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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: journey

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!

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!

Why I'm going to work out this morning.


by Joe Castaneda I woke up today and the outside air temperature, with no windchill, was -20! Seems impossible when the sun is up, the sky is blue and from my ice-covered window, the view looks so inviting.

snowy deck

Usually after I have a busy weekend of ministry, my wife lets me sleep in on Monday. She gets up with the older students (around 6am) and drives them the 25-minutes into town to take them to school. This lets me sleep in until 7:15 when I get up with the younger girls, and the extra 75 minutes of sleep is blessed.

Today is one of those Mondays, compounded by the fact I have today off. So after I stumbled out of bed, made breakfast for the girls and settled in to do some blogging, I am enjoying the comfort of home. I’m sitting on a heater so I’m toasty, my sweat pants and sweatshirt are especially comfortable, the music is streaming to our wireless speakers, and my bacon, egg and tortilla breakfast has me feeling like a mid-morning nap would be very appropriate.

Just one main problem: I’m scheduled to workout this morning.

Presently I can think of -20 reasons why I shouldn’t work out. This is one of those rare mornings where I can rest, get a lot of writing and work done in a kid-free and quiet house and did I mention it’s -20 outside? Days like today were made for staying home and enjoying time with my wife (who works from home with a great job) and maybe catching up a on a couple of Netflix shows we’re watching.

But I’m going to mess up the morning by putting on work out clothes, piling on the layers so I can walk to the car, jumping in the car and driving over to the gym. Why am I going to work out today?

In 215 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes and 4 seconds I’m going to be on the starting line of my first road race ever, and it’s a 1/2 marathon. I don’t enjoy running and I’ve never run for more than 20 minutes at any one time in my life. The only 5K I’ve run, was not a “race” and my wife and I jogged/walked it. (you can click here to learn why I’m running it if you’re interested!)

If I make an excuse today for why I can’t hit the gym and get a practice run in, it’ll be even easier to have an excuse tomorrow and the next day. Suddenly it will be the end of summer and my workout habits will be sketchy at best, and I will be no where near race-ready. Then, when the obstacle starts looming closer and bigger, I’ll have to either hope I can kick my routine into hyper drive or I’ll have to scratch myself from the race roster that day.

How do I know this will happen? Because I’ve seen it happen in my life before and I’ve watched as others have done the same thing with their lives. And too often, I’ve done it, and watched others do it, on things way more important than a 1/2 marathon. I’ve watched friends’ marriages end because they kept thinking they would start working on it later. I’ve watched peoples’ health deteriorate because they were going to start their new healthy lifestyle next week. I’ve seen Christians desiring to live the Overboard Life never get out of the boat because the timing just wasn’t right.

Here is what I know about making advances in my own life:

  1. The timing is never right. There will always be people, activities and events vying for your time. Those who complete what they start, who get out of the boat and live a compelling life of faith, those who date their spouses, invest in their children, organize their finances and step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary don’t wait for the right time -- they take the time and, with God’s help, make those things happen.
  2. Bad habits don’t take effort. Bad habits are easy. I don’t have to work hard to establish bad habits for my life. Think about it, if you have any bad habits, did you have to work to fit them into your lifestyle? Of course not. Generally speaking, the disciplines and habits that move us away from our God-given dreams come quite naturally -- that’s why we don’t have those dreams already!
  3. Good habits require work. Replacing those bad habits is hard, that’s why people often give up on their [insert your goal here]. It would be easy to not run a 1/2 marathon on October 5th. To run it will require lots of sweat, sore calves, aching feet, mind-over-body workout lengths and the need to stretch a 20 minute run into 22…into 28…into 35…into 36…into 2.5 hours! Whatever good habit you’re trying to insert into your life will require hard work.
  4. The journey is better than the goal. Ultimately, every major goal I’ve been blessed to achieve has proven that the journey is even better than the destination. When I completed my first book, Project Joseph, in 2011, I had no idea that the journey to finish that book was far more significant than finishing the book itself. We celebrated the book completion, and I’m grateful for how God has used that tool in the lives of others. But even more, I’ve celebrated how God has used the lessons from the process of writing that book to help shape my current life-direction. The process was as valuable as the final product.

What advances do you need to make today? What choices can you make in this moment to hold the course for a goal that may seem so far away? Hebrews 12:1-2 has just been resonating in my mind a lot lately. The idea of “…throw[ing] off everything that hinders and the sin so that easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Those bad habits have to go. My desires to take the easy path, to choose sin over righteousness, selfishness over selflessness or fear over faith have to be replaced with belief that God is greater than my weaknesses. With His help, I can run my race (and not just the one in October, but the one I’m running every day!) and I can live in faith out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom.

I won’t be the fastest runner on October 5th. But with a little work I will finish the race with my wife and we will celebrate the completion of a great goal. Even more, we’ll celebrate the process that brought us to the finish line and we’ll be closer to being who God wants us to be through the journey.

And that’s why I’m going to work out today.

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

Ask for help


For most of us, asking for help is one of the most challenging aspects of personal growth. There’s something macho or American-Cowboy-esque about conquering the west on our own. In fact, we’ve almost made asking for help a sign of weakness. Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 4.41.04 PM

However, there are three problems with trying to do everything yourself:


  1. You will hit a ceiling that you cannot break through: In other words, you will only go as far as you can take yourself. Think about it, if you face a problem or challenge that you don’t know how to solve…you will never know how to solve it without someone else entering in to the equation!
  2. The journey is lonely: Running your race alone makes for a lonely journey. A few weeks ago I was doing some team building with a local high school. During one our activities, two parents were locked back-to-back, sitting on the floor. They were trying an exercise where they push against each other, until they create the right tension and are able to stand from a sitting position. Everyone in the room had finished the task but them. As they struggled, they were alone, until a nearby mom saw their predicament. This woman realized that the wife wasn’t able to get traction on the slippery gym floor so she came over and stood on her toes. Immediately the wife had traction, but now it was clear that her husband was having the same issue. Another lady came and stood on his toes and then a group of about 30 participants gathered around them and encouraged them to finish. When they finally stood, the room erupted in applause and the couple smiled, laughed and clapped as the accomplishment of such a simple task. A task that would have been unfinished had no one joined them in the journey.
  3. God didn’t call you to a solo life: God actually made you and me for relationships. First and foremost, He wants us to be right with Him, but after that, He wants us to live in community with each other. In the Bible’s account of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 it’s astounding to think that after God made Adam, He said, “It’s not good for you to be alone” -- in other words, Adam was incomplete in a perfect world, with a perfect God, as a perfect man. But when God made Eve, Adam was made complete (as was Eve!) and now the perfect couple could enjoy their relationship with God and with each other. That’s what God had made them for.


So if you’re journeying alone, let me offer you 3 people you should you seek as partners in your journey.


  1. Ask a “pro” for help. Whatever you are working on or growing in, ask someone who has already made headway, for help. If you are working on a blog, talk to a blogger to get ideas how to be more effective. If you are starting a business, talk to a successful business owner to get help. When I was writing my first book, I spoke to several authors about how they wrote their books. I’m amazed at how often “busy” people made time for me when I simply asked for help. Don’t be shy -- be bold in seeking the counsel and advice of those who have gone before you.
  2. Find another running mate. As you journey, you’ll notice others heading the same direction you are. As God started to put Overboard living in my heart, I started to realize others who were already on that journey. Men like Andy Hartfield, Danny Ray, Kevin Moyer, Kevin Hearne, Tim Walter, Jeromy Puckett and Richard Muntz (and many others!) have been huge parts of my own journey. Women like my wife and Brenda Noland, Jodie Hartfield and others have also inspired me to pursue more. The point is, as you journey, look up and see who’s traveling with you. Invite others to the journey…you will be amazed at who will join the run!
  3. Stay close to those closest to you. I cannot imagine having experienced this amazing life without my wife Traci. She runs with me, and often is the one who picks me up when I’ve stumbled and fallen along the way. If you’re married, I hope  your spouse is with you on the journey toward Overboard Living. If not, lead by example, pray like crazy and keep being transformed into the spouse you need to be. If you’re not married, make sure your closest friends are living the Overboard Life. The greatest richness of relationships here on earth will never be felt through shared-experiences or common hobbies. Instead, the greatest richness is experienced in living life with purpose. If your closest friends aren’t interested in Living Overboard, your chances of walking on the water with Jesus are slim. Challenge your friends, and learn to let them challenge you, as you seek the life of faith.


There’s no such thing as DIY when it comes to Overboard living. If you want to get out of the boat, you will need the help and support of others. Will you lead others out of the boat? Are there others walking on water who need your support -- will you join them? Let’s drop the idea that we can do this alone, and let’s embrace the help that God has made available.


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