Thursday, November 30, 2006

rite of passage

A few weeks ago our neighbor Jessie Sanford, the 20 year-old daughter of Frieda, moved out of her mother’s house and got her own residence.

Jessie tried this once before recently with a former boyfriend and his family. It lasted about a week or so.

This time she not only got a new boyfriend, but she rented her own place as opposed to moving in with an established family. Jessie and her new boyfriend Juan will be sharing a small duplex with her 17 year-old homeless friend Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s boyfriend.

The four of them plan to live off Jessie’s $600 a month disability check plus whatever other income comes along.

Leaving the nest seems to be as taboo as family finances, or possibly sex. Sex is far less taboo than money, in my observation. Empty nest is as awkward for the poverty class as it is for the middle class. Leaving the nest involves change, and few people enjoy change.

I always wondered how the poverty class dealt with the empty nest since middle class kids usually have college enrollment as a way out.

I guess the poor’s empty nest dealings often involve some sort of temporary love relationship.

Middle class Christians would first shun Jessie for her decision to move in with a boyfriend. Then second, they would gasp at her flakey financial plan.

I’m not a fan of half-assed commitments. But thankfully that’s between Jessie, her boyfriend, and the CEO.

And I’m not excited for her financial support either.

But I’m proud that Jessie took her own initiative to move away from home, regardless of her method. Waiting for everything to be "perfect" before moving from mom and dad's is a goal that may never be met. Sink or swim cannot be all that bad.

My parents divorced when I moved off to college. I’ve more or less been on my own since age 18. It wasn’t easy and I made big financial mistakes. But I learned from those mistakes, which have helped make me into what I am now.

CEO – I request that you protect Jessie from any physical dangers of her new living situation and that you would strengthen her through any potential mistakes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Testimony #020 & #021

#020: Before the family and I left town for the holidays last week, we received a support check in the mail.

This is weird because we’re missionaries, yet we don’t receive support of any kind.

Except from this one Canadian guy. He sends us a total of $1300 CAN a year in two checks. One in December and one in the spring.

The check is always in Canadian funds.

Texas banks are fairly non-cosmopolitan so they freak out when they see non-US funds. But since we’ll be in Canada when this check is dated (mid December), we can take it with us. And we won’t have to be totally broke and bumming off family.

Perfect timing.

#021: As of 11:30 this morning the Star Destroyer finally sold. Thank the CEO all around.

Over a week ago some local real estate big wig answered my ad for the car. And since his livelihood is based on haggling, I knew what I was in for.

He first made a ridiculously low offer. Then he bumped it up $1000. That was still lower than what I wanted, but nobody else had called on the car and our rent was over-due. It was Friday and I told him I’d think about it over the weekend.

After prayer, I decided to call him on Monday with a price slightly higher than his final offer. He wouldn’t take it. No sale.

But he called me twice later that week. He still wouldn’t budge on price. He wanted it bad. But I was out of town during his second call.

Then we get back from Houston and this 80 year old cattle rancher from Throckmorton calls. He was the real deal. He was friends with the late Watt Matthews so I knew he was one of those millionaire types that act real low-key.

In the end, Cattle Rancher bought it for about what it was worth, which was a little higher than Real Estate guy offered.

If I had been home to answer Real Estate guy’s call, I would have sold it to him for his low offer out of desperation.

Not only can we now pay November rent, but also rent through January. We can pay off the balance on the heat/AC unit we had installed 3 years ago. We can pay back dad for what was owed on the car. And there’s enough for food & bills through December or so.

And this morning the mortgage company called saying if we didn’t have the payment in by tomorrow, things would start getting nasty.

Perfect, perfect timing. Thank you CEO.

Monday, November 27, 2006

more Uncle George wisdom

The Autobiography of George Muller: A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer is highly recommended here on the agent b files. I just found this book a couple of weeks ago at a local library. I was unaware that Uncle George had written an autobiography. And I was also unaware that this publication was recently made available (2003) as it’s been out of print since 1905.

It’s 700 pages long with small print. This makes Agent Wife laugh every time she sees me reading. I’m a very slow reader. But I’m gonna try...

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an entry that has rung true with my most inner fiber for years.

Long before the orphanages existed, Uncle George was setting off from his native Prussia (and eventually Germany) to become a missionary amongst Jewish people in England. He was therefore associated with a Jewish missionary society which had planned to ordain him and set the course for his work.

UG writes that he eventually had, “objections to being connected with any state church or national religious establishment, which arose from the increased light which I had obtained through the reception of this truth, that the Word of God is our only standard, and the Holy Spirit our only teacher.” [itallics by UG]

In other words, UG didn’t need an organization of man telling him when, where, and how to minister.

He didn’t need a denominational backing. He didn’t need a “covering” other than that of Christ.

Knowing full and well that there’s no salary outside an institution, UG made his needs known only to the CEO from then on.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

prophet without honor

I never fully understood what Jesus was trying to say with the words “a prophet is without honor in his home town” (not the actual verbiage, but close).

The family and I are in my home town of Houston for the holiday. And due to some kind of poor communication, we are now staying twice as long as originally planned.

I don’t like my home town. It's the suburbs and they seem to stand for most everything I am not. Plus, I feel so pointless here.

And it doesn’t help that Obi-Wan is in the hospital. Plus, I have two major handyman projects that are left undone back in the fair mother city. I don't rest well with unfinished business. Plus, I’m still trying to juggle out November bills and upcoming December ones. Plus, I’m trying to figure what auto maintenance prep work I need before traveling to Canada and just how exactly we are getting there, etc.

Plus, I hate Houston.

But it seems to bless my mother that we stay longer since she has so little time off from her job.

I’ve always found a fine line between honoring my parents and hating my own parents to follow Jesus.

It’s a kin to the fine line between a guy like me flourishing in a calling and identity outside of my home town versus the dozens of people I know who have done quite well living in the same place all of their lives.

All this to say...I am in Houston on extended Thanksgiving holiday and I wish I wasn’t. I’m trying to relax and make the best of it despite the TV, traffic, and materialism that’s shoved down our throats. I probably need a break from the fair mother city. But I don’t feel like I’m getting much of one.

So it goes.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back to the Hilton

Obi-Wan got word today that he needs to check in to the hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

His legs and feet have been worse than ever. They keep him up all night with pain.

This will be his third stay at the Hilton this year. He was in for three weeks in February and two weeks in July/August. So I'm hoping he's due for only a one week stay.

I won't get to see him much this week since we're headed down south for the holiday.

For the last month, Obi-Wan has been talking as if he won't live through Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. He's been real antsy about getting some affairs in order and saying that the CEO gave him the idea to get things in order.

As selfish as it sounds, I hope he's not right about this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The other day I had the means to pay our water bill. This is a good thing. And the fact that I had the money before the bill was due is even better.

I always go downtown to pay this bill at the water department. It gives me a good excuse to go downtown and possibly run into old friends. And I’m too cheap to use a stamp if I can pay in person.

Our water bill has been paid like this for almost three years now. I think the ladies behind the cashier's desk are starting to recognize me. And I’d guess they’d refer to me as that guy who pays his bill early. They smile at me every time. I take it that someone paying a water bill early is a rare occasion for them.

Often times there will be other people there paying a bill at the same time as myself. And usually the bill they are holding has bright red on it. I think a red bill means their water bill is not only late, but it’s really, really late.

Once, I remember being at the water department and running into an old coworker of mine from the music store I use to work at. Elwood was a legendary blues keyboardist in the fair mother city. He was also a legendary alcoholic. I hadn’t seen Elwood in months and he looked worse than most of my homeless friends. Elwood had one of those red bills in his hand along with a bunch of wadded up cash and the cashiers had that “look” on their face. That emotionless, I don’t give a crap about you or anything look.

Elwood’s liver finally got the best of him and I saw him a month later in a casket at a funeral home.

When I went to pay my bill the other day there was a skinny, crippled poor-looking woman in front of me with one of those medical canes. The kind that’s metal with a grey hand grip and four little legs at the bottom. All I heard her say to the cashier was “My water just got turned off and I’m a little short this month”.

The crippled lady was directed to the customer service desks. She hobbled over to these desks and stood there for about a minute before being acknowledged by the service worker who could obviously hear the conversation and knew she was coming.

The customer service worker stared blankly at a computer screen with “the look” in her face. “...can I help you...?

The whole room could hear the crippled woman’s words again. “My water just got turned off and I’m a little short this month”.

I wanted to pay for the woman’s bill. But I didn’t have any more money after my own bill was paid.

I wanted to ask the customer service gal if being calloused was a prerequisite for her job or just a survival tactic.

All utility cashiers are calloused. It must be a chapter in their employee handbook: Look like you don’t care, don’t have a heart, leave your humanity at home.

I remember being the customer service person.

People came into the old izzy group ministry by the bus load asking for help with various utility bills. At first, I was compassionate. But after a while I couldn’t escape callousness and judgementalism.

Why couldn’t they pay their bills THIS time? What did they spend their money on now?

But now I know what that crippled woman goes through. Regardless of her story or excuse.

More and more each day I become closer to slipping into her shoes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Uncle George revisited

My all time hero in the faith is George Muller.

Anyone who housed over 120,000 orphans throughout a lifetime and refused to ask any individual to flip the bill for the kid’s needs or his own needs is beyond A-OK with me.

Muller solely trusted in the CEO and thus remained in constant communication with him. He refused pay for the sermons he delivered in churches and he never used the pulpit (or any public forum) to announce the needs of the children or his own life.

He only went to the CEO.

Uncle George believed that the CEO of the universe was the same today as He was yesterday and beyond.

I try to live the same.


I’m currently watching miracles unfold in my life even though other blatant needs go unmet. But I trust that my needs will be met in a timely fashion.

Muller started the orphanage in his own house in 1836. For the first two years, all needs were met well. But the years 1838-1846 was a period of great trial. The finances for the orphanage were barely existent. The years were supposedly "...designed by the Lord to deepen Mr. Muller's faith and to show him that prayer is no vain thing".*

I think I’m in a similar period of great trial. But I know and trust the CEO is there.

…and I pretend to walk this out with “…scarcely a tremor.”*

*(p. 87 of George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer).

Monday, November 13, 2006


We had kind-of a monumental event in our household recently. My 2-year old, Agent Offspring #1 prayed to the CEO of the universe by his own initiative.

AO1 was sitting alone at the dinner table with food before the rest of us joined. Agent Wife witnessed him bowing his head with eyes closed and mumbling some unintelligible 2-year old talk interspersed with these recognizable words:

momma (Agent Wife)
dadda (me)
mimi (AO2)
Saba (our dog)
snay-nay (our cat)
Bih-Buh (“Big Buddy” aka Obi-Wan)

I think AO1 was giving thanks for all of these things. I later asked him to pray at our dinner time and he thanked the CEO for more of the same.

Slides and swings: I forgot how these playground toys are some of his most favorite things in the whole world. I’ve rarely heard him mention these outside the playground.

I guess AO1 was praying partially because it’s what Agent Wife and I do. And AO1 is highly imitative at this age.

But somewhere Jesus mentioned that the kingdom is for people like AO1. So maybe I’m the one who should do the imitating.

I need to be more thankful for the slides and swings in my life.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Little Wing

A few days ago, I met Jack for coffee down at the Jedi Counsel Room. We need to enjoy that place as much as possible before the fair mother city’s newly proposed smoking ban makes it extinct. And that could happen in the next 40 days.

Thanks local voters.

While there, I ran into one of my new favorite homeless friends, Little Wing.

Most of the homeless folks I know go way back to the old izzy ministry days. Not Little Wing. I met him earlier this year when I hung out in the basement at the downtown Baptist Beach Head. We played a few games of dominoes and had a meal together there once or twice.

If you travel through the down town area of the fair mother city, you can’t miss Little Wing. He’s the effeminate black guy who looks like Jimi Hendrix.

I love it. All these hoity-toity folks walking the down town area pretending they’re real big-city or something, and Texas guys wearing starched shirts, decorative belts with little silver disc-thingys on them, and starched jeans (just what the hell are starched jeans?) along with a homeless guy who looks like my favorite dead rock star.

Little Wing is very well groomed. Especially for one who lives outside. He’s got a cool mini-dreadlocked afro and he wears a different funky, almost feminine outfit every day. Sometimes he’ll wear some floral-printed sports jacket with ruffles on the cuffs. I swear that jacket came straight from the Hendrix wardrobe.

I wish I could get away with wearing stuff like that.

Although I don’t know him real well yet, Little Wing seems to be one of the more non-threatening people in the homeless society. He’s a real sweet guy who wouldn’t harm anyone. Although painfully shy, he can still maintain his quiet, dainty ways in a cut-throat domino competition...which shows more than a bit of confidence.

Sometimes I fantasize that he’d walk the down town area, carrying a lefty Strat and, in that quiet feminine voice, ask those Texan hob-nobbers if they were experienced.

That would be funny.

I’m convinced that Little Wing is demon possessed. He talks nonsense to himself often. Butterflies and zebras. And moonbeams and fairytales. It’s all he ever talks about.

And he refers to himself as “we”.

I talk to myself too. But I call myself “I”. Maybe I’m only half possessed.

Most American Christians would say Little Wing has mental problems. Maybe mental problems and demon possession are one in the same. I don’t know. And I don’t care.

I admit: I usually lean towards the spiritual diagnosis of people and away from the medical diagnosis. But I don’t ignore the medical entirely.

All I know is that Jesus said to drive out demons in his name. Yet we Americans and Westerners seem to create and buy more and more pills for our “problems”. Is there a TV commercial break without a designer medication being pushed?

I don’t know too much about demon exorcism. But the CEO sent word and examples through his son to do it.

I’d bet believers in Africa, Haiti, parts of Mexico and Latin America, hell...anywhere that’s not the top wealthiest nations on earth...would know much about the dark spiritual realm of demon possession. And maybe they know how and when to do something about it.

But with Little Wing, I’m guessing that it’ll require a friendship with him. I hope that can happen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Daze of our lives (Part IV - FINALE)

Misty was a terrible house keeper. Not only did she not do her job, but she’d come into Obi-Wan’s house and flip the TV on to whatever she wanted and talk on his phone all morning.

The one time her boss came around for Obi-Wan to sign some papers, Misty was there bright and early and doing her job properly. And that lasted about a week. Her performance would soon putter out. Some days she wouldn’t even show up.

Misty quit showing up completely about two weeks ago. And soon after we learn through Nurse Gollum that she got a new job somewhere else.

Nurse Gollum approached me about taking on that job. “You do it anyway. You might as well get paid for it”, she said.

Funny...that Nurse Gollum acknowledged my cleaning and errand running. No comment. Just funny.

I actually thought about it for a while. It made sense at first. Why shouldn’t I get a few bucks for doing something I already do? It only pays about $5 an hour for 15 hours a week. But that’s more than I make now.

But after thinking this through, I’d really feel like this would be selling out my calling, the CEO’s promises, and Obi-Wan’s friendship for 30 pieces of silver.

I mean, my true given vocation is to be an undercover secret agent for the CEO of the universe. And within that I serve those neighbors of mine who are ignored or forgotten about.

The CEO of the universe has promised me time and again that he would sustain my family through this desert period of our lives and beyond.

And furthermore, this friendship with Obi-Wan is real. We are friends. Period. This is not a paid job where in I “minister” to him and he goes on about his way. The ministry and friendship is a two-way street. And he knows this friendship is real.

And honestly, I can’t see making Obi-Wan keep his personal bank balance below $5000 just so I can have some pathetic pay through the government. I’d rather Obi-Wan do whatever he wants with his money and let the CEO continue to provide for my needs in weird ways.

The CEO is good that way, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Daze of our lives (Part III)

Around February of this year, Nurse Gollum and Misty ran into a minor snag in their system.

In order for Obi-Wan to qualify for a free house keeper through Medicaid, his personal bank account had to have a balance below $5000. And to everyone’s surprise, he had more than that. They didn’t realize this until after Misty had been employed for several months.

I don’t find it coincidental that a month before this event, Obi-Wan shared his personal financial information with me. I guess he trusts me with this information. The CEO’s timing, I suppose.

It was now obvious that Misty was going to lose her job and thus, Nurse Gollum would lose her second set of eyes on Obi-Wan’s daily life. But Nurse Gollum’s influence over Obi-Wan went into high gear.

I went to visit Obi-Wan one afternoon as he and Nurse Gollum were heading out the door. But this time it wasn’t for a doctor visit. He mentioned something about going shopping.

Before I knew what happened, the next day several delivery men were showing up to his house with various appliances and furniture. Nurse Gollum had talked him into purchasing the following:

- A new stove/oven. Granted, his old one wasn’t working to his liking. It could probably have been fixed, but too late now.
- A washer and a dryer. Obi-Wan has maybe one load of laundry a month (he wears the same clothes for 4-5 days. The ultimate bachelor). Nurse Gollum use to take it home with her and sometimes I’d bring it to my house. I can’t see spending the money on these machines at his age because he only has ONE load a month. And he can’t operate them himself. I told him I’d keep washing them at my house. Too late.
- A new bed and mattresses. He never complained about his old one, but he did have trouble sleeping at night. This wasn’t his choice, but now he likes it.
- Some mini-blinds and drapes. Again, he had no issue with his old drapes, but things look better with the new (Nurse Gollum recruited me to install them).

This is when it got real hard to conceal my eyebrow raising. Obi-Wan was convinced he was doing the right thing because, “Nurse Gollum has helped me for years”. So buying these things will get his bank account below $5000 and keep Misty employed. I found that loyalty odd, especially since he never liked Misty and he knew she wasn’t doing her job anyway.

All of these purchases have benefited his life somewhat in the last several months. So they weren’t a total waste. But they weren’t his idea in the first place and he never would have spent the money without her prodding. He never spends money on himself. I had to convince him once that it was “OK” to replace 30 year-old socks that ripped every time he pulled them up.

And the day after these items were delivered, Obi-Wan went into the hospital for three weeks. Thankfully, he made it home to enjoy his new stuff. But soon after, there was medical bills to pay, and not as much money in the bank to pay them.

And...when Obi-Wan passes on, Nurse Gollum will be the recipient of the majority of his estate.

Including these new purchases.

(part IV should hopefully be the end of this series)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Daze of our lives (Part II)

One of the sharpest and wisest people I’ve ever met is Obi-Wan. Equipped with an eighth grade education, this former farm boy and retired gas station attendant has more common sense than any upper level education crony I know. Yet Nurse Gollum has a subtle manipulative edge over him that he’s only beginning to realize.

Obi-Wan feels indebted to Nurse Gollum because, according to him, she really helped his late ailing wife in her dying days. And she also has done many personal errands for him long before I came around. So in a way, Nurse Gollum has free reign over his life and he does little to stop her. He trusts her. But he acknowledges that the dark side clouds his judgment.

About a year ago Nurse Gollum noticed that Obi-Wan had got to a place where he needed daily help cleaning his house, keeping up with his dishes, etc.

She noticed this because...I was the one cleaning his house. And I think this threatened her because until this point, she had always been the “hero” in his life. But I guess in her eyes I was some do-gooder who was one-upping her position. And Obi-Wan has things set up to where Nurse Gollum will receive most of his belongings when he passes on. So maybe she thought I might take over as lead inheritor or something…

Nurse Gollum has like 10 kids. Literally. Her oldest daughter Louise is also a home health care nurse who has occasionally worked with Obi-Wan. Louise is a lot like Nurse Gollum, but not as bad. Louise is also set up to receive some of the Obi-Wan estate when he passes.

Misty is Nurse Gollum’s youngest daughter. And like most babies of the family, I take it that she was spoiled and not taught to be responsible much. She is a former troubled youth with an attitude who is now in her late 20’s and raising 3 kids alone.

Nurse Gollum got it set up to where Misty was now Obi-Wan’s housekeeper. Technically, Misty was officially employed as a Personal Assistant to Obi-Wan by the same home health care outfit that employs Nurse Gollum. Misty’s job description involves cleaning the house & dishes, running errands, and other various duties that Obi-Wan might need assistance with. She was suppose to work for three hours, five days a week.

Obi-Wan didn’t like Misty because of her attitude. He didn’t trust her much and she wasn’t allowed in half of his house.

Misty may have run a vacuum and wash a few dishes for 30 minutes a day at the most. And that’s only when she showed up.

Basically, I was still doing the house chores and errands just like before. But the US government via Medicaid was paying Misty, who wasn’t doing much.

(part III to come)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Daze of our lives (Part I)

For months I have avoided writing reports about the nutty soap opera that is played out daily at the home of my dear friend and mentor Obi-Wan.

But I am facing a possible dilemma. Or a possible ethical reason for my being and thus, my secret agent calling could be in limbo.

So some background info:

Obi-Wan is old. He’s 89. And he’s a diabetic. So obviously, he has health issues. For several years Obi-Wan has had a home health care nurse visit him once a day. That nurse is Nurse Gollum.

And Yes, I gave her a Lord of the Rings moniker on purpose. She is very much identical to the Gollum character as Obi-Wan is to Frodo. And I guess I’m Samwise. (Agent Sam for short).

Obi-Wan and Nurse Gollum are both African-Americans (black for short). They have a long history together as Obi-Wan has known her since she was 10 years old which was over 50 years ago.

For over two years or so I’ve kept a suspicious eye on Nurse Gollum. My agent instincts tell me that she’s not 100% evil. She does her nursing job fairly OK. But I’m not convinced that she has Obi-Wan’s best interests in mind at all times. There’s too many conflicts of interests here.

And although she’s given me a few evil Gollum-like stares just out of Obi-Wan’s sight, I’ve been reluctant to share her story here because it would be a one sided story. And there is some good that comes out of her. Some.

Basically, my presence threatens her. It’s a careful juggling act of keeping my eye on her but not dragging Obi-Wan into this and thus not badmouthing Nurse Gollum behind her back.

To be continued...

(insert cheesy organ here)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

waves of hurt

It’s been kind of a rollercoaster ride of emotions at our house for the last couple of days.

Agent Wife’s sister up north (and occasional commenter as “lil sis”) lost her baby that was to be born today. She had a completely healthy pregnancy for nine months. Even an A-OK doctor visit and sonogram last Friday. She went in for a scheduled induction yesterday and was told there was no heartbeat.

We’re devastated, as I know she and her husband are too, along with many family and friends up north. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. We’re probably going up there for Christmas and our 2 kids and her baby were all supposed to be together for a big grandkid bash.

So many people terminate pregnancies at will. Why does this seem to happen to young couples who actually want to raise a family?

Then, my next door neighbor Frieda Sanford’s best friend Delia passed away this afternoon. She was talking to me this morning about hospice and wondering what that was. I asked why she wanted to know and she told me of her sick friend being put in there. I told her she better go visit right away because that’s where people go who are dying and probably won’t make it.

Frieda and Agent Wife went to see her and she passed an hour later.

We’ve met Delia several times. Sweet woman. She absolutely destroyed her liver with alcohol. It’s sad.

On the encouragement side…

Frieda found a two-seater stroller at a garage sale for a killer price. We’ve been wanting one for months but couldn’t afford one. She hid it behind her car and called Agent Wife over for a surprise early Christmas gift.

Thank you for the blessings amidst the hurt, CEO.