More Than an Invitation, A Way of Life

One word changed the idea of spiritual practices forever.

The simple word invitation.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun wrote the beautiful yet profound book Invitations from God.

Invitations from God: Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and MoreIn it she writes, “Some invitations we desperately want: ‘Will you marry me?’ ‘Would you consider a promotion?’ Other invitations we never want to receive but must respond to all the same: ‘What treatment do you want for your tumor?’ Invitations pound away at the coastlines of the soul with a transforming force. God is also sending invitations. Sometimes they seem less compelling than anything on my to-do list. Why would I want to say yes to the invitation to rest when I’m already so far behind? Why follow when I could lead? Why accept invitations to weep or to admit I am wrong or to wait? Saying yes might slow me down, sabotage my agenda and even undo who I think I am.”

A light switch went off in me when I saw the things of my daily life not only through the lens of blessing or curse, but through invitation as well. Whatever was coming at me was also a way God was at work in me. He was inviting me with what I say ‘yes’ to and what I say ‘no’ to. By seeing the normal parts of my life (both the good, bad, and ugly) as an invitation helped me root this part of spiritual discipline in my life.  

I love this book so much I contacted Adele and she graciously emailed responses to my questions so that we could get a sense of how this practice came to be, how to pay attention to invitations, and how this practice can form us.

 

Thank you Adele for being with us today! You know how much this book has meant to me and others I’ve shared it with. I love hearing some of the back story of a book. Where did the idea of invitations come from?

The idea came as I watched people struggle over saying “yes” to so many invitations that they lost their way and they lost their ability to respond to God’s invitations — which can be quieter and less culturally acceptable. Invitations is a word I like because it reflects God’s countenance towards us at all times.

I am taken with the cover! It’s one of my top favorite covers of all times, especially the wax seal. What is the story behind the cover?

The brilliant cover is the work of the IVP graphic artist. And I can take no credit for it. But I love it too.  I love the person under the tree — alone and waiting — for what– an invitation

Some invitations are louder than others. How can someone recognize a quiet invitation?

Quiet invitations may bang us over the head with sickness or accident.  As we mend we have opportunities to let go of all that clutters — and as we listen we may hear and feel the desire rise in us for silence, or prayer or ???  Sometimes quiet invitations sneak up on us in the form of someone who has a spiritual practice that we want.  We see the results of prayer in a person’s life.  We see what it looks like to be really loved.  And we say — I want that.  How can I enter in and become a different kind of person.  I believe God’s invitations surround us — and as we respond we will find more and more.

How has the idea of invitation helped form you spiritually?  

Invitations changed my center of gravity from “never doing enough” to “what is God calling me to at this moment in time.”   God knows our limits and our desires.  And God intends us to know them as well.  God’s invitations suit both our limits and our desires.  They invite us into closer contact with the Holy One. Invitations remind me of my belovedness. I am wanted, included, and have a purpose in God’s heart and desires.

Do you think the idea of invitation can go both ways with God? If so, how can we offer invitations to God?

In a relationship that is growing invitations go both ways.   I invite you to dinner.  You invite me for a walk.  God invites us to follow, to pray, to love, to forgive, etc.  And we invite God into our anger, pain, joy and confusion.   God invites us into the Divine Heart.  We invite God into our human heart.  We share in one another’s pain and joy.  God’s delight is my delight.  My delight is God’s delight.  The same is true with our pain.

We are a community who live sprinkled around the world. We hope to be used to extend invitations to others, both for the eternal and for this life’s journeying together. What have you learned about invitations that may help us?

In Invitations From God I have tried to narrow in on the invitations that have been central to my own journey with God.  I believe that if we said “YES” to these biblical invitations we would become the change we want to see in the world.  It would begin with internal shifts in my own heart that impacted the way I was with others.  Imagine how saying “yes” to forgiveness could change our world?  It starts with little things and moves to larger arenas.  But it is always a matter of saying “yes” to God.

Choose an invitation and be intentional about it for a month.  What do you notice begins to shift in you and your world.  Then share what is happening in you.

What have you been invited into recently?  

I have been invited to let go of “what is next.”  I am 65 and I don’t know how much longer my husband and I will be the “best” co-pastors for our church.  But at 65 where do you go next?  I am being invited to let go clear next steps and lean into trust that God will be with me in tomorrow no matter what is next.  This letting go is part of preparing me for the many letting gos that lie ahead.  I want to say “yes” God you are with me now and then.

Adele, on behalf of the community at Velvet Ashes, thank you for sharing with us. Thanks to you, I want to see invitations as spiritual practices instead of mere events.

What do you think of the spiritual practice and language of invitations? What have you been invited into recently?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 
Photo Credit: sleepyneko via Compfight cc

16 Comments

  1. Beth Everett September 10, 2014

    There is something very appealing to me about the word “invitation”… unforced, without coercion, with a hand held out rather than a push on the shoulder (the mental image that came to mind as I think about this). I’ve not thought in these terms before. Thinking of the next thing the Lord is calling me into – inviting me into – from this view point helps me keep the perspective that, although it appears to be difficult, He is calling me/inviting me with care, love, and has my best interest at heart. I can trust His invitation, because I can trust Him. I remember wrestling a few months ago with this and asking “God are you really asking me to do this?” The language of invitation somehow gives me the picture that I am being asked to do something/go somewhere WITH Someone! He IS with me in the changes ahead. So comforting.
    I think I am going to have to purchase her book!

    1. Brittany September 11, 2014

      Oh Beth, I’ve asked God that very thing recently.  “Are you really asking me to do this?”  Thank you for reminding me that an invitation means that HE is doing it with me.  I hadn’t made that connection when I read it for myself.

    2. Amy Young September 11, 2014

      Agreed that there is just something about the word “invitations” that puts me more at ease. I don’t have a problem with the idea of “spiritual practices” or “spiritual discipline” — but the words practice and discipline,  when I put the three together, have more of a “this is for your own good and will require YOU to do it!” Where invitation still will involve me, but I’m not able to say clearly the nuanced difference to my soul. I can just report, there is a difference :)!

  2. Patty Stallings September 10, 2014

    “God’s invitations suit both our limits and our desires.”
    Such an impactful insight to remember.  It reminds me of Psalm 25:10 which I am now going to frame in this way, “All the paths the Lord invites us to are fragrant with His love and faithfulness when we say yes to His invitation.” 

    1. Brittany September 11, 2014

      Patty, my husband and I are in the process of building a house here in our little village of Romania and something that has REALLY excited me about this (very daunting) process is that I am painting canvases and putting Scripture all around our home of verses that the Lord has given me to blanket over our family.  I love the way that you have framed that verse and I would love to use it in our home!

      1. Patty Stallings September 11, 2014

        Oh, Brittany, I’m so touched to be a small part of your project.  I hope to see a photo when you’re done!  May your home be a place of beauty, rest, and truth!

    2. Amy Young September 11, 2014

      Patty, this is SO good! What I have to remind myself as I read a verse like this is to NOT read into it what it is not saying 🙂 — they are fragrant with love and faithfulness, not rainbow and puppies! I need to remind myself that some of the paths/invitations will be hard, but that doesn’t mean I’m on the wrong path. Thanks friend!

      1. JulieB September 11, 2014

        YES  Patty and Amy!  I love this.  Thank you for this thought from Psalm 25.  My path though very hard at the moment is filled with the fragrance of HIS faithfulness….and I am invited to travel that hard path with HIM by trusting!  Thank you!  I think I might just see a One word for 2015 – INVITE or INVITATION?  I will think on this and read the book too!

  3. Brittany October 17, 2014

    The Lord brought this conversation back to mind today when I was enjoying my Sabbath. I decided to sit down and work on playing with this verse (artistically). I’ve been trying to cultivate creativity and this is the first time I have felt satisfied with the result. 😉 I love this new hobby because, even though I don’t feel very skilled yet, I spend the time meditating on the verse I’m writing out. Anyway, I thought y’all might like to see it.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 17, 2014

      This is lovely, Brittany!  So glad you shared with us.  Love hearing (and seeing!) the way you said yes to His invitation here.  I think when we cultivate creativity, pieces of our soul spark alive.  Keep sharing the fruits of your new hobby with us. 😉

    2. Patty Stallings October 17, 2014

      Brittany, thanks so much for bringing His invitation to life through your creativity!

      I especially like the envelope feature. Clever! 🙂

    3. Amy Young October 18, 2014

      Just this morning I was reading how the enemy comes to steal but the Good Shepherd comes to bring life. I’m sitting with a friend who’s healing from surgery and the path will be long. The passage I read combined with your beautiful rendition of the other verse are acting as lights on the path for me today :). These are invitations. We are on a path that leads to life. We are not alone! Thanks friend! (ps share your work any time you’re lead! It’s life giving!)

      1. Brittany October 18, 2014

        Thank you, Amy.  I am praying for you as you minister to your friend.  Thank you for the reminder that our Good Shepherd has come to bring life.  The path that the Lord is leading me down lately is one of grief and loss, as my Grandma (to whom I have been close my whole life) is now dancing in heaven as of last night.  She has life…more than ever before.  And though the grief is heavy on my heart, especially as I have to grieve so far away, Jesus is inviting me to let Him bear it, comfort it, and use it.

        1. Amy Young October 18, 2014

          Well now, this just stinks. I shake my fist at death and say, “I hate you! I really, really do. But you will NOT have the last word. Right now, right now, you got the floor and I am just so sad!”

          Brittany, I am so sorry you are having to grieve at a distance. And missing out on being with your family. Can you have something read at the service so in a small way you are there?

          Prayers for people not to say dumb things during this time. Asking you  continue to sense Jesus with you these days. xox Amy

          1. Brittany October 18, 2014

            That is a great idea, Amy, and one I hadn’t thought of.  Thanks for that!

  4. Beth Everett October 17, 2014

    This is great Brittany! Thanks for sharing it! Look forward to seeing more!

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