Thursday, July 27, 2017

Meeting A Living Saint

Fairbanks, AK. Time for supper. We found the downtown restaurant recommended to us. The tall waiter was frantically, and apologetically busy. Service a bit slow, a busy place, but the food was good.

Here are the stories that will stay in my memory.

Two older women came in. One even paused at our table to tell us how old she was. They were seated at a table behind us. I overheard them telling the waiter, "We'll have whatever is on tonight,” which I thought was curious. It was later when they were ready to go, I again overheard, this time the waiter telling the ladies, “No charge, you let me know what I can do for you, if you need help, I’ll do what I can.”

Another man enters. The waiter greets him as I once again overhear, “Come on back, wait for me, I’ll take care of you.” I am only guessing from the man’s appearance, but I assumed he was homeless.

I started to realize, this owner and waiter was taking care of people! His restaurant was also a personal mission for feeding the hungry! 

Another memory clip from the evening. A confession. At our table of four we had entered into some conversation about politics. A person from another table decided to enter in. Our waiter was by our table in a flash, with a friendly voice announced, “No, politics tonight.”

When the business of the restaurant subsided, our waiter came over and joined us. He explained that too often politics had become a shouting match in his restaurant, and that he had a number of people who didn’t understand how to turn it off once they started. We did, however, continued into a heart felt discussions about some of his and our passions.

When it came time to leave we stood and received hugs from our waiter.

I left with a mesmerizing feeling that I had just been in the presence of a real live saint. A bit quirky, I find most of the real saints are, but a genuine person who lives life doing what his heart tells him to do. I left inspired, a bit more appreciative of life and feeling I had found a sense of hope in this corner of the world. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016


 In honor or RANDI

One summer in the late 1970's Randi and I stayed a week extra at camp to earn some spending money for college. Late in the afternoon after burning some disgusting stuffed furniture from the staff lounge, Randi suggested we drive into Strawberry Point and buy a cantaloupe and bring it back to camp. I wasn't much of a fruit eater (I'm better now) but agreed. We cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and filled the middle part with vanilla ice cream. (I've always been a fan of ice cream) Then we sat outside Cedar Lodge on the the benches and had a refreshing treat. I had never had it before, and still enjoy it today.  

Flash forward ahead almost 40 years to the summer of 2016. I was a camp grandpa at Ewalu and camped with Mark and Jill Davidson at family camp for a couple of nights. They often host a staff supper on Friday evening after counsellors finish camp work projects. I asked Mark if we could drive into Strawberry Point. Now you know where this going... They had 3 cantaloupes in Strawberry Point, which I bought along with 2 buckets of vanilla ice cream. I told the story of Randi and I enjoying cantaloupe and ice cream after burning stuffed furniture, and we served cantaloupe and ice cream to the staff of 45-50 guests. Many commented that they had never had them together before and it was very refreshing. No cantaloupe left over. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Marie's Memories of Randi

a marker for ten years of her death on August 17, 2005, 
Marie Sundet

Oh good, I finally have reason and opportunity to do some writing about our dear and precious Randi! This can’t be done, though, without some information about Lyle and “the boys.”

This year it is ten years since she left us. What a heart-breaking day that August 17, 2005, was! From phone calls from Nate and Nick to contacting Sathers because I didn’t know which golf course Wally was playing, to finally reaching Wally by phone and having him come home to hear the sad news, to at last reaching Lyle at a conference in Baltimore and telling him that his wife had died .   .   .   .   .   Oh my.

Sathers came and helped us think about which people to call and helped us pack to go to Bloomington to be with Nate and Nick at least until Lyle could get there from Baltimore. By the time we got there approximately five hours later, Lyle had gotten home. Heidi, Mary, Ken, and Sam were also there. Kathi and her family drove in from Arlington, Texas, the following day.

We were a gathering of sobbing, bereft people until we were able to begin thinking of Randi’s present happiness in her new heavenly home.

She is now a grandmother living in heaven, and I am sure that she is smiling and in full knowledge of the marriage of her son, Nathan, to Sasha, and the birth of their baby, Penny Kay. She also knows, I’m sure, that son Nicholas has started work at a “Nortdstrom Rack” store in Des Moines. She knows, too, that her nephew, Sam, graduated from Luther College last spring (2014), that nephew Jared is now a Luther student, and niece Hillari is busy with salon work and nannying. She also must be overjoyed to know about her sister, Kathi’s, wedding to Raymond Daniel, whom we all love.

I believe that she is experiencing great joy as she thinks of her dear former husband, Lyle, now married to  Andrea who is a fine addition to our family.

Now I need to recall some of her very young days. She made her entrance into our world on September 14, 1957, when we lived in the barracks at Luther College. Wally was a senior student then and was president of Nordic Choir. He also directed a church choir at Calmar Lutheran Church.

Randi was baptized at First Lutheran Church in Decorah with Lowell and Leila Gangstad her sponsors.

She was a fine-boned, strong baby who wanted to be on her feet much of the time. She was a tiny baby with colic, and kept her daddy awake late many nights with her crying. Finally, at three months of age, she found her thumb and sucked it a lot! We were relieved because she wasn’t crying, and her daddy could get his reading and studying done.

She was never a baby who slept a lot, and by ten months old, she was walking. She had her favorite blanket which she snuggled as she sucked her thumb. Of course, it needed washing frequently and had to be dried outside on a clothesline. Tiny Randi toddled out to the clothesline, grabbed a corner of her wet blanket, and sucked her thumb! Such a funny little girl!

She was present when her daddy got his Batchelor of  Arts degree in Music Education in the spring of 1958. 

Shortly after that, we moved to Kasson, Minnesota, where Wally was a music teacher. We lived in a duplex out in the country. Our only bathroom was upstairs. One day after Randi learned to climb steps, she came downstairs pulling the end of a roll of toilet tissue. She walked, pulling it through the living room and into the kitchen downstairs. She never made much noise, just busied herself doing things!

One of her favorite activities was taking a box of Cheerios out of the cupboard and making a pile of them on the floor. Then she stomped on them with both feet. I was not aware of what she was doing until I heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of her little feet on the cereal! She also liked picking flowers and loved our budding tulips. One day she brought me a little fistful of them.

Randi learned to speak very clearly at a young age. Her daddy asked her to repeat many long words – simply because she could! One day after many repetitious of words, one-year-old Randi said, “Daddy, why hippopotamus?” Apparently, she had had enough of that word.

When she was two years old, we moved to Monticello, Iowa, where Wally taught elementary music. At one point, we attended the wedding of a good family friend in the big Catholic church there. After seeing other folks being ushered into the sanctuary, it was our turn. Little Randi genuflected at each pew until we were seated – just doing what she had seen others doing!

Randi made good friends in school in Monticello, especially with Cindy Gilmore who remained a close-in-heart friend the rest of her life. They continued to communicate after we moved to Cedar Rapids just before Randi’s senior year in high school. After graduation, the two of them continued their friendship at Luther College, and then when they both married and lived and worked in the Twin Cities. Cindy and Randi were both artists. While at Luther, each had her own art show. Musical highs came for Randi when she sang soloes with a womens’ choir at Luther and sang with Nordic during part of her senior year. Following those experiences, she sang some solos with church choirs. Hers was a lovely soprano voice.

Back to earlier days, Randi and her sisters spent a week each summer at Camp EWALU near Strawberry Point. During her high school and college years, Randi worked as a Conselor-in-Training and as a Counselor each summer. We knew she was a profound influence on the lives of many young people – and she loved the work! Here, too, she met Lyle, her future husband, They just liked each other and “did things together.” They never “had a date,” she said.

In August, after graduating from Luther, she and Lyle were married at Camp EWALU. The place had grown close to their hearts.

It was to be an outdoor wedding, but weather didn’t permit it. We all pitched in and prepared the main room in the lodge for the wedding, and the adjoining room for the reception. Pastor Gary Hunstad from First Lutheran, our Cedar Rapids in church, came to perform the ceremony. Sharon “did” the flowers which we had bought at a farmers’ market. Lyle’s cousin baked the wedding cake, and Harold and the triplets provided string quartet music for the processional and recessional. The processional was Randi’s favorite, Pachelbel’s “Cannon in D.” Randi and Lyle had tie-dyed a beautiful banner portraying a dove descendin onto two wedding bands. This took center place in the front of the “camp sanctuary.”

Lyle wore a full-sleeved white shirt and his three attendants wore matching sky-blue ones – all made by a neighbor on Larry Dr. in Cedar Rapids. Randi wore my wedding dress, and I sewed the three blue bridesmaid’s dresses. Who would attend Randi other than her sisters? The three of them also sang a version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” The wedding was a simple, beautiful, faith-filled, and joyous affair. Even Grandma Streyle attended in her wheelchair!

Randi and Lyle first lived in a tiny, upstairs apartment in Cedar Falls while Lyle finished his college education at UNI and Randi worked in a bookstore.

After his graduation, the two of them worked with “Tentmakers” in Anoka, Minnesota. This was an organization which trained people to be youth workers in congregations. Also, during this time, they moved to seminary housing at Luther Northwestern in St. Paul, and Lyle studied to get his Master’s Degree in Youth Leadership.

Nathan was born while living in a seminary apartment, and they continued work in Anoka. Baby Nathan often went to work with them. Randi and Lyle were good and busy parents. Nathan slept in a beautiful cradle made by Lyle’s father.

Burnsville became home to them for several years as they worked as Youth Director and Childrens’ Education Dirctor in a chuch there. After almost three years there, Baby Nicholas was born.

We were together celebrating Thanksgiving at Mary’s Minneapolis apartment when Randi knew it was time to go to the hospital. Little Nathan stayed with us at Mary’s until a hospital phone call came from Lyle for Nathan! We were crowded breathlessly around the phone when Nathan said, “Nickowas?” We knew then that Randi had had a second baby boy! Such excitement! A bit later we took Nathan to the hospital to see his mom, dad, and baby brother. Lyle took Nathan into Randi’s room first to meet little Nicholas. He held him and looked so proud as he assumed the roll of “big brother.”

While living in Burnsville, Randi got her Master’s Degree in “Human Development” from St. Mary’s in Winona. Lois Brokering acted as one of her advisors and helped her design course work in her chosen major.

After some years in Burnsville, Lyle took a job as Youth Director at St. Luke’s, in Bloomington , MN, where Randi was the Christian Ed. Director.

Through her work with Lois Brokering and her connections with Augsburg Fortress Publishing Company, Randi soon became an editor there. She did much creative work doing curriculum development for children. Her work there was well done a well received.

Lyle began work at “Youth and Family Institute” where he became the National Director of Peer Ministry. He traveled and worked with many, many young people and their leaders in a myriad of congregations.

After her stint at Augsburg Fortress, Randi began work at “Search Institute” in Minneapolis. Here much emphasis was put on Forty Developmental Assets which help children and teenagers avoid problems and make healthy, positive choices. Randi loved this work and made very close friends with her co-workers.

She stayed continually active in a group of parents working to keep music programs active in public schools in their community.

Lyle added the work of continuous projects on their house – transformed their kitchen with new cabinets, etc., painted the outside of their house, added a den and large deck, etc.

Both parents remained consistently interested and supportive in their sons’ school classes and projects. Their sons were fortunate to have exemplary parents like Randi and Lyle.

And now, her life has come full circle, and Randi is again with Jesus. We wondered, “How could everyday experiences and activities continue without Randi living among us?” Yes, much of it has been painful, but somehow she – and we in her family – are all being held and protected in God’s hands. 

Lyle has done much beautiful writing about Randi since her death. She died in her sleep the night of August 17, 2005, and was found not breathing in the morning by Nick.

Her funeral service was on August 22, 2005. It was marked by meaningful hymns, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” “I Was There to Heae Your Borning Cry,”  “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” and Handt Hanson’s singing and playing his own composition, “Make My Life a Candle.” Ken wrote and read an emotional and meaningful eulogy, and Pastor Michael Foss delivered an uplifting message.

The burial service was beautiful – made so by the setting and by the presence of many of the 800 people in attendance at the funeral service. Each set of eyes I looked into seemed to be sending love and peace to our family and to Lyle, Nathan, and Nick. I was extremely grateful and reminded of dear Randi’s favorite expression and book title of Richard Rohr’s, “Everything Belongs.” These words are on her gravestone along with her signature, “Randi.”

Now we find joy as we think of  Randi being cradled in the hands of her Lord Jesus. We are indescribably grateful for the gift of Randi in our lives. She was truly a gift to many during her earthly life.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Randi Sundet Griner 

SEPT 14th, 1957 - AUG 17th, 2005 

Marking Ten Years

This is an invitation to participate in remembering.

A remarkable women, friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother and colleague.

Randi truly was an amazing woman whose love for the arts, belief in the good of people, and faith in God blended together to give, advocate, create and work. I am honored to have known her for thirty years, married for 25 of those. 

The Sundet family, Nathan, Nick and myself are inviting friends and family to participate  within the next year by dedicating a service project of your choosing. Something you already do, or something you would like to enter into. Something based on one of the 40-Developmental Assets. 

Most likely if you volunteer at most anything your work and passion already connects to one of these assets! Keep doing what you are doing and dedicate it to Randi. 

OR… choose a new project, something you would love to do as a volunteer this next year.

Randi worked at Search Institute, an amazing organization that researches and identifies the building blocks that youth need to succeed.

The 40 Developmental Assets  <CLICK>
    Note you can click on “Take Action” under each asset for ideas.

In short, this research has turned the attention from assuming youth have problems that we need to fix to instead working on creating the positive assets that allow youth to thrive. It is a wonderful ongoing project. If you are not familiar, take a look at this amazing list.

We are inviting everyone to dedicate an “Asset Building Project” between AUG 17th 2015 and AUG 17th 2016.

Facebook Page  <CLICK>
Love to see what you are doing. Share pictures, 

Give us some updates! Your plans.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Okay... I bit the Apple!
I was not kicked out of the garden... and the apple was very tasty.
But I will give up the apple for the apple-picking-partner any day.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Blessing Day

Nathan & Sasha... God's blessings always! Celebrated with "characters" and a perfect afternoon on the deck!

Monday, August 31, 2009

AUG Peer in Burnsville

Back at the old home church in Burnsville. You know it is a good group when after you close everyone sticks around to talk more with each other. I think they will do well!

In the mean time I only have a few more training with TYFI as they become something else and so must I.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

House boating

The boat, the crew and the first mate. A unique way to tour the boundary lakes. The hot tub on top and the slide off the back added to beach times. Me? Loved sitting by the fire at night, rising early to watch the sun rise.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

La Crosse, WI

Synod leaders and youth ponder Peer and the future to be. 

And Prince of Peace in La Crescent. (I'd gladly join this church!)

Lyle, MN --- But, on the Iowa boarder!

She entered my phone # into the computer.


“Oh, Lyle,” she said. “I’m used to weird names like that.”

I leaned over the counter, almost in shock. “How’s that?” I asked!!

“I know a lot of people from Iowa,” she stated as a matter of fact.

“Really, I grew up there.” I said. Confirming that all Lyles must come from Iowa.

I took my movie and went home.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Careless Farmer

Early morning coffee is the best!

As it happens so often I over assume biblical story is all about me. Mathew 13 contains the parable about the sower and the seed. I have always heard the story from the perspective of the soil, hoping that I am the good dirt that the seed can grow in. But, when the emphasis is given to the Sower the story takes on whole new meanings.

The Sower has a bag of seed. We always assume bags of seed can run out, thus should be used wisely and planted where we know it has the best chance to grow. But, not this Sower! This Sower throws it everywhere, to everybody, good soil, rocky soil, thorny soil; everybody gets in on the free seed deal.

 Maybe that supply of seed is not endless. Maybe the supply doesn’t need to be conserved. Maybe it (“It” being what? God’s unlimited grace and love?) can be shared with all. Maybe even those of us that end up with seed that doesn’t always do so well with growing it still get it, lots of it!

 That sower seems to be a bit careless, hapless, and not very concerned about aiming. The Sower is not one bit careful with where it gets thrown. Maybe this story is mostly about this seemingly wasteful Sower.

 And me? Keep wasting some seed on me please! I never even notice most of it, some I ignore, but a little of it I finally see and may even take time to acknowledge. Thanks God! Maybe Easter really is for all. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Walking into the LutherHill chapel at sunset.

The discussion turned
 to angles and demons. When in safe trusted conversation it is always surprising how many people have will admit to having personal experiences. Ghosts enters into the discussion also. It seems amongst my Spiritual Director friends these are common experiences.

I do believe in God and that we do live in and amongst many spiritual flurries breathed out amongst us all kinds of ways I can’t understand. I suspect there is no theology that hold what can’t be understood.

One of my last days in high school, a class called “Life and Living” we had a substitute. She was a mom of two twin sons, also seniors at Cedar Falls High. She was to show a film about loss and death.  Half way through the film she shut it off. She then shared her own experience of being “clinically dead,” I believe during a operation. She described the experience of leaving her body and the meeting of a being of light. There was no doubt in my mind that she spoke truth of her experience. I sensed she had complete confidence in her faith and also had no fear of death.

That may have been one of my first experiences hearing a story of spiritual mystery. As I hear people tell of encounters with angels, demons and ghosts I wonder. I am certain that mystery experiences exist. I am not sure we have words that accurately can be attached to these experiences. I wonder if our attempts to fit such experiences into our world view and theology have any semblance for being named with words.

I am most comfortable with using the word “mystery” and being comfortable with not needing to explain or over interpret. God is. God is present. Our understandings of God can are incomplete. “We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”  (The Message 1 Cor. 13:12)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kids Are Either Leading or They Are Leaving

Episcopal Youth Leaders in the Diocese of Virginia invited me to join them at Phoebe Needles Center in Callaway, Virginia. The Diocese has only three paid youth ministers in Parishes. Thus the leadership relies heavily on the volunteering adults and a very vibrant faithful core of youth.

One of their issues --- maybe too many youth who want to be leaders.

I woke up this morning reflecting on Jesus’ disciples telling Jesus, “There are too many! Should we send them home?” Jesus’ coment? “Feed them.” And so they did. (Loaves and Fishes)

Youth are either leading or they are leaving. We either equip, empower and allow or the demands of others will prioritize kids time away. The church’s job is less about consumer programming, which assumes kids are attracted by more glitz, more gadgetry, with bigger, and better entertainment.  Instead the church is about making of meaning, developing  purpose, and giving responsibility in ways that kids know they count!