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Reading: Gas in the Tank
 By Ron Aguilera

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The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, the ears of the wise seek it out.     Proverbs 18:15
In the last issue of Best Practices for Adventist Ministry, I wrote about the importance of reading in the pastor’s life. Reading is fuel for the road of life and ministry. In order to expedite our journey, we need effective ways to get that gas in the tank. We need to not only internalize what we read, but place it in a ministry-ready retrieval system.
The first step in this journey is to remember that we read not only for entertainment, but for future application. Therefore we need to encode our reading – we need to intelligently digest and internalize what we read. This requires us to tag, then cliff what we read.
I tag things by using a pen and highlighter as I read. My children always joke that they have never seen me without a pen and a highlighter. Whether I am at home, the office, in my car, or even on vacation, I’ve got my books, a pen, and a highlighter.  
I tag things by underlining, which forces me to reread the sentence or paragraph. And I underline slowly, so I am sure to reread carefully. I also make notes in the margins as a means of interpreting the book for future reference. That way, if I don’t remember why I underlined the section, I have my own interpretive notes handy.
When I tag, I look for specific content. I love to tag great quotes, key points, or stories I like.  
I also find it helpful to cliff. Everyone has a different system. Come up with one that works for you. I like to write notes on the first blank white page inside the book, and go from there. In the table of contents, I add one sentence summaries to the chapters I feel are worth remembering. More extensive summaries are placed on the chapter page.
The last part of a cliffing system involves writing your own quotables in the few blank pages before the back cover. These will serve you well when you prepare for a sermon or presentation. Again this is just one way to do it. I would encourage you to develop a system that works for you.
I would encourage you to think about how you process the books you read. As you read, review major sections before moving on. Whenever a reading session lasts longer than 30 minutes, pause to reflect on what you have been reading. Allow the ideas to connect in your head before you put them to paper.
Lastly, when you have finished the book, write a review. I have found this to be not only a helpful summary for myself, but a benefit to share with others.
Ron Aguilera is vice president of administration for the Illinois Conference