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The Joy of Fountain Pens

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Those of you who know me well will not be the least bit surprised at my rather acute nerdiness. This post is about the joy of fountain pens. I will get to why I think this joy is important, so hang tight. I can’t remember exactly when I laid my hands on my first fountain pen (I only wish I had learned of them sooner). It wasn’t long after I began my first pastorate in Edmond, Oklahoma. As I was preparing for teaching and preaching, I discovered the value of writing notes by hand. I found that when I did, my retention of material seemed stronger than when I typed notes via computer.

However, as I wrote out my notes with ballpoint and rollerball pens my hand would quickly fatigue. It would ache, to be more precise. The pain didn’t really endear me to taking notes by hand. I began to search for a better way. Through that search I stumbled upon a fountain pen. Prior to using fountain pens I had pretty much given up on cursive. I printed everything. But cursive actually made sense with the flow of a fountain pen. Writing became something pleasurable, not merely necessary. Since that time I have used fountain pens pretty much exclusively for note taking in my daily work.

Like all hobbies, this one can be dangerously hard on the wallet. There is a rich variety of inspiring pens out there, each one with its own beauty. They can be, and often are, utilitarian works of art. A person can spend from a few dollars to a few thousand on a single pen. But there is also a whole wonderful world of inks. These inks have intriguing properties. Obviously there is color–oh so many gorgeous and diverse colors! There are also other fascinating properties like sheen, shading, and permanency. Inks flow through different pens differently, and certain pens work better with particular inks. There’s a kind of delight in finding the perfect match. I won’t even go into the joys of good paper. I warned you this post would be nerdy, didn’t I?

So, why am I writing about the joy of fountain pens? As pastors we deal with weighty subjects all the time. Life, death, God, purpose, meaning, good, evil, and often in the form of the most existentially pressing questions. We have a front row seat to the painful reality of sin and its cornucopia of excruciating effects in human life. We see lives ripped apart by it, sometimes in the most savage ways. We meet the seeming impossibility of healing marriages ravaged by it. Plus, we’re constantly confronted by the death it brings us all. Two days ago I learned that a former deacon of our church, age 51, died in a biking accident. I’ve officiated funerals for infants. Meanwhile, we pastors battle sin in our own lives. Even “success”, especially “success” in ministry, becomes an occasion for temptation.

I agonize over the evil I find in my heart and all around me; I am burdened by the suffering, doubt, and despair. Too often it seems I’m not burdened enough–it is all too easy to become jaded. How can God be good with so much evil pressing in? Over the years, little things like fountain pens have provided needful perspective. Such small pleasures show the reality of beauty in this world. Notwithstanding all the suffering in this broken world, there are good things. Amidst the destruction there is joy. Through the darkness rays of light shine. The beauty I see gleaming around me, even in little things like fountain pens, testifies to the existence of something else. It speaks of an alternative story to the story of evil, destruction, and the supremacy of death. It echoes with a story that bespeaks the God who reveals Himself in the Bible. And for that, I am more grateful than I can competently articulate.

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