I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt

If you procrastinated like I did, then you will be spending your weekend thinking about taxes and tax returns. There could not be a better time to have a visit from the patron saint of accountants. This is long. And you may find it boring. Accounting, after all. In any case, it’s purely fictional and any resemblance the characters may have to persons living or dead (or both – the saint, presumably) is purely coincidental.  

THE FINANCE COMMITTEE WRESTLES WITH SPENDING ON BIG TICKET ITEMS

Theology is thought to be a arcane subject by the religious and the non-religious alike. Church people think of it as “overthinking” the simple love of God and the easier and more beautiful intellectual demands of worship. The non-religious are, of course, mystified by miracles, prayer, and how church people reconcile the Trinity with the monotheism that is clearly commanded in the Decalogue.

But if theology is difficult, accounting is even more of a mystery for most United Methodists. I have been treasurer, finance chair, or volunteer amateur internal auditor for the better part of the last fifteen years in a United Methodist Church inhabited by men and women with excellent educations and careers in science, engineering and academics. I assure you most of them will explain the Trinity, reconcile evolution with the Book of Genesis, or enjoy a discussion of substitutionary atonement with you before they will tell you the functional difference between a balance sheet and an income and expense report. And while it may be fully expected that most members would not be able to go into much detail on such a thing as depreciation, you would think they would quickly grasp the meaning of the idea that income should ordinarily exceed expenses in a healthy organization. Alas, red ink is often taken only as a sign that we need to pray harder.

At our most recent meeting we spent the better part of an hour discussing whether we should pay for a $15,000 air conditioning condenser unit for the sanctuary from the operating budget or from our “rainy day fund,” which no one seemed to understand the reason for its creation and why it had been so named in the first place. Borrowing was not one of the options considered since we have been fortunate in being able to save up a little money over the last few years.

So it occurred to me after that meeting, where we agreed on a budget to propose to our church council, that maybe I could wrap some accounting ideas up in the more familiar spiritual language of theology. Red ink could be sin, for example. That would be easy enough and since we could all agree that it should be avoided, it wouldn’t need a lot of discussion. After all, this is deeply Republican country.

But what about the more difficult ideas like capitalization and depreciation of equipment? Too formidable to even consider after such a long meeting, I thought. Tomorrow. I will think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. For now, some welcome rest.

 

I FALL INTO A DREAM; I MEET THE PATRON SAINT OF ACCOUNTANTS

But, alas, as I fell off to sleep that night, a gentleman appeared to me in a dream. In my dream I was at Chapelwood’s altar all alone and praying about my difficulty getting fellow Methodists to understand basic accounting concepts. Few things have ever brought me to my knees like this problem. Continue reading “I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt”

I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019

Click the link to see thirty ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here’s one way that didn’t make their list: Write a poem. Maybe they left it off because it is so hard to write well, especially anything you want to nail to the wall and call a poem. But poetry will die if ordinary people quit reading it; it will die even sooner if ordinary people quit writing it. I welcome your offering in a comment space.

There are only twenty more days left in National Poetry Month for you to write your poem and it may take you longer than you think, especially if you write a good one. Frankly, I am partial to the ones that sing with rhyme and meter. But Robert Frost made the rest of us look pretty silly with our little rhymers. So, relax and write some free verse to celebrate National Poetry Month.

I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019

A sullen, still morning in April.

I remembered mornings from my childhood; they were so different then.

The only sound would have been a small high pitch in the distance – a horn announcing a shift change, but otherwise silent.

Lights went on in the houses down the street and cars backed down narrow drives, taking neighborhood men to refineries.

There, unions stood between the men and their bosses and fought for bigger paychecks.

But there was no one to guard the fragile air they breathed, the crystalline air so clear I could look up in wonder at millions of stars that I could see but could not count.

I pick up my newspaper from the lawn this day, the better part of a century later. The air oppresses like a soured cotton towel soaked in morning’s fog; the gray day wraps around my head. Continue reading “I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019”

Yes, We Have a National Emergency – A Mental Health Emergency.

And if you have any doubts, watch this video from the New York Times web site this morning. We haven’t had a leader with such serious mental health issues since King George III.

Here’s a piece by Jennifer Senior that helped me understand him. From her February 9 column in the New York Times:

I’m not convinced, as some people are, that the Twitter fusillades from the White House are part of a larger strategy of distraction, specifically intended to divert us from this particular administration’s malfeasance and failures. I think our president’s attention span is genuinely scattershot. (“Post-literate,” Michael Wolff called him in “Fire and Fury.” Seems about right.) When I imagine his brain, I imagine a bug zapper in a drizzle. Bzzzzzzzzzzt. Fzzzz. Bzzz fzzz bzzzzzzzzzzt.

And there is this from the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank citing his Rose Garden performance as evidence enough to provoke discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment.

The Mental Health Benefits of DELETING Your Facebook Account

I ran across this report in The Guardian tonight. While it seems like a pretty weak research design, I concur with their finding based on my own experience that there can be happiness after Facebook. I ditched my account in April or May of 2018 (I’m not counting) and really haven’t missed it a bit. I write more letters with ink and pen. Anything Putin wants to know about me, he just has to wait for me to write him a letter.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen

When my daughter came home during a break in her first year in college in 1996, she drove up to Angleton one day to meet me at work and have lunch. We headed over to the Texas Rose, an establishment run by a British expat who made the best hamburger in Brazoria County at the time. As we left the Texas Rose, young Dennis Bonnen followed us out the door and stopped us on the sidewalk.

“Mr. Fowler, I sure would appreciate your vote in the runoff next month.”

Dennis was pretty fresh out of college with a political science degree, a boatload of energy, and presenting for public office for the first time. He had barely made it into the runoff by edging out Beaver Aplin (yes, that Beaver) by ten votes. I had to tell Dennis that I was not qualified to vote in his runoff since I had voted in the Democratic primary.

The rest is history, of course. Beaver Aplin invested his free time in his gas station business and went on to develop the regionally famous “Buc-ee’s” brand. Dennis, won the runoff, served the next twenty-two years in the Texas House and on January 8 of this year was elected Speaker by unanimous vote of the membership.

Continue reading “We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen”

Growing Up White in Texas: How I Remember Dr. King

I grew up in the South in segregated neighborhoods, schools, and churches. I was born in 1943. The world was in violent upheaval across Europe and in the Pacific. That year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was finishing high school and preparing to enter college at the age of 15.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Dr. King but I think it was probably a six o’clock news report of one of the bombings of Dr. King’s home. Or maybe I saw him on the cover of Time magazine or television during the Montgomery bus boycott. 1957 was an eventful year in the life of Dr. King and in the life of our nation. When they were happening, these events didn’t make much of an impression on a white teenager from Houston’s blue-collar ship channel neighborhoods. I was in my middle teens and not as precocious as the young Martin, so the events of the day didn’t move me the way they would when I read about them later in my life.

At that age I was more interested in Houston Buffs and socializing with my church youth group than I was in the evening news. You may think that the brutality and injustice suffered by American citizens across the South would have gotten even a kid’s attention. But we white kids suffered from a vision problem that kept us from seeing the world of privilege we lived in and the injustices it had been built upon.

When I was a kid we listened to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon on the radio. If you ever listened to Sergeant Preston on the radio, you know that he sometimes got lost in the snow. Everything was white. The ground was white. The sky was white. Even the Yukon River was white. Everything ahead was white. Everything behind was white. White to the left. White to the right. He was blinded by the whiteness. Like Sergeant Preston, we had been snow-blinded.

Continue reading “Growing Up White in Texas: How I Remember Dr. King”