Recommended: Thomas Friedman in the New York Times on Immigration Policy

Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent review of immigration problems, procedures and policies for the New York Times in this morning’s edition. It is listed as an opinion piece but Friedman always writes from a background of solid reporting and this piece provides a comprehensive review of the current situation at the southern border and the likelihood of future developments if we do nothing to change.

Fans of the president may not get beyond his endorsement of the need for physical barriers. That is unfortunate because he makes the point that a wall alone accomplishes little or nothing. However, he also describes places where physical barriers have worked to the advantage of communities on both sides of the border allowing commerce to thrive and homeowners to enjoy their property.

Federal employees whose job it is to enforce our rag-tag immigration policies are underfunded and tasked with carrying out unenforceable laws. Comments you are likely to encounter on FB often present our choice as being between open borders and building a wall. Not so. Life is so much more complicated than that and it gets more complicated the longer we ignore the real problems we share with our neighbors.

(The Friedman article is here. If you cannot read it from this link, you may have to subscribe to the NY Times. Maybe it’s time to throw your support to good journalism.)

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”

My New Favorite Player

Some friends asked me if I would take a few pictures of their son during his senior year at Brazoswood.  (If you looked in here around the middle of March, his photos were running on the sidebar from my Flickr site postings.)

Graydon Hill pitched for the Brazoswood High School Bucs until this summer when his doc pulled him and sent him to the showers. A medical condition eliminated pitching from the things he would be able to do during his senior year. Doc said he could still bat, run bases and play at first base occasionally.

So I went around town Wednesday with Graydon and his parents to take some shots. It was a cloudy, muggy day, the only time he had available due to tournament play and work during his spring break. I enjoyed taking pictures and he tolerated it pretty well. He gave me some great photos and I did my best to catch them.

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Graydon simulates his pitching motion for the camera. His doc won’t allow him to pitch anymore.

Graydon was expected to be one of his team’s starting pitchers this year. But disappointment is a temporary condition when you are as able with the bat as he is. The role of DH seems to suit him well. The day after our photo shoot he was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. In one day he surpassed my lifetime stats in Jacinto City teen play.

Graydon had no intention of making a career of his beloved game. Sorry, Astros. He has been accepted into Texas A&M’s very competitive engineering program. So, no more Aggie jokes. They were smart enough to pull this kid in. They are doing a lot more than playing football and cultivating maroon veggies for H.E.B.

Graydon is one of our graduating seniors at Chapelwood this year. I understand that he has also graciously accepted the job of unofficial team chaplain. He must be doing a good job. They won their Thursday game 18-4.

So, you ask, what happened to my old favorite player? She graduated and went to University of South Carolina to play softball with the rest of the best. The two of them, Anna and Graydon, give me hope for the world we live in at a time when hopeful signs seem hard to come by.

 

 

Methodists – Stay Put! We Have Work to Do.

A few days ago, a strange instrument of polity we United Methodists created to resolve – hopefully once and for all – the question of the denomination’s acceptance of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriages met and failed. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that the special session of the General Conference “resolved” the issue by emphatically endorsing existing language of the Book of Discipline that forbids the ordination of gay clergy and prohibits any ordained member of the clergy from officiating marriages for same-sex couples.

This all started in 1972 with the insertion of language into the Discipline of a statement meant to support the rights of gay members in the church and in society. However, conservatives at that General Conference succeeded in capping it off with  following additional clause: “…although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

To the contrary, it is this exclusionary provision that is more likely incompatible with Christian teaching in the estimation of most 21st century United Methodists in America. Most of us see it as wrong to pretend that God’s love and the grace of Jesus Christ is somehow less available to people who express their love and commitment to each other in relationships that do not conform to 19th and 20th century ideas of acceptability.

Continue reading “Methodists – Stay Put! We Have Work to Do.”

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.