One of the great joys of my life is living in Florida, the fishing capital of the United States! And the variety of marine life is incredible. And like all fishermen, I have many fish stories. From the one that got away to the one that got “in my belly!” Which reminds me of the story that goes with that photo. This one is about the one errr two that didn’t get away. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a dark and stormy night… wait….wrong story! Actually I was on a friend’s boat and we were going out into the gulf. We left before the sun had a moment to realize we left it behind (he caught up later). I was so excited! I had great expectations. After about two hrs I noticed my level of excitement was growing, but the high seas was not as exciting to some of my other “compadres” on the boat. I could tell this by the nice bright greenish hue around their “gills.” It was somewhat comical (I’m not affected by swells cuz I grew up with a fisherman of a grandpa, where I developed strong sea legs). Anyway, we finally arrived and I knew we were in for a treat. The conditions were perfect for fishing, but not so sure about boating though.

Joe Lugo FishingThe bell rung and that was the queue to drop our lines down into the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Just as my jig hit bottom it happened! I got tagged with a huge amberjack (in right hand in pic) and it was on! This amberjack was fast, strong, stubborn, and well aware of my intentions if I brought him into the boat. It was a 15min fight! First he would come up toward the boat and I would reel as fast as I could. Then he would change his mind and pull the line of the reel at an alarming rate. He tested my fishing rod to the limit! This went on for about 13.87 minutes. Sooner or later either he would , or I would, or the equipment would get tired and give in. My arms screamed from exhaustion. Never got that kind of workout in any gym!! But I knew I would not give in! I knew the the reward would be worth every bit of the struggle. So it was either him or the equipment, and I hoped it would be him. It was all I could do to hang on. Every fiber of my being cried out to quit! At times I felt that my arms would break as they leaned over the rail on the starboard side. It was a great fight, but I finally broke him. He was huge! Even without a struggle he was tough to bring aboard. But you see in my mind I was determined and was not willing to give up, no matter what! It was very important to me to fish him into the boat and worth all the effort! After all the ooooohs and ahhhs, he went in to the boats cooler. I was so excited and proud that I was up for the challenge. Man, it felt good! After a quick break, I grabbed my fishing gear, checked it, and dropped the line over the bow of the boat. This time it didn’t reach bottom before I realized this must have been the previous’ older brother or big papa (in my left hand)! I could not believe it! This one took 23 minutes to get on to the boat. I was so sure I saw my reel and line smoking! It took an even greater effort to bring him on the boat! And you know what? This one was even more important to me! He was an even bigger prize. I was able to display my skill, knowledge, and passion for fishing. Soon my excitement was contagious and everyone was trying to fish my spot on the boat. I got asked all kinds of questions about techniques, species, and all sorts of things to do with fishing. Everyone wanted to catch the “big one.” Everyone wanted to feel what I felt while we fished. It was amazing!

You know as followers of Christ we are called fishermen as well. I believe the term is “fishers of men.” As a fisherman this verse speaks to me in a great way. Let me elaborate. You see that one of a Christian’s greatest fear is sharing their faith. It can be an intimidating experience which can cause great stress to a Christian. It can cause stress if we decide to do it, and can cause even more stress if we are not doing it! Some reasons are based on things outside of our control. Mostly factors to do with the person(s) we are sharing with. Like: What are they thinking? …..Of me?, Will I offend them?, What if they don’t like me after?, What if I’m challenged on what I know? What if, what if, what if! I think I can help with these questions because at some point I have struggled with these as well. But fishing has truly help me in sharing my faith.

Now I’m not saying you need to become a fisherman, but it helps (me). The key to everything is not so much what you will say, but the passion and excitement in what you say and do! People are more interested and willing to hear what an excited, passionate person has to say. Notice I said excited and passionate not fanatical. People don’t usually respond well to fanaticism. Especially if they don’t share your passion or experience (yet). When I go fishing, people are drawn to me or the group I’m with because we are enjoying our passion for the sport! We are having fun, and genuinely excited about, well, fishing! How many of us can display this kind of passion and excitement about our faith? Even more important, how many of us can display ourselves having FUN in living our faith? Being a Christian is FUN and EXCITING! And my life needs to reflect that!

Another thing is that like fishing, my faith is very important to me! Actually it is the most important thing to me, and because of it other things become very important to me! Like my family, friends, and church, and so on. When something is important it is worth any effort to do it! No matter what it takes, you will go through great lengths to have or do that thing that is important to you! How important is your faith? How important is it to share it? What are the consequences if you don’t? So then it’s important! Are you doing it? How?

One thing I’ve learned in fishing is that you can’t use the same technique, bait, and at times equipment for all species of fish. Things such as weather conditions, tides, moon phase, depth, species, time of day, etc. dictate the how, when, where, and the who (species) you decide to go after. Well guess what?……Sharing our faith is very similar. We must be sensitive to those we want to share with due to their condition, situation, where they find themselves, with who they find themselves, and so on. The only way to become an expert is by simply going out there and doing it and learning as we do it. That’s how I learned to fish and that’s how I learned to share my faith. I read books and saw videos, even talked to the so called experts but it wasn’t until I tried myself that I realized I could do it. Funny thing I never really did it like the so called experts but in time I developed a system that worked well for me, but not after trying different things and techniques. I discovered that you can talk about something, but it is far more effective when you are seen in the act of doing it. Wait, is that regarding fishing or faith sharing……..oh yeah in both! Everyone is different and have different needs. So we need to be ready. Our “tackle box” must be ready for any situation. Many times I’ve gone out for red fish and found mackerel or something else, but most times I’ve been ready for whatever Sea will give up due to my tackle box.

So what are you waiting for? I know you know how important it is. Are you excited about it? Are you having fun in it? Do you think others will benefit from it? Can you be seen doing it? Then go for it! When I share about fishing, I’m not too concerned about what the other person thinks of me or what I’m saying. I just do it (to coin a phrase)! I don’t catch a fish every time, but that doesn’t keep me from continuing to fish! I’m often seen fishing and not as much catching (that’s why it’s called fishing not catching (lol)). And so I will do it! Why? Because I love it! And I love my faith even more and even more who my faith is in! So get out there and “Just Do It!”

BTW: The amberjack was delicious!