The Busy Pastor’s Guide to Inbox Shalom

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I’ve recently had a new article published at CTPastors.com: “The Busy Pastor’s Guide to Inbox Shalom.”

It begins:

A ministry supervisor once told me a quick way to lose respect in ministry: Don’t return people’s phone calls. The same holds true for email.

The article suggests how pastors (or anyone) can reset to Inbox Zero in two minutes, and then recommends some strategies for keeping your Inbox in a state of shalom.

You can read the whole article here.

My (Mixed) Review of Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different

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I’ve got a review of Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different over at Englewood Review of Books. An excerpt of the review:

Eleanor Flood’s day is about to be different—but not in the proactive way she had committed to. Today she wants to be her “best self,” because “the other way wasn’t working” (7).

A writer and illustrator, Eleanor lives in Seattle with her eight-year-old son Timby (Timby?), a forgotten and forgettable dog Yo-Yo, and her husband Joe, well-loved hand surgeon to the Seattle Seahawks.

The review continues here.

Scrivener for iOS: $19.99 –> $11.99

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This summer I used Scrivener’s iOS app (in its beta form!) as my primary app for writing at a week away. Even in its beta form it was good.

I’ve written about the desktop app here and here. You can read about my eight most-used features on iOS here.

Just today the price has come down from $19.99 on iOS to $11.99–easily worth it if you’ve got the means. Check it out here.

 

Resist Injustice, Reshape the World (My Article at Sojourners)

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Yesterday Sojourners online published my article, “Resist Injustice, Reshape the World.”

In it I reflect on the challenges a Trump presidency presents and say:

Being honest about reality is a primary role Christians can play in society.

And:

The prophetic task of all believers is not just to react to reality rightly named, but to reframe it in the light of a grander vision of the future.

Read the whole thing here.

The Joy of Analogue: Outlining the Book of Joel for Preaching

One essential step in my sermon preparation process is reading the book of which the preaching passage is a part. I find it a discipline to hold off on reading commentaries and sit with the text itself. This is easier with a short book like Joel, from which this Sunday’s Old Testament lectionary reading comes.

I find myself more focused to read through and outline the book in analogue fashion. Here’s what it looked like for me yesterday morning:

 

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(Having fine writing implements like a fountain pen and nice paper helps!) I have since transferred my book outline to MindNode, from which I’ll continue my sermon planning. Starting device-free is important (and really enjoyable) for me.

Here’s my two-page provisional outline of the book of Joel, complete with a misspelling of “devastation”:

 

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The Freedom Simply to Begin (First Draft Co.)

When creating something—whether writing, sketching, jotting lyrics, or laying out a plan for a new project—getting started is often half the battle. To feel the freedom simply to begin—to make a first draft—makes the work possible.

Any writing teacher or art instructor will tell you that good creative work begins not with a finished product, but with a draft. That may seem obvious, but lots of folks involved in creative pursuits forget that the first goal of putting something down to paper should be, well, to put something down to paper. It need not be a finished product; in fact, in all but the rarest bursts of inspiration, it’s the working over the initial insight or burst of effort that leads to a refined or compelling outcome. As Ernest Hemingway put it, in a dictum variously attributed to others, “Easy writing makes hard reading.” It’s the constant, if not obsessive commitment to drafting and revising and redrafting that leads to strong work.

That’s one reason I like the name of the company that produces this journal, which suggests that what happens in the pages of its product will be a starting place, a beginning. “We started First Draft Co. with a passion to build tools and experiences that inspire creativity,” the web site announces.

 

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The blank book provided for this review looks impressive from first glance. But it also has a solid feel. The hardcover boards, covered with library buckram, give heft, and make the book feel like more than a sketchpad or casual notebook. The satiny place ribbon also conveys something classy and useful, making it easy to resume work once the journal has been put away.

 

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The pages are blank—no lines or dots—leaving the creator ultimate freedom. The elastic cloth band holds the pages and cover together. Slipping it off takes a couple of seconds but that need to perform a ritual act allows for a moment or two or reflection, allowing a pause for gathering one’s thoughts, perhaps one’s scattered presence for the promising task at hand.

 

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Some specs:

  • 104 gsm bright white paper (fountain pen-friendly, smooth, makes for a top-notch writing experience)
  • Smyth Sewn binding (yes! lays flat easily)
  • sustainably sourced paper
  • 224 pages (you won’t need a new one any time soon)
  •  5.5” by 8.25”
  • Made in the U.S.A.

You can find the First Draft Co. notebook (together with the Blackwing pencils and gorgeous desk gear they offer) here.

 

–Reviewed by author and guest blogger Timothy Jones

 


 

Thanks to the kind folks at First Draft Co. for the notebook for review, provided without any expectation as to the content of this write-up.

The Rhodia Webbie for Long-Range Planning (by Hand!)

Back before the days of advanced task management apps, I rocked a Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People planner. It had everything. Insert pages for contact information (before we kept that all in our phones), daily layouts for schedules and to-do items, and a section in the back for values planning and writing out my personal mission statement.

Task tracking for me is significantly easier on a device, since I can see what I have to do (and check it off) from just about anywhere. But hashing out the bigger picture life stuff doesn’t seem to quite fit in OmniFocus or 2Do.

So for long-range planning and goal setting, I’ve gone back to paper.

I now have as many dedicated-use notebooks as I have to-do apps—a liability transferred to merely a different medium—but a notebook just for “the 30,000-foot view” has been helpful. Here’s what I’ve been using—the black Rhodia Webbie:

 

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As you can see, it looks much like the hardcover, 5″ x 8.25″ Moleskine. But the Webbie (a.k.a., Webnotebook) is better, not least because it’s got 90 gsm Clairefontaine “brushed vellum paper,” which seems to be made for fountain pens. (Moleskine, by contrast, is not fountain pen-friendly.)

Much like its counterpart, the Webbie has a hard and smooth leatherette cover. I’m not in love with the cover, but I’ve grown accustomed to it and it is fine. The notebook is bound shut with an elastic wrap-around strap. This offers a nice way to store a pen with the notebook, in fact.

 

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There’s an expandable back pocket, so you can keep papers, receipts, photos, etc. with the Webbie.

 

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An 8.5” x 11” piece of paper, folded in half, just barely fits inside the notebook, though its edges come out a bit. No matter—this is not a notebook with U.S. dimensions! It’s A5, which is as tall as the Moleskine, but wider, which I find more natural for extended writing.

It does remarkably well with a fountain pen. The smooth paper feels wonderful, and provides no feathering or bleeding of ink. For that matter, there’s hardly any show-through.

 

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My one complaint about the Webbie (besides the fact that my text editor keeps wanting to auto-correct it to Rhoda Debbie) is that the ribbon marker feels too short. It just barely extends out of the notebook, about an inch or less.

Other than that, the Webbie is as good an all-purpose notebook as I’ve written in. And it’s working great for me to replace the role those 7 Habits planning pages once played. There’s plenty of room on a page to do some serious writing, note-taking, brainstorming, or drawing, but the size still makes it portable enough to go anywhere. In terms of specs, look, feel, and quality, the LEUCHTTURM1917 notebook is quite similar, though the Webbie is a bit slimmer and has slightly fewer pages.

With 192 pages of paper (96 sheets), the Webbie ought to last its users for at least a couple months before they need a new one.

You can find the Webbie here or here.

 


 

Thanks to the kind folks at Rhodia for the notebook for review, provided without any expectation as to the content of my write-up.