Have you ever been inspired by a movie, song or book? I don’t mean just moved by something you saw, heard or read, I’m asking, have you ever been truly inspired and changed by a powerful film, a meaningful book or a thought-provoking song? In the summer of 2010, I reluctantly read a book for one reason: a good friend, who also was on our church’s elder board at the time, recommended it to me. I was not a fan of the author, in fact, I was an anti-fan of the author, and I really had no interest in his latest book. However, Kent is one of the smartest people I know, he is full of wisdom and grace, and he reassured me that this was an important book for me to read. I bought a copy from Amazon and let it sit on my desk for the month of June.
In the middle of July, Traci and I packed up the kids for a three-week-long road trip. We would spend the first week at camp TLC in northern California, where I would speak and our family would enjoy the pool and a great camp setting. The next two weeks would be spent vacationing, mostly in southern California. The day before we left for camp, I closed up my office, grabbed my notes and saw the book on my desk. I debated taking it but decided that Kent would only recommend a book if he really saw value in it for me.
The best decision I made in the summer of 2010 was taking A Million Miles in a Thousand Years with me to Camp.
After I checked-in with the director of the camp, we set up our little cabin and looked over the schedule. I didn’t have any speaking duties until after dinner, so Traci and I took the kids for an afternoon swim. When we returned to the cabin to let the kids rest before dinner, I reluctantly opened up the book by Donald Miller and began reading.
I was instantly captivated by Don’s story, impressed by the transformation he had experienced from his previous books, and eager to see where this story was going. I read the book by Tuesday afternoon and begged Traci to start reading it, too. By Friday we had both completed the book (I actually read it a second time that week) and we began a journey that, ultimately, led us to northern Michigan, and is leading us to launch Overboard Ministries full time!
If you haven’t read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I highly recommend that you do. As Don unpacks his journey from passive observer to active participant in his own life, and as he reveals the qualities that make a life worth living -- a story worth telling -- he invites you to share in the same adventure. Don’s invitation was the fuel I needed to take the next step (at the time) with my writing and with Overboard Ministries.
On Friday night, the last night of camp, I spoke the final chapel message in the outdoor amphitheater under a clear California sky. I preached a familiar end-of-week message, based on the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14. In the story, Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee toward the disciples who are in a boat. The wind is howling, waves are pounding the ship and the disciples are terrified as this “ghost” is walking near them in the middle of the storm.
Suddenly, Jesus calls out to them so they know it’s Him, and Peter replies, “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies, “Come.” So Peter, in a moment of unbelievable faith and courage, jumps out of the boat and walks on water with Jesus! It’s at that moment that I love to stop, and ask everyone to think about the other 11 disciples who are still in the boat. What are they feeling? What are they doing? Do you think any of them is worried about the ghost or the storm any more? Not a chance! They are focused on Peter as he does the impossible!
In the message, I challenge campers to “get out of the boat” for Jesus, and to live a life of faith for Him. The boat is comfortable, the boat is “safe” and the boat is where most people are living. But, Jesus isn’t in the boat, and Jesus is calling us out of our safety, out of our comfort and entirely out of the boat in order to build His Kingdom out on the water. More than once I’ve preached, “I’d rather fail a hundred times trying to get out of the boat, then live another “successful” day in the boat."
It’s time to live Overboard.
As Traci and I, and the kids, headed for vacation the next day, we continued the conversation from Don’s book. We talked about what it would look like to write the story of our lives in such a way, that it would be a story worth sharing, a story worth inviting others to be a part of, a story with which others would want to connect.
During that vacation, the idea of launching Overboard Ministries was born. (You can read more of that story here.) While it started with a publishing company, the dream was for much more, including ministry to couples, mentorship of youth pastors and investment in pastors and their wives. We began, informally, making Overboard a reality during our years in Salem, and continued that work when we moved to Michigan. In many ways, we’ve truly been living the dream since that summer in 2010.
And we have no intentions of stopping now.
In the past, Overboard Ministries has been a part-time addition to my regular ministry duties. As of January 16th, that’s all changed.
As Traci recently reminded, “It’s time to take Overboard...Overboard!”
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Yesterday’s blog was about the lessons learned in that past two years here in Michigan. Thursday’s blog will reveal the details of the partnerships we’re trying to build. Thanks for joining us as we try to create a story worth living and sharing with others!