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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: Jesus

How, What and WHY

Joseph Castaneda



This last week Traci and I had another presentation, another opportunity to share about the vision and dream of launching Crossroads Farm in NW Michigan. We shared with some friends about what we're doing, how we hope they will join our prayer and support teams, and how Crossroads Farm is reaching teens in rural America.

But as we shared, I was reminded that the what and how matter a great deal, but they don't come close to touching the importance of the WHY: why are we investing in this ministry in order to reach rural teenagers in NW Michigan?

Mark 2:16-17 states our reason very well. Jesus was talking to a group of men who were wondering why a great teacher like Jesus would hang out with unlovely, unlikeable and marginalized people. His answer was simple: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick..."

Our little town needs Jesus. 92% of teenagers have no church affiliation. 80% of adults do not attend any religious service with regularity. There is so much hurt in such a small community and we long to work with other Jesus followers (and we thank God that we are meeting many!) who want to help this community, too, and especially help reach the young people with the Gospel.

There is no doubt in my mind that Crossroads Farm is a cool addition to this town. But no amount of cool will replace the why: to give students a chance to yes or no to the Gospel of Jesus.

Why we do anything, matters immensely. How are you helping to reach the sick, the hurting and the people marginalized by culture and society? We do that because it’s what Jesus has called us to, so when we focus on the why, the how takes care of itself.

Mistakes leaders make (5/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role.

  1. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4)


Mistake #5: Dictatorship in Decision Making

National dictatorships are great if you want a quiet, generally pretty calm and usually a very predictable life. Dictators bring a form of peace that many leaders crave. But it’s a “peace” that comes by crushing the creative spirit and by devaluing the individual. Dictatorships work because people are marginalized into a “collective.”

And dictatorships fall because individuals rise up. People tired of oppression, tired of a joyless existence and tired of having life sucked out of their daily effort to survive wake up, rise up and seek their freedom.

In the same way, a leader -- in the office or home or ministry or team -- who leads like a dictator, sucks the life out of an organization and reduces people to being task-monsters. As Finzel states well, dictators believe that they have “special knowledge or an anointing that gives him or her the inside edge on truth...” They alone determine direction and they alone have the answer for every dilemma the organization faces.

As mentioned in Mistake #1, top-down leadership, the greatest good a leader does is empowering her team for success. Dictators short-circuit the success of the team by implementing their own ideas, randomly changing direction, or by sabotaging or down-playing the victories of others.

In contrast to the dictator, stands the servant leader. This leader is willing to facilitate the growth and achievement of his team, instead of crushing it by trying to control every aspect of the ministry, business or family. While Ephesians 4:12 is a specific call to pastors, I think all leaders would benefit from Paul’s words about growing others to be established in the work you are leading:  [God appointed leaders in the church] “to equip His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up...” God didn’t appoint dictators to tell everyone how to do their jobs correctly. No! He appointed leaders to inspire others to serve, to expose the giftedness of others and to create an environment where everyone reaches the main objective under the direction of a serving, facilitating leader.

Here are 7 signs that you are leading like a dictator (or working for one!):

Stalin ruled Russia for 31 years, exiling and executing millions who were deemed "threats" to his leadership. Picture from daily telegraph:

  1. Information silo: You control the flow of information, including schedules, menus, long-term plans etc... It’s all in your head, or maybe even written out in a document, but it only changes when you change it.
  2. Idea threats: You feel threatened by the ideas of others, especially Mavericks (see Mistake #4). When you hear a new idea that isn’t yours, your first reaction is usually “No.”
  3. Flow chart: Your leadership flow chart is top-down. It doesn’t matter how wide it stretches, or how many arms come off your position, your position is always seen as “on top.”
  4. Unknown culture: You are distant from those you lead. You don’t really know what’s happening in their lives, and honestly, you may not even care. You keep an arms-length approach to work or family relationships.
  5. Defensive posture: You are defensive any time someone challenges or confronts you. You avoid honest sit down conversations with your team of followers, and you excuse away or blame others when your leadership is questioned.
  6. Control decisions: You make all of the decisions, or limit them to an elite team of board members or friends.
  7. Sudden changes: You make sudden changes in direction, in spending, in personnel and in general day-to-day work. Because you control the info, see ideas as threats and control decisions, sudden shifts in any aspect of the team, ministry or family is your prerogative.

Kaleo Korner 

(From my friend, Justin Vanrheenen, founder of Kaleo Media)

Let’s get real for a sec. Can a dictator change? Here’s my answer. NO. A dictator can not change, will not change, and if you work for a dictator, you have one option; resign and find a new job.

We all like to think that we can be the change, but sometimes you can’t. Hear me on this: because you can’t change the situation, it doesn’t make you a failure. Look at countries that have dictators, they have three options; military coup, get out or die. Assuming a military coup isn't a wise idea for your situation, there isn’t a middle ground.

Sometimes getting out will feel like death. You may take a hit to your reputation by the dictator. You may be ridiculed, and scorned in the process, by the dictator. But get out before you face emotional, relational, or physical death. There is no loyalty to any dictator worth your life!

By contrast, here are 7 signs that you are leading differently:

  1. Delegation: You delegate meaningful decisions to others, even decisions that rest in your areas of “control.” You willingly share your authority.
  2. Involvement: You want to include as many team members as productively possible in the process of achieving success.
  3. Information aqueduct  You want ideas and info to flow freely, to and from every member of the team.
  4. Development: Personal and team development is a crucial part of what you do.
  5. People: You see people as the organization’s greatest resource; not money, not buildings and not programs.
  6. Freedom: You give people real freedom to express their creativity and to make significant decisions.
  7. Accountability:  You maintain healthy accountability with your team, and support decisions you’ve released others to make.

Hans concludes this section by identifying two main characteristics of leaders who avoid decision-making dictatorships. One, they preserve the dignity of each individual and, two, they promote freedom and corporate creativity.

By contrast, dictators are hard to work for and impossible to please. Justin and I were emailing about this post, and we concluded that dictators remind us of the pharisees in Jesus' day. In fact, Jesus rebukes them because they ruled the people so harshly. Listen to how He describes them:

"They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:4).

"They love the place of honor..." (23:6).

"You [the pharisees] have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness..." (23:23).

"...inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence..." (23:25).

"...on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (23:28).

To Justin's point above -- that dictators can't change -- think of the fact that even Jesus came to pharisees, confronted them and challenged them and what was their response? "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

It's true that a handful of pharisees were changed by Jesus, but the vast majority of them remained stuck in their stubborn, hard-hearted ways.

How are you leading your followers (Family, business, church, ministry, organization, team...)?

Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 6/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Mistakes leaders make (4/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3)


Mistake #4: No Room for Mavericks

Mavericks are the small segment of the population that are born with a different perspective. They don’t live inside any box, and they don’t naturally conform to the cultures in which they live and work. These people often feel like they don’t “fit in” because, truth is, they don’t!

If you have more than one child, you may know exactly what I’m speaking about! You probably have a child who just sees the world differently and no matter how hard you try to explain life to them, they just don’t seem to “get it.” The problem is, most of us, inadvertently, try to squash the mavericks from family influence -- or office expression -- as we stifle their creativity in an attempt keep things “normal.”

Generally, it’s not that mavericks try to make things hard, and generally, I don’t think most people intentionally try to block the influence a maverick can have. Rather, our homes and businesses and ministries and schools and organizations become so set in their ways, that without knowing it, they push away the very help they need. I find it ironic when an organization is formed out of a cry for change (like many church plants) but then themselves become a stagnant body that rejects change in the future!

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Hanz writes, “Organizations (businesses, families, schools, ministries) have nasty habit of becoming institutionalized.” He continues, “Movements become monuments. Inspiration becomes nostalgic.” In other words, every organization experiences life cycles, much like a human moves from birth to death: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, golden years, old age and death. In the human existence, there is no way to reverse the cycle, but in organizations, there is: introduce a Maverick into the group!

Instead, however, most organizations opt to stifle the mavericks and try to keep them away from influence. Finzel gives five signs that suggest an organization is afraid of mavericks and headed for demise:

  1. They create as many layers of management as possible for decision making.
  2. They keep looking over the shoulders of employees, micro-managing them.
  3. They make the policy manual as thick as possible.
  4. They send everything to committees for deliberation.
  5. They make new ideas and maverick leaders wait.

Kaleo Korner

(From my Friend, Justin VanRheenen, found of Kaleo Media)

My name is Justin. Am I’m a Maverick. **Hi, Justin**

I think of the greatest Maverick in the Bible, Peter. I love this guy. In John 21, after Jesus appeared to Peter and several of the disciples who were out fishing, He joins them on the shore to have breakfast. Now this is after Peter had tried to rebuke Jesus, cut off a dude’s ear, and denied Jesus three times, within a week. Think about that. If you’re a manager or pastor and someone screwed up this many times in a week, you’re ready to have a meeting aren’t you? So was Jesus.

So on the shore Jesus is having this meeting with Peter. And Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” There are three greek words for love. Eros (a steamy passionate love; erotic), Phileo (a sibling kind of love), Agape (a fall-on-a-grenade-for-you type of love; self-sacrificing). The word that Jesus uses for love here is the word agape. “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter responds, “Jesus, you know that I…” **now watch this** “…phileo you?” Did you see that? Jesus asks a very specific question and Peter can’t answer it. But Jesus says “Feed my lambs.” WHAT?!

Jesus asks Peter again if he loves Him. “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter again responds. “Yes, Lord; you know that I phileo you?” Does Jesus say, “DUDE!! DO YOU NOT HEAR THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?” Nope. He says, “Tend my sheep.”

It's the next statement that makes me wish I had Jesus as a boss (don’t get all spiritual on me; you know what I mean). A third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, but watch this. “Peter, do you phileo me?” Did you see that? Jesus changed the word. He met Peter where he was. But I think He asked him, “Do you really phileo me? You said you do. But do you really?”

Peter is grieved that Jesus had to actually ask him this when he replied, “Jesus, you know everything; you know that I phileo you.” and Jesus says “Feed my sheep…Follow me.”

So why tell this story? Because Mavericks can identify themselves in this story. Mavericks know they don’t fit in. They know it. Just ask them. And they will make soooooo many mistakes. So many. But if you as a manger/pastor/parent punish a maverick because of their failures and never mentor or teach them through it, they will NEVER hear the words of Jesus when He comes down to their level and says, “Feed my sheep. Follow me.” They will instead feel shame, and they will fear even stepping outside of the box they are being stuffed in every day.

But let me tell you, if you can empower a Maverick within your organization, church, or family to do extraordinary things, they will turn a stagnate status quo into a thriving machine. And.And.And. hear me with this: their loyalty will go deeper than the biggest rockstar on your team. Don’t believe me? Engage that Maverick on your team.

Of course, there are mavericks who are self-centered, and more concerned about their status than the team’s -- you must be ware of them -- but there are plenty of game-changing influencers out there who just need a little opportunity to express themselves, in order to bring about significant change. Here are five ways Hanz suggests, to release the potential of a maverick:

  1. Give them a long tether -- they need space to soar!
  2. Put them in charge of something they can really own.
  3. Listen to their ideas, and give them time to grow.
  4. Let them work on their own (if they wish).
  5. Leave them alone, and give them time, [and limited direction], to blossom.

As a leader, if you are feeling stuck, if you are feeling like your organization is in a rut, it might be that the answer is sitting right in front of you; you just need to release a maverick in to the equation. It can be a risky move, but mavericks are often the last person that stands between long-term success of a ministry or business -- even a family! -- and the demise of a once-great organization.

We’ve all seen 60, 70 and 80-year-old businesses, churches or ministries that have long passed their prime. They’re still around, and they’re still active, but they are at the end of their life-cycle and effectiveness. A maverick leader could be the one person that restores life.

Go ahead and take the plunge, you leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 5/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Mistakes Leaders Make (2/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. (Looking for missed posts, Mistakes Leaders Make (1/10))


Mistake #2: Putting Paperwork before peoplework

I love what Hanz states about this mistake: “The greater the leadership role, the more important ‘peoplework’ is. People are opportunities, not interruptions.”

As an owner of a publishing company I deal with lots of paperwork, physical and digital. As a parent I process thousands of emails, flyers, posters, parent-newsletters and school awards every year! It’s easy to become obsessed with organizing, filing, storing, accessing, and admiring paperwork. And paperwork is important, but...and that’s a BIG but...not early as important as the people connected to it.

Why do some leaders prefer to process paper/data/to-do lists and more? It’s pretty simple and you Type-A’s know this is true (Ha!):

  1. Observable results are more fun than trying to cultivate relationships
  2. Tasks easily allow you push aside small talk
  3. Because the material world dominates the immaterial world
  4. Often you feel judged by what you do, not by who you are
  5. Personality preferences
  6. Relationships don't easily fit your deadline, task-oriented mentality.

(You could reverse each of these and come up with reasons why relationship oriented people like me don’t accomplish our paperwork in a timely fashion!)

Generally, when paperwork trumps peoplework, it’s because people are viewed as interruptions and distractions, instead of opportunities. But people are the heart of almost every organization, family, school or business. Without people, your cause/ministry/team dies. An orchestra plays the music, but without the people, the paper with the notes is meaningless. Carlo Maria Giulini, former LA Philharmonic conductor is quoted as saying, “My intention always has been to arrive at human contact without enforcing authority...What matters most is human contact. The great mystery of music making requires real friendship among those who work together. Every member of the orchestra knows I am with him and her in my heart.”

Couldn’t we say that the real mystery of any industry/team/family requires friendship among those who work together? I’d love to believe that great things can be done for God by people who don’t get along, but the reality is that God’s work, in the long-haul, is short-circuited when God’s children don’t get along.

As most of you know, I'm a relationship guy, so while I make plenty of mistakes as a leader, this generally isn't one of them. My buddy and contributor to these posts, Justin VanRheenen, founder of Kaleo Media, offers these insights for task-oriented people like himself:

Kaleo Korner

3 Ways to be more people oriented

Use your planning skills as a strength. This begins with your email inbox. More time is wasted in a day because of email. Kaleo Media spends only two hours a day in email, AT MOST. That’s one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon (generally 10am and 3pm). Rule of thumb is to get the email out of your inbox. I believe that having 2000+ emails in your inbox will kill you faster than eating a pound of bacon everyday. To help you empty your inbox, choose an email client you like. This is incredibly hard. Every client has its own perks. Don’t use an email client that overwhelms or distracts you getting stuff done.
Kaleo Media uses Mail Pilot because it allows you to organize and get email out of the inbox fast. Inbox Zero is the most genius way to get your inbox to zero. It's not for everyone, but very effective. I've been using SaneBox, a paid service, for three years. It moves only the important emails to my inbox and creates a few other folders (SaneLater and SaneNews) for all the other stuff. It also helps you unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. It even learns what emails are important.
Take ten minutes of every hour to get out from behind your desk and go have a conversation. Not only is this good for your health to get up and walk around but it helps refocus your mind, invest in those working with you, and gives you a break from staring at a computer screen or book or spreadsheet.
Relationships are ALWAYS greater than deadlines. We live in a society that places progress over relationships. But what I’ve tried to do for Kaleo and my clients is build relationship time into contracts, because I would rather go into your shop and spend quality time with you for a couple hours than bounce emails back and forth. This helps me get a bigger picture of what we are accomplishing and helps me be a raving fan of your product. A phone call or drop-in is ALWAYS better than a text message or email if you can help it.

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

This isn’t to say paperwork is an important or unnecessary aspect of leadership, but rather to ask the question: What’s your primary focus as a leader? I love the story of Jesus and His disciples trying to move from one ministry location to another, when a woman, suffering from severe menstrual bleeding reaches out to touch Jesus robe, hoping to be healed. Jesus halted the procession and says, “Hey, somebody just touched me!” Peter’s response is awesome: “Of course someone just touched you! We’re in a crazy mob-like crowd and hands are everywhere! Let’s keep moving!”

But to Jesus, peoplework trumped paperwork. He stopped everything until he found the woman whose faith was so strong. I wonder how often we leaders ignore the touch of others, the requests of others and the need of others in order to finish our tasks? As Hans writes repeated, “Only through association is their transformation.” Let’s associate more with the people we lead.

How well are you balancing paperwork and peoplework in your family? In your work? On your team? In your school? We can’t just ignore our tasks or the paper trail we’re a part of, but has it subtly taken charge of your life? Are you finding your identity in what you do or who you are? Do you see people as interruptions or opportunities? Jesus stopped, met with people, talked to people, touched sick people, played with children and in general, believed that transformation and association went hand-in-hand. How about you?

I’m fully convinced, the greater the leadership task in front of you, the more critical it is for you to hone your peoplework skills!

Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 3/10

My first encounter with a scummy lawyer #tbt


Lawyers get a bad wrap. I am blessed that I have several friends who are, or have been, very good lawyers, and who have helped me shatter the lawyerly stereotype. However, a few years back I had an encounter with a guy who accelerated the stereotype. Greasy slicked back hair. Overpriced sports car in the "Lawyer Parking Only" parking spot. Overdone "power-outfit" for our meeting in the hallowed office library. And reeking of cigarette smoke and possibly a little alcohol from his lunch break.

We were being sued by him, as he represented a client bringing a charge against our youth group related to a fundraising event, and we all met before a mediator who would hear the case. At one point, I think he actually put his fancy leather shoes on the table, leaned back and asked a question that was obviously intended to "go for the jugular." I was thinking, "Bro, you've watched too many TV lawyer shows!" He even tried raising his voice to a shout while repeating, "Didn't you!?!? Didn't you?!?!" at one point in the questioning.

Thankfully, the mediator was seasoned and unimpressed, and we won our case. But if it hadn't been for my good friends who represented the legal profession well, I would have walked away thinking all lawyers were like that guy.

Thinking about this reminded me a blog I wrote a few years ago. So for today's #tbt blog post, I offer you some thoughts about the best lawyer I've ever met:


gavelA few months ago I had the unfortunate opportunity to be in court with one of our church members. This person was facing charges that continue to have a significant impact on their life. I was a silent observer and watched them, as well as all the other individuals there, appear before the judge. One by one each person took the stand and faced the charges that were before them. And in each and every case, the one on trial had an advocate that tried to get the best possible outcome for the court case.


On two occasions, there was a lawyer who was particularly zealous and I thought, that’s the kind of advocate I’d want if I were on trial. Some of the other lawyers seemed to just be going through motions, moving clients like cattle. In one case, the lawyer and the client had not even met until the moment the accused was called to the stand. The lawyer asked the judge for a few minutes reprieve while they discussed things with their client and three minutes later -- the case began!


When you bring up the topic of lawyers, people generally have pretty strong opinions. I’m reminded of the Robin Williams joke from the movie Hook (which by the way, is an all-time classic movie!): “Research scientists have started using lawyers instead of rats in their lab tests. Two things emerged: One, the scientists were less attached to the lawyers and; Two, there are some things even a rat won’t do”. [cue laugh track]  On the other hand, I have several good friends who are lawyers and who work their tails off to be accurate, honest, ethical and compassionate. They are very good at what they do; they are the guys I’d want defending me if I ever came under a court’s judgment.


I don’t really know [or care?] what you think about lawyers, but you need to know this: You have an advocate before God who has created access for you, so that you may enjoy the richness of a relationship with the Chief Judge. Just as I would want my friends Sean or Caleb or Warren to represent me before a human judge, trust me -- you want Jesus representing you before the Great Judge.


And here is one of the cool reasons why:


Since ancient times

no one has heard,

no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him

Isaiah 64:4


I love how Paul states this verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9:


No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared

for those who love Him

1 Corinthians 2:9


I love the thought that we have a God (not a god, but a God!) who has unheard of plans for His children. We serve a God who will act on our behalf if we will but trust Him. God’s plans for you are HUGE, but He waits for you trust, love and follow Him as He unfolds the unthinkable for your life. God is eager for each of His followers to leap out of the comfort that the boat provides them and to spend their lives walking on water -- living out lives that others will find irresistible.


Unfortunately, too many of us are best described by Donald Miller as, “unwilling victims rather than grateful participants” (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p.59). We live our lives reacting to everything around us in stead of proacting* on the greatness of being intentionally designed by a God who has unbelievable plans for our lives. We’re like a dog in a country song that gets repeatedly run over in a sad series of life-events. That’s not the life the Great Designer had in mind.


No eye has seen what God has in store for His children. No ear has ever heard the grand plans He has made. No mind can even fathom what greatness is in store for those who enter His court. Our Father, Designer and Judge asks only that we love and trust Him -- He will do the rest. Living the Overboard life requires utter and total dependance on God, but is a life worth living. Are you living in the comfort of the boat or are you out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom?


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

I talked my way out of a ticket



There are few feelings worse than that sinking feeling you get when you’re driving, you look up, and you see the lights of a police car flashing behind you. When you pull to the right and the car zooms around you, you have this total sense of relief, but when he follows you to the side of the road, you have that sickening sense of doom; you’ve been caught.  

I generally try not to speed (much) and I’m not an angry driver weaving in and out of traffic, texting and screaming at people who don’t know I’m suddenly psychotic when I sit behind the wheel of a car. However, I have broken a few motor vehicle laws over the past 23 years of driving and on four occasions (three of them in 18 months) I was pulled over for said violations; and thankfully only had a ticket stick on one of those.


The first time I was pulled over occurred at 11:45 at night. I was taking my friend, Luree, home when I rolled through a stop sign at 5mph. It was 11:45 at night, there was no one at the 4-way stop, in fact the police officer was still 1/4 mile from the stop, but the truth was -- I never made a complete stop. Suddenly the lights were on, my adrenaline was pumping and I found myself on the receiving end of a $145 ticket. Even worse, I knew my parents would not be pleased because I was still on their insurance.


Two weeks later I had a court appearance on S. Lancaster Dr and I arrived plenty early for my hearing. I joined a rather large group of like-minded criminals and sat in the courtroom while people tried to weasel their way out of tickets. The judge was not easily moved, nor was he overly compassionate that day. He denied any mercy to the first five or six future convicts that made their cases before him.


I think my wife is better equipped for surviving life in prison...

Right before it was my turn, a young man in his early twenties tried to pull off the biggest sob story. He told the judge he was speeding but it wasn’t his fault. He was late to class (which also wasn’t his fault) and was trying to be a good college student (although the judge pointed out that his 3-f report card contradicted his statement). He blamed the weather, his friends and even his mom for the reason he was speeding. The judge didn’t budge. He lectured him on his poor driving, informed him that this third speeding ticket would probably revoke his insurance and assured him that one more violation in the next six months would also revoke his license.


The judge was not happy and now it was my turn.


After watching everyone before me try to convince the judge of their innocence and fail, I decided my best move was to simply to own my blunder. I stepped up to the bench as the judge looked over my rap sheet. He didn’t even look at me when he said, “It looks like you failed to stop at a stop sign.” I replied, “Yes sir.” He looked at my profile and said, “When I was a young man, they called that a California stop” to which I said, “They still do, sir.” He continued to study his papers, then said, “It looks like you just had a birthday...” (It was one week past my birthday) to which I quickly fired back, “Yes sir, and I was very disappointed you didn’t make the party.”


At this point, I wasn’t sure how much of a sense of humor our judge had, and was somewhat uncertain, even worried, that I was about to be thrown in jail for 15-20 years for trying schmooze a traffic judge. Instead, he looked up at me with a smirk. He then said, “I don’t remember receiving an invitation.” I laughed and said, “It must have gotten lost in all your paperwork.”


A more recent encounter with law enforcement in the great state of Massachusetts. Thankfully he was equally kind and I drove away without a ticket.

He shook his head, stamped something, scribbled his signature and handed me a form. “If you give this to the lady in back, and if you will attend a day of traffic school, I will wipe the ticket from your record like it never happened.” I happily received my reduced sentence, thanked the judge, and headed to the back table. There, the guy who had been up right before me was still arguing with the lady about how the polar vortex created a suction that made his car travel faster than the speed limit. I just smiled, paid my $15 court processing and fee and gladly accepted the exchange the judge had offered me.


While I was in back paying my fee and signing up for traffic school, the next person up was an 18-year-old girl who had received a moving violation for hitting a car (or mailbox...I can’t remember) while trying to paint her nails and drive. Like the others from earlier in the morning, she tried to use several excuses as to why she wasn’t guilty. Even before I was done, and while speed racer was still blaming global warming for his speeding issue, the judge tagged her hard with a hefty fine and a stern warning.


I thought it odd that no one just owned their guilt. In fact, had I not sat through several attempted sob story escapes, I’m certain I would have argued, too: “It was 11:30pm and no one was on the was only 5mph...I didn’t hurt anyone...everyone does it....” And had I taken that approach, I’m sure I would have paid the full fine and would have been helping my parents pay the new insurance premiums.


In a strange way, that’s how so many of us approach our relationship with God. We don’t own our sin, and instead blame others. In a recent gallop poll, 74% of respondents who believed in heaven, said they were confident they would be going there when they died. An astounding 80% said they would get there because the good in their lives outweighed the bad. Now get this: Of those 80% that said the good would outweigh the bad, 75% of them based that on the “fact” that they lived by the 10 commandments, but only 2 in 10 could name more than 5 of the 10 commandments! So they agreed the standard for living was established by God, they were confident they were living by that standard, but they had no idea what the standard actually said!


God’s standard is impossible to live by perfectly -- you and I will always fall short. If we had to appear before Him and make a case for why He should allow us into Heaven, we would never make it, our rap sheet would be too long and the violations would be too many. In fact, just one violation of God’s law is too many, for His law demands perfection.


That’s the beauty of knowing God. He is a fair judge and knows that we have and will break His law. And while every violation must be punished with separation from Him, He accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as a sufficient payment for my violation. Jesus did what I couldn’t do, when He lived the perfect life, never breaking one of God’s laws. In doing this, He made Himself eligible to take my punishment, to be my traffic school, in order that I might have a right standing with God.


What do I have to do? I just have to own my sin, and accept Jesus’ free gift. I have to believe, in faith, that “Jesus died for my sins according to the Scriptures, and that He rose again, on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If I admit my sin before God, acknowledging that there is nothing I can do to make up for my sin, and then accept Jesus’ act of sacrifice as payment for my wrong doing, then I can live in freedom despite a really long criminal history! Jesus mediates between me and the Judge.


And that is how the Overboard Life begins. It’s not a matter of sheer will power, or me trying to keep all the commandments perfectly. It’s about the fact that Jesus did what I couldn’t do, paying the price I couldn’t pay. He will advocate for me before the Righteous Judge, I just have to own my part and accept His help.


I hope you’ve done that in your life and have started the Overboard journey with Jesus. If not, thankfully, it’s never to late with God. There is nothing you’ve done, or could ever do, that would make it impossible for you to accept His mercy given through His Son. Embrace the forgiveness God offers you and then start living today for Him.


Go ahead and take the plunge into the sea of God’s mercy and is definitely better on the water with Him!

What do you have in common with Batman and Jesus?


This past week I was reading an article about some famous people who failed at their first attempt(s) at business, art, ministry etc… but then found success later in the same field. Sometimes I look at successful people and think, “Yea, if I had their abilities, I’d be a great author (or speaker), too…” Have you ever done that? Have you ever thought, “If I had that person’s talent I could [insert dream here] too!” Behind almost all those great stories, though, is a person who struggled to get it right early on. Jim Lee is one of those stories.

You may not know Jim’s name, but you know his work. The modern day batman receives his good looks (at least in costume!) from the work of Jim Lee. He is one of the great artists for DC Comics and has received numerous, and prestigious, accolades for his work with comics and graphic novels. In 2010, he was designated as one of the artists in charge of giving Batman (and Superman, and others) a new-look costume, undoubtedly because of the wave of fans that love seeing their super heroes on the big screen.

Yet Mr. Lee didn’t start at the top. In fact, when he first submitted his work for review with Marvel comics (owners of Spider Man, Captain America etc…) he was turned down. His rejection letter stated that he needed to work on strengthening his drawings and learning in particular, how to draw hands. Based on Jim's amazing career, he must have figured it out!

Have you ever thought about how people might evaluate Jesus’ career? No, Jesus never sinned, but if we looked at His body of work we might wonder about how much “success” He had! Honestly, the 12 disciples were less than stellar and one of them betrayed Jesus to His death. The “leader” of this group denied that he even knew Jesus, once cursing profusely in front of a young girl who asked him a simple question! He brought in a crooked tax collector known for stealing, He couldn’t even win over the religious leaders of the day and Jesus had a pretty bad reputation with the dinner company He kept. In fact, most of the followers who liked Him early on were shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” at the end of His life.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus never sinned. But do you wonder if Jesus ever smacked His head with His hand and thought, “What is wrong with these guys I’ve chosen?” Or if He ever asked Himself, “How on earth are these people going to survive when I’m gone?!?”

Of course, the end of the story looks much better than the beginning. Jesus’ disciples stood strong after His resurrection. His chosen leader started a history-changing revolution called “the church” and at his first sermon, 3,000 people chose to follow the life and teachings and Gospel of Jesus. And when we get to the very end of God’s great book, Jesus is coming back as a king and everyone will proclaim, “He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

Do you ever feel like things aren’t quite working out for you? Ever feel like the rejections are too much, the mistakes are too many and the opportunities for success are passing you by?

The Overboard Life isn’t lived in individual moments. No, the Overboard Life is lived out in every moment, of every day. That means that successes and failures must be understood in the big picture of the work God is doing in and through us as we keep stepping Overboard for Him. I can’t let one (or two…or three…or ten…or one hundred!) set back(s)  convince me to return to the comfort of the boat. I cannot allow the lies of the enemy to trick me into believing that the perceived safety of the boat will make a better life than the faith it requires to walk on water with Jesus.

Hebrews4I will make mistakes. Plans won’t come together as perfectly as I think they should. Hardships will come up. Loss will be experienced. Through it all I have two choices: I can keep pressing on in faith that God’s plan is bigger than I can see, or I can shrink back to the boat in fear, living under the burden of perceived failure. Every single failure, letdown, setback, loss and obstacle gives me the same two choices: Give up, or press on.

Well, since both Jesus and Batman had their struggles, I think I’m going to press on. And while Batman is busy saving Gotham, Jesus is busy helping His followers through every setback they experience (Hebrews 4:14-16). With His help, the end of my story will turn out amazing.

Don’t give up when life gets hard. Remember, there is one who is always on your side, one who experienced some pretty difficult things Himself but managed to face them without sinning once. Because of that, He can help you overcome hardship like no one else, and He can help you put failure in perspective.

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

Christmas spirit


Merry Christmas from Overboard Ministries. We hope your Christmas celebration will truly keep Christ as the focus. Dan Stevers is an amazing artist and mini-movie creator. This little video is a great reminder about the true spirit of Christmas. Every time you and I step out of the boat in faith, we are keeping the true Christmas spirit alive, all year!

Merry Christmas! [youtube=]

You can see more of Dan’s videos at

Three thoughts for the weekend


While I’m still enjoying the turkey leftovers, Thanksgiving is definitely in the rearview mirror and Christmas is on the horizon. As I was thinking about the month of December and celebrating the birth of our Savior, I thought of three activities that will be a part of my Christmas celebration and might help you keep ‘The Reason for the Season’ in focus. Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 10.38.58 AM

Bless a total stranger this Christmas: Over the past couple of years, my family has done Christmas Light awards in our town. We visit a local trophy shop and each of us has a trophy made with our name. (AJ’s trophy read, “The Castaneda Family Christmas Light Trophy: The AJ Award” etc…) Then for about two weeks, we would drive around looking at beautiful light displays and making notes of which ones we liked best. When the night arrived, each of us chose one house and presented them with a trophy and a plate of baked goods.

The responses we’ve received make it all worth the effort. People just don’t know what to do with their trophy, but all of them are thankful. Often we hear stories of Christmas traditions, we are invited in to houses and shown special decorations and interior lighting, and we’ve been given baked goodies in return. Blessing a total stranger is a great way to keep Jesus at the center of your celebration.

Serve in a shelter this Christmas: Some years ago my family started the tradition of serving breakfast burritos while handing out scarves, socks and jackets to the homeless on Christmas morning. So before we enjoy any of our regular family celebrations, we bundle up, head out to nearby location and minister to those with bigger needs than ours. My parents, my siblings and all the kids and grandkids participate in this simple ministry that warms hearts and stomachs on Christmas day.

Attend a Christmas Eve service at church: There are so many events and programs pulling for your time at Christmas, but make sure one of the activities that wins is a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church. Many churches offer “candlelight” services where the old Christmas carols and hymns are sung, and where the story of Jesus’ birth is told. Attending a service where the music is beautiful, the sharing is rich and the story of Jesus is conveyed is a powerful way to celebrate Christmas.

I hope you enjoy your traditions this Christmas, and I hope you maybe create some new ones. Most of all, I hope you remember that the foundation for the Overboard Life is found in the person of Jesus. He entered this world as a baby and grew to become the Lamb of God -- the perfect sacrifice able to pay the eternal price for our sins. Celebrate Him this Christmas.

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

5 minutes


5 minutes doesn’t seem like much time, does it? Or does it? If I dropped you off at Disneyland and said I’d be back in 5 minutes to pick you up, I’m pretty sure you’d think that wasn’t very much time. However, if I dropped you off in a tank full of earth worms and said I’d come get you out in 5 minutes, I’m sure 5 minutes would seem like an eternity.

It’s only 5 minutes. It’s only 300 seconds, and it’s the same 300 seconds whether you’re at Disneyland or in a tank full of earthworms.

Imagine though, if you took 300 seconds, every day, and did something remarkable. 5 minutes a day = 35 minutes a week. 5 minutes a day turns into 1,825 minutes in a year; roughly 30 hours (1 full day plus 6 hours). 5 minutes a day over the period of 5 years is equal to 6.25 days. What if you did something remarkable for 5 minutes a day, for the rest of your life (10 years = 12.5 days. 20 years = 25 days. 30 years = 37.5 days. 40 years = 50 days. 50 years = 62.5 days). Imagine living 62.5 full days of your life, remarkably, simply because you took 5 minutes, each day, to live out your God-given design.

5 minutes

Living remarkably for the Lord isn’t about greatness. In fact, Jesus told His followers that remarkable living would be best seen in service. The two greatest commands, according to Jesus, were “Love God” and “Love others”. We best show our love for God by how we love each other. And I think we best show our love for each other, by how we serve one another.

So what if you took 300 seconds out of your day, every day, to intentionally love someone else through service? Over your life time, that could total over two months of intentionally obeying Christ’s command to love others. And of course, the reality is that once you start living Overboard by loving God and serving others, you get strangely addicted to those choices. It becomes hard to settle for something else once you’ve felt the freedom that comes from walking with God on the water, out of the comfort of the boat. I won’t say it ever gets easy -- but it certainly gets easier the more often we take the leap and follow Jesus.

What could you do for 5 minutes today, that would demonstrate your love to God, by loving and serving someone else? What about tomorrow? Take a few minutes right now to schedule the next 5 days of 5 minute demonstrations of love. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what 5 minutes can produce.

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