Sermon Prep With iAnnotate

In recent months, I’ve been using iAnnotate in my sermon prep. iAnnotate is an iPad app that reads and marks up PDFs.

Before this app, I printed out the scriptures I planned to use in my sermon. As I read over the text, I’d mark it up with a highlighter, marking keywords and phrases, and jotting down notes and ideas. With iAnnotate, I basically do the same thing. The advantage of the app is that I’m more likely to carry my iPad than paper printouts. And I’m less likely to lose my iPad!

To get the document on my iPad, I copy the scripture text from biblegateway.com and paste it into a template in the Pages app on my Mac. In the template, I have adjusted margins, text size, and line heights to be readable on the iPad (16 pt. Helvetica Neue, 1.6 line height, with 1 inch margins on the top and sides, 0.75 on the bottom). I save the document as a PDF in the Dropbox folder on my Mac which automatically syncs to iAnnotate via Dropbox on my iPad. Then, I simply open iAnnotate on my iPad and click on the PDF. It’s a very smooth process.

iAnnotate is a feature-rich app. So far, it’s more than meeting my needs. Ideally, I’d like to spend at least a week soaking in the text before studying the text and mapping out a sermon in the second week (the week before delivery).

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you use a similar or different tool, or process, please share that as well!

Here are some examples of documents I’ve used in recent weeks. The toolbar on the right can be customized to include the tools you use most often (there are many to choose from).

Simple Techniques to Manage Stress

In June, I wrote about 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better. One step was to call a heath coach. I called a health coach (available through our health insurance) several weeks ago, and specifically discussed techniques to relax and lower stress levels. Here are some of the things we talked about …

  • Exercise
  • Journal
  • Drink orange juice
  • Chew gum
  • Take deep breaths
  • Laugh
  • Organize your home (reduce clutter)

You can find other techniques to manage stress by searching online. Here’s one article from WebMD.

I was already practicing some of these things (exercising, journaling occasionally, drinking orange juice), but some of them can easily be added or improved. For example, at times in my life, I have exercised too heavy (heavy exercise actually increases stress levels in the body, while light/moderate exercise reduces stress levels).

Over the last several weeks, I have also researched foods that help fight stress naturally by reducing stress levels and/or increasing healthy chemicals in the body. WebMD has a good basic list here.

I have made some simple but dramatic changes to my diet. One of the most significant changes is dramatically reducing sugar in my diet (I’ve had to because sugar has acted as a trigger that increases my heart rate). The American Heart Association recommends daily maximums of 36 grams for men and 24 grams for women (that’s not a lot!). While I’ve had to reduce sugar in my diet out of necessity, it has been a good a change.

None of this is a quick fix, but these changes are worth making!

Well, I still plan to write a more detailed post about the last three months, but I want to make sure it’s clearly in the rearview mirror first!

“Secrets From the Treadmill”

I recently finished reading Secrets From the Treadmill by Pete Briscoe and Patricia Hickman. The book spent several years on my reading pile (I picked it up during my D.Min. days at Asbury), but I decided to finally get to it when I realized I needed to manage stress better. I took it with me on vacation over the summer.

I like what the authors state early on, that the goal is not really to live a “balanced life” …

We do not argue for a life of all rest. We’re not even purporting a life of balance. We don’t believe the Bible calls us to a balanced life—try to find one biblical character who lived one. We are not to rest seven days and trust God to pay the bills. Neither are we to work three and a half days and rest three and a half. God doesn’t call us to a mathematically tidy life. God calls us to a life of imitation and rhythm. (25)

The book deals a lot with sabbath. The authors remind us, “The Sabbath was designed for us” (42).

The foundational principle of the Sabbath as far as Jesus was concerned is that it is extraordinarily flexible. It was designed for us—for me. That means I need to determine the best way for me to find rest, solitude, connection with God, and peace of mind. (42)

When we fill the gaps with more stuff and more activity, peace and creativity diminish. But …

A strange thing happens when we take some time to rest—God floods our minds with creative and Spirit-led ideas. … Prioritizing rest allows us to be a recipient of the Lord’s ministry in our lives. (83)

The authors also argue for simplicity and minimalism, stating …

When our lives, minds, souls, and schedules are full of so many fillers, we become incapable of recognizing the happiness found in minimalism. (159) … Wherever we find simplicity we also discover contentment. (160)

Prioritizing rest will always e a challenge in this life. The authors talk about living in Saturday.

Saturday represents the gap between faith and fulfillment. Saturday is the bridge between what we believe and what we will one day see at his appearing. The disciples had an advantage over us in that they physically spent three years with Jesus. We have an advantage over them in that we know Easter happened. But they had to live in Saturday until their eyes met him again face-to-face. We also must live in a Saturday’s wait until our eyes meet him face-to-face. (175-176)

So, we live in Saturday. There, we must discover God’s rest in the busyness of life!

Coming Soon: Bible Study at West Side

Next Thursday, September 13, the West Side UMC morning Bible study will begin a new study, “James: Putting Faith to Work.” Following our study time at the church at 10:00-11:00 a.m., I’ll post a summary and a question or two so that those who cannot be with us in person may connect with us and participate online.

I will monitor the posts and participate in the conversation. To participate, click on “Leave a comment” at the bottom of the post. The only requirement for commenting/participating is that you have a sincere spirit and hunger to learn. Let us encourage and support one another. See you here next week!

Discipleship Wanes When Christianity is Popular

I’m reading Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Community by Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker. I was challenged by the authors’ description of discipleship when Christianity is popular.

In its earliest days, Christianity was at times “illegal and semi-covert” until the conversion of Constantine in A.D. 312. Constantine made Christianity legal in A.D. 313. This single act changed the character of the church. Rather than counting the cost of discipleship, it became “socially advantageous to be a Christian. Discipline lagged. The church began playing the world’s game.”

The authors contend …

The change in the character of Christianity brought about numerical growth, but not the healthy reproduction of disciples. Like the growth of mainline Christianity after World War II, and of evangelicalism in the 1980s, numerical growth masked the true condition of the church.

Reflection questions:

  1. In Matthew 28, we’re called to “make disciples of Jesus Christ.” Reflect on the similarities and difference of church attendance and discipleship.
  2. In what ways does the church “play the world’s game” today?

Sarah Goes to Preschool!

Two years ago, Ethan started preschool, and last week, he began kindergarten. But today, it was Sarah’s turn. Today was Sarah’s first day of preschool!

As soon as Ethan got on the school bus this morning, Sarah was ready to go to school herself. Here are some photos of her morning.