Wednesday, August 29, 2007


My next door neighbors The Tiger and his quasi-step father Manuel (Frieda Sanford’s guy) were in a huge wreck last week.

They were east of the fair mother city in the bedroom community I refer to as White Utopia. Manuel works as a self employed lumber jack near there and clears mesquite fields for various ranchers, then sells the wood. The Tiger works for Manuel on occasion.

They were in Manuel’s latest $800 POS: an old chevy pickup on its last leg. They were hauling a flat bed trailer loaded down with chopped mesquite. Somewhere on a busy street some young woman on a cell phone turned in front of them, totaling both Manuel’s truck and trailer.

The Tiger was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but left the ER when he was informed of the six hour wait. He had minor scratches on his head. Manuel’s left fore arm is all swollen and jacked up. Today he discovered his pinkie has been broken all week. So finally, he went to the hospital and got fixed up some.

I’ve seen Manuel more this week than I’ve seen him in months. Usually, he works seven days a week. Now, he’s home all day. And he can’t sit still for long. I think he’s mowed his grass every day now, even with his messed up arm.

Well anyway, the other person’s insurance came through today. I was walking by right as they were headed for the bank with a fist full of checks. “We’re going out to eat tonight!”, they said.

And they’ll probably be buying a better truck than the one he had real soon.

I’m not a big fan of the whole insurance system and industry. But I know things like mandatory liability insurance are in place for a reason.

And I’m glad it paid off for someone who could really use it. Thank you CEO...and big thanks that their injuries were very minor.

Monday, August 27, 2007

evang-e-droppings #003

OPERATION: Evang-e-dropping Eradication – a secret agent operation involving the retrieval and removal of littered christian tracts from various evangelical target sites (night club parking lots, etc.).

OBJECTIVE: a) to clean up litter generated by evangelical witness groups and b) to show love to various night club owners by cleaning up all trash from their outdoor premises.

Agent Offspring #1 and myself had another fun outing on the operation (all in the life of an undercover missionary family). We collected about 35 tracts - a new record. Because you know, this is all about numbers.

Until the CEO shows me otherwise, this will continue to be a weekly operation.

The Offspring and I also ran into Little Wing during the Operation. It was great to have my new homeless acquaintance meet part of my family. I showed Little Wing some of the tracts and asked if he ever found these. “Oh, I stay away from those”, he said.

That was about the only intelligible thing he said, apart from his ordinary “butterflies, zebras and moonbeams”. It’s all he ever talks about. I love Little Wing. I haven’t seen him in the Jedi Counsel Room lately.

I have been trying to wrap my head around the act of evangelizing and/or “witnessing”. Specifically, passing out tracts and the other gospel spreading methods these folks use. I listen to their preachings and read their web sites and they seem sincere and passionate about telling all of Jesus.

But why don’t I gel with their method? Am I just different? Is there something wrong with me?

The more I learned about this tract passing organization the more I wonder about love. Jesus is love. Jesus told us the two most important things involved love: loving god and loving your neighbor.

I’m starting to think that love doesn’t fit in with guilt infliction.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Some eighteen years ago this week I moved to the fair mother city, in what was hoped to be a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour.

I was eighteen years old.

These are quite reflective times for me. And yes, I am a fairly committed person as I don’t flake about or follow whims fairly often. This staying in one place is fairly common for me.

But - half my life in the fair mother city? Damn. Who would have known?

It was 1989, the best year in my life at that time. My dad gave me a car. I was in a successful rock/pop trio in which the co-founder and I wrote all of our own music – we were the Lennon and McCartney of our school. I graduated high school. I had more girlfriends (prom dates, band banquet dates, and etc) that year then you could add up my entire life. I was moving to the fair mother city to study music. My best friend from my youth group days was already there. And hey, the *original members of YES reunited to give us Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe. Life was good.

Of course, the blandness and inconsistencies of big city suburb life - as well as my parent’s failing marriage and my only-child status made it easy to move away. And stay away.

Then the firestorm hit. I graduated college. I turned down a scholarship to study in a masters level music composition program in Albuquerque to be with a woman I thought I would marry. We broke up a year later. I became diagnosed as a manic depressive.

Then the CEO of the universe freed me from this depressive state. And I’ve been on a journey with him ever since.

But...HALF my life in the fair mother city?!?

I guess it’s not a bad place to be.

God help me if I’m still here eighteen years from now.

* - OK, not the “original” line up from 1968, but the classic line up that brought us both Fragile and Close to the Edge in 1972. That’s what really matters.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

dream report #006

Agent Wife, our two kids, and myself went to visit Obi-Wan at some sort of local hospital or care home facility.

He had just moved in and the room was in terrible shape. There were holes in the walls and baseboards, pipes leaking, dimming lights, and rodent feces on the floor. Obi-Wan looked like he had been left alone too long and neglected.

Almost as soon as we arrived, people who worked at this place started scrambling to fix up the place and take care of him. And everything looked and worked perfectly within minutes.


(In another scene) my family, Obi-Wan, and I were driving in the Millenium Falcon to some remote, wooded location hours away from the fair mother city. We were going to stay in some place over night so that Obi-Wan could visit some sort of doctor.

When we arrived, we discovered that we were staying in some log cabins, like some sort of weekend get-a-way type of place. Obi-Wan said, “Wow. Look at these great accommodations”.

There were two cabins. And when we got in I saw that both had no roof on them. And there was a young lion roaming around the grounds and leaping onto the cabins trying to get in through the open roof.

I soon realized that I wasn’t going to get to relax as I was consumed with keeping the lion away from my family and Obi-Wan.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

plans (pt II): tree parable

When we moved to this undisclosed location we call home over four years ago, our front yard had this massive mesquite tree. Mesquites are good for one thing: burning at BBQs. But this tree was huge and majestic. Like maybe it would be a crime to remove it.

The mesquite had a massive trunk and only five limbs. It looked like a giant hand sticking out of the ground. If it wasn’t for the huge trunk, there would be no shade. Then a huge limb (one of the five) fell on the sidewalk one day. Thankfully, there was no innocent kid under it. So I learned that $50 would rent me a chainsaw for the day. It was time for it to live its destiny and become BBQ wood.

Later on, we planted a few trees throughout our property: five transplanted oak trees and a red bud from a friend, and four store bought trees. After a year only two survived.

We made a flower bed where the mesquite use to be an planted wild flowers. At the end of the season I cleared the dead flowers and discovered this small tree about 12 inches tall. So I left it. It turns out to be a fruitless mulberry, which is a fast growing shade tree.

Now three years later, that volunteer tree from the flower bed is taller and fuller than the other one in the front yard, which was six foot tall when we planted it a year before this volunteer tree came about.

I don’t understand why only two of the ten or so trees we planted have survived. And I don’t understand why a tree that planted itself from a seed is bigger and healthier than the two survivors we bought at six foot tall. This wasn’t my original plan, but all is working out OK.

The old mesquite I took down: it took up valuable resources (water, space) and gave back little or nothing. And it was slowly falling apart.

The ten planted trees: only two lived after a year.

A volunteer tree: bigger and healthier than the two survivors.

It’s not wrong to try to make things happen. I think it’s kind of like John 21 where the guys were throwing their nets all night. Then Jesus shows up and says, “throw it on the RIGHT side of the boat”.

I think most plans and efforts are man-made. And that’s not always a bad thing.

But sometimes our plans don’t work. And if we allow him to, the CEO may show up with a better way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

testimony #033: timely again

A few days ago we received a modest amount of support from a ministry on the other side of the country. I was very surprised by this as it wasn't expecting anything from this friend.

This was highly encouraging as August has been an extremely dry month for the pruning boy gig. I have been given very few hours to work. So I was wondering how we were going to make it through the next few weeks. I suppose in Uncle Georgian fashion, the CEO knew exactly what we needed before we needed it.

You never fail us, CEO. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

plans (pt I)

In all honesty, I am an organized guy. You probably wouldn’t think so by looking at me, but I am. It’s natural for me to mentally organize a plan in my head for any circumstance, no matter how important, menial, or scattered the situation is.

But for some reason in agent work, plans are futile. I think the CEO laughs at all plans.

I come from a long line of people who plan every nuance and nanosecond of their life. Those habits and upbringing have slowly faded away throughout the years.

There have been some benefits to not having high expectations via plans. For one, anxiety and frustration have become almost extinct, as they are usually the fruits of unfulfilled desires (plans). I like this. And in some weird way, I think lack of anxieties have a direct relation to better physical health. I have no scientific data on that.

I’ve learned that having plans are not bad in and of themselves. But clutching on to them and having high expectations are what jacks you up.

I think the discipline here is called “rigid flexibility”: have a plan, but be flexible enough to change if necessary or accept the unintended outcome.

Obi-Wan’s eyeglasses: sounded like a good plan to me. I don’t know why he didn’t go for it.

Or maybe Agent Wife’s Summer Fun Club for the neighborhood kids. The local kids couldn’t wait for it to start up this year. But when the time came, no one showed up. I think Agent Wife went down the block and drug some kid out of bed every Saturday at 10am just so someone would attend.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

evang-e-droppings #002

Agent Offspring #1 and I carried on with Operation: Evang-e-dropping Eradication, despite local flood concerns earlier in the day. City officials canceled all of the evacuation notices and closed the shelters as the flood waters vanished. I still don't know of any damage yet.

Tonight we were joined by frequent commenter and local agent the court clerk with her two young daughters. They helped clean the property of a local night club establishment as well as collect over 30 evang-e-droppings (a record to date - and big thanks for your help).

So far, I have saved all of these tracts. They are in a bag at my house. I don't know what to do with them yet. During my initial discovery of this operation my old college friend The Godfather suggested I make an art collage out of them. But I am at a creative loss in exactly how to go about communicating what I'd want with such a project. So perhaps something else should happen with these tracts.

We here at the agent b files are accepting suggestions on what to do with this collection...

flood woes

Much of my neighborhood is currently under a flood scare. We live three streets away from a mandatory evacuation zone. And we are one street away from actual flood waters in the streets. I do not know if anyone in these nearby streets have flood damage to their house as of yet.

Thankfully, our street is dry and I think the worst of it is over.

This flooding is the result from a recent tropical storm that came through Texas and rained all night Friday. The fair mother city usually has delayed flooding like this due to the creek drainage.

Of course, Obi-Wan is glued to his TV, which makes it sound like the whole city is under the apocalypse.

For those who are curious, we are doing fine.

But I'm told that about 1000 people in the city have been sent to various shelters. I will stay tuned to the situation. Otherwise, our locally scheduled agent activities are still in progress.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

testimony #032: encouragement

I haven't received much communication from headquarters in what seems like months. My faith hasn't wavered. But when confronting discouraging odds daily, it sometimes helps to receive confirmation that says, "yes, you're on the right track, B".

This month marks the two-year anniversary of these agent reports (and believe me, there's no celebration going on here. It's a blog for crying out loud). In these two years there's been no shortage of my whining and questioning if I'm on the right track in life. But there are too many testimonies that point to "yes, you're right on". So, you'd think I would have learned by now while I forge ahead.

Lately I've been praying for extremes. Or black or white. I want "A" or "B", no in betweens. As if I have a right to pick and choose assignments in life or something.

I guess we're all in charge of our destiny to a degree. We can make choices in certain areas, etc. Or so I think.

Anyway, the CEO has not answered ANY of my pleas for months. Yet I persistently continue to ask for "A" or "B". Maybe I'm asking for the wrong options.

So Monday I ask the CEO for an encouraging sign. Anything. Tuesday we received $100 from an anonymous source and Wednesday we received a $30 gift card to our favorite grocery store (HEB).

Very encouraging. Very timely. And very Uncle George-like in how my plea was sent up on Monday, yet the support money was already en route for Tuesday. Like the CEO knew what we needed before we asked, etc.

Thank you CEO.

Monday, August 13, 2007

operation: evang-e-droppings (report)

The first official evang-e-dropping and overall trash clean-up was a huge success. I was quite surprised and caught off guard in a number of ways.

First of all, it was just my 2-year-old son and myself. So I guess my attendance standards are fairly low for a successful ministry operation.

Second, it’s not like the masses were lining up on the shores of Lake Ft. Phantom to get baptized and be saved due to this deal. I mean - a toddler and I were picking up trash, mostly cigarette butts and a few bottles. That’s it. If the heavens opened wide, I guess I missed it.

We did however find about two dozen evang-e-droppings. Some were fresh and new, telling me the tract giving crew had been there the night before.

And normally I wouldn’t be writing about this event here as it seems to come against my mandate written in Matt 6:1-4. But I still wish to leave an open invitation to any locals who want to participate, thus the horn tooting report. This will be done for about an hour on the weekends. Email me if interested. Otherwise, it will be a father and son event, which is OK by me.

But something weird happened within me. I can’t explain it well. I’ve always believed in “being the message” as opposed to just talking about it. And I think to some degree my life has been this. But only to a degree. I have a long way to go.

However, watching the joy and excitement my son had for picking up trash was priceless. That alone was worth the whole experience, regardless if the bar owners/patrons ever feel the love of jesus from this. More than once Agent Offspring said, “I like picking up trash” as he scrambled over to get something, as if this were a giant easter egg hunt.

I would like to make a mild disclaimer, one that might surprise most: I am almost reluctant to completely criticize another’s outreach tactics. In other words, I am not totally against those who pass out tracts, but I would never join them. I prefer the quiet and unassuming, culturally embedded relational model.

Truthfully, as drive-by and as un-relational as passing tracts out can be, I always wonder about the handful of people in the world who come to know Jesus through one of these means. I know churches lift these new converts up on a pedestal and say, “these efforts WORK”.

And a guy who heads a local tract-passing ministry and I have a brief history together. I know him to be a lover of jesus. Who am I to judge him and say he’s wrong? If anyone can help me wrap my brain around this conundrum, please comment.

Meanwhile, I found one particular tract that fueled my disdain for them. It is 100% guilt trip inflicting and in my theological opinion, incorrect. The front had this Halloween-ish demon head on it with the words, “thanks for living your life for me!”. The back is shown here. Click on it if you care to read.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Today we drove down to Brownwood to visit Princess, Agent Wife’s young friend who originally was a match-up by a local mentor organization. Princess is now 16. She has been incarcerated for over a year now. She was in a local facility until a court hearing put her in the Texas youth version of Leavenworth, located in nearby Brownwood.

(And BTW - the mentor organization no longer recognizes the match. I guess when your kid ends up in prison then you’re no longer a success story for the next campaign brochure.)

Thankfully for us, Brownwood is only about an hour away. Most visitors have to drive hours to get there. I met a young couple that drove all the way from Lufkin (in East Texas).

I’ve never spent time in Brownwood before. Back in the old “izzy” ministry days, Brownwood was legendary with street folks as being the biggest drug trafficking town in West Texas. I think there are more shanty-ville meth labs on the outskirts of that town then there are churches in the fair mother city.

Truthfully, I’m just amazed with Agent Wife. She teaches me about loving people who don’t love you back more than any other source.

I mean, surely Princess loves us. But it’s hard for me to tell. She appeared blatantly unenthusiastic to see us when she was escorted to our waiting area. But such is teenage life I suppose. She’s always been like that, even when she was seven. Maybe I’m just a whiner.

Princess exposes my heart a lot. Driving a mere hour out of town is a sacrifice for us. Not only time, but gas for the car is a resource we use sparingly.

Jesus said something once about how easy it is to love those who love us back. Therefore, love those who hate you. CEO – help me.

I hope to be pursued and loved the way Agent Wife loves Princess.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This Sunday evening, I plan to clean up a local parking lot as mentioned here. If any of you locals want to join in and give ideas, please email me: secretagentb AT gmail DOT com.

I don't know how big or small this need is. Or if it's needed at all. This may be a one time thing. We'll see where it goes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

operation eyeglasses: aborted

A memorable line in “Do the Right Thing” features an old drunk saying something like, “This is America. And in America you can’t make a man change his beer”.

And apparently you can’t make a 90-year-old man change his eye doctor, or anything else for that matter.

My old college friend The Godfather fixed me up with a local eye doctor for this Obi-Wan eyeglasses venture. I thought that was pretty sweet since all the money collected could now go solely towards eyeglasses and potential cataract surgery (the surgery was news to me – I thought he was in need of a simple prescription only).

But Obi-Wan refused to see anybody that wasn’t HIS doctor. OK. Fine. We’ll eat that cost. So we scheduled an appointment for this eye doctor who he hasn’t seen in years.

The soonest Obi-Wan can be seen: December. Unless, of course, there’s a cancellation.

I sort of explained to him that a few friends of mine pitched in to get some glasses and I didn’t want to sit on it for five months. He understood, but he’s sticking with his doctor and his schedule for whatever reason.

I don’t understand this “loyalty to doctors” thing that I’ve witnessed in the elderly. Agent Wife and I didn’t care for the doctor who delivered our first kid. So we got us another one for Agent Offspring #2.

But for these eyeglasses, we tried. To all who gave: I thank you. I will be contacting you individually for instructions on returning your money.

I also apologize. I admit, I probably jumped the gun on this ordeal without fully researching all the facts. I just made a knee-jerk reaction when told he needed glasses that he couldn't afford.

In the end, we received a total of $850. That’s about doubled what I had asked for ($400-$500). I’m still shocked.

This wasn’t a wasted effort as it gave me some slice of hope in the act of asking people for things. I mean, in light of my past experiences in asking for help, and thus my views stated in the highly unpopular “Kiss the Ass That Feeds You” series (I, II, III, and addendum), I never thought I’d ask anyone for anything again.

Thanks for opening my eyes and proving that it can be done. And if for that alone, this was not a wasted effort.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

testimony #031: timely

The CEO recently provided for us in somewhat of a blunt way. But I never would have saw it coming.

There is a character in my life we’ll call Corporate Guy. CG is just that, a corporate guy. His name, face, and business are on billboards around town and so forth. Yet he’s very mild and inconspicuous when you’re one on one with him.

Corporate Guy has been a fair acquaintance of Agent Wife and I for several years. He also is a fellow agent for the CEO, embedded within the upper crust of the fair mother city.

He appears to be fairly wealthy. And although his interest in my life and mission seems high, I’ve never taken advantage of that or asked him for anything. But he offers things on occasion. He’s leant me his vehicle for highway travel. And he takes me out for coffee often. I’ll drink coffee any day: hoity-toity fru-fru coffee or plain manly black. It doesn’t matter.

(The best coffee I ever had was made by a woman who was border-line homeless. It was “instant” coffee and she heated the water up with, I swear, a greasy frying pan. It was excellent. Really.)

So today over coffee Corporate Guy asks, “so how are you and Agent Wife financially? Are you OK?”

“Well, like Bill Clinton, it depends what your definition of “ok” is. We have about $150 of utility bills due this week. There’s $37 in the bank and $20 in my pocket."

I figure we’re not dead. But payday is at the end of the month.

And hey...he asked. I was never going to bring it up.

So he hands me enough cash to get us through the end of the month. Nice.

Thank you CEO. Your timely provision is always perfect.

Monday, August 06, 2007

observe: exhibit "B"

An old college friend of mine, The Godfather, stopped into town recently one Sunday. It was good to see him.

After dinner he suggested that the two of us go out for a beer, like a good micro-brew. So I said, “Godfather, there is no micro-brew. This is Abilene, remember?”

So then he suggested getting a coffee. I took him downtown where maybe the Jedi Council Room or Mom-n-Pop coffee across the street would be available. Nope. Both were closed. “Oh yeah”, I said. “It’s Sunday night. This is Abilene. Remember?”.

So we decided to wander around the vacant downtown on Sunday night. Which was fine as our agenda was to just be two guys who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years and talk.

After seeing various old haunts from our college years in the early ‘90s (Espresso Europa anyone?), seeing Momo’s name proudly spray-painted half a dozen times in bright gold and pink under a bridge, and crossing both sides of the tracks, we found ourselves in the parking lot of a nightclub.

The nightclub was closed. It was Sunday night. This is Abilene (remember?).

I’ve never been in this club. But that’s not saying much as I’ve never been too attracted to the shallow night-club atmosphere. I’ve gone to see a few bands play here and there, but I’ve not been at this joint.

This place has had a dozen different names in my 18 years in the fair mother city. I’ve always said – the night club business in the fair mother city has got to be the worst business venture in the universe. Up and running one week – gone the next. I’m thinking, unless the right person is running it, there’s no way a sparsely populated religious city can keep a locally run club in business. But what do I know.

Suddenly, after realizing where we were, as well as knowing how the fair mother city reacts to such places, I started looking around. And bingo, I found one. Then another. And another.

And before I knew it, The Godfather and I were picking up a dozen or so “evang-e-droppings”. AKA tracts. AKA drive-by evangelism tools.

Oh dear reader*, must I present any more evidence to prove the shallow, barrier-building practices of churches in the fair mother city??

I’m thinking about starting up a new “ministry”: cleaning local night-club parking lots every Sunday of evang-e-droppings and other trash. It would keep our city a little cleaner and possibly tell local club owners in a subtle, quiet way that “we’re sorry, for they know not what they do. Let us make things right by cleaning your parking lot without fanfare.”

I’m serious. If any one is interested, maybe we should get our heads together and gather on Sundays to do this.

*Yet another nod to dear Uncle George.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

eyeglasses: update

So far, so good

I was shooting for the $400-$500 range as per Obi-Wan's estimate. As of this writing we have $810.

Thanks for being generous. Thanks for showing me that asking people for money is not always a horrid experience. And thanks for keeping up with Obi-Wan stories through these reports.

As originally stated, all extra will go towards his outstanding medical debts. And unfortunately, there may be some minor debt added by this eye ordeal. Obi-Wan failed to mention to me a while back that the reason he needs new glasses is due to a cataract in his right eye. He may need some kind of surgery.

And I landed a free eye doctor visit through a friend. But as I've learned over the just can't make a 90 year old man change his ways, or his eye doctor. Obi-Wan insists on going to HIS doctor, not some other doctor even if it saves lots of money.

Either way, we're in great standing and something will get done starting Monday. Thanks again.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

daddy's little friend...and the millenium falcon

The man formerly known as Youth Minister came to the fair mother city for a few nights via Cuba. This is the room mate of my first ever internet friend, the construction worker, and hails from Santa Cruz, CA.

I picked him up at the Greyhound station early Monday morning. We spent much of that afternoon at the Jedi Counsel Room, as well as touring our neighborhood and a smattering of spots in town that represent various juxtapositions, such as extreme wealth and extreme poverty separated by a single street, a creek, or a patch of trees.

While I was on the pruning boy gig Tuesday, my 2 year old son went looking for our latest house guest, asking “where’s daddy’s little friend?”. Congrats on the new nickname, little friend.

And perhaps one of the greatest stories of my summer: the Millenium Falcon lives up to it’s name.

Today, we arrived at the Greyhound station 15 minutes before LF’s departure. Nobody was at the front desk. But the bus was waiting outside. LF rings the “ring bell for service” button. Nothing. A minute later, rings again. Nothing. And again a third time.

This time we can see two guys working behind a desk way in the back. LF starts ringing the bell in annoying, one-second intervals.

One of the desk jockeys screams, “HEY WE’RE BUSY. WE’LL BE THERE IN A MINUTE”.

“OK. But my bus leaves at 12:40”

It’s like 12:38. Then one of the desk jockeys comes out and helps him with tags for his bag, etc. Then the desk guy gets this frantic look on his face as he looks up above our heads. Then he bolts out the back door that lead to the busses.

Busy Desk Guy comes back all nervous. He looks at me. “Are you the driver? Did you drive him here”

“Uhh, yes.”

“Man the bus already left. If you go down S. 1st toward Sweetwater you can catch it!”

We didn’t stop to think or slap the guy around. We grabbed the bags and did our best Starsky and Hutch impersonation and jumped in the Falcon.

The Millenium Falcon: my one and only beloved ride. A 1993 Lincoln Towncar with 242,000 miles.

I jump to lightspeed an exceeded speeds of 92 mph through town while LF is calling the Busy Desk Guy with his cell phone and chewing him out. We caught up with the bus on I-20 outside of Tye: me honking and LF waving his bus ticket at the driver through our window. The bus driver was cool and pulled over like this happens all the time.

The Millenium Falcon. She may be a hunk of Junk. But she can still outrun the empire.