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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

3 thoughts about giving thanks

Joseph Castaneda

Now that we’ve come through the Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about how to create a habit of thankfulness that will last beyond the turkey and gravy we enjoy with our friends and family on the 4th Thursday of November. Since 1 Thessalonians 5:18 informs us that thankfulness is part of God’s will for our lives, we would all be wise to invest time in expressing our thanks for more often. Here are three thoughts about how to make that happen:

We had much to be thankful for around the Castañeda Thanksgiving table this year!

We had much to be thankful for around the Castañeda Thanksgiving table this year!

 

  1. Thankfulness is bigger than the circumstances you face. In the verse mentioned above, Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for your life.” (It should be noted that prayer, v. 17, and joy, v. 16, are also included as part of God’s will.) You don’t have to do too much study to understand that God expects His children to be thankful, regardless of the circumstances that confront us. In other words, thankfulness isn’t simply a feeling we express, or an emotion we experience, but rather an attitude and habit we develop. You don’t have to feel thankful, in order to be thankful.
  2. Thankfulness flows easiest, when our God is worshipped. Hebrews 12:28 reminds us of the eternal nature of our future home with God, and out of that reminder comes two commands: be thankful and worship God. There is an unmistakable connection between worship (putting God in his rightful place in our lives) and thankfulness, and when God is elevated properly, thankfulness flows easily. After all, when we recognize the greatness of God, our circumstances don’t seem so daunting, and our capacity to utter thanksgiving is expanded. If you are in a personal relationship with God, you already have so much for which to be grateful!
  3. Prayer and thankfulness are closely related. I think it was Spurgeon who once said, “If prayer and joy were wed, their first child would be thankfulness.” When we read about thankfulness in the Bible, we can’t help but see the intimate connection it has to prayer. In 7 of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, he begins by expressing thankfulness through prayer for the people to whom he is writing. Philippians 4:6 may be the clearest on this concept: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Where there is much prayer, there is much thanksgiving!

 

How are you doing in developing a habit of thankfulness? If you’re struggling, if you’re circumstances have become bigger than your God, you might consider evaluating who or what it is you worship, or maybe you need to get on your knees and spend more time in prayer. You see, in worship, we elevate God by ascribing to Him what is already His; we remind ourselves that He is God over everything! In Prayer, we commit ourselves to trusting Him, and to believing that His plan is best and right, and that our desire is to follow Him, not change Him. In either case, both worship and prayer give us perspective, and when we have the right perspective, we will find countless reasons to give thanks.

 

Yes, it’s easy to be thankful when things are going well and life is “easy.” But God’s children are called to be thankful “in all circumstances” and that requires more than just will power; it requires a perspective that comes from being intimately connected to God. Deepen your worship and prayer, and I’m confident you will increase your ability to give thanks.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water (and there is much for which we can be thankful!)

Be like this rose bush

Joseph Castaneda

Last month I did some speaking and support raising out in Oregon, and had the opportunity to see my family for a week while doing so. For a few nights, I stayed with my parents and on one beautiful afternoon, my mom and I explored her green thumb handiwork around the yard. My special gardening skill is that the moment I plant something, it begins to die. My mom’s special gardening skill is that she could plant a rock and boulder would grow up through the yard. And it would be pretty, too. It’s quite impressive.

 

As we walked around the outside of the house, she showed me her impressive creeping gourds that were climbing all over the front fence. We found a few strawberries, too, (which in October in the Oregon is quite impressive by itself!) and handful of other blooming flowers. We walked around back and saw something else (pumpkins?) growing out of the earth, but then we made a little stop by the front fence at a plant that really caught my attention.

This rose bush is a California transplant, that made it's way to Oregon back in 2001

This rose bush is a California transplant, that made it's way to Oregon back in 2001

 

Ok, truth-be-told, it didn’t catch my attention, it’s what my mom said about this plant that caught my attention. After all, the plant was beautiful but it was just a rose bush. You’ve seen them before, or maybe you’ve received the product of a rose bush as a gift from your spouse or boyfriend, or maybe you’ve smelled them walking through the park. Regardless, if you had seen this bush on that day, you might have admired it’s beauty but then moved on to other plants growing throughout my mom’s yard.

 

What stopped me was the story behind this bush: It’s a transplant from a rose bush that used to live in Oakland California. When my grandfather passed away in 2001, he had a number of plants and trees growing on his little parcel of inner city concrete. One of them was this rosebush, and one of my uncles carefully dug up the plant, cut off shoots for each of the siblings, and that’s how my mom and dad (it was my dad’s father that had passed) ended up with this particular plant.

 

I don’t know how long that plant had grown in Oakland, but it’s been living the last 16 years in a little side yard in Oregon, continuing it’s tradition of producing beautiful flowers each and every year. To my knowledge, none of the other siblings had much success with their shoots, but to their credit, they didn’t have my mom’s green thumb super power, either.

 

My mom and I talked a bit about the plant, and later I actually wrote a few things down and started thinking about this blog post. I now realize that one of my life goals is to be like this plant. That’s right, I’m trying to live like a transplanted flower. Here are three lessons I’m taking away from this bush’s story:

 

Be tough. This bush didn’t get to pick whether or not it got to stay in my grandpa’s yard. It didn’t get any input into whether or not it would get chopped up into five different plants and then sent nearly 700 miles away to be replanted. To my knowledge, my uncle didn’t consult with the plant about what was best for it, instead, he gently hacked it and gave my aunt’s and uncles and parents a chance to keep a part of my grandpa’s home with them.

 

In the same way, each of us experiences hardships in life of which we have so little control. (Don’t get me wrong, all of us cause plenty of grief in our own lives, but legitimately, things happen that lie far outside our control!) Maybe you were driving home, obeying the laws, even keeping space between you and vehicle in front of you when an out-of-control driver coming the other direction caused a serious accident. You didn’t deserve that. You didn’t cause it. And yet you have to live with the consequences of someone else’s actions. Have you contracted someone else’s cold because they showed up to work when they should have called in sick? You ever been cheated by an employee? You ever have something stolen out of your car or back pocket? You ever falsely accused of something?

 

We all face difficult circumstances in life, and often things that are outside of our desire or control, but each of those experiences gives us the opportunity to learn to develop toughness. You cannot control everything that happens to you in a day, but you can control how you respond. My friend Doug calls it grit: that ability to respond right even when it feels like everything/everyone is against you.

 

I believe toughness comes from the belief that this life isn’t all that we have, and that through Jesus we have hope that gets us through today and prepares us for tomorrow. The writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). This hope gives us toughness to endure today’s storms while waiting for tomorrow’s sunshine.

 

Be fruitful. I love that my mom’s plant continues to produce flowers, season after season, year after year. In the same way, God wants you and I to be fruitful in every aspect of our lives. In fact, in John 15 when Jesus talks about this very issue of fruitfulness, He says the Father cuts and prunes us for one reason: to make us more fruitful! The difficult seasons of life, the good seasons of life, the painful seasons of life, the joyful seasons of life all have one ultimate goal: to make our lives more fruitful for God’s glory!

 

And how do we maintain our fruitfulness? According to verses 5, 9 and 10, we are fruitful when we remain in God’s love and we remain in God’s love when we live in obedience to God. So our obedience is at the heart of our love and fruitfulness. In other words, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how difficult the circumstances, keep true to God and you will continue to be fruitful.

 

Be beautiful. Not only is this plant fruitful, but it is beautiful. Obviously, I’m not much of a plant guy (understatement!) but I did a double take at this rose bush’s beautiful flowers and admired them enough to snap a pic. Despite that massive life-altering experience this perennial Rosaceae endured, it continues to be a bright spot for people who pass by, for the gardener who grooms it and for the God who created it!

 

Be beautiful to the world around you, and show them the love of Christ from the way you live. In Matthew 5 Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Whether that “other” is a godly spouse or a distant stepchild, an unbearable boss or a pleasant co-worker, a lousy neighbor or an elderly shut-in, be beautiful to the people around you so that they see your Jesus.

 

What do you need to work on this week? Does your toughness need to grow? Do you need to renew your commitment to fruitful obedience? Has your beauty been tainted by your difficult circumstances?

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life— and your toughness, fruit and beauty—is better on the water!

Stay humble

Joseph Castaneda

Humility seems to come more “naturally” to some than to others, but the hard reality of life is that we have all been humbled. And, when our pride does get out of hand, God has a way of helping us realign our perspective, usually in a way that involves significant humility.

 

In 1885, the St. Louis Browns (you know them today as the St. Louis Cardinals) won the American Association championship (this was before baseball merged the two leagues and formed what we now know as Major League Baseball) and decided to celebrate on October 7th of that year. To make this party as epic as possible, they city chose to celebrate it at night, and to complete the grandiose festivities, a significant firework show was planned for the conclusion of the champion’s parade.

The 1885 champions of Baseball, St. Louis Browns.

The 1885 champions of Baseball, St. Louis Browns.

 

It is estimated that over 250,000 people lined the streets to celebrate the Browns, and overzealous fans brought their own assortment of fireworks, guns, bombs, Roman candles and torches. It probably won’t surprise many of my readers to know that a number of serious injuries marred the baseball celebration in St. Louis that night. Who knew that the combination of alcohol, fireworks, gunshots, revelry and mass crowds could result in dangerous circumstances?

 

During the night of celebration, a visitor to the city was sitting in his hotel room located in the middle of the parade route. He looked out his window, saw the firework display and noticed that thousands of people were lining the street on which his hotel was located. Surprised by this unsolicited outpouring of supporters, this man opened the door that led to his 4th floor balcony and proceeded to give an impromptu speech to those who had clearly come to honor him.

 

The man was Thomas Hendricks, the 21st Vice President of the United States of America (serving under Grover Cleveland).

Thomas Hendricks, the 21st Vice President of the United States (Photo from www.lookandlearn.com)

Thomas Hendricks, the 21st Vice President of the United States (Photo from www.lookandlearn.com)

 

You can guess there might have been significant embarrassment, when he was told that the gathering was not in his honor. Can you imagine what would happen in today’s culture? Every late night TV host would have a heyday with this debacle and social media memes would mercilessly shame his presumption. Just ask Steve Harvey what happens when you make a mistake in a public forum!

 

Hopefully Vice President Hendricks enjoyed a good laugh after that night, and relatively speaking, a wrongfully given speech is pretty low in the spectrum of ways we can be humbled. This story does however, bring to mind the teachings of Christ about what it means to humbly follow Him. In fact, it is absolutely impossible to follow in the footsteps of Jesus without humility.

 

Ultimately, humility is the perspective that keeps God is in rightful place, and me in mine. In other words, I’m not God and when I live in humility I’m recognizing that He knows all, sees all, and through His own accord is accomplishing everything according to His will. My role isn’t to be commander of my ship, but rather, to follow the Commander’s orders so that my life aligns with His work. I fly His banner and I serve Him, He doesn’t serve me.

 

When I lose that perspective, when pride drives my life, I’m living for me (no matter how much I candy coat it or try to make it sound spiritual!) and for my pleasure. When pride takes over, Joe is my number one priority and at the end of each day my primary goal is to make sure I’ve served me, well.

 

So when Jesus was facing the final hours of his life on earth, what did He do? He had a very symbolic dinner with his disciples followed by a powerful lesson I’m certain they never forgot. Taking off his coat, he got down on his hands and knees, and He did the work of a servant, washing the feet of His disciples. The message was so simple: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:14-16).

 

If you want to live the Overboard Life, you have to recognize that you are a servant and messenger of Jesus, and if He made His life about humble service, so should you! You cannot follow in obedience to the Master and make your life about you. In fact, in Philippians 2 we read that the mindset of Jesus was ultimately about obeying the Father by serving the needs of others and humbly giving up His life for our salvation. His entire 33 year human existence was about humble service, and those living the Overboard Life must follow His lead.

 

Are there any areas of pride creeping up in your life? Are you trying to take control of your ship? Let today be a good day to regain perspective, and daily may we strive to live as humble servants of our great King.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Mirages, Ghost Cities and your Bible

Joseph Castaneda

The year was 1906, and explorers were rapidly “discovering” Alaska and other Arctic regions as some of the last unexplored places on earth. Robert Peary was one such explorer, and as he traveled, he observed a massive landform northwest’s of Ellesmere Island. He named it, “Crocker Land” after his patron, George Crocker.

 

The only problem with Peary’s new land discovery? The “massive landform” didn’t exist.

 

A few years after Peary’s discovery, fellow American explorer, Donal MacMillan took his crew and they traveled laboriously over the frozen ocean toward what appeared to be the snow-capped peaks of Crocker Land. Strangely, as they “got closer” the land seemed to change its form, and after a few more days of exploration, MacMillan and his men realized they were seeing what is called, “A Superior Mirage.” The same mirage Peary didn’t realize he was seeing many years before.

 

Ever heard of the phrase, “That’s a bunch of crock!”? Well it comes from Peary’s false discovery! (Ok, totally joking about that, but it seems like a better story if that were true!)

 

Mirages and other optical illusions are communion in the Arctic because of unique atmospheric conditions that alter what a person sees. It’s super cool science, where a temperature inversion keeps cold air closer to the ground with warm air above it. The colder air literally “bends light” towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground so that distant objects are viewed differently. For example, distant objects can appear to float high above their actual position (like a boat that suddenly appears to be flying), or objects below the horizon can become visible.

 

Peary most likely experienced what is called a “Fata Morgana.” This is a complex mirage in which distant objects are distorted and elongated vertically. For example, a relatively flat shoreline may appear to have tall cliffs. A famous “Fata Morgana” mirage occurred in Muskegon, Michigan in May of 2011. People on the shores of the Lake Michigan town thought they could see the lights of Milwaukee Wisconsin as though they were just looking 8-10 miles across the lake. The problem? Milwaukee, Wisconsin is over 80 miles away from Muskegon! The vision of the lights was caused by the cold air inversion, the same conditions that produced Peary’s mountains.

A floating city? Nope! Just your every day Fata Morgana.

A floating city? Nope! Just your every day Fata Morgana.

 

Mirages generally don’t have a significant impact on a person’s life. A few explorers spent years looking for something that didn’t really exist, but by nature of the job, isn’t that something explorers can experience? A few people in Muskegon thought they saw the lights of Milwaukee, or maybe some “ghost city” on Lake Michigan, but after a small lesson in sight and science, an explanation debunks the mystery and for the most part, the aftermath is pretty minor.

 

Unfortunately, there are other kinds of myths and mirages that have significant, far-reaching implications.

 

I was speaking at a church recently, talking about the challenges of generous living. While speaking on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, I referenced a group of TV preachers whose teachings on these matters is completely out of sorts with clear biblical instruction. One man in particular used the platform to say, “Do you need a new car? Then give! Does your house need an upgrade? Then give!” He went on and on and the implication was, if you needed financial blessing and earthly reward, give to God and He will “hook you up” (especially if you give to God by giving to his/her particular ministry)!

 

Don’t we all wish the answer to poverty was as simple as putting money in the offering plate on Sunday? Don’t get me wrong, if you read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 you will find out that God loves to bless generosity and He does so in extraordinary ways. But what you won’t find in that passage is that the primary purpose of the blessing is for the giver. In other words, God doesn’t say, “Give away your money and I’ll reward you with more stuff for you,” but rather, “Give away your money and I will bless you with more opportunities to be generous.” Because the ultimately goal of generosity is stated so plainly in the passage: that others will give thanks, praise and glory to God!

 

My TV preaching pals frequently seem to omit that aspect of their plea for generous sponsorships, making the giving about the giver, not about the one from whom all resources flow. That theological mirage has hurt a lot of people.

 

A few months back I was doing some research about an African country that boasts many of the richest preachers in the world. It’s a country where the average wage is $.70/hour and these preachers offer health, wealth and financial freedom, proclaiming this hope from mansions, gaudy cathedrals and even the cabin of their private jets. I recently heard one of these men speak live and I noted two things about his message: First, he never once mentioned Jesus Christ or the Gospel. It wasn’t that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection changed peoples’ lives, it was that a person’s generosity could. According to his message, the life change you and I need to experience is discovered when we trust God with our money.

 

Without a doubt, a great deal of personal growth can be experienced through acts of generosity. Again, look back at 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 and count all of the blessings of being generous. I counted at least 12! But eternal life change cannot be experienced through generosity, it can only be experienced through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. Early in 2 Corinthians Paul reminds me that I was made a “new creation” in Jesus (not in giving), and Romans tells me that I was spiritually dead without Jesus, and new life is found when I put my faith in His death, burial and resurrection as payment for my sins. Generosity is good, but it reveals my heart of obedience, not a pathway to salvation.

 

The second thing I noticed was how frequently he referred to the “fact” that God doesn’t want people to suffer, and that suffering is always the result of not having enough faith in God’s provision. I think of God’s words to Paul, a few chapters later in 2 Corinthians, when Paul was experiencing such great suffering and he begged God to take away the pain: “My grace is sufficient for you!” Notice that God didn’t tell Paul to have more faith, or to give more in the next offering. God told Paul that grace was going to be given to him to help him endure the trial he was experiencing, because apparently, God did want Paul to walk thru this painful trial. Isaiah the prophet tells us that God often does His work in our lives by taking us through “the furnace of affliction.”

 

As I watched this man speak, I was amazed at how easily he preached these errors and how subtle the message was. I watched many people in the room (some Christ followers and some not) nodding their heads in agreement and taking down notes, and I realized that he was proclaiming a mirage as truth, an optical illusion as reality. I wonder how many times I’ve followed a theological mirage?

 

The good news is that we have a serious myth-debunking resource at our disposal: the precious truths found in God’s Word. So often these mirages and half-truths preached from the pulpit can be busted by a simple review of what the Bible actually teaches. We’ve become such a soundbite culture (and I know how tempting it is to try and be a soundbite preacher!) that we take catchy little statements and clever social media memes as solid teaching, whereas a few minutes of reading can reveal what is actually true.

 

If you want to live the Overboard Life, you have to fill yourself with the truths of God’s Word. You can’t be content to have a passive connection with God and His Word, rather, you have to be a student, eager to learn and apply what His Word teaches. Knowing the truth is our greatest tool in debunking spiritual myths and cleverly disguised mirages that will put you back in the boat.  Are you filling up today?

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

There are plenty of windows!

Joseph Castaneda

My daughter was in the beautiful wedding of our old neighbors this past weekend, and during the reception, I sat a table with some good friends. One of them, Jennifer, owns a window washing business that her late husband had started years ago. She told me this great story.

 

He began his business in the Detroit area, back when the economy was strong and the business community was thriving. There were lots of businesses that had lots of windows and from time to time, all those windows needed cleaning; it was a pretty competitive market.

 

Instead of fearing the competition, however, Jennifer’s husband embraced them, and would regularly invite many of the other window washers to breakfast where they could get to know each other, talk about the business and even encourage each other. When asked by outsiders why he would do such a thing, his response was simple: “There are plenty of windows in Detroit.”

 

Not only is that a great approach to washing windows, that’s a great approach to living life!

There are plenty of windows that need washing...do you have an abundance or scarcity mentality when it comes to the needs in your life?

There are plenty of windows that need washing...do you have an abundance or scarcity mentality when it comes to the needs in your life?

This last Sunday at New Hope, Petoskey, I had the privilege of preaching through 2 Corinthians 8 (click the link to hear that sermon). There is an interesting story in this chapter that lays the foundation for chapter 9. You see, chapter 8 is about a group of Christians who were incredibly generous. They heard about some Christians in Jerusalem who were experiencing horrible persecution for their faith, AND, they were enduring a devastating famine. These believers in chapter 8, from Macedonia, wanted to do something about it and so they gave generously.

 

What makes their generosity so amazing, is that this group of people were experiencing “severe trials” and extreme poverty themselves! This wasn’t a group of well-to-do people of faith who reached into their deep pockets to throw some coins at the hardship of others, this was a group of poverty stricken followers of Jesus who gave everything they had (which probably wasn’t much, collectively!) to help offset the suffering of others. In fact, Paul says, “They pleaded with me” to give even more. Why did they plead? Probably because Paul couldn’t fathom taking money from the poorest of people in order to help others. But the Macedonian believers wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

How can a group of people, steeped in trial and poverty, develop a mentality of giving that exceeds their means? Why would people give beyond what’s reasonable when their own needs were so high? I think the answer is found in verse one: “An now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.” These believers in Macedonia trusted in the all-sufficient capacity of God’s grace.

 

Between verse 1 and verse 9, the word “grace” appears 4 times, because grace is central to having an abundant mentality when it comes to our giving. If you continue reading 2 Corinthians, chapter 9 begins a fairly comprehensive teaching on what it means to give generously, along with the attitudes and mindset God expects from His children in regards to their earthly possessions. The teachings on generosity in chapter 9, rest firmly on the teaching of abundance here in chapter 8.

 

Why could the Macedonian believers give so freely out of their poverty? Because they had developed an abundance mentality about God’s grace, being fully convinced that the grace of God would be overly sufficient to meet all of their current and future needs. In other words, “There are plenty of windows!”

 

Do you find it easy to live with an abundance mindset? Most of us know that God’s grace can truly meet our needs, but do we believe it enough to make life decisions based on it? These Christians from Macedonia believed God’s grace was enough to meet their needs, and so they made some decisions, decisions that many of us would call unwise, to give generously to help meet the needs of others. They rejected scarcity (the belief that there just isn’t enough to go around!) and instead embrace abundance and trusted God to work out the details of their own needs.

 

The Overboard Life demands an abundance mentality. It requires us to so fully trust the Lord and His ability to meet our needs with His grace, that we will obey Him in anything He asks, going where ever He asks us to go. A few chapters later in this same book, the Apostle Paul would talk about experiencing a terrible “thorn in the flesh” that he would plead with God to remove. God’s answer? Spoiler alert: He didn’t remove the pain. Instead, God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you.” In other words, what Paul needed was a deeper experience with God’s grace, not the removal of whatever it was that was causing so much suffering.

 

Will you choose today to live in the abundance of God’s grace? Will you adjust your mindset to trust Him no matter what path He has you on, believing that whatever comes your way, whatever chances you have to give and serve, whatever trials you may face, God’s grace will be sufficient to meet your every need? These Macedonian believers trusted God and they leave us a great example to follow!

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, God’s grace is even better out on the water!

Are you good builder?

Joseph Castaneda

I’m not much of a builder.

 

You can ask Paul. Or Scott. Or Marlin. Or my wife. In fact they might even chuckle when you ask, “Is Joe much of a builder?” I worked summers doing construction with Scott, Paul and Marlin at different times during my college years. They built houses, and for reasons beyond my understanding, hired me to help. I loved working with those guys, and it was during those hot summer day son the construction site that I learned that I didn’t have that “it” when it comes to building. My poor wife has lived with me for over 20 years, watching me perform basic home improvement tasks that rarely turn out how they should, and often left me questioning my manhood and general capacity to read and follow instructions.

 

I have friends who are builders, guys (and gals!) who see a dilapidated old barn and can picture (and build!) a $1,000/night get-a-way for couples. My friend Tom turns barn wood into beautiful bedroom furniture. My friend Bruce takes fallen trees and carves them into grizzly bears and eagles with a chain saw. My friend Chris builds stunning custom homes. My friend Nancy builds super cool fire rings. My brother-in-law Ramiro builds 30-story apartment complexes in dense downtown business districts. My friend Dave builds cars. My friend Tim builds computers. My friend Gina builds amazing rustic furniture. My friend Dan built a Ninja course. My friend Steve built a camp. My friend Frank can build…well…anything! The list goes on.

 

When I watch these people ply their skills to their work, I’m blown away. Yes, some of it is learned skill, but much of it also flows out of their raw natural talent and an affinity for building. I don’t have that natural talent, and honestly, I don’t have an affinity for the work. I was never one of those home owners who thought, “I can’t wait to work on home improvement projects!” Truthfully, I’m envious of the talent of these builders, but I’m equally thankful they love to help me with projects so that I reap the benefit of their skill.

 

This might be my greatest building claim to fame: a hope chest I made for my wife as an engagement gift (bribe?) 21 years ago and it still holds together!

This might be my greatest building claim to fame: a hope chest I made for my wife as an engagement gift (bribe?) 21 years ago and it still holds together!

Thankfully, though God calls us all to be builders, He doesn’t call us to be those kind of a builders. In Romans 15:2 Paul writes, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

 

Now this is the kind of building I can (and must) do!

 

Just as any of my builder friends would have to set out with a plan before starting out on a project, building up your neighbor(s) doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, opportunity abounds, but you and I have to intentionally seek the good of others in order to build them up in Christ. Here are two thoughts about building up our neighbors:

 

Build with acts of service.

On the night Jesus was going to be betrayed, he undertook the incredible task of building up His disciples, knowing what storm was soon blowing their way. Taking off his outer garments, the Bible says he stooped down to the floor, rested on his knees and began to wash their nasty feet. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, Creator of the world, washed the feet of His followers. And when He was done He told them, “I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should to as I have done for you…now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-17).

 

In the same way that Jesus built up His disciples by intentionally serving them, we need to build up our neighbors with the same intention. It’s more than just random acts of kindness (though I’m not discounting those, either!), but rather a deliberate attempt to serve in ways that leaves the one served, encouraged. Most of us don’t fail to serve because we don’t see anywhere to serve, we fail to serve because we haven’t prioritized the opportunities in front of us.

 

Build with wise words

In Ephesians 4:29 Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up that it may encourage all those who hear them.” Just as we have to choose to make service an intentional component of what we do, each of us must learn to weigh our words carefully before they are freed from our mouths.

 

When I was a fairly young pastor in my first church in Seattle, one of the best pieces of advice I received from my mentor was to speak little during board meetings with the elders and deacons of the church, especially during the first six months. He told me to just watch and listen, and to learn how these meetings were handled and how the various boards operated. I followed his advice and only offered comments or advice when I was asked.

 

I remember coming to the end of the my first six months and one of the elders of the church caught up with me in the parking lot after one of our meetings. He said, “Joe, for a young man, you have an incredible amount of wisdom!” He shook my hand, hopped in his car and drove off. I smiled and thought, “I’ve spoken so few words in those meetings, my silence made me look wise beyond my years!”

 

Just as I was carefully choosing my words for those meetings, God wants us to carefully use our words in our interactions so that when we speak, we will be building up and not tearing down. Tearing down is easy but using our words to breath life into others requires thoughtfulness, intentionality and lots of practice.

 

So how are you doing at being a builder? Maybe today would be a good day to make a plan to build up your “neighbor” through a thoughtfully planned out act of service. That service might involve running all over town to accomplish, or it could be as simple as a cup of coffee and a listening ear. Or maybe today would be a good day to take inventory of the words that are filling up your speech. Are your words building up those listening? A quick inventory check could reveal what words you need to add your daily use.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, building others up is better on the water!

It will be worth it.

Joseph Castaneda

It has been 98 days since my last blog post on June 5th. I was actually a little shocked to realize that almost 100 days had passed since I last sat down to write out some thoughts about faith, growth and abundant living. I enjoy blogging, it becomes an avenue for personal expression, book writing and gives me a place to articulate God-given dreams and how I want to chase after them for His glory.

 

So as I sat down to write this post, I wondered why so many days and weeks and months had passed without a single blog post being written.

 

The usual excuses popped in to my head immediately:

 

I’ve been extremely busy! I was traveling a bit in June, then in July, I spoke at a camp in WV, ended on Saturday, at which time I took a flight to CA for a Sunday morning church service, that ended at 11:15am and I was back in the air to Boise, ID for a week of camp by 6pm. I left Boise Saturday afternoon and was speaking in another church that following morning and then our family began a vigorous campaign to pack up, clean up and move out of our apartment. We slowly moved into a new-to-us rental home, that wasn’t quite ready for us, as new floors and a significant remodel were still underway. So while we were living in suitcases and unpacking boxes etc…we also had to prepare for a two week, cross-country family road trip to Salt Lake City. At the conclusion of that trip, on Solar Eclipse Monday, no less, my son and I drove back to Michigan to finish the unpacking before the girls returned a week later. One week after their return, school started. I’ve been extremely busy, not sure where a blog was supposed to fit in to that tiresome schedule!

 

Part-time ministry takes up full-time hours! I’ve been serving anywhere between 15-25 paid hours a week, helping our church with its youth ministry transitions. First I’ve had the privilege of helping the junior high program and now we are serving with the high school program. You should know, though, that part-time ministry, like its full-time counterpart, consumes many more hours than one is compensated for. This isn’t a complaint at any level, it’s just the reality of being in the people business: you don’t ever really get to clock out of work. I don’t get to leave work, at work, and pick it back up next time I’m in the office. People call and text all the time, parents need counseling, students reach out for support, and youth leaders need details and encouragement. As a pastor, when families are in crisis, marriages are in trouble and difficulty strikes someone on your team, you don’t tell them to come back during your regularly scheduled business hours, you find ways to meet their needs, coordinate their care and shepherd the flock. It’s a calling, one that I love, but one that takes it toll on the available hours of each day.

 

I preach every Sunday! There are few tasks which consume my attention more than preaching. Even writing this I feel that momentary pit-of-the-stomach sensation that accompanies the grand sacred task of communicating the Word of God to His people. It’s overwhelming sometimes to consider what God has entrusted us with as His messengers, and each week’s message takes shape under hours of thought, study, prayer and personal growth. Sermon prep can be down right brutal at times, and sermon delivery is exhausting. I am so grateful for those Sunday afternoon naps, my recovery from sermon delivery!

 

My family needs me! Ive been married for over 20 years, and I happen to enjoy being with this woman who makes me laugh, who challenges me to grow and who loves the Lord in ways that inspire me to love Him, too! I have three amazing children who are almost all in the teen years: a 6th grade girl, a 9th grade girl and an 11th grade boy. They are high energy fun, they love to engage and oddly, they still want to be with their father and mother. I love spending time with them, helping them grow as individuals, and even more, helping them become who God made them to be. I want to spend time with them and I try to soak up as much personal time with them as possible.

 

I could list a few more excuses, but I think you get the point: where does blogging or book writing or dream chasing fit into any of this?

 

It’s a fair question to ask, and forces us to assess a key life principle: how can we pursue those God-given passions, those dreams that seem just out of reach, and accomplish everything else that needs to be done? There are no easy answers. Thousands of books have been written, (I’ve read a couple dozen of them—I’ve even written one!) about how to chase after the things God has put on your heart; how to grow into the person God created you to be so that you can do the things God created you to do. At the end of the day the answer is simple, not easy, but very simple: it requires hard work.

 

There are some great methods out there that can help you manage your day, arrange your schedule, stay current on trends and important news updates, help you balance your finances and even manage the kids’ school schedule, but all of them hinge on your ability to do the hard work of applying them personally. That’s when we come face to face with the hardest question of all: is my dream/passion/goal worth it?

 

Sometime before my last blog entry, I watched this video of a young lady performing on stage for America’s Got Talent. I don’t watch the show with any regularity, but I enjoy the clips that circulate on social media and it’s quite likely you’ve already seen this one, too. A sweet 12-year-old girl boldly walks on stage to sing. But she isn’t singing like many of the other contestants, she is singing with a puppet. And when asked why she wants to perform with her puppet mouse Petunia, her goal was simple: “I would really like to keep ventriloquism alive, because it’s really not common, you know?”

 

Do yourself a favor, even if you’ve seen it before, and take 5 minutes to watch this video clip, all the way to the end:

 

I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t tear up the first time I watched this clip. Or the second time. Or the time I watched it right now because I posted the link and decided to watch it again. Darci’s response to receiving the highly sought after AGT, Golden Buzzer stirs something deep in me every time. You see, many contestants go on AGT (or insert your favorite “reality” talent show here) to win. They want fame. They proclaim confidently in their interviews, “I’m here to win!” Some of those contestants have good reason for that confidence and bravado, as years of practice and performance have prepared them for such a grand moment.

 

But Darci’s mission, her simple goal, is to “Help keep ventriloquism alive…” and I’m guessing that her five minute performance that night spiked sales of puppets, stirred peoples’ interest and added rabid viewers to a show that already has a cult-like following.

 

I know she’s only 12, but it’s obvious that she’s already spent hours working on her performance skills. Her calm in front of a national TV audience is unbelievable for such a young performer, and her vocal skills are mesmerizing for someone singing with a closed mouth! She’s organized her young life in such a way as to prioritize practice, she likely has traded outings with friends, or trips to the movies or mall in order to get in “one more practice session” before bedtime.

 

And it is very plain to see, when the AGT judge slammed down the coveted Golden Buzzer, as the golden ticker tape began to fall, Darci’s sheer joy says it all: It is worth it!

 

How much more worth it, how much greater will your joy be, will my joy be, when we stand before God having lived out who He made us to be? Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we will all stand before God to give an account for our lives, to answer the question of whether or not we strived, by God’s grace, to become who God created us to be (Psalm 139) so that we could do what He created us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

 

As I watch Darci weep with joy, as she stands on a massive stage with a national TV audience, as she looks up at the ribbons falling, sees her name in lights, for just a moment, I imagine she had achieved more than she ever thought possible in her young life. Who knows how big her dreams have gotten since then, but one thing is certain: she is keeping ventriloquism alive.

 

Today I’m back to blogging, to writing, to dreaming. I don’t imagine myself to be an immensely talented writer, nor do I envision people who have been counting days between blogs wondering where on earth my profoundly life-changing thoughts have been. I do imagine that God has given me a platform, that He has shaped me to express things in writing about life with Him, and He has put some big dreams in my heart to influence a lot of people for His glory. He has burned the Overboard Life message into my very core: helping believers live their God-designed lives of faith, out of the comfort of the boat, and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom. In the words of Darci, “I want to keep Overboard faith alive!”

 

And this I know: it will be worth it. Chasing after these things will be worth the work of balancing my schedule, of fighting hard for better management and coordination, of giving up things that drain energy and resources and reinvesting in the people and things that invigorate, fill and point me to Jesus. When I stand before the Lord and give an account, it will be a joy that makes Darci’s experience fade as quickly as her five minute performance in the grand scale of life. It will be worth it.

 

What do you need to bring back to the front burner? What habits do you need to restart in order to see pursue those God-given dreams and goals? I know it’s hard. I know you’re busy. I know you’re pulled in too many directions. I know there will be hard decisions to make. And I also know this: it will be worth it.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge—it will be worth it!—life is always better on the water!

How to fling your poop properly

Joseph Castaneda

Our daughter is blessed to receive horse riding lessons from two amazing people here in Northern Michigan. I’ve written a couple of blogs about their horses (and even one about their dog) in the past because they are teaching my daughter about leadership and life; they just happen to be using horsemanship as the tool to convey those lessons.

 

One of the fun parts of CJ’s lessons is that Traci and I have the privilege of serving on their property as a means of giving back to Marc and Kaye. Because I’m a city boy and lack even the most basic of farm skills, I am happy to help with cleaning out horse stalls or scooping up the pasture poop. These tasks require little technical skill and I imagine are usually pretty low on the list of things people want to do, so I’m happy to spend an hour in stalls or in the field.

 

This past week, after filling a trailer with horse-crement, I hopped on the little tractor and distributed the horse poop out on the trails that surround the pasture. The process was quite amusing. I drove the tractor around the pathways while a mechanism in the trailer moves poop to back to these fan-like blades that fling the poop out behind the trailer. Check out the video of my poop distribution ride in action.

 

About half-way through the process, I learned a very interesting lesson: flinging too fast can result in being smacked upside the head with horse poop.

 

You see, when the trailer was a little over half way empty, I decided the process was taking a little too long, so I shifted the tractor into a faster speed. The mechanism that moves the poop to the back of the trailer, and the chain that controls the fan-like blades are all controlled by a little gear box that comes off the tractor. The faster the tractor travels, the fast the mechanism moves the poop back and the faster those blades spin.

 

Incidentally, when the blades move faster, the poop flies further and in a much less controlled fashion. Suddenly I found myself being pelted with horse poop. I don’t mean just one or two little horse bombs coming my way, it started to rain doo doo. The shock of the poop shower took a moment to settle in and to make the connection that my speed on the tractor was the cause of the problem. I slowed down and the poop stopped falling on me.

 

I laughed as I finished up my task and took the tractor and trailer back to their parking spot. I wiped off the poop chunks still on my shirt and realized a valuable lesson: getting rid of poop properly, takes time.

 

When Kaye saw me dusting off, she laughed and said, “Did you learn an important lesson today?” I sure had. And more than just about scooping poop!

 

Like that little trailer I was driving around, each of us has experiences in life that can load us up with burdens, hurts and loss. Sometimes we inflict those things on ourselves and other times they are loaded up on our life-trailer by family members, bosses or even close friends. We’ve all been there in the past, and each of us will be there again in the future because life isn’t how it was originally designed to be.

 

When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, everything changed. Instead of living in a perfect world in a perfect relationship with God and with each other, life got messy. And sometimes that mess just piles up and because we carry it day after day, it becomes cumbersome. Then, when the burden gets so heavy we can barely lift it any more, we have to unload it and sort through the mess(es) we’ve endured. In the messes we find lessons, we find friendship and we always find that God is in it with us.

 

A little over two years ago, when our whole world was turned upside down, everyone in our family ended up carrying some pretty hefty burdens. I suddenly had to deal with the feelings of betrayal, the loss of perceived value, the sense of my own personal worth, the heart-break of telling my family that we were moving again, and the hardship of trying to pay bills, find work and figure out what God was trying to do in my life. The life-trailer was overflowing.

 

10 months after the job change and move, we were finally living a “normal” life in a new town, with the kids enrolled in new schools and Traci and I were back in a bit of a groove. For the first time since the job loss, I took a moment to process and I realized I couldn’t pull my trailer any more. I was discouraged. My heart was beaten down. I had lost motivation and passion.

 

I met with a counselor for a couple of sessions and she reminded me of a very important lesson: removing the poop in your life takes time. If you try to go too fast, you end up throwing it everywhere, it ends up impacting others, and you probably miss out on the valuable lessons you could/should have learned through the process. Up to the point of our first meeting, I had taken my filled up life-trailer and just tried to pull it harder and further, believing I could carry on as normal without any ramifications. My counselor reminded me that loss is real, betrayal is painful, and sorting those things out takes time.

 

In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus tells a parable about a fruitless tree. The tree had been unproductive for three years, and the owner is ready to have it removed. But in verse 8, the man who takes care of the tree says, “Sir…leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” Three years of fruitlessness and the man who cared for the tree knew this: getting something restored to usefulness takes a lot of time. We aren’t told, but I like to think that the tree was unproductive because it had been damaged. Maybe it had been ravaged by some storm or by a careless caravan of wanderers, but whatever the cause it was damaged.

 

The vineyard caregiver had been watching this tree’s health and he knew, one more year of care and this tree could be fruitful again.

 

Are you walking around wounded? Have you been hurt, betrayed, handed a loss or have that feeling that your life-trailer is overflowing with the suffering that comes from a world that isn’t how it’s supposed to be? Take heart, and take time. The Almighty Creator God of the universe knows your aches. He sent His Son to experience the pain of life so that He could advocate for you and me as one who understands, experientially, what we’re enduring. And He offers grace and mercy to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

 

I’ve been slowly unloading a trailer for 18 months now, and I’m thankful that as I look back it’s almost empty. I know life will fill it up again, and I rest equally certain that my God will help me unload it once again when the time comes. Don’t shortchange the process of grief, loss or pain. Take time to sort through the life-trailer you’ve been pulling around so you can learn valuable lessons and, as the parable teaches us, be made more fruitful for the Kingdom.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

How to always be right

Joseph Castaneda

A few days ago I woke up and got into my morning routine when our youngest daughter woke up, poured some cereal into a bowl and then announced that we were out of milk. My wife's shoulders dropped because she remembered last night visiting the grocery store with our son AJ, and the two of them had three things on the list. They came home with two. And now we were out of milk.

 

Traci was prepping to take CJ to the farm to pick up her 4H pig for the fair this year, so I told her I would happily go pick up some milk and pull out $125 cash for the pig. Kalkaska is a great town, and fairly small, so it only took me about 3 minutes to get to the grocery store.

 

At 8am on a Saturday, the grocery store was pretty quiet, and I took the familiar path from the front entry doors, walked between registers three and four and straight through the diaper aisle to the back of the store and the dairy cooler. I found the milk, and walked back up to register six for checkout.

 

The clerk, who was cleaning the top of a pop cooler, cheerfully put down her rag and came to help me check out. When I entered the cash back she informed me she didn't have any $20 bills, so she gave me a $100 dollar bill and said I could exchange it at the customer service counter directly behind me.

 

I walked up to the counter and in an instant I could see that the lady working was already having a bad morning. The phone was down on the counter, and she was looking up something when she tersely stated, "Register six is open for sales." I explained I needed my $100 exchanged and she rolled her eyes, sighed in annoyance and stopped doing anything for several seconds.

 

I assured her I was in no hurry, which seemed to free her to finish her phone call (which turned out to be a fellow employee requesting her schedule for the next week). After hanging up the phone, she came back to the counter, still very agitated about something, and looked at me as though she couldn't remember why I was there. I slid my $100 bill across the counter and asked if I could get change.

 

She opened up the till, and then somewhat aggressively, grabbed two $50 bills from the register and placed them firmly onto the counter in front of me, snatched up the $100, stuffed it in the register and then closed up the till in a fairly fluid motion. I smiled and tried to speak as kindly as possible and stated, "I actually need $20 bills."

 

Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, "Well today you get $50's" and walked back to counting cigarette cases and lottery ticket rolls. So I thanked her and walked out with 2, $50 bills and a smile.

(After my incident at customer service, I kind of felt like Lou Costello in this classic               Abbot and Costello clip: "Two Tens for a 5!")

Obviously, something had happened to that poor woman to drive her day the direction it was going. This particular store opens at 7am on Saturdays, and I can only figure that her opening hours had not gone as she had planned. Who knows, maybe someone didn't show up to work, maybe a grocery order didn't arrive or came with the wrong contents or maybe she woke up today, after having learned some awful news yesterday, and is trying to figure out what's next in her life.

 

Of course, she could just be a terrible customer service representative or generally just hate people. We've been helped by her in the past so it seems like the former answers are more likely than the latter, but whatever the case, today she was having a bad day.

Don’t let being ‘right’ talk you out of being kind – Bob Goff.

I don't recall where I heard this phrase first, but I remember someone saying, "Don't ever judge a person on their worst day." We all have bad days, and if my encounter with someone, as bad as it might have been, occurred on their worst day, my impression of them may not be very good. Just as if someone's only experience with me came on my worst day, they would be inclined to reject everything else I say based on that one encounter.

 

In the same way, not only do I not want to judge a person who's having a bad day, but I really don't want to add to their misery. Imagine if I had gotten irritated at this woman's lack of listening. I saw the open register, she had plenty of $20 bills and I could have stated correctly, "No mam, $50 bills will not work for me today. Please open the register and give me the $20 bills I requested." If she protested, I would have threatened her, taken down her name and then followed up with the store manager to make sure her attitude was made known.

 

Maybe she would have been reprimanded for her actions. Maybe even fired. Then I could have been satisfied that my customer service experience was properly rectified and that my rights were handled with the utmost importance.

 

I know, I know, "The customer is always right." But is that what living the Overboard Life is about? Being right or being in the right when it comes to customer service? I know, this world – especially in our amazing Western Culture – elevates customers to a place of near deity and sometimes we Christians buy in to the notion that our rights are the most important aspect of our lives. We demand that we should be satisfied, that we should be comfortable and that when we are a paying customer, our needs should be the highest priority of some employee.

 

What happens when we live this way in every area of life? Some abandon marriage easily, commitment to a church becomes a foreign concept, and the seed of bitterness finds ripe soil in which to take root. If my highest good is seeking my highest satisfaction, anything contrary to that is reason for alarm. And if I can't get someone in authority to see things the way I see them, then I leave for greener pastures. I boycott. I passive/aggressively tell others on social media about how terribly I was treated. I constantly justify my actions to me.

 

The Overboard Life demands inconvenience. It requires a willingness to be wronged sometimes, and to embrace the fact that our highest calling is not to our comfort or to proper customer service. Sometimes, maybe even more often than not, we should embrace inconvenience over being “right.”

 

When Jesus was asked “What is the Greatest Commandment?” He responded with two answers: Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and, He said, love your neighbor as yourself. Love God and love others. Everything else in life falls under these two categories, and love sometimes demands that the lover be willing to be wronged.

 

Are you spending a lot of time fighting for your rights? Do you experience constant turmoil, friction or tension because you find yourself constantly fighting inconvenience (perceived or real) or unfair treatment in some area(s) of your life? Embrace inconvenience as a worthy travel companion and focus on what really matters: love God, and love others.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Why your marriage needs a vacation

Joseph Castaneda

Last March, Traci and I enjoyed 8 days away from the chilly end of a northern Michigan winter by basking in the soul-reviving heat of an Arizona spring. We traded snow pack for desert sand, and daytime high temps in the 30s and 40s, for nighttime lows that touched the 50s. We took in a full week of Spring Training baseball, visited with friends, ate out, and packed in as much together time as possible. It was a glorious week of marriage refreshment.

In fact, reflecting on that week of marriage refreshment, here are seven reasons you need to get away with your spouse for at least seven days, every year (minimum!):

Traci and I had a blast taking in warm, late-night baseball games in Arizona in March.

Traci and I had a blast taking in warm, late-night baseball games in Arizona in March.

1. Your marriage NEEDS it. It's not that your marriage is necessarily in trouble, it's that a strong marriage is built on the relationship of two people who are intimately connected to God, and passionately to each other; connections that are built with extended time and shared experiences (quantity and quality). The sad reality is that a lot of marriages end once the kids move out, or couples have to helicopter their grandchildren in order to maintain connection with their kids because they have no relationship with each other! Your marriage needs experiences and time together, because God willing, you will soon set your children free to follow the Lord and your empty nest will only be filled with your marriage.

2. One week is enough time to disconnect and reconnect. It seems to take most people 2-3 days to truly disconnect from life, to unwind from the craziness and to feel like they are "away." We are big believers in multiple weekend get-a-ways for couples, but a week long stay, at least once per year, is essential for couples to make a real break from life, and a real connection with each other. The hard work of getting everything ready for a full week departure is, well, hard, but after seven days away together, it will be richly rewarded.

We were thrilled to come home to our kids after a week away, and they seemed pretty happy to see us, too =)

We were thrilled to come home to our kids after a week away, and they seemed pretty happy to see us, too =)

3. Your kids NEED it. I know, no one knows how to take care of your kids better than you do, and that's really how it should be. But your kids need to learn to live life in other contexts and under the authority of others who care for them. It is good and healthy for your children to experience days apart from you. As a youth pastor for 20 years, we've had so many parents say, "Little Johnny can't do a week at camp because it would be too many days away from me. He's scared." Reality is little Johnny LOVED his week away, and mom's worries were more about mom than Johnny. Your kids will enjoy their week away and even if they don't, it will make them more excited for you to return. That's a win win!

4. Your sex life needs the time. Yes, a week away with your spouse should include a healthy dose of sexual interaction. Maybe you enjoy sex every day you're away, maybe you just set aside a few special and memorable moments, or maybe you spontaneously create some mind-blowing memories! Whatever you do, make sure your week includes the intimate connection that only sex can bring a marriage and make sure you create space in your schedule for it to happen. Don't assume sex will just take place because you are away, create space and time and talk openly about expectation. Sex should be part of the reason you take a full week to enjoy each other on vacation.

New outfit for date night: $45. Dinner at a great little pizza place in downtown Phoenix: $25. Reminding Traci that, apart from my relationship to God she is my highest commitment – Priceless!

New outfit for date night: $45. Dinner at a great little pizza place in downtown Phoenix: $25. Reminding Traci that, apart from my relationship to God she is my highest commitment – Priceless!

5. Your other commitments need to know they can live without you, too. I think one of the healthiest things about being away, is that my other roles can carry on without me. I tell my team that I'm away, and unless it's somewhat imperative, I really don't want to hear from them. Yes, I take a call or two and check my email a couple of times, but for the most part, I want them to figure it out WITHOUT me, and I'm willing to take on a few extra hours after vacation to get caught up. Let your spouse know that they are the priority, and make work secondary while you are away.

6. Your communication skills needs the time away. Lets face it, we all get distracted in life with so many inputs vying for our attention. When you'e away with your spouse, you get focused time at meals, during walks on the beach, during drives to that scenic outlook, or while you're sitting in the hotel room together. Yes, to talk, uninterrupted and undisturbed. Your communication skills get refinement during these extended stays together and it will carry over into your married life when you return.

7. Your dreams need to be revisited. Vacations are a great time to revisit your goals and dreams, to talk about the exciting future you want to have or the items on your bucket lists. You should take the opportunity to connect again with each other's dreams and figure out new ways to achieve them. Vacations are great time to jump start your goals!

Traci and I have been taking a week-a-way, every year, for 20 years. It's never been easy or convenient. Before children it was simpler, though not always easy. After kids, the challenges mounted significantly. It would literally take weeks of prep to make sure schedules were laid out, diapers were supplied and pack-and-plays were dropped off at the right houses.

As our children got older, complex car-pooling arrangements had to be made, and sometimes all three kids would be at three different houses making the challenge even harder. But the payoff for our week away has ALWAYS been worth it. Not once in 20 years have either of us thought, "wow, what a bummer of a week!"

Instead, every time the week ends we recognize how thankful we are that we did the work to make the week happen, and refreshed and reconnected, we are eager to see our kids and get back into the swing of life. So trust us, your marriage needs a week long vacation, and it will be worth it to make it happen!

Go ahead and take the plunge, your marriage is better on the water!

#TeamCastañeda gets stronger when we spend more quality time together!

#TeamCastañeda gets stronger when we spend more quality time together!

Enjoying the sunshine

Joseph Castaneda

Four years ago, God moved my family from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, to the beautiful snow-covered lands of Northern Michigan. We traded an ocean for the Great Lakes, wet drizzly winters for cold snowy ones, and exchanged mild valley seasonal temperatures for cold-colds, and slightly muggy warms. Lots of give and take but we have really come to embrace our new life here in Michigan.

Just one problem: I love the heat.


Granted, there wasn’t a ton of hot weather in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but summers were typically warmer than here, and we often experienced a good stretch of piping hot summer and fall days. And even though Salem isn’t considered sun country, our move to Michigan reduced our sun intake even further! Also, my best friend Danny, and my brother Dan, lived just a 12-hour drive away from our Oregon home, so in a day’s travel we could be jumping in their pools enjoying the dry desert heat of Southern California.

In fact, I remember being with Danny this past November, and walking outside in nearly 80 degree weather near his house in Yucaipa, California. In Kalkaska, Michigan, winter was preparing to make its arrival by peppering us with 20 degree highs and the occasional snow dusting. I was so thankful for the sunshine, so empowered by its warmth and penetration to my soul, and I remember asking God, "Why can't I live where there is more sun?"

A picture from one of my walks in SoCal during my November visit. Beautiful day at a beautiful park in Yucaipa.

A picture from one of my walks in SoCal during my November visit. Beautiful day at a beautiful park in Yucaipa.

And the Lord reminded me, "I know how much you love the sun. Look, I brought you to CA in November so you can enjoy it. So enjoy it!" I was struck by the fact that my lament of not being in the sun more often was keeping me from enjoying the sun while I was in it. In other words, my pursuit of the sun was keeping me from enjoying the very thing I was pursuing.

Back in March, Traci and I had an amazing anniversary celebration and enjoyed 8 days of rest, connection, Spring Training baseball and awesome Mexican food while being immersed in pure Arizona sunshine. I realized that a lot of people in life are trying to pursue that experience as a life ambition. They want to enjoy days and days of pleasure, of baseball, of sunshine, of sex, of dinners out, of time uninterrupted etc... without any sense of a greater calling. They have made the pursuit of pleasure their greatest desire and calling.

While I loved our time away, and while I know in my flesh I could certainly get used to that kind time with Traci on a VERY regular basis, I am thankful that when vacation ended, we returned to a life focused on major projects God had given us. We returned to work-in-progress and to see great things accomplished for the Lord.
I am thankful that these periods of rest, these breaks in the action, allow us to process what God is helping us become so that we are more prepared to do what He has for us to do. That combination of becoming and doing is so powerful, and you can't become while on vacation! Yes, vacation can be a supplement to the great tasks at hand, but vacation by itself, the vacation life, doesn't create the character that is needed for the work of the Lord.

I'm thankful there is more to our lives and marriage than just vacation. YES, I absolutely LOVE taking time off with Traci and I can't imagine life without these periodic breaks, these fantastic shared experiences, and these profoundly intimate moments shared with the absolute love of my life. But what makes them so sweet, what makes them so awesome, is that they are sandwiched between amazingly difficult work, they are surrounded by days and days of struggle and tension and they are situated between calendars that are full of obligations, prayer requests and God-sized dreams that never seem to stop. What makes rest so precious is the work that precedes it. And I'm thankful God has given us over to a great, mighty and VERY exhausting work!

Being able to be in the moment, whether at work or rest, is the heart of what it means to be content. Wikipedia defines it this way: “Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation…” It is being in the moment, at ease, even when the moment isn’t easy! Contentment isn’t about being in perfect circumstances, it’s about choosing your response regardless of the circumstances you live in.

And it is an attitude we should strive for! The Apostle Paul tells us, “…but godliness with contentment is great gain…” You. Can. Choose. To. Be. Content! Contentment is what allows me to enjoy the sunshine in Southern California in November, even though I know I’m returning to chilly winds and falling snow when I fly home to Kalkaska. Contentment allows me to embrace opportunities for personal and spiritual growth, even though it hurts and sometimes leaves me with more questions than answers. Contentment allows me to rest deeply while on vacation, even while knowing that a heavy workload awaits my return.

Choose contentment today, so you can fully experience every moment of life, good and bad.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Airline cheap seats and sharp swords.

Joseph Castaneda

This morning, Traci and I flew in to Phoenix, AZ from Detroit, MI, in order to celebrate our 20th anniversary by attending a week of Spring Training. It was an early flight for us with weird body-clock and weather adjustments. Like the fact that we left Detroit in rainy 30 degree weather at 7am local time, and arrived at 7:45am in Phoenix (after a 4 hour flight) and it was already 75. It feels great to be celebrating 20 years of marriage (our anniversary is in December, but obviously, Spring Training doesn't begin until March.) and to be doing that in sunshine after another cold Michigan winter.

 

After our flight landed, Traci headed outside with our carryon bags while I waited at the luggage carousel for our checked bag. All of us weary passengers stood for about 20 minutes before luggage started falling out of the luggage chute only to find out that the first set of bags belonged to an earlier flight than ours. Following another 15 minute delay, our bags started their trip around the carousel.

 

One young couple walked over to the information kiosk I was standing next to, while the first set of bags was falling, and they were visibly frustrated, trying hard to keep their calm while clearly very anxious in trying to locate their bags. Earlier that morning, their flight from Phoenix to Seattle was canceled, but they had already checked their bags on the cancelled flight. Now, out a bunch of money because they purchased last-minute one-way tickets to get home on another airline, they were in desperate need of their bags to make the flight with them.

 

I felt terrible for them because I know the frustration – first hand! – of feeling fairly helpless at the hands of the airlines while looking for bags or trying to figure out a way to get home (when you're snowed in to O'Hare). Yeah, been there, done that.

 

The airline with the canceled flight and lost bag was a discount airline, the same one we chose to fly from Detroit. I jokingly tell people that “the tickets are often dirt cheap” (we flew from Detroit to Phoenix for $110.00 per ticket; Traci and the girls flew from Detroit to Orland for $29 per ticket last December!) “but don't expect any conveniences. Like seat belts. Or seats that are comfortable.” Ha. It's the trade you make in order to experience such inexpensive travel.

 

As this couple was understandably upset about the service they had received, I was reminded that so often in life we want $110 tickets to cross the county in an airplane, but we expect $610 service for that money. I heard someone on our flight from Detroit lament the fact that the airline charged for all their snacks, and "they should give us something for being in our seats for nearly four hours!" They did, they gave you that seat for $110. That $3 you had to pay for your Coke still leaves you $497 ahead of the game compared to purchasing the same ticket other airlines were offering.

 

Believe me, I’m not casting any stones here. I totally get it, because often I prefer the amenities and convenience the other airlines offer me in my travels. Typically, given the choice, I would rather fly out of an airport closer to home (Detroit is almost 4 hours away), enjoy "free" refreshments, and know that I have a seat guaranteed before I get on the plane. But sometimes, a less expensive ticket makes more sense. For us, the cheaper flight allowed us to use the difference to pay for our hotel for the week in Phoenix; that was worth it on our end.

 

Life and airline travel have some uncomfortable similarities. Just like people are hoping to pay discount airline prices while demanding full fare amenities, too many of us want the best life has to offer while dedicating very little of ourselves to the process of becoming who we were made to be. We want all the benefits of personal growth, but we really try to avoid all the ways that personal growth occurs.

 

Hint: 99% of ALL personal growth, occurs while learning to endure hardships, walking through trials or busting through seemingly impossible obstacles. Character is formed when character is tested, and if there is no testing, there is no change. In my first book, Project Joseph I call it the Heat and Hammer principle.

 

You see, back in the day, swords were super useful weapons for combat. Making a sword was a high demand skill, because the price of going in to combat with a lousy weapon was literally life-threatening. But making a sword requires two key components: heat and hammers.

 

When the swordsmith begins preparing the metal for its combat use, he heats it up, over and over again, and between the heatings, uses a hammer to beat it into shape. The process of heating it and hitting it, allows the metal to develop the strength it needs so that the blade can be sharpened to perfection and used with precision on the field of battle. Without the heat and hammer, the sword will not protect its wielder. Likewise, to become the people God created us to be requires heat and pressure. 

 

You know where personal growth doesn't occur? In completing a 4 day binge-watching Netflix marathon of NCIS (insert your favorite show here). Believe me, I've tried! Or, in reading about others developing awesome character. Or even reading a guy's blog about how character is formed. God didn't design us to experience growth and character by doing nothing, instead, He created a world where everything that is worth becoming requires a pathway through the furnace of affliction, through the heat and hammer of life.

 

Are you under the hammer right now? Are you walking through the furnace right now? Though painful, It's a good place to be, as you learn to trust the Master Swordsmith in how He shapes you for His purposes. Once you've walked through the process, you will never want to go back to the way things used to be, no matter how "easy" it was to live there.

 

My friend Tim Zowada uses this equipment to make awesome custom knives and blades. Check out his work at: http://www.tzknives.com

My friend Tim Zowada uses this equipment to make awesome custom knives and blades. Check out his work at: http://www.tzknives.com

In Isaiah 48:10, we read, “I have refined you…I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Probably not words you’re going to find on a greeting card anytime soon, but words that speak the truth: the furnace of affliction is where God does His refining work in our lives. Fun? Not usually. Necessary? Absolutely! Do I crave the furnace of affliction? In the words of a dear friend of mine…”I do not like [the furnace of affliction], not on a boat, with a goat, not in the rain, in the dark or on a train…” but I love what the furnace produces: character that makes me more and more like Jesus.

If you’re trying to live the Overboard Life, you must learn to embrace the furnace of affliction. We must learn to endure the heat and hammer so that God can perfect us for His great purposes. The Overboard Life is forged in God’s character kiln!

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life – even the hard parts! – is better on the water.

An undivided heart

Joseph Castaneda

Do you remember your first “love?” If you’re like me, you probably had some sort of crush on a person while you were pretty young, long before you had any real idea of what it meant to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, what it meant to date or even what it really meant to love someone.

 

I was in 5th grade when I reached out to my first real crush. Her name was Kimberly, and we used to hang out together on the playground at recess. We had attended the same school together, since 1st grade, and had often been with the same teacher during those years. We used to talk, hang out on the playground together and even attended the same summer camp one year.

 

One day I realized that I liked her for more than just a friend, and so over the weekend, my buddies convinced me that it was time to take the next step in our relationship. I learned the method for boldly asking a girl out involved me writing a note that said, “Will you go out with me?” complete with two check-boxes, one with the word “no” next to it, and one with the word “yes” next to it. The proper way to distribute this kind of formal invitation is to hand it to your best friend, who hands it to her best friend, who then hands it to the person you hope will read it.

 

I followed this process to a “T” and anxiously awaited Kimberly’s response. At the end of the school day, the note was passed from said girl, to her friend, to my friend, to me, and I casually placed the response in my back pocket. On the way home from school, as soon as no one was with me, I grabbed the note, took a deep breath and read her response: she had checked the “yes” box! Here I was in 5th grade, and I. Had. A. Girlfriend.

 

Turns out, having a girlfriend is quite a complicated issue. The next day, word was out and people were talking about the school’s newest couple. Yet, when I saw Kimberly, I didn’t know what to do. So being the Suave Latino Lover that I am, I chose to avoid making eye contact, and certainly did not speak a word to her. In fact, I remember making sure our paths didn’t cross for the whole day so that I didn’t have to figure out what to do or say with this girlfriend of mine.

 

Apparently that’s not what impresses a girl. Who knew? The next day, I kept up the same tactic and by day’s end I received a note from her friend to my friend to me, that explained that our relationship just wasn’t working out. I guess girl’s think you should talk to them and engage them if you like them and I was like, “Hey, you can find me on the wall ball court if you want to chat!” And just like that, my first relationship ended as quickly as it started.

 

Recently I was preaching through the “Let Us” phrases of the book of Hebrews, and I came across Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart…” That phrase “sincere heart” has a cool meaning when the Greek is translated literally: “A heart answering to the ideal.” In other words, if a heart answers to the ideal (in this case, drawing near to God) it is undivided in its attention and focus. To draw near to God requires us to approach with an undivided heart!

 

As a 5th grader, I had no idea what it means to pursue someone with an undivided heart. Talking with my buddies, I really liked the idea of having a girlfriend, but in reality, I didn’t have the maturity to understand what a relationship entailed. In the same way, I think a lot of people, a lot of Christians, like the idea of “..draw[ing] near to God…” but don’t have the maturity to understand what it means to pursue Him with an undivided heart.

 

After all, we are a culture of divided interests. We love our sports. We love our food. We love our families. We love our houses and jobs. We love our income. We love our free time. We love our hobbies. We love our technology. We love our kids’ sports. We love our [_____ insert your love here _____] None of these, by themselves, is necessarily bad, but any one of these can become a barrier to having an undivided heart toward the Lord. Should I love my wife? ABSOLUTELY! But my love for her must come secondary to my love for God. When I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, He enables me to love others more effectively than I could on my own.

 

Drawing near to God, a life-long ongoing process, should be the greatest aim of all believers. It is the root of bringing glory to Him with our lives, and the primary means by which we can gain perspective on everything else. When I am drawn in close to the Father, through Jesus, I have all that I need to manage the life He has given me. Easy? No! Simple? Yes!

 

Tomorrow when you wake up, check the “yes” box next to the question, “Will you draw near to me?” and ask God to help you follow through. Maybe you need to take a break from another relationship or hobby or technology or job in order to find that undivided heart. Whatever it is, know that drawing near to God will help you live life, out of the comfort of the boat, and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

4 years later: time for another presidential prediction.

Joseph Castaneda

[This post was originally written in 2012. I’ve tweaked just a few words, but it’s just as true today as it was 4 years ago!]

 

I already know the results of tomorrow’s election. Call it divine clarity. Call it a spiritual gift of prophetic vision. I actually don’t care what you call it, but the fact remains: I know the outcome of the election, and I know I’m right.

 

Here it is: Wednesday morning, millions of Americans will wake up fearful, sad and even angry.

 

Of course, if you have been engaged with year’s election at all (and it’s been hard to avoid it!), you know how contentious things have been. In my 42 years of living, spanning 13 presidential elections (including eight that I remember, seven that I remember moderately well) I have never seen one being so filled with animosity. The anger, condemnation and verbal beatings exchanged online, in businesses and over office water coolers has been unprecedented. And because of that, I’m confident of this: The “losing” team will not be happy come Wednesday morning.

Image from call-levels.com blog on presidential preference

Image from call-levels.com blog on presidential preference

 

So what are we supposed to do Wednesday morning? Here are a few commitments each of us should make, regardless of our party affiliations.

 

  1. Pray for your leaders: Nothing is simpler, yet has more power to create change, than praying for leaders. For some reason we only employ this tactic when our candidate doesn’t win, basically praying prayers for God to remove the other guy at the next election. Paul reminds us that prayers are to be offered for everyone in authority, all the time: “our guy (or gal!)” or not! On Wednesday, whatever the outcome, commit to pray. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority...” (1 Timothy 2:1).
  2. Respect those in leadership: It’s Peter that reminds us to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17), yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something like this on facebook: “I know I’m supposed to respect the president, but....” But? There is no “but” clause in 1 Peter 2:17, or in Romans 13:7 where we are commanded to respect and honor those in authority. The point is this: Don’t “but” your way out of obedience. President Trump or President Clinton, it doesn’t matter, we owe them respect and honor. You don’t have to like their politics or policies, but you don’t have permission to badmouth them to coworkers, social media audiences or family members. Show respect to your leaders for the position they hold, even if you didn’t vote them there. I think we have a duty to fight for the right leaders (see also: #1 above), to converse (strongly), debate (graciously) and vote our conscience in light of Scripture. We don’t have the right to tear down God-appointed leaders. You don’t have to like him (or her), but you do have to respect them.
  3. Live for Jesus, not for a political party: I sometimes worry that believers on both sides of the political spectrum put more faith in the political process than they do the life-changing process of Christ. Your party may have won the White House this week, but only Jesus can win/change the hearts of people. (Romans 2:29, 6:17, Ephesians 1:18) Don’t get lost in celebrating or mourning Tuesday’s election results, believing that hearts will move toward (or away!) from God and His standard because of who is sitting in the Oval Office. Yes, some politicians and policies can create an environment that frees or loosens the public expression of the Gospel, but none of them can contain, limit or strengthen the work of God! Live for Jesus and promote the Gospel, don’t live for your politics to promote a party unless it allows you a better position to share Jesus.
  4. Make joy your daily habit: If your party wins on Tuesday, joy will be a whole easier on Wednesday. But it shouldn’t be. Joy should be your daily habit, whether your guy or gal is president or not. Why? Because Jesus is your king! Paul told us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Win or lose on Tuesday, make joy your response on Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday... Jesus will still be king. In the midst of the political storms, joy could be your greatest witnessing tool.

 

Will you make these four commitments on Wednesday morning? Will you continue them on Thursday, regardless of the outcome of this year’s election? Politics is serious business, and the election (appointment) of the president of the United Sates (or whatever country/official rules in your home land) is not to be taken lightly. I'm voting my conscience tomorrow on a number of offices and issues, and I hope you are, too. But I'm putting my trust in the God who changes hearts whether my candidate wins or loses.

 

Put your name in the comments if you will commit to prayer, respect, life and joy.

 

So go ahead, take the plunge, life–including politics–is always better on the water!

What to do...

Joseph Castaneda

The other day I was lamenting that I didn’t know exactly what to do next. Sure, I had a general idea about the progress that needed to be made, but I had no certainty about what needed to be done that day to see any steps toward that goal. The lack of certainty created a little paralysis and after a day of shuffling papers, sending emails and questioning whether or not a Netflix binge would be considered progress, I went to bed frustrated.

 

Have you ever felt like you were facing that dilemma? You know the general direction you are moving, but you aren’t certain about the next move nor do you have any clarity about the timing of what’s next. That tension between progress (the way you want to move) and movement (making steps towards that end) can be paralyzing. And when you’re in that tension, it’s easy to watch mindless hours turn into days, and days soon become weeks and months, and before long you feel like the path you started on is more uncertain than ever.

 

After a restless night of sleep, I woke up and thought about my situation: What do you do, when you don’t know what to do? Do what you know to do.

 

What?

 

So you don’t know exactly what to do next? Start by doing the things you know to do–the actions that are always right no matter what the circumstances. Do the right things when you don’t know what to do, and use that as an opportunity to wait for the path to open up clearly before you.

 

Don’t know exactly what to do? Here are a few things to do to help you while you wait for clarity:

 

Be thankful: Paul says to be thankful in all circumstances, so use your down time to practice gratitude. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

 

Pray: In the same passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 where Paul tells us to be thankful, He also tells us to pray frequently. How frequently? Always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

 

Surrender worry to the Lord: Times of uncertainty can lead to massive bouts of worry and anxiety. Give those to the Lord. (Philippians 4:6-8, Mathew 6:25-34)

 

Serve others: When we feel a little lost or uncertain of our path, it can be easy to turn our focus inward. The best plan to get it back on the Lord? Follow our Lord’s advice and serve others! (John 13:12-15)

 

Be generous: Feel like things are snug during your uncertainty? Trust me, we know the feeling! To help keep your focus off of the scarcity that can develop, be generous with your resources and trust God even more for His provision and guidance. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

 

Read the book: No matter what else is happening, it is always right to spend time reading and memorizing God’s Word. (Psalm 119:9-11). As a side note, this past season I’ve been able to read through the Bible twice in the past year, and I’ve memorized huge sections of Scripture. Reading the Bible is always a good thing.

 

Love your spouse (family/friends): Again, the inward focus that can arise because of frustration and uncertainty can create relational problems if you aren’t intentional with your community. Create opportunities to intentionally love your spouse or love your children or your friends or your coworkers or the old lady that lives next door. By thinking of practical ways to love others, you are doing the right thing, and moving yourself forward even if it doesn’t feel like it.

 

There are many more of those good and right actions to take, but these seven should give you a good jump on things. It’s ok to feel stuck and uncertain, but even then, do what you know to do, until you know what to do next.

 

Go ahead and take plunge, life–even in uncertainty–is always better on the water!

Watch your mouth

Joseph Castaneda

Last August my family and I spent a week hanging with friends in Baltimore, and then took a few days to tour DC. We had a great time visiting our nation’s capital and touring so many great (and free!) museums. If you haven’t ever taken a vacation in DC, be sure to put it on the calendar for the family, it will be worth it!

Traci taking a quick selfie with AJ, Bethany and the Washington Monument.

Traci taking a quick selfie with AJ, Bethany and the Washington Monument.

 

One night we left our hotel to pick up some late-night snacks for everyone. We found a grocery store about a mile from where we were staying and shopped the aisles looking for each family member’s favorite treat. After everyone was satisfied with their choices, we headed to the check out and found the only register open at that hour.

 

While our items were being scanned, Celina looked up at the African American lady who was our checker, and without any kind of prompting said, “Wow, I love your hair!” The lady stopped, looked over at CJ and the biggest smile came across her face. She said, “Why thank you honey, you are so sweet!”

 

Celina had never seen hair extensions like the ones this lady was wearing, and she was enamored by them. The grocer asked Celina if she wanted to touch them to which CJ enthusiastically responded with a “Yes.” The lady talked to our daughter for several minutes about hair, beauty and how much her words meant to her that night. As we walked out of the grocery store, the lady and her fellow employee (a woman who bagged our groceries) were talking, smiling, laughing and had a totally different outlook on life.

 

All because a ten year old girl said, “Wow, I love your hair!”

 

Just as a careless word can destroy a person, a compliment is a powerful tool when wielded by expert lips. But like any professional in any trade, you become an expert by practicing with the tools of the trade. Are you practicing with your words? I love Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

 

My little girl showed me an incredible example of helpful speech that builds up others, so that even a second teller who was just “listening” to our conversation was encouraged by what she said. Such a little compliment changed the outcome of the night for two grocery store employees and who knows how far that one blessing traveled. I’m sure the one lady told her daughters at home, about the kind words of a little Mexican girl at her store, at 8:30pm that night. I feel certain the two tellers continued to talk about CJ after we left, it really had that much impact.

 

What are you doing with your words? Who is being blessed by your speech? Are you becoming a professional compliment giver and word encourager? Living the Overboard Life requires each of us to use our words according to God’s standards for speech, and the only way to get better is to practice daily. Who can you encourage and compliment today?

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

"No Thru Traffic" and the shortness of life.

Joseph Castaneda

I try to walk three to four times a week, partly to keep active and healthy, and partly to keep strengthening my knee after this past summer’s surgery. When I don’t walk with Traci, I often spend my time memorizing verses, praying or just thinking through the challenges and opportunities we’re currently facing. It seems like several blogs have emerged as a result of my walks.

 

On my walk this morning I decided to take a detour through our local cemetery. I chuckled (darkly) as I entered thru the main gate due to the sign that read, “No Thru Traffic.” Indeed, the traffic headed to the cemetery is generally not headed out. And that’s when my stroll turned somber, as I snapped a few pictures, read a few names and tombstones and was reminded of the reality that life is short.

 

Each tombstone in the cemetery represents a life, a story of someone who lived on this earth and engaged others. With their last names listed boldly for others to see, I began to wonder what these people had been like during their living years. Jackson, Walter, Titus, Campbell, Winter Thornburg, Hansen, Olsen, Eherhardt, Sherwood, White, Kies, Brown...on and on the names emerged from gravesite after gravesite. Some were adorned with freshly cut flowers, others hadn’t been visited in years.

 

There is something very sobering about a cemetery and the certainty of death. Two years ago I wrote a series of blogs about being at the statistical half-way point of life. Now, as days turn into weeks, and as years roll by, the reality is that one day I too will be in a vehicle that will pass thru the iron gate baring the sign, “No Thru Traffic” and some other walker or jogger will pass by my tombstone and wonder what I was like, and be curious about the kind of life I had lived.

 

Living the Overboard Life isn’t about fame, fortune, prosperity or comfort. Instead, the Overboard Life is a commitment to follow the Lord, whenever He calls, into any situation He has prepared for us. It’s about living life out of the overflow of God’s abundance, touching the heart of others with the life changing message of a relationship with God and living according to the design with which He has created in everyone of us.

 

Thanks to Jesus, I don’t fear death, but I fear living a small life because I let fear, anxiety and hardship define me more than the truth of who God made me to be. I fear that one day someone will see my headstone, and if they explored my story they would discover a man who let the worries and stress of this life block out the big picture that “could have been” had he grabbed the hand of His creator and lived out Ephesians 3:20: “God can do anything you know, far more than you can ever imagine, guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

 

I left the cemetery today (thankfully!) oddly encouraged to keep pursuing the Overboard Life. Right now life seems hard but only when I lose sight of the one whom I follow. When I keep focused on Him, I can grab the sides of the boat, jump out on the water and live the remarkable life to which I have been called.

 

What about you? Are you going through the motions? Are you defining yourself by the past or letting fear and anxiety cripple your future? Find real freedom by focusing yourself on the one who calls you out of the boat, and out on the water where He is doing His Kingdom work. That life will leave an extraordinary mark behind a tombstone some jogger will find on a quiet fall day, on a detour through the cemetery.

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!