Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Obi-Wan Tales Chapter II: racism

*I had actually written this post before the death of MLK's widow. But I guess the timing lines up...


There' a small 3"X5" B&W framed photo in Obi-Wan's living room. It's a photo of him in a military dress uniform standing next to a young looking woman. The woman is his mother (guess she just looks young or she was a teen mom). Based on the appearance of the photo and doing the math with Obi-Wan's current age, I assumed this was WWII era, which turned out to be correct

Obi-Wan was drafted into the US army and served for 3 years. He was very against going to fight in a war (and still is...don't ever watch the evening news with him). But, as I imagine, being a black, undereducated man in 1942, he might not have had any say so in the matter. So out of respect and humbleness he obeyed his country's order and was trained somewhere in Wyoming.

I've always heard that black soldiers in WWII had it much worse than any other combat units due to ill racial relations. And being that I'd rather hear facts straight from the source than trust some agenda filled history book or Hollywood movie, I asked him straight up: "Obi-Wan, tell me the straight scoop. What was it like to be in WWII as a black man?"

So he told me. Obi-Wan served as a truck driver on the island of Malta and in Florence, Italy. One time in Italy, behind enemy lines, he and another black truck driver somehow got separated from their large convoy and were lost. They drove forever looking for allies when they stumbled upon another US Army base...a white one. And he said those guys wouldn't let them stay around and wouldn't give them something to eat. I can't imagine...finding your own countrymen behind enemy lines...you're fighting on the same side with them...and they won't let you hang around or even EAT.

Somewhere way back in Obi-Wan's youth his step father gave him advice on how to handle white bigots. He told Obi-Wan, "Don't pay them no mind".

Obi-Wan's seen black guys get beat up and all other horrible stuff throughout his life. And he never "hung on" to any of this. He could have let all of these events fester within and create hatred.

But instead he avoided conflict and befriended whenever possible. Like Jesus, he turned the other cheek. And he didn't pay them no mind.

Monday, January 30, 2006

More revolution

Good comments were left on the recent post of Barna's Revolution. If you're interested in this book (either positively or negatively), I highly recommend the interview that our own special agent Genty conducted...way back when he was employed by liteway.com.

I especially enjoy Barna's answer on the emergent movement and its possible relation to "revolution". Perhaps because his answer is identical to my opinions ("hey, instead of pews, we've got couches!"). He just worded it better.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


I'm not Oprah. I don't make book recommendations unless asked.

For a few months I've known of this book Revolution by George Barna, the stats guy. I think it's $12 on his site but I'm not in a merchandise buying mood these days. So after a few failed atempts of my own library searches (I'm really bad in those places) my friend and fellow agent The Librarian (aka Agent S of the downtown BBH) tracked it down from a library across country on faculty loan. It's never what you know. Always who.

Although I'm only halfway through it, I'm relieved. Overjoyed. I have finally found something that assures me I'm not a freakazoid in reference to my feelings on the local church, nor am I "rebellious" (I've known I'm not rebellious...it's just nice to hear somebody say so).

If Barna's research on church trends and statistics are correct (and he is 90% of the time), then the local church will no longer be the stronghold for spiritual formation and guidance. Hundreds or thousands of different outlets (family activities, home church or even something like The Table) will become more of the "norm". In 2000, 70% of all christ followers were tied to a local church and 30% were in different outlets. Those percentages will flip flop by 2025 based on Barna's trend research.

I think Barna's reading my mail. Or my blog.

Friday, January 27, 2006


The CEO always has interesting ways of sending me communications.

I have taken on a new persona of faith in recent months. Or so I think. Easier said than done. My explanation of this statement is as follows:

Instead of whining about finances I am trying to believe they will just be there when needed. I looked back at my journals from recent months. Most entries state things like "I don't know how we're going to make it through September", or "November is around the corner and I don't know how we'll get through financially". Well here it is...almost February...and I've never had any past due bills so I guess I'll stop crying. The CEO brings in money, temp jobs, gifts, and opportunities just at the right moment every time for the last 2 years or so. Never an overabundance. Just what I need.

So this past week, seeing that we have our mortgage payment due on the 1st, and seeing that the funds to pay it were not in the bank, I got a little antsy. Back when I had "steady income" (whatever the hell that is) I always paid the mortgage a month early (I'm a nerd that way - banks love me). And in the past the CEO always gave us what we needed a month in advance. But in recent months, we seem to receive as need arises. No more early payments made.

This morning Agent Wife was paid for some babysitting for last month which I forgot about. I thought this family wasn't going to be able to pay anymore as they're going through a crisis. So the CEO answers our mortgage payment prayer through my forgetfulness. Thank you god. And it came just as we needed it.

Later this morning I go to the downtown Baptist Beach Head to join Agent S's wife Leslie and company for the second week. All was fun like last week. Met new faces and got reacquainted with a couple of old ones. After the first lunch plates were served Leslie preached a little sermonette on, of all things, manna and the whinings by the children of Israel. Manna: it was given every morning to be used that day. All extra would ruin. And the Israelites STILL complained. Crap. This message is for me.

Then after lunch and during cleanup I started talking to Kurt. I haven't seen him in almost 4 years. Kurt's the most mild mannered, sweetest homeless guy you'll ever know. He looks about 60. His hand is crippled. And I remember him well from The Table at the old izzy days even though he was around for only a month. He washed our dishes after lunch each day, voluntarily. Kurt asked about the izzy group and told me how he really missed us when he returned to town a year ago.

Then the CEO starts speaking through him in what I'd consider prophecy. Things like, "the CEO's going to take care of you. You guys (izzy) will get what you need" etc.

Amazing how a little sermonette given to a lunch ministry crowd and a homeless guy can confirm the CEO's truth for me at this moment in time.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Obi-Wan Tales Chapter One: Skipper

There are several ongoing series on the agent b files...such as "The Legend Of", "Dream Reports", and more recently "The Table Report". A new series I'm introducing now is "Obi-Wan Tales". This is inspired by a recent comment by the stay-at-home mom...something about encouraging me to tell people's stories. I write about Obi-Wan a lot since he's my best friend and I see him every day, usually twice. But I've yet had a reason to retell the tales of his life as he's told them to me. And since he's 88 years old, there's a few tales to share.


One of my favorite pastimes is looking at photos. Even lousy snapshots in people's photo albums. It always makes me wonder who are the people I'm looking at, what were they thinking at the moment the camera snapped, and where are they now.

Obi-Wan has 4 photo albums plus a shoe box full of old B&W photos. I love it. He use to take his camera to work with him and take photos of his coworkers at the various service stations around the fair mother city he worked at for 30 years. It's cool seeing Obi-Wan all young with a cigar in his mouth and wearing some service station uniform while working on some 1950's car.

Anyway, in one photo album there was this kid who looked 9 or 10 standing in Obi-Wan's yard with a toy truck. It was obviously from the 1970's as the kid had this huge fro and wearing 70's clothes with cut-offs. "Who's this?" I ask.

"Oh. I forgot his name. I called him Skipper".

There were a few other photos of Skipper in front of a Christmas tree. "So who's Skipper?" I ask.

"He was a boy my wife & I tried to raise for a couple of years. He was as wild as a whip. He didn't have a dad and his mother was put away for a while."

"So what ever happened to Skipper?"

"Well, he came by about three years ago. Hadn't seen him since he was little. He just got out of the state pen after 12 years or so. He had come by to thank me for trying to raise him."

I'm still amazed that somewhere out there is a guy who's real name wasn't remembered. But Obi-Wan had enough effect on Skipper to make him want to find Obi-Wan years later and thank him for something that seemed like a failed venture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Table report #004: the waiting game

Perhaps my timing is way off on this whole venture. I don't know.

As stated here, I desire for The Table's groundwork be laid solid in 2006. Perhaps this is not the CEO's plan. But like those guys in John 21, I feel stupid having a desire and just sitting on it while I wait for something to fall out of the sky. Like verse 6, maybe Jesus will suddenly appear and show me where to throw my net.

As stated here last week, I found what I think is a killer location. Even though I don't have a dime to even rent a place right now, it doesn't cost anything to look. So I took action:
1) Called number on rental sign. Left message (I think). No reply
2) Called again 2 days later. No reply.
3) Went into agent overdrive. Looked up property records online. Found name of owner and a PO Box.
4) Did web search of owner. Found their place of employment and work phone #.
5) Called place of employment. That person no longer works there.

So what the flippin freak do I gotta do to see this joint?!? I figured I could send a letter to that PO Box or tape a note to the door of the property. But Agent Wife thinks I'm being obsessive about the whole deal.

I guess I shouldn't share with her my idea to bust into it with a crowbar in broad daylight...that'd get someone's attention.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Always more to the story...

Agent Wife and I moved into a modest sized house that we bought on Undercover Lane here in the fair mother city 3 years ago this Spring. This was a huge answer to prayer...two YEARS of prayer. Before that point we lived in an efficiency apartment that I rented a year before we were married. Once married, we tripped and stumbled into what some call "ministry", and therefore, financial insecurity, but the CEO took care of us just fine. Thus, we could never afford to get out of the efficiency.

Then the prayers were answered. In a moments notice we were completely out of financial debt. And within 5 months the CEO opened he doors for us to move into this house and hopefully start a family. Coincidentally, the move happened 3 months after my former employment with the church ended, but they were still paying me (a severance package?) for the following 6 months. This all worked out on paper with the banks for the mortgage, since I had a solid income, even though we knew that the great unknown was around the corner. All this to say...we KNOW that we KNOW the CEO put us in this house, on this street, in this neighborhood, at this place in time for a reason. We just didn't know what that reason or reasons were other than we wanted a house. And thank God, we got one now and thank him for it every day.

Well, I've written about Obi-Wan, the Sanfords, and countless others since this agent report started 6 months ago. I have yet to write about Terry and his 2 kids Jason (13) and Sally (11). They were a big part of our lives until last May when they disappeared from our street never to be seen again...until today....

In all my days at the izzy ministry, never had I seen a family situation as destitute as Terry's. And I thought I've seen it all: parents & kids who live on the streets and out of cars, etc.

The whole neighborhood knew young Jason & Sally. Kids always get around. Plus, they always looked kind of poor and dirty and people take notice of that. Plus Sally was a major clepto and liar and people really take notice of that. Besides Sally's problems, they were real sweet and innocent kids. They lived with their dad Terry, who had a real hard core drug addiction and lived in constant denial. But the family had some stability in their life as they lived with Grandma in her house down our street.

Then a year later, Grandma, who had slowly developed Alzheimers, was put into a nursing home in a nearby small town. And all home-life stability left with grandma. Within a few months, various utilities would be turned off due to unpaid bills by Terry and his irresponsibility. They showered at various neighbor's homes, including ours. Terry managed to rig up the electric each time it was cut off. So finally the electric company completely removed the cable to his house.

It was horrible. It was like they were homeless and camping out in an abandoned house on our street. The house looked like a wreck - a physical representation of Terry's life, I guess. I wouldn't care so much if a guy chose to live this way. Except he had 2 kids in his care. It got to where Jason & Sally were going door to door asking for food to eat and carrying baskets of laundry to be washed.

And of course with Jason and Sally being in the public school system, teachers take notice of their situation and CPS (Child Protective Services) get involved. I'm not a huge fan of CPS but they are a necessary evil in our society. Yet Terry managed to stay one step ahead of them at all times. And the kids were the ones suffering.

When school ended last May, Terry Jason & Sally disappeared for good. I asked the neighborhood kids and no one had seen them. Agent Wife and I had walked with them, prayed for them, and spent our lives with them for months then they were gone without a trace. They just abandoned the house.

Then today as we were returning from Agent Offspring's routine doctor visit we see Terry riding a bike down our street. It blew us away. He looked great. Even smelled good. He told me he's been at the Salvation Army in one of their detox programs and was doing well. He graduates next month. We plan to be there. The kids are in foster care now and he seems OK with that. He loves his kids. Now that drugs aren't clouding his judgment, he sees what's best for them.

Thank you lord for bringing Terry into our lives today...and showing us the rest of the story.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fish out of water...ramblings

I went to a church with my dad yesterday here in the fair mother city. It was a megachurch in the church of christ denomination. And they'd hate to hear me call them a denomination since the proudly think they're not. But they are, believe me. I live in the city of their unofficial headquarters.

I've been this coc megachurch several times before. I lived around the block from it for 5 years before we moved to Undercover Lane.

If you've ever read the agent b files for half a second, you know I'm not gung ho on churches, aka sunday morning social clubs. But if I'm going to visit one, a mega church is fine with me. It's big enough to slip in and out unnoticed. Nobody's standing in the front area trying to hard-sell me their membership package. So I went unnoticed, with the exception of sitting near 3 families that I went to school with, one of which I haven't seen since I graduated 12 years ago. They were visiting town. So, great. I run into people who knew me in my fool-hardy long-haired days of youth. And now I'm living foolish long-haired days of mid 30's (we all come full circle, mine came sooner than expected). Thank god they didn't ask me what I do these days. I most always fear those discussions where I'm invited to say something impressive about myself. And I don't have anything impressive to say. No one in the coc realm would take my gags about undercover work, or even "a missionary in Abilene" line seriously at all. Well, I'm a dad now. That usually gets the conversation off my lack of profession.

The "service" (sarcastic quotes intentional) was fine. After being out of the church culture for 3 years I finally realize how much of a show everything really is. This is no new discovery. Christ followers have complained about this for years, but nobody knows what to do about it other than keep the show going week after week. When the service starts, I can hear ELP screaming, "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends". Honestly, I'm not trying to bag on this church. They're great people. I know many of them and have had secret agent dealings with some of them too. But sitting through church is like a really boring-ass TV show. Critics of me would say, "Well, it shouldn't be about you. You are there to worship the LORD". If sitting through a methodical, weird cultured order of events is worship then game's over...I'm outta here. Oh wait, I already am. I'd like to make my whole life be a worship anyway.

Dad later asked me my opinion about their budget statement. I guess this sunday was their brief business talk from one of the elders. He said their overall income in 2005 was $2.3 million and they gave $1.6 to missions. That's like over 50%. Very impressive. The million dollar income was jaw dropping (not surprising, they're the 3rd largest coc in the world) but I was impressed with their percentages. George Barna reports that the average church in North America spends 98% of its income on itself (ie: maintaining a meeting) and 2% for missional work. Sick. But still, if I was in charge of $2.3 million dollar jack, there sure as hell wouldn't be no mega meeting to maintain with it. But that's just me...

Then the day before (Saturday) I ran into a woman from the charismatic church I used to be at. She asked me where I went to church now. For the first time in 3 years I told the truth: nowhere. Her face turned sorrowful like I had said I worship satan and drink blood. Or became a Methodist. Nothing of the sort, I am obeying the CEO for what has been called of me. If I was to explain my life to her in 10 seconds or less it would come across as desperate for approval or arrogant. It'd break the Matt 6:1-4 moniker. So, until further notice, my reply is nowhere.

I just don't know where I fit in anymore. And I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Legend of Willy & Patches (pt II)

Part II is the story of Patches, Willy's loyal one-time roommate...

I briefly met Patches at the izzy food pantry, before he and Willy were roommates. He lived in a rental house behind the Civic Center downtown. Like Willy, Patches lived the life of a mole. He fit the majority of that profile: came from a wealthy family, highly addicted to substances, (eventually) received a monthly government check, etc.

Legend has it that Patches' grandfather was the Attorney General under President Johnson. And this grandfather left Patches an inheritance which he received at age 21. I was told that it was a sum in the neighborhood of $125,000. He blew through it within 3-5 years. He took his friends and traveled around the world, literally. They climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and visited other exotic places. I can't imagine having that kind of money and having nothing to show for it a few years later.

Patches had extremely low self esteem and self worth. He was addicted to pain meds or any kind of prescription meds he could get his hands on. And the worse part is that he had an uncle who was a retired doctor and he'd prescribe most anything Patches wanted. In other words...Patches was related to a supplier AND enabler of his addictions.

When Patches got a new prescription, he'd often take the whole bottle at once and be in a doped up daze for about 4 days straight. I can only remember Patches being 100% sober about 3 times in the several years I knew him. Willy & Patches became roommates after one of Patches' dope spells where he sat in Willy's recliner for an entire weekend and never moved. Willy felt as though it was his job to be his care giver from then on.

Like Willy, Patches chose Jesus as his king one day when he was coming down from a 4 day high. He really took in our Friday morning hangout times reading through John in The Book with The Bossman. One Friday morning, some doper friend of his came over. Patches, in his doped up haze introduced The Bossman as "the pastor" and me as "pastor Jr". That nickname has created great fodder for the izzy gang to this day.

It was Patches who called us from the emergency room the night Willy died. That event was a tough blow for him. Willy was one of the few shining, positive aspects of his life that he enjoyed. They were like true brothers. And that evening he had to return to an empty apartment...alone. He ran off from the hospital parking lot on foot and couldn't be found. It was a rough night for me too. I couldn't sleep much so I headed over to Willy & Patches' apartment to see if he ever made it back home. He was there but didn't want me to come in because he didn't want me to see the way his friends were mourning by shooting dope. I'll never forget sitting outside on the porch at 4am in the cold, crying with each other. That's when Patches told me he loved me.

During the next year we rarely saw Patches at izzy or out in the community. He moved 2 or 3 times and isolated himself from most people. Plus, he was usually so doped up when I'd go see him which made it impossible to communicate. His number of suicide attempts increased. I've dealt with his slit wrists more than once.

A year later when izzy was removed from the church building, we lost all contact with him. I had heard he left town to be with his ailing mother in East Texas. Then eventually he moved back. I ran into him at Carmine's funeral (another mole). Carmine died of AIDS complications. Man, that funeral was sad. Only 7 people were there. You KNOW it's a small funeral when you show up and they ask you to speak. The photo to the right is Carmine and Patches in the summer of 2002.

Then 6 months later in August 2003 Patches' name shows up in the newspaper's obituary section. Damn. I really missed him but I wasn't real sad as I figured his suffering had finally ended. Actually, I was amazed he had lived this long.

That following day before the funeral I was out at my secret rendevous point with the CEO. At this point in time, the izzy group had been out from the church for 8 months. Rumors of the izzy group started snowballing around town and getting real vicious. While praying about all the church mess I flippantly asked the CEO what was I to make from Patches' death. I swear, for the first time in my life I heard a faint voice in my head:

"bury the past"

I thought that was very interesting as it seemed relevant to both the church mess and Patches' upcoming funeral as he was one of the last remnants from the izzy group's old days. So I say to the CEO, "OK. Fine. Give me a sign that this word is really from you".

My wife and I went to the funeral. It was so un-Patches like in many ways as the place was filled with these starched shirts and blue hairs - all friends of his parents. I got to meet his lesbian sister who plays bass in a Vegas punk band. I also met his only child, a daughter who was about 18. I gave her an envelope with photos of her dad.

The service was short and sweet, given by some Episcopalian minister who never knew Patches. Then he announced, "We're now going to listen to one of Patches' favorite songs". At the opening note, I immediately recognize MY all time favorite song, Behind Blue Eyes by The Who, I burst out screaming.

I got my sign.

Not only is this my favorite song, but I had just finished learning it the night before and felt ready to play it live in my solo act on the 10 caliber. Hearing this song at Patches' memorial service really meant a lot to me. Behind Blue Eyes described Patches' life to a tee. It's a song about him. And I never knew he liked it as much as me.

The nature of my kind of agent work can be difficult. It's very relational based and impossible to avoid getting in too "deep" with the folks I'm called to. And unfortunately, the poverty class often have short life spans due to various circumstances and decisions they make. I deal with death of friends more often than I'd want. It sucks.

Fists clenched and all, I really miss Willy and Patches. A lot.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Legend of Willy & Patches (pt I)

Patches & Willy, Thanksgiving 2000

We dig deep into the izzy family past to bring you one of my favorite memories in the secret agent world: the inescapable duo of Willy and Patches. They were moles rooming together in the low income, drug den apartment complex (“Le Chateau”) across the street from the church building we operated out of. This file, part I, is the life and times of Willy Klink.

Willy came to the izzy family by way of his criminal dealings. He needed to perform several hundred hours of community service as per his probation officer. So he goes across the street to our food pantry and asks if he can volunteer in exchange for these hours needed. Usually, I hated dealing with community service people. They had no heart in what was going on, no commitment of any kind, and flakey as hell. So I politely refused these folks whenever possible. There were plenty of other places in town they could serve. But for some reason I felt like Willy was supposed to hang around. Maybe it was the CEO whispering in my ear. I don'’t know.

A neat, somewhat tidy, and conservative-looking guy wearing birth-control glasses, Willy served and served well. We developed a trust in him and over time made him overseer of the entire food pantry operation. He had a real love for people in need and got to know them all on first name basis. His slow, West Texas drawl (developed in his hometown of Coleman) was classic. He had a laugh like ZZ Top's La Grange (ah-HAW-HAW-HAW-haw). He often told great stories, like how as a 13 year old kid he and his brother were sledding down the legendary "Jack-Ass Hill" in Coleman. Willy slammed his head into a mailbox and he had seizures ever since. His brother got his front teeth knocked out on the same hill. To this day, I can't drive through Coleman without thinking about Jack-Ass Hill and how it almost wiped out the Klink family lineage.

Willy had an epiphany in his apartment one afternoon while I was visiting. He was depressed and tired of his life of drugs and various failures in life. Somehow he saw hope and life by serving in the food pantry which brought him joy. Right there in his apartment that day in early May 2000 he decided to follow my friend Jesus. I remember the date well because at that moment I originally planned to be at some conference featuring a big name charismaniac. But the night before, both Agent Wife and I received orders from the CEO that “training is over...it'’s time to start DOING it”. Thus, I've rarely visited long teaching sessions or conferences since. I'’m not the cause of Willy'’s salvation, but I'’ve always wondered what would have become of him had I not gone to his apartment that day.

Willy hung with us for the better part of 2000 and early '01. At his and Patches' request, The Bossman and I read The Book together every Friday morning. We combed through the gospel of John one chapter a week, then slowly went into Acts. It was a funny atmosphere for a "bible study". Beer cans, ash trays and some paraphenalia and an occasional Playboy littered the coffee table. The place was usually trashed but tidyed-up in a "Willy" kind of way. And questionable-looking guys always wandered in during our reading and discussions. As soon as they realized The Bossman & I weren't there for drug deals or saw The Book on the floor, they'd quickly scatter out. Like The Book was kryptonite or something.

By late 2001, our Friday morning gatherings had faded away as did Willy from our lives. He slowly quit coming to help at the food pantry. A landmark event happened for him in October 2001 - he finally paid off probation and his debt to society was over. I think he took on a celebration mode and started partying hard. He started hanging around some secretive characters that wouldn't let me get near them.

The izzy group had (what turned out to be) our last ever "Family Night". This is a big dinner meal outreach for all the family, folks who got groceries and their loved ones, etc. There was usually 150-250 people at these. We needed the grocery room in operation that night so I recruited Willy as we were going to be short handed.

When Family Night started, we became concerned when Willy didn't show up. He was always dependable and on time. About 20 minutes into the outreach gig we got a call from his roommate Patches. All I heard was that they were at the emergency room and the outlook was not good. I jumped in the BnT (brown-n-tan, the official izzy van) and raced over to the hospital. I had no idea what to expect as I didn't know of Willy being sick that week.

I got there and flashed my associate pastor creds so they sent me to his room. I still didn't know what was going on. As soon as I touched the door knob, those white lights above the door started flashing and a siren started going off. Someone pushed me out of the way and said I couldn't go in there right now. Next thing I know, I'm being sent into a counseling room with Patches and a few of their drug friends.

The doctor came in and said Willy was dead. They don't know what went wrong, but they suspected that he had taken some bad batch of dope. That's it. Boom. He's gone. I missed seeing him one last time by 5 seconds. Damned brown-n-tan. Those drug friends of his left and were never seen again. Ever. Willy died October 25, 2001, right in the middle of izzy's last Family Night, which began the ministry's own demise a year later.

The izzy group hosted our first ever memorial service a week later. There was no body as his brother donated it to science since he had no money. The memorial was quite a slice of life from the izzy family and beyond. There were homeless people, little old ladies in wheelchairs who Willy served with groceries, ministers, Willy's gay brother from Coleman, even an old high school buddy of his who read the obit in the paper.

Four years later and I still miss him. We used to sit and talk in his apartment for hours, watching Gun Smoke. He was once a guitarist in a blues band and I always dreamed of jamming with him when he paid off probation so he could buy a guitar.

Willy was a true friend and will forever be missed.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fade back in

Today I went and hung out at the downtown Baptist Beach-Head where Agent S's wife Leslie runs the kitchen operations. I think she had invited my wife to come and help as she was short handed (this may be a continual need?). But Agent Wife had 2 toddlers to watch all day, so I went.

I guess I've been more or less invited to serve at various places around town for the last three years (when the izzy group ministry became homeless itself). When you're fairly well known for being the director of such a place that no longer exists, you get these invitations a LOT. I've avoided joining in particularly because so many of the poor knew me as "THE guy" at izzy and I didn't want there to be expectations on me by anyone. I now think it's been 3 years and, therefore, enough time has passed for me to slowly emerge back on the scene. Thus...becoming less of an undercover agent, I guess.

I really enjoyed it. In some ways, it was like old home week. I recognized about 10-15% of the people. Two of them had mistaken me for Agent S (which was just fine with me), but that's kind of funny since I don't think we look alike at all.

I spent the first hour and a half down in the basement playing dominoes with a few folks. Momo was there. I saw him arrive...chip on his shoulder and all. Then he recognized me which threw him for a loop since this is not a place I usually hang out. I think he dropped the chip from that point on, which I credit to the fact that we know each other fairly well. Later, I went upstairs to the dining room to help prepare for the lunch crowd.

I really enjoyed today. I think three years has been the perfect amount of time to fade away from the social ministry-operation scene, reflect on those years, ponder what the CEO would have us secret agents do within the poverty community world wide, then fade back in.

The people (or The Family as we called them at izzy) are what made the day worth while. It's always good seeing old friends again and making new ones in the process.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Table report #003

Nothing major...I finally inquired of the storefront rental downtown from The Bread Man. It's definitely a "no-go".

He said rent was $800 (probably trying to scare me off, but who knows). He also wants a retail shop there. And since he has an obvious stake in the downtown scene, I suppose he can control the shape of things to come in that area.

I knew The Table would be a long shot at getting in that location since it's pretty much considered th hoity-toity arts district of the fair mother city. And, as much as I hate to write this, the other shop owners in that area probably couldn't stand to have the poor hanging around daily. But I had planned to combat that in a dignified way.

Anyway, I went to plan B. I checked out a locale that Agent C had notified me of a few months ago. Again, as much as I hate writing this, that particular neighborhood probably wouldn't notice the poor hanging around this storefront. In fact, they'd welcome it.

The storefront with the "for rent" sign was way too small for The Table's needs. But next door (and presumably "for rent" by the same owner) is...get this...A CLOSED DOWN RESTAURANT. Complete with kitchen and everything (or from what I could tell looking in the window). I got home and called the phone number on the sign. Nothing. After 10 rings something resembling an answering machine beeped with no recorded voice. So I left a message. I look forward to hearing from the landlord.

My dad was with me on this mission. He mentioned some red tape stuff I hadn't thought of. Like zoning, etc. Since The Table will be a church (one that happens to feed people from a cafe), I do not know how to go about finding zoning rules, restrictions, and regulations for churches. Please comment below if you have suggestions.

And, of course, I still don't know as of this time how physically the rent would be paid or food supplied. I do know the CEO will send the provision. But I feel this rental hunt is the first step in knowing "how much a month" to pray for.

I can't imagine that this would cost thousands of dollars...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Seen by men

I think there has been an ungodly act that has subtly, or maybe innocently plagued the church, believers and followers of the CEO. "Ungodly" as in "opposite of what is expected or commanded for followers". Somewhere along the journey, followers have traveled the path of doing righteous acts or giving to the poor in full view of their peers, or just in front of "man". Bare with me as I try to explain this...

What got me thinking about this subject more and more are some of the TV shows that air at Obi-Wan's house daily. Obviously, there are plenty of ill-willed talk shows and court TV shows that mock humanity. So I won't go into that. But the flip side is a handful of shows that bring some kind of positive humanity to TV, even though this humanity is manufactured (think Oprah, Dr. Phil, etc as opposed to Maury, Springer, etc).

On Sunday nights there is an hour long show dedicated to building or remodeling a house for some family in a devastating situation. I think it's called Extreme Home Makeover or something. In comparison to all the crap and stupidity on TV, Home Makeover is probably a welcome change. Far better than Big Brother VI (or as I renamed, Big Cleavage).

A month or so after the hurricane mess on the gulf, shows like Oprah & Dr. Phil were demonstrating "do-gooder" stuff like giving away furnished homes to people who lost theirs. Of course, the people had to have a good devastating story for TV, etc. But they got a free home out of the deal. And, like I said, compared to all the other tripe on TV, this is a fresh breath. Something positive.

But as these big TV personalities flaunt their influential power and benevolence on their shows and the audience applauded, I heard the voice of the CEO: "This is not my way".

By hearing "the voice of the CEO" I don't mean an audible, James Earl Jones voice saying, "Agent B...this is not MY way...thus sayeth ME". By hearing the voice, I mean: right at that moment during the TV show I remembered the first 4 verses of Matthew 6 in The Book. And I trust that The Book is from and inspired by the CEO. Thus, his voice. But I do believe the CEO can talk to us in an audible voice if he so chooses (I heard it faintly a couple of times before).

These writings in Matthew 6 are pretty clear-cut and dry. I'm no doctrinal debater and thus, wouldn't know what the actual Hebrew or Greek was "really" referring to in Matthew 6. I just assume that my English, NIV translation is what it is when it reads "don't announce your gifts to the poor like the hypocrites" and thus do it "in secret".

Well, big deal. So Dr. Phil and a bunch of other TV yahoos do good stuff for people and make a heavily produced TV show about it and pat themselves on the back. Why would I care? I don't know anything about Dr. Phil and the others. Maybe they know or don't know the CEO. And it's not like they're exploiting the poor and ignorant like Maury & Springer and Divorce Court.

My observation and thus, my hearing the James Earl Jones voice of the CEO is about us: the followers or the church (whether it is a corporation or a body of believers). I'm sure we followers of Jesus do good things "in secret", and therefore, no one else knows about them. Right on. But so many times the church corporately as well as individual followers present their acts before a public audience. As if they are saying, "YAY! Look what we did! Yay us!!". I'm not trying to pour water on the rallying fire of followers who band together to build someone a house. Those kind of pep rally atmospheres can be fun. I'm mainly looking through this word from the CEO as, "why the hell do you go to the local news media, write about it in your newsletters, and brag to those outside your church or household about your acts of righteousness?"

Are a few pats on the back worth tossing out a reward for later?

Monday, January 16, 2006

the duck files

Sorry, no agent reports again today. Just more schtick. Maybe tomorrow.

Well, actually my dad is with us for a few weeks so today we engaged in agent activity in the neighborhood.

But the belated birthday meal at my favorite Chinese dig was this evening. Peking Duck was the dish (must order 24 hours in advance). Most people in the fair mother city do not know Peking Duck is available to them. Most people probably don't care.

Chef H is a local hero of mine. An actual Chinese guy, Chef was schooled in FIVE culinary regions of China. All dishes in the restaurant are made by him and him alone, behind the viewing glass.

His restaurant is small (I think it use to be a KFC years ago). His customers begged for him to get a bigger building to ensure they'd get a seat anytime. He refuses because of his level of quality control.

I have no idea what brought him to our fair mother city, but I ain't asking questions. Just thanking the CEO for Chef H and for any opportunity to eat his food.

*Agent dog partaking of her ritual duck head treat

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Catfish nugget party

Today I became three and a half decades old. I promise I'm not trying to solicit blog comments (yeah, right). But today has been a fairly significant event this year as it's the first birthday I've spent with my father since I moved from home half my life ago (literally).

Obi-Wan had us over for fried catfish nuggets and domino tournament, which is exactly what I wanted for my birthday. And german chocolate cake made by Agent Wife (from scratch). Oh yeah.

Agent Wife gave me a DVD of my absolute most favorite movie ever. Her home-made card was based on the movie complete with a drawing of a "liger" on the envelope. She originally planned to make a cheesy drawing of me with a shaded upper lip, but she ran out of time.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Texas tour III

Friday, I drove down to the Marble Falls area to pick up my dad at Grandaddy B's. I think dad had all he could stand so he's in the fair mother city with me for much of the next few weeks until he catches his plane out of Austin.

On our way out of the Texas hill country we stopped by a nursing home to visit my Great Aunt. Visiting a relative from my side of the family is an extremely rare event for me. There has never been a bond between any of us that I know of. Or maybe there is and I was somehow left out. Which is OK. I'm typically an isolationist.

My Great Aunt is my grandmother's (Grandaddy B's first wife and my dad's mom) oldest sister. My grandmother died in 1988 when I was in high school. I haven't seen my Great Aunt since I was 5 or 6. She looks a lot like grandma and is just as nice as her. We had a good time visiting her.

I've also been learning more about my family. Like how my grandma's brother was a minister. I didn't know there were any ministers in my family. He was schooled at nearby Howard Payne University in the 1940's or 50's. Who would have known...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reduced to a logo

Today at HEB I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that said Jesus in some kind of hip logo format. Not an uncommon sight. Especially in the fair mother city where any of the 145 local churches (as well as youth groups, spiritual events, and music groups) have their own t-shirt advertising their tribe.

Throughout my life I've mostly been a neutralist, or one who chooses not to advertise things. Exceptions abound. In my youth I've always been proud to wear over priced concert t-shirts as I wanted everyone to know I was a fan of said band...as if anyone cared. Now in my 30's, I'm proud to wear an occasional t-shirt that advertises a geographical place I've been, especially if it's unique and obscure to the fair mother city (Moose Jaw anyone??).

I've never put bumper stickers on my car. Ever. Except once, I put some hippie, pro-earth nonsense from greenpeace back in college. I got it free from a Edie Brickell show (one of their last). Or maybe I paid money. Probably too much. Anyway, it lasted a month after my dad pulled it off when I was over seas.

But I know for a fact that I've never had a pro-Jesus shirt or bumper sticker. I don't know why. I think I know why. But it's hard to explain. I think.

Are believers "weak christians" by refusing to have some Jesus logo on a shirt or bumper sticker? No. But why wouldn't I wear one? Am I ashamed of my god? No. Am I embarrassed to be seen in public with a cool christian tag on my clothing? Maybe.

A friend of mine explained that he didn't want a Jesus bumper sticker on his car because he didn't want people blaming Jesus for his crappy driving. I guess I don't wear Jesus shirts for similar reasons (my lousy fashions and sloppy appearance would bring shame on the kingdom for eternity).

Maybe part of my lack of faith apparel is because I don't want to cheapen my god. But I don't want to get into a finger pointing match with those who do wear such faith logos.

I still don't know where to go with this subject. Maybe that's why I usually advertise nothing. I think I'd rather my life speak for itself than a shirt or sticker say something half-assed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday randoms

North Korea

My friend Bella was in town today. She came over for lunch. We go way back about 10 years ago. She, I and another guy use to volunteer at a local battered women's shelter once a week and play with kids while their moms were in counseling. She's also the only person I knew who made it to my wedding in Canada. Yup, assembling groomsmen was easy since my only choices were my dad and a future brother-in-law. I would have had Bella be my "best woman", but that probably wouldn't have gone over well with the new inlaws.

Bella has been a missionary in South Korea for the last 2 years or so. Her desire is to help bring the secret agent agenda into North Korea. And last year she actually moved to a town in China on the N Korean border. She poses as an English instructor at a university, but meets and prays regularly with busisness people who have professional dealings within NK. I mean...she's like right there...as close as you can get without actually going into NK. This blows my mind because before I knew any of this about her (we had lost touch a while back) I had for some reason become consumed with stories on North Korea and its gulags, regime, and overall way of life.

My personal solution to NK woes: Bush & Co don't need to send in an armed military. If the US army took the beaches & Chinese & South Korean borders with a bunch of buffet tables and food tents, the whole damn county would surrender including the NK army. They're all starving over there. Kim Jong Il makes Hitler look like a school girl.

Anyway...anyone feeling the need to support secret agent ground troops in NK, let me know. I've got connections.

Testimony #004.5

Today, the Canadian funds check from December finally got americanized and deposited in Abilene. Thank you CEO...in your perfect timing as always. We needed that money by the end of this week, too.

Pork chop

I was describing Obi-Wan's recipe for fried pork chops on the phone to an old friend tonight. As I arrived at Obi-Wan's for our Criminal Minds engagement, low and behold one such pork chop was awaiting me on a plate. I knew there was a reason I had a small dinner at home tonight. I can't resist. Damn good eating.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Texas tour II

All went well (again). After 5 months I finally met with The Shaman at one of Seymour, Texas' finest. I took opportunity to interrogate him and figure him out. Then I (we) shared hopes, dreams, and tales. Very refreshing and well worth the trip.

The Shaman, who's around 60 or so, has a dream similar to mine like The Table. Except his involves an art gallery which funds resources for the poor distributed within the same facility. He calls this (as well as The Table) "market place mission" or something like that.

In the non-secret agent/personal world...

On the way to Seymour I accidentally stumbled upon one of my indulgent interests: Texas ghost towns. FYI, I begrudgingly own one of the premier books on the subject (Our dog chewed this book I borrowed from the library. We had to buy it. $30 down the tubes. Stupid bitch).

I was unfamiliar with Bomarton, Texas. That is, until I past some grand looking church building out in the middle of a field. I was making good time so I turned back and drove half a mile off the highway down the dirt road towards the building. It is the St. John's Catholic Church built by Czech immigrants about 80 years ago. And what was cool was that the building was unlocked (front door kept closed with a flower pot). Signs asked that visitors were welcome, but not to deface property. I figured that was my ticket to climb up into the bell tower. I jumped up a couple of feet and scaled to the lowest rung, then up the rickety wooden ladder through the 2'X2' opening. Indy Jones would be proud. Wish I brought my camera.

Ask me sometime of my interest in Belle Plain.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Texas whirlwind tour I

Mission accomplished. All went well.

Drove to Austin via Brownwood & Lampasas. Picked up Dad at the airport. Ran into him in the mens room by the baggage claim, so no waiting. Drove to Grandaddy B's off Lake LBJ. Returned to the fair mother city via Llano, Brady, and Coleman.
Returned by 5p to watch Agent Offspring. The Millenium Falcon ran very well.

Thanks for all prayers, etc. Tomorrow, all over again, in a different direction but not as long.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Case study & observation- social outings

The Sanford's invited us and several others over for a BBQ. This is not something new. It happens once a month. They're fun: loud Spanish music, cheap beer, and good food. Conversation varies, but it's all good.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Agent S and family invited me and my family over for dinner last night. I couldn't help but compare the differences in a middle class social outing like last night with a poverty class one like today.

First, as stated here, the poverty culture is best observed like a "foreign" culture (assuming that those reading this are not from the poverty culture). There is nothing wrong in what they do...just different. Here are a couple of my comparative observations from today:

1) Time - at Agent S's house, we were asked to come between 5:30 and 6p. So, being polite, we came between 5:30-6p. At the Sanfords, we've almost learned that there never really is a scheduled "time" to eat. Although the target was 2p (so we were told), we've learned over the years that we start heading over when we can smell the BBQ cooking. And that can be anywhere between noon and midnight. Today, I think we actually ate around 4:30...

2) Leadership - at Agent S's there was a clear-cut leadership role (either a head-of-household and/or head-of-kitchen) to start the meal with either a prayer, seating instruction, and/or serving instruction, etc. At the Sanford's, it's like "hey, there's a big bucket of cooked meat sitting by the grill". Then I reach in with my bare hands and start feasting. No real "start" time or instruction, except maybe Frieda Sanford yelling "food's ready!" around 4:30. No real instruction or anything.

Again, just as I stated in the August 05 post, neither way is "wrong". Just different.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Saturday randoms

I replaced the battery in the Millenium Falcon this morning. It had been giving me problems on and off for 2 weeks and the free electrical testing at the auto parts store diagnosed that it's dead. I have much driving to do around TX this week. Dad is coming in from NY on Monday. I'm picking him up in Austin, then dropping him off at Granddaddy B's. Then I'm meeting with The Shaman near Witchita Falls on Tuesday. Then, I assume, I'm going back to Grandaddy B's to get dad and bring him back with me to the fair mother city for a few weeks. Agent Wife & I own 2 aging vehicles and I struggle to keep at least one of them "road worthy" for long trips. Any and all prayers for my safety and the Falcon's operations are greatly appreciated.


As always, Obi-Wan's feet were bothering him today. I thought he once had one of those foot massager things - the kind you fill with water, plug in, stick your feet in, and turn on. So I found it in the garage and set it up in front of his chair. 30 minutes later I was helping him dry his feet and putting his shoes back on. I found it funny...I wonder if Jesus was literal about washing people's feet...and if it involved one of these foot massager things. Well, I wasn't really washing...just drying. The massager did the washing, I guess.


We were invited over for dinner at the home of Agent S (The Librarian). His wife runs the kitchen/food operations among other ministries at the beach head downtown. I actually met her first, before Agent S, during izzy's ministerial contraband gig 2 years ago. The CEO is answering long awaited prayers of mine about having friends the same age as us with small children. And they roughly have the same agenda in life as us too. It was very good getting to know them.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Table...moving slowly

I'm not giving up on my dream. It's only the 6th day of the new year...and it's not like I have to make something happen in 2006 anyway. But it would sure be nice if this gets moving this year.

I went downtown today to visit the The Bread Guy. He runs a shop which has an adjoining storefront for rent. I think he owns both places. I've rarely visited his shop, but amazingly enough he knows me and acts like we're old friends. Back in 1992 a college buddy of mine worked for him. A family member of The Bread Guy had passed away so The BG was selling boxes of old classical records which I was interested in. And he's remembered me ever since. So since I'm possibly interested in his vacant storefront, I plan to take advantage of this obscure acquaintance. But he was on vacation and won't be back until next week. So I'll have to check in after Wednesday as I have much traveling to do Mon & Tues.

Afterwards, I smoked some tobacco with Pastor Hawking today at the Jedi Council Room. He's the one that gave me a gentle kick in the pants on getting the ball rolling for this dream of mine. He also gave me some more encouragement...

Pastor H's faithful ward, The Hippie has a dream that recently received a modest financial offering to get it going. The Hippie is a talented mechanic, and his dream is to buy up old used cars and fix them up to either lease out real cheap ($25 a week) to people with short term car needs, or give them away to poor people who need one. He's starting this from his garage.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ministry: job or lifestyle

There's lots of good words today in the agent network blogos-universe. Which is good, because I have nothing to report today. Several of these postings are on the ever-growing observation of the career/ministry enigma. I liken ministry to politics. If you've made a career out of it you're heart's probably not in it 100%. I just made that up. Honest.

Brian the Home Depot Guy gave this excellent observation (see Jan 3, 2006 post). Notable quote: "I want to run throughout the halls of academia and throughout the cubicles of corporate faith and call all of these dissenting believers together into one place and tell them all to get a damn job and get to know people and realize that you are insignificant and that the Kingdom will go on, with or without you and your ideologies."

Dustin the Pastor (pondering his own vocation as we speak) posts this excellent, if not typical church job listing. HERE it is...evidence that working for a church is a "job".

And I've been keeping a observant eye on a young, local kid's blog here. He's a grad school student at one of the local bible schools and pondering the whole career thing before it starts.

And completely unrelated to my post's topic but worth reading...Fletch the construction worker gave this excellent sermonette: Smoke em if you got em. Complete with drive-by comments.

My whole experience with ministry as a career/profession came kind of backwards as compared to most. A little personal history (which I don't do here very often): I graduated college with a music teaching degree. Yes, on paper I am trained to teach your kids how to play band instruments and read music. Only an idiot school district would hire me as I abandoned that arrogant, nerdy universe upon graduation. I then worked various jobs for a few years: several in TV broadcasting and production, and a few in print music sales. Like the Home Depot Guy who "tripped and fell" away from vocational ministry, I tripped and fell into it. A ministry to the poor. I fell in love with the poor, but daily grew cynical of the "job" part of ministry. What to do?

Well, I tripped and fell into what I'm doing now. It's weird. I worked "real jobs" for a living and I've worked in vocational ministry for a living. Now I do NOTHING for a living, but my livelihood is one of those weird God things that I'm still learning about. It doesn't make sense but I think it does kind of.

All I've got to go by is the CEO, his promises and his word. Seek the kingdom first...and somehow everything else will work out just fine.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

diminishing strength

Spent a couple of moments with Obi-Wan today. Went to the bank within the grocery store. He wanted to cash some checks his kids and church gave him for christmas, then buy a few groceries. I knew it wasn't going to be a big grocery outing because he didn't bring a list.

I'm slowly coping with the fact that Obi-Wan is aging rapidly. Six months ago a trip like this to the grocery store would be nothing to him. But now he's getting so weak. He was really whipped by the time we got back to the car. Dozens of times I've offered to go get his groceries by myself so he wouldn't have to get out. But he looks forward to getting out. And I think buying food and going to the bank is one of his last bits of independence.

I went back over at 7:50p for Criminal Minds night. Turned out to be a rerun. But when I got there he was trying to get his dinner started...about 2 hours later than normal. By not eating earlier, his strength was zapped. He couldn't even hold a glass of water up to his mouth. I finally got him situated with his food and he ate which made him feel better.

I never would have known that food intake has that much control on the strength of the elderly. And like tonight, he forgets to eat sometimes which is dangerous to his health. If I skip a meal my stomach might let me know, but I can still function normally.

It hurts to see him go through this natural process called aging.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

shopping spree

Somehow or another Agent Wife & I received quite a few gift cards to various stores this christmas. Some from friends, family, and who knows. We had some time today to try and cash in (cha-ching) for some much needed merchandise. We mostly got essentials like underwear & socks (badly needed). We each bought new wallets (pretty badly needed). And even some new clothes (badly...don't ask). Plus, things that might bring comfort to AW's pregnancy like extra bed padding, body pillow cover and...maternity jeans.

We even ate lunch at McDonalds from a $5 gift card. We spent all but $11 on one card and we haven't touched our Starbucks cards yet (special date nights in the future). I feel like such a consumer today. It's fun to get new stuff. Thank you lord.

Monday, January 02, 2006

afternoon stroll

We finally got Obi-Wan out on his wheels today to take advantage of the unusual 80F January temps. Nothing major. Just a stroll down the street in his electric wheel chair, Agent Wife with our baby and another baby she watches in a wagon, and me with the dog. It was fun.

We passed by an elderly widow lady who's lived on the block and has known Obi-Wan for years. She commented on his wheels. He said something like "hope I don't get a ticket".

No big tale. Just a stroll.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

the dream

As the first post of 2006, I briefly discuss my dream.

This is it...my reason for being, or so I think. I have a desire, but I often weigh if "this desire" is meant to be or just some weird stuff in my head. For some time I have been trying to come up with a plan to make this desire a reality.

Good film makers have a plan. They have a set story & images in mind and go about trying to create it. Sometimes budget and physical resources are limited, so they use any means necessary just to get their film "passable". Or like a song writer/musician who is chasing after "that sound" and trying everything possible to create "that sound" in the physical world of recording, even if "that sound" has never been made, therefore making it difficult to describe with words.

I recently have been inspired by George Muller, who built 5 orphanages in his lifetime. Under his faith, over thousands of children were cared for with no "plan". He just did it.

Somehow, somewhere, some way, I desire to recreate The Table from the old izzy days. My desire is for this to be a set physical community from the poverty culture involving relationship that revolves around a meal and live music. In layman's terms, The Table will be an intimate, high-end soup kitchen with a night club atmosphere for homeless and working poor.

Is The Table a church? Well, where two or more are gathered, etc, etc. I plan to be there. And I pray for Jesus to show up. So sure...it's a church, I guess. Will there be preaching? I don't know. Probably not from me. And if there is preaching, in the traditional sense, it will probably be only on an occasional basis when needed.

I've been pondering this for exactly three years, when izzy got booted out from the host church and The Table had to close its doors. The need for a noon meal was "coincidentally" taken up by our friends at Citylight (Agent S & co.) at that time - a fact I still find entertaining since we didn't know each other nor plan this baton hand-off of sorts. The CEO seems to work that way. So...is there a need right now for The Table and is the need here in the fair mother city? I really don't know about the need for a 3rd or 4th mess hall for the poor. But a community of healing and realness...yes, maybe.

Agent Wife has challenged me on the need for a building. She says if relationship is our calling to the poor, then why do we need a building? In some ways she's right. Relationship is our calling. It's what we've got here on Undercover Lane with Obi-Wan, the Sanfords, and countless others. We're going to develop relationship no matter where we are physically located. But to develop a place like The Table, which could be a respite from street life for one brief shining moment of an individual's existence, a physical location is needed. A practical meeting place. A place "off" the streets.

During The Table's 1-2 year run at izzy, I saw the power of a having a simple meal with an individual. I witnessed those with contemplative thoughts on their lives give deep confessions of sins and requests for God to forgive as they sat at a dignified, home style eating place. I sat with the toughest, crustiest members of our streets who became like prodigal sons, humbly asking only for crumbs while the fatted calf was butchered.

And in other outlets, I've witnessed the power of live music (and not necessarily "christian" music) over the hard-hearted. Street gangsters, fixed income elderly, and everyone in between melting with joy as songs were sung in their general direction.

I want to combine the relationship building qualities of a shared meal with the healing qualities of live music into The Table. It's my dream.

A month or 2 ago, Pastor Hawking challenged me by asking what's holding me back from doing this. I honestly had no answer. "Uhh...money...?" I muttered. I admit, I have eagerly waited for that million dollar check to arrive, even though I'm a firm believer in starting with what you got. And although, I have specific desires for a building, complete with industrial kitchen, stage, and kiosk area for our homeless friends (personalized PO Boxes and lockers, etc), why couldn't some cheap joint be rented out in the meantime?

With Pastor Hawking's challenge and the inspiration of legendary faith guy George Muller, I'm going to investigate what I need to start this dream. And, lord willin' and the creek don't rise, the groundwork will be laid in 2006.

...and of course I find it funny that I ponder taking action on The Table NOW as opposed to that proverbial million dollar check arriving, since paying my own bills is a monthly faith mystery. Hey...it worked for Muller.