Analog + Digital Bible Notes [and more!]
How Dan Alcantra combines both sides of note taking and great biblically connected notes.
Welcome back friend. I hope your week was less dramatic than ours!
We had the heaviest rain I have ever seen here in Poland and some significant flooding across Krakow. Although we are all safe, the neighbouring block required the fire brigade to pump water from their garage.
It was a small reminder of how, even with our modern protections and security, we still have so little control over what will come in our lives.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NASB
To Obsidian and Beyond
Previous guest Mike Schmitz (along with the rest of The Sweet Setup gang) have released an Obsidian related course call "To Obsidian and Beyond" and they're offering a special discount for the launch week.
If you have been thinking about using Obsidian, or who have been playing around but they know they aren't getting the full value from it (OR they want to apply some more advanced ideas like managing a writing pipeline and reflecting with daily questions).
[Disclaimer: I haven't tried the course but I have bought other Sweet Setup Courses and found them high quality. I have no financial connection]
Talk - Dan Alcantara
This week I'd like to introduce you to another friend from Micro.Blog, Dan Alcantara, whom I was fortunate to meet in Warsaw last year before all the pandemic pandemonium. Dan both blames and thanks me for making him move over to Obsidian.
Could you introduce yourself to anyone who doesn't know you?
I’m an American missionary in the UK. I’m married to Tracy and dad to our four kids. We’re based in rural Scotland while I complete ministry training and we prepare to settle into full-time ministry here (complete with all of the headaches of figuring out visas and funding and what-have-you).
What brought you to start taking connected bible notes?
I’ve been working for a few years on trying to figure out just what to do with my notes, especially as I’ve moved into focusing on preaching (I was solely focused on music for a long time). I knew that there were some bits of information that I would want to keep around for referencing later but I just couldn’t figure out a way to keep them. As a result, I’ve got papers written in Google Docs and loads of plain text files scattered across harddrives and storage solutions.
Learning about the Zettelkasten system a couple of years ago is what really sparked this search for “knowledge management” while a lesson I learned on my training course showed me the importance of knowing how things join up.
What do you use your Bible notes for and what tool are you using for it?
The overwhelming majority of my Bible notes come from preparing sermons. I use the OIA (which is really-well explained at Knowable Word) method of study. To get this done, I use a mix of digital and analog tools but everything eventually ends up in Obsidian. For a couple of months, I tried using Notion to do this but it was just too heavyweight. The friction present when trying to create new pages (and links) made it completely unusable for doing this work.
I needed something more lightweight that was capable of working offline because I do try to work outside at the park if I can.
All of my observations on a passage go into their own note. I include any questions that I have so that I can try to answer them in the next phase. Once I’ve done the work of figuring out what a particular Bible passage is for, what it’s doing there in that part of the book, I begin to make my sermon outline as its own note in Obsidian. Quite often, the outline is nearly 1k words long so that I am able to save time in actually writing my sermon. It also means that in the event of an emergency, I could potentially preach from just the outline. I don’t want to test that part of the system yet, however.
When it’s time to write the sermon, I use Ulysses. The combined features of typewriter-mode and the export options is what has ultimately won Ulysses my loyalty for public-facing writing.
Do you use your notes app for other uses apart from bible notes?
I’ve started to get into the habit of adding quotes from books to Obsidian. It helps me to read more actively and gives me a resource to draw from when I’m writing on a particular topic. Besides that, it’s pretty much exclusive to Bible notes.
You are a fan of analog tools, how do you combine or draw distinctions between them?
This is where I have quite a bit of fun. In the middle of doing sermon prep is the tough task of interpreting the text. That’s where you have to spend a lot of time figuring out what is actually going on. It requires a lot of prayer, slowing down and focusing. The most helpful tool I’ve found for doing that is moving from my laptop to my Traveler’s Notebook and one of four fountain pens (my current writing tools of choice).
I’ve had a variety of journaling practices over the years, but I’ve had a conviction that I might as well try and use it as a record of my growth and understanding of Scripture. So much of life feels very much the same until you look back and see what’s come your way, what you’ve learned and I really like analog tools for that. I’m under no illusion that my kids will hold onto my notebooks when I’m gone (I don’t even know how long I’m going to hold onto them) but there’s a certain romantic ideal to them being able to go to them and see what God taught me while I was alive.
What is one tip you'd give to someone new to taking linked notes?
Start as lightweight as possible. If you’re using Obsidian, trying running it stock for a while before adding plugins. Notion is a great tool for a lot of things (and I still use it) but sermon prep is hard enough without having to figure out database hierarchies and tables.
How can people connect with you online?
I post semi-regularly to my blog at https://danalcantara.me
My family’s missions journey at https://sendthealcantaras.com
I also occasionally publish a personal newsletter at https://buttondown.email/thedanalcantara
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Dan. If you'd like to be featured, fill in this short form.
Links of the week
I'm planning on sharing a few more videos on my use of more analog tools with Obsidian but feel free to send me request for Obsidian centric/digital bible knowledge management related videos.
R.W. Roberson shares why he doesn't use the sliding panes option for Obsidian. I'd love to know if you do use them and why.
Abe Peters has a walkthrough and first look at Org-Roam version 2 for bible notes.
Do you use obsidian and a task management app? This reddit post shares a simple way to combine the two.
Logos has some new free resources this month (including a course on 2 Timothy). If you download one using my link, I'll get a tiny bit of credit to help support this newsletter...okay, my theology book buying addiction.
Oh and check out the link below to get a discounted starter packet with some extra bonuses if you are just getting started.