Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Packing Light for the Journey So Far

Written by: on September 2, 2021

My educational journey to this point included plenty of expectations regarding reading, taking notes, and writing essays. Reading always came easy to me, but I enjoyed reading what I liked while complying with what was assigned in school. From elementary school through high school, good memory recall allowed me to read posted material quickly and restate the information as needed. Rarely did notes occupy my time as that task seemed unnecessary and time-consuming. Writing also presented little challenge, and papers were written from a stream of consciousness. What appeared to represent competence established bad habits instead. Even in undergraduate work, the ability to read for comprehension and demonstrate adequate mastery of the material allowed me to meet expectations. At the graduate level, however, the accustomed pattern proved ineffective. The amount of reading consumed significant quantities of time, the absence of any strategy for notes made recall spotty, and the writing contained more summaries than original thinking. If education exists as a journey, I packed light, taking as little as possible in order to take one next step.


In my current role as a pastor, I read a good amount weekly. Reading for study seeks to produce a Sunday message containing a specific agenda to build a focused result. Through the years of message preparation, a system of note-taking also aims to help produce an informed, cohesive sermon. Earlier in ministry, messages were written as transcripts, but now they exist in expanded note form, allowing for more freedom in communication during a message. Preparation helps accomplish a needed result weekly.


Soenke Ahrens writes, “Learning, thinking and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking.”[1] Assessing my reading, notes, and writing over the decades leaves me short of the above description. Whether the communication to students led me to believe those tasks tested knowledge and proficiency over the content or that conclusion came from me, I did not view educational assignments as learning opportunities beyond the information gained through the exercises. In a spiritual sense, I pursued knowledge, but wisdom offered more. Knowledge gains information while wisdom applies knowledge in ways that benefit one’s life as well as those around them.


I believe I grasp the value of shifting the learning paradigm to capture and to organize original thoughts. I also sense apprehension because of the deeply ingrained patterns over many years. The Zettelkasten method makes sense but also demands time and intentionality. Software platforms, like Obsidian, offer a time-saving approach to organizing notes and original thinking, yet it comes with a learning curve. I expect to encounter internal resistance to the need to grow beyond a functional approach to learning that merely seeks to accomplish the next assignment. Will I learn to pack more supplies for the journey ahead? I intend to, but only time will tell.

[1] Soenke Ahrens, “How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers,” (Soenke Ahrens: 2017), 150.

About the Author


Roy Gruber

Husband, father, pastor, student, and sojourner in Babylon

6 responses to “Packing Light for the Journey So Far”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    I have often wondered what it might be like to be a full time preaching pastor, knowing that you must prepare and deliver a sermon every Sunday. If I was in that role, I would think in the back of my mind that all the reading I am doing is for communicating those truths to the people in the pew on Sunday morning. That’s a pressure I’ve never had–like having a term paper due every week.

  2. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thanks for sharing. Yes, that quote by Soenke Ahrens is solid. That has been my big takeway this week/past year with the reading; how to read in a way that promotes understanding, not just a restating of facts.

    I am sure that this will be a stretching season for us all, but in the end, we will be more well-rounded and able to critically lead and engage folks in a way that is most fruitful.

  3. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hey Roy. Thank you for vulnerably sharing your journey with reading, writing, and thinking. Having been in that weekly preaching role for quite a number of years before my current call, I get what you’re saying about reading to produce a coherent and inspirational message each week. It’s a challenge to create space for deeper, transformational reading and thinking/reflection. I admire the goal you’ve set for yourself on this DLGP journey. Your apprehension makes sense. At the same time, with the structure and support offered through our cohort, faculty, and staff, I have a feeling you will pleasantly surprise yourself when looking back in two year’s time.

    • mm Roy Gruber says:

      Thanks for your encouragement! I chose the Portland program because of the opportunity to create a usable project to apply to my ministry setting. What has become clear since starting the program is how much the faculty is committed to helping students succeed. I got more than I anticipated and am thankful.

  4. Roy, I so appreciate your words about internal resistance to growth. I feel that already, the desire to move beyond to chop trees with a dull ax rather than taking the time to sharpen my blade. I’m seeing this through the lens of initiation which is huge part of my research. It’s only through initiatory processes that transformation and new life can emerge. Thank you for your transparency; it helps me be honest with myself.

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Roy, as a full time pastor I can say…”I get it!” Your struggle with the resistance of academic reading/writing is a real place, and I appreciate your honesty…and glad to know we reside in that same space. One thing that struck me in Adler’s book was his thought on reading speed. He basically says that if we allow our eyes to take the words in at the speed the brain is working we can read faster. It reminds me of working with the Spirit…if we allow the Spirit to reveal what God want’s us to take in, we can experience more fully. It’s sort of a theological statement on reading. I think if we can reframe the purpose of reading our approach might be less resistant.

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