Tools You Should Use

Who doesn’t love great tools?

These are my current (2017) favorite tools, some electronic, some digital. Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links. Also, please note that these are not ranked in order of importance!

BEST PEN: Zebra F-701 Stainless Steel Ballpoint Retractable Pen

Zebra stainless steel pen photo

This is my “desert island” pen. It may not be the very best pen in the whole wide world, but I’m quite sure it’s the pen at the intersection of durability, versatility, and affordability. If you really want to, you can “hack” the F701 by putting in a better ink cartridge. But I’ve been perfectly happy with the standard Zebra refills.

BEST NOTEBOOK: Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Hardcover A5 Notebook – Dotted Pages

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook photoI use this notebook for a personal combination of the Bullet Journal method, Morning Pages journaling, and the 5-Minute Journal. It’s a step up, paper-wise from a Moleskine, yet still affordable – and I love the Medium/A5 size. Currently, I’m on my third one, which is “anthracite gray.” The first two were black, then navy blue. I prefer dotted pages, but they also have ruled and blank page options.

BEST PASSWORD MANAGER: LastPass

Lastpass logo

In case you don’t already have and use a password manager, you should really really get one. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s an informative piece from Wired about why you need a password manager.

I started using LastPass a couple years back, and I haven’t looked back. My wife and I both share a premium account – installed on our internet browsers and phones.

BEST SECOND BRAIN: Evernote

Evernote logo

I use Evernote primarily as my all-in-one digital file-cabinet – my “second brain,” as the company itself calls it. I’ve been paying for a premium subscription for awhile now, but the free version is quite robust and worth checking out. As far as organizing my Evernotes goes, I’m currently using Michael Hyatt’s tag-based system, although I started off just using notebooks and stacks of notebooks.

FAVORITE FITNESS TOOL: CAP Barbell Cast Iron Competition Weight Kettlebell – 35 Lbs.

CAP kettlebell picture

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, one of the best exercises in the entire world is the two-handed kettlebell swing. If you’re short on time, but would still like to improve your strength and overall fitness, I highly recommend starting up a basic kettlebell workout routine. Check out this Art of Manliness article about the kettlebell swing to get started.

BEST TOOL FOR TASK MANAGEMENT: Todoist


Todoist logoAs productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is for having ideas, not storing them! Therefore, in order to keep track of everything I have to get done, I have found an external task management system absolutely indispensable. I’ve tried a TON of different task managers, but Todoist has been my favorite for awhile now.

BEST WATCH: Casio Men’s G-Shock Classic Digital Watch

Casio G-Shock Watch
I prefer having an actual watch on my wrist (and, according to Business Insider, I’m not alone), so that I don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket to check the time. Granted, I don’t have a favorite watch for females. And, granted, there are much nicer, more elaborate, more expensive watches available out there. However, much like my pen choice above, this watch stands at the intersection of functionality, durability, and affordability. If you’re looking for an even cheaper analog option, check out the Casio Men’s MQ24-7B2 (recommended by Kevin Kelly via Cool Tools). 

BEST TOOL FOR PODCASTS: Overcast

Overcast logoI think that – after books – podcasts are one of the best ways out there to learn and stay interesting. Plus, unlike books (and Youtube videos), you can easily listen to a podcast while doing something else, such as washing the dishes or folding laundry. Apple’s native Podcasts app has come a very long way, and is worth checking out. However, my favorite podcast app is currently (the free version of) Overcast. To get all “meta” on you, here’s an excellent podcast episode about podcasting. Check it out if you’re even somewhat confused about what podcasts are.

(If you’re curious, here’s a list of my favorite podcasts.)

BEST POCKET KNIFE: Gordon Drop Point EDC Pocket Knife (Harbor Freight)Harbor Freight pocket knife

Just like the pen and the watch recommended above, this is NOT the nicest knife in the world. However, it is functional, durable, and VERY affordable. Pick one up at/via Harbor Freight Tools.

BEST TOOL FOR LEARNING/MEMORY: Anki (Flashcard Software)

Anki logo

This is the tool I wish I knew about back in high school. Spaced repetition is a key to successful and time-efficient learning. And Anki bakes spaced repetition into flashcard reviews. I started using Anki, on the recommendation of Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever, to learn German for my PhPh.D.rogram. However, the uses of Anki are virtually endless when it comes to learning. Granted, the learning curve is a bit steep, but check out Wyner’s guide to using Anki as a way of getting started.

(Note: as I mention in my list of favorite podcasts, Coffee Break German (and Radio Lingua’s other Coffee Break language courses) are also great language-learning tools!)

Honorable Mentions: Other Tools Worth Trying

I’lll do my best to periodically update this list of recommendations.

Finally, this isn’t a tool, per se, but it IS one of the coolest collections of tool recommendations I know of: Cool Tools. Check the website out, and let me know what you find!

Thank God, I Went to Cedarville

As I prepare for my final semester at Beeson Divinity School, it strikes me just how well I was prepared for my seminary education by my undergraduate professors at Cedarville University.

All things considered, my time at CU exposed me to the riches of biblical and theological studies, and it left me hungry for more.

College gave me a love for Christ’s gospel and Christ’s Church – which has only increased since I arrived at Beeson.

Plus, I met my wife there! 🙂

pablo (10)

And yet, college also left a bad taste in my mouth.

See, in the year before I graduated, some crazy things went down at my alma mater.

Between my original blogpost and my “final farewell,” I tried to take a pretty active role in the student protests against what was going on at CU.

I’d like to think we made a bit of a difference – perhaps in slowing things down enough to let professors find jobs elsewhere before they got fired. Heck, we even made it into The New York Times. (Although, I will say: I’m embarrassed of the picture they chose for the article.)

However, in the long run, we failed.

Cedarville is now a much different place than when I arrived. What’s more, I became so entangled in the mess that I arrived to seminary with some burn wounds – from a prophetic fire that burnt a bit too hot.

I’m thankful for my time at Cedarville, however.

God has been healing those wounds. Beeson Divinity School and Anglicanism have both been balms to my spirit. And, with the healing has come the realization that I would not be who I am today were it not for my four years in Cedarville, Ohio.

Many of the lessons I learned there were sealed with blood, sweat, and tears – as it were. However, those kinds of lessons are often the most important and enduring.

By God’s grace, I hope to carry forward into my future ministry a combination of prophetic fire and patient faithfulness in the face of injustice and suffering.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m worried about the other members of the “Cedarville Diaspora.”

“Cedarville ex-pats”? Take your pick of terms.

No, not so much the professors who were pushed out. They’ve miraculously landed on their feet, and I’ve witnessed God’s powerful work of redemption through them in their current careers and ministries.

No, I’m talking about the alumni who got burned by fundamentalism and may have already thrown out the Christian baby with the fundamentalist bathwater. Or perhaps they’re seriously considering doing so.

See, God has blessed me with a wonderful seminary and church community in which to grow and heal after Cedarville. Without those things, I don’t know where I’d be after the awful ending to my Christian college experience.

Others, however, may be feeling very lonely and angry right now.

If that’s you, or if you know someone to whom this applies, would you let me know if there’s any way I can help you?

I’ll gladly listen to you vent. I’d love to pray for you specifically, and perhaps to share what I’ve found helpful along the journey.

~Josh (@joshuapsteele)

Cedarville…

I wish I could say I was proud of my alma mater…

Despite my Lenten Facebook fast, I was made aware of the following post by my friend Marlena Graves. I thought I’d share it, just in case anyone is considering Cedarville as a choice for college. I’d still strongly recommend you attend another institution, where you can trust the administration. My previous thoughts on these matters still stand.

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“Dear friends, 

“Every. Single. Week. I am contacted by people who attend and work at CU who are just miserable. I pray about what to say and what not to say; my motives aren’t malicious. This morning I was reading about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and how he couldn’t believe that the Christians in Germany remained silent about Hitler or actively conspired with Hitler to get rid of the Jews. This situation at CU is no Germany. But faculty and staff at the school I loved are now forced into silence. They’re being oppressed. If they speak, they’ll lose their jobs. Their FB accounts and e-mails are monitored. A coup occurred at CU as it did at Southern Seminary, Southwestern Seminary, and Southeastern Seminary at the hands of Paige Patterson. Paige Patterson is now a trustee and mentor to the new president, Dr. White. Many who made decisions who fought to keep us and our friends (Bible profs/Carl Ruby and others) at the school told us that it was a coup. So the current administration doesn’t care about what fac/staff think. And students are there temporarily so….The chair of the board has said that he is willing to take the school down to 1200 to get their way. Shawn and I can afford to speak up because we didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement. We are thriving and not bitter. But, I do get angry about how people are being treated. Thank God Shawn got a job right away and didn’t have to worry about providing for his family. Every single person who knows me will tell you I deliberate about my words. I am tired of the pain people are going through. And so I speak up because I can. I think this is the last chance for those currently there to give an outcry. Otherwise it’s over for them. They have moved to forbid egalitarians from teaching there, too. Next year, if you cannot say you are comp, you cannot work there. Only money and power can accomplish such a coup. I have no money or power. But, I have the freedom to speak up. So this below is just more evidence of what is going on. Students pray for your professors and staff. Many are suffering and can’t even tell you. Many of their jobs are on the line. They continue to clean house while silencing people. Pay attention to who is no longer there and from where they hire their new faculty. I’ve lost count of who is gone. People have to decide whether or not they’ll feed their families or speak up. So please, speak up on their behalf!

“Take a look at the fall course schedule. The new female Bible prof’s classes are limited to female students only:http://www.cedarville.edu/courses/schedule/2014fa_bi_beth.htm. Even under Dr. Dixon, that was never the case for Jean Fisher’s classes.”

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Grace and Peace, 

~Josh

My Unforgettable Cedarville Experience

(The following is an expanded version of the speech I gave at this year’s CU Scholar Dessert Reception.)

The first thing I ever decided about Cedarville University was that I would not, under any circumstances, attend. Since my administrator’s son, Drew Flamm, worked in admissions at CU, I had been inundated since before I could remember with calls to become a yellow-jacket, and out of sheer stubbornness of heart, I refused.

Almost seven years later, and I stand before you all with the hopes of graduating next May. What changed? Well, for starters, God’s grace was, well, irresistible for even a stubborn high school student named Joshua Steele. While I don’t have time now to recount all the details, suffice it to say that receiving this scholarship was the final capstone of a tumultuous and miraculous college search process. I offer my sincerest thanks to the members of the selection committee. I stand before you now on nothing but a mountain of God’s grace, of which your generosity has been no small portion.

As I near the end of my Cedarville experience, two things have made my journey thus far particularly unforgettable and life-changing: Continue reading “My Unforgettable Cedarville Experience”

My High School Graduation Valedictorian Speech was a Poem

My Valedictorian Address, a Poem

The following is my valedictorian speech, delivered at my high school graduation in 2009. As you’ll see below, the majority of the speech was an original poem. Sure, I’m tempted to be a bit embarrassed by the poem today, but I’m also proud that I went for it. Let me know what you think!


GRADUATION!

Such a mix of emotions comes with this simple word…

Students are exhilarated to finally be done with yet another chapter of their lives.

Parents are also excited, yet saddened perhaps by the fact that their little babies are now about to embark into the real world.

Faculty are relieved to get such a motley group of troublemakers out of their school!Guests are happy to watch it all come together in one orchestrated ceremony,

Guests are happy to watch it all come together in one orchestrated ceremony, which is customarily concluded by a farewell address from the graduating valedictorian:

A poor individual who must say goodbye while also addressing all parties and emotions involved, all within the space of a short speech.

Fortunately, Mrs. Covrett, my English teacher, taught me that poetry is the language of both emotion and economy.

Earlier this year, amidst the trials and tribulations of AP English Literature and Composition, we read a poem entitled “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

This poem, written by John Donne about a love that transcends physical separation between him and his beloved, inspired me to compose my own work in the interests of avoiding both triteness and plagiarism on this most auspicious occasion.

Now, John Donne forbade his beloved from openly mourning his departure.

While I do not think it fitting for me to forbid anyone anything, please indulge me a few moments of your time as we look both back at the past and ahead into the future by way of my poem, entitled:

A VALEDICTION

The years, a road before us
This school, the path behind
And who can know what lies ahead?
The twists and turns we’ll find

Our time, it passes swiftly,
This life will soon be gone
When we look back upon our days,
What is it we’ll have done?

The world has many pleasures
its riches and its fame
Yet none of these are lasting treasures
for all face death the same

We’ve all one life to use now,
Our time will soon be past
And though this world will pass away,
What’s done for Christ will last.

For years, we’ve learned and grown here,
a foundation has been laid.
The future looms before us now,
a choice has to be made:

To waste our lives upon ourselves?
To build on sinking sand?
Or found ourselves upon the Rock,
Who holds us in His hands?

The choice may seem quite simple now,
as though the battle’s won,
but day by day, the world cries out
“Don’t fret! Go play! Have fun!”

Our lives will have their share of joy,
Good gifts from God each day.
But don’t be fooled, there’s pain as well
There’s bumps along our way.

Should we be scared? Can we succeed?
Is there hope amidst the fear?
Will we press on? or stop to heed
those voices in our ear:

“Turn back! This way is difficult!
It’s much too hard for you!
Too frightening, there’s no comfort there,
You’ll never make it through!”

Don’t stop! Press on! For don’t we know?
and have not we been told?
It’s only through the fire
You obtain the purest gold.

We have a God in Heaven
A Father and a Guide
He gives the strength to carry on
To those who would reside

in Him. we find our purpose
In Him we find the way
to live our lives unwasted
,to boldly face each day.

For He alone knows how much time
we have to walk the road
And He alone knows every trial,
The weight of each our loads

Though high school is now over
We’ve so much more to do!
The door has been flung-open,
and now we must walk through–

We’ll miss the loving people here
Who’ve helped us on our way.
Though time and distance come between,
Our thankfulness won’t fade.

So, Mom and Dad, we thank you for
The time and love you give.
You’ve been there through our best and worst
To show us how to live.

Our teachers, better mentors
We would be hard-pressed to find.
They’ve taught us both to seek the Truth
And always guard our minds.

So many more deserve our thanks,
Yet words cannot convey
The boundless debt of gratitude
That we should rightly pay.

And now we say “farewell”
“Goodbye,” as we depart.
One journey ends, another’s here
on which we must embark.


(For another original poem of mine, check out “From a Grateful Son,” which I wrote for my mother on Mother’s Day in 2009.)