I just want more of Jesus

I’ve been pretty stressed lately. Lot’s going on for our family. Lot’s going on at Church.

Life is full. Too full. 

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…

Jesus. 

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.

A special trip to CA with just my Bobby

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. IMG_3383

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!

Fix your eyes on Jesus

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.

New glasses

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. Unknown

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.

 

My biggest hurdle in 2015

2015 is looking pretty darn good.

Which, to be honest, 2014 will be tough to top! I had a great year in 2014. It wasn’t easy by any means and actually it was one of my toughest yet, but it was a great year.

The only negative I can muster up about 2014 is…my health. I mean, leading a church…especially a super young church is not easy. We dealt with a ton of not so fun moments, financial stress, growing pains and leadership challenges. But, even with all that, 2014 was great.

It was just my health.

My back surgery was so much harder than I ever thought and it took me a long time to bounce back. In fact, bending is still a constant struggle and the pain from that is still not fun. The simple act of getting out of bed or putting on socks, yeah, these are extremely painful tasks for me!

I miss running. Playing basketball. Swinging a baseball bat or a golf club. Wrestling with my boys.

So, for me, that pain and struggle has given me excuse after excuse to let my weight go. The discipline of eating well, while dealing with the pain is just something I flat out failed at in 2014.

That’s my biggest hurdle for 2015.

I just can’t continue to live the same way. But, changing, like everyone knows…well, that’s hard! Actually, hard doesn’t even cut it. Its a ridiculously hard battle and I am way down deep in the hole. I’ve tried to change for months and each time, well, I fell back into old habits.

Every time in the past, I have been able to work out. I have been able to run. This time, I just can’t.

So, here I go. This is my biggest hurdle to 2015 and one that I’m ready to take on.

I would love your prayers for strength and courage.

Proud to be married to such a Selfless woman

I am so Proud to be married to such a selfless woman.IMG_4073

We were talking last night, and in Thrive’s short existence, she’s never sat through the experience. She’s never heard and sang all the worship songs. Never heard one of my full messages. Never. Nota. None.

Why? Because we just haven’t had enough volunteers in Thrive Kidz for her to be able too leave that hallway. And, she does it willingly. She doesn’t have to do it, she chooses it. Just because she’s the Pastor’s wife doesn’t mean she has to serve kids, But, she does. And, she works tirelessly throughout the week to get things ready for Thrive Kidz.

Tracie and I have been married for almost 18 years and she’s always been selfless.

I don’t mean this in a mean way, but she’s so low maintenance its crazy sometimes. I can count on both hands the amount of times she’s had her hair done or her nails done. She never asks for jewelry, or shoes or clothes. I actually have to push her to buy stuff for herself. Again, not trying to be mean, but it’s annoying sometimes!!

She just always wants to make sure the kids and I have what we need. For 10 years, she has spent thousands and thousands of hours taking care of our PKU’ers diets and I just can’t remember ever hearing her complain about it.

One of the things I was most attracted to about her was her servants heart! And, that’s still the case.

I just don’t know how’s she done it over the years. Because I’ve served at Churches for the last 20 years, we have never gone to church together. (That’s change with Thrive because our whole family drives to church together at 630am). We’ve had a few pockets where we could sit with each other and actually drive to church together, but never really be a part together. If that makes sense. Again, I can literally count on both hands the amount of times we have sat together in church. Crazy!

Then, as babies have come along, she’s been on her own to do the whole ‘get the family ready for church’ thing.

There were years when our kids were really little and she was getting the special PKU diets all together, feeding and getting our other two kids ready and then bringing them all to church on her own. And, for 4 years, we had the privilege of being a part of a GREAT Church in Chicago…Willow Creek. It was a massive building and literally took 25 minutes to get all 4 kids in their classes and she did it alone all the time.

I talk with young couples now who have little kids and it’s funny to hear stories about how their lives come to a grinding halt when they have kids. It just makes me more proud of my wife.

She’s strong. She’s wise. She’s a hard worker. She’s in love with Jesus.

Again, not sure how I married so well!!

My family is Blessed! A box, a fixed car, a cool shirt, a borrowed van

I’m not even sure how to express what happened yesterday. IMG_3403

It’s something that literally took my breath away and really messed with me for quite awhile. Messed in a good way, that is.

First of all, it’s been a crazy week. Lots of extra planning, details and running around to add all the special elements to Thrive yesterday. A very full week! Very worth it, but lots of extra hours on top of an already full week.

Second of all, my car broke down. It’s a ’99 and so that’s kind of expected, but really bad timing.

Third of all, as much as its an exciting time of the year for my family and my church, it’s pretty stressful. I worry way to much. And, my anxiety really flared a ton this week. I worried about Christmas gifts for my family. I worried about if some Thrive families were going to be able to get gifts. I worried if people would show up to Thrive on Sunday. I worried about Thrive’s Christmas Offering and Year End giving. I worried if I could get our Thrive staff a Christmas gift.

I know it’s not healthy and it’s a sin, but gosh, it’s hard not to worry.

So, back to yesterday. During our first experience, I get a text from a Thriver that Tracie and I and Matt and Helena need to be at the green room between our experiences. I thought that was a little weird, but I went with it.

When I got there, they handed Tracie and I a box and we opened it and it was filled with little gift bags. In each bag was a different gift.

Things like…

  • New glasses for Tracie, Bekah and I!!! ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME??? Tracie hasn’t had new glasses since 2007 and me around 2008!
  • There was a card with money to buy PKU food for Zach and Madie. UNREAL!!!
  • There was a gift card to one of my favorite resturants, Cheesecake Factory
  • And more!!! It literally almost knocked me off my feet! I mean, how do you respond to that kind of generosity?!?

Then, a family grabbed me in the hall and handed me a gift! They were so excited to see me open it. Inside was a Hootie and the Blowfish baseball jersey!!! Are you kidding???? How awesome!!! I love Hootie and I love baseball!!!!

If that wasn’t enough, I had asked a Thriver if I could borrow their van to take my family to a speaking engagement in WI in Jan and they said yes. I can’t even begin to explain how much stress and worry that takes off my shoulders!! Are you kidding me?????

Then, I get a text last night from one of the most amazing men I know saying that my car was fixed! He’s a guy who has blessed my family before and it’s humbling to think he used his precious spare time to fix our car! Wow!

ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME??????

How do you deal with stuff like this?

I love to give. I love to serve. I love to help others. Honestly, its hard to be on the receiving end. I am just so thankful.

I am ridiculously blessed and just blown away by my Church.

Yet another reason…

I LOVE MY CHURCH!!!

What I love about…Thrive Church

I love…What_I_Love_Logo

  • Our passion for people who have given up on the church

I really love…

  • How welcoming and accepting we are

I love…

  • That we have fun as a church and we love to laugh

I really love…

  • How we clap, cheer, sing and hoot and holler during our Sunday experience

I love…

  • That Thrivers are so excited to invite friends and family to Church

I really love…

  • That our church is passionately in love with Jesus.

I really do love my church!

Every day I am more and more excited about what’s ahead and every day I thank God for giving me the privilege of being the Pastor of Thrive Church. It’s a privilege I do not take lightly and one that I love!

Oh, here is what I loved about today at Thrive

1. I love that a 4th and 5th grader were our hosts for the experience and lead from the front!

2. I love a high schooler read scripture from the front.

3. I love that a team of people were not at Thrive, but were at the traveling homeless shelter.

4. I love that Ethan and Bob (Thrive volunteers) took our trailer to the traveling homeless shelter, packed it up and took it to the next church.

5. I love that we had pictures with Santa at Church. And, we had an indoor snowball fight…wore ugly Christmas sweaters…and showed a super funny video at the very end of our experience.

6. I loved the band! Holy cow they rocked! They did such a great job of leading us in worship.

7. I love how many adults serve on Sunday’s in Thrive Kidz!!

8. I love how many new faces there were at Thrive today!

9. I loved the moment a Thriver pulled me aside and thanked me. Wow, so meaningful.

10. I loved, LOVED, that 7 people trusted in Jesus today at Thrive.

I LOVE MY CHURCH!