were in the audience and very proud of their mother. In addition, a large group from our church hopped in their cars after Sunday morning services and made the two hour journey to Ames to be there for the celebration.

I was on stage with her as well as three of our former pastors. I managed to keep it together and didn't cry even once. All I can say is that the Rev and I were both deeply moved by the support.

This has been a wonderful day in the life of our family, I hope that you too will have great days ahead in your life.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you;
may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you


Friday, June 05, 2009

Big Weekend Ahead

We have a big weekend coming up. I will be collecting my daughters tomorrow morning and we will be off to Ames to join the Rev. Sunday afternoon is a big day for this crew. That is the day that my wife will be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church.

This will be the culmination of seven years of hard work for her. Going back to school at 50 isn't an easy decision. But she set out and did the work. Then there was the probation. Four years as a probationary elder. Well now she has jumped through all of the required hoops. Sunday will be a big day in our family.

I can't put into words how proud I am of what she has accomplished. This was a path that I considered for myself but my phone didn't ring. I wasn't the one that was called to service. Mine is a different path. I will have to leave that to my spouse and I will be the PH (Pastor's Husband).

Actually it appears this will be a big weekend for our extended families as well. My parents and my brothers are coming in from Minnesota and Carol's mother, brother and both sisters are making the trip as well. There are even rumblings that there will be a contingent from our church as well. I don't think the Rev has any idea of the support she will be receiving. It will be a very interesting day on Sunday. I'll try to tell that story when we get back home.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

It Has Been Almost a Year

We are rapidly coming up on the 1 year anniversary of our little excitement last summer. As we enter June all of our thoughts go back to that terrible week when we watched our store engulfed by the Cedar River. Remember this picture (above) from last year? That is what we found in the main showroom on first floor when we could finally got back to our store.

Well we have been working hard this past year. If you follow this blog at all you will know that we reopened in just 6 weeks. The first floor was empty but the upper floors were okay.

Well look at what is in this showroom now.

That is the same elevator and stairway to the upper floor that you see in the first picture. Yes, the elevator works. That is the old cable elevator. The switches had to be rebuilt but it works just fine. Interesting that the newer hydraulic elevator, in another part of the building, will need to be totally replaced. We may never be able to do that.

It has been a rough year but we are doing okay. Business has been pretty good actually and our systems are back on line. I'm sure this will be an emotional month for us as we go through the anniversary memories. But we can be proud. I am very proud of my crew. We didn't lose a single person on my team and we have been able to grow this past year. We now have a viable Design Studio - something we didn't have a year ago.

Stay dry -
and as always, may your world bring you . . .


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Church Basement Ladies

I don't get out anywhere near often enough so when my daughter invited me to join her for the evening I agreed. She said she wanted to take me to Rock Island, IL to a dinner theater. On the way I was told we would be seeing a play called "Church Basement Ladies" at Circa 21.

What a riot. The play is by no means high theater but it was a romp. I haven't laughed so hard in years. It is a story of four ladies who run the church kitchen in a little Lutheran church in rural Minnesota. It is sort of a cross between Nunsense and Prairie Home Companion. A wonderful blend of church humor mixed with Minnesota Norski jabs.

"Do you know if this is called a casserole, a covered dish, or a hotdish?" I may be a Minnesota Swede but even I know the answer to that question is hotdish. I swear I know those ladies - one of them could even be my mother.

I really enjoyed the time with my daughter as well. She is grown and "out the house" now so I don't get to see her as much anymore.

So folks, I guess I have two lessons from this weekend. First, when your daughter wants to treat you to an evening out - take her up on it. Second, if you get the chance to see Church Basement Ladies - go for it.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Team from LSU

We had a team from LSU in town, staying at the church this week.  But it wasn't one of those great athletic teams for which LSU is so well known.  This was a mission team from the campus Wesley Foundation.

They were a great group who gave up their Spring Break.  No trip to sunny Florida beaches for this group, just an 18 hour drive to a cold Cedar Rapids, IA to clean up homes damaged from the flood.

I caught up with a few of them cleaning a home in Time Check.

They had the onerous task of cleaning this house and prepare it for the next team to start rebuilding this back into a home.  This is the very dirty part of the process, but there were no complaints.  This crew knew how to have fun.

I had the pleasure of greeting this crew when they arrived very late last Saturday night.  Then they joined us the next morning for Sunday service before they headed out and got to work.  It was a real treat to host this fine group of young people.


Friday, April 03, 2009


Well, it looks at least for now that Fargo has dodged a major catastrophe. We can thank God for that - but also the people of that area get a lot of credit. They worked hard to protect their city and it looks like their efforts were repaid. Congratulations.

I spent some time in the Time Check area of our city visiting with some of the work teams that have come in. My church is hosting a team from Christ UMC in Rockford, IL. At least a portion of that group has been helping John put his home back together again.

As the weather warms up now, we will be seeing much more of this activity. Our church will be hosting teams from all over the country all through the summer. We are by no means the only church hosting teams, groups representing all of the faith communities in Cedar Rapids have stepped up to lend a hand. And let me make it very clear - this is where the help for these people is coming from. So far the various government agencies have offered little more than red tape and indecision. Hopefully that will change but I'm not counting on it.

Tomorrow night I will be greeting a team from Louisiana State University when they arrive. I will help them get settled in and bedded down for the night then they will be spending the week working in our city. What a way to spend spring break. I have a sneaking suspicion these are going to be some pretty neat people.

Here are a couple more pictures from this week before I move on with my life.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Fargo Nearing the Crest

It looks like The Red River in the Fargo/Moorhead area will hit its crest on Sunday. The best guess right now is about 42 feet. That is 3 feet higher than the previous record and 24 feet over what is considered flood stage of 18 feet.

Here is a great video about what is happening there. INFORUM, a service of the Fargo newspaper, has created a "social network" were area residents can communicate with each other. Thousands have already evacuated the area just to be safe. But if you want to see how real people handle crisis, read this site. These people are doing it right.

I've never been to Fargo but I spent some of my "formative years" living a bit south of there in Aberdeen, SD and know what the people of this part of the country are like. They are hard working people, what we used to call "salt of the earth" when I was younger.

Please pray for these people and the others downstream (up stream?, after all this river does flow north.) They are going to need God's help as well as their own.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fargo getting hit again

Pray for the people around the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota. The flood waters are coming again. They were hit hard in 1997 and have been a model for us in Cedar Rapids on how to recover from a devastating flood. Now they are getting hit again.

The Associated Press is reporting (here) that the flood crest is expected to be higher than '97. Let's all hope and pray that this doesn't happen again.

The people of Fargo have been very helpful to us in Cedar Rapids, They have sent teams to help clean up and have shared their recovery experience with us. Now they are having to battle the river again. I know we have teams from CR already on the ground in Fargo, lending our assistance in return.

This is, of course, the thing that scares us the most here - that we could flood again. It has been 12 years for Fargo, we might be ready if we could be clear for 12 years. I know I have been watching the river behind the store this spring. We got over to 10 feet last week (flood stage is 12') but it looked so non-threatening after last spring that it was sort of a funny feeling. But I still find myself looking out the window from my office - checking out the river. I suspect it will be a long time before that concern goes away.

Let's all hope that Fargo survives this latest threat. They are good people.


Friday, March 13, 2009

I went for a drive in Timecheck

I went for a drive in the Timecheck district of Cedar Rapids today. This area was hit hardest by the flood and is having the most difficulty in coming back. Many of the homes are beyond repair and much of the area is being considered for demolition for a flood control zone. But many of these people don't know just what to do. Are they really going to be bought out? They have been saying for months that money for the buy outs is on the way but none has arrived yet. They are told to wait.

So for now here is what you see in your windshield when you drive through this district:

I also drove over to Czech Village to see how they were doing.

This area is a couple of miles downstream and is the home of the National Czech & Slovak Museum. As you can see the Museum is still boarded up. They are hoping to be able to reopen this year but we shall see.

This area has some businesses so it is coming back. A few of the shops have reopened and you can see that work is being done on more of them. This was a beautiful area full of wonderful shops, a bakery, and restaurants. I hope they will be able to bring this area back.

Well, enough of the depression activities for today. I hope your world brings you . . . PEACE.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The rebuilding continues

It has been almost 9 months since the flood and we are still waiting. Waiting for the Feds to decide if they will helps us. Waiting for the State to decide - waiting for the city to wake up and do something other than give us empty promises. Oh, there has been money coming in but very little of it goes to the people - almost all of it is going to the city to rebuild their offices. But even that isn't happening.

This story from CBS news does a pretty good job of showing what some of us are doing.

That lady is one who is rebuilding despite all of the empty promises. As those of you who read this blog know, the store where I work made that decision early and we have been open since last August. There are still not very many stores downtown. We are truly a "destination store" now.

We are continuing even though we have been told we will be torn down when the new flood control levees are built. They say they will buy us out but we have no idea when or even for sure if that will happen. We have been told that will take 5 to 8 years to decide. In the mean time we have to move on.

The only real help for the home owners has come from the churches and private sector. Many faith communities have brought in work missions to help rebuild. I know my church has invested thousands of dollars to remodel part of our church so we can better host mission teams over the next few years. This is were the real help is coming from.

I will say, we had a crew from AmeriCorp NCCC here in February doing a"spike" - helping to rebuild. I have a lot of respect for that group so I won't get on them. (I'll have to elaborate on that some time.)

We have had politicians visit but nothing much is happening. Many just do a fly-over or don't even go into the affected area to see for themselves. We get a lot of words - just like you heard in that news story - but no real help yet.

Yesterday, Cedar Rapids voted to add a 1% local option sales tax to go to rebuilding peoples homes. I hope that the money actually goes to the people that need it. And I hope that others around the country will understand that we aren't just sitting here asking to be bailed out. We are working hard - but, yes, we could use some help.

Enough of my ranting for the night. Cedar Rapids will survive. Smulekoff's has survived.

And, as always, Sunbob wishes you


Friday, February 20, 2009

What a Sad Story

I just ran across this story about Verne Gagne. What a sad story.

I knew Verne when I was a little boy. I played baseball with his son and Verne knew my uncle and my parents. I remember him as this gentle giant that always had a gentle handshake for all of us boys. He would come to the games and cheer us on. Of course, all of us knew who he was and watched him on TV whenever we could. He made us feel important that he would come see us play.

It sounds like the powers that be understand that neither of the people involved fully knew what they were doing so it is unlikely that any charges will be filed. That seems like the right thing. This story is truly a tragedy - but turning it into a criminal incident would denigrate both of these great men and serve no purpose for society.

As wonderful as life can be - it can also, at times, be very cruel. But there is a difference between cruel acts by cruel people and cruel incidents. I hope that all of you are able to avoid the unfortunate incidents of life today and as always -

I wish you peace.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome America - to the 21st Century

I have the day off today and I spent the morning watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I will leave the analysis and punditry to the professionals but I wanted to share one reaction.

Folks, we just watched a revolution in America. I was struck with the image of the peaceful dethroning of the leader of the free world. And the new leadership will be markedly different. This was a repudiation of a failed administration. The United States has thrown out its ruling party without firing a shot. No bullets, no coups, no civil war just a very public campaign and a very public decision by the citizens to take this country in a new direction.

The ceremony of the inauguration was beautiful and stirring. But the image that struck me as most telling of the true spirit of our country, was the scene after the inauguration. The incoming President Obama walked with the outgoing President Bush through the building to the heliport on the east side of the building. The two shook hands, kissed each other’s spouses and the ousted leader of the greatest nation on the planet boarded a helicopter and flew off. His administration had been overthrown and his rival had taken control without anyone dying, no shots fired, no poisoned wine. As I think through history, this is a very unique and special tradition in America that just does not occur still today, in many parts of the world.

Time will reveal how well we have chosen our new direction but we are clearly on the threshold of a new epoch in our history. I pray that God will guide all of us, not just our leaders, through what appears to be some very difficult days ahead.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Great Day for Sports Fans in CR

What a great day for sports fans like me who live in Cedar Rapids. Kurt Warner led the Arizona Cardinals in a great game. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 today for the NFC championship. Now it is on to the Super Bowl, the first for Arizona.

And don't forget Zach Johnson. Zach shot a 5 under 65 today to win the Sony Open in Hawaii by 2 strokes. That is Zach's fifth career win on the PGA tour.

Both of these men are favorite sons of this city and have many fans here. Count me as one of them. Actually there were several people gathered around the TVs today at work, cheering them on.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby it's COLD Outside

There are really only two stories in the news today - the miraculous airplane ditching in the Hudson River and the temperature in the Mid West. Both are interesting stories.

It is cold here in Cedar Rapids. We set an all time record Thursday morning with a -29 , yes, that is 29 degrees BELOW zero. Of course those poor souls in the Dakotas where in the -40's, so we can't complain. The wild part is that the weather service is predicting we will hit 32 degrees by next Tuesday. A 60 degree swing in just a few days? That is just wild. I will forgo the question of global warming. I'm sure the proponents would just say this is all part of the cycle. Some of us at work from the "boomer generation" where reminiscing yesterday about the dire predictions of a coming Ice Age that were so popular when we were in college. I don't claim to know what is to be believed - but yes, it was cold yesterday.

Did you see or hear about the plane that went down in the Hudson River yesterday? What a story. I think what impressed me the most were the attitudes of the people involved. Everyone that I saw interviewed, be they passengers or people from the ferry boats that helped in the rescue, had a positive attitude about the experience. Passengers were scared and shaken, yes, but all of the people that you saw on the news talked about how great the pilot and the crew were and how the passengers helped each other get to safety. I haven't even seen a news reporter pointing a finger and trying to find out who messed up. The story is that the plane hit a flock of birds and blew the engine - the pilot made a brilliant emergency landing in the Hudson River - the ferry boats in the area immediately went to the rescue and plain old passengers on those ferries spontaneously organized themselves to pull the passengers out of the water.

Don't get me wrong - I think that is the real story. I'm just amazed that I have seen no attempts at blame, no finger pointing, no complaints about the incident. It just seems to me that it has been a long time since we have had a tragic story unfold that didn't include blame and threats of recrimination. It is heartening to see this story unfold as it has in the media.

Call it luck, call it fate, call it the hand of God - call it what you will. The story to me is that a group of strangers encountered a crisis situation in America's largest city and teamed up to avert a tragedy. That is truly the American way and I am thankful that we still have that spirit in us.