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The sweetest text from my dad about Winona

Last week I received literally hundreds of texts, emails, cards, messages and calls from all the over the world about the news that Winona (the baby we were working towards adopting) had passed away in China.

They all meant the world! Every single one. 

Here’s one that I’ll cherish forever and its from my dad

What I’m really sorry for is Winona won’t get the chance to experience the love that you and Tracie would have given her here on this earth. Right now she is the presence of perfect love. Right now Winona Raitz is playing with Winona Riker (Tracie’s grandma). Love you.

My dad is my hero. He’s my spiritual hero. He’s a man of great faith. He’s a man in love with Jesus. He’s a man in love with family. And, he seemingly always knows what to say.

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)

Are you ready to experience God?

I hear it more often than I could possibly explain.

‘I just don’t know if God is real’ or ‘I have never experienced God before’

Well, today is your day to Experience God!

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Seriously, God is wanting to connect with you. God is wanting to remind you of His unconditional love for you. God is wanting to move in your life.

So, the question is…

Are you ready to take a step or two towards God? 

Are you ready to stop running from God? 

Are you ready to Experience HIM? 

Than, take a major step and head to Thrive Church this morning!

We meet at Celebration Cinema at either 9 or 1015am. I suggest getting there at least 15-20 minutes early. We have coffee for you. We have donuts for you. We have an amazing area for you kids called Thrive Kidz.

So, head to Thrive. Bring a friend! We’ll see you soon!

 

Thrive Church…A Rewind Video of 2015 and a Major Announcement!

 

Yesterday was an amazing Sunday at Thrive! Actually, one of my favorites EVER!

Here’s why…

ONE…We celebrated Baptisms!! It just doesn’t get any better than that! What an honor and a privilege to baptize amazing people going public in their faith! What a day!

TWO…I made a major announcement about Easter at Thrive. It’s a HUGE step of faith, but one that is so EXCITING! It will position us to increase our REACH and IMPACT in Central MI and it’s pretty darn exciting!

We are going to have Easter at Thrive on the campus of CMU!

The crazy reality is this…Easter has grown exponentially the last few years at Thrive and by moving it to CMU, we will be able to reach more people with the Gospel. If we stayed in our current location, we couldn’t reach many more people than normally come on a Sunday.

THREE…And, we showed our Rewind video from 2015! 2015 was a GREAT year for Thrive Church and God did some amazing things!! It was so awesome to celebrate together as a Church!

 

 

 

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!