This is how I came to discover Invitations From God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.
It was the beginning of my second semester of seminary. I was a few minutes early to NT512 (Acts and the Epistles) and pulled out The Kite Runner. In seminary it was a rare treat to read anything that wasn’t on the syllabus and a woman sitting in the row in front of me turned around to ask what I was reading. Long story short: we were drawn to the same type of books which meant that we had to be friends, clearly.
Several years later after graduation, I was in her home in New Jersey when a box of books arrived. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is Kathleen’s friend and Invitations had recently been published so in support of her friend, Kathleen ordered seven copies to give to friends. When she opened the box, Kathleen explained the back story (I own Adele’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook thanks to Kathleen) and gave me a copy.
I fell in love with the cover.
And then I fell in love with the spiritual practice of viewing everything that happens to us as an invitation from God. This book is in my Top 10 Books of All Time. After I read it I selected it as the professional development for the member care providers I trained and worked with. This spiritual practice is one you will want to share, I can almost guarantee.
I sat down this morning to reread the introduction and Chapter one and got a giddy feeling. I marked and starred and wrote so many notes to myself that I even had a wee chat with myself. “Amy, you cannot merely copy every line you love into a blog post. With the amount you love, that is called plagiarism.”
Just to give you a sense of what I’m restraining myself from, my page of notes begins “1st page!!” And it is only page one! Lord help us :-).
“Invitations pound away at the coastlines of the soul. They contain a transforming force that can carve out possible and impossible futures.”
Anyone feeling a bit pounded these days for a future you may not want to have to face? Increase in support needs? Aging parents? Language learning more difficult than you had hoped? Your child not growing out of his or her learning needs? Visa regulations changing?
On page 11 (I have a print copy because this is a must hold book for me), I appreciated seeing the types of invitations Jesus needed to navigate: business and career, family, educational, and entertainment and social. I feel all the more understood and loved by God reading this section.
I am drawn to the phrase “God the great inviter” and the line: “In the Gospels we see how Jesus navigated invitations while responding to and extending God’s invitations.”
In these we see, if this is how God and Jesus interacted, this is how we can interact with God.
“God’s invitation to ‘save the world’ didn’t stop Jesus from attending to his own soul in the process. Saying yes to the invitation to be with God was the wellspring of his heart and the source of all his actions.” And at the end of the section: “Jesus’ actions, in and of themselves, often make no sense unless we see them as responses to some hidden invitation—an invitation received from time spent alone with his Father.” And yet later, “This book is about invitations like these: divine invitations we miss or ignore because we’ve said yes to going with the cultural flow. Only free people know how to say yes and no.”
Anybody else want to high five at this point because you know This Is The Path of Life? And it is the path God is inviting us on?
Chapter one has come to mind so often the last few months with my new relationship with food as I have sensed an invitation to participate in my own healing. It seems something has gotten very out of whack in my gut and each body can manifest the “out of whackness” differently. When I first heard it was about my gut, I thought the doctor and internet resources were dead wrong (how’s that for a touch of arrogance?). But it was because I do not have stomach problems. I have no pain or reactions in my stomach, so how can this be a gut problem?
I was also told, “You did not become out of whack overnight, this is going to take a long time to heal.” Now trying to pin down what “a long time” means is a bit like trying to get a definite answer as to when the Denver Broncos will win the Superbowl. I want an exact answer AND I want the answer to be THIS year. Sooner rather than later, please.
Instead, this invitation is “Amy, will you change how you eat for months and months? Will you trust that healing is happening and maybe not focus so much on the end result as the process?” So when Jesus asks me, “Do you want to get well?” What I hear is “Do you want to get well . . . now?” And to that question, I can answer a hearty yes. But when the question is simply, “Do you want to get well” without qualifiers as to what getting well entails, I’ll be honest that I’m a bit weary these days.
I also think of people near and dear to me and wonder what “getting well” looks like for them. Another round of major depression knowing this most likely will not be the last. Adjusting to life with your husband buried in the ground. Still not getting married or pregnant or the fussy eater making every meal a battle. What does “getting well” look like in each instance?
I don’t know. But I think God is inviting each of us to sit with these questions. He is not interested in shallow or quick answers.
I can’t wait to chat in the comments. What stood out to you or you would like to talk about from the introduction or chapter one?
See you in the comments :),