Currently reading: Unruly by David Mitchell 📚

Monarchy is what England has instead of a sense of identity.

Already off to a good start, lol.

I wonder how the unread books I have at home feel about the books I bring home from the library. 📚

Sometimes you just have to make a farmhouse-style loaf.

Writing can be a bit like seasoning food sometimes. It’s really easy to keep adding words but it’s really difficult to take them away.

This was a beautiful read. Some of the best nature writing I have come across so far and with so many helpful bits of advice for the work of being a pastor. I wonder if he realises how useful it is in that sense.

Finished reading: The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks 📚

Took the boys and one of their friends down to the Esplanade for some ice cream in the sun. Truly gorgeous day out today.

This was such a good read, really accessible and helpful for giving me a bit of historical context for the church here in Scotland (even though the church I pastor is not from the same, Presbyterian tradition).

Finished reading: The Whole Christ by Sinclair B. Ferguson 📚

Some days, it seems like sermon writing just happens. I have the passage clearly in my head, the outline makes sense, words just seem to come.

Today is not one of those days.

📓New additions to the analogue system

I wrote recently about how I had finally figured out a sort of default setting for my analogue system. Today, a couple of things arrived in the post to help make that system even better.

Traveler’s Company archive binder

I’ve been using a Traveler’s Notebook of some sort since they were still under the Midori brand. It’s safe to say that I’ve got quite a few used refills knocking about in various places. Now, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and ordered myself some of the archive binders. They’re purpose-built, they look nice together on a shelf, and they help keep all my refills together in a way that lets me flip through them for reference.

Now I just need to make the shelf-space for them!

Field Notes Front Page

I’ve been using a pocket notebook quite a bit lately and wondered if I would benefit from switching to a reporter-style one. Something that can sit next to my iPad or whatever book I might be reading at the time.

Because I can never just use whatever notebooks are available, I decided to give Field Notes’ Front Page a go. Will have to report back on this one but it feels great in the hand and is the same height as my Traveler’s Notebook.

Checking commentaries

A pub table covered with books (the Bible and Gordon Wenham’s commentary on Genesis) and notebooks (Traveler’s Notebook in camel brown).

One of the main reasons why I consult commentaries in my sermon study (besides the fact that I need help from bigger brains) is simply to check that I’m on the right track. It’s so easy to read my own assumptions into the text that it’s helpful to see where the church has historically landed on things.

A stationery foundation ✒️📓

One of the things I’ve been able to figure out with stationery is that my main setup consists of:

  • Traveler’s Notebook (regular on camel)
  • Light refill (it gives me 128 pages instead of 64, and I’m almost positive the paper in the light refills is Tomoe River)
  • Lamy Safari in Fine or Extra Fine

There are occasional explorations elsewhere but that is what I always come back to.

Moving nearly everything into Bear

Much like @philbowell, an email landed in my inbox from the good folks that make Bear and put me on to a post from Robert Breen about moving everything from Obsidian to Bear.

I really like Obsidian. I’ve recommended it to multiple people in real life who are studying alongside me and they love it. It does exactly what they want it to. But they’re all using it specifically on desktop platforms. And that’s where the app simply doesn’t work for me.

I do 98% of my work from either my iPad Air 5th-gen or my iPhone 13. Even though I have a study available to me at the church, I regularly find that it is not the best place for me to be to get work done. There are interruptions but also, I’m essentially invisible to the world when I’m there.

So most of the time, I take my stuff to the library or the Wetherspoons pub (usually both on the same day) in order to work.

That means I need to have apps that work well when my iPad is connected to not-brilliant WiFi or paired with my phone.

So I went onto my old MacBook Air (it’s one of the 2017 models so it’s getting quite old) and imported my Obsidian vault into Bear.

The experience? Seamless.

All of the notes that I’ve been living without because I couldn’t get Obsidian to work properly on my phone or iPad are now available to me and quickly. The sync speed is astounding considering that it’s moving nearly 2000 notes. All of the links between notes work. I don’t have a pretty graph view anymore but I have something that actually seems to be functioning.

I’ve implemented a bit of structure through tags thanks to a post at The Mindful Teacher.

As I mentioned in a reply to Phil’s original post about this, the only thing I need now is for Ulysses to get their act together regarding sync. It’s embarrassing for them at this point that whenever I open the app on my phone, I have to redownload my entire database.

Currently reading: The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks 📚

my sermon notebook

For the last three weeks now, I have been preaching from a handwritten manuscript. After trying to work from a detailed outline instead, it is good to be back to writing out everything I intend to say. I am able to think more clearly on paper and I am also able to say things more clearly when I’ve written them out.

This has helped to bring down my sermon length but also to help me stick to the what & why1 of my sermon. I have also found Sunday mornings less stressful as I am able to read through my script focusing on how I will say the things that I have written rather than also trying to figure out the words that I will use.

But as a stationery geek, my favourite thing about doing this (and the reason why I hope to keep it going) is that I now have a notebook that is filling up with sermons. I love notebooks as objects and this one feels special now as well. I’m able to use the index in a way that will actually help me in the future and I am less relient on technology in the pulpit.

So that I’m not constantly turning pages while preaching, I opted for the larger B5-sized Leuchtturm1917 with a dot-grid.

The title and headings are written big in blue. I denote subheadings with a box around it, and the main body of my sermon is written used a green-black ink (Noodlers Zhivago). Scripture references that I intend to read out are noted in either an orange/brown (Diamine Ancient Copper) or a classic blue (Diamine Kensington Blue, one of the most well-behaved inks I have ever used).

On Sunday mornings when I look over my notes, I mark up my script with a red Uni-ball One 0.38 gel pen. I then write down the passage and title in the index and I’m good to go.

The script itself has averaged about 7-8 pages and that takes me around 35 minutes to get through. I stick fairly close to it but not as much as before I worked with an outline.


  1. I should write about this at some point. In brief, the what is the main message of the passage while the why is the application or implication for us today. ↩︎

I found an old Peugeot Equipe on the road by the church a few months ago and it’s been worked on by one my elders from church. Today, on a break from sermon writing, I finally got to take it out. I’ve wanted a steel-framed bike for years and now I’ve got one!

Being in my mid-30s now, I am keenly aware that this phrase is a lie. Today’s pain will definitely be tomorrow’s pain as well and probably the-day-after-tomorrow’s pain too. 🏋️

This part of Genesis has arrived. (Photo is of a page in volume 2 of Gordon Wenham’s commentary on Genesis.)