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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: creation

What Are You Staring At?

Joseph Castaneda



Focus seems like a lost art in the crazy world of information that we live in today. In fact, even as I write this blog post I realize how unfocused I am as I'm carrying on a conversation on Facebook Messenger with one friend on my iPad, using my phone to text with another, and responding to emails every time my laptop chimes. Apparently this was a timely word for me, too...

I recently read an article about how important focus is for the human mind, especially for young children. The author of the article stated that we are witnessing a new generation of social and psychological problems in children, that he believes, are directly related to the inability of kids to focus because of the constant need to be entertained by some sort of handheld device.

According to this researcher, it seems that we were designed (I would say, created!) for needing times of "white space." White space is a term usually used in design work, describing the space where no words or colors have invaded a page. White space is necessary in design work as it allows the human eye to focus on what's important.

Mentally, white space carries the same concept: it's the opportunity to have nothing calling for our attention (the phone is off, the door is closed, the office is quiet....whatever it takes!) so that we can focus on what's important. So we can, as Paul says, "fix our eyes on what is unseen."

And while it's easy to point to the kids, I'm not fooling anyone, because I'm just as guilty of filling my life to capacity with noise, and not leaving enough white space to stay fixed on God, who He is, and what He is doing in my life and in the world around me.

Do you need some white space today? In our house, we are beginning a new white space campaign, maybe you should join us! Most of our distractions come from screens, so here's a list of our family's plan for creating more white space:

1 hour a day with ZERO screen interaction (phones, laptops, iPads, TVs, watches...)
1 day a week with ZERO screen interaction (we are presently toying with Sundays, but also considering Mondays)
1 week every year with ZERO screen interaction (My daughter almost threw up when she heard that one. Ha!)

We're not sure how the time will be used, except that it's meant to be screen-distraction, free, for all of us, all at the same time. That time might be used for games together, might be used for rest, conversation, exercise, reading, praying, is just meant to be white space. For sure, it's a work in progress and we will keep you updated on how our family goal actually works out!

Do you need more white space in your life? If you're distracted by technology (my computer literally chimed as I wrote those words!) or by heartache, loss, or the worries of this world, than I encourage you to create some white space so that you can focus on what matters most.

Lessons from the road


Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good ol’ fashioned road trip. I’m sure part of my love comes from doing lots of these trips while growing up, and another part is just because I love driving and being out on the road across this amazing country where we are privileged to live. Whatever the reasons, the fact is: I love road trips. Telling people we were driving from Michigan to Oregon got us some pretty funny responses. Only a few people thought it sounded fun, others expressed horror at the thought, others gave us pity and a few just shook their heads, confident our sanity had left us completely! When we told them we were doing it with the three kids, too, many shared their worst travel experiences, or said in a whiney voice, “Are we there yet?!?” Traci and I had a lot of laughter telling people about our trip. Wait until we tell them we’re doing it again in June!

But I seriously love the open road, and our family travels really well. The kids have learned how to engage each other, as well as how to entertain themselves when necessary. Traci and I enjoy the scenery and talking about life, work, family, sex (when the kids are sleeping =) dreams, Overboard Ministries, USANA, sports, news, politics, God’s amazing creative power as seen from the front window of our van, and lately, a lot about our future. Our road trips generally create great memories and the confined space gives us ample time to work on bonding and to grow in patience and grace.

Road trips are also full of the unexpected, and always provide ample learning opportunities.

Our’s started with a big lesson three and half hours before we left the Traverse City hotel we were enjoying. We were scheduled to leave by noon on Friday, but Thursday night, a loud noise from the car caused us both a great deal of concern. Since my knowledge of cars can be summed up in a sentence (“take it to a mechanic”), I knew I had to take it in before we hit the road.

17001618232_5995841516_kWe have a great mechanic in Traverse City, a fellow Christian who does excellent work with integrity (Kinney’s Automotive), and who happened to be just ten minutes from the hotel. I showed up when the doors opened Friday morning, and got on the schedule for an hour later. Shortly after I returned, one of the techs was taking a look at our van. Turns out the front driver’s side wheel bearings were bad (that accounted for the noise) and just for added fun, the brakes were nearly metal-to-metal and needed to be replaced. I had prayed for a quick, $12 fix with parts already in the shop. Instead I had a three and half hour repair, parts had to be ordered from a nearby shop and we were looking at a $500+ repair. And who doesn’t love road trips?!?

As I was driving back from the shop to the hotel (after I scheduled the appointment but before the tech had given an official diagnosis), I was lamenting the unexpected expense, whining to God about the lost time and was worrying about how the money and time would affect our whole trip. I was deep in worry when God taught me an important lesson.

Just as I was contemplating offering to leave AJ to work in the shop to pay off our bill, I hit a little clearing on the side of the road and guess what I saw? The sun was coming up on the horizon.

Honestly, I was instantly cut to the heart at the site of the sunrise. Maybe that sounds silly to you, but to me, I was reminded that the God who created the universe, the God who “makes the sun rise up in the east” was the same God who cares intimately about me and my life, you and your life, and the lives of every individual on the planet. He is the same God who has provided for our family during this season of transition in ways we could never have planned or imagined, and the same God who was going before us on this trip. As I thought about the sunrise, I felt silly about how caught up in worry I had been just moments before.

I confessed my worry to Him, and returned to the hotel ready to gather the family, load up the van and hit the road. What did God do thru all of this?

  1. He helped us discover a super loose wheel bearing pack that would have failed on the road. What happens when they fail? According to a bunch of online testimonies, your wheel can actually fall off! Imagine that happening at 70 mph!
  2. We also discovered that our brakes and rotors were in dire need of repair -- another item I’m glad we corrected before barreling down the rockies at 80mph (I love the speed limits in Utah and Idaho!).
  3. Before we left town a friend asked to meet us at a local McDs, and he gave us $210 for travel expenses.
  4. Despite all the delays, we ended up arriving at our destination at precisely the right time -- to the minute!

It’s crazy how often we get caught up in worry, fear or anxiety when we serve the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I don’t think I can even count all the times He has shown up big in our lives, or provided a friend, some rest, a meal or a few bucks “at just the right moment” and yet when faced with a minor auto repair, I panicked.

Yet God is so good to us, and Friday morning He cleared the sky so I could see the sun come up (that’s right, all you Northern Michiganders have me and my sinful worry to thank for Friday’s glorious sunrise!) and reminded me of His limitless power and ability to provide.

How are you doing in trusting Him today? Does a worry -- big or small -- have you distracted from what He is doing in and around you? Maybe you need to make Philippians 4:6-7 your prayer today: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s holiness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (The Message).

It’s going to take us three, twelve-hour days, to get to our Oregon destination, and along the way, I’m going to try and keep worry in its rightful place. How about you? Maybe you need to take the family on a road trip and see what God has for you, too!

Go ahead and take the plunge, life -- even road trips! -- are better on the water.

You gotta see this view!


This past week, Traci and I took her parents to see the massive ice blocks on Lake Michigan. The view is hard to describe, but imagine that God has a giant box of building blocks all made out of ice, and that he took that box and dumped it over the 22,394 square miles of Lake Michigan. Of course, if they are God’s building blocks, they are HUGE blocks, and that’s what we took Traci’s parents to see. The amazing ice formations are drawing national attention again (something similar happened last year) and everyone in the area is talking about them. So on a beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon, you’d think the place would be packed. Instead, in the main area of ice block where we visited, I don’t think I saw a dozen people spread out over the miles of ice we could see. Why would so few people get out to the ice?

I have a thought: because it’s so hard to get to them!

It's hard to believe these are "natural" occurrences!

When we parked our van and stepped out into the 20 degree winter air, I warned my in-laws that the wind on the Lake would be significant. We had bundled up before we left the house, but Traci and I started putting on our gloves, cinching down our hats, zipping up coats to the chin and generally preparing for Winter-geddon. I think my in-laws thought we were a little crazy, because where we were standing was actually pleasant. With a 20-degree temp (18 degrees warmer than the previous day’s high!), the sun shining and the breeze just gently blowing, it was hard to imagine that when we stepped out of the tree line, about 100 yards away, we’d be slapped by Old Man Winter!

Then we took the first step onto the shoreline and the wind smacked us from the south. It stung, and we had just stepped on the frozen sand! 30 feet later we were on the frozen waters of Lake Michigan and now we were fully exposed to the gusting wind. And that was only half the problem, because now we were walking in 6-8” snow drifts that were covering the very uneven ice on the shallower parts of the Lake.

It's hard to believe we're standing ON Lake Michigan, on a section of water that is over 100' deep.

While we could see God’s giant ice block collection in front of us, we had to cover a 1/3 mile of this uneven frozen ground to get there! (Basically, think of a small wave rolling into shore, and then freezing while it’s still in wave form, or as it crashes on another wave or on the shore. That’s what the surface of the lake is like in the parts closer to shore that you have to cross in order to get to God’s ice blocks.) About half way out, the wind picked up its intensity and the ground became increasingly difficult to walk on. I’ve never been drunk, but I imagine I looked like a drunk man stumbling around looking for my lost car!

After about 20 minutes of walking/hiking/stumbling we arrived at these beautiful ice structures. The actual view is hard to put into words, and the pictures we took don’t do it justice. The whole area looked like NY City after Godzilla destroyed all the buildings and uprooted the roads. There wasn’t a piece of level ground as far as the eye could see. Ice blocks, the shape and size of airplane wings, stuck out all over. A giant round column, (it looked like God put water in a bucket, froze it, and then tipped it over) probably 10-12’ tall, stood a hundred feet from us. Rectangles, Triangles and just tons of leftover ice parts were strewn about. You could climb up 6-7’ up one ice chunk, and descend 8’ into a little “cave” below it. The whole time you had to keep reminding yourself that you’re standing a 1/2 mile ON Lake Michigan, which has an average depth of 279 feet!!

The ice on Lake Michigan has drawn national attention, and everyone in the area is talking about it. But not many people are actually visiting this Winter Wonder! I’m a little shocked because this isn’t an annual event (although it has happened each of the last two winters), and missing out on it this year could mean missing out for another 20-30 years.

Here are a few thoughts.

  1. The journey is hard, so people settle for the stories of others: Truth is, it wasn’t easy getting out to the ice. The wind was bitterly cold and blisteringly sharp. Walking through the 6-8” snow drifts that covered treacherously uneven ice was hard. More than once I thought I was about to bite it on the ice. Twice we came across open expanses of ice that were clear, and looked straight into the water, giving the sense that it was fragile. (Strangely, there was more comfort in walking on snow-covered ice!) In the same way, so much of what most of us want in life is “out there” and requires a difficult journey to find. How many times have you talked about your future, your dreams, your God-given passions, but when you looked at the journey from here to there, you just settled for the stories of others?
  2. All four of us are glad we made the trek out to ice!

    The destination is so far away, people wonder if it’s really worth it: We could see the ice blocks from the shore, and they already looked impressive. Could the view really be that much better from up close? When the wind slapped us with negative zero wind chills, the distant view seemed like it would be sufficient. Our God-given dreams can have the same appeal, we can let ourselves believe that the view of them from far away will be just as good as the view from directly beneath or over them. It’s like living thru a northern Michigan winter and studying pictures of Hawaii to get your vitamin D fix -- the pictures are great, but there’s nothing like the real thing!

  3. The horror stories of others can keep us in the car: Tons of people talk about how great the ice formations are, and just as many talk about the dangers. News stories of people nearly falling through the ice or slipping into a frozen tomb frequent the local broadcasts and newspapers. Let’s remember, we’re talking about walking on a massive body of water that has a larger area than 9 states and The District, and is just barely smaller than West Virginia! Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about people who have chased their God-sized dreams, too. People who have been wrongfully accused, have lost friends, have ended financially ruined because of their pursuit of what they believed God had put in their hearts. They really believed they were following God’s plans, but the outcome was, at least from our finite human perspective, a total loss. The failures of others can keep our own dreams grounded.
  4. Ultimately, getting out on the ice requires quite a bit of work: To walk out on Lake Michigan, you really have to prep. First of all, you have to wait for the right conditions, and the right conditions that can freeze a lake the size of West Virginia involve ultra-freezing temps! You have to own the right gear, you have to know where to research to find the right access points and you have to be willing to drive some less-than-desirable roads to get to a place where you can actually walk on the lake. In the same way, chasing the passions God has given you requires prep, research, patience and a willingness to venture into unchartered (or rarely chartered) waters. The journey is hard (point #1), but preparation for the journey has its own challenges, too.

I’m glad we made the trip to see God’s ice blocks this week. I’m confident we won’t soon forget the amazing formations, and we have a fun story to share with our kids and with others. Even more, I’m glad we’re headed to our next great adventure with God. The journey is hard, but we’re not going to settle for the stories of others. The destination seems like it’s a lifetime away, but we know it will be worth it! The road of faith is littered with stories of those who didn’t get to see their dreams fulfilled in this life, but our our faith is helping us overcome our fears. And yes, it has been a lot of hard work -- and yes, more hard work is in the future -- but being ready when the call comes is worth the work!

What about you? Are you settling for the stories of others? Are you questioning the value of God’s dreams for you? Have you let the horror stories or fears of others derail you? Has the hard work of preparation been overwhelming? “‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Will you trust His plans for you today? “Trust me” God is saying to you, “you’ve gotta see this view!”

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

You were born for this.


I’m a sports movie junkie. What can I say? I’m just a sucker for the kind of drama most sports movies bring -- you know, the “no one thought they could do this” kind of stuff? Think about it, all the great sports movies involve underdogs overcoming great adversity to win: Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Miracle, Secretariat, Invincible, Rocky and The Mighty Ducks (ok…that last one is a stretch). This week, I want to feature three of my favorite speeches from three of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen them -- watch them. You don’t have to love sports to love these movies, you just have to love the true grit that inspires people to achieve greatness when the odds are against them, and supporters and believers are few.

My all-time favorite movie is Miracle, the story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team. Their feat became known as the Miracle on Ice. Coach Herb Brooks put together a team of amateurs to play against the world’s elite hockey players, and their rise in the 1980 Winter Olympics is heart warming, powerful and even a smudge patriotic (for my American readers).

In this clip, Coach Brooks speaks to the boys as they sit in the locker room, waiting their semi-final game against the Russians. The Soviets had won the Hockey gold in five of the previous six Winter Olympics and they’re early tests showed them ready for another gold medal celebration. In fact, earlier in the year, the Soviets pounded the American team in an exhibition game in the U.S. -- and most people thought a repeat would happen in this game, too.

Listen as Coach Brooks inspires his team before they take the ice:


I love the line he uses: “Everyone of you was born to be a hockey player.” These men weren’t playing hockey because they were good at it. Coach Brooks didn’t select his team based on skill alone (watch the movie…it’s really good), but based on some intangibles -- the “it” factor. These men were supposed to play hockey, it’s who they were.

Great moments in life come to us when we are in the sweet spot, doing what we were made to do. God was intimately involved in your creation, inside and out, knitting each aspect of your life together. Your likes and dislikes, your passions and your skills. Look at how David describes it in Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

You were created by God, intimately and personally, created to be His child. He longs to have a personal relationship with you and for you to live by Him, for Him and ultimately with Him. You will find your sweet spot when you embrace your God-given design , being who God designed you to be so that you can do what God made you to do.

A great life isn’t about the number of dollars you make, the number of people you touch or the number of countries you visit. Greatness is about being satisfied in God’s presence, fulfilling your design in the every day opportunities that surround you. In those moments, God gives us all different platforms from which to speak, different audiences to influence and particular lives to invest in. But it’s in the “being” that happiness and greatness are found.

If you want to live the Overboard Life, you must embrace your Creator and His specific creation. Stop trying to be someone else, stop trying to do more to please Him -- be who He made you to be, and the doing will take care of itself.

The 1980 U.S. Hockey team found greatness. Yes, the did something amazing, but that doing came out of each one of those men being who they were made to be -- hockey players. Have you found your greatness? You will, when you stop doing and start being who God designed you to be.

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