My next steps…

Pretty often I get asked “so, what’s happening with Jason”? So, I thought I would pull my thoughts together and answer that question in a blog post.

2012 has been a crazy year. There have been extreme highs and extreme lows. Been a pretty tough year so far. What I know and what I’m sure of is that God is faithful and He’s been showing himself to me in incredible ways lately!

But, this year is another transition year for the Raitz family and that’s hard. We’re moving. This will be our fourth move in 4 years, the kids are moving to a new school and I am working a few different jobs. But, we’re excited about the opportunities and the doors that have been opened in front of us. So, here is a look at what’s happening.

1. Live Now Leadership. I started a non-profit in April called Live Now Leadership. Our dream, our vision, our hope, our desire is to partner with schools and help them bring an end to bullying. But that’s not all. We teach social emotional leadership lessons and we teach students and parents how to build strong and healthy relationships. I am working to build relationships with schools in Central MI, Detroit and Chicago. My hope is to not just be a speaker who comes in and then leaves. My hope is to build a partnership with the schools and be a help to the staff, the students, the parents and the community.

It’s been terribly exciting so far. God is opening doors in schools and I’ve been able to build partnerships with school administrators. I’m praying for monthly donors to help sustain us financially, especially over the summer.

We have dreams of starting to host parenting seminars this fall and to host a student leadership conference next summer! Also, our plan and dream is start an internship program for college students as well.

2. Thrive. I have decided to partner with Youth for Christ in Alma, MI and my friend, Wes Wickes, to start a church on Wednesday nights called Thrive. This Church, this community is for the 18-whatever age who are far from God, who are dechurched or for those who are close to God but are looking for a new and fresh work of God in their lives.

Our primary target will be the alumni of Youth for Christ who have graduated from the YFC program and for whatever reason have not been able to get plugged into a local church. But, even though our target is starting with the alumni, our hearts are to turn no one away.

I’ve been really impressed with how hard and how much YFC works with local churches to get their students plugged into a local body of believers. But, they’ve found over the past couple of years, for whatever reasons, that students aren’t finding a community they resonate with. So, Wes, his team and his board have been praying about a solution to this and feel a burden for these students and their families. When I say students, some of them are just graduated, but the age group is really 18-40. So, it’s a big age group.

For me this is terribly exciting. When I left my last position, it wasn’t the timing I was thinking and I desperately miss teaching. So, I can’t wait to be teaching again!

There will be a lot more info coming on Thrive. Keep an eye out!

3. Speaking. I am speaking at a few camps and churches this summer and I’m beginning to get booked for the fall and winter. I’m praying that God will continue to open up doors for me to speak in Churches and at conferences and retreats. I absolutely love teaching God’s word and I’ve been doing it for the last 12 years and I love it. I have never been able to have full freedom to say yes to speaking requests like I do now. I’ve always worked at Churches and so I’ve had a limited amount of weekends available to teach. I’m excited to partner with Churches and events!

4. Writing. I’ve been writing a book for students called ‘Live a Great Story, Now’. It’s been an exciting and really challenging journey. I’m hoping to have it complete by mid summer!

5. MBA. Starting June 24th I am going to continue my MBA. I left the program I was working on through Lake Forest Graduate School of Management when we decided to move from IL to MI. I’m excited to jump back in and work towards earning my MBA.

Well, I think that about does it. Except loving my wife and kids, coaching little league and working towards my goal of losing 75 pounds by September 22, 2012!


Finding Beauty in the Rough Patches

Yesterday was a rough day for me. Even in the midst of some crazy exciting things going on, there were a few rough patches. I am definitely not immune to them and over the years I’ve come to realize that they can help produce great growth and learning in my life. But, its learning that comes the hard.

Here’s the deal with rough patches…we all have them. And, honestly, we all need them. Rough patches are good.

Let me say that again! Rough patches are good! Let that sink in! You might not agree with that. I didn’t for a long time. I thought if I was working my personal development plan and doing the best I could, all would be fine. Well, that’s just not the case. Bad stuff happens. Mistakes are made. Bad decisions are made. So many things will cause rough patches. But, the sooner we realize that we can find beauty in the rough patches, the quicker we will become stronger from those experiences.

As much as we don’t want to admit it, life just wouldn’t be right without them.

Recently I have talked to many people going through rough patches…

…Worries about a job

…Job loss

…Financial problems

…Struggling to love their parents

…Giant bumps with a marriage

…Issues with anger

And the list goes on. I’m honored that people trust me and share these parts of their stories with me, it means the world. I try very hard to live in a way that shares the rough patches and the story behind the story with people. I’m tired of the thinking that says…”I’ve got to put on a good front” or “I can’t let people know what’s really going on”.

That thinking has to change! It’s time to be real, authentic and transparent with people!

Rough patches come. They won’t last forever. They may hurt, they may even suck, but with God’s help and our friends…we can get through them.

That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday. I turned to God and I turned to a few close friends. One friend was sitting traveling in airports, but he still took the time talk. Isn’t that incredible. That’s how it should be! We should be there for our friends.

When you get through the rough patches, it’s amazing! And, I know for me, I can now find the beauty in them.

Losing a close friend pt. 1

*Just a warning up front that this post is a bit raw and transparent. It chronicles my journey of losing a close friend (not to death, but our relationship) and I’m still in the process of working through the pain and the new reality of life that this situation presents.

I’ve recently lost a close friend. It’s actually been a really sad time to process the pain of losing a close relationship w/them.

The pain of losing a close friend is excruciating. It is by far some of the worst and deepest pain I have ever experienced in my life. I wish things were different. I wish different decisions were made. I wish I didn’t have to experience the sense of loss and grief that has plagued my mind and heart these past 3-4 months. I wish, I wish, I wish.

But, unfortunately, sometimes the planet we live on is not a “I wish” kind of place. If it was, things would be pretty easy. Actually, they would be amazingly easy. Wouldn’t they? Now, there’s nothing wrong with wishing. There’s nothing, ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with being positive and believing things will work out in the end. I mean, that’s how I live my life.

Even if there’s a drop of water in the glass, I’m typically the positive type who looks at it and says…“Wow, we have some water, that’s great”!

But, the reality is, even in my positivity and my belief in people and that in spite of the pain that relationships may cause, we have to keep pursing relationships. We have to keep opening up to each other. We have to keep pursuing community. That’s the way we were designed and created. We weren’t made to live alone.

Sometimes, our relationships, are going to take a hit. It’s human nature. We say things we don’t want to say. We offend. We think we’re doing the right thing by confronting our friend, but we got our facts wrong and we just drove a wedge in our relationship. Or, we get jealous. Isn’t that common? And in our jealousy, we do and say things that we don’t mean or want to say, but down deep we think they will make us feel better and they do for a half of a second and then we realize…we just drove another wedge into our friendship.

Friendships are amazing. Friendships can bring life. But, they can also bring pain and hurt.

The day it began

I noticed things were different one day with one of my relationships/friendships. And, I noticed because this friend is in my core. Here’s what I mean about my core…

My core relationships are those closet to me. These are the people I really trust and I really know, inside and out. They really know my heart and I know their heart. Trust has been developed over time and we have spent a lot of time together. They know my baggage, they know I’m a mess, and I know their baggage and I know their a mess.

They know my Story behind the Story and I know their Story behind the Story. (and sometimes the stories behind those stories)

Some of these people I don’t even see regularly but because we have so many shared experiences, every time we talk it’s like we’re just picking back up from where we left off. Some of these people are on the other side of the country and some are in my backyard. The point is…these are the people closest to me.

I started to discern a difference in this friendship.

You start to notice little things.

…your calls go to voicemail, emails aren’t returned, requests to spend time together are turned down, moments when you need a friend to talk too are responded with quickness. Then their presence disappears. Both physically and then when their with you, their really not with you (can you relate to that?)

Then you start to notice the big things.

They don’t ask your advice any longer. They stop telling you the little things. Conversations stay on the surface. Distance creeps in. And then more distance. There is resistance to talking about anything of depth.

And then one day you realize, wow, I really don’t know this person like I once did.

By the time I started to figure out what was going on it was a bit too late and in my pain and hurt I did and said some things that I am absolutely ashamed of and wish in a heartbeat I cold take back.

Wow, there is nothing like doing the exact opposite of what you want to do.

Then, because of your actions you hurt the relationship. A wedge is placed squarely in the center and mis-trust creeps in and before you know it, both sides have moved on.

In tomorrow’s post, I’m going to write about exactly what I did to help drive my friend away. It’s painful and I’m still ashamed. But, I know and believe in forgiveness and reconciliation and I know when you seek peace and forgiveness, God honors that.

But, I wonder if you can relate to this post?

Have you lost a close friend?

Have you ever hurt someone to the point where you wondered if they would forgive you?

Have you ever experienced a friend who just gave up on your relationship?

I would love to hear about it.

The Story behind the Story

There is always something that goes on behind the scenes. I think we can all agree on that.

This is true in the movies, in TV shows, and in life. And, especially in the movies, we love it. We love to see the plot twists. We love for our beloved characters to be developed and for them to go through something we never saw coming.

In life though, we aren’t always as big of a fan in the story behind the story.

We aren’t all that enthralled with the story behind the story because often it enlightens our mind and our heart to the fact that not all is as good as it seems from the outside looking in. This is especially true in leadership. A leader is someone who influences others. Now, that influence can be both positive or it can be negative. When a leader is good at what they do, when they’re sincere, when people follow them and believe in their cause…we love to follow their story. And, often times we may wonder and think, “I wonder what they are really like”? So often, we really don’t ever get the chance to know the leaders we follow. I mean, we know them from afar and know some of their thoughts from Facebook and twitter, but rarely do we get a chance to sit with them and actually hear their heart.

Because I love relationships and I love to hear people’s stories, that’s why I’m always curious with their Story behind the Story.

You see, it’s really easy to present our Story to the world. It’s easy because we can craft it anyway we want.

But, it’s not so easy to give our world the real story behind our story. Our story behind the story is real offering of what is going on in our heart. And, that’s scary to share. Honestly, that’s hard to deal with on our own.

I have met so many people who have been so burned emotionally and mentally because they took the plunge to share their story behind the story with someone. Everyone had moments in elementary school when we told our friend a secret, only to find out they told someone else or the rest of the class. And the amazing thing is…we can still remember when that happened! The reality is…it still happens to adults.

We take the plunge and decided to be transparent and authentic with someone, only to find out that they share our story behind the story with someone else. When that happens, often, we feel betrayed and then we start to put the walls back up. We put the walls up to protect our heart and emotions from the pain of getting hurt and we begin to protect our story behind the story.

There’s always a story behind the story. So often as a leader, people have approached me and said…”Ok, what’s really gone on” or “What’s the real story”? People ask that when they begin to sniff out the reality that there is a story that doesn’t seem to make sense and they want to real details. They want the truth and they want to know what’s really going on.

Have you met someone that just doesn’t give you much of their story? You may work with them and one day you find out that their family is going through a tough time and when you act surprised, it doesn’t even register with them that they could have told you much sooner. Or, you build a relationship with someone and it’s going well and you start to notice that they never seem to want to go deeper. Deeper is a good thing for relationships. Deeper is a sign of trust and a seal that the bond of this friendship is going to last. It’s hard when only one person in the relationship will tread to those waters.

So, what’s your Story behind the Story?

What’s holding you back from sharing it with someone you’ve been building a relationship with?


When relationships become painful…

When relationships work…the plus sides are beyond imagination.

A positive, loving friendship can fill voids. It can heal wounds. It can cover loneliness and pain. They can bring laughter. Smiles. Love. Kindness. Patience. Needs can be met.

But, when relationships don’t work or they start to go down a painful path…look out…great pain could be ahead. A broken heart may follow if you’re not careful. 

Everyone has experienced the pain that relationships can bring.

Hurtful words are said out of pain or jealousy and they can rip a part a relationship.

Less time is spent together.

The phone calls diminish.

Text messages evaporate.

Other friends or family start asking what’s going on.

Anxiety can fill your mind and heart and once that starts, look out, it’s all down hill from there.

I spend a lot of time with people and I have heard thousands of relationship stories over the years. I love relationships and I love to help people succeed in their relationships and so here are a few thoughts about the pain that can come from relationships.

When relationships become painful…

1. Turn to God. It’s amazing how quick we try to deal with it on our own. Be humble and pour yourself out to God. Cry to Him. Tell him about the pain. The loneliness and the hurt. He’s ready to hear it and He wants to hear your voice.

2. Turn to the truth. Sometimes pain enters a relationship for the wrong reasons. If you caused it, then own up to it. If you didn’t, don’t listen to the lies that may be swirling in your head. Remind yourself of the truth.

3. Turn to the other person. Reconciliation is an amazing gift from God and can bring about great healing. Be open to it. Approach them humbly. Not over text, or Facebook or email. But, get face to face. Give each other time to talk. Listen. Don’t interrupt. Have empathy. Let your time be covered in prayer and grace.

4. Turn to forgiveness. As much as you can, forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean forgetting, but it can bring great healing.

5. Turn to the future. I’m someone who continually needs to remind myself not to live in the past. Stop thinking through what you should have done. Just do the right thing in the future.

Pain that’s caused from relationships, especially from family or close friends can tear a part your heart. The anxiety of it can disrupt your life.

Do any and everything you can to pursue peace and healing.



First Helping or Left Overs?

Obviously I write a lot about relationships. It’s a HUGE passion of mine. And, I really think it should be a passion for everyone.

We were made to be in relationship with God and each other. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to take an interest on how they can improve their relationships.

Here’s my quick thought for the day on relationships…

Am I a first helping kind of friend or a Left Overs kind of friend?

What does that mean? It means that we should be constantly asking ourselves…do I give my family and friends and really anyone I come into contact with my absolute best or do I give them my left overs?

It’s an obvious illustration. We all know when we’re giving people the kind of ‘first helping’ relationship they deserve. And, we all know when we give our family or friends or a stranger our ‘left overs’.

I think we should try to give them our…

time:  nothing means more than giving someone your time

ear: nothing means more than truly listening to someone

love: nothing means more than really loving someone

patience: nothing means more than being patient with someone

full attention:  nothing means more than giving someone your full attention

care:  nothing means more than truly caring for them

Do you give your first helping or your left overs?


Don’t forget to hug and say good-bye!

One of my relationship 101’s is this…

My goal is to try (doesn’t always happen) to hug people and say good-bye when they leave or I leave.

I know, pretty simple. But…I believe it’s HUGE!

Now, I’m not saying we hug everybody and say good-bye to everybody we come in contact with. But, I am saying that a powerful way to honor those closest to us is to say good-bye and give them a hug.

I learned this lesson the hard way. On December 25, 1995 I left a Christmas party at my uncles and quickly said good-bye to family. I always hugged my Grandma Raitz. I didn’t hug her that day. I left for a trip to MN and a week later she was killed in a car accident on Jan. 2, 1996.

Yesterday I was at the funeral for my wife’s grandmother. It was an amazing celebration of a godly woman. One thing I will always remember about her is that she always hugged people when they left. She too lost a family member, her brother, in a car accident and decided to always hug people.

I know not everyone likes hugs. But, I try to take a few minutes when I leave and let family and friends know how much they mean to me by just saying good-bye and giving them a hug.