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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: heartache

Blah...blah...blah...Choose Joy..blah...blah...blah

Joseph Castaneda



I don't know what the word "joy" evokes for you, but I think all of us come at that word from a different background. I grew up believing (and I think I still do) that joy is distinct from happiness, though maybe that line is closer today than it used to be. The distinction, I was taught, is that joy flows out of choices made because of our relationship to God, while happiness emerges from our experiences in the moment. Thus, the writer of Hebrews could say that, "...for joy set before, [Jesus] endured the cross..." Was Jesus "happy" to go through the trial at Calvary? I don't know, but I can confidently say He faced the cross with joy.

Maybe the Apostle James had Calvary in mind when he penned the above words in the first chapter of his epistle, stating that you and I are to choose joy when we face trials, too.

Back in 2015 when I lost my job and all of us were experiencing massive upheaval, happiness wasn't abundant during those first few months. In fact, I remember a moment in June, right before the kids were out of school and a week or two before we set out on a cross-country road trip to start summer, that my wife and I experienced one of those laugh-yourselves-silly moments, and it had been one of the first of such events, since January.

But Joy wasn't as elusive. In fact, I recall many moments of joy and deep satisfaction in spite of homelessness, joblessness, and significant uncertainty. Our relationship to Christ made it possible to choose joy, because we knew, at the core of our existence, that God was using our trials to produce grit, character, and whatever was missing for whatever was in our future. Our faith in Him gave our suffering purpose; even if we didn't know or understand what the purpose was.

This blog is read by hundreds, sometimes, thousands of different people each week, and I know, in that large of a group, many of you are experiencing difficult decisions, painful trials and heart-breaking challenges. I want to encourage you with the words of James, and challenge you to embrace, in faith, God's Word, that He is using this in your life for your greatest good and His ultimate glory.

The promised result of your faith isn't the end of suffering, rather, it's even better: joy. How can you choose joy today in your trial? What's one decision you can make to find joy in today's heart ache?

Choosing the right path


It’s hard to believe that four weeks have passed since I was released from my job at Lake Ann Camp. It feels like months and months have passed, yet the reality of an uncertain future continues to loom right in front of us, and the emotional cycle of loss continues to play out throughout each member of our family. Last night, my son AJ was really wrestling with justice and fairness, and the distortion of both in this life. Hard questions for a 13-year-old to process. Hard questions for a 13-year-old’s parents to process. Part of the challenge we’re working thru is unpacking the heartache, while living under a pressing deadline to find a new home, a new job and a place where we can heal. Emotionally we’re pretty drained, yet we have to press thru this season in order to finish the immediate tasks in front of us (work...home...job...). In one sense, there is no rest when we need rest the most. Have you ever felt like that?

On top of that, we’re trying desperately to find the path that God would have for us next. Neither Traci or I want to simply take a job because it has been offered, or to interview for some ministry just to make sure we have something ready to go. That’s the safe option, but we’re both very eager to be on the best path for our lives, for our family and for our future (short term AND long term).

But finding the right path can often be a challenge.

I don’t believe the idea that there is just one right path for everyone to take, and if you mess it up, you throw off the whole cosmos. Sometimes I’ll hear high school or young college students talking about finding the right spouse, as if there is only one correct choice. Think about that for a second. If there is only one right choice and you marry the “wrong” the person, you pretty much screwed up marriage for everyone. After all, if you married the wrong person, then your spouse married the wrong person, which means the person they were supposed to marry, will now marry the wrong person, and the person you were supposed to marry, will marry the wrong person, which mostly likely mean the wrong kids will be born and will marry other wrong kids and just a few generations later, no one can marry the right person. Nice work.

The same is true for most of our choices: there isn’t just one right answer, but God gives us opportunities and freedom to make choices. Some options are certainly better than others, and God promises to help us find those options. Choosing a “less-good” option isn’t a sin, and certainly doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us, or is somehow punishing us. Lets face it, all of us have made poor choices in our lives that we’d love to take back or have another chancer to do over.


Let me be clear that I’m not talking about freedom to sin. Of course we have freedom to sin, but sinful choices are always wrong choices. If I suddenly decide to follow the path of a contract killer, you have my permission to call me out (though I’d be careful with that according to my vocation...) and tell me it’s a wrong choice. If Traci and I decide divorce because the strain of this season has become too difficult, you have my permission to call me out. If I choose to make friends at the local bar and become a drunk in order to deal with the embarrassment of being fired, you have my permission to slap me silly. Those are all wrong choices (that are also very bad options for my life!).

No, I’m talking about the choices that pertain to a particular path, where the road forks left and right, and you have to pick a direction. Traci and I are at a major fork in the road, and there are, literally, dozens of options. I honestly believe that any one of them is available for us to pursue and see where it leads, but we desire to pick the path that will play to our strengths, the path that will ultimately take our experiences and use them for the greatest good. Have you ever been there? Have you ever asked yourself, which path is right?

The answer, in one very non-comforting sense, is that they are all right. Truly, God gives us options all the time, every day, and you and I have freedom to take either the left or right fork. My pastor was preaching on Micah 6:8 yesterday, and said it this way: If your choices fit the criteria of Micah 6:8, then you have freedom to make any of those choices. Micah 6:8 is the holy triad of God’s expectations for His children:

“But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

be compassionate and loyal in your love,

and don’t take yourself too seriously -- take God seriously.” (The Message)

Do justice. Act mercifully. Follow God. If the paths before you allow you to do those three things, then I believe you can follow any of those paths! In one very real sense, that brings such a relief and freedom to our choices and our futures.


Fine-tuning that search, though, requires a deepening faith in God. Rather than throwing a dart at the target to see which right option it hits, we want to pick the best option for who we are, and for who God ultimately wants us to be. After four weeks of evaluating my time here, I’m fully convinced it was a right choice to come here, AND that it was the best choice God had given us. The outcome wasn’t what Traci and I had imagined, but we still believe it was the best choice at the time we made it. That’s a hard pill to swallow: That God actually wanted us to experience this part of the journey, in order to prepare us best for the next part. But it’s a good pill to swallow!

That’s why Psalm 143:8 continues to be such an encouragement to us: “...make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” God will help us find, not just a right path, but the very best path for our lives. Notice I didn’t say “easiest” path or “funnest” path, instead, Traci and I are eager to find the path that will most stretch our faith in making us more and more the people God wants us to be.

And so we are glad to be where we are, even in the tears, frustration, anger, sadness and doubt. Wrestling with the past, while trying to tackle the current array of options, is precisely where we are supposed to be. Trusting the hand of God as He leads us forward is so much better than trying to figure out all the answers to the past, and in doing so, we’re finding ourselves in the sweet spot of our Savior’s leading.

“Walking on water”, in faith, isn’t easy, or all 12 disciples would have gotten out of the boat in Matthew 14. But trust me, you’ll never be the same once you do. By God’s grace, we’ll stay out of the boat and on the waves with Jesus and when we do, we’ll be on -- not just the right path, but -- the very best path for our lives!

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

Lessons I don't always like.


Over the past three weeks, Traci and I have been riding a roller coaster of emotions and feelings following the loss of my job, and the reality of facing a very uncertain future. God threw out a big stop sign, and we’ve been in the process of trusting Him while figuring out what’s next for our family. During this process, I’ve come across Psalm 143, and in particular, verses 7-10. Read them as written in The Message translation:

“Hurry with your answer, God!

I’m nearly at the end of my rope.

Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!

That would be certain death.

If you awake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,

I’ll go to sleep each night trusting you.

Point out the road I must travel;

I’m all ears, all eyes before you.

Save me from my enemies, God --

You’re my only hope!

Teach me how to live to please you,

because you’re my God.

Lead me by your blessed Spirit

into cleared and level pastureland.”

Those four verses have been powerful reminders in my journey the past few weeks. And here are five lessons God has been teaching me through this time:

  1. God is never in a hurry, He is never rushed. You and I feel the pinch of time, and we experience the anxiety of watching the sand fall through the hour glass. That’s why David exclaims, “Hurry with your answer...I’m nearly at the end of my rope!” God, however, is never pinched by time. God is never caught off guard by our experiences or sudden changes of direction; instead, He is able to keep a perfect perspective on our lives and circumstances. His timing is always precisely right, because He sees the big picture you and I are unable to see. I can’t remember who said it, but the quote goes something like this: “God is rarely early. He is never late, but He loves to make a grand entrance at ‘just the right moment!’” Indeed. I’m feeling the pinch as we are getting closer and closer to the time we have to decide what’s next about my job, our housing, the kids’ schooling etc... and I’m learning to trust God’s timing, even more, as the clock gets closer to zero.
  2. reflection of GodGod’s love can be found every single day. Each day you and I wake up, is a new day for you and I to experience another facet of God’s love. David said, “If you awake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice...” It really is more of a statement of certainty than it is a statement of possibility. In other words, David is really saying, “Since you wake me up each morning with the sound of your loving voice...” In the mire of daily life, we can sometimes lose sight of the love of God actively playing out in our lives. Trust the Word -- when you don’t feel the love of God it’s not because God has suddenly vacated His commitment to love you! During this time I’ve discovered the love of God in so many details of my life; this hardship has enabled me to see His love more, not less.
  3. God knows the best path. 23 months ago, when Traci and I packed up our family and took this job in northern Michigan, God already knew that our plans and dreams for this chapter in our life were going to be cut short less than two years after arriving. We were thinking long term, but God knew it was going to be a short-lived experience. Despite the current situation, we both remain confident this was the right move for our family, this was the right path for us to start traveling. If it’s true that God laid this out for us in March of 2013, that means the uncertainty of the path before us in February of 2015, remains the best place for us to be! David can say, “Point out the road I must travel...” because He knows that God knows the best path for this life. I’m truly learning to trust the Lord for the best path, believing that whatever happens on that path is best for me, my wife and my children.
  4. Obedience is always right. At the end of the day, I’ve learned that obedience is always right no matter what it costs. While I can’t control the words and actions of others, with God’s help, I am able to work on controlling my own words and actions. As I wait for God to reveal the next step in our lives, I must choose to remain obedient to what I know He wants me to do. God delights in the obedience and righteousness of His children, and no matter what circumstances are before me, I can always choose the path of obedience.
  5. God is leading. I love David’s thoughts in verse 10: “Lead me by your Spirit into cleared and level pastureland.” God is leading me somewhere, even when I don’t know where that somewhere, is. And He is leading me to a place that is cleared and ready for me to be nourished. “Pastureland” is the place where the sheep were fed, and were given rest from their travels. God is leading me somewhere, and when we get there, there will be rest and there will be nourishment. Over the past three weeks I have been reminded that The Good Shepherd hasn’t abandoned His duties as the leader of the flock.

The Overboard Life will constantly challenge you to grow in the expression of your faith. I know I’m being stretched more now than ever before, but I’m also confident that this is precisely where God wants me to be. Are you experiencing the pinch of time or struggling to see God’s love in a particular circumstance? Are you searching for the best path or struggling with obedience? In the busyness of life, have you lost sight of the Shepherd? If any of that describes you, let me encourage you to make Psalm 143:7-10 a part of your life today. Embrace God’s truth and hold fast to the course He has given you.

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

Another nearly PERFECT Super Bowl prediction!


Two years in a row I have aced my annual Super Bowl prediction. I don’t just predict winners and losers, but I love to predict key game moments and big events that will change how the game turns out. We’re talking about uncanny accuracy. (You can read last year’s prediction here.) I won’t bore you with all the details but here are the highlights. Superbowl 49

  1. The Patriots will score the first and last TDs of the game.
  2. Unlike last year’s blowout, this game will be decided by four points or less. The Patriots will win.
  3. Marshawn Lynch will score one rushing TD for the Seahawks.
  4. The Seahawks will have one surprise touchdown in the first half, probably near the end of the 2nd quarter.
  5. Tom Brady will throw two pics, yet will be MVP.
  6. Seahawks wide receiver, Kearse, will have at least one big play, maybe even a circus-type catch.
  7. Russell Wilson will throw a big interception late in the game.
  8. A no-name rookie will decide who wins the Super Bowl.
  9. The Seattle coaching staff will make a horrible decision, late in the game, while under pressure.
  10. Bill Belichick, Patriots coach, will wear a sweatshirt.

If you want to read my full prediction, please click here. Seriously, do you know anybody else that called this game with such detail? I’m assuming someone from Vegas will be calling me shortly.

For those of you interested in these things, I’ll give you a little tip on making great predictions like mine. Pay attention, and you’ll do well in your future prognostications, too. Here’s my secret: wait until after the game is over, and then make your prediction.

It’s that simple! Seriously, it works great on sporting events (obviously!), but this method can be used for predicting the outcomes of elections, major world events and even how your child will score on a test at school. Once you get good, you’ll find your accuracy approaching 100% before long. Unfortunately, this method won’t help you with things before they happen; I’m still working on that.

Have you ever wanted to know how something would turn out before it happened? Have you ever wondered if a certain relationship would work out, if a business would take off, if a relative would survive cancer or if your child would make it through the teen years without doing something too regrettable? I’m not sure if we want to know these things because we think it could be easier to handle the reality knowing it ahead of time, or if because we think we could change the outcome if we knew before hand. Reality is, we don’t get to know, and like yesterday’s football game, the outcome can change dramatically, multiple times, before the dust finally settles.

Thankfully, God knows the future with 100% accuracy. As many of you know, two and half weeks ago my relationship to Lake Ann Camp came to a screeching halt. Traci and I had anticipated spending the next several years working here, connecting with pastors, campers and camp supporters while investing in the next generation of church leaders. Our dreams included years of ministry partnership with the camp and in one afternoon, everything changed.

Traci walking pathOver that past couple of weeks we have really wrestled with God’s working in all of this, and have repeatedly wondered what He is up to. We’ve also come to this conclusion: had we known that we were going to be released from our duties after just 22 months of service, we probably never would have taken the job. It's doubtful that we would have  moved our family across the country from Oregon to northern Michigan.

Yet, without question, I can tell you we are glad we came! We are thankful for the relationships that have been built, thankful for the ministry God allowed us to be a part of, and yes, even thankful for the process we are going thru now. We know that whatever God has in store for us next, the past 22 months will play a big part in our future. In other words, if we hadn’t made the move out here 22 months ago, we would miss out on the future plans God has next.

Soon, we’ll be able to look back and see, at least in-part, how God is using our present circumstances to prepare us for a future He already knows. In the mean time, our task is to keep trusting Him and to work on growing thru this experience. We’re working through the heartache of loss, the challenges of watching our children unpack their hurt, and the difficulty of facing some serious uncertainty about the next four weeks. (Where will we live? What will I do for a job? Will our kids be able to stay in school? Are we moving across town? Across the state? Back across the country?)

While wrestling with these unknown circumstances, I came across Psalm 143:8, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (NIV) I love how The Message paraphrases this: “If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you.”

I don’t know what’s next for me and my family. What I do know, is that God knows, and He loves us deeply and has a plan that will redeem everything we’re walking thru now. That plan is truly the best, and when the time comes that I can look back and a make a near-perfect Super Bowl-esque prediction, I’ll be glad we followed Him.

How about you? Are you facing some uncertainty in your life? Are you on a path that doesn’t make sense to you right now? Maybe you need to make Psalm 143:8 your prayer, too, and trust in the love of God, while you wait for the timing of God. I’ll be right there with you and soon we’ll both have a great story to tell!

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

Please pray


Over the past couple of months, you have probably read a blog post or two about my friend Andy. He, his wife Jodie and their four awesome kids, have taken off on a whirlwind adventure of loving God and loving others. They have left everything they know, all their close family relationships and comforts, and headed to a part of the world where electricity is a luxury that they do not get to enjoy. A place where water must be collected when it rains, where daily life is primarily about survival, where they do not know anyone or the language of the village and most importantly -- a place where God’s love is not known. They have been in this remote village for two months and have been blasted since day one. Let me give you just a small list of the trials that have hit this amazing couple and their children:

* They have been attacked by poisonous snakes

* Their third-born contracted malaria

* Their third-born recovered from malaria, only to contract it again

* All of their kids and family contracted severe diarrhea and stomach ailments

* Jodie cut her foot and experienced a debilitating infection with severe pain and massive swelling

* Andy and Jodie both contracted malaria

* Their oldest was bit by a scorpion and had to be “shocked” to curb the pain and limit the spread of poison

* Twice their life-giving water supply was contaminated with dead animals, forcing them to empty every last drop

* The oldest two children also contracted malaria

* Several of the kids have had severe fevers in a comfortless, hot and humid region

This is only a partial list and keep in mind -- it’s only be two months!


So as I woke up to start the morning routine and get the kids to school today, I stopped my running around when I saw I had another email with their latest update. I read these the moment they come in since it takes them 45 minutes to an hour, each way, to travel to a place from where they can send updates. They don’t take the stroll to tell me how the weather is doing -- I know these emails are important.

My heart broke again as I heard how things have gotten worse for this family. They are serving in this village with a team of people from the states, but none of whom are having the same trials Andy and Jodie are experiencing (although each of them is certainly facing tough times!). The team leaders has been working closely with Andy and Jodie to try and help, support and encourage them, and he has also been communicating with their unit leader back here in the states.

This morning news came down that for the sake of their family’s well-being, Andy and Jodie and their four beautiful children will be pulled off the field and sent back home to the states.

This family loves God and has a passion to love others anywhere in the world. They have been excited and passionate about doing this in a village where God’s name is not known, yet as God leads, it is apparent that they must return home from this part of their journey. I can’t imagine how difficult a decision this was for everyone. I can’t imagine the heartache the family is experiencing as they process the return trip. I’m sure there is also a little joy at the thought of being back to what’s familiar, but also a sense of loss as a big dream and goal is slipping away.

Will you please pray for this Overboard family?

I’m so proud of Andy and what his family has done. The choice to live Overboard and follow God, even in a set a circumstances that seems less than ideal or not at all how it was initially envisioned, is what makes Overboard living such a matter of faith. All of us love the mountaintop experiences where the view is clear, the path behind us is well-defined, and the struggles of the climb are swallowed up in the beauty of the view. But the Overboard Life isn’t defined by the view from the top, it’s defined by the choice to start the journey -- the decision to step onto the trail in the first place.

God doesn’t promise us any mountain tops in this life, He just asks us to start on the trail.

And when we start the trail, God promises to give us peace, comfort and rest.

Andy’s Overboard journey has just begun. I’m confident that path God has for Him will continue to unexplored lands, and adventures that only God could orchestrate. In the mean time, please pray with me, that Andy, Jodie and their children will find the comfort, peace and rest they are most certainly in need of. Pray that God will make clear His plan for them in the next part of the journey, and that whatever and where ever it is, they will be ready to go. Maybe a return to the place their leaving? Maybe a return to local-church ministry? Maybe a whole new adventure where the last few years will come into clarity and they’ll see God’s precise hand in all that has transpired. Whatever is next, God knows, and let’s pray for this dear family and their journey.

And as we do, let’s pray that you and I would be willing to live as Overboard as Andy and Jodie have. May God raise up many more who take up the Overboard Life like them.

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