I love books. My idea of a good vacation is one filled with trips to bookstores and time reading in a coffee shop. For years, the only thing I ask for at Christmas was book money. And when I move, the majority of my efforts are spent trying to figure out how to move all my books safely.
But I have been wary of e-readers for several years. I’ve had two main problems with e-readers. First, I have heard that it is cumbersome annotating (making notes, underlining, etc.) books. Second, the books are, well, digital, and so feel impermanent. If I have a book on my shelf, it’s can sit there for years. I can scan my bookshelves and be reminded of the books I’ve read. I can reread it or loan it to a friend. Digital books seem too easily forgotten about. I am uneasy about that.
But I did buy an early version of the Barnes & Noble Nook. And I didn’t like it. I used my iPad for a few weeks to read books, but I didn’t like that either. It was too bulky, and I just didn’t like reading on its screen.
Enter the Kindle Paperwhite
But I was intrigued when I saw some ads for the Kindle Paperwhite. It seemed to solve all the problems I had with my old Nook.
The entire screen was a touchscreen, which made highlighting text as easy as dragging my finger across the screen. I can read it in the dark, thanks to some nifty technology that lights up the screen. And since it is a Kindle, it has a wide range of books available from Amazon.com, including plenty of theology and philosophy books.
So I went out a few days after Christmas and bought a Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve been using it for months, and I am pleased with my experience.
How Does It Look and Feel?
The Kindle Paperwhite is well-designed. According to its specs, it weighs around half a pound. The screen is six inches, which is large enough to read comfortably while still being portable. And the screen has a nice lighting to it, making it easy to read in dark rooms.
Is It Easy to Use?
In short, yes. It only took me a moment to figure out how to navigate around its menus. I don’t think it would be hard for anyone to figure it out.
It did take me a little longer to get used to the touch screen. You turn the page forward by touching one section of the screen. You turn back a page by touching another section on the left of the screen. You bring up the information about your location in the book by touching the bottom of the screen. And you bring up the menu bar by touching the top of the screen. If this sounds intimidating, just know that the Kindle has a helpful tutorial that appears during your first use of it.
Kindle advertises that the battery life is around 8 weeks, according to the average user’s use of the device. So, unlike all the other electronics in my life – iPad, iPhone, and Macbook – I never have to worry about whether it is charged when I take it with me.
A keyboard pops up on the screen whenever you select a text box (whether to search the Kindle store, search a book, write a note, etc.). I don’t have any big complaints about it. It works about like I expected: adequately, but not perfectly. The lag between touching a key and the character appearing is too annoying. I frequently type a word and then realize that the device is lagging behind, skipping some of the letters I’d pressed.
Reading on the Kindle Paperwhite
The big question that any reader would have is whether it works well for reading. It does. There are several reasons for this:
- Great selection of books that are just a click away. A little too tempting for someone on a tight budget.
- Portable. I can take it anywhere and read from a wide selection of books.
- Adjustable font, margins, and line-spacing. It is nice to get to alter the appearance of the text to suit my reading preferences.
- Reading at night. I’ve always stayed up later than my wife. I don’t have to worry about bothering her by keeping our lamp turned on.
- Searches a dictionary and Wikipedia for words or phrases you select. It’s nice to be able to highlight a historical figure and search for more information about it. It helps me better understand older books that mention people and places I’m unfamiliar with.
You might be wondering how my initial concerns about any e-reader – the difficulty annotating and the feeling that digital books are too easy to lose or forget about – have been addressed by the Kindle Paperwhite. The impermanent feeling of digital books is still there. But, regarding annotations, I have found annotating on the Kindle Paperwhite much easier than I’d imagined.
Annotating is easy enough. I don’t have to worry about having a good pen or pencil with me. And it’s easy to delete notes or highlights that I no longer want. But I cannot seriously annotate books like I’m accustomed to doing.
I like to bracket important phrases, put various symbols in the margins, write long notes, mark entire paragraphs, and so on. All that aids in my reading and studying a text.
The Kindle doesn’t permit such diverse markings. But I expected that. So I never read books on my Kindle that I really want to study. A physical book is much better for that.
But annotating on the Kindle does have some advantages. Mainly, it stores all my highlighted passages and my notes. I can access them online. That alone would be a nice benefit. But I learned how to “clip” my notes and highlighted passages into Evernote. Now I can print all my annotations and highlighted passages. And all my notes and highlighted passages are searchable with Evernote This is amazing for putting together lessons on a topic. I can read several books on the topic, print the highlighted passages and my notes, and assemble my lessons. It is a great tool!
Anyway, I couldn’t be more happy with my Kindle Paperwhite. I hope the Kindle line of products will be around for a while. They are well-designed for book-lovers.
Two Years Down…
A few months ago, I finished my second year of full-time ministry. As a campus minister, my job differ somewhat from a youth minister’s job or a preaching minister’s job. But I still think I have learned a few things from two years of ministry that might be helpful for any minister who is just starting out.
Five Crucial Lessons
Here are the five crucial lessons I’ve learned in my first two years of full-time ministry.
1. Teach the Word of God. When I was a ministry intern, I spent a lot of time thinking about all the things I would do when I became a full-time minister. I thought about programs I would start, evangelism initiatives, fundraising, and so on. Without knowing it, I was creating a ministry philosophy that focused heavily around my efforts and ingenuity to grow a ministry. What was wrong with this? I didn’t make the center of my ministry teaching the Word of God.
Thankfully, shortly before I was started my current job, I came to see the true importance of teaching God’s Word. I have been amazed at what God has done through His Word. God has developed leaders in my ministry, created a passion for outreach, transformed the students, and given many students a passion for studying His Word.
This didn’t happen because I’m a great teacher. I’m still an inexperienced teacher, cramming too much material into my unstructured lessons. But God works through His Word.
2. It’s easy to dilute your efforts by overcommitting. Time management experts advise people to learn to say “No” to taking on extra projects at work. Otherwise, so many things will consume your time that you will be overworked but performing poorly.
I’m guilty of not taking this advice. When I started this job, I wanted to do well and get noticed. So I overcommitted. In my ministry, I taught 2-3 times a week. I promised a lot of people that I would have coffee with them or go to lunch with them. I tried to talk with everyone that wanted to talk with me. I tried to take visitors out for coffee or lunch to get to know them. I did a lot of things for my church that fell outside of the sphere of my college ministry.
And none of these tasks were bad tasks. But I overcommitted. And what gets cut? Study. Prayer. Proper preparation for lessons and sermons. Intentionally discipling student leaders. Rest. Family time.
God has blessed my ministry these last two years, but I was so overcommitted that I didn’t give him much to work with. Now I’m in my third year, and I’m doing a much better job of focusing my efforts.
3. Spiritual leadership is more than just making good decisions. In my job, I am supposed to teach the Bible, model a godly life, and disciple students. These tasks make up my spiritual leadership role.
But I am also the administrator and the event planner at my ministry. And I have to oversee our ministry programs. So I have to be a leader in these areas. Each week I juggle all these tasks.
And this makes it easy for me to deceive myself about the quality of my leadership. The leadership I exercise in my administrative tasks is primarily displayed in making good decisions. It is easy to equate all leadership with making good decisions. But this is not true of spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership is much more about modeling the Christian life in my actions, faithfully teaching the Word of God, and discipling students.
Both administrative leadership and spiritual leadership are important, but spiritual leader is certainly more important than the other. And if I look back over the year and think of all the good decisions I’ve made, I could conclude that I’ve been a good leader. But if I haven’t lead a godly life and discipled students, I’ve been a poor leader in the more important area of spiritual leadership.
This year, I’m trying to be more intentional about ensuring that I’m being a good spiritual leader and not just making good decision.
4. Energy management is as important as time management. My second point was about time management. But even when I’m focusing on the right tasks and not overcommitting, my work is low quality when I am not managing my energy well. If I’m not getting enough sleep or letting my sleep habits become irregular (which is easy for a coffee drinker to do), then I am inefficient when writing Bible lessons or sermons, planning, and talking to students.
And there is another dimension to this too: the spiritual dimension. When I’m exhausted and burnt out, I’m less inclined to pray and study the Word of God. I tend to become less caring with students and less passionate when I teach.
If I have been slow in learning any of these five lessons, it is this one. But I’m trying to do better. And I think I’ve done better in the last few months than I ever have.
5. It was easy for me to become so involved with my job that I neglected my own spiritual life. Older ministers nearly always warn advise younger ministers to take care to “feed yourself.” But it is easy for me to neglect prayer and reading one’s Bible. And though I spend so much time talking and thinking about where others are spiritually, it is easy to spend almost no time talking and thinking about where I am spiritually.
I must admit that I’ve found it difficult to maintain good study habits and prayer habits. Reading my Bible makes me think about my next lesson. When praying, I begin thinking about all the people I need to meet with or talk to.
I still need my personal habits to mature more, but I do believe I’m doing a better job of this than I was when I started. I just hope and pray that I can continue to improve this area of my life.
I find it hard to believe that my first two years of ministry are past. God has not only blessed my ministry, but he has blessed me by allowing me to learn a lot about ministry without too much pain or disruption. And I am grateful for that.
I hope my reflections will help other young ministers grow as ministers. If you are not a minister but you read this anyway, I hope this will give you a little insight into the struggles of a minister. It is a peculiar job, burdensome yet full of joy. I count it a blessing from God to spend my days in ministry.
I’m still planning to officially relaunch the blog in June. As of today, I have pulled all the posts offline. I am going to rework them and begin republishing them to the blog. I know that, initially, I am going to lose some traffic and some links in doing that. But I know that many of my posts have not been written at the level of quality I want.
Styles of Blogging
I know that some people use their blog as medium to post their preliminary or roughly written posts on their chosen topics. Most of the blogs are not helpful. What I find most helpful are blogs that have well-written, quality articles. These articles are useful to the readers; they are not merely logs of some author’s random thoughts on a subject.
So I want to rewrite many of my article – along, of course, with writing new content – that will prove useful to my readers.
Slight Delay in the Relaunch
I hope to relaunch June 1st. I will be in Chicago with my ministry the first week of June. I will return home and immediately hosts out-of-town guests for a couple of days. So my readers will continue to notice changes in the blog’s design and layout until mid-June. I will begin publishing rewritten content and new, fresh contenton June 1st.
RSS Subscription versus Email Subscription
As those of you who blog or read many blogs already know, Google Reader is being shut down in a few weeks. I know there are other RSS services that you can use, but everything I’ve read has led me to believe that RSS subscription will no longer be the main way that readers keep up with blogs. Many of the blogs I follow seem to be emphasizing email subscriptions over RSS subscriptions. So I will do likewise.
I encourage you to subscribe to this site through email, even if you are currently subscribed through our RSS feed.
I want to apologize that my writing on this blog has come in spurts, with the writing interrupted by long breaks where I post nothing. I am excited about this relaunch, and I plan to devote myself to the blog in a manner I haven’t done since I started it. To my regular readers, I apologize. I hope that this blog becomes more useful to you after the relaunch.
About This BlogThe Christian faith is not a thoughtless faith. Thinking and Believing contains writings on the Christian walk, theology, culture, and philosophy. All is aimed at helping Christians deepen their faith.