Pencils & Paper for Pastors

I've been diving deeper into the world of notebooks, pencils, and pens lately in order to rework how I use some tools for daily tasks, projects, note-taking, journaling, etc. I'm always tweaking something, but I realized I was in a slump and needed some changes. I'm working on a lengthy post about pencils and how I'm geeking out on them right now. I think they are often taken for granted and underappreciated. I think they are remarkable and handy and enjoyable. And my pencil discoveries have put me in a generous mood. I'm giving away some pencils. 

But I want to do more than just give some pencils away. I want to give you something to write in. Something beautiful to write in.

I use Field Notes brand of notebooks every day. I keep one in my left front pocket. The newest edition of Field Notes, which is still available to buy, is just lovely and I want to get some in your hands. It's the Ambition limited edition Field Notes. They have gilded pages, beautiful covers, and useful formats (explained below). When I knew I wanted to do a pencil giveaway and these came out, I just had to contact the fine folks who make Field Notes and ask if they would be willing to provide these for my readers. They sent three 3-packs just for you guys. They threw in their pencil as well since they knew I was doing a pencil giveaway. 

So here's the giveaway. Three readers will win:

  • One 3-pack of Ambition Field Notes with bookmark
  • 5 pencils I love
  • 2 extra pencils that are a little different & interesting to try out
  • 1 Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser
  • 1 Pencil cap
  • 1 two-size pencil sharpener

Other than the notebook sets, bookmark, and pencil, I bought everything else myself and I'm paying for shipping. It's my Christmas gift to three of my readers. I just can't wait to get some good pencils and notebooks into the world!

Who is eligible for the giveaway? My desire is to give these to my normal readers -- pastors, seminarians, writers, workers in various ministries, missionaries, etc. If this giveaway isn't for you, would you please share it with your pastor/pastors so they can enter? If you have these books already, please don't enter. I'm also limiting this to the U.S. Sorry international friends! 

Here's more info on the specifics of the notebooks and pencils...

Ambition - Limited Edition Field Notes Notebooks - One sealed 3 pack

These are gorgeous pocket notebook sized productivity jewels. Gilded pages, sturdy covers with rich colors ("Olive," "Chocolate," & "Wine"), and light brown inner lines. To see more about what they look like outside and in, go here

  • Book One - Weekly Planner/Memorandum Notebook -- I'm keeping this at my desk for briefly recording daily happenings worth remembering including weather, family activities, church happenings, world events, etc. Some of your grandparents did this, like mine did. Trying it out for 2015. You can use it however you like!
  • Book Two - Ledger Lined -- Even if you don't need a true "ledger" book, it's very useful. I'm using one for a dash/plus organization system for myself. It's also a very handy format for todo lists, a personal or family prayer list, a project/next actions list, shopping list, or just writing across the lines like a journal.
  • Book Three - Grid/Graph -- This is a more traditional form of pocket notebook that can be used in a million different ways. Grid paper of various types is my "go to" paper for everyday notes and lists and all sorts of work. 

Here's a short video preview of Field Notes Ambition edition...

5 Pencils I Love (& Extras)

  • Field Notes Pencil -- Cedar, natural, & nice firm graphite for holding a fine point longer (sharpen less often). I use this everyday with my memorandum notebook because a sharp point that lasts allows me to write smaller.
  • Staedtler Norica -- This black beauty writes like butter. It leaves dark marks and is wonderfully smooth. We got a big stock of these for the kids for school. 
  • General's Cedar Pointe -- A favorite all-around pencil for me. Beautiful with natural wood grain. 
  • Musgrave Test Scoring 100 -- My kids LOVE this one because it's so smooth and so dark. Rich writing experience.
  • Palomino Golden Bear -- This cool looking orange pencil with blue eraser is perfect for everyday use. Writes fairly dark and holds the point longer than many. This is what I keep in my pocket whenever I'm out of my office.


  • Staedtler Wopex Pencil -- One of two Staedtler pencils in the pack, this one is unique in that it's an eco pencil. It's made of recycled wood and plastic. It's weird and heavy and interesting. A fun one to add so you can try something different.
  • Dixon Tri-Conderoga Pencil -- The Dixon brand is a decent pencil you can buy most anywhere (Target, Wal-Mart). They are hit-and-miss for me because the brand is so big and the production quality varies. But I like the Tri-Conderoga a lot. It's an interesting one because it's slightly oversized and three sided. A comfortable pencil for writing.
  • Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser -- Go ahead and try this next to any other eraser. It's amazing. I use mine every single day.
  • Two-Size Pencil Sharpener -- Nothing special, just giving one to each so you can sharpen the pencils I'm sending. They have seen mild usage but should do well enough to get you started. Just don't take these excellent pencils and eat them up in a bad electric sharpener. 
  • General's Pencil Cap -- Take a pencil in your pocket or throw it in a bag with this cap. Keeps it from breaking or impaling your leg.


1. Comment Below. In your comment tell me two things: A. What kind ministry you do, and B. Something memory you have about pencils and/or erasers. Make sure you give your real email in the comment form (not in the actual comment) so I can contact winners.

2. Share. Please share the following on Twitter minus the quote marks (Facebook too, if you can): 

" Pencils & Paper for Pastors Giveaway: limited edition notebooks & amazing pencils. Enter:  "

On Friday I'll tally the number of entries and use to pick 3 winners.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Field Notes - Ambition

Two of the everyday carry (EDC) things are a pocket notebook and a pencil. I'm nerding out over them and they are making my daily work more efficient, my mind less cluttered, and my productivity apps on my phone a little more lonely. My favorite pocket notebook, a recent discovery of mine, is Field Notes. And what a discovery. Small enough to keep in a front pocket or throw in a bag. It's barely noticed, yet it gives me the freedom to have the original "white board" with me everywhere I go to do with as I please. I use it as a paper planner, mind dump, quote collector, todo list, journal, and more. I plan to share more about how I'm using my Field Notes/pocket notebooks another time.

Right now I want to talk to you about one particular Field Notes book that just might make you fall in love with this size of notebook.

On top of a number of always-available and very useful notebooks (Kraft, Cherry Wood, Pitch BlackCounty Fair) Field Notes has what they call a "Colors" collection that goes to yearly subscribers and those who place special orders until they sell out. 

The newest "Colors" Field Notes is called "Ambition." You can buy a pack (three books) for $9.95. In each 3-pack there is one schedule book, one ledger, and one graph paper notebook. You can use them as they are intended or hack them to use as needed, which is what I might do. These feature gorgeous covers and colors, gilded pages, and even gold colored staples. A perfect companion for you as you journal, take notes, or write out a new idea.

They will sell out and, as I've learned the last couple of months, they will even go up in price as unused limited edition Field Notes always go up in price. Yet they are only $9.95 for three packs and no more expensive than their regular, always-produced editions. Amazing. I'm buying a bunch. I thought some of my readers might want to buy some to use or to give as gifts this Christmas season.

A couple more photos below.

Ambition schedule book, ledger, and graph.

Ambition schedule book, ledger, and graph.

Beautiful gilded edges from a Bible printing company.

Beautiful gilded edges from a Bible printing company.

Lots-o-Links 9.25.14

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl is probably the greatest pencil I've ever used. If you've never tried them, wowwy you are in for a treat. Pick up a pack.

Austin Kleon has made clipboards look like an interesting as a part of office design.

This is one of my favorite themes: it’s not that I have a need and then I seek out the right tool for it, but most of the time, having a tool lying around (like a row of clipboards) will inspire me to find some use for it.

Where Have All The Poets Gone?

We need our poets now more than ever. In fact, they should be on the front lines — at rallies and marches — questioning and rebuking whatever systems they deem poisonous to civil society. They once fed us, our poets; emptying themselves in the process. Generously, courageously, they brought the darkness to light. They said what we felt, and didn't mind taking the heat for it — whatever that meant. Did they stop speaking, or have we stopped listening?

Christian Wiman on Poetry and Faith

Why We Get Stuck

“Stuckness” is just a part of doing hard things. However, just plowing through is not necessarily the answer. Internal work does not always equate to external progress. Instead, it can sometimes be helpful to step back and consider the particular source of your stagnancy. There are three that I encounter all the time.

10 Creative Rituals

creative brain.jpg

Thought-provoking ideas about how to sustain creativity: "10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal." I've listed them and given you one in full so you get the idea. But you should check out the whole article

  1. Take a Quarterly Vacation
  2. Hold a “Retrospective” After Projects
  3. Write Every Day
  4. Create an “Interesting People Fund”
  5. Keep “Tear Sheets” to Get Inspired
  6. Nap Every Day
  7. Envision What You Will Be Remembered For
  8. Brainstorm at the Bar
  9. Get Out of the Building
  10. Engage in “Morphological Synthesis” 

One full example from #9 "Get Out of the Building"...

Radio host Garrison Keillor makes sure to get into the “observable world”:

I don’t think that one should sit and look at a blank page. The way around it is to walk around with scrap paper and to take notes, and simply to take notes on the observable world around you. If you walk into this room and see these great columns and think this was once a savings bank, you could put those two things together, and make some notes here – that would be the start of something.

I think everything – everything – starts with the observable world, and even though you may cut that out of your final go, nonetheless I think this is where it always starts, and with overheard conversations. There are a lot of conversations here that could be overheard, and you’re probably more likely to get them in the back of the room.

Lots-o-Links 12.14.13

Tim Challies - Evernote Owns Me - Here are his four key points. Go to his post for his explanation.

  1. I Take It Everywhere
  2. I Tell It Everything
  3. I Use It To Eliminate Paper
  4. I Use It To Collaborate

6 ways to serve your pastor's wife on Sunday by Ryan Huguley

Instead of enslaving the pastor's wife with expectations, we should seek every opportunity to love and serve her; this is especially necessary on Sunday mornings, as she doesn't have the help of her husband. So here are six simple ways you can serve your pastor's wife on Sundays when your church gathers for worship:

How to write a book review - see both Aaron ArmstrongTim Challies posts

Ansel Adams and the art of framing

“Photography is really perception,” Adams once wrote. “As with all art, the objective of photography is not the duplication of visual reality, but an investigation of the outer world and its influence on the inner world.”

Best albums of 2013 lists are being gathered in one place - Metacritic

9 thoughts on writing from Madeleine L'Engle - Here's one of the nine...

7. Who should write? “In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.”

Lots-o-Links 10.23.12

Web link

The 4 G's: Four Videos for the 4 G's | "In Tim Chester's book You Can Change he identified four liberating truths about God. He suggested that underlying all our sinful behavior and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others."

Dutton Books: How to Open a New Book | make sure you limber up that binding!

Josh Reich at Resurgence: A Simple Time-Management Principle | "You need to know the implications. When you say yes to something, you say no to something else, maybe multiple things, but it happens every time."

Why Mako Fujimura left NYC for the Country | "Makoto Fujimura, after many years of working in and for New York City as an artist and creative catalyst, has moved his home and studio to an old farmhouse outside of Princeton, New Jersey, which he has come to call Fuji farm."

Lots-o-Links 12.14.09


TeuxDeux is one of the simplest online todo lists I've seen. Like it so far. (via)

Esquire: What if Jesus meant all that stuff? - Shane Claiborne addresses the "unbelieving"

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating.

Curator: And the Mad Waters Rise (on Mad Men)

There is already evidence in Mad Men, from some of the plights of other characters, that the writers believe in some form of reconciliation, some redemption. Perhaps Draper too can recover from the fact that possessions and success are ultimately meaningless, and perhaps the hole this has left in him can be filled with something more meaningful, some rock to build on when the waters rise. We’ll have to wait till Season 4 to find out.

Dan Kimball: I Was Wrong About Church Buildings

I have recanted from my earlier belief that buildings drain resources and create consumer Christians. I was wrong. Now I see them as missionary centers to impact lives for the gospel.

Ray Ortlund: Brothers Together in Christ

Three ways to create a church where brothers demonstrate love for one another...

  1. “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10)
  2. “Bear with one another” (Colossians 3:13)
  3. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for building up” (Ephesians 4:29)

The 2009 Reformission

DSC_00161I've identified 10 changes I want to see in my life in 2009.  Call them resolutions if you like.  I have much more I could say about them, but I wanted them to be somewhat brief here.  The first 3 are general and pervasive through the next 7, and are things I've been working on for years (ordering not important).  The last 7 are more specific (and in order).  I know that it's really God who works change, and that everything below should say "Lord-willing" after it, but just accept that up front if you would.

10. A year of clearer boundaries.  I'm thinking of several areas here including the areas of hospitality (more at #6), personal organization, what I do in my different workplaces, time with my wife (more at #2), what we let our kids do and not do, etc.  This isn't about "tighter" boundaries necessarily (well, maybe in a few areas).  But muddy boundaries make for a muddy life.  Clarity is, well, clarifying. 

9. A year of fewer excuses.  I'm sick of my mind running to look for better excuses for why things aren't different, better, possible.  I've been working on this area for some time because it's a tough one for me. I'm going to work at dropping excuses, admit when I'm wrong, and press on.  "Do or do not. There is no 'try.'"

8. A year of greater risk.  Comfort is an easy default mode for me.  Risk is a sexy word to me, and a sexy idea.  But all too often it's a word and idea and not much else.  This year when I catch myself being too protective or fearful (also see #7) I'm going to try and let go and go for it.  I'm still going to count the cost, I'm just going to try and not selfishly count the cost.


7. A year of saying what needs to be said.  I'm a prophet-type guy.  I used to be the guy who would say things and then find out later that I was actually very bold and courageous and truthful and transformational, though at the time it didn't feel at all courageous.  I've been tamed a bit, and I'm sick of it.  This year I'm going to speak when I feel led to instead of feeling later on that I should have said something.  This will result in things from more direct evangelism, to more regular meetings with church folks who are slacking, to a louder public voice in my city, to many other things. 

6. A year of expanding our "public" space.  I'm thinking mostly hospitality and relational discipleship here.  Some things have led us to restrict levels of private space and too rarely invite people in.  Most of those things are stupid and selfish.  We are going to try to open our home more, enjoy the company of friends and strangers more, etc.  We used to influence people more through things like letting them be around parenting situations.  This worked especially well with university students.  We don't do that enough anymore.  We have been really changed over the years by hanging around older Christians, pastors, and others and watching their life, asking questions, and just sitting and soaking in the relationship.  We need to be more intentional about being there for others.

5. A year of scheduling mission.  This has always been something I've done, but it's waned and I want to get serious about it again.  Unscheduled mission is always easier for me (ALWAYS!) when scheduled mission is happening.  So really this will help scheduled and unscheduled mission.  I've already added some significant chunks into my winter schedule. I'm going to vary the locations, means, and approach.  Along with this I have some ideas from last year that we shelved until some core changes happen at our church, which are coming very soon (see #4).

4. A year of church transformation.  Starting in a few weeks the changes I've been working for at my church for more than 4 1/2 years are finally going to start happening.  We are working on reconstituting, restarting, and renaming our church.  That's just the beginning.  Last year we made some important decisions and went through some real pain to make what's happening in 2009 a reality.  Should be a busy, fruitful, exciting, and risky year.  I'll try to keep you posted here. 

3. A year of discipling our children better.  Last year discipleship was just ok.  We are still not close to what I want for my kids.  I have a picture of what I want to see in their lives, of how I want them to experience the gospel, truth, faith, ministry, and compassion.  Now we will day-by-day begin, one stroke at a time, to paint that picture. 

2. A year of rediscovering my wife.  The end of 2008 was really difficult for my marriage.  We never grew apart or stopped loving or liking each other or anything like that.  But most of my readers know how really tough these last few months have been.  When you spend all the time thinking about how your car isn't working right you never get to experience the joy of being on the road.  You get too focused on the problems.  Same with our relationship.  We need to get out and feel the wind in our hair and hug a few turns on the country roads again, even if Molly's issues mean it will be at a slower speed.  This means things like getting date nights back in order, finding more time in the evenings to just hang and talk about something other than what's wrong with Molly, and me stopping being such a jerk. :)

1. A year of responding better to the Holy Spirit's promptings.  I've noticed, especially over the last half of the year, some things in my life that just aren't in order.  They get better, and then worse again.  I going to spend more time preaching the gospel to myself.  I'm going to refresh the disciplines while also simplifying things a bit.  I'm going to be more protective of times of silence and solitude. I'm looking forward to a growing intimacy with the Lord over 2009.

Lots-o-Links 3.2.08

The_ghost_with_black_fingers_by_raiQuick God Story: My family is still sick, sick, sick.  Unbelievable virus we are dealing with.  We were all feeling better and now most of us are getting symptoms back.  Our youngest now has 103+ temp again.  Ugh.  But all praise to God for this story.  Saturday afternoon my debilitating fever and aches stopped and I had tons of energy Saturday night and plenty for the task this morning.  I mean I went from the worst day so far on Saturday morning, and then full of energy and vigor Saturday evening.  Then soon after gathered worship today my fever came back as did my aches and terrible cough (I didn't cough once during the sermon).  There may be some medical explanation for why I had such a dramatic health hiccup, but I know WHO is getting the credit.  I was truly singing this morning, "How Great is Our God."

Speaking of how sick I am, it would really help me turn this frown upside-down if someone would present me something this awesome with Joe Thorn's likeness on it.  It would make my year! (HT)

When was the last time you wondered how Michael Foster would approach church planting differently?  Exactly.  And he promises to elaborate.  I'm demanding he gets on it asap.

You need to make your way to the Vintage Jesus Newsroom, where Steve Camp goes for his devotional time.

Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, online free.

PastorHacks is into Jott (and Pinger).  I've been using Jott for a while now with great success and productivity.  I think Joe Thorn told me about Jott (I had to say that because he will speak harshly to me this week if I don't mention it.  I don't like it when Hobbits get mean, especially when I'm sick.).

I may have mentioned this before, but Piper/Bethlehem's accountability stuff is worth checking out. 

You should check out Abraham Piper's crazy little experiment of a blog.  Alas, he is his father's son.  (Only four more words.)

Speaking of numbers, Baptist Reformed types will probably not like Scot McKnight's new article, "The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel."  Why?  It's one short.  I actually haven't read it yet, but McKnight is always worth reading (even when tragically wrong!).  No heckling me please.  I'm sick.

Here's Eugene Peterson at the 2007 Writer's Symposium by the Sea (isn't that where George McFly first kissed that chick from Howard the Duck?).  The story he tells about Bono is worth the whole thing.  (HT)

Wild Wednesday

I found (via FastCompany) a video on Web 2.0 that is super-helpful.  It's a 24 minute video from TechCrunch. I love the end where all these guys are asked what browser they use.  Care to guess?

In the video Arrington conducts conversations with 13 Web 2.0 CEOs about what Web 2.0 is, whether we're in a bubble, what business models work, what is the role of publishers, and how important and how large is the early adopter crowd, along with other issues related to user adoption trends and technology. For certain, Web 2.0 is about technologies such as Ajax, Mash-Ups, Flash, Tagging, and open source applications. But mostly Web 2.0's central focus is user participation.

Participants included Joe Kraus (Jotspot), Scott Milener (Browster), David Sifry (Technorati), Auren Hoffman (Rapleaf), Chris Alden (Rojo), Jonathan Abrams (Socializr), Aaron Cohen (Bolt), Jeremy Verba (Piczo), Steven Marder (Eurekster), Matt Sanchez (Video Egg), Godhwani (Simply Hired), Keith Teare (edgeio), and Michael Tanne (Wink).

Speaking of Web 2.0, last week Joe Carter (Evangelical Outpost) and I met with Justin Taylor (I hear J.I. Packer calls him Justin the Squire!) and a couple of other Crossway Publisher folks about blogging & reviewing books.  Very good conversation, and some great people.

I am trying out Browster because of the 2.0 video.  Wow, it's very interesting.  Anyone else trying it?  You need to check it out.

I'm pumped about GTDGmail.  If you haven't read Getting Things Done by David Allen, and/or if you aren't implimenting GTD in your life, please give it a look.  And then you can get GTDGmail and really geek out.

Watch the "Lecture Musical" from Prangstgrup.  Hilarious.

Michael Foster leads us to David Slagle's 100 Things I've Learned the Hard Way as a Senior Pastor.

Some Music You Should Check Out:

Husky Rescue (myspace)
Serena- Maneesh (myspace)
Black Angels (myspace)
TV on the Radio (myspace)

**If you are a Southern Baptist, please skip this next part.**  Imbibe?  Review and share your thoughts on your latest bottle of vino at Cork'd.  Gotta light?  CigarCyclopedia.

Speaking of "the good life," if you are a Southern Baptist you need to read this critical article from former SBC President Bobby Welch.  We need more wisdom like this!

I understand one pastor's blog site indicates he believes his drinking assists him in soul-winning!...

We have many outstanding young pastors and others on their way to leading this Convention it as "sipping saints," winners! God help us to...elect a user or promoter of the use of alcoholic beverages to...leadership...!

Please don't sent hate mail.  It's a joke.  ;)  Bobbay is SOOOO funny.

What's Changing Steve's Life?

Things that are changing my life right now...

1. Rereading (I think for the 3rd or 4th time) Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness.  It's such a simple/profound book.  I just need it.

2. Shearwater's Palo SantoHonkin' geez.  Wonderful.

3. I just finished and will soon blog on the new Ed Stetzer/David Putman book Breaking the Missional Code.  I read the last 6 or 7 chapters yesterday and they were really good.  The book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, but there were some very important things for me and my ministry inside.  And God put me in the right place at the right time to read the right chapters of that book. 

4. This video.  It cheers me up daily.

5. David Allen's Getting Things Done is going to get a HUGE thumbs up review from me soon.  Revolutionary and simple.  It's a very important book on practical productivity and organization issues.  Props to Kevin Cawley for preaching Allen's message to me before I read the book.

6. The Fisher Space Pen (Bullet).