“Learning to listen and respond to God’s invitations is the path to real freedom.” (Invitations from God, p. 11)
Welcome to August.
Many of us are starting to feel the uptick in opportunities and obligations with family, school, or work. We’re facing the seasonal decisions of what to be involved with or not. Invitations come flying at us! The hard part is knowing which ones to entertain and how many of them to accept. We’ve felt the seasons of burnout and overcommitment and do not want to return.
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book Invitations from God is a fantastic reading tour in our life’s landscape that is bombarded by advertisements. The questions she writes, the invitations she pinpoints, and the simple things she reveals are very helpful in sparking a prayer dialog with God – a time to search together what God desires in life. As we’re faced with many invitations or feeling stuck in a place where we don’t feel invited, Calhoun’s words bring encouragement and life – and a good number of healthy challenges. She helps us discern big questions in life: What does God desire? How do I walk with Jesus and live? How do I learn to die to self and in so experience a new kind of life?
As I read Invitations from God, I saw Calhoun drawing my attention to this idea: Life at its fullest is life renovated to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Each chapter in the book stems off this and provides exercises, invitations, and questions to help us pay attention to God. This all happens right in the middle of ordinary life. (That’s what I feel is a strength of Calhoun’s writing – she takes the spiritual life and helps make it ordinary again.) Each one of these invitations is a very down to earth, ordinary invitation. They’re a return to human-ness.
Calhoun’s repeated word, “Invitation,” is a word that needs to become more and more natural and recurring in our language of life with God. People need and want to hear again and again that God desires life for us and he wants to renovate our entire selves to experience life with Himself – a life that begins to naturally, and in an unforced way, pour out love. This is an absolute invitation! Come – experience life as God intended. Come – be made well. Come, follow Jesus. Know God’s love, learn how to love, and live a life of free dependence on the Source of Life.
The invitation that was the most striking to me was the invitation to remember (chapter 10). The invitation is: “To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free.” It’s striking not because it’s hard to do or completely revelatory, but because that’s just where I sense God at work over the last few months in my life.
Remembering took root when I was recently talking with my Grandparents in their house. We live a thousand+ miles apart and don’t talk as much as we could. My two boys played next to my wife Jenny as Grandma and Grandpa streamed story after story, memory upon memory. They talked non stop for two hours. Grandpa kept saying, “Passing on your story is very important – it’s really all you’ve to pass on.” I’d never heard him talk like that before. He wanted me to take it all in, to know him and his details, to perhaps see how part of who I am is also part of who he was and is. This dialog set me on an inner expedition, weaving Grandpa and Grandma’s story together, wondering how I’ve been indirectly affected by it, and how my story will affect my boys and their children. So, it was neat to read Calhoun’s chapter on remembering – it took me back to re-thinking my family’s story and my story and seeing how woven God has been in it all – no matter how hidden or seemingly silent.
I wonder if a failure to remember and explore our Story is what’s causing so much demise in our Christian communities today – why there’s a flood of younger generations no longer keeping company with the Church and perhaps even with Jesus. I think we’ve in a large part forgotten our story with God and forgotten the invitations He’s extended to us throughout history. As Calhoun wrote, “When we forget our sacred story, amnesia about who God is set in,” and, “…how we remember determines so much of who we are and who we become,” (p.172). Also, “…everything finds its place in the redemption story,” (p.176).
I’m thankful for the dialog Calhoun sparked for me and look forward to sharing it with others. I recommend this book to you and to all explorers in the faith who want to be immersed in the language of invitation and who are looking for both an embrace and challenge in their journey with Jesus.
For those interested, Calhoun’s invitations are:
- The invitation to participate in your own healing. (To cooperate with the Trinity in my growth, healing and emotional maturity. [John 5:6] p.24)
- The invitation to follow. (To conform my life to Jesus’ path of descent, service, and sacrifice for the sake of others. [Philippians 2:5-7] p.38)
- The invitation to practice the presence of people. (To see people as Jesus does – as the most important things in the world. [Genesis 33:10; Luke 7:44] p.56)
- The invitation to rest. (To set aside the compulsion to “do, do, do” and live into God’s creational rhythms that nourish and restore the body, soul, and relationships. [Hebrews 4:1] p.71)
- The invitation to weep. (To open myself to the naturalness of tears as Jesus did, learning to feel and weep over the things that move God’s heart. [John 11:35; Genesis 6:6] p.86)
- The invitation to admit I might be wrong. (To humbly accept that my knowing is incomplete and that I don’t have everything right so I can be open to hearing more from Jesus. [Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 16:2] p.102)
- The invitation to forgive. (To live into Jesus Christ’s forgiveness so I can let go of the hate, hurt, and brokenness of the past and live into freedom. [Luke 7:47; Colossians 3:13] p.122)
- The invitation to wait. (To let go of my need to control people and circumstances so I can trust that God is at hand and be present in the moment as it unfolds. [Psalm 62:5; Psalm 37:7] p.136)
- The invitation to pray. (To live entirely with and in God – relating to him at all times and in all things. [1 Thessalonians 5:17] p.153)
- The invitation to remember. (To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free. [Deuteronomy 15:15; Psalm 63:6; Luke 22:19] p.169)
- The invitation to the most excellent way. (To embrace the ego-sanding way of Jesus, who loves his neighbor as himself. [John 13:35; 1 Corinthians 12:31] p.183)