Tag Archives: simple free

Newness and New Year’s Day

us nydI like the beginning of  the new year for a lot of reasons, but one of my favorite things to do is my taxes.  Doing taxes is for me a little like what writing a Christmas letter is for most people– Christmas letters help us reflect on the past year, and so does doing our taxes for me– its a chance to go over the last year and realize what all we’ve done on our properties.  Carl, one of our beloved tenants, retired and moved to Las Vegas so we finally remodelled his apartment at 118 N 34th.  At 3145 Chicago we put on new cabinet fronts and a lot of cool light fixtures and found Jessee Ray and Kevin as tenants.  3304 Davenport was a total redo, with new furnace and AC, all the wood floors in 10 rooms were redone, the kitchen had a makeover, and it went from a graffitiized crazyland to a very elegant grand old house again.   Many new relationships have come, and a few have gone.

Tonight I got to spend some great time with some dear friends Tony and Heather Lombardo who are leaving for Maryland to be pastor at a church there.  Its a whole new experience for them, filled with some uncertainty and of course unknowing.  But thats what every year is.  Its what every month, week and day is.  We live on this constant path towards the unknown horizon– we do all the time.  But at the new year we mark this transition, and reset things.  We go on diets, determine to change our ways with resolutions, and make other dramatic changes sometimes.

But soon, like the Christmas lights we take down, new years day falls into the past and we leave it behind as a memory.  We walk again into the day to day regularness of our typical habits and forget about the newness of the new year.  A year from now it will be the old year, and it will all start over anew– again.

This is life.  So as with anything that renews, sometimes ideas fade and then come back as being good again.  We’ve decided to start meeting again regularly and openly for liturgy and study of the readings from the church calendar, probably on a weekly basis on a weekday– probably Tuesday, or perhaps Thursday, although Sunday pm is possible.  If you are interested in trying it out, we would be happy to have you join us.  Its a good supplemental for your Church commitments on Sunday, and its also a good alternative if you are in transition moving from one church but not yet finding the next (since we don’t meet Sundays, you can church-shop while you stay in some regular connectedness.  Feel free to contact Andy (andrewgustafson@creighton.edu) or Celeste (celestedawn@gmail) if you are interested or just have questions about joining us.

U2 NEW YEARS DAY video (1982)


Howard Street Project: Acting in hope, without knowledge of the end.

In March of DSC002162009 we bought a building near downtown Omaha which had been condemned.  It was an 8-plex and had been vacant since a 2005 double homicide.  We spent 3 years working on it, and finally satisfied the city and got tennants to move in. 

Directly behind that building, 10 feet away, was another derelict condemned building, on Howard street.  That building was full of junk.  A hoarder had been filling it up for years, and that hoarder, Joe, often came in and out of that building, bringing more stuff, taking some things out, etc.  It was a personal warehouse of sorts for his hoarding habit. 


The  owner of the building, a lawyer, had gotten the building in exchange for some legal work, but did nothing with it.  Eventually the city threatened to put him in jail for neglecting the building.  He owed 4 years backtaxes on it, and was not interested in going to jail.  I approached him and asked if he wanted to get rid of it.  The city had mentioned he could tear it down, but that would cost 20,000, which he was not interested in spending.  He said he’d give it to me if I took over responsibility for it, legally and financially.  That was August.

103_3502Although I didn’t have any legal documents saying it was mine, and wasn’t sure what I would do with it (or could do with it) I decided to start to clean it up.  I hired some friends and we took about 11 dumpsterloads of stuff out of the building in September.  It was a messy dirty job.  It involved getting rid of literally tons of things, including refrigerators full of rotten food. 

DSC00195The begining of the project seemed somewhat overwhelming.  Each bit of progress helped encourage us about what we might be able to accomplish.  Finally, we got the entire thing cleaned out from top to bottom.  But I still didn’t have any legal right to the building, and I still didn’t know what the city would make us do with it if I did.

DSC00197In late December the owner contacted me and said he wanted me to get the deeds transfered over into my name by the end of the year.  So I did, December 31, 2012. 

Throughout this process we haven’t been quite sure what we will do with this building if we can redeem it, or if we may have to tear it down.  What we did know was that cleaning it out would be an improvement, and that the building was fundamentally solid and with a great deal of work could probably be a pretty good place for someone to live. 

DSC00215We’ve even considered making it a hostel, or grouphome, or band-practice space.  But we don’t know for sure what its end will be– we just keep acting with hope, not really knowing for sure where this is all going.

Last week we started ripping into the walls a bit– taking off plaster and panelling, and getting into the walls to see what we are working with.  So far we are encouraged.  A slight leak in the roof, but most of the building appears to be in good shape.  Who knows what it might become?

Its sometimes overwhelming to have projects like this.  But it is exciting.  Taking responsibility for a building can be a time-consuming affair (just ask my wife) and so one has to count the cost, although not being entirely sure just what that cost will be. 

103_3511A lot of things in life are like this though.  We don’t really know how that marriage will work out, how this home will suit us, how this church will fit us, how these children will turn out, what our life decisions will bring us.  We make decisions with as much wisdom as we can, and leave the rest to God. 

100_3703Of course most people wouldn’t take on buildings like this– because they have more sense than I do– and they wouldn’t enjoy it.  But this redemptive process is fun to be a part of, although sometimes its a dirty smelly job.

May God have mercy on us all (especially my wife).

More pics of before and after cleaning:

 DSC00195                                                                                                     DSC00220

DSC00219DSC00215DSC00223103_3510103_3506103_3503DSC00197 DSC00196DSC00226103_3513DSC00221DSC00214DSC00222