Category Archives: Family

Preacher Notes: BIVO Sermon Prep

After reading this post on NAMB’s SEND Network blog, I thought I would offer an explanation of my sermon prep habits for fellow BIVO workers.

When I was a seminary student, I longed for the day when I would be a full-time pastor and have the ability to block off hours of my schedule to devote to sermon study. However, God would have other plans. What I did not know is that He would lead me to a bi-vocational (BIVO) lifestyle and ministry.

Over the course of eight years of working as a middle school science teacher, missionary, and church planter, I have had to figure out how to balance the demands of family, work, and ministry while ensuing that I have time to prepare my sermon each week. While I don’t spend 20 hours working on a sermon, I do dedicate myself to study and preparation. What follows is a synopsis of what I attempt to practice, knowing that each week is different and demands on my time can change.

Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday: reading the text in my quiet time

Early in the week, I take time to read the text and meditate upon it. I mostly preach expositional sermons rather than topical sermons, so I approach the text asking, “What does it mean?” and “How does it apply to me?” During this period, I will make observations about the text, ask questions, and even propose a basic outline.

Thursday: outline & overview
By Thursday, I feel familiar with the text and begin to use commentaries to answer any questions I have asked during my reading thus far. I have Thursday evenings blocked off to read commentaries, extract quotes/illustrations, finalize my outline, and possibly begin typing my notes.

Friday & Saturday: family & friends
I normally don’t complete any sermon study on Friday & Saturday beyond reading the text (and maybe a section of a commentary) during my quiet times as Friday nights are typically reserved for outings with friends and Saturdays are “family days.”

Sunday: final prep & preach
During the week, I do all of my initial sermon study in a notebook. I love taking the time to write using pen & paper. On Sunday morning, I will wake up around 5:30 and finalize typing my notes and sermon slides before my family wakes up. I feel this helps me review the text before beginning the business that is “Sunday morning set-up.” As we are a small church, I help set-up most weeks and play drums in the worship band, so this early morning session is my last chance to review.

When it comes time to preach, I use my Cambridge Wide-Margin ESV, and my notes have been transferred to iBooks on my iPad. I love using a physical Bible, and my iPad allows me to easily flip between pages without having to worry about anything falling from my music stand.

Final Thoughts:
Much of what I learned about preaching came from my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, AL. He is a great preacher and teacher, and having the opportunity to learn from him has impacted me greatly. The book he used in class was Wayne McDill’s 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching.

If you are BIVO and want to know more about how to prepare sermons while balancing the secular and the sacred, I recommend you reach out to Hugh Halter. I recently received some coaching from him, and he has some great advice to offer in this area.


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A Weekend of Duck Hunting


My View from the Duck Blind

I just returned from a weekend of duck hunting in Mississippi. Instead of rambling, I wanted to give 10 reasons why I love duck hunting:

  1. Duck Hunting provides me with a great opportunity to enjoy creation. (see the picture above)
  2. Duck Hunting allows me to spend quality time with my father and friends.
  3. Duck Hunting allows me to connect with my rural roots.
  4. Duck Hunting inspires me to learn about the biology of waterfowl, their identification, and habitat management.
  5. Duck Hunting gives me a reason to sit quietly and relax outdoors.
  6. Duck Hunting is a great opportunity to get out of the city.
  7. Duck Hunting allows me to remember and practice proper gun safety techniques.
  8. Duck Hunting is a great excuse to wear camo.
  9. Duck Hunting is FUN.
  10. Duck Hunting is something I can pass along to my children, giving them the opportunity to make similar memories as I have.


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A radical change

Today I am getting rid of my smart phone. I could expound greatly upon numerous reasons, but I will instead quickly summarize. First, I long for holiness and to humbly be an example for others. For years, I’ve joked with my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson about his not having a cell phone or a computer. I am beginning to understand his choices more and more each day.

Men have come to me confessing how their smart phones have become an instrument for sin, especially the lust of the eyes. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29 ESV) In order to be an example to the men over whom God has called me to be an overseer, and to prevent an opportunity for myself to sin, I am trashing my iPhone, that device that is so attached to me that it has become a “member.”

Furthermore, I want to be a good father. My smartphone, that is being constantly available via text or email, combined with a desire to update social networks, has taken time away from my children. I want them to see their dad as a partner in playtime, a caring husband, and a servant to others, not someone attached to his phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I love my Apple laptop, iPad, and Apple TV. I think technology does great things for our lives. However, I have to decide what is more important – technology or holiness; technology or family

Seems like an easy call to me.

Of course, people have raised objections. Here’s some common things I’ve heard and my responses.

“What will you do for GPS when your drive?” I’m going to buy a GPS unit for my car.

“What if people need to immediately get in touch with you?”
If it’s that urgent, they’ll know how to find me.

“Won’t you miss social media, email, and texting others?”
I still have a computer and an iPad, so I’m not completely cut off. Plus, the postal service still delivers mail each day; consider writing me a letter.

“Your choice is too drastic to me. I could never do that.”
I used to say the same thing to Bro. Al. This is my choice, not yours.

In conclusion, I ask that you pray for me…that God would continue to mold me into the husband, father, and pastor He has called me to be. May my life honor Him always.

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Sophia’s First Sketch

On Sunday, I took Sophia to NYCC. She had an amazing time seeing people dressed up as her favorite heroes (she got to give Batman a fist-bump), getting convention swag (she received Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty posters), and spending time with her dad. The best part of the day for her was getting a personalized Superman sketch from artist Cliff Chiang. When he gave her the sketch, she was beaming! I’ll never forget the smile on her face. Thanks to Cliff for doing the sketch even though he was packing up for the day.


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30 for 30 #17: Kilwa

While visiting Africa during the summer of 2007, Les and I had the opportunity to travel south along the coast to the rural area of Kilwa. Once a bustling trading port complete with palaces, forts, and ornate mosques, it is now simply a very rural area with a few small towns and villages.

After traveling several hours over very rough roads, we arrived at this coastal area. Then, my heart almost stopped due to the amazing beauty of the creation around me. The area is BEAUTIFUL. There are marshes and mangrove forests. There are beaches and coral reefs. The place was simply amazing.

We had a great time there. Our hosts took  us to see the local villages. We ate a few meals in the town streets at night, buying food from street vendors. We toured the ruins of palaces and mosques, built during Kilwa’s time as an important trading port. We spent time swimming and snorkeling, captivated by the wonder of creation. We walked along beaches, examining the coastline and collecting cone shells and urchin tests.

We spent two nights staying at the Mjaka Guesthouse where we rented a concrete one-room hut. The conditions could not even be considered “1-star” at best. However, staying there for two nights allowed us to save enough money to stay one night at a local resort with a pool, buffet meals, beach access, a nice bed, and air conditioning.

I’ll never forget the beach there. It was the most gorgeous place I have ever visited. The reefs were pristine – full of life and color. Our last morning there, Les and I woke early enough to watch the sun rise over the water and enjoy our last few moments in paradise. When life gets tough, I think of Kilwa. It will always be my “happy place,” and God-willing, I hope to return one day.

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30 for 30 #16: Summers at the River

Since before I was born, my family has had a place on Lake Mitchell in Clanton. Until I left Clanton as a college student, I spent nearly every day of my summer vacation there, enjoying time on the water. As soon as we had our last day of school for the year, we would pack up and move to the river. Although our “regular house” was only about 10 miles away, we rarely lived there or even visited it during the summer. All of our time was spent at the river. Even as I got older and had events like band practice or youth camp, we would remain at the river house until the first day of school.

I loved those summers. There were no plans. We would wake up and simply see what the day held for us – swimming, fishing, boating, playing in the woods, or relaxing in the air conditioning. Sometimes, we had family visit and would have 10-12 of us in the house at one time.

The freedom we had on the water was amazing. While you have to be 16 to drive a car in Alabama, when I was younger, one could get a boating license at age 12. Therefore, at an early age, I was traveling from one side of the lake to other on my own.

Interestingly enough, Lesley had a similar experience in her youth as her family had a place on Lake Harding along the Alabama-Georgia border. For the first few months of our marriage, we were able to live in her mother’s lake house and enjoyed the ability to step outside and be on the water.

When we travel to Alabama during the summer these days, we try our best to spend a few days at the Lake. It’s relaxing, and our kids now have the opportunity to enjoy some of the same things we did as children.

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30 for 30 #15: New York Comic Con 2012

One of the best things about living in NYC is that this is the center of the comic book industry. Marvel and DC both have offices here, comic book movies are filmed (or at least based here), there are tons of comic book stores to visit, and there are lots of comic book fans in the area. As a result, there are many comic-related events during the year such as seminars, art shows, signings, and of course – conventions.

Since moving to NYC in 2008, I have attended many of these events. I’ve been to small shows, signings, art shows, and talks. However, the main event I enjoy each year is the annual New York Comic Con (NYCC). I’ve been to show each year I’ve lived here, and I’ve enjoyed each one. Sometimes I have worked with an exhibitor, and other times, I’ve attended as a professional (educator). While I have enjoyed each NYCC, this last year, 2012, was my favorite.

Here are my reasons:

  1. I was able to attend with my family. I have an amazing wife who is willing to attend with me each year as able, and this year, we included the kids. Although it was a hectic trip, heading into the city with two small kids, it was fun to dress up as a family and visit the con floor. My daughter, Sophia, loved seeing her favorite Superhero, Superman, in print, Lego, and human form.
  2. I attended with some great friends. The best part of a con is hanging out with your fellow comic book fans. Visiting the floor with Sophie, Luis, Matt, and Eric was great fun.
  3. I got to meet some of my favorite artists and writers. This year, I was pleased to be able to connect with Dustin Nguyen (Batman), Cliff Chiang (WonderWoman), Brian Azzarello (WonderWoman), and David Petersen (Mouse Guard) and have them sign some books and take some photos with me.
  4. I was able to be a part of a panel on using comics in the classroom. This was the best part of this year’s con experience. Joining two other educators and an editor from Diamond Bookshelf, I was able to speak about my experience in using comics to engage students and how to present this idea to reluctant administrators.

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30 for 30 #11: Camping with My Grandparents

One of my favorite activities  as a child was camping with my mom’s parents, Maw Maw and Paw Paw. Several times throughout the year, we would pack the RV and head off to a campground with their camping club.

They were always going somewhere with their group of camping friends, and when the school calendar allowed, I was with them. I have fond memories of campgrounds throughout the state of Alabama. Thanks to Maw Maw and Paw Paw, I had the opportunity to see the mountains of north Alabama, rivers, waterfalls, natural springs, huge lakes, hiking trails, and beaches.

I would spend numerous hours on my bike, exploring the campgrounds we visited, making friends along the way. I enjoyed the nights we stayed up late around the campfire. I remember listening to the older men tell stories. I loved watching Paw Paw cook breakfast outside in the cool morning air – making pancakes, eggs, and bacon on a griddle set on top of a picnic table.

Those were all great times that I will cherish forever.

Paw Paw and Me

Paw Paw and Me

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30 for 30 #10: Dating Lesley

Wow. So much could be said about this. Rather than writing about my wedding day or the day I proposed, which are obviously great memories, I want to write about my pursuit of Lesley. We met while members of the Auburn University Marching Band, and it was not long after we met that I knew that she was the one for me.

I am so thankful for the day that we were introduced by a mutual friend, Lauren (Kirk) Tyson. Lauren told me soon after introducing me to Lesley that I should spend time with her, that she thought we would get along well. Since I trusted Lauren, I took it as a sign from God, and I immediately began seeking to persuade Lesley to enter into a relationship with me.

Now, I would be lying if I did not state that there were some bumps in the road at the beginning. While I don’t have the time or space to describe all the issues we faced early on, I can say that most of it was due to the fact that I was just plain dumb at times. If you’ve ever seen a movie that shows a guy dumbfounded and speaking unintelligibly at the site of a beautiful woman – that was me. It’s only by God’s grace that she even gave me a second look.

So, here’s some of my best memories from our early days of dating…

I still remember the day I came home and told my roommate, Morris, about her. I was so excited about her, that I had to share it with someone.

I still remember the day when I was walking her to class after band practice, and I realized that I loved her and that I would storm the gates of Hell if it meant getting to spend my life with her.

I still remember her birthday in 2003 when I took her to the park for a picnic. The picture I took of her that day is in my wardrobe, and I see it each day.

I still remember the night, sitting on her porch, when we both shared our hearts with one another, discussing our pasts and pledging our love for one another.

I still remember attending the “Be thou my vision” conference at Lakeview and seeing first-hand her passion for missions and fully realizing that she was a woman of God.

I still remember having her join me at Study Partners in the AU Library and helping some Japanese exchange students learn how to converse in English, which led to friendships that endure to this day.

I still remember the night I took her to my fraternity formal – it was the first “real date” that we had.

I still remember ditching her to go snow skiing with Morris Bramlett and Graham Michael in Mentone, AL – only to later find out that she was planning on dumping me after our planned that weekend, but my absence gave her a chance to stop, think, and really seek God’s will, which resulted in the continuing of our relationship. That particular weekend is a story all on its own, which may be discussed later…

I still remember seeing her standing outside of customs at LAX upon my return from Australia, after we had spent the summer serving in missions on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. I could see her from a distance and could not wait to get outside the gate to her.

I still remember the night I asked her to marry me, and she said, “yes.”

I still remember the day she said, “I do.” Every day since has been a blessing.

I cannot imagine life without her. I’m thankful for all the times we’ve shared together. It’s hard for me to remember living without her. I look forward to many more days with her.

Lesley Marie, I love you.

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30 for 30 #9: RA Campouts

While attending First Baptist Clanton as a child and a teenager, I was involved in a missions-education program called “Royal Ambassadors.” On Wednesday nights, we read RA lessons and learned about SBC missions emphases and offerings such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. The main educational focus of this program was to train boys to be missions-minded men and developed followers of Christ, as expressed by the Royal Ambassador pledge:

As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best: to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christ-like concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.

As a participant in RA’s, one also had the opportunity to play in a basketball league, which attracted many boys to the program. While I did enjoy playing basketball, there was one yearly event that I looked forward to more than basketball – the annual RA campout.

Each year, the men of the church hosted a campout for all the boys involved in RA’s and their dads. We would go to someone’s land, set up a tent, build a campfire, cook all our meals outdoors, play tackle football (without pads of course…this was a man’s event), and enjoy the finale of the campout – capture the flag.

Beginning as soon as dinner was completed and darkness fell, we would dress in our black masks and camo, choose teams, and begin an all-night quest to protect our flag while conquering the other team. It was epic every time.

I’ll never forget some of those nights – hiding in a creek bed with Morris Bramlett and his dad while capturing invaders seeking to get to our flag, using a video camera with night vision to attempt to see possible enemies, and of course, the thrill of winning as you grabbed flag and returned to your base.

I hope that one day, Cornerstone Church has enough families where we can attempt a campout with our boys – having fun while also teaching them to become men of God.

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