I feel like I should have taken a picture. I didn’t.

But if I had taken a picture and posted it here, you wouldn’t notice anything special. It is just a desk and everyone knows what it looks like. This particular desk I’m writing about has a place for a tower computer on the left side and a file drawer and a shallow drawer on the right. It has a hutch over the desk with a door on each side and 3 cubby holes in the middle. It is a great desk but nothing particularly interesting about it.

It is just a desk.

But then why was it hard to leave it tonight?

Tomorrow we’ll take it down to the recycling room in our building and leave it behind as we head back to the USA for 2 months and then move to another city when we get back to Taiwan at the end of July.

It possibly has some life left in it, but it was breaking in some places and we weren’t sure it would do well in the move and we really don’t have a place for such a large desk in our new apartment anyway.

It is just a desk.

But it represents a lot about our ministry in Taiwan over the last 13 years.

The desk is all that remains at our old apartment since we moved everything else to Taichung on Monday. The computer is there in its place. I was sitting there tonight for several hours because if I didn’t finish financial reports and several other items of importance tonight… our travel schedule would make it difficult to get to those things for at least several days.

The rest of my family was already at our friends’ house where we are sleeping each night until we fly out on Thursday. I’ve always enjoyed being up late by myself just getting things done and tonight was no different… except that my music was reverberating off the walls of the otherwise empty room.

Tonight’s work may seem tedious to some. Financial reports and emails. In some ways they are tedious… but these activities are actually a lifeline to our supporters and I really enjoy these tasks. We want people to know what we do here in Taiwan and enjoy sharing the news and being accountable to our brothers and sisters.

It is just a desk.

But it is the place where I most often sat to practice writing Chinese characters over the years. There is sweat and tears on the desk from writing practice. I’ve written 10s of thousands of characters at that desk… at least! Probably 100s of thousands. That number seems staggering although the math to arrive at it is sound.

It is the place where I have sat to prepare countless lessons and sermons during our time here in Taipei. God has been gracious to allow me to see a great deal of fruit from those activities… time well spent… but will I ever know how far-reaching the impact will be?

I’ve read the bible through many times while sitting at that desk and prayed and prayed and prayed there. Outside of countless hours of prayer walking over the years, I’ve prayed more while sitting at that desk than anywhere else.

It is just a desk.

But it was donated by a family who knew we were going to Taiwan and thought we should bring a good desk with us. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember anything about them except that I think her name was Karen. Angie will remember them, I’m sure. She always remembers stuff like that. We are a good team… Angie and I. The desk is a reminder that every minute of our time in Taiwan is made possible by financial supporters. I don’t want to waste a minute because of the sacrifices people make to donate money towards building an indigenous church planting movement in Taiwan. The desk is a tangible reminder of those generous donations.

It is just a desk.

But it’s function changed as time passed. The hutches started to fill up with children’s software and sometimes the regular computer mouse would be replaced with one that would better fit small hands. My kids are the first generation to grow up with a computer as a normal household item and they’ve put in their time at the desk, too. First with games. The games haven’t ever stopped and I play my fair share. But now the computer has multiple user accounts and homework takes priority.

It is just a desk.

But is has been a constant. Ministry is a challenge. Missions is a challenge. I absolutely love living in Taipei and treasure each co-worker (current and past) and especially treasure our Taiwanese brothers and sisters who are building the Lord’s church here. But it has been so hard for me much of the time. So. Hard.

And yet the desk was there when I needed to sit and read my Bible. It was there when I needed to make a plan. It was there when I needed to put my feet up and my head back and just… dream. Of course it isn’t there for me like a person can be there for me… but you know what I mean. It was a constant during times of great joy and great distress.

It is just a desk.

But it was really hard to leave it tonight after a final time sitting there… being productive… getting the job done… nothing fancy about the furniture and certainly nothing fancy about me… but for 13 years, we’ve been a team… me and that desk. I hope I’m not stretching the metaphor too far… but I think I’m like a good desk in many ways. Faithful, reliable, constant, can bear many burdens, and I hope… useful. Yeah I’ve gone too far. Typing at 4am can be an adventure sometimes. :-)

I’m sure I’ll figure out some way to keep my keyboard, mouse, monitor, pencils, and paper up off the floor in our new apartment. Pretty much any desk will work out fine for that purpose.

It is just a desk after all.

3 Comments on May 23rd 2012

I would have guessed that alcohol would have come out on top, but this does make sense.FD10113

Cheese carries a lot of value in a compact package. It’s small, easy to slip into a pocket, and it’s not traceable. Just peel off the cheesemonger’s sticker and you’re in business.

The Most Shoplifted Food In The World? That’s Right, “Cheese.” – The Consumerist.

 

I’ve never shoplifted cheese, but it is *definitely* something that I miss while living in Taiwan. I probably splurge on some gouda or cheddar about once a year and I’ve never had Swiss cheese here.

We’re headed back to the USA on May 24. I might shoplift some cheese from my parents’ refrigerator.

No Comments on May 3rd 2012

While browsing online for a map of Taiwan, I happened across this website with some amazing imagery from around the world.

http://earth.imagico.de

This image of Taiwan turned up in a google image search. (click to go to the site in a new window, they deserve the traffic)

Taiwan

In this image, the north tip of Taiwan is in the bottom left corner.

And this one is also on the site. (again, click to go to the site)

Northern Taiwan

This is from off the east coast of Taiwan facing towards the northeast.

No Comments on May 1st 2012

I found this the other day while I was considering the historical effectiveness of sharing the gospel by mouth; e.g. preaching, one-to-one evangelism, books, arguing.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that the most effective means of communicating the gospel is through modeling an obedience to Christ’s teachings and commands.

Obviously, the following account is not about the Christian gospel, but it (and especially the closing sentence) can give us great insight into Buddhist thought and how we might best spend our limited time and resources.

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at that time the Uji Rive overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

from: http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/37publishingthesutras.html

1 Comment on Apr 30th 2012

We have called off our search for a Boston Terrier and are now trying to locate a troop of red ruffed lemurs.

From the National Zoo Website

This report also suggests more evidence that there appears to be no hope for the giant pandas as a species.

No Comments on Aug 25th 2011

Filed under ministry

Death Valley

This morning on Google+ I linked to a different post on this blog. In a comment, a coworker mentioned this post about the journey people must take when transitioning to simple church.

The journey from legacy church to simple/organic/house church

There is a “Death Valley” that people often must pass through on the journey. In this part of the journey, some long held beliefs and habits must be left behind to die.

Some of the things that will need to die? Felicity Dale lists these 4, but each person making the journey will need to discover which of their own sacred cows must be butchered on the trip through Death Valley.

  • Professionally led worship–in simple church you are lucky to have an out-of-tune guitar.
  • Well prepared talks–there’s no pastor who can spend hours preparing a stimulating sermon. Everyone takes part in an interactive discussion.
  • Children and teens ministry–you can’t just drop your kids off at Sunday School to have an hour free from distractions.
  • Someone else to make all the decisions–in simple/organic church, everyone is involved.

I think that another thing to add would be something having to do with “identity”. I can’t quite find the words for it right now… but it would deal with the way that we take some measure of comfort by carrying out our faith in conventional ways according to our culture. We know that if we tell someone that we go to Community Church on 1st and Main that it answers any further questions about our faith. But if we meet in homes or in a coffee shop or on a day other than Sunday… well… now we’ll have to explain how we aren’t a cult, don’t hate the church, read the Bible, listen to Chris Tomlin, etc.

If I’m reading it correctly (and in light of other things I’ve read by her) the point Felicity makes by way of Wolf Simson’s “Death Valley” analogy is that this journey isn’t by teleporter or even an airplane… but it is through a desert and it is best to travel light, with only basic necessities. I’d suggest that you never make this journey alone… get with some friends and travel together!

H/T Jon R and Casey B for the original Google+ post and comment leading to this post

2 Comments on Aug 16th 2011

 

After a week of camp with mostly non-Christian students… I’m more aware than usual of the fact that modern evangelical speech is for “insiders”.

My neighbor Andy always asks great questions… he’s a true learner. After his first week of camp a few years ago, he says to me:

What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Just believe he existed or is it something else?

He paid attention during the whole week and came away from it still unclear on what it meant to believe in Jesus. That isn’t his fault.

We talk funny if we aren’t careful and some of us are so used to certain phrases that it will take great effort to create new habits and ways of speaking. The challenge is compounded by the fact that evangelical-ese usually doesn’t make much sense in English… and then we bring a literal word-for-word rendering into Mandarin. ugh.

Lord… forgive us… and teach us…

H/T: FreeTyler

2 Comments on Aug 8th 2011

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No Comments on Aug 3rd 2011

More good reflections on John Stott’s influence on Christianity and Evangelical Christianity.

Nicholas D. Kristoff’s Evangelicals Without Blowhards

I want to identify myself as an Evangelical, but people like Falwell and Robertson make it hard – almost impossible – for me to do so. I believe that there are more people who identify with Stott’s message and methods than with those of the “blowhards”. If true, it is good news and we may be able to redeem the use of the word Evangelical. If limiting the scope of my statement to America, I’m probably incorrect… but I’m speaking in bigger terms and of the world-wide Church. Keep in mind that the “average Christian” is not white, American, Western, or English speaking.

Although it is unfortunate that such streams of thought exist at all, I take comfort in knowing that they are both relatively recent (in history) and localized (primarily in the US). Sadly, this combination of time and location makes it possible for these people to speak through the biggest and loudest megaphones in history. But their self-created megaphones are not the only way their message is communicated. The mainstream media is all too eager to amplify their message by placing microphones in front of the megaphones. There is a vicious cycle where the media has elevated these blowhards and given their message a bigger stage and then the media criticizes the church for following the blowhards. Rinse. Repeat.

The Media Megaphone Microphone Marriage

Kristoff’s piece is a welcome change where the negative influence of the blowhards is clearly seen. I’m saddened by the loss of John Stott, but am I wrong in thinking that his passing has made us all more aware of his quiet influence and consistent message of hope and love and peace? His methods withstand the scrutiny of the magnifying glass and his message transcends any megaphone.

No Comments on Aug 2nd 2011

A great man passed on July 27, 2011. My first exposure was his Acts commentary, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church, and the World.

From Christianity Today’s obituary:

From his conversion at Rugby secondary school in 1938 to his death in 2011 at 90 years old, Stott exemplified how extraordinary plain, ordinary Christianity can be. He was not known as an original thinker, nor did he seek to be. He always turned to the Bible for understanding, and his unforgettable gift was to penetrate and explain the Scriptures. As editor Kenneth Kantzer wrote in CT’s pages in 1981, “When I hear him expound a text, invariably I exclaim to myself, ‘That’s exactly what it means! Why didn’t I see it before?’”

and this on Stott’s introversion:

“Naturally, by temperament, he was an introvert,” says Chris Wright. “He was very happy to be in his own company. Yet he gave himself to so many people, remembering names, knowing their families, knowing their children, writing letters, praying for them. He was constantly praying for people. His prayer list was so long. Whenever he would meet them again, he would remember them because he was praying for them.”

No Comments on Jul 28th 2011

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