Stories on a Slow Friday Afternoon

March 22 Midterm Video Assignment

It’s been my practice in recent years to put students as much in control as possible during midterm and final examinations. I absolutely avoid asking people to memorize information and parrot it back at me, and often give them the opportunity a few weeks in advance to choose the topic area on which an exam or project will be based.

On March 22 the “pulpit skills” class discussed videos about making videos, not of sermon recording, but of one person talking to a camera. That inspired the midterm project I assigned.  “Imagine yourself to be the pastor of Happy Jesus Presbyterian Church. Your church has a website. The website has a FAQ tab.  Make a 1-3 minute video in which you respond to the question, “How do I become a member of Happy Jesus Presbyterian Church?”  The videos are due in my inbox by midnight on March 31st, and we’ll look at them together on April 5th.

March 22 The Secret Death of a Bread Machine

Before heading out to class on the afternoon of March 22nd I set up and started our trusty second-hand (purchased years ago in a thrift shop) bread machine. When Char got home from work she could smell bread rising. She heard the machine beep, so pulled the plug and ran some errands. When she returned, she went to get the bread out of the machine and discovered uncooked dough. She vowed to be more careful in the future, and I put the dough into a pan in the oven to bake. It came out rather dense and chewy.

March 23 Over-reaction

Morning prayers at Tainan Theological College were led by the guy for whom I find it hardest to translate. He speaks rapidly and seems to hop from one thing to another, so I can’t follow his train of thought. I’ve settled for just translating sentences as they come into my ears, and not trying to make the entire thing make sense.

At the end of his talk to us, he delivered some news. That morning a dead cat was found in the chapel. He surmised that it had been abused and left there by a mentally ill person, so he warned us all to be careful of strangers on campus.  Then the college president got up and doubled down…. We have to be very careful about keeping the gates on one half of the campus locked after dark and all weekend. We’ve been ordered to inquire the purposes of any stranger whom we might meet on campus. He said that his plan is to move all of the women in the dorm on the unlocked half of campus to a dorm on the locked half.

All this because of a dead cat: which maybe had been hit by someone on a motor scooter and had crawled to the chapel where it died; or maybe had been hit and injured by someone on a motor scooter who put it in the chapel where there was sure to be someone eventually to give care; or maybe was the victim of another such accident and had died, resulting in a superstitious person’s placing it in a “holy place” rather than hanging the body on a fence (which is the old custom here for dead cats).

March 23 Street Harassment Sermon

I got out of synch with the lectionary last week. I had good reasons, but the result is going back and picking up the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well for the 26th. Some feminist clergy have issued loud warnings not to preach this story in the assumption that this woman was immoral or a prostitute.

A week ago I saw a blog about street harassment in New York City, and it struck a chord. Women there have been harassed by guys sidling up and saying things like, “Hey, sis, you oughta smile more.” They are in open rebellion. I’ve chosen to use this as the lens through which to see the woman at the well. She’s afraid when, going to the well alone, she finds a man sitting there. Later, when a whole group of men arrive, she flees, fearing gang rape.

Maybe talk of gang rape from the pulpit isn’t the nicest way to tell a story that includes Jesus saying good things, but it may alter the way that the guys in church, including me, see our interactions with women.

Find it, as yet unpreached (unpraught?) at:


March 23  Dinner Out

Rose (the English name she uses) is a senior in the ministerial training course. She was a single mother until last year, when she married an older Taiwanese guy (David) who had returned from life in the USA to retire here. His two sons remain in America. Last semester, Rose made a last minute try to put together a dinner, but there wasn’t enough lead time,  so it didn’t happen.  This term she started well in advance and got commitments for March 23. There were 9 people around the table, good food, good conversation and a pleasant walk home.

March 24 Public Death of a Bread Machine

Friday morning before heading out the door I set up and started the bread machine, which takes 3 hours and 40 minutes to complete a loaf of whole wheat. I got it going before 8, so figured to smell warm bread when coming back from lunch for a nap.

At about 12:30 I opened the door and did NOT smell bread. I opened the machine and found dough.  Just put the pan with the dough into the oven and set a timer for an hour, went and napped, and got a loaf when I was awake. Bread maker is now with the recycle stuff. The “spare” machine will now come out from under the stairs and become the only one in the house. Since the “spare” was older than the one in use, I’m concerned that before we leave Taiwan in August of 2018, there won’t be fresh bread in the house.


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