Adoption update

Friends,

It’s been far too long since we’ve said anything (at least online) about the progress of our adoption.  We have much to be thankful for.  Let me briefly update you so you can continue to rejoice with us and pray with us:

1.  Fundraising went incredibly well.  We are thrilled to announce that we met and surpassed our fundraising goal for this adoption.  Truthfully, this was one of the things I was the most worried about but it was probably the easiest part of this whole process!  This is a testimony to all the wonderful friends we have and God’s faithfulness.  We’ve been blown away by all who have shown their support – friends, family, acquaintances, people we haven’t spoken to since high school…it’s been amazing.  We are so blessed.

2.  We sent off our giant packet of information called a dossier.  This is basically our application to the country.  This means that we are basically done with paperwork and are just waiting for a referral.  We don’t yet know the child we will adopt, but we hope that in the next few months we’ll get a referral, and then we’ll hopefully travel a few months after that.  So it’s completely out of our hands!

3.  Please pray for the country we’re adopting from (I’m not allowed to say online) because they are currently putting exit letters on pause while they do some investigating.  This means that no orphans are being allowed out of the country.  We are told it could last up to a year, but there’s already been positive progress and we’re hopeful things will get straightened out very soon.  Even though it’s frustrating, we believe that hiccups like this cause governments and officials to refine the process, making it better for everyone involved, especially the children without families!  So please be in prayer.

Thanks so much for all the support so many of you have given.  We are truly thankful, and can’t wait for the day that we get to hold our little African girl in our arms.  It will be several months yet, but we’re trusting God to make our paths straight.

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Ready…set…ADOPT!

Learn to do good.  Seek justice.  Help the oppressed.  Defend the cause of orphans.  Fight for the rights of widows.  Isaiah 1:17

Dear friends and family,

We have some exciting news: we are going to welcome our second child into our home!  But the child won’t look very much like us.  In fact, they’ll be African.  That’s right, we’re adopting! 

The adoption agency we’re working with has understandably requested that we don’t share very many specifics online (specific country, gender, and age) but we can say that our child will come from a place in Africa where orphans face some of the worst imaginable circumstances.  Feel free to call us or talk to us and we’ll share any other specifics you may want to know.  We’re still in the beginning stages – we don’t yet know what child we’ll be adopting.  But we’re in the thick of the process, feverishly completing paperwork, getting referrals, getting stuff notarized, completing medical exams, and moving forward with our home study.

Some of you may be wondering why we are doing this.  We’ve had people ask us, “Don’t you want to have more biological children first?”  “Isn’t that something you should do a little later in life?”  These are great questions.  However, for a variety of reasons, we feel urgency about this.  Natalie and I strongly believe that we are supposed to take our countless resources – financial, relational, emotional, and more – and leverage them for the sake of an orphan in this world.  I (Phil) have gone to Africa several times in the past few years.  As crucial as our work in Zambia has been, I don’t want to just go see orphans anymore.  It’s time to make one less orphan in the world. 

James 1:27 says that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”  Things haven’t changed much.  Orphans (and widows) still face dire situations.  The way we have chosen to live out this verse is by giving a future to an orphan who doesn’t currently have one, and we’re inviting you to join us.

The country we’re adopting from is one of the worst environments imaginable for its five million orphans.  It has been home to one of the bloodiest wars on the planet.  The violence still continues in some places in the country where children are often kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers or sold into slavery.  Millions die of HIV/AIDS, malaria, starvation, and a host of other causes.  As you can imagine, the future for any orphan there is bleak at best.

So we’re asking if you’ll help us bring an orphan home.  Adoption, as opposed to biological birth, gives a tremendous opportunity for everyone to be a part of the miracle.  Every time you see this child, you will know that you were a part of the process that gave him or her a family – you were the miracle.  We hope you don’t miss the chance!

Here’s how you can be involved:

1.  Pray!  International adoption is risky.  There are a number of things that could go wrong.  We’re trusting God to make our paths straight. But we need you to pray for our future child and us and everyone involved in this process.

2.  Donate!  This adoption will likely cost $40,000.  Yes, you read that right.  Forty thousand George Washingtons.  Our goal is to raise at least $25,000.  Keep in mind: this isn’t a program or a charity we’re asking you to support.  It’s a child – a child you will likely meet someday.  And if you give, you’ll have had a significant part in bringing her home.

Donating is easy AND tax deductible!  We have a profile set up at adopttogether.org/wiseman.  Simply go there to donate via credit card or paypal.  Or, you can mail a check with our name on the envelope and memo line to AdoptTogether, 251 W. Central Ave #278, Springboro, OH 45066.  You can also go online to our profile to track our fundraising progress with us.

Because time is of the essence, we’d love for all donations to have been made by May 1st.  Our hope is to have our baby home about a year after the mailing of this letter.  It will be a long, difficult journey, and we covet your support in any and all ways.

There are 143 million orphans in this world.  Together, we can make it 143 million minus one.

Blessings,

Phil, Natalie, and Bella Wiseman

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Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

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This picture haunts me.

This little Zambian girl doesn’t look to be much older than my own daughter.

But by an accident of latitude and longitude, my daughter will probably not grow up having to dodge malaria, traffickers, and hunger.

I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of this picture from my mind.

IMG_9116

Oh God, let this day come quickly:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
  They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:6-9)

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Zambia 2012

Though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

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Spiritual Disciplines for the Worship leader

Worship leaders often make their living on stage in front of hundreds of people.  In my opinion, this may very well be a disadvantage in our spiritual formation.  Our faith is one with a cross in the middle of it – a symbol of torture and shame.  We worship a King who “represented a new moral option” (John Howard Yoder!) in his life and teachings.  This moral option was one of selfless love.  Needless to say, it doesn’t leave a ton of room for the elevation of oneself.

Now, to be clear, when I say that this profession may present a disadvantage, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily sin.  Far from it.  I believe worship leading is a wonderful calling.  But it’s dangerous, like fire.  Treat it carefully.  Don’t get too close, too comfortable, too at home. Let the front platform always remain a place of surrender.  Be competent, but don’t be cavalier.  Lead well, but don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.  Let the spotlight always maintain a bit of foreignness to we who serve the One who “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil 2:6).

So I have been thinking about spiritual disciplines for the worship leader.  What spiritual exercises can counter some of the potential dangers of living a life “up front?”

1.  I believe the discipline of secrecy has to be included near the top.  Let there be things only God knows.  “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt 6:3).  Fast and don’t tell people.  Pray and don’t mention it.  Give but don’t take credit.  Have soul secrets, just you and your God.  When your flesh inevitably screams for the attention it so desperately wants, tell it to shut up.  Look for every opportunity to have secrets with God.  Who knows…maybe you’ll have inside jokes with each other.  Sounds fun!

2.  Worship leaders should regularly confess.  Confession can be like a soul detox.  But don’t just confess to anyone.  Find a mentor, a spiritual guide, an accountability partner, whatever you want to call it.  I have a mentor, Norman, who at the end of our meetings says, “now tell me something you don’t want to tell me.”  Gulp!  It’s not always fun, but it’s necessary.  At my church we want people to “worship free of inhibition.”  I can’t authentically lead people in that unless I have named my sin and confessed it to God and another human.  For me, there comes a level of honesty, authenticity, transparency, and rawness when someone is able to claim their junk and take responsibility.  Plus, it’s only then when we can experience the real fruit of confession – grace.  And there is no better inspiration for worship leading than that.

3.  This may seem obvious, but worship leaders should worship.  My senior pastor Phill Tague shared in his sermon last week (that was coincidentally about worship!) a quote that essentially said that trying to worship corporately without having times of intimate, private worship is like having the dry heaves.  You’re trying to bring something up that isn’t there.  Get alone, get your guitar, and let it all out for your God and King.

4.  Last but not least, worship leaders should practice justice.  This goes back to a post I recently wrote about what God really expects out of his people.  Let me give you a hint: it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with how loud you sing.  It’s about a life led in obedience to him, and it just so happens that God is a God who cares about the oppressed in this world.  True worship is inextricably linked to justice and righteousness.  Worship definitely has a horizontal dimension to it.  In the spirit of solidarity, I’ll just admit that this is the area at which I am feeling the most convicted right now in my own life.

One of the most telling moments in the Bible is when Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Son of God reaches for a towel and a basin, kneels before his followers, and washes their stinky, smelly feet.  In my opinion, that’s one of the best examples of worship leading we find in the Bible.  And guess what?  No guitar necessary.

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A Worship Leader’s letter to his congregation

Dear church family,

Most of you know that I lead the singing at Church.  Often, we refer to this act as “worship.”  It’s sort of an unfortunate thing that this word has become so closely associated with the songs we sing at church.  It’s not that singing these songs isn’t worship; it’s just that this is only a sliver of what worship is.  The danger is that after having referred to these songs as “worship” so many times, we start to lose that distinction.  Soon, we lose sight of the fact that worship is something that permeates everything we do.

Apparently God’s people have had this problem for some time now.  We have thought that doing certain things was what God actually wanted from us, but it turned out that we were missing the forest for the trees.  In passages like Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, and Amos 5, we discover that God really didn’t care about Israel’s “acts of worship” (in this case being things like fasting and offering sacrifices) when they weren’t actually living out what it meant to be God’s people on a daily basis.  In Isaiah 1 God tells us what he really thinks of Israel’s acts of worship:

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me! (Isaiah 1:11-13)

Instead, God wanted Israel’s worship to look like this:

Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.  (Isaiah 1:17)

How I sometimes wish that God had said something different!  If only he’d said, “Learn to sing on key.  Seek beats two and four.  Help the tone deaf.  Defend the cause of the sound system upgrade.  Fight for the rights of guitarists to have more of themselves in the monitor.”

But he didn’t say that, did he?

As a worship leader, these verses are some of the scariest verses in the Bible.  If I’m supposed to somehow lead people into true worship, I need to ask myself to what degree my own life reflects justice and righteousness.  Because otherwise, I’m fairly convinced that God might be about as sick of the songs I sing as he was with Israel’s burnt rams.  Maybe even more so, because I claim to be a “professional.”

Now, I said that these verses are scary to me, and they are.  But on the other hand, they’re beautiful.  They’re beautiful because they reveal what kind of God we’re actually worshiping.  Turns out that he is a God who doesn’t clamor for our attention out of some tyrannical need to be praised.  Instead, what ticks God off is when his children go without, when widows are harmed, when justice is not served.  And when it comes right down to it, that is a God who I don’t have a hard time worshiping.  That’s the kind of God I have no problem boasting in.  That’s the kind of God I can clap my hands for, lift my hands to, write songs about, and dance in the streets before.  That’s the kind of God before whom I can stand in awe.  He is a God who has every right in the universe to turn his nose up at us pesky humans, but he doesn’t.  Instead, his heart breaks for us.  I don’t understand it.  But it’s awesome.

So we’ve come full circle.  I hope that The Ransom continues to be a church that worships passionately.  By that, I mean a church that reflects God’s heart in the world.  Let my guitar go out of tune, my voice disappear, and every speaker fall from the sky.  But let this church forever pursue the forgotten and the lost.  Let us pursue the very heart of God.  Because when we do, then we will find that we have something to sing about.

See you Sunday.

Phil

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