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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: hard work

How committed are you?

joeacast

This blog has always been a great place for me to “keep it real” with readers, to share honestly about my own struggles and shortcomings, and to openly work through my flaws. For example, if you missed my fantastic parenting fail from earlier this year, feel free to learn at my expense. Seriously, parents, it could save you a little heartache. Today I want to openly admit another flaw: I’m an absolute sucker for any movie involving Sylvester Stallone (can we all just agree that he’s one of our nation’s finest actors?) and the Rocky franchise. (Fun fact for you: I read an estimate that said the Rocky franchise, to date, has grossed 1.1 TRILLION -- that’s with a “T” -- dollars over it’s lifetime!) So when I saw that a new Rocky movie was coming out Thanksgiving Day, I was already fully convinced of two things: It will be the Movie of the Year AND, Sly will finally win an Academy Award.

Ok, probably neither of those things will be true, but c’mon...can you think of a better way to enjoy the after-Thanksgiving Day coma than to watch a Rocky movie? Exactly!

Whether you like Rocky or not, you should stick with this blog. (If you don’t, you can probably already answer the question in this blog title!) Because 1.1 trillion dollars doesn’t happen by accident.

The story of the first Rocky movie is pretty well known, and part of what made the Rocky movie such a glowing success. There’s a little fact, and certainly a little fiction involved, but overall the story incapsulates the American Dream.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the original Rocky script and wanted to see it produced in Hollywood. He shopped it to several studios, and a couple showed interest, but they didn’t like the one caveat that came with Sly’s proposal: he had to be the star of the movie. According to one report, he turned down $150,000 for the script because they refused to allow him the lead role.

Time passed, and Sylvester and his wife were near the end of their resources. Down to around $100 in his bank account and with his wife pregnant and no acting opportunities in sight, Stallone had to sell his beloved dog that he could no longer afford to feed. Near the ratty Hollywood apartments they lived in, he posted a sign at a bar, listing his dog for sale, for $100. He finally sold him for $50 to man named “Little Jimmy” (a dwarf).

One week later, Sly received word that a studio would take his movie and he would get to star in the Rocky lead role. The studio was willing to pay him $30,000 up front. He signed the contract, took the money and immediately went back to the bar to find Little Jimmy and his dog. After a few days of searching, several minutes of negotiating and multiple threats from Little Jimmy, Stallone bought his dog back...for $3,000! (He even gave Little Jimmy a cameo in the first movie.) His dog went on to star in the first two Rocky movies, though he passed away before Rocky 3 was filmed.

Rocky 7? Yes please! And check out this retro movie poster from this site: http://www.monstersinmotion.com/cart/tv-movie-rocky-c-2_435/rocky-world-championship-belt-prop-replica-p-17987

Stallone was absolutely relentless in pursuing his dream and he didn’t settle for less when he had the chance. Think about it: I wonder how many people would have happily taken $150,000 in his circumstances, and celebrated the sale of a screen play? Sure, they would have been wealthier but they would have compromised on their dream in order to do so. What would you have done? Down to your last $100, and no one seeing your dream with the same clarity or vision you have? Would you have settled?

The Apostle Paul had a dream to “know Christ more” and he was willing to give up everything else, in order to see that dream come true. In Philippians 3:8 he writes, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...” Listen to his passion as he continues to describe his absolute commitment to the goal: “...for [His] sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ...I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection...”

Peter was passionate about helping others stand firm in their calling as children of God. In 2 Peter 1:12 he says, “So I will always remind you of these things [the Gospel and God’s divine power to produce righteousness in us], even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” Look how committed he was as he continues to describe his passion for this goal:  “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body...And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things...” (2 Peter 1:14-15).

John was absolutely committed to proclaim the message of Jesus that he had witnessed with his own eyes, a message he believed would unite the brothers in fellowship with one-another in love, and in fellowship with their Creator and Savior. Read 1 John and see how his passion emerges over and over and over again!

Abraham was relentless in his pursuit of the promise God had given him, so much so, that he was willing to give up the very thing he prized most in order to see God’s Word fulfilled. David loved the house of the Lord, and spent the last years of his life preparing the raw materials needed so his son could build it. Esther trusted God’s ability to save her people so much, that she laid her very life on the line in a desperate attempt to see Him show up. An impoverished widow trusted God’s ability to provide for her needs, to the point she gave Him her last two pennies as a show of her faith. The list goes on and on and the question remains: how committed are you to what God has put on your heart to do?

Overboard Ministries exists to help believers live their God-designed lives, out of the comfort of the boat, and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom. It’s a passion God has put into our hearts for years, and today we are embracing the challenges, testings and opportunities that come from stepping out in faith to see this dream become a reality. The dream of speaking to more students, the dream of inspiring couples to embrace an Overboard marriage, the dream of empowering believers to use their God-given gifts to reach the lost and the dream to lead others leaders into the pursuit of faith-based ministries and work is as strong as ever.

So are the challenges. And each day I have to answer the question, “How committed am I?”

Sylvester Stallone didn’t build a 1.1 trillion dollar franchise by merely showing up with a manuscript. He was relentlessly committed to seeing his dream realized. Paul gave up his life, prematurely, pursuing his goals, as did Peter and 11 of the 12 disciples of Christ. Abraham died not seeing his dream fulfilled but left the hope of legacy with his family. David gave Solomon everything needed to see the House of God built and Esther saved her people. They were all, absolutely committed to God’s work in their lives, and to the dreams and passions He had placed inside of them.

What do you need to add to your life (habits, disciplines, friendships...) to keep your dreams front and center? What distractions do you need to remove from your life (habits, disciplines, friendships...) to keep your dreams front and center?

How committed are you?

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

You gotta see this view!

joeacast

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!

Why my marriage will fail in two more years

joeacast

Last year on our 17th anniversary, I wrote a blog entitled, “17 reasons I have a great marriage” -- to this day, it has been the most read blog post I’ve ever put up. I’m guessing today’s won’t have quite as much success. Because now, on our 18th anniversary, I’m going to show you how I could end my marriage before our 20th anniversary. It’s actually quite simple, and if you follow these five steps, you can end your marriage, too! (Don’t worry, if you’re working on a great marriage, I have a list for you, too!)

  1. Make your marriage about you: This is the first and most important step in ending your marriage. Making sure your marriage centers around you is crucial in bringing it to a screeching halt. Nothing is more draining about other people than when they focus everything on themselves.
  2. Make marriage about your happiness: If you’re working hard to make your marriage about you, this should be relatively easy piece to add to your marriage-ending arsenal. Make the majority of decisions about your marriage (and family!) that revolve around what makes you happy and content.
  3. Keep track of everything wrong your spouse does: This is a very important list, and truly, might make the difference in whether or not your marriage ends appropriately. Keep this list current, keep it dated and keep it very private until just the right time. I can’t stress enough how  important it is to keep a VERY detailed list of wrongs your spouse has committed. (Practical tip: It’s best to have two lists. One of the obvious offenses [ie. when your spouse embarrasses you in public] and one of the unknown offenses [ie. your spouse puts their inside-out socks into the laundry hamper]. Trust me, you’ll want both lists at the end!)
  4. ALWAYS assume your spouse has ulterior motives: If you actually think your spouse is doing something out of love, simply open up your secret book of lists (step #3) and review them. After just a few minutes you’ll realize that whatever acts of niceness your spouse is performing must be making up for something on one of your lists.
  5. NEVER forgive, and if you accidentally do, NEVER forget: Forgiveness is weakness when it comes to ending your marriage. Once you start down the slippery slope of forgiveness, you’ll start to see the good in your spouse and experience the grace of God in your marriage. Trust me on this, if you want to end your marriage, forgiveness is a killer. Don’t do it!

After a rough winter, Traci and I didn't have many complaints about the weather in Hawaii!

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I actually have no intention of trying to end my marriage in the next two years. There are three basic reasons for this. First, (you really should read last year’s blog about this!) I’ve made a commitment to God, and to my wife, to fight for our union. That was a “death til’ us part” commitment, and since I’m blogging, I must be living, and that means I’m still holding up my end of the covenant. Second, I’m running out of words and ways to describe my wife. Next to God, she has been the most important person in my life. She has endured more than anyone, and been my greatest cheerleader and fan. Why would I want to end that? Third, and honestly, this is a bit on the practical side, but I checked the marriage market for middle-aged, slightly overweight, Mexican men with pitiful investment portfolios (thanks DK for helping me try to change this one!), twelve-year-old mini-vans, furry bodies and having three kids....things aren’t looking good for me. If my wife can love me in this condition (and I often think she’s crazy for doing so!) then I’m more than happy to keep this marriage thing going!

Truth is, however, the key to our marriage has been the grace of God in our lives. By His help we’ve been able to keep this thing afloat. Here are five not-so-secret secrets to our marriage success: (For those that need a more comprehensive list, check out this post with 17 not-so-secret secrets.)

  1. Make your marriage about serving others: It’s not easy putting others first, but it’s the first part of a strong relationship. I’ve seen too many friendships, businesses and marriages end over wrong focus in the relationship. When I focus on me, I get in the way of everything. When I focus on others (my spouse), their success becomes my success, their joy, my joy and their happiness...my happiness. Truly, deeply and profoundly.
  2. Make your marriage about holiness, not happiness: If I focus on becoming who God wants me to be, and less about whether or not I’m happy at any given moment, I’ll find two life-changing facts. One, I’m far more content in my place in life when I’m being changed into the man/husband/father God wants me to be, and two -- that new-found contentment will lead to a profound joy and happiness that circumstances can never provide OR take away.
  3. Keep your lists short: In the Bible, Paul tells us, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath...” In other words -- resolve your conflicts with each other. And while he wasn’t specifically writing about marriage, it works there to! Clean up your list, every day, with your spouse. Resolve what needs to be resolved (or at least start the process) and forgive what needs to be forgiven. (Make sure you clear out your garbage, too!)
  4. ALWAYS assume the best in your spouse: If you start the day by assuming the best in your spouse’s actions and motives, you’ll go a long way in keeping your lists short. I’m not talking about ignoring obvious problems or excusing away abusive or sinful behavior, I’m talking about assuming flowers were given because of love (not to cover a wrong), that sex was offered out of desire (not out of conflict resolution) etc...
  5. NEVER hold on to wrong once it has been forgiven: If you’re keeping your lists short (step #3), make sure you don’t keep the completed pages in the back of your notebook. Again, I’m not talking about ignoring patterns of sin or unfaithfulness, I’m talking about truly forgiving your spouse and releasing them from the wrong they’ve committed.

I hope you’ll choose the second list of five, over the first! Marriage is hard work, but I can tell you that after 18 years of hard work, you couldn’t offer me enough money, power or status to make me want to end mine. God has given me such a great gift in my wife Traci, and because we’re both working through our imperfections with Him, and with each other, we’re making a pretty good go at this marriage. And it’s worth it. You are worth it, and so is your marriage!

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

Lessons from a half-marathon (Mile 13)

joeacast

Crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon was a thrilling event. I don’t know how to put it into words, but there was something very special about coming down the last stretch of road and stepping over the curb ,and onto the grass, where cones funneled us through the final 50 yards that led to the finish line. Many spectators, including runners who had already finished their races and were dressed awaiting the awards ceremony, were cheering us on as we jogged our last few steps. There were whistles, claps, loud cheers and even a couple of cowbells clanging as we sauntered home. Best of all, our friends Clay and Lisa were waiting to congratulate us on having completed our 13.1 mile run. It was a memory I won’t soon forget. Race medals

Finishing the goal was the best the feeling of all. The energy we had in finishing was better than the energy we had in miles 1-3. Finishing was more joyful than the pace and rhythm of miles 4-6, and made the work of miles 7-9 almost forgettable. When we crossed the finish line, I wasn’t thinking about the wall we hit in miles 10-12, instead, I was taking in the moment and enjoying -- yes, enjoying -- the aches and pains, the sights and sounds and the emotional thrill of victory. We had beaten the course because we had finished.

As I’ve thought back to the finish line, there are three big take-a-ways I have from completing my first half-marathon:

  1. Train for the finish line. Traci and I trained hard during the months that led up to the race. We ran two or three times a week, every week, splitting up long runs with short runs, fast runs with slow runs and doing intervals and other types of sprints that helped us build up strength and endurance. And the whole time we were training, we were working toward 13.1 miles. We didn’t train for a 5k (3.1 miles) and then try to run a half-marathon. We trained with the finish line in mind.
  2. Public goals are harder to blow off. After we both agreed to run the race, we made our goals public. Believe me, that was one o the best moves we made. Why? Because so many friends and family members were cheering us on through the whole process. I had calls, emails, texts and FB messages of encouragement, in the days leading up to the race. Our friends wanted to see us succeed. That kind of public accountability made it almost impossible to do anything but finish! We had so much support, failing was not an option.
  3. Enjoy the journey and victories. Even during the race, Traci and I took time to “High-5” each other when we met certain markers. At mile 3.1 for example, we celebrated the first 5k of the race. At mile 9 we commended each other for the furthest run either of us had completed. At mile 10 we fist-bumped for making it to double digits and when we crossed the finish line we joyfully put our hands in the air and gave it a big “woot woot!” The race is long, the journey is hard but there are always moments to celebrate. And when you cross the finish line, take some time to soak it all in!

Race day was a big learning experience for me. From start to finish, I learned a lot about who I am and what I’m capable of doing when I work hard and choose to not give up. Through the ebb and flow of two hours and forty four minutes of running, I caught the bigger picture of life and realize that I’m on another journey, too. And as great as it felt to finish my first half-marathon, I can only imagine how great it will be to finish this journey with the same commitment and dedication.

I wonder if what I experienced at my race on Sunday was the same time of feeling Paul had when he told young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my face...” Paul was at the end of his life, and he knew that his journey on earth was almost over. As he faced that reality he did so with an overwhelming sense of completion because he had beaten the course -- he had run the race God had given him.

It’s my hope and prayer to end my race the same way. I want to finish my journey with the satisfaction of knowing I did my very best, that I worked hard, ran thru walls and challenges, that I took advantage of the help offered me, and I encouraged others and allowed them to do the same for me. I hope people will see an excellent runner in me, one who embraced his course and, in faith, followed God where ever He led. And along the way, you’ll see me celebrate the little moments -- the milestones and the victories -- that God gives us each and every day.

Thank you for following along on this journey, and where ever it may lead, your encouragement and friendship has helped make it a reality. Let’s keep running together and pushing for the finish line one day at a time!

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

Lessons from a half-marathon (Miles 7-9)

joeacast

In miles 1-3 Traci and I experienced the energy of the start. In miles 4-6 we enjoyed the encouragement of finding our pace. But in miles 7-9 we discovered the hard work of plugging along. Running a half-marathon is hard work. Part of what made miles 7-9 so challenging was the fact that we had just come out of miles 4-6 that were so pleasant. The downhill part of the run was “easy” and the encouragement we gave to, and received from, other runners was such a boost. We definitely found a good pace and rhythm and then...and then we turned the corner at the halfway point.

Race pic

Two realities hit us quickly. First, the wind had been at our back. Truthfully, I hadn’t even noticed the wind up to that point. When we hit the 6.55mile turnaround, however, I realized that we had unknowingly been enjoying the benefit of a tail wind that now was a head wind. The wind was a little nippy, and not terribly strong, but it was very noticeable and our newly found rhythm met its first real challenge. Secondly, we understood that what goes down must go up -- the hills we had been running down were still there but our downgrade was now an upgrade, and not the kind of upgrade you enjoy!

So rhythm came face to face with work. I can honestly say that until the turnaround -- while we weren’t speeding thru the course -- we were enjoying the ebb and flow of the race. We had found a pace that was manageable for both of us and were getting that feeling of, “Hey, we can totally do this!” By mile 7, our optimism had waned a bit.

In fact, last night as Traci and I were talking about these blog posts and the lessons from the race, I learned that she too felt a hint of despair at mile 8. When I saw the mile 8 sign, I had a not-so-fleeting thought: “Yikes. We still have FIVE MILES to go!!” Turns out my wife had the same idea floating in her head but neither of us had the heart to bring the other down, so the thought stayed silent.

For me, there were three factors that made miles 7-9 so challenging. First, as mentioned above, the hill/wind combo surprised me. I wasn’t ready for the change of terrain or the frontal assault from Mother Nature. Second, I started to feel some aches and pains throughout my body. My right ankle was already a little sore from running on the crown of the road and my left calf was keeping me aware of the discomfort I was causing it. Although both of these were mild (not strong, sharp pain), they were nagging, and as miles 7-9 wore on, they stole away some of my focus. Third, I became increasingly hungry. I couldn’t believe how quickly hunger accosted me between miles 8 and 9. I was running along feeling fine, and then I was starving! It was literally that fast, and since we had just passed an aid station at mile 8, and I hadn’t grabbed any nourishing Goo packs, I feared food was not on my radar any time soon.

Isn’t that just like anything worthwhile we tackle in life? You have the adrenaline and energy that comes from starting something new. Have you ever started a new diet or exercise routine? The first few days (ie. miles 1-3) are fun! You’re fired up at the prospect of change and you are energized by others who are traveling with you or have traveled the same road before. Then you hit your stride and as you enter week two (ie. miles 4-6) you are feeling like you can conquer anything. The food isn’t so bad after all. The exercise isn’t that hard. You aren’t that hungry. You’re really not that sore. You hit your stride and feel like you will achieve your goals with ease.

That’s when miles 7-9 show up. You leave the gym Friday all fired up after two weeks of great workouts, and then on Monday the gym has lost its appeal. You smell the dankness. The stuffiness of the locker room is almost nauseating. You realize the green super-shake you’ve been drinking for breakfast is really hideous and you actually don’t like the flavor that much. You step on the scale and see that after two weeks of new foods and exercise, you’re only down four pounds, and honestly, you feel lousy. Your body aches, your stomach wants something different than a blended garden for lunch and you’re wondering if it’s worth it.

Whether it’s diet and exercise, some other life style change, a new relationship or a new project, all of us will hit miles 7-9 in our lives -- the times/hours/miles when the work is hard. The question isn't whether or not you will hit those miles, the question is what will you do when they show up? Here are four lessons I learned from miles 7-9:

  1. Expect the hills and wind to work against you sometimes. Whatever you’re tackling in life, the reality is that you will face opposition. Brian Klemmer’s book summarizes it well, If Change Was Easy, We’d All Be Skinny, Rich and Happy. Change, is, after all, a battle of resistances. Especially when living the Overboard Life of faith, you must expect challenges. Paul told young Timothy, “Anyone wishing to live a godly life will be persecuted.” Jesus made it pretty plain that persecution is par for the course for those who truly wish to live out on the water where He is doing His Kingdom work.
  2. If you’re not willing to work hard, take your God-sized goals and dreams off the table. Traci and I knew that running a half-marathon was going to be hard. We worked for months in preparation, working through injuries (ouch, this hurts my body), emotions (ouch, I don’t like this) and will (I’m grumpy). During miles 7-9 our hard work paid off because we kept running long after the joy of finding a rhythm had left us. Any worthwhile goal or dream in your life is going to require hard work. Sometimes you’ll experience lots of miles 7-9! The writer of Hebrews says, “...run with perseverance the race marked out for you...” Running is hard work. You must persevere (work hard!) to see the end that God has in mind.
  3. Make sure you prepare as best you can for the upcoming challenges. You know there’s going to be tough times, even though you don’t always (ever?) know what they are going to be. Anticipate as best you can. My friend Clay gave me some great advice the night before the run that saved me some heart ache (as well as some aches in other parts of my body. Can you say, “Runner’s Glide”). Next time I run a long race I’ll be better prepared on the nutrition end and not get caught off guard by my hunger. If you want to live the Overboard Life, you’ve got to prepare for challenges while still facing them head-on!
  4. Run thru your challenges. When we hit miles 7-9, it would have been easy to walk, to stop at the mile 9 aid station and chat it up with the very kind volunteers etc... But we weren’t in this race to chat things up or to enjoy the sugar-rush, high-energy pit stop buffets. We were in the race to finish, and so when miles 7-9 came up, we had to run thru them in order to reach our goal. Face challenges like a soldier, like a man (woman) on a mission! Keep running, as you move thru the challenges. As Dori would say, “Just keep swimming...just keep swimming!”

Where are you at today? Are you in miles 7-9 in your life? Are you at the hard work stage of a goal, dream or out-of-the-boat expression of your faith? Let me encourage you to press on and to keep running thru the challenges. Living your God-designed life is hard, and requires hard work, but the reward of the labor is worth the effort! Miles 7-9 will make you sweat, but mile 13 is getting closer.

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

Where will you be in five weeks?

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A few weeks ago I was lamenting one of my weekly runs to a friend who has been a running adviser for me. He’s run a full marathon in the past and has been a big help in getting me trained for the half-marathon Traci and I are running in October. As we talked, I whined, “Yesterday’s run was really hard. I still got it done, but for as short as it was, it just seems like it shouldn’t be that tough.” He smiled a sagely little smile and said, “You’ll be glad you did that run in five weeks.”

Five weeks? I’ll be glad in five weeks!? Obviously this friend of mine doesn’t understand my need for instant gratification! Of course, there is nothing in running that is about instant gratification, and he continued to inform me that studies have shown, that when you’re working out consistently, the workout you do today will have a significant impact on your workouts in five weeks.

That’s so contrary to how most of us workout, usually thinking that a big lift today will make tomorrow’s lift easier, or a big run today should make tomorrow’s run that much better. But those who study the science of the body have found that a day’s workout, when combined with a steady and consistent workout routine, shows its greatest benefit five weeks after the fact. So the run I was whining about was going to be my best friend a few weeks later.

Well that stinks.

Oct5 calendarOnce again, running proves to be a valuable metaphor for life. So much of what you and I are doing today doesn’t have its maximum value for our lives tomorrow or even the next day, but rather, as we keep a consistent life of growing and changing and being challenged by God and His Word we reap the benefit weeks later. And maybe that’s why so many people give up after putting in a couple of good days of effort. Have you ever been there?

Have you ever tried a new diet for a couple of days, only to face the discouragement that the scale didn’t change much after a week? So what did you do? If you’re like most dieters, you gave up and drowned your dieting sorrows in a giant plate of nachos or an extra large bowl of ice cream. Why? Because waiting five weeks for results is hard.

Experts say it takes somewhere between 21-35 days (3-5 weeks) to make a new practice stick. After that, it takes another two to three months for that new practice to become an automatic habit. That means from day one of a change you are trying to make in your life, it can take close to six months before that change has become somewhat automatic in your life.

Soooooo, when you make that great choice today, you are paving the way for that choice to stick, and then eventually become a habit. But not tomorrow. Not next week. Not even next month. The great choice you make today will help solidify your change five weeks from today, if you keep working it until then.

Maybe that’s why, so often in the Bible, we are instructed to keep working at growth and change. Like the writer of Hebrews who says, “Therefore let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage each other, and all the more, as we see the Day approaching...” Did you catch that? We need to keep encouraging other more and more as we establish a habit and culture of building into each other’s lives.

The theme passage for me for 2014 has the same idea in it: “...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Running with perseverance doesn’t just mean to run for a long time, but rather, to keep running day in and day out, knowing that the long term gain happens down the road.

In fact, later in that same passage in Hebrews 12 the author says, “No one thinks discipline [hard work, challenges or punishment etc...] is pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained up by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

So where do you want to be in five weeks? Where do you want to be in five months? Those changes you desire for the future begin today. Those goals you want to cross off your list? those dreams you want to tackle? your work begins today. Hold the course even when the work isn’t fun or easy because you know that what you’re doing today -- that very unglamorous daily obedience! -- is making a difference for the future.

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

My Thoughts on Pot(s)

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At youth events in Oregon and Iowa (and soon at one in Michigan and one in Indiana), I have preached messages from 2 Kings 4:1-7 about pot. Actually, the passage talks about lots of pots…the kind you fill with water or oil (hee hee). It’s a short but powerful story about how God loves to provide for His children according to their faith in His ability to provide. I typed 1 Kings 4 in my blog software’s search bar and found a post from August 8, 2011 on this very topic.  

While this post is almost 2.5 years old, it holds some powerful truth rooted in the amazing story in 2 Kings 4. You feeling overwhelmed today? You feeling like you can’t ever catch up or like you will always be behind? Read this post and then start getting your jars ready!

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Back in 2 Kings 4, Elisha the prophet meets a woman who is in dire straights. Her husband just died and he had some serious debt. The only collateral his creditors would accept were here two remaining sons. All the widow has to her name is a little oil. If Elisha doesn’t do something, it’s bye-bye kiddos. This woman was overwhelmed.

 

Traci and I have been there. Early in 2011 we were struggling on a lot of levels, trying to make ends meet financially, trying to keep our marriage strong, our kids growing in the Lord and we launched a couple of new projects just to make sure life stayed interesting. We didn’t have much to offer, but we gave what we had.

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Elisha asks the widow to give what she had. She has oil and Elisha reminds her that God works with us where we are, with what we have. He doesn’t wait for us to get better gifts, more money or a better pedigree; He finds us useful today if we’ll but turn to and trust Him. Verse three says it all:

 

“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all of your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.’”

 

God was ready to ‘pour out’ his blessing and all He requested was a willing, faithful and obedient widow to trust His lead. She didn’t have to have any skills. She didn’t have to have any possessions. She didn’t even have to be debt-free. She just had to be ready to grab the side of the boat and jump out on the water when God said to “come”.

 

The widow obeyed, the jars were filled with oil from the original jar that had so little in it. Her boys kept bringing in jars and one after another, as God’s goodness overflowed, each jar was filled! When the jars ran out, so did the oil. She sold what she had and was able to pay off her debts and live off the remainder. God delivered in a big way.

 

Can you imagine the roller coaster of emotions this widow traveled on? What a day! First it started with not having any money and fearing the loss of her two sons. It moved into being part of an unbelievable miracle that created an unheard-of provision for her family. It ended with a house full of jars full of oil -- enough to start selling so that slavery could be avoided, with enough left over to provide safety and security for her family. I bet her day started and ended the same way: She was overwhelmed.

 

I think we’re feeling a bit of that with Overboard Ministries today. Some of the early 2011 struggles are still here today. And sometimes when you can’t see the way of God’s provision, you sit back and pray and trust and hope while you plan, scheme and try to figure out a solution. You’re overwhelmed by obstacles in front of you because you can’t yet see God’s ultimate plan. But He has a plan and often it’s fulfillment seems to hinge on our ability to trust Him to provide using mechanisms already in place. The widow had oil. The widow had friends and neighbors with jars. While God could have miraculously put money in her bank account, he chose what she already had to provide a way of escape.

 

When Elisha commands her to collect jars in verse three he says, and “Don’t ask for just a few!” She asked God for help and God tested her. He was going to give to her what she had faith to believe He would provide. Then in verse six you see just how much she trusted Him:

 

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘there is not one jar left.’”

 

They grabbed every empty jar they could find! If you’re overwhelmed today, call out to God for His help. Ask Him for what you need then prepare the ‘jars’ to receive what God has in store. It’s not that we name-it and claim-it, but we must believe that God can deliver in a big way when it comes to our needs. For example, when speaking about wisdom, James says when we ask,

 

“[we] should believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” -- James 1:6-8

 

You see, God answers prayer consistent with the faith from which we ask. I believe God loves to overwhelm His children with answers bigger than His kids could imagine when they trust Him to do so. Unfortunately, we all-too-often ask like James describes; we know we should pray but we don’t really believe God is going to respond. How do I know? Because we don’t start pulling out the extra jars we’re going to need to receive all of God’s answer.

 

Today we are overwhelmed by God’s goodness. He filled up more of our jars but we’re banging on doors and asking for more pots. I don’t want to stand before Him one day and discover how much more of His goodness I could have shared in if only I had trusted Him to do what only He could do. Faithless living isn’t for Overboard Ministries and I hope it’s not for you, either. Those who are going to get out of the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom are going to have to carry lots of jars. There’s no other way!

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You ready for God’s blessing? Seek Him and ask Him to show up big, but when you do…you better make sure your jars are ready! Hmmm…that would make an interesting book title...

 

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

A Parable

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Many years ago, there was a nation with great prosperity. It was ruled by a good and generous king, who started worrying that the prosperity of his people was causing them to become lazy and demanding. In fact, it appeared to him that the more money that flowed into the nation from its active ports and businesses, the less his people worked, and the more they demanded. Many of the king’s advisors tried assuring him that his perspective was a little off, but the king couldn’t be convinced. Instead, he decided to test his theory. One of the wealthier towns of his kingdom was just a day’s journey from the palace. The town was nestled between two mountains so that travelers could only enter and exit the city from two gates; one in the north and one in the south. The ports and farms of the city were mostly to the north, so on that road, the king placed a giant boulder in the path. He then hid himself a short distance away to see what would happen.

Shortly after the rock was placed, a group of wealthy merchants came by. They were very frustrated by the rock, but instead of moving it, they ordered their servants to travel around the rock, though that required walking through swampy waters. Next, some of the local citizens came by. They grumbled about the inefficiency of the city government, claimed that the king was not doing his job and complained loudly how about how much this was going to affect their daily routines. They too traveled around the boulder.

All afternoon the story was the same: workers, business owners, priests and peasants all griped about the rock, but did nothing about its position.

Finally, as the day was coming to an end, the king watched as a peasant returned from working in the fields. The peasant was dirty from his labor, and burdened down with several baskets full of freshly picked produce. He saw the rock, set his baskets down and then worked for nearly an hour to move the giant rock. During that time others came by who simply scoffed or shuffled quickly past without lending a hand.

With one last heave, the peasant pushed the boulder into the swamp that ran next to the road and returned to pick up his fruits and vegetables. When he did, he realized there was a large bag laying on the road under where the boulder had been. He picked it up and found 1000 gold coins and a note from the king, thanking whomever would move this boulder. The peasant returned home with more than produce to show his wife and kids.

Four questions for you as you ponder the application of this parable:

  1. Are you avoiding any hard work in your life because it is inconvenient, too challenging or you’re “too busy” to make it happen?
  2. What areas of personal growth are you avoiding because you are wasting your time and energy blaming others for the problem?
  3. Are there people in your life working hard on a problem that you could easily help?
  4. What rewards are waiting for you if you would tackle the challenges of your life head-on?

Living the Overboard Life demands facing life’s challenges, and helping others to do the same. The reward won’t be fully realized until after you’ve done the hard work!

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

What's your dream worth?

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This morning I was watching a documentary on some of the biggest oddballs of baseball: Knuckleball throwers. These are pitchers who throw a ball that doesn’t rotate, is hard to catch and that doesn’t usually travel faster than 75-80 mph, and often travels more like 55-60 mph. In a day and age when pitchers are praised for throwing 100 mph, or where curve balls make great hitters look bad, few teams have a place for an old-fashioned knuckleballer.

One of them, R. A. Dickey, was facing the end of his tumultuous career after one good season (2010) was followed by an injury plagued year where his pitch just wasn’t working (2011). But his dream to be a great Major League pitcher, and to dominate at his position, was too big to end. So R.A. drove across the country to meet other pitchers of his ilk. In baseball history, despite tens of thousands of pitchers, less than 100 have been knuckleballers, and today, there are only two who pitch the knuckleball in all of baseball.

R. A. met with previous knuckleball pitchers. He analyzed bad games. He changed how he held the ball. He learned to adjust to his speed. He pitched through some serious pain. He didn’t give up.

His dream was worth the work, and a year later (2012) RA won baseball’s highest honor for a pitcher: the Cy Young Award. He was the first knuckleball pitcher in history to win that award.

Is your dream big enough to work for? Will you meet other who can help? Will you learn from the “bad starts” an mistakes you’ve made? Will you work for it when you’re not at your best? Will you play hurt? Will you change your approach?

Living the Overboard Life is about taking the steps to pursue what God has in store for you. Ephesians 3:20 continues to resonate in my heart, day after day: “God can do anything you know, far more than you could ever imagine, guess or request in your wildest dreams” (The Message). Jesus is out on the water calling you out of the boat to chase after the dreams He has placed in your heart. Will you step out in faith and trust Him? Will you work through the hardships? Will you see it through?

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

Suck it up!

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I’m in the middle of my 100 Day Challenge that started off 2013. Starting at about day 25 and going through day 65-70, is the time that I find the hardest when it comes to these 100 Day Challenges. It’s hard because the fun of starting is way in the rear-view mirror, and the joy of the finish line isn’t on the horizon yet. finish-line

You ever feel that when it comes to your goals, dreams or passions? It can be hard to keep going when you can’t see the end. Today’s video was perfect, hitting on the issue of perseverance. Check out my notes:

 

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What one character trait is more important than talent when it comes to achieving your goals? What trait is more powerful than intelligence? Which quality is more resilient than strategy or planning or vision or goal setting? Perseverance!

 

Before any goal or dream of value can be achieved, you will experience setbacks. Your character will be tested and tried and you will have ample opportunity to give up in the face of obstacles. Perseverance is the quality by which we persist through all of the obstacles and setbacks. Perseverance isn’t about avoiding obstacles and set backs, it’s about NEVER stopping, about RISING up each time we fall and about FINISHING the goal with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.

 

Perseverance can be our most powerful ally for two key reasons. First, anyone can demonstrate perseverance. It’s not a skill or talent that some have and some don’t. Perseverance is a mind-set, it’s a choice to persist regardless of the size, severity or quantity of the challenges being faced. Choosing to persevere is choosing to keep God’s goals for your life at the heart of what you do.

 

The second reason that perseverance is a powerful ally is that it doesn’t require a particular pace. As Gary Ryan Blair stated in today’s 100-day Challenge video, perseverance isn’t a speed issue; perseverance is an issue about finishing the task or goal or dream at whatever cost for whatever length of time it takes.

 

While perseverance doesn’t involve pace, it most certainly involves consistency, details, commitment, adaptability, character and heart. The man or woman who makes the choice to persevere, can overcome shortages in talent, money and IQ. Perseverance is a goal-setters trump card!

 

This is a tough topic for me. Generally I think I finish what I start, but I can also look back over my life and see those unfinished projects that lie in ruins. Whether it’s a house project that needs my attention, a ministry project that never got finished, or a relationship that needs repair -- I have some areas of my life where I have chosen to quit rather than to finish. I also have a few goals that, for whatever reason, I chose to give up on. Some, I know, God put on my heart to finish but I fell short because the obstacles seemed to big or the support too small.

 

Today I’m choosing to persevere in each and every task I lay out. I’m choosing to fire up some of my goals for this 100-day Challenge and to bring them back to my attention. I’m choosing to take on a mindset like Paul: I will run the race God has given me and I will finish in such a way as to make my God pleased! Are you running to finish?

 

So go ahead and take the plunge -- and stick with it! -- because life is always better on the water!

5 key phrases for remarkable living (2 of 5)

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Always deliver excellence.” (Part 2 of a 5-part series on living a remarkable life. Click here to read part 1)

In my last post, we discussed the importance of the phrase, “Mediocrity is unacceptable” to those wanting to live remarkable lives. And once mediocrity is set aside, excellence must become the standard.

The problem in trying to deliver excellence, is that excellence has a relative quality to it. Something that may be excellent to you, may or may not be excellent to someone else. You may look at one painting and call it excellent while I may scoff. On the other hand, I might call a ninth inning at-bat in the playoffs, excellent, while you may deem it overgrown boys playing a game (and in this case, we might both be right!).

But excellence must be defined if we are going to deliver in our quest to live remarkably. Despite its elusive nature, and somewhat relative context, there are some basic tenets to creating excellence in our lives. As I have reflected over products, projects and relationships in my life, I think excellence is a by-product of these five qualities:

  1. Excellence is a by-product of effort: Excellence doesn’t happen on its own, and isn’t a product of being ‘natural’ at it. Excellence is achieved through hard work. But hard work, by itself, isn’t enough -- you can work hard to produce something of poor quality. Hard work, in the right way for the right reason, is an essential ingredient in excellence. If you’re not willing to work hard, you won’t, you can’t, achieve it. And keep in mind that effort must become a daily habit, not merely last minute frantic activity.
  2. Excellence is a by-product of ruthlessly eliminating mediocrity: Mediocrity cannot be an acceptable result of your effort, or the work of your company or organization. Mediocrity and excellence are mutually exclusive: when you settle or pursue the one, you immediately eliminate the other. Check out part 1 of this series for more information on getting rid of mediocrity.
  3. Excellence is a by-product of passion: Passion is the component of excellence that shows itself, even when no one else is looking. When you care, when you are consumed by what you are working on, the barriers become opportunities and obstacles become invigorating challenges to be conquered. When asked about how he created his famous angel sculpture, Michelangelo responded, "I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free." Passion is the fuel of excellence.
  4. Excellence is a by-product of collaboration: While no one will care about your work, your creation or your family as much as you will, excellence can only be achieved when the efforts, passions and skills of others are harnessed in cooperation. Finding like-minded people to support, improve and increase your efforts is crucial in the pursuit of excellence.
  5. Excellence is a by-product of finishing: Too many ventures, books, businesses, jobs, marriages and products fall by the wayside because people don’t finish. Excellence is hard, but worth the effort. Don’t give up when chasing your dreams and goals, finish them completely.

There you have it, my five thoughts about excellence. As you try to live the Overboard life, what would you add to this list?

So far we’ve talked about two key phrases to a remarkable life:

  1. Mediocrity is unacceptable
  2. Always deliver excellence

Stay tuned for the remaining three phrases.

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