Friday, September 30, 2005

for you new readers...

(in case there are any)

I added a brief description of 'Agent B' in the profile. After a month of blogging I've realized that each post is written with assumption that the reader has read all previous posts. Thus, certain lingo and aspects of my posts (mother city, CEO, my unidentified nature) go unexplained.

Hope this helps. Sorry for the shameless profile plug.

more Shaman-isms

I am not a big fan of debt. Especially personal debt. I don't think it's "wrong" or a sin to borrow money, but the book's pretty clear in giving slavery analogies when talking about debt. And I love my freedom.

I have read about statistical reports on church's finances and what the average church spends on what. If I remember correctly, the average church spends something like...85-95% of its yearly budget on itself and the other 5-15% on some sort of missional outreach (feeding, clothing, gospel truth, etc). I almost couldn't believe it. In an election, 85% would be considered a landslide blow-out. No contest.

In light of The Shaman's recent teaching on "meeting vs. mission" imagine if these percentages were somehow reversed. 5-15% on the church and 85-95% on the mission. Another favorite quote of mine that The Shaman gave was something along the lines of, "Churches go into huge debt to buy properties for their meeting. Imagine the church going into debt to feed people".

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Moles

For me, conspiracy theories are fun. I enjoy listening to them and I enjoy conjuring them up. However, I avoid following them too seriously as it would probably be a colossal waste of time. Or I might learn 'too much' and become withdrawn from mankind. And my secret agent mission statement is silent on the issue of conspiracy theories. Thus, I resurrect my church-of-Christ roots and don't follow anything that wasn't originally stated (Ha). However, this same mission statement allows me to expose truth in the arena of injustice towards the poor. That is, truth that would not otherwise be exposed through main-stream mediums. Thus, my charismatic background becomes of use.

In most every American city there is a US government funded agency known as MHMR (Mental Health/Mental Retardation) or something similar to MHMR. From an outsider's point of view, MHMR helps those who have mental problems by means of free and/or affordable counseling and/or medication. But from a secret agent's point of view, MHMR is a mass conspiracy operation by the US government to sedate the masses of "undesirables" which keeps the recipients and their endless needs hidden from the middle and upper classes, thus raising the "quality of life" in society. My own cynical by-line for this is: "MHMR - your tax dollars at work...doping up the masses".

In my early days of agenting (6 years ago) one of my big surprising discoveries was a vast subculture of society I'll nickname The Moles. Most of The Mole culture was inadvertently created by MHMR. The Moles usually possess two or more of the following qualities:

-they have no employment
-receive some sort of monthly government check (but they're not elderly)
-often came from a wealthy family
-were perpetually on MHMR-provided meds (usually depressants that kept them down and therefore less active in society)
-had strong addictions and vices
-hunker down in low rent apartments like air conditioned gypsies avoiding day light...and you rarely see them.

There's dozens if not hundreds of these folks. And they're all friends with each other. Their monthly routine was as follows:

- 1st of the month: get paid and get free meds
- stay doped up and/or drunk for the first 2-3 weeks and spend all their money.
- on the 3rd or 4th week come out of their apartments like squinty-eyed rodents looking for food and various assistence from churches, etc.
- next month...start all over

Many of my best friends in the old 'izzy' days were Moles. Most of them are dead now. The mix of meds, alcohol, and drugs lead to a short life span. Some of them came to know the CEO and my friend Jesus as they allowed us to conduct secret operative studies in their mole bunkers. But the mole lifestyle kept a strong grasp on them.

Lord, I miss them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Motorcycle manna part II

For the rest of that story first reported on August 31: the bike sold Tuesday. Which is the day that I had gone to both want-ad papers to lower the price because I desperately needed that bike to sell by Friday. So financially I have a little time to buy.

Truthfully, the CEO has always provided for us just as we need it, everytime. So why am I so concerned this time? I don't know. Maybe this was just a close call.

I heard of another financial opportunity I could take hold of. But I'm not sure the personal home-life sacrifice will be worth it. I'm praying and we'll see.

Which brings me to some of my dealings recently. I know the CEO has trained me to be an undercover agent within the injustice department. It is what I was meant for. But WHY am I spending much emotional resource and time trying to support my family. Have I missed my calling?? Do I need to suck it up and go back and get a "real job" like 6 years ago?? Maybe leave the secret agent work to others?

Lord...these are serious questions I'm asking. I trust you. What should I do??


Had a top secret meeting with the CEO. Well...I was trying to meet with him...on some specific issues in my existence. Still working over some events of the past 3 days. Weird stuff or maybe coincidence. Too early to tell.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday PM

Obi-Wan ministered to me tonight with fried pork chops, rice & biscuits. "Bachelor food" as he calls it. I feel renewed...whole...born-again.

I have some business to take care of in the coming week so I might not be around a computer for a while. I may report in again by Wednesday, possibly Thursday.

Expose': altered re-post

The following is a slightly altered report that was originally posted Friday September 23, 2005. A comment was left by 'anonymous', yet signed as the attorney of the Christian Store chain I was reporting on. This attorney wrote a legal-sounding request for me to refrain from posting photos and/or negative comments about merchandise carried by said store. After several internet searches and a phone call (to hear his voice mail message stating his name) I was 90% certain this guy is who he says he is and not a gag by Gentry ala Chuck Smith CCS.

After some brainstorming and more internet searches I am again 90% certain of who directed this attorney's attention to the Agent B Files (as I highly doubt he or his staff sits around surfing blogs all day).

In the end, it's never good to make "enemies". The sad thing is that the original post was meant to be a gag. If it's not funny to you why engage in legalism? Click that "next blog" button and move on. I understand where I may have overstepped my bounds with the photos, but thankfully this country is "free" as is my speech. Thus, this altered re-post.

Also...always searching my heart for twistedness and sin...I am not so sure that "exposing" the 'weirdness' of Christians and their institutions is a good thing. I am a big believer in 'reaping what you sow' - big time. And by engaging in this kind of behavior perhaps my own weirdness will someday be exposed. Maybe it already is. So...I am searching for answers in these doings, as well as rethinking my postings of local church signs, etc. Prayers appreciated, as always. is the altered re-post of the original report...without photos - Agent B


I went on a covert operation the other day with Agent Offspring. My expertise in secret agenting is blending in with the poverty culture. Well, I don't "blend in" all that well. I was born middle class so some habits are tatooed in my psyche. But for the most part, I blend in fine, or so I think. So basically this recent gig was an operation that I've never done before: an undercover investigation of an unnamed local "Christian Store" here in the mother city. This was all inspired by Agent Gentry of the New England Gentrys. If I understand correctly, his undercover assignment is to actually "WORK" in one of these stores or online distributors. Can't say I'd ever want his dangerous assignment. But after this brief investigation, I extend my approving nod towards the Boston area...and anyone else doing agent work within Christian marketing.

For this assignment, Agent Offspring was the perfect ruse. I can look sloppy and scraggle-faced as usual but NOBODY is threatened or suspicious by a guy with a baby in a stroller. I look like a family man...on extended vacation. I blended in with the products that try to promote Christian values.

I've never had anything against Christian bookstores. I'm a Christian. I like books. But to go in these places you actually have to have money to spend, and the wife & I don't have much of that these days. So if a book isn't at the local library or on loan from a friend, I do without. So I never had a need to visit these stores. Besides, I ignorantly thought these joints sold mostly bibles, and I've got a bible. Maybe two. How many more would you need?

So, as we opened the doors we walked right into a store...with a heavy dose of church culture in the air. Church culture is an odd culture. I've never liked it much. Probably because I've never fit. It's an atmosphere that encourages...falseness...? I don't know if that's the right word. Maybe fakery. Like if I was having a bad day, I must pretend otherwise. Or maybe create small talk, which I was never good at. Maybe appear that everything in my life was "OK". The place was real neat, not like the dollar stores by my house which are probably run by athiests. And the employees were very friendly, in a church greeter sort of way. But I wasn't in a small talk mood and I came ill-prepared to engage these fine workers.

There were more than just bibles: books, music (nothing by The Who or Pat Metheny), high priced wall paintings with Christian symbols, plenty of crosses on the wall, and greeting cards. Did you know that my alma mater's favorite graduate Max Lucado has a line of greeting cards? He'd probably roll around in his grave if he found out they cheapened his life's work like that. I'd sue. Or at least write a politely threatening blog comment.

The biggest surprise was a line of products for Sunday School and financial record keeping. I never thought that churches might need to actually buy these somewhere. And I don't understand how keeping any records would promote truth. Didn't King David get his butt whipped because he disobeyed God by counting his army? Maybe there's a difference in counting an army and keeping attendence. Maybe David was "old testament" (like "old school") and churches are "new testament" so counting is OK in the new testament. I don't know.

My favorite was the many different offering envelopes you could buy. I never knew about these. For example, there was one for "Pastor's Appreciation Day" with a blank for "total $". What the...!?! If they had a Secret Agent Appreciation Day set I would have blown my cover and bought them. I can see it now...I could pass them out to friends, neighbors, and guys on the street. "It's Secret Agent Appreciation Day. Forget the handshakes. Slap me a JACKSON. I've got a household budget I'm trying to piece together!!" Yea...who needs faith? I've got 100 envelopes for $5 that could reap a modest investment return.

I'm new at this kind of covert operation so I didn't know what to expect or how to prepare. Perhaps I should go back and actually "work" with the sales people. You one of those 'mystery shoppers'...

This report filed by B.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Shaman

The Shaman from Oklahoma came through the mother city this weekend to talk an deliver teachings to the izzy group. We met at a bed-n-breakfast in Buffalo Gap. The owners generously lent it to us for the day.

I really don't know how to describe The Shaman. I've 'known of' him and/or known him from a distance for about 10 years. On the surface, his teachings can almost come off as heady or intellectual - things I usually avoid. But after I listen to them, sit, and digest them it's obvious they're the most simple, Jesus-centered messages. No hoity-toityness. Just truth.

This weekend's message was centered around "The Return to Jesus' Mission". I think this is what the emergent crowd preaches often. Jesus' mission (returning to serving the poor, bringing healing, set captives free, etc.) as opposed to maintaining 'a meeting'.

One quote in particular that stayed with me: something like "Community is formed out of work. Work is not necessarily formed out of community". In recent years the word 'community' is one I receive with caution because I think many have abused this word and used it to manipulate others to maintain and attend 'the meeting'. ("You NEED community...come to church this Sunday"). The Shaman's quote means that if a group is serving others (ie: doing Jesus' MISSION as opposed to THE MEETING) that group will naturally develope community. If the community IS the meeting then Jesus' mission will not necessarily grow out of it.

I fully expect for others to disagree, but you can't refute the large numbers of Jesus-loving FOLLOWERS (good term by Dustin) who have drifted away from 'the meeting' to do 'the mission'.

Anyway, the Shaman is planning to return in October to continue with this message. And it looks like I may get to spend an afternoon with him, which is something I need since I really don't know him and would like to.

I plan to interrogate him.

This report filed by B.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hispanic hurricane victim's parties ROCK

The Valdez's were at it again...

Hispanic families are super close-knit. They're real close to every cousin, second cousin, great uncles, etc. So about 5pm our neighbor Miranda gets word that her husband Juan's cousin and family AND their neighbors from Houston are arriving in Abilene within 2 hours. That's 4 adults and SEVEN kids coming to flee the hurricane for an indefinate timespan. And the Valdez's are already housing their cousin's from Mexico who have 2 kids. So we offer our guest room. But as it turns out, they had plenty of other cousins in Abilene to stay with. So we mised out on housing refugees. But we didn't miss out on a damn good party.

It was like another Valdez kid birthday 9:30 on a Thursday night. But no waterslide, cake, and pin'ata. But plenty of cheap beer, cheap music, and good BBQ.

I couldn't imagine...these poor souls...left their homes and belongings in Houston at 3am. And what's normally a 6 hour drive (which I've driven hundreds of times as I'm FROM Houston and my mother lives there - she's yet to flee the storm...I don't know what she's thinking) takes them 15 hours! They haven't slept in over 24 hours. Yet it's like...hell, let's have a BBQ. And they have a good time and act like nothing's happened...late on a Thursday night.

Man...people flee for their lives...and I get a couple of beers and some good late-night grub. This Secret Agent gig is a tough job...but somebody's got to do it.

random questions...

1) Why would we 'followers' (ie: Christians) give our leftovers to the poor if we had means to buy ourselves something brand new?

2) Why do some ministries/churches give a free meal to the poor...but only after a sermon or lesson? Is sitting through the sermon an expected price to pay for the food? Shouldn't we just give the food with no strings attached if food is the need?

3) Why should churches and ministries report their numbers of "clients" (ie: people helped) to some sort of city government run burocratic 'help' center? Is this considered 'accountability'? And why outsource this neccessity of accountability to the government? Isn't this the day and age where everyone is screaming "separation of church and state!"? Why put yet another noose around the neck of the poor by getting their social security numbers and the government involved in our benevolence??

4) Why chase after news media attention (or any attention) when we followers are serving the poor? Is this the reward we want, mentioned in the book @ Matthew 6:1-4?

5) Why do we try to "fix" the poor's problems? Are we to be fixers or light?

6) Why do we look to the government for help when the poor are coming to us? When ministries/churches go to the government for assistence is this the same as the children of Israel running to Egypt for help? And is that showing a lack of faith in the true provider (read YHWH)?

7) Is it OK to take a break from serving the poor on a daily basis? I suppose even Jesus 'withdrew from the crowds'.

8) If Jesus gives us a pretty clear description of what it'll be like "when the son of man returns" in Matt. 25:31-46...why do so many of us get wrapped up in things other than feeding, watering, clothing, hospitality, comforting, and visiting?

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular...maybe just myself.

Plenty more questions where that came from...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Suffer Little Children...

I don't know how "Agent B related" this topic is...but I want to share...

Both Agent Wife & I had an extreme reaction to a painting we stumbled across in Houston's Museum of Fine Arts about 4 years ago.

"Suffer Little Children..." (1884) by Fritz Von Uhde slapped us dumbfounded, I suppose. The original (probably 3'X5') depicts Jesus in what looks like a 'modern day' (1880's) peasant school house. He is surrounded by poverty-looking kids while their shy parents stand humbly in the background. Jesus looks so inviting, non-critical...comforting.

I like art and all, but never have I wanted to stare at 1 piece for such a long time. It seemed so...un-religious...while placed in the blatently religious section (you know...paintings of saint-types with glowing lights behind their heads). I could actually see myself purchasing this work if I had the $, and if it were for sale.

The story behind it's initial reception is even better. German painter Von Uhde, an obscure sidenote in art history, was highly criticized by the religious people and clergy of his day. People were offended that their "savior" was depicted with ragamuffin, dirty children who they saw everyday running their streets. I believe Von Uhde avoided Jesus as his subject from then on.

This painting really 'spoke' to Agent Wife & I in our arena of life as well as the way we planned to live. A year later we returned to HMFA to find that the painting was on loan somewhere with no expected return date. We finally had the bright idea to look for a print for sale on the internet. Unfortunately there are about 8 paintings in art history with the same name. We managed to find only 1 small print of the Von Uhde which we proudly display in our house today. And I don't usually like art prints. I'd rather have real hand-made art by real people I know.

Words still can't describe...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

the purpose driven (Agent) Wife

The other night I was going through one of those occasional "Am I doing the right thing in life? Am I a failure?" rantings. In the last 3 years these have come about once every 3-4 months. Truthfully, I'm very confident in who I am as well as my gig as a secret agent.

There's a real popular book in which I think every Christian on the planet (except me) has read: "The Purpose Driven Life". I think it sits on our shelf as a friend gave it to us. Agent Wife read it and she says it's 'OK'. But I've never felt the draw to read it. If I understand correctly, it's a book that helps you find your true purpose for existence or something like that. Your "calling", if you will. That's sounds like a pretty lofty goal for a book I guess. Ever since I tripped and stumbled into ministry (and eventually undercover work) as a full time gig back in 1999 - I've KNOWN exactly why I'm on this earth. I wake up every morning knowing why I'm here and loving every second of it...and thanking the CEO for allowing me to find my calling NOW versus 40 years from now. And I think it's sad that many Christians don't know "why" they're here and therefore, they possibly live defeated lives. I don't know the answer to their plight. Maybe Rick Warren does. Maybe I'm part of the 1% of Christians who didn't need to read that book. I don't know.

But as I've hinted before, Agent Wife and I have been in sort of a 'wilderness' period of our lives for almost 3 years. I'm sure it won't last forever. Lord, please let it not go on some damned 40 years then I miss out on the 'promised land'.

Anyway - before bed the other night I'm moping around the desk next to my bed. I pick up one of the best antidotes I know of for self pity. Two and a half years ago my wife gives me this scrapbook-type thing for my birthday. Inside it are pages of handwritten and emailed notes from most every friend I've ever known. And their writings say what I meant to them or did for them, etc. All positive, of course (It was my birthday for crying out loud. Who'd use that kind of opportunity to stab me in the back?). Most were from family and various friends here in the mother city. But surprisingly, some were from long forgotton or distant relationships: old high school friends I haven't seen in 15 years, a musical mentor on the east coast, a spiritual friend I've never met face to face yet, etc. Agent Wife (using her skilled research tactics that comes natural to us investigative agents) broke my password and raided my email address book to contact some of these people she never heard of. Imgine being dead and listening to the positive things everyone said about you at your funeral...but with no sermon or preaching or crying. And no death. That's what this book is for me. It's priceless and about once or twice a year I read it out of neccessity.

I must state that Agent Wife is the best wife in the world. No really - I know it's cheesy and trendy to praise one's spouse in a blog post. But really - if YOU are a married guy, the truth is that YOUR wife is inferior to mine. Or if YOU are someone's wife...sorry to break the news...but you just don't cut it.

(Insert sarcastic winky face here)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday: sign-o-the-day

I can see it now...on all official letterhead and brochures: Trinity Baptist Church - a place for you! - a judgement house!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Table

Back in the old izzy days, we had a soup kitchen type of deal going on that we nicknamed 'The Table'. And the term "soup kitchen" is a very poor description. I guess 'soup kitchen' can be a real pejorative term...conjuring up images of faceless crowds standing in a long line for...tasteless soup. And I personally have never cared for soup. Unless it's 'sizzling rice soup' at my favorite local chinese dig. But at izzy, we really believed that we should give our best rather than giving what's easy. But any rate, The Table was an intimate dining experience for our friends on the streets. The menu was always nutritional, home-cooking type of grub. Like the kind of food you'd really eat at home with a family. You know, not always 'fancy' but always 'good'. The dining area was set up with several cafe' style tables and the space we had could sit up to 40 people at a time.

Well...sure, people who were hungry and had no food to eat or no way to cook food received a good meal. And I suppose at the very least, 'being fed' is a good thing. In the book, the 58th chapter of Isaiah talks about "sharing your food with the hungry".

I had a friend once (yes, once) who was one of those bible scholar types, the kind of guy who is about 180 degree opposite of me. But he was a genuine guy. Not arrogant about his intelligence at all. And he could read several languages...all of which he taught himself. Languages relevant to biblical research like Greek and Hebrew. Well, this guy and the bossman (a character I've yet to give a proper introduction to on this blog) did a full word study on the 58th chapter of Isaiah. And come to find out, all of the mentions of "fast" in the text was NOT a reference to abstaining from food. The actual Hebrew word for fast (in this case) was "Tsum" (I think, forgive the misspellings). And "Tsum", pronounced "SOOM", literally meant "to cover one's mouth with your hand" (ie: abstain from talking). And in the context of Isaiah 58, the 'abstaining from talking' was so that one could LISTEN TO THE PLIGHT OF THE POOR. In other words...shut your fat yap and quit spouting off easy answers and JUST be a listening ear to the poor. Maybe the CEO will come up with the answers and not YOU. Anyway, I didn't actually do this word study as I've received it second hand, so if anyone has more to offer on that subject...comment away.

'Listening' has been more of my personality as opposed to 'talking'. So listening came easy to me. But making the commitment to sit and listen to someone's banter isn't easy for anyone. So I guess all of this to say...The Table was more like a psychiatrist's couch than a soup kitchen. Or maybe a Catholic confession booth minus the curtain and priest. And no holy water, but a lot of coffee.

Out in public, it's far easier to toss a guy some spare change or a five dollar bill than it is to buy him a meal...and sit...and listen...and eat with him.

Lord - forgive me for taking the easy way out so many times..

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Behind Blue Eyes

Trying to be undercover and anonymous as possible, I don't get to enjoy the full extent of blogging. Boo-hoo. For example, I only write what is relevant to Agent B - not my true identity. In other words...I don't get to post fun photos of my wife and family or get to fill out that blogger profile thingy to the full extent. Oh'll never get to know what zodiac sign I am or how I might answer that nonsense question they give. On second thought, I'd answer that goofy question with: "What the hell kind of question is this?"

With my real identity, I might have several more notables in that 'favorite books' section. Under movies I would proudly state "none" rather than leave it blank. The "About Me" might be left blank until I could come up with a single intelligent sentence that didn't sound arrogant. So it would probably be left blank for years. And the "favorite music" section...that would be tricky as music is/was a major part of my existence, yet I absolutely hate to be pigeon-holed by what CDs (or books) someone finds on my shelf. I like all music. Well, almost all. So I'd probably leave that section blank. At least until I could think of something intelligent to write. In a few years.

But if there was ever a theme song for my Agent B gig, it would have to be "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who. Ahh yes...The Who. Prophet Townsend and Prophet Daltrey are still my favorite prophets as mentioned in an earlier post.

"Behind Blue Eyes" probably isn't a good theme song to have. It's all about what I refer to as "victimology". You know, "Woa is me. I'm a victim. My life sucks and it's EVERYONE'S fault but mine" kind of thought path. I even refer to BBE as "the victim's anthem". And man...MANY of the folks I befriend and hang out with day to day grasp hold of victimology. They proudly wear it as their identity. "My life sucks 'cause of THIS, THIS, and THIS. And THIS happened when I was 5 years old..." and on and on. But the song describes their lives to a tee. The "character" in the song basically sings this sentimental ballad that 'you don't know how sucky my life is. You don't know what it's like to HAVE to lie, steal, etc'. Then the bridge section, my favorite bridge from ALL songs, rebelliously screams 'HEY - if you see me stumble and fall...PLEASE help me and pick me up'.

In the book, James mentions in chapters 4 & 5 that if we really want a life change...humble yourself. Confess your wrongs. And your "healing" will begin. I still believe that a reason folks in poverty seem to stay in that quagmire is denial of sins. To's everybody else's fault. Not theirs. Or maybe they're not ready to confess. But like the bridge of BBE states, they're willing to help each other out when the 'reaping' arrives due to their 'sowing'.

Anyway...please. If any of you see me start to swallow something evil...shove your finger down my throat.

My fists are clenched...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dream report #001

I never know how seriously I should pay attention to my dreams. I'm sure most of our dreams are just amusing nonsense. But I have documented proof that the CEO often communicates to me through dreams.

At the suggestion of a former professor of mine, I've kept a dream journal since 1992. Well, the main purpose for the journal was a complete failure...and still is...but it's been 'neat' to document dreams and reread them months later. God actually spoke to me very bluntly about my former club and some deception involved in it's inner workings, sometimes months or years before I moved outside the club. But I was too ignorant to pay attention to these dreams at the time...

Well the other night my dream was simple and as follows: I was Luke Skywalker, or some kind of Jedi, running around a huge building with light saber at hand. Obi-Wan Kenobi was already dead and I just *knew* I must face Darth Vader...alone. So I was running around the building deciding if I should hide or just go ahead and find him and get it over with.

That was it. On this blog I've affectionately refered to my 88 year old friend and neighbor as "Obi-Wan". So either this dream is yet another fortelling of some challenge or darkness I must face...or it's some mindless hangover from my childhood Star Wars fantasies.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

French driving lessons

About 7 years ago Agent Wife arrived in our fair mother city equipped with one of the more useless languages of West Texas: French. She grew up attending 'French Immersion School' (a Canadian thing, I guess) and even earning an undergrad degree in French from the University of Laval in Quebec City. Later on in life, HER plan was to become a life-long missionary in French speaking West Africa. Well, the CEO sends her to French-less West TEXAS to get married to me. An no offense to the great people of Africa, but I hope I never have to live on your continent. Ever. I've been there and it ain't for me. I'm a western hemisphere kind of guy...(the dancing-est hemisphere on earth). So basically, Agent Wife ain't moving to Africa anytime soon.

Well low and behold...within the last 18 months the CEO moves a small piece of West Africa to us here in the fair mother city. Abilene is a new host to some government related group, the IRC, which helps people fleeing from war-torn persecuted countries to our nation. Now...WHY they chose Abilene to host 100+ French speaking people is beyond me. I mean, at least New York City or even Dallas would have more French speaking resources for them, if not a larger community for them to feel 'at home' in. In Abilene, Agent Wife is probably...1 of 2 people in our 120,000 population who speaks their language. I may be exaggerating, but probably not. Somehow or another, as fate would have it, Agent Wife finds one of these families (or they find her) and a friendship developes. And over the last 3 years Agent Wife has forced me to learn French by training our dog (since puppyhood) in French. So basicaly, I can tell these Africans to go sit and fetch.

The family we've befriended, the Franco's, are a sweet, friendly, God-fearing family. They don't expect a hand-out in life...they just want to flee their war torn country so they These fine folks, who were fairly educated in their homeland, arrive here and do janitorial and factory work because they have a language barrier. BUT they ain't complaining! They'd rather be in the US doing jobs most people don't want than be back in the homeland getting raped and murdered by warlords. Welcome to America...we won't kill you, but clean our toilets dammit.

Mustafa Franco, a 22 year old guy who worked as some sort of journalist in his homeland, wants to advance in OUR society by earning a driver's license. Sounds honest...and noble. Somehow or another I stumble into the role of driving instructor.

Now I can teach. I even received a degree in education for an artistic field (never did anything with it, the public ed system can do just fine without me). But I discovered it's EXTREMELY DIFFICULT and DANGEROUS to teach a guy to drive who:
A) does not know your language well. EX: you can't yell last second instructions just before you crash, and
B) did not grow up in a culture that revolves around automobiles...

Basically...ANYONE in westernized worlds understands the nuances of a car EVEN if you don't have a license. I was riding bigwheels (and a 'green machine' - remember that?) at age 5. And at 10 my mom took me to go-cart tracks. So by the time I get a learner's permit at age 15, I understand things that I NEVER thought I'd have to explain in my dog-command-laced French. Things like the relation between steering wheel and the front wheels...when driving down a straight, lonely backwoods highway at 70mph...DON'T TURN THE WHEEL REAL HARD AND FAST. Man...I thought we were gonna die.

Well, somehow or another...Mustafa got his license. He's had it less than a year and already been in 3 minor wrecks. If I was the state of TX I'd make him practice for at least another year. Guess you just gotta go out there and do it...

So all you Abilenians reading this...if you see any African-looking guys driving like a drunk, they're NOT drunk. Just normal. So stay out of their way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I'm entertaining family this week, so I guess I have to like...hang around them or something...

Anyway, I don't have much time to sit in front of a computer and blog something "intelligent". But I can snap out these wise guy church signs like nobody's business. So bare with me. Thanks.

Wednesday: sign of the day

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Faith or middle-class values

By all means, I am a missionary embedded within the poverty culture of Abilene, TX (the fair mother city). But I refer to myself (and others in similar works) as an undercover field agent. It's a fun schtick and it keeps people from acting all religious around me. I like realness. But I take on a very 'fantasy-like' persona and fantasy is not real. The irony confuses me but I make due OK.

As a missionary, err...secret agent, I try avoiding the traps most missionaries fall into. Such as...preaching one's own CULTURE versus preaching JESUS. ("Preaching" can mean a number of things besides oratory speaking - which I suck at, btw).

I've been to some rural parts of southern Africa with a group of missionaries from my university - way back in the day. I think I was shocked when all of the local church members we visited seemed more...American...than I expected. Or at least "American" in their worshipping and/or Christianity. I mean hey...if it's perfectly normal for saggy-boobed women to let it all hang out then why should they wear a shirt when they're around church? I'm sure I could come up with better examples, but you know what I mean...right? They learned this 'shirt-wearing' thing from missionaries.

Well...I catch myself occasionally trying to promote 'middle class cultural values' amongst the 'least of these' in the poverty culture. And I now believe that's not what the CEO expects of me. Cultural education of middle-class values is not my mission. Service is. Realness is. And perhaps the great comission at the end of Mark...I think...

For example, our next door neighbor, 19 year old Jessie Sanford graduated high school last May. We're happy for her, even though the term "graduate" was more like "politely encouraged by her school to move on". She's kind of slow and has little if any ambition in life. I'm starting to see Jessie slowly turn into her mother, who didn't go past 8th grade and lives off a government check for being overweight, illiterate, and related health problems. I often catch myself thinking things like, "she needs to go get a job and start supporting herself" and other such tripe. damn wrong of me! *I* DON'T EVEN HAVE A FREAKIN' JOB!!! WHAT A HIPOCRITE. Yet I, like Jessie, somehow or another get our daily needs met. I credit the CEO. Maybe she does too or maybe she credits her mom. But what difference does it make? It's faith...for now.

Another example: Jessie's brother, the Tiger, hates school with more than a's, like, personal or something. He's 16 and repeating the 9th grade because of...get this...lack of attendance. He actually passed the classes. He's now old enough to legally drop school if he so chooses which he contemplates daily - while skipping school. My middle class mind and culture regurgitates, "Get your education. Stay in school". But really...WHY? I have no honest, Jesus inspired answer. The Tiger will do just fine in life without an education. He loves to work. Out in the sun. Sweating hard. He'll always have a way to support himself. But I once tried to explain to him that one day he might get in an accident and lose his legs or something. Then how will he do manual labor? Well, what the hell kind of faithless crap am I preaching? *I* DON'T EVEN HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE. AND THE CEO TOOK CARE OF US DURING MY WIFE'S PREGNANCY, ETC.

Jessie and The Tiger don't worry about the future. Their blind trust teaches ME more about faith than anything my middle class values can teach THEM.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Catfish nugget (preaching)

I had dinner at Obi-Wan's last night. It was a fun affair with Agent Wife and our offspring and including my dad (Agent Dad?) and his wife visiting us from upstate NY this week.

I pride myself on not being too picky about food - I'll eat anything (I think). But if you were to take me to a restaurant of my choice, anything involving seafood or fish might be my last pick. I don't hate fish...I just didn't grow up around it much. However, I would stick my crotch in a waffle iron for 4 hours to get a plate of Obi-Wan's fried catfish nuggets - which was the main menu item for the evening. Thankfully, he doesn't have such a price on them. Dang good eatin'.

At Obi-Wan's request I picked up some nuggets at the store while shopping for my family that morning. When I brought them over, Obi-Wan's fired up the cooking grease and preaching began. For the first time in a few months I really spilled my guts to him. I needed to. While reluctant to write about it here, Agent Wife and I are hitting a crisis of sorts that has began to come to a boil this weekend. It's not about our marriage or anything. This matter involves decisions that could alter the course of our secret agent lives.

Obi-Wan's preaching can sound like rambling sometimes. Rabbit's get chased and side stories pop up over and over. But his overall message went something like this: he's always disliked the house he lives in. He bought it 35 years ago because wife #1 fell in love with it. "I didn't like it then, still don't like it now, but 'dis what da LORD give me and now I'm use to it. And it's turned out OK." As I interpret it: the CEO may give you something you don't want, but it's what you need. And in the end all is well.

I've got to chew on that for a few weeks. It was a good and Godly message that may take me a while to figure out how AND IF it fits into my situation. I think this word IS for me, though.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hispanic birthdays ROCK

The Valdez family lives across the street from us, next door to Obi-Wan. Juan and his wife Miranda are a few years younger than my wife and I. They married right after high school graduation. Juan began working construction type work when he was a teenager and is now a licensed contractor for concrete and construction and runs his own business with about 6-10 steady employees. Miranda was a full-time mom raising 3 kids and running errands for the construction business. When their youngest entered school Miranda began classes at a local university to become a Spanish teacher. They are very dedicated to their catholic church - one that I've had secret agent dealings with and have a huge respect for.

They've always invited us to backyard BBQs and their kids' birthday parties...which I now plan my whole existence around. Really...I'm marking my calendar for the next Valdez kid birthday party because, come hell or high water, I'm going to be there. They are a blast. I'm a white guy who grew up in a very small family and when we did any kind of party they sucked at best. Cake, some presents, a little conversation...whoopee. But I'm usually introverted so what did I care. My wife, the social monkey extrovert, is bi-racial and bi-cultural. She is a Canadian with a Jamacian mother. She's related to half of Saskatchewan and all of Jamaica. Her family reunions are usually a church related deal and these can be fairly fun. But I now know that you haven't lived until you attend a Hispanic kid's birthday party in Texas.

Loud music from a cheap stereo with spanish and 80's rock tunes, huge-ass jumpy-castle-type water slide, food galore, relatives galore, kids screaming and going nuts (in a good way), half-drunk Uncles jumping down the waterslide with exposed beer guts, catholic church friends galore, pin'ata slaughter galore, cake all over the place, spanish singing galore, and Mexican beer....galore. I'm already trying to gather ideas for my offspring's first birthday this October. But if I tried to even halfway recreate this experience it would come across as a white guy trying too hard. Money can't buy this kind of fun. Well actually...for the measly price of an $8 Barbie doll or a $5 hot wheels set in wrapping paper you get:
1) unlimited burgers and chips
2) unlimited beer
3) more visual entertainment than you can imagine.

That's far better than anything a night club has to offer. And besides, it's for a good cause: a kid is turning 9.

The youngest girl, Maria, had her party in May. Junior had his last weekend. So I ask the oldest girl, Harley, when her party will be.
"My birthday is in April. I'm not going to have a party. I'm going to the mall."
"So how am I supposed to get a burger and a beer? This is all about me, you know."

Lord, I wish the Valdez's had more kids.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Parade of Stars

Agent Wife & I took our offspring downtown this morning to see the annual West Texas Fair & Rodeo Parade. I had no intention of blogging an entry about this as it was planned to be a private family, non-Agent B affair. But when you're a secret agent, I guess you're always on duty.

There we were, on the side of the street with a few friends, taking pictures of our offspring with various parade floats/entries in the background: livestock, Abilene police dept., fire trucks, marching bands (my alumni college was the best btw), the Taylor County Liberterians (all 3 of them), and numerous antique cars & tractors, etc. Then comes the unofficial "homeless drunk guys on bikes" entry. It was hilarious. I was practically crying it was so funny because they were yelling & screaming at the crowd and people were cheering back, not knowing they were a couple of drunks. I can see it now: they were probably downing their Saturday morning 40-ouncers somewhere, then hopped on their bikes and stumbled across the largest parade all year, then say "what the hell...why not" and join in on all the mayhem while riding in between marching bands and horses.

We knew one of the guys - 'Georgia' Rusty. Rusty, who looks like a cross between Willie Nelson and a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and hails from Cartersville, GA, somehow stumbled through our fair mother city about 4 years ago and wound up on the izzy porch waiting in line for a place to sleep one Thursday (during our Thursday night sleepovers). He came in from Dallas with one of his many girlfriends, broke up with her the next week, fell in love with Abilene, and been here ever since. He even left town once to visit Georgia for something about his daughter. But he hopped aboard a greyhound and came back ASAP because he really likes it here.

When we saw him in the parade Agent Wife & I started yelling his name and waving and cheering. He and his little hispanic buddy (who refered to themselves as the Cheech & Chong of the parade) stopped and came over. I was happy to introduce 'Georgia' Rusty to our young offspring as so many of our homeless friends didn't realize we've become parents since izzy shut down nearly 3 years ago. Rusty says someone gave him a trailer home to live in and he told me where it was located. I may go visit him soon. It was so good to see 'Georgia' Rusty...even as a parade float.

After the parade, on the way back to the Millenium Falcon, we run into Scooter P. King, another quasi-homeless guy I haven't seen in 3 years. He'd been in Dallas for the last few years and wondered where izzy was at now. Something happened to his left eye and he's now blind in that eye.

Lord, heal Scooter's eye and thanks for putting us in his & Georgia Rusty's path today. I'm honored to see them again. Thank you.

Secret Agent S

After a nearly 2 year internet correspondence with another field agent in the fair mother city, I finally met Agent S - live and in the flesh. He and his wife are in the trenches at a beach-head in the downtown sector which is operated by one of the established clubs in that area. His reports are noted in the links section under 'What Holds On?', which is about 50% of the inspiration that started The Agent B Files.

We paid homage to Katrina's victims by eating at one of New Orleans' finest. Stories were exchanged, mostly about Momo, and other trench related issues.

The life of a secret agent can be pretty lonely at times. Although we have loving wives and children and have many friends throughout the poverty class, there can be lonliness.

I have been an agent to some degree or another for 6 years and during that time I have been a listening ear to countless others. Friday I finally met someone my age and from my realm of life. Friday I was 'listened to'. And it felt good. Thanks Agent S.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Jed Clampet & Co.

Why do I get mushy and emotional when I think of or run into members of the family from our old izzy days? (note: 'the family' = people who hung around, received goods, love, realness, etc during izzy's heyday. I still refer to them as the family).

On yet another late morning stroll with Agent Offspring, this time in a city park, I run into Jed Clampet. Jed, his 2 sisters, Sissy and Missy (all in their 40's-50's) and Mama (in her 70's) were the most unique homeless family I've known about 3 years ago. Unique as in...not a mental Viet Nam vet with a backpack and an addiction.

Legend has it that the Clampets (Mama, Daddy, and the 3 kids) grew up on a farm outside Winters, TX. Then in the great decade of the 1970's Daddy somehow mismanaged his money and lost the farm. Then they loaded up the truck and moved to Bev-er-ly...Seguin, TX that is. Trailer homes, near San An-tone, and a lumber yard to work at. Then in '87 Daddy dies. Then in 2001 Jed loses his job due to a back injury and something 'bout company insurance not covering him anymore. They always dreamed about getting the farm back even though they lost it some 30 years ago. So they spent their last dime renting a u-haul and headed for Abilene. No plan. Just closer to Winters, TX and maybe an opportunity will drop out of the sky. Once in the mother city, they drive around this u-haul, towing a broken down pickup that Daddy gave Jed in '73, for like...a month. And you're supposed to return those things after 3 days or so. Out of desperation they rent 2 storage units (unknowingly, the most expensive ones in town) for their stuff...all of which needs to be donated to a landfill...but that's easy for me to say as I have no emotional attachment to 40 year old mattresses.

So now the 4-some's only income is Mama's SS check and a smaller check for her late husband being a war hero or something. They're paying high rent on a bunch of crap (sentimental value = slavery...another post for another day) and afterwards there might be like $200-$300 left monthly. Not enough for an apartment and utilities, etc. They get bogged down in life, depressed, worthless-feeling, etc. The 4 live and sleep in their green '77 Chevy Nova, which was on it's last leg. And they live like this for a year and a half. With 73 year old Mama.

I had lots of relations with the Clampets during their Chevy Nova days. They couldn't see themselves doing any better than where they were. They were defeated. They wouldn't even try to get on their feet. Thankfully they now have an apartment, and the younger sister, Missy, got married to some guy in a wheelchair she met at a nursing home. They're not on the farm in Winters but I think they're much happier now than a few years ago. It beats a Nova.

It was good talking to Jed. I have great memories with him despite the misery he was in.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

And the "Drive-By Evangelism" award goes to 5th & Grape coc. A good word from Acts 5:29. Note - I actually had an elderly man in the coc refer to this club as "North 5th and Gripe". Honest.

ba DUM Ching! Good one, guys. That's SOME old elder board.
OK, I give the good folks at Grace UMC 2 extra points for not reusing the same cute phrase on BOTH sides. Good job guys.

What the...Climb WHAT? The pole on that sign? You just KNOW the guy who changes that sign came up with this phrase once he got up there.

Originality: zero. What directions are you talking about? To YOUR BUILDING?

I give this one a 7. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it. sleeping in on Sunday morning...
reread: 'We can't stay in our pews and GO anywhere'. You GO, girl!

Rate your own church sign

The following posts are local church signs found here in the fair mother city. Give 'em a 1-10 rating, 10 being good. And define what the heck "good" means 'cause I don't know. Or just write some wise guy comment about it like I did, which is always the easy way out in life...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Tiger

Before Obi-Wan & I got real tight with each other my best friend was the 14 year old kid next door, The Tiger. He's 16 now and too cool to be seen with old 30-somethin' like me. But we still talk occasionally. Yes I know it sounds weird, or maybe perverted - an adult and a kid being "friends". But the Tiger is ADDICTED to work. I mean, if I'm in my back yard doing some piddly project, he's right there hanging his head over the fence just waiting for me to invite him over to join. Every time. If I hand him a shovel and ask him to dig a hole while I go in the air-condition and sip a Fat Tire, he'd be half-way to China when my bottle's empty. Then he'd ask if he could dig another hole.

And this kid is brilliant. Not in a school book kind of way. He hates school. That's another story. But he's figured out how to fix most anything. He has a knack for finding lawn equipment next to dumpsters or at garage sales for cheap because they "don't work". Then he fiddles with them and discovers they need some $1.50 spark plug or some wire he can rig up from spare parts laying in his yard then boom - he's got another working add to the other 3 he's got. Then eventually he'll sell it in his Mom's garage sale for $25-$30. Amazing. The sad thing is that at one time *I* could have identified myself with the guy who puts his mower out next to a dumpster because it "wouldn't work". Not that I've actually done that but who knows how many times I have taken the easy way out and just replace some malfunctioning item rather than try to fix it, or make it work somehow. I've learned to be more like Tiger in recent years. And if I don't know how to fix it, Tiger can.

Lord, help me...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


This morning Agent offspring and I took a stroll downtown in the mother city. Downtown is a hotbed of homeless activity during the pre-noon (and evening) hours.

This morning's mission had nothing to do with going out and 'rescuing' the homeless or anything like that. It's just that I have quite a few homeless friends from the old izzy days and it's hard to keep up with them unless I go find them and hang out.

I saw several unfamiliar homeless faces - and none of them seemed 'engagable' today. Just as we were heading back to the Millenium Falcon I see Momo heading my way with his new, late model buggy in hand. Good Lord, I miss Momo. If Abilene has a "most famous homeless guy" title, it should go to Momo. He's the kind of guy most people love to hate. Bulldogish & stout in appearance and a huge chip on his shoulder, Momo makes it his mission to get kicked out of every public place, business, private property, and ministry he can find. But I've experienced the softer side of Momo so I've learned that this tough-guy act is just a survival mechanism.

One of my MANY favorite Momo stories: he strolled by our apartment one day several years back (when we lived near the tracks). He came in and saw this 18"X24" drawing of my wife & I from our wedding day. It's really nice and an artist friend from AW's homeland made it. Momo asks, "Is that you and Agent Wife?"
"I figured. You know how I could tell?"
"Because it's ugly"
That's Momo...the charming one.

God, thank you for putting Momo in my path this morning. I really miss him. Please take care of him. - Agent B

Lazarus parable

The ministrer at Highland coc here in our fair mother city, Mike Cope, has a blog that I started reading recently. The 2nd half of this post (starting with "I am upset. At myself") is a great insight on the Lazarus parable - Luke 16:19-31.

I do not know Mike but I've 'known of' him since the 1980's when I was a teenager in Houston attending the coc sponsored "Monday Night City-Wide Youth Meetings" in the summers where Mike spoke anually.

Church sign prayer

Dear God,

Is it a sin to poke fun at church signs? I know that the church is your bride so it's probably not good to make fun of her. Or even gently nudge her in the side and ask, "what the heck are you thinking?". I also know that poking fun of things usually demonstrates a lack of understanding of the item being made fun of. Which is my point. I don't understand church signs. Are they a form of evangelism? Like a cute, whimsical Hallmark card way to show people the truth and realness of your son (my friend Jesus)? Do they work? Has someone been lead to Christ and eternity with you from a "Wal-Mart's not the only saving place" schtick? There's all kinds of evangelism I don't personally care for, like passing out tracts. But I've actually heard of people coming in relationship with you from a goofy piece of paper they found in a public restroom - so I have no right to criticize tracts since they work...somewhere. Please tell me that these marquee messages are just a fad. Maybe they'll fade away in due time. Since my wife & I and some friends worship you in our homes should we rent a marquee sign for our frontyard? And what should it say? How would the handful of illiterate neighbors benefit from this?

Thank you for being a loving father and putting up with me and my nonsense. - Agent B

Monday, September 05, 2005

Dollar Store Dignity

Does anyone have knowledge of, an inside scoop, or opinions on Dollar Stores? Agent Wife is a big fan of them. I'm indifferent yet I lean towards disliking them. Yes, some items are priced very low and are good deals but many of the exact same items are cheaper at HEB or Wal-Mart. Plus a lot of Dollar Store items are just cheap crap.

I bring up the subject here because because I notice a huge difference in the presentation and levels of dignity between Dollar Stores located in poor neighborhoods and the ones in nicer neighborhoods of the mother city. Is that a coincidence? I haven't researched enough. And don't worry - I won't call Al Sharpton over this matter...or any matter. But my main example, Dollar General, has 2 stores near my neighborhood (a poorer side of town). And they're both a mess. Merchandise is always in disarray and the overall atmosphere is undignified (bright lights, stained ceilings and floors, apathetic employees, etc). And poor people flock to these stores - as if they assume crappy stores is what they deserve. But the Dollar General in River Oaks shopping center and the new one on Catclaw Drive are much nicer.

What gives?

I can't resist...

(or...Church signs as interpreted by Agent B)

Thank you Church Sign Generator for making my sick fantasies come true.

Plenty more where that came from...

Secret missions on my doorstep

I'm not exaggerating. As soon as I published the previous post our doorbell rings. It was 10:30pm. I answer and a young woman who I've never seen was standing there crying, weeping and desperate. She asked to use our phone but really, she didn't know what she wanted. She wanted out of her desperate life. She and a boyfriend were staying down our street with some people she didn't know. It started getting rough so she went for a walk. So I ask her point blank,
"Of all the houses on Undercover Lane, why did you come here?" - 'cause there's like 49 houses on my street.
"I came here because I saw the light".

She was meaning our porch light. But I'm honored with the metaphor. This 28 year old mom spends 2 hours crying, telling us her life story, confessing sins, and praying with us. She wants to get back home to Lometa, TX and arranged something after using our phone and reaching a friend. She knows the CEO and my friend Jesus but hasn't kept in touch with them since her teen years. She felt that her calling in life is to become a drug & alcohol counselor due to her real life experiences with these vices. She wouldn't stop thanking us for praying with her.

I usually change people's names on this blog to protect the guilty (and innocent). But this woman's (real) name is Amy. Prayers for her life to change and to follow what the CEO has planned for her are appreciated.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Outside the church (club) part XXVII

Last night my secret agent family and I visited my old friend Jack Kerouac and his family. They were in from Oklahoma and staying with another family from our charismatic club days. Jack and I go WAY back, before our marriages but during my manic depression days 11 years ago. The CEO used us both to help each other through depression and other life and spiritual issues that hit young men at post-college age.

I've been assigned duty outside the club for 3 years. And ever since it appears that members of my last club treat me with caution or 'kid-gloves'. Like I was a nuclear bomb that might blow up any moment. Maybe I'm hallucinating. If you knew me and my wife you'd think we're the most easy-going humans on the planet. Well...maybe just Agent Wife.

I'm sure people leave churches for all type of silly reasons. But it's possible that some people go outside the church walls because their God-given mission in life could not be executed within the matter how hard they tried. Most former club (church) members get blackballed as "offended" and/or "rebellious" by the church. That's unfortunate, if not abusive.

Being offended or rebellious is in the eye of the beholder.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sanford & son (& daughter & son & Mexican boyfriend)

I've discovered that poor people can be some of the most generous folks around. It's always assumed they would be desperately grasping the little they have.

My next door neighbors, the Sanfords, are part of the poverty class. Their house and belongings always 'look' rundown but their family rarely goes 'without'. The mom, Frieda, lives on some sort of government funded disability check. Her boyfriend, Manuel, moved here from Mexico a few years ago. He only speaks Spanish and he works real hard clearing fields of mesquite trees somewhere near Cisco, TX. Sometimes he works 6, even 7 days a week. He has to use his own chainsaw and use his own truck to haul the wood he chops. But he gets paid cash daily.

Frieda has 3 teenagers: a daughter Jessie who graduated high school last year (the first ever in her family - we're proud of her), and 2 sons, the Bulldog and the Tiger. During the summers the boys work construction or with Manuel to help support the house as well as earn their own spending money. I'm amazed at how they gladly offer their mom about $50 from each paycheck for household bills. That's far from anything I did with money as a teen.

Another major form of income is garage sales & flea markets. Frieda and her kids have become quite the entreprenuers in the poverty culture as they buy stuff one weekend then sell it in their front yard the following week. And they're always thinking of me and my family. Today she gave us 2 fancy dress-up outfits for my offspring that she found at a garage sale. And I lost my pocket knife a while back so they gave me one of several new knives she bought and planned to sell for $2 each. I didn't ask for it. They just offered. Plus, everything in their possesion is for sale. They hang on to nothing. Imagine that: having no long term possession of anything! There's gotta be a Jesus message in there somewhere.

Although the Sanfords are poor and get food from various pantries around town, free clothing, have meals-on-wheels delivered daily, and a house that's mickey-moused together, they have more financial resources than the average person in the poverty culture. But I'm convinced that their income is NOT the reason they avoid 'lack'. The book tells us over and over that you reap what you sow. It's a spiritual law that cannot be broken (like the non-spiritual law of gravity) regardless if you are a Christian or not. And the Sanfords sow generously so they reap generously. They host BBQs almost twice a month. They always invite us and various neighbors and send a plate to the home-bound Obi-Wan. They even invited in a homeless woman who somehow migrated to our street which is off the beaten path for our homeless friends.

My favorite part about the Sanfords...Jessie, the Bulldog, and the Tiger grew up going to church food pantries to get free food, clothes, etc. When asked what is church about they reply, "a place that has people who give stuff". That's their only view of church.


A one-piece puzzle. That would be pretty dumb. And boring. Probably wouldn’t be considered a puzzle at all. Just a monstrosity. My offspring loves playing with these wooden puzzles with big pieces at the downtown library. Even the easiest ones have something like FOUR pieces as opposed to ONE.

We humans easily fall into the temptation to be all things to all people. Which can usually mean we’ll be mediocre at a lot of things but not excellent at anything.

It would be utter nonsense if our fair mother city had only one ministry to the poor. That ministry would topple over from within. People would become numbers instead of names. It would have to be run like a business instead of a family.

One of the most covert operations assigned to me in the last few years involved me making contact with every ministry group in the mother city (and a few beyond) that would allow me. I have literally been in the doors of every ministry to the poor in town that I know of. Everything from pregnancy counseling to soup kitchens, orphanages to mom-n-pop church food closets and beyond.

During this mission I discovered that the CEO gave me one of the most unique views of benevolent-type ministries in the mother city. And I report this with no judgement as my data findings exposed my own doings of the past. Each organization had blinders on causing them to not see the other organizations in town. Seriously. It was as if they were convinced that they were the only ones doing this kind of work. And then I realized that’s exactly how I was when I was in their shoes. Oh sure, I knew there were other ministries in town, but I might offer critical words towards them. “XYZ Ministry doesn’t do it this way like us, etc.” Why does it always sting when you see something in someone else...which ends up being yourself? Forgive me and change my heart God.

But despite blinders, the CEO will make sure things get done anyway. Every single group in town has its own niche. And a very necessary niche I might add. And every single group seems to meet a need that otherwise wasn’t being met. My most favorite example is downtown in the mother city. On one city block (maybe it’s one and a half) is THREE ministries that all seem to fit together somehow...and I’d bet money they didn’t sit in a room and plan that. Breakfast On Beech Street (B.O.B.S.), housed by the Disciples of Christ group, not only serves a cooked breakfast (a very good one), but also hands out a sack lunch for the road M-F. Then City Light, run by the Baptists, serves a lunch throughout the week among many other things. Then behind them is the Presbyterian food pantry that gives away groceries every Tuesday. Hot breakfast, sack lunch saved for dinner, lunch in the mess hall, then groceries for the weekend. If you’re downtown you ain’t going hungry.

That mosaic must have been placed by the CEO himself. I bet it makes a picture of the Kingdom.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Perspective: woe is me

I have planned on keeping this blog on target with subjects as they pertain to the life, observations, and surroundings of Agent B. Thus, I will most likely avoid such things as standard news items (like Hurricane Katrina) unless it fits this blog.

So this moning I go to turn on this here laptop (a very nice gift I aquired through an investment group that decided to disolve itself - hey, I lost nothing yet gained a cool computer) and this laptop decides to crash. OK - big deal. All my bookmarks and keyboard settings are lost. Boo-hoo. But the real sucky deal is I (ignorantly) had a whole summer's worth of digital photos of my offspring (an infant learning things for the 1st time) that's now gone for good. And I'm big on historical preservation...especially if it involves my family and offspring. My negelgence for not burning them on disc yet.

Well, yes I don't have a TV but all my friends and neighbors do. So I've seen a fair share of the hurricane horror. And here I am sitting across the table from my baby who's eating lunch. And I'm whining about losing photos of him crawling for the 1st time yet there's people who lost everything and won't get to watch their babies eat lunch ever again.

Oh forgive me God of my insensitivity and self-centeredness...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

minor scare, coda

All is well. Obi-Wan is home from the emergency room an back to normal. I knew he was well when I 1st walked into the room he was assigned (about an hour after the ambulance picked him up) and I could hear his laughing and humor. The nurse was checking his blood pressure and as she placed the device around his bare arm he yelled, "GOOD GOLLY WOMAN, DID YOU JES' PULL DAT OUDA DA FRIGARATA?".

Thanks for any and all prayers.

minor scare

Ambulances & sirens just came roaring down my street and stopped in front of Obi-Wan's house. Oh crap, I thought. Slapped my sandals on and ran out. Not as a gawker. My best friend could be in trouble.

For an 88 year old diabetic with numerous health issues related to age and diabetes, Obi-Wan is in great shape. But lately he's been slipping into lala land for countless hours due to low blood sugar. Like this time. Thankfully his nurse came by to pick him up for a scheduled doctor appointment and found him unconcious. Guess he'll get to see several doctors now. I didn't get to visit him this morning as I'm entertaining family from out-of-town. I think Obi-Wan will be OK. They just hauled him off to a local hospital. I'm going to go see him if he's in there all day.

I'll post any updates. Prayers for Obi-Wan appreciated.

Prophets on 102.7 "THE BEAR"

I like prophets. Prophetic words are cool. In my charasmatic club days prophetic stuff ran rampent. I don't know if that's a good thing. Prophetic giftings are still a semi-mystery to me. When used properly it's obvious the words come from the CEO. When used improperly, it's abusive and people's lives can get really disfunctional. Really.

In the world of charismania, many people run after the folks that gladly let everyone know they're prophets. These guys usually speak ear-tickeling words. I've always appreciated the quiet prophets, the ones who keep their gift under wraps until the CEO really makes them speak, which is usually once in a great while. Sometimes years.

However, I have a new favorite prophet. Or prophets. Prophet Daltry and Prophet Townsend wrote and sang these words the year I was born.

Won't Get Fooled Again

The whole point of this song by The Who is summed up in the very last line, "Meet the new boss...Same as the old boss". Basically - don't get fooled by something that appears to be different than what you just left (ie: Same old same old).

Like sin. If you get out of one sin and right into another, well meet the new boss.

I don't have too many educated (or prophetic) comments on the new church trend called 'emergent church'. I try not to make it a practice to criticize my christian brothers in any capacity, although not being part of the club makes me a target for assumed criticism. I've read 2 'emergent' books thus far. I liked them fairly well. But I'm still trying to gather if this is "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" material. In some ways, being outside the church and meeting with other Christians in a "rigid flexable" timetable (as I do) sounds emergent. Perhaps I'm a pioneer! But on the other hand, emergent also sounds like, "hey...instead of pews we got COUCHES and coffee!". Meet the new boss.

I'll take the coffee.