Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hack a Vintage Book into a Custom Journal

I love old books: their smell, their feel, their look. I love their secret history and all their nostalgia. I love to read the owner's name inscribed in a book that's a hundred years old and wonder about the person's life - how long ago were they born? how long did they live?

I enjoy journaling and sketching. I prefer paper and pen to digital tools - I just love the scratch of a pen on good paper, and doodling helps me think, so I'm always looking for another notebook or sketchpad.

I would love to have a Moleskine, but I have a hard time justifying $15 for a notebook. So I decided to make my own custom notebook bound with a vintage book cover. Here's how I did it:

1. Find an old book.

I chose an old hymnal. I love the color and the nostalgia. I picked this one: Tabernacle Hymns Volume 3, circa 1939.

2. Read up on DIY book binding. Here's a helpful link:

3. Make a book binding jig.

This is the book binding jig I made from scrap lumber and a couple of wing nuts. I didn't follow any plans; I just copied the best I could from photos at the site linked above.

4. Pick your paper and trim it.

I chose some gray stationery I had left over. Nice and thick so there won't be any bleed through. I cut it so each page could be folded in half, which will make a stronger binding.

5. Clamp your paper down in the jig and glue the binding.

Bookbinders recommend PVA glue (it's still flexible when dry). Home Depot didn't have any, so I just used some Gorilla glue I already had on hand. I spread a light coat with a cotton swab.

Let the glue dry for at least a couple of hours. I let mine dry overnight. Don't be surprised when the Gorilla glue expands as it dries...doesn't make the prettiest binding - but it will hold.

6. Carefully cut the old pages out of the old cover.

This is sort of a heart breaker...but old books are usually a dime a dozen. It's not like anybody was actually using this hymnal anyways. I kept the pages. I'm not sure why. I definitely would not do this to an antique book that had value. This is just for cool looking old books that have no value at all. I have an old hand-size Bible with a fabulously decorated cover, but I couldn't bring myself to cut up a Bible, so it still decorates my desk.

Here's a picture of the inside cover with it's fragile binding:

7. You may have to reinforce the binding.

I did so with a peice of old t-shirt and some 3M spray adhesive. Nothing fancy here. NOTE: the spray adhesive is still sticky after it dries, so watch your overspay.

8. Glue the reinforced cover on to your bound pages.

I seemed to have lost the pic to this step, but it should be pretty self explanatory. I used Gorilla glue again to bind the cover to the already glue-bound pages. Let it sit overnight, clamped and weighted binding side down.

9. Enjoy your unique, customized vintage journal!

Use it however you want: journaling, planning, organizing, sketching. Right now I'm considering using mine as my planner/organizer. I'm not sure though. I did a mix of plain and graph paper for more flexibility in how I use it. (I downloaded the graph paper PDF from here:

I kept some of the first pages for added nostalgia:

The label was already over the name when I got the book. It said: "Rev. K. L. Snow". I wonder who he was or what church he pastored.

Can you read the prayer typed on a scrap piece of paper and glued to the first page? It's so old that the type is really beginning to fade. I wonder how often Pastor Snow prayed that prayer. What a wonderful way to start and end your day.

The next page is stamped by:

Thos. W. Hage
"The Christian Supply House"
Muskegon, Michigan

I did some research (read: "I googled") on this bookstore and came across this article dated May 15, 2008 about Thomas Hage's son:

Hage Inc. is still a functioning Christian bookstore. Here's their website:

Here's some things I will do differently next time:
1. I would like to learn how to stitch binding instead of glueing. Stitch-bound books lay open better, but glueing is so much easier.

2. I don't like the color paper I chose. Next time I will pick a tan or white instead of gray. But gray is the only color of heavy weight paper I had this time around.

3. Perhaps a larger book. I dunno.

All in all, it was a fun project, and my notebook is the only one like it. If you're not into making stuff, cuttin' and pastin', then you should probably just stick with the store-bought notebook. But if you're slightly creative, have an abnormal fondness for old books, and prefer analog over digital, then this is a project I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

On Clock-Watching in the Prayer Closet

Rethinking How We Walk with God - Part 2

Why do we struggle to pray? Why is it so hard to be faithful to the prayer closet? Why does it seem that sometimes our walk with God is characterized more by drudgery than delight? Are we just supposed to be satisfied that prayer gets done, even though our time in prayer is fraught with cold-hearted mutterings and unfocused mind-wanderings? A duty done – is that the lofty goal of the prayer warrior? These are questions I began answering in my previous post. (If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so before you finish this article.)

Weakness in the prayer closet is the battle of every flesh-clothed child of God. Prayer is unnatural – because it is supernatural. It takes faith to persevere – yea - to excel in prayer. Prayer is contrary to the flesh because it is an activity dependent on the spirit. Jesus said upon discovering his slumbering, prayerless disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)

Weak flesh is our problem, and will be until the day of redemption. But there are bad habits we develop, and counter-productive ideas we entertain that further hamper our private devotions. In my opinion, the most egregious of all prayer-hindering ideas is a subtle legalism that I’ve noticed in my own life and in the lives of others. I think it’s a common problem that needs addressing.

Understandably, fundamental Baptists wince at the word “legalism.” We’re accused of it often enough (and sometimes the shoe fits). Legalism has been so misdefined and abused by fundamentalists and evangelicals alike for so long, that it has become nothing more than a pejorative. This is unfortunate, because legalism is a real and dangerous problem.

Legalism is not a strict code of conduct, nor is it only works-based salvation. Legalism is the idea that we can earn God’s favor through human effort. Legalism is a battle with two fronts: justification and sanctification, and the battle has spilled over into the prayer closet.

“Legalistic prayer? How could it be?” some may wonder. Simple: when we force upon ourselves some man-made requirement about our prayer life. This usually takes the shape of time allotment.

“I have to prayer for an hour, or I’m not right with God,” is the sentiment of many. And so they drag their feet to the prayer closet, and put in an hour of cold, heartless prayer – all the while watching their clocks and wondering why the hour seems to crawl at a snail’s pace. Is this how God wants us to commune with Him? Where does the Bible say that we have to prayer for one hour or we are miserable failures? Does it? No, it does not (and Matthew 26:40 is not a proof text for it).

The “sweet hour of prayer” is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t the length of the prayer that makes it sweet. On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly commends the virtue of brief, sincere prayer. Some of the greatest prayers in the Bible were only a few sentences long.

In my days at Hyles-Anderson College, Bro. Hyles often mentioned his devotional schedule: 19-21 hours of prayer a week. That’s an average of about 3 hours of prayer a day - something unfathomable to the average Bible college student. The implication to many of us was that unless we were praying for 3 hours a day, we were not walking with God as we should. Though Hyles never explicitly said it, that’s what many thought, including me.

The praise-worthy servants of God from yesteryear have many similar stories of generous portions of their day spent in sacred duties. We read of Luther, Whitefield, Calvin, and others that would pray for hours and hours a day. It’s easy to feel like a prayer failure in light of the testimonies of these giants of the Church. What we fail to see is that these men were not right with God because they prayed for lengthy periods of time. No, their lengthy devotions were manifestations of the passion they had for God. It’s something you grow into. It’s not something you can step into just because you scheduled it to be so. You can’t go from walking with God sporadically to walking with God for hours a day overnight. Try it, and you’re likely to find yourself discouraged by the lack of passion in focus in prayer.

I am not down-playing the virtue of hours in the prayer closet. I enjoy those long seasons of prayer. The Savior was known to pray through the night, but He didn’t do that every night. And I think it’s admirable that some men of God spend hours every day in prayer and meditation. I don’t. I can’t.

The prayer time requirement sucks the life out of the prayer warrior. It is a subtle form of legalism that has convinced us that we earn God’s favor like an hourly wage. Phooey on that. God is more interested in you prayerful passion and fervency than your time on the clock.

Should we schedule a time to pray? Yes, have a time. Spontaneous prayer is no more holy than scheduled prayer. But whether it is 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, or whatever, let your heart pour out its prayer with passion and fervency. If you’ve scheduled 30 minutes of prayer, but you’re done in 20, don’t feel like a failure. Take the extra 10 minutes to read more of His word, memorize a verse, or write a journal entry.

Determine that prayer will not be about filling time, but about fervent intercession. A legalistic focus on time brings death to the prayer life, but focusing on fervency, sincerity and passion brings joy and peace.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

There’s yet another counter-productive prayer method that I’ll discus next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Drudgery in Prayer, or, Duty and Dry Bones

Read your Bible every day. Pray every day. These are the two rules of thumb with most Baptists for private devotional life. These devotions usually take the form of a praying over a list of prayer requests and reading a set amount of Bible verses and/or chapters. For some, it may mean reading from a devotional (i.e., Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening). There are many wonderful devotionals available. A few of the best ones are available online here.

But many experience a devolving of their private times with God into an exercise in futility - empty boringness. Their prayers seem to ascend no further than the ceiling; their minds are constantly invaded by distracting thoughts during Bible reading. At the end of their set time in the prayer closet, many emerge with only the satisfaction of a duty done. They feel no breath from God. There is no sweetness of spirit, no growth in Grace - just another checkmark for the daily task list. Even the wonderfully rich devotionals available to us can fail to lift us from the bonds of this terrestrial life and elevate us to the heavenlies.

With such leaden souls, many walk away from their private devotions completely, and not a few persevere only because of an incredible sense of duty and the will power to match. But is this how God wants us to commune with Him? Motivated by duty alone? Is this how we play with our children, or eat dinner with friends, or share intimacy with our spouses – by duty alone? God forbid.
Sure, duty is an important part of any relationship. But duty without delight is drudgery. And nobody enjoys drudgery. I am in no way dismissing our duties to family and friends – or especially to our heavenly Father. Duty is necessary and commanded. Duty in relationships is like the bones of a skeleton – it gives strength and provides a foundation. But the skeleton needs life and breath. Skeletons don’t move or interact; they don’t communicate or build. They don’t grow (by themselves). Skeletons need muscle and tendons, organs and blood. They need breath and life. Think of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones.

We all go through seasons of lifeless devotion. That is an unfortunate part of communing with our heavenly Father while we are yet dwelling in our fleshly tabernacle. We all, from time-to-time, experience that weakness of the flesh. When Jesus found his disciples sleeping instead of praying he said of them, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)

Weakness in prayer is attributed to the weakness of our sin-tainted flesh. This sin-weakened condition manifests itself in specific factors that contribute to the drudgery of our walk with God, including a life-squelching legalism that is almost as common amongst fundamental Baptists as King James Bibles.  This is going to take some space to “flesh out”, so stay tuned for more.

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