8 April Haircut
Among the things I’m going to start missing after departing from Taiwan (tentatively scheduled for July 31, 2018) are the NT$100 (US$3.30) barber shops at the hyper marts where I do our Saturday shopping. You feed a bill into a machine and a little piece of paper comes out with your number on it. When your number is called, you give the slip of paper to the barber (that’s how she gets paid at the end of the day) and sit in the chair. Within a very few minutes, you’re done. Admittedly, sometimes I don’t get a very good haircut, but the entire operation takes only about 10 minutes every 4 to 6 weeks.
When I was a teenager and didn’t want to get haircuts at all, my Dad pushed me to get them. When I was a soldier I had to get trimmed up every 2 weeks. Though the way I wear my hair now is probably what my Dad wanted when I was a teen, and is only a tiny bit longer than the Army liked, I still don’t want to spend too much time on the tonsorial part of my life. I’m going to miss the ease of having this done Taiwan style.
9 April Taipei Trip
On Palm Sunday I went all the way to Taipei to preach to the English language congregation then preside at Holy Communion for Shuang Lien Church. The elders there had hired Stephen Lakkis, a wonderful Australian guy, to do preaching and pastoral work for their English congregation, but because he’s not an ordained minister in the Taiwan Presbyterian Church (he’s a Baptist), they won’t let him preside at the Lord’s Supper. I would have no problem, but the elders set the tone and pay his salary, so it is as it is. I was able to give the sermon that I had written for use in Tainan “out of town tryout”. With the bullet train, I was up in Taipei in only 100 minutes or so, and on a slightly slower one back in Tainan in 2 hours.
9 April Tainan International Community Church
Palm Sunday. Psalm 118 and Matthew 21. Jesus basically said to everyone, “I’m Coming In”.
I notice that I’ve been preaching imperatives lately (“Come Out of There” the week before relative to Lazarus and the tomb.) The Easter sermon, “Do Not Hold On To Me” will be another imperative. I think it will be time for a change.
When 4:30 rolled around, there were only 6 people at church (we usually run about 16 people by the time of the blessing at the end). I tried not to be discouraged. And that was good, because by 5:30 we had a few over 20. The sermon was better the second time around, partly because I didn’t waste anyone’s time introducing myself. Slowly but surely I’m weeding mentions of myself out of sermons. Now it’s time to get myself out of the liturgy.
10 April IRS
Most years we don’t take in enough money to get us over the “foreign earned income” threshold to pay US Income tax, but we have to report anyway. Last year we were in the USA for 203 days, so we’ll certainly have to pay both the feds and Michigan. Thankfully we have a “tax guy” (whom we’ve never met). He works out of Rochester, Minnesota, and he’s been doing our taxes for over 10 years. He always sends a questionnaire in January, and I always dither around until April to respond. He also always gets an extended filing date in October for us, so we’re never late. On Monday I filled out the questionnaire, scanned paper documents and forwarded electronic ones. He’ll do his magic and get back to us in six months.
Taxation is legitimate. I have some neighbors who don’t seem to think so. They’re amazed that I pay Taiwan income tax as well as reporting American tax. I gently remind them that if my house burns, America isn’t going to send firefighters, and that there are no special american constructed roads in Taiwan on which I drive my car. “Still….” they sometimes say.
In May I’ll join them in reporting income to Taiwan’s tax bureau, and have to ante up for what I’ll owe here. The folks at the tax bureaux with whom I’ve dealt over the years have always been unfailingly polite.
11 April Insurance and Inspection
Our car is more than 20 years old and has to pass inspection twice a year. The insurance has to be in force and good for at least 90 days to get that done. Since it expires in the middle of May, I always pay it before the April inspection. I went to the inspection place where there’s an insurance counter and got it all renewed and up to date (a year’s liability insurance on the car costs about US$40). Then the inspection. Car passed, I was out on the road again, good until October.
12 April Major / Minor Characters
The assignment for the Pulpit Skills and Creative Preaching course this week was to come up with a “first person” sermon. The example I had given people was Oprah, the sister-in-law of Ruth from the Old Testament. I chose her because I wanted a minor character; big things can be built from little material.
Anyway, going around the class to find what people had consen, one student wanted to do David and Goliath, as David; another wanted Joshua and Moses as Moses, and a third a story of Elijah and a widow as Elijah. Only one of the six chose a minor character.
We all like to be big. Preachers’ egos are already inflated. No need for more hot air!
12 April Fast Talker
There are not as many seniors this year as there are Wednesday afternoons in the two semesters, so we’re having guest preachers. The college president seems to be inviting pastors of churches with money (we’re building a new library, and flattered clergy might influence their congregations to donate). The guy who came on Wednesday spoke about forgiveness as if it were the eraser on the end of a pencil. Very creative, accompanied by good use of metaphor, video and speech. My only problem, as translator, was that he spoke real fast. I had a hard time keeping up.
13 April Maundy Thursday
Occasionally I get tt do something other than translate in the college chapel. Last semester it was to preach for a communion service, and this week to preside at communion when someone else preached. I think I’m all “suppered up” for a while. With the service in Taipei last Sunday, the one at the school on Thursday evening and then another at a Taiwanese church for Good Friday, I’ve “dined at the Lord’s table” quite a bit this week.
In none of the three locations did we do the kind of liturgy that I like…. But that’s a matter of personal taste. Maybe later. Likely elsewhere.
14 April Good Friday
The 1st year ministerial training students at Tainan Theological College “do” Good Friday every year. This year they put together a 2-hour programme that had us wandering around campus. You could tell that they recently watched the movie “Silence” because we were given an opportunity to trample on a picture of Jesus.
In the evening Char and I walked over to the Taiwanese church we attend and I translated for about a dozen Indonesian Christians who were present for the Good Friday communion service. Our pastor, who generally preaches for 20 to 25 minutes, went on well past half an hour wringing 7 points out of the topic of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Personally, I’m overly invested in the “3 point sermon.” I admire his freedom, but still think 7 is overkill.
15 April Trim
Last Saturday was my hair, today our palm tree and other shrubs. Last week it rained a day or two, and I noticed that people walking past our house had to step off of the paved walkways to get past our shrubbery. The “kitchen scissors” saw to everything in less than 3 minutes.