Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tuesdays with Obi-Wan

Obi-Wan is still in the hospital. Tomorrow (Monday the 31st) is a big day. His doctor along with some other specialist is supposed to come in and visit him. Both Obi-Wan and I suspect that amputation is the item slated for discussion. But we don't know for sure.

With Obi-Wan's permission, I plan to be present if possible. Unfortunately, doctors never give you a ballpark time frame of their visit in a hospital room. All you ever know is the day. It could be 6am or 11pm. But Obi-Wan's pretty sure it'll be in the morning, so I'm going to try to get there about 8 and serve as a second set of ears and ask any questions that Obi-Wan may forget to ask.

Of course...this visit could be a simple check-over and release. We don't know yet.

I cannot imagine the suspense he has laying in a hospital bed all weekend awaiting this "meeting". But he seems relaxed anyway.


In a semi-related note...

Agent Wife and I watched a DVD called "Tuesdays with Morrie".

I wouldn't recommend it if you hate made-for-TV movies with predictable plots and Oprah's thumbs-up endorsement.

This was based on some popular book which was based on a true story. Go figure.

But much of the movie was almost identical to my friendship with Obi-Wan.

I could identify with the young character's progression throughout the story. Weird.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fight the power

After a 3 month battle through the mail, I finally had my protest hearing for my property tax with the central appraisal district...and won.

This was the first time I've ever done something like this. I protested my property appraisal once before, but we settled through the mail. This time I went all the way to an actual hearing with the actual appraisal board.

Basically, the Central Appraisal District (CAD) was trying to con me into thinking that my house was the most valuable one on the block.

Bull shit.

The way it works: every year the CAD reviews every property throughout the county and determines what they think the properties are worth. Then they tax you, the owner. The more your property is worth, the more tax you pay. It's how they raise revenue. And I discovered that a property owner like myself can actually fight this. You have to, of course, do your homework and present yourself like a respectful human and not some tax-avoiding hill-billy.

I looked up the tax appraisals for 14 houses that surround mine on my street and did an average. Not only were they proposing that mine was the highest appraised (thus highest taxed) on the block, but mine was at least 24.4% above the average. On my block there are four houses larger than mine. So, square footage had nothing to do with their assessment.

Also, next door, the Sanford's house is valued the least. How can the most valuable property on the block (mine) be directly next to the least valuable (Sanfords)? In the real estate world, that is an oxymoron.

Then...there's a house across the street that is the exact same floor plan as mine...with the exception of an added bathroom. It's the EXACT same house as mine, but better. The house across the street should be valued the same if not a little more than mine. Their house was, in fact, valued at the average (24% less than mine). The difference being that I keep my yard mowed.

I guess lawn maintenance is equivelent to about $10K on a tax appraisal.

So I presented this reseach before the board, court reporter, the appraiser, and a handful of locals waiting their turn to protest.

I won.

I got exactly what I asked for. My appraisal now what I argued it should be.

All of this to say...I couldn't believe how easy it was to do this. If I can protest the tax appraisal of my house (and WIN), then anyone can do it.

Poor people own property too. Not real good ones. But taxable property none the less.

And all people's property assesment values go up every year at the whims of the appraisers, whether they're rich or poor. Thus, their taxes go up. Believe me...the Sanford's house went up like...$7000 this year. That was about 25% more from the previous year. Their house has not been improved upon at all. Certainly not $7000 worth.

Not only do they not realize they can protest this. They probably don't know it has increased and won't even know about it until they get their January 2007 mortgage payment when the new taxes go in effect. So it goes.

Plus, to protest, you really need quite a few middle-class social and educational skills. The Sanfords and the many like them don't have either.

So...yet another agent b conspiracy theory: the empire taxes the people who are least likely to notice and/or do anything about it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Pardon my cynicism. I couldn't think of a better title for this roast, It's the phrase I often use when yet another young, talented, intelligent person and/or family in the fair mother city moves to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex for greener pastures (figuratively and's dry and brown out west).

Agent S (aka the librarian) and his fine family are now Abilene's latest casualty to DFW. Today, they move east.

And who could blame them. Jobs in DFW actually pay real money as opposed to magic beans and good intentions. But then again...Agent S is leaving a librarian gig at a private university for another librarian gig at a different private university. Maybe in addition to better pay and a cost of living increase, those overlords at Dallas Baptist University might generously give Agent S some company time...TO BLOG. I mean, look man...I know you don't keep a computer at home. That's fine. I respect that. But this ONE POST a month stuff sucks. I mean hey...MY agent gig has several pockets of spare time throughout the day (OK...LOTS of spare time). So PLEASE give me something to read. I know you've got something to say.

Seriously, I have much to owe Agent S and his wife Leslie (yes, not her real name). First, this here pathetic blog of mine was about 90% inspired by What Holds On - a blog I stumbled across while doing a search on the downtown baptist beach head where I met Leslie during some ministerial contraband distribution. I eventually figured out that this blog was written by Leslie's husband so I chose the psudeonym "B", then later "Agent B" for commenting purposes. I didn't want them knowing I was the same guy who delivered food.

So basically, the agent b files is a mere spin-off series from Agent S's blog. But not as sucessful as "Joanie Loves Chachi".

Agent S and I finally met each other face to face about a year ago. We hung out over lunch (because he doesn't drink coffee...wussy) a few times and eventually our families gathered together as well. And I would have taken his invitation to join him in an overnight parking lot adventure at the new Chick Fil-A in hopes of being one of the first 100 customers to win 52 free meals. But somehow I knew he would be #106 and thus waste an evening of his existence. In the words of my favorite Simpson's character Nelson: HAW-ha.

Now he's leaving me. Because hey...this is all about me.

The Agent Network of the fair mother city is getting smaller and smaller. But I suppose the CEO has assignment changes for his agents from time to time. He's allowed that.

Agent S and his family probably could have moved to a modest yet comfortable neighborhood. But instead, they have chose to work with some ministry group that is somehow sponsoring them to live in a certain Dallas-area apartment complex. They will live in some sort of missional-type of role in the complex while serving their neighbors.

Go figure. That's so unlike him and Leslie.

Agent S's parting advice for the readers of this blog: "follow Jesus and do something daring with your life in his name. I stole that one from Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution."

And his last quote for us here: "well ...[Agent B] has to be either the most ruthlessly trusting person I know or the most stubborn. are roasting me. Got to go to another reception in my honor. I am about sick of all of these going away get togethers. If I have to eat another piece of cake.."

On behalf of the CEO's agents throughout the earth, we salute you (and Leslie and the kids)...with German Chocolate cake in hand.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Obi-Wan update

Yesterday doctors told Obi-Wan that he'll get to come home in about 2 or 3 days. Of course, I'm not holding my breath. But this visit is looking like it'll be much shorter than his 3 week marathon earlier this year.

And any avoidance of amputation is a huge victory in my eyes. Thank you CEO.

Granted, Obi-Wan is 89 years old and a diabetic, so I'm sure the doctors are looking at amputation as an extreme last resort. But still...I'm thankful.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Joined agent forces today with the Jack-of-all-trades. He's working on some sort of project involving Google Earth, his lap top, his old pickup, and mapping out various strategic and geographic places around the fair mother city involving the lost, faith communities, and etc. Perhaps he'll explain this better than I.

I got to go along for a ride to help Jack identify infamous homeless camps hidden amongst the mesquite brush along the seldom used north/south railroad. Ironically, we parked under the very bridge I was at earlier that morning with Uncle Kurt. Not exactly a place I go regularly.

Amidst the railway ties, concrete and scant vegetation we prayed, dreamed, and brainstormed. I mean really...just how rocket-science is it to come up with a way to support ourselves and our dreams?

I'm all for Jack's dream. He's devising a plan to create low cost housing for families such as single moms.

We've brainstormed a potential gig kin to Morris Ruddick's "Joseph/Daniel Calling" schtick - creating our own trade of sorts to support ourselves and fund these opposed to "collection plate mentality" or finding a sugar-daddy.

Maybe more later. Stay tuned.

And if nothing becomes of today's events, at the very least I was highly encouraged. I needed that badly.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Return of Uncle Kurt

Recent days have been a deja vu of some needy times I lived through earlier this year.

In late February and eary March of this year, all of the outward signs of desperation were making themselves available. Obi-Wan had entered the hospital for what turned into a 3 week stay. We sold our beloved Sable. But our bright shining moment of joy in the darkness of need was a homeless man named Kurt, or renamed Uncle Kurt around our place.

Well, it's now July and here we are again in great need. Obi-Wan's back in the hospital. Yet, instead of selling a car, we received one. And today Uncle Kurt calls us out of the blue.

I have been wanting to find him for a while. But family visitors and AO2's birth was occupying my time. So I had planned to hunt him down next week.

Like old times, Uncle Kurt, AO1 and I visited Obi-Wan in the hospital tonight. Uncle Kurt must think he lives there.

Uncle Kurt and I tried to catch up on each others lives from the past few months. I've heard a few reports of his life from Agent S of the downtown baptist beach head. Uncle Kurt never made mention of these so I wasn't going to ask.

My favorite thing he said was of a dream/vision he had last week. This dream was of the izzy group ministry. He saw the izzy ministry located in the building I'd like to use for The Table (Uncle Kurt was present when I met the owner of that property last February). I was operating the dining hall, Agent Wife was doing something with a large group of little kids, The Bossman was doing something else in a different storefront, and there were tons of people. The cars were lined up and down the street.

When people share a dream they had of you, it's hard to take them seriously. But for years, the CEO has communicated to me almost exclusively through dreams (and I haven't had any dreams for months which is why I'm frustrated these days). So...I usually take note of dreams.

Especially ones from a homeless guy who seems to have no agenda.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Obi-Wan news

Obi-Wan was admitted to the hospital today. He's having the same issues with the circulation in his lower legs and feet. Supposedly, this is what most elderly diabetics go through.

We never heard the results from his tests a few weeks ago. Amputation was a possible outcome. And I suppose it could be a possible outcome in this hospital stay as well.

But he's as strong as ever.

I plan to see him every day

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Testimony #015

Agent Wife and I may not know how we're going to pay for our freaking mortgage from month to month. But at least we can now travel.

We have a new car.

The Star Destroyer is a 2002 Lincoln Towncar with barely 30K on it.'s practically brand new and barely broken in.

It was my late grandfather's car. My dad and his siblings had planned to sell it and for whatever reason didn't. So my dad generously made it available for my family. I just returned from picking it up in Houston.

This is funny on many accounts:
- Towncars are generally associated with elderly retired rich people. I'm 35, have no money, and now have 2 towncars in my driveway (the Millenium Falcon is a '93 with 240K).
- As reported recently, the Millenium Falcon went down last Saturday. It's no big deal. It's just the alternator. But right then I couldn't even afford that. And it was our only car. But I've known of this potential deal with getting the '02 for about 2 weeks. There couldn't have been a better time for the Star Destroyer to come into my care.

These are miraculous yet weird times in the agent household. I'm thankful for them. And although I'm thankful for the generosity of my dad and the chain of events that lead to this, I have to give credit to the CEO of the universe. He is the provider of all.

Testimony #014

Through the generosity of anonymous individuals and various family members, Agent Wife and I have been caught up on bills.

I thank the CEO for this. However, I have grown weary of being a burden on others, even if they've shared without my begging.

I trust the CEO with all of my needs. He has always provided. However, this recent ordeal might have served as a wake-up call for me to find some kind of employment, be it full time, part time or temporary. The agent gig is not being abandoned. My dream for The Table still exists.

This could be like John 21 where those guys were throwing their nets over and over...then jesus shows up and says "good try. Now do it this way".

The last time I tried looking for employment the CEO shows up in my life and said "How about trusting me?" And I've more or less walked on water for the last 21 months.

So...I don't know what to make of our financial lack from early this month.

Time to go fishing, I guess.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


In recent days I have been at an all time low in my secret agent assignment.

Having unpaid bills pile up on my desk all while becoming a father again has its stressful moments.

Just when this season of lack seems to have hit rock bottom, it reaches new depths.

Our current (and only) transportation, the Millenium Falcon, is having electrical problems. The alternator seems to be going out. At least it ain't the hyper-drive.

I've never wanted to be one of those people who trust in the CEO one moment, then the second their refrigerator blows up they're blaming and cursing the CEO. Like he's in the business of destroying appliances or something.

When the Falcon showed no life signs, I didn't get mad at the CEO. He didn't do this. My car is old. That is the real culprit.

I did get discouraged over the Falcon. Highly discouraged. I feel like David in that I should write a "woe is me" Psalm. The kind that goes, "my world is falling apart. I have a new mouth to feed. Everyone is after me and I'm hiding in a cave. Poison arrows fly by my head. And my car won't run. Rescue me Lord".

Kind of sounds like a country song minus the beer, divorce, and dog getting run over.

But thankfully encouragement arrived in the form of The Bossman and later the Organic Guy showing up out of the blue to bring baby oriented gifts, food and blessings.

Thank you CEO. I will not take this for granted.

I despise coming across on this blog like a wounded little puppy. But I'm in need. I'm not wounded. Nor a puppy.

I ask for your encouraging prayers.

And I ask the CEO for a clear sign if I am to remain as an agent in this capacity (ie: send provision ASAP) or move on.

Perhaps not being able to pay bills is a
clear sign...

PS - there may be more to report about our car situation later this week. Wait and see.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How do you explain it

It happened again.

Yesterday I was at the post office and ran into someone from my old charismatic church club days.

Semper Fi is a really decent guy. I've always liked him. And he was so far outside the periphery of the church/izzy group political struggles back then, so he has no agendas, I'm sure.

So he asked, "How's the ministry going?" (izzy group).


"You guys are still ministering with the poor, right?"


"What do you guys do now? Where are you?"

"Agent Wife and I are just...hanging with our neighborhood"

"Yea? That's great! My wife and I are now part of a neighborhood ministry association. They just made me president of it"

I hate these conversations. What am I supposed to say? I'm ministering to the poor on my street? Yea, right. How arrogant. I would feel as if my whole life was a fraud if I said that out loud...or even thought it.

Or worse...what if I tried to "one up" Semper Fi and the many like him: Yeah...I'm doing the same thing you're doing. But WITHOUT an organization, or resources, a board of directors, a non-prof, newspaper stories, etc

This agent gig ain't a job. Once upon a time it was. But in recent years it's become...well, I don't know.

It's as though the CEO is testing to see if I'm going to be see if we will still be true to him and our calling...even without:

-a facility
-a title
-a position
-heroic popularity amidst a local church club
-a paycheck
-peer admiration
-dignity within the city

For the longest time I didn't understand what or who our "church" was. But the other day I saw it clearly.

If we were still in the church club, there'd easily had been dozens of people who would have a) thrown Agent Wife a baby shower, b) offered last minute baby sitting when needed and c) brought us food after our hospital stay, etc

A month ago, the Valdezes (from across the street) hosted a last minute baby shower for Agent Wife with all the neighbors. She had a blast.

Two weeks ago, Agent S calls up out of the blue one day, and of all things...offers to baby sit, just when we needed it. Badly.

And today, Jack and his family brought us a killer meal as sort of a baby gift. Just when we needed it.

Our neighbors...and the blog-o-universe...I think I'm starting to see our church and how it operates...

Reality check

No one likes having their sin and ugliness exposed. Certainly not me. But it happens to me all the time. I get prideful in thinking I am a certain way. Then that proverbial mirror passes my way. I hate that mirror.

I'm just thankful the CEO often exposes my hardened heart to me only and not out in public...much.

Tuesday was a historic day in the agent family: my second child was born. We had a new doctor this time around and we loved her. The birthing experience (for a hospital one) was beyond excellent. But the hospital stay absolutely sucked.

This was opposite from Agent Offspring #1's birth where the hospital stay was like being in a nice motel...with total strangers coming in every hour at night checking out your wife. We had a private room and everything was excellent: nurses, facilities, policies, etc.

This time around we might has well been staying in the Salvation Army's gym floor. I didn't realize how spoiled we were the first time around. This time the nurses sucked. They took our baby and did stuff to AO#2 that we didn't want done without our knowing. The facility was lousy and tiny.

...and Agent Wife got a roommate.

I thought shared rooms were a thing of the past. Guess I don't hang out in hospitals much.

Her roommate was nice and all. She was from the inner-city poverty culture. Should be right up my alley. But I was mad.

I wanted AO2's first day on earth to be a bonding experience with family. Me, Agent Wife, and AO2. Period. You know...spend the night with each other, hang out, uhh...pray...I don't know. Just bond.

But instead we got the loud, inner-city culture on the other side of the curtain. TV on constantly. The loudest phone ever created by man...ringing non-stop. A crowd of loud, talking people, all with cell phones ringing non-stop.

And there was no room for me to stay. But we live 5 minutes from the hospital.

I was mad. Pissed. I wanted what I wanted. And instead I felt as though my precious first-day moment with AO2 was robbed.

But of course, Agent Wife really got to know her roommate Cheyenne and her new daughter Shaniqua.

Cheyenne is 25. This was her first birth and she hopes her last. She made no mention of the baby's father.

I overheard Cheyenne filling out a form with a nurse. She lives in a well known government housing project and has no job. She sounded mildly ashamed stating all that out loud.

Cheyenne has a niece in the same hospital on a different floor. The niece was there because she was one of three drive-by shooting victims a week and a half ago in a tough, west side neighborhood. It was big news around the fair mother city.

Cheyenne's life seemed full of joy though. About half of the poverty culture in the fair mother city came to visit her. Compared to our one visitor, I'm thinking Cheyenne's pretty well loved. Not that we aren't or anything. There was hardly any room for visitors to come see us anyway. But to our defense, this is our 2nd baby which is never as big a deal as the first.

Half of Cheyenne's visitors arrived by city bus. Our one visitor drove her own car.

All this to say...what the hell am I thinking? Where is my heart? The Cheyenne's of this town are the people I'm called to know and befriend.

Is my life and calling supposed to go on hold when I'm out from my normal context?? I hate these reality checks.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

birth announcement

Agent offspring #2 joined us today just before noon.

Mom and baby are well.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Wait: this is getting funny

Still no baby.

Agent Wife and I went to her scheduled doctor appointment this morning. The baby is definitely over due. I don't believe the doctor talked
us into this (or scared us too bad with all the possible ill effects of waiting too long), but...Lord willin' and the creek don't rise (or the water don't break)...Agent Wife will be induced tomorrow morning.

We're not big into "playing God" and we usually like things to go naturally in our lives. But we're aware that this kind of thought process can go into extremes - ie: no birth control, no medicines, no common sense, and etc.

Agent Offspring #1 was born fine two years ago but with one small "imperfection": a small bump on the inside of the mouth. We watched it for several months and prayed it would go away. It didn't. Instead it got slightly bigger. It was some kind of bone spur or something. We casually consulted doctors about it and when we felt it was the right time, had it removed in an operation.

I never felt as helpless and vulnerable in my life as watching my 11 month old get carried away into an operating room by a nurse.

But I wasn't panicking and everything was just fine. AO1 was literally in our backyard playing with the dog only an hour after going under for surgery. I was like no big deal.

And unless the CEO shows us something before tomorrow morning, I am expecting this birth to also be no big deal.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Obi-Wan Tales Chapter VII: Sub Spotter

...always fascinated with Obi-Wan's WWII days:

Today while sitting in his living room in front of some loud fans and the smell of leg bone cooking in the kitchen, he told me a tale of his WWII days I've yet to hear.

He and his army troupe traveled to the Mediterranean by ship. His buddies called him "Tex" because he's from Texas, I guess.

He was fascinated by the water because he thought that it looked as though they were always traveling up hill while out on the ocean. So he spent a lot of time on deck staring out on the water.

Then one day he spotted something. Turns out he actually saw a sub periscope. A submarine was traveling with their convoy. There wasn't suppose to be.

I assume it was German but he says it was Japanese. I don't know too much about WWII history but I can't imagine the Japanese were too involved around Europe. Maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, I don't know if they ever captured the sub. But Obi-Wan was supposed to receive some kind of medal for his alerting the crew.

He never got the medal.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


This word doesn't sit well with me these days.

Yet the CEO's only word of instruction for me in this era of my life is wait.


wait for purpose
wait for identity
wait for the fate of the izzy group
wait for finances

...and now we wait for the birth of our second child. Agent Wife's due date was Monday. No sign of birthing yet.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Legend of: Easy Rider

One of my favorite volunteer types from the old izzy days is Easy Rider. Well...he is one of my favorite all around people period.

I just got word that he passed away yesterday from cancer.

ER was the real deal. He retired from the military some time ago and began work as a truck driver. He was also a big time biker.

He came to know the CEO and turned his life over to Jesus at some biker rally where the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) set up camp. I've always thought the CMA was kind of goofy, but they must be real effective if a guy like ER would change his life because of the love they showed. CMA is A-OK by me.

ER worked real hard hauling and restocking food for the izzy group pantry. He and his wife also spent the night with the homeless during our once-a-week shelter.

Here's to you Easy Rider. You'll be missed by many.

Easy Rider talking to some couple who showed up for a food outreach in 2001

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Plight of the poor #002: Moving

Yesterday, Agent S and his family invited me to help move a friend of theirs. This friend was a single woman who is in or possibly on the edge of the poverty culture in the fair mother city.

I've done this many times before: move poor people. It's usually a nightmare. Thankfully, this experience was amazingly easy. Most of my moving experiences with the poor involve one or more of these:

1) A person who finds it necessary to collect blatant crap forever and ever. Like old newspapers and bags and bags of aluminum cans that will never be recycled.

2) No hint of packing or order of any kind. Like they forgot they were moving or assumed the people moving them would pack.

3) The move-ee announces, "I have to be moved out of here by 3p"...and it's like 1:30p...and they haven't packed.

4) And oh yeah...they'll own like the heaviest furniture ever created by man, including 3 sleeper sofas (whoever designed those things needs punishment) that all have to be carried up and down 14 flights of stairs.

Thankfully, none of this was the case with Agent S's friend. I was blown away. This woman was actually organized. She not only had most everything packed in boxes and bags...she had the boxes labeled with helpful messages like "fragile", etc! I was very impressed. And there was only ONE piece of furniture I'd consider heavy. It was a dresser that wasn't all that bad. Agent S and I and the girls actually had everything moved in 2 trips which took about maybe 3 hours...a miracle moving experience within the poverty culture.

The poor move a lot. I don't know all of this woman's situation and why exactly she was moving, but it's all familiar. I think she's been sincerely trying to change her life yet she's still dealing with past decisions that effect her today.

Many people in poverty are just trying to stay one step ahead from a bill collector. Others can't make a certain utility payment that got way behind, so they move and start the utility all over under a different name. Eventually they forget which bills are under which aliases.

Still...many were living with a lover that had gone bad. My friend April Hawk and her kids (now grown adults) seem to have moved every 4-6 months since I've known her (7 years). One of those periods was from a house she had actually bought and couldn't afford the payments after losing her job. It was sad.

I once tried to retire from helping poor people move since it always seemed hopeless. I just knew once we got them into a new place, they'd have to move again in a few months. Glad I got an opportunity to open my eyes to this experience again with Agent S's friend...and that it was an easy move. I sincerely wish her the best.

Moving is a stressful event for anyone, rich or poor. The poor have to move more often that the rich due to many circumstances. I wish this weren't so and my heart goes out for them.