Love

We’re just heart broken and crushed

Yesterday afternoon we found out from our adoption agency, Children’s House International, that our sweet Winona Mae passed away over the weekend.

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We are absolutely heart broken and completely crushed.

For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men. ~Lamentations 3:31-33

From the moment we first saw her photo and read about her, we were just convinced that God had called us to be her parents.

I was in town working out when Tracie called me and I was just shocked. I immediately felt numb and just sat down and stared at the wall trying to wrap my mind around this.

We still don’t have all the details, but we do know a really bad virus was going around her orphanage. Winona was very small and frail and way under weight for her age. Plus, the orphanage doesn’t even have central heating and the air quality is very bad in that region of China. And, her little body just couldn’t fight off the virus.

It’s just heart breaking. We’ve been praying, our family has been praying and our community has been praying for this little girl. Her picture is up at our house, on our phones, her crib and stroller and have been bought and we were just getting ready to paint her room.

Honestly, in the midst of the sadness, I’m angry. We are jumping through hoop after hoop to bring her home and she has a home ready for her with a family and a community ready to love her, and she had to stay in an over crowded orphanage with barely any heat.

‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4 (esv)

Lot’s of tears have been shed. Lot’s more will be as we think about the memories we wanted to share with her.

Our calling to adopt hasn’t changed. There are so many kids who need forever homes. There are even more babies and toddlers with PKU. We will regroup. We will finish our home study and I know God will lead us to another baby who we can bring into our family.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4 (niv)

My Ridiculously Random Monday Thoughts

It’s Monday! And it’a Snow Day!

The kids are super excited. Tracie and I…not so much. HAH

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It’s Martin Luther King Day.

As I think about the impact Dr. King has made on my life and on mankind, I’m just blown away. As I read about his life and I listen to his speeches, my life has been changed for the better and he continually pushes me to not settle to live in a world that seems to strive on hate and darkness!

I love the quote in the picture above and I work hard to apply it to my life!

Isn’t the Local CHURCH AMAZING?!?

My goodness, I don’t know what your local church is like, but I LOVE MINE! Here’s what I love the most…the people! I love our love for Jesus! I love that we strive to be a place where everyone is welcomed and accepted and loved. I love that we’re passionate about kids and students. I love that we’re not churchy. I love my church.

I absolutely LOVE my Small Group!

We had our first small group night of the winter season of small groups for Thrive Church and it was just awesome! Our house is packed…like stuffed with people! Men, woman and children! We ate. We laughed. We caught up. We prayed. We talked about God. We sang Happy Birthday to an awesome 10 year old!

My small group fills my soul!

Our adoption process is heating up! 

We have raised about half of what we need and we’re in the midst of filling out mounds of paperwork for our home study and adoption. It’s very exciting! We have so much to do! We actually bought a crib last week! What the heck! I honestly thought we were done and God had other plans.

I can’t wait to get Winona home!

My oldest is turning 16 next month! 

Wowzers! I can’t hardly believe it! I love Bekah and I couldn’t be more proud of her and I can’t wait to celebrate her 16th birthday! She is just a joy and I’m proud of her leadership, how hard she works in school and how much she loves and serves her church.

We have a HUGE couple of months planned at Thrive Church!!!!!!!!

LIKE HUGE! We are taking some major steps of faith and we’re praying for God to move powerfully! Whew, as I think about it, I’m a big overwhelmed and that’s GOOD! We don’t ever want to be complacent as a Church and we want to continue to rely on God as we live out His vision for our Church!!!

I am praying for 5 people to join my monthly (financial) support team! 

My goal is to raise $1000 a month in outside support for my position at Thrive and I’m praying and searching and asking friends and family to consider joining my support team.

Even if you could give $25 or $50 a month, that would be huge! That will help us continue to help people find and follow Jesus!!!!

If you would like to give, head here.

I can’t wait for our Thrive staff meeting tomorrow! 

I love my staff team and the culture that we’ve built! We work hard, but we also play hard!

And tomorrow, we’re handing out our very first ‘Thrivie’s!! This is going to be fun!!

Can’t wait for the week ahead! 

 

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My personal ethics for Facebook in 2016

Here’s the deal…I freaking love Facebook! I love it! 

It’s true, I do. I think its awesome and I think it’s one of the best things ever!

But…and this is a BIG BUT…

If I let it, it can take over so much of my time. If I let it, I can let its negativity ruin my day. If I let it, I can let the jealousy of watching everyone’s best moments get the best of me. If I let it, it can be really destructive.

But…there’s the deal…

IF I LET IT

I don’t have to let it. I can search and recognize and scroll and reap the benefits of how freaking awesome it can be!

Now, I’ve almost given up on it in the past and I wrote about it here. But, I decided not too.

Why? Because ultimately I believe Facebook is a great tool for the Kingdom of God. 

Even though I think its great, I still have decided to set up some Facebook parameters and safety guards. These help protect me and my heart  from all the crap that can happen on Facebook and also protect others from the moments that I decide to say something hurtful or hateful or ridicoulous on Facebook.

My personal ethics for facebook

1. I will NEVER like or engage with anything that is even remotely negative.

If someone is bashing another person, an organization or whatever it is, I just don’t have time for that.

And, if I start reading and get the hint that the author is heading down a crazy negative trail, I immediately unfollow, not unfriend. It actually takes a lot for me to unfriend someone. It happens, but it takes awhile.

Here’s the deal. There is enough negativity in my life, so why would I want to add anymore? Now, I’m not talking about people who push back on a philosophy or a worldview or anything like that. I’m great with people who disagree with each other’s stances on issues and I routinely read authors who fall in different camps than mine. But, I’m done with the negativity. I’m not with the negative person, just their negativity on the Facebook airwaves.

Here’s my guide verse for this:

 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Phil 4:8

2. I will do everything in my power to represent Jesus as His ambassador.

Now, I’m not perfect. Actually, far from it! I don’t have all the answers and I screw up a lot. But, I will do everything possible to not make Jesus or His Church look bad on Facebook. I want to represent Him well and so that means I have some questions that I ask myself before I post something:

  • Will this post honor Jesus?
  • Will this post honor someone else?
  • Could what I say be easily taken out of context?
  • Is this post something I would be embarrassed of if I read it later?

Here’s my guide verse for this:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~2 Corinthians 5:20

3. I will not send or post subliminal messages.

Have you ever done this? I have! You’re trying to get a point across to someone and you hope they see your Facebook page and the post you put up just for them. Well, my days of doing that are over!

Here’s my guide verse for this:

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. ~Matthew 5:37

4. I will use Facebook to encourage others. 

Whether it’s through helpful articles, inspiring pictures, helpful thoughts or just good old fashion humor, I will use this incredible tool to bring encouragement, not hate! I try to send dozens of encouraging messages a week through private messages, posts on walls and my commenting and liking posts.

Here’s my guide verse for this:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. ~ 1 Thes 5:11

5. I will use Facebook to invite people to be a part of the Kingdom. 

I am unashamed to use Facebook to talk about Jesus, the CHURCH or my Church. I know some people disagree with that, but I think it’s a tremendous tool for the kingdom. Now, I will never become soap box preacher and finger pointing preacher on Facebook. That stuff is ridiculous and I think makes little 7 pound, 5 ounce baby Jesus cry! See, I probably just offended someone with that last sentence, but it was funny! Haha.

I will post scriptures, encouraging quotes, helpful articles and challenging Christ filled messages that hopefully will bring hope and joy and peace and truth to someone’s life.

Here’s my guide verse for this:

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  ~ Romans 1:16

6. I will NEVER bash another human being, organization or the CHURCH! 

This happens all the time on Facebook and it makes me nauseous. This just hurts the Kingdom of God and makes Satan smile! Even when someone bashes me, I’m just not going to lash back out on Facebook. Or my food took too long at a restaurant, or the cashier was rude at Target. Nope, just not going to BASH!

Here’s my guide verse for this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ~Eph 4:29

A few last thoughts…

Obviously, I’m not the Facebook captain of the world and these are just my thoughts and ethics. But, for me, I have found these helpful as I passionately do everything I can to follow Jesus with my whole heart and life.

And lastly, its easy for your identity to get boosted by Facebook. Likes, comments and friends. But, don’t let it. Our identity is rooted in the fact that we were created in the image of God and we’re His children!

Imagine if Jesus followers used Facebook to make a giant impact on the world for Jesus? Wow!

It’s my wife’s Birthday!! Happy Birthday TRACIE RAITZ!!!

Today is a very special day!! Why? Because it is Tracie’s Birthday!!!

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Happy Birthday!!!!!

What I love about my wife…

  • She loves Jesus!
  • She loves her family!
  • She puts everyone first.
  • She’s ridiculously selfless!
  • She’s unbelievably faithful.
  • She’s wise beyond her years.
  • She’s got the biggest heart ever!
  • She’s beautiful!
  • She never tells anyone how awesome she is!
  • She’s so dependable!
  • She is amazing with kids!
  • She is a FANTASTIC mom!!
  • She is a PKU genius!!
  • She’s a ROCK!
  • She can make any camp or hotel room feel like home!
  • She’s my partner. She’s my best friend. She’s my life!

A few things you didn’t know about Tracie…

  • She’s ridiculously courageous! When Zach was born with PKU, I fell a part! She did not! She never has! She just cares for our PKU’ers and has set them up for success.
  • She’s so STRONG! I have put her through so much crap and sometimes hell over the years! As I was trying to figure out my contentment issues and moved our family all over the place, she stayed strong and supported me!
  • She’s so GREAT with kids. It’s actually amazing to see with her babies and toddlers! God has given her a gift!
  • She’s one of the main reasons Thrive Church exists! Planting and starting a Church is HARD!! I was about to decide not too start Thrive! It just seemed like we would be inviting a lot of pain into our lives. Tracie sat me down and explained that this was God’s will and His calling on OUR lives and we were going to do this together!
  • She’s quiet, but she has a punch to her! Don’t mess with her, seriously!

To my wife…

  • I love you.
  • I don’t deserve you.
  • I’m amazed by you.
  • You’re an amazing mom.
  • You’re beautiful inside and out.
  • You’re my favorite person on the planet. Even more than Tom Brady! But, if he wanted to hang with us, that would be cool!
  • Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me a better man.
  • Happy Birthday!

 

 

My 2 word goal for 2016

Follow Jesus

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Yup, that’s it.

I want to passionately and whole-heartedly follow Jesus. 

Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:27-30).

I don’t want to be a fan. I want to be a follower.

A fan sits in the stands. A fan criticizes without being involved. A fan is great at hype.

I want to be a follower. 

A follower abandons their own ways for the ways of their master.

A follower puts aside their pride.

A follower helps others find the Savior.

A follower serves the needs of others.

A follower surrenders their finances to God.

A follower does life in circles not rows.

A follower changes to be more like who they follow.

So, for 2016, my goal is to follow Jesus. 

The Best moments of 2015 for the Raitz Family

The Raitz family had an amazing year in 2015! christmas card photo

There’s just no way around it. Yes, we had some bumps and experienced a descent amount of pain, but the joy we experienced…far outweighed the pain!

Here’s what I loved about 2015…

We traveled together.

  • We went to Camp Timber Lee twice for speaking engagements.
  • Bobby and I went to CA together. We hung out on the beach, we hung out in downtown Hollywood and then I spoke at a great ministry event.
  • We went to a Milwaukee Brewers game.
  • We went to Chick-Fil-A every chance we got.
  • We went to a Tigers game.
  • Tracie and I went to Vegas.
  • We spent a week in Grand Rapids as I taught at a summer camp.
  • Bekah and I went to Ecuador on a Compassion and Stadia vision trip.
  • Tracie and I went to Tampa with the Thrive staff for a conference.

We laughed together.

  • Yes, it’s not all roses and laughter. But, we have some amazing times together as a family!
  • We love watching movies together. We love watching ‘The Office’ together.
  • And yes, we’re big Pitch Perfect fans!

We helped build a Church together. 

  • For many families, their life equation goes like this:IMG_2972

Work/Family Stuff/Kids Sports/Camping/Hunting and then God/Church

Now, that’s just what I’ve experienced from over 20 years of serving at Churches and, it’s been that way for some seasons in our families lives.

We made a huge decision to reverse the equation when we planted Thrive…

God/Church and then Work/Family Stuff/Kids Sports/etc

It’s amazing what happens in your life and your families lives when you put God and the Church first. So, we have had a blast building and helping grow Thrive Church.

  • I love that our kids look forward to what’s next at Thrive!
  • I love that our kids all serve at their Church.
  • I love that our family talks about our Church and talks about how we can improve it.
  • I love that our family is so invested into our Church.

We bought a home.

  • Yeah, this was stinking awesome! In 18 years of marriage, we have always rented and we were finally able to buy our dream home in 2016!
  • The story behind this is just absolutely nuts and is one of those ‘ONLY GOD’ moments that you read about in books!
  • But, the short story is…God provided a down payment and we were able to use that to buy our home!
  • Honestly, I’m still shocked!

What does 2016 have in store?

  • We’re adopting Winona Mae from China! We can’t wait! At some point, we’re praying sooner than later, Tracie and I will need to spend 2 weeks in China to bring home Winona!
  • Bekah turns 16 on Feb. 22!
  • We’re hoping to take a family vacation to Disney World.
  • We’re praying somehow we’ll be able to buy a bigger vehicle once Winona comes.
  • I’m speaking a Camp Timber Lee again and in Orlando this summer.
  • Depending on when Winona comes, we’re going to travel together to INDY for the National PKU conference.
  • Next school year, we will have an 11th, 9th, 7th and 3rd grader!!

My family is truly blessed. I love my family. They’re the best part of my life.

My hope is to increase the number of date nights I take with my wife and each kid separately. My hope is to coach the boys baseball team again. My hope is to start taking Bekah to visit some colleges. My hope is to take Tracie away on a short 19th anniversary trip in May.

2015 was amazing. I can’t wait for what 2016 has in store for our family! 

I love the wisdom of my 15 year old daughter

It’s no secret that I’m the President and Co-Founder of the Rebekah Raitz fan club. IMG_0593

From the moment she was placed in my arms, she’s had my heart. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her and there’s nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice for her to live out her dreams.

We have traveled together. We have flown all over the country together. We have walked the streets of a village in Ecuador together. She has sat in the front row of literally hundreds of my speaking gigs. She has hung out in countless green rooms as I spoke from stages. We have had thousands of conversations. We have talked about God, and sports and boys, and friends and pinterest and One Direction and Jesus and Church.

She’s just beautiful inside and out.

Her heart is just solid gold.

She is a leader and I love that! She has big opinions and she’s not afraid to share them. Countless adults have told me they’re amazed at how well she talks and carries on conversations with adults.

She’s a communicator and isn’t afraid to get in front of a group of people and share what’s on her heart.

AND, I love her Wisdom! 

We were hanging out yesterday and we talked about a million different things.

  1. We talked about her future and what she wants to do and what God is calling her to do.
  2. We talked about College and her plans for that. We talked about getting a jump start on applying for scholarships. We talked about her taking as many general ed classes as she can before she graduates high school.
  3. We talked about boys and the right kind to be friends with and to be interested in. I have been begging her since she was little to fall for boys who have fallen in love with Jesus.
  4. We talked about high school and some of the silly drama and how some kids are so wrapped up in things that don’t matter.

And, we talked about Church. She’s actually pretty passionate about Church and her Church.

She serves every Sunday and without a fight. We leave the house together as a family at 630am and Bekah is typically in charge of setting up a room and then running it for Thrive Kidz.

Now, I’ve mentioned to her a few times that I think she would be an amazing Pastor! She’s pretty hesitant about that and that’s great. I will support her in whatever area she invests her life. But, her leadership would be amazing in any Church.

But, it’s funny the wisdom that started flowing when she started to talk about Church. Here are a few Rebekah points of Wisdom…

ONE…She asked me why more Adults don’t serve at Church. I said, well, people are busy and some aren’t in the right season of life. She just couldn’t understand all the excuses people have about not serving at Church.

  • She says…How do people think the Church will operate if nobody steps up and serves? How do people think they will experience God?
  • Yeah, great point!

TWO…She overheard me telling Tracie that someone left Thrive because they thought it was wrong we teach about money and give people a chance to give.

SIDE BAR: As a Pastor, as a Dad and having a ministry family…we work very hard to protect our kids from the junk and pain and gossip that sometimes happens.

  • Back to Bekah. She thought about it for a minute and she said…’Outside of the fact that Jesus talked about money almost more than anything else, how do those people think the Church will operate if nobody gives? And, why wouldn’t you want to give, do they see all the amazing life change happening’?
  • Yeah, great point!

THREE…She asked me why it seems so many adults live life like high school students. Surrounded in the drama they either make up or invite themselves into. I said, I don’t know.

  • She then says…’Well, its time for them to grow up’.
  • Yeah, great point!

Obviously I’m proud of my daughter. I love her.

Our goal from day one as parents was to point her to Jesus, to love her so much that it would be hard to ever wonder if she was lovable and to prepare her to be a self-sufficient human being!

I have seen so many kids over the years that aren’t ready to be self-sufficient.

Well, I can proudly say, we could probably kick out Bekah now and she would do just fine! Hah.

I know God has amazing plans for this young woman and I believe He is going to use her to shake up the Kingdom!