I’ve been pretty stressed lately. Lot’s going on for our family. Lot’s going on at Church.
Just like any family, we have a lot going on. We have kids in baseball and track and we have kids with special diets and lots of homework. We have a teenager, a pre teen and two who think their teenagers. For the first time in years, my wife is working again. She was a full time stay at home mom, but now she works for our church 25 hours a week (unpaid) and our family has adjusted to that.
Just like any Pastor, my week is insanely full. I take my work home. I’m constantly thinking about my messages, the people who haven’t been to Thrive in awhile, our church finances, are we an accepting church, future hires, spouses who don’t know Jesus, the upgrades we need, fundraising, who we can help, who we can’t help, our staff, our staff families, upcoming outreach events and the list goes on and on.
And, when I get too busy…I take my eyes off Jesus. It’s that simple. I’m not proud of that.
My morning quiet time is replaced with hustle or sleeping in or something else.
My prayer walks go away or are less frequent.
My reading of the books I love (typically about spiritual formation) is replaced with Yahoo news.
My patience goes out the window.
My eating habits go from bad to even worse.
I hug my wife and kids less.
Again, I’m not proud of any of this. But, it’s amazing how easy it is to slip into this mode.
But, I can’t let my life stay in this mode! And, the only solution I know of is…
I just want–Need–long for more of Jesus.
So, I’m going to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. I’m going to make sure to pay attention to my life when it starts to get too full and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to protect my soul.
I just want more of Jesus in my life.
I will NEVER forget the day that Robert Jason Raitz was born! It was a total surprise that he was a boy! We already had Bekah and I was absolutely convinced we were going to have all girls.
Then, the day came. I was about to lead worship at church and my wife (Tracie) came back stage and said…um…you won’t be leading worship today. So, I took off my guitar and headed to the hospital. Our whole youth group came to the waiting room and played board games and then I came out and announced that Robert Jason Raitz was born.
One of the coolest moments of my life happened about an hour after he was born. My dad, Robert Raitz, came into the room and I introduced him to his grandson, Robert Raitz. Wow, what a moment!
Bobby is now 12 years old! It’s just flow by. He’ll be 13 this summer and I just can’t even believe it!
13 years old! A teenager! And the crazy part is, we’ll have two teenagers! Just awesome!
Well, tomorrow morning he and I leave the house at 445am to drive to Detroit to hop on a plane to CA. I was asked to speak at a great event in Southern CA and it worked out great to bring Bobby! Just me and Bob.
I’ve been praying about this trip for a long time. I’ve been praying for this trip for a long time.
Why? Because Bob turns 13 this summer and that’s a major milestone! That’s Huge and as his dad I’ve worked hard raising him and pouring into him and I can’t wait to have fun, and do more of that this weekend.
Here’s the thing. It will be just Bobby and I. I don’t have a ton of money, so we’ll check out the ocean. We’ll talk. We’ll play catch on the beach. And, like he’s done hundreds of times, he will sit and listen to his dad speak from stage.
In a perfect world, I would have the money to rent a convertible, but honestly, the cheapie compact car will be just fine!
So, we are going to have a BLAST! We’re going to talk. We’re going to experience a cool trip together. We’re going to pray. We’re going to hang out. We’re going to be together!
I can’t wait! My Bob turns 13 this summer and I couldn’t be proud of him. He’s a young man who loves Jesus. Who has great empathy for others. He’s compassionate. He’s a deep thinker. He’s profound. He’s funny! He has a great smile! And..he’s just awesome!
Here are a few other ways I would describe…
I am just so thankful that my church would believe in me enough to give me the opportunity to be here and to do some amazing learning!
I’ve been too a million conferences in my 20 years of serving-working for churches and I’ve just never experienced anything like how Newspring does things.
They are just over the top. And, I don’t mean with nice programs and all that stuff and fluff. Although, they do take really good care of us!
They are over the top with relationships. The Newspring Network team literally bends over backward to care for people and to set up the local church for success. It’s truly amazing! They just keep giving away so many priceless ministry tools.
My church, Thrive, has benefited from them in a ridiculous amount of ways! Our kids ministry uses free curriculum, I’ve learned a ton through the coaching and they helped us again recently with a compassion based project we are doing in our community.
From a leadership point of view, this trip has been priceless. It’s honestly hard for me to travel now a days. I loved to travel in my 20’s and early 30’s and now…I just want to stay home. I don’t like to miss nights with my kids and my wife. So, it takes a lot to get me to leave.
This leadership Intensive was well worth the trip to Anderson, South Carolina.
1. To learn from Perry Noble is just priceless. Honestly, there was a season when I wasn’t the biggest Perry Noble fan. Then, about 3-4 years ago, I was at a pretty low place and I heard a Perry sermon and his authenticity and realness were just off the charts and helped me a ton. Since then, I pretty listen to everything he puts out. His messages, leadership podcast and books have been a huge blessing to my heart and leadership.
I even encourage my church to listen to him whenever they get the chance!
2. To visit Newspring is inspiring. I’ve only been here once before, but my goodness, they go way out of their way to make you wanted! I love their campus and I always walk away with a million ideas.
3. To meet new leaders. I’m sitting at a table with a great Newspring staffer and some great pastors. We’ve had great conversations and have already connected and shared common experiences.
4. To feel normal. Being the lead pastor of a church is like nothing, NOTHING, I’ve experience in my 20 years of serving the local church. I’ve been a youth pastor, a middle school pastor, an assistant pastor, a traveling evangelist speaker guy, a small groups pastor and now a church planter and lead pastor. To listen to Perry teach on leadership and how he connects the dots to the leaders own health has just been priceless. There are so many emotions and things I experience that are brand new for me and to hear that I’m not crazy is a good thing!
5. To connect with leaders. Last night I sat in a Chick-Fil-A till it closed with a friend and fellow church pastor. I left the restaurant last night ready to charge the hill. We exchange emails and texts year round, but goodness, to sit and encourage and learn from each other was priceless!
6. To get filled up! We all know ministry is hard. Gosh, that’s the understatement of the year. This trip has been bucket filling for me. I love my church and I love our area and I love the vision God’s given me. This trip has just helped fan the flame…with like a bucket of GAS!
It’s time for the second full day to begin and I can’t wait!
I don’t know about you, but sometimes the lies that fill my head become INTENSE!
I know they’re not true. But, when they’re dropped inside my head, one after the other, gosh! INTENSE!
And, it doesn’t stop with the lies. All of a sudden, the comparison game starts. And then that is INTENSE!
Then, out of the blue, I wonder if someone is unhappy with a decision I made and then that becomes INTENSE!
And then, the lies get lonely, so they start to attack and then it’s a version of INTENSE that made the first round look like a pony show.
Honestly, this happens to me in waves and seasons. It doesn’t always happen. It’s not always super INTENSE.
But, there are seasons where it is crazy bad and just when I think it’s done, another wave of lies come over my mind!
I’m reminded about things like:
I don’t know what lies fill your head, but I would bet they’re just as debilitating.
So, instead of letting my mind dwell in the depth of those lies, here is a spiritual practice that brings a tremendous amount of peace to my mind and thoughts.
Here is a great passage of scripture that reminds me to stop focusing on the lies and to focus on the truth of scripture.
Romans 12:1-2 (message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Can imagine, as a Jesus Follower, if we actually did that and if we really took those words seriously!?! Just imagine the life change in us that would happen. Just imagine the change in our families lives and friends.
Today I get to go to an optometrist. Actually, my wife, Bekah and I get to go!
And, I am excited!!!!
Get this and I’m not proud of it! My wife hasn’t had new glasses since 2007 and I’m not much behind her. And, our Church, Thrive Church, came together and blessed us with a terrific Christmas gift of new glasses for the three of us!! Just so humbling!!
Everything will probably change for me as I get new glasses. Ok, not everything, but a lot will. My eyes and what I will be able to focus on is about to change dramatically. I squint a lot right now. I struggle to read things far away. Shoot, I struggle to read things close up! But, that’s all going to change.
And, that will make life better.
As a Jesus follower, the author of Hebrews 12:2 encouraged us to fix our eyes on Jesus to focus on Him. Focus on how He lived and to live our lives in the same way.
Here’s how the message version says it…
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
In 2015 I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on Jesus.
To focus on Him. To Live like Him. To be Him to as many I can. To be as focused on my life mission as He was.