Saturday, December 31, 2011

Invitation from God

The joy of a holiday for me is time. The house needs attention. The vacuum sits silent in the closet. Dust bunnies procreate at an alarming speed. But the freedom of unstructured time -- few emails to respond to, fewer calendar obligations, no homework to manage; just dinner to get on the table. Instead I have watched football and movies, talked with my husband, caught glimpses of my teenage son, pondered, but mostly I've read. 

There are times when a book is so good and meaningful that it takes me months, not days, to finish. I'll read a chapter and stop to savor it before going on. That has been my experience with Invitations from God - Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and More by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.  It's been my companion since probably about the time I lost my job back in August, and yesterday I finally read the last word. It's been stuffed in my purse or briefcase or suitcase for the past four months. 

"What invitations are shaping your world? ... God's invitations are meant to mend, shape, anchor and grow us into the character of Jesus. They call us into our true selves in Christ. They free us from the lie that says, "The more invitations the better." Invitations from the Holy One serve God's dream for the world. They don't call me to become what I produce, what others think of me or what I know. They invite me to be free. And freedom comes from being an intentional follower of Jesus -- one what is a little Christ in this world."

Each chapter is an invitation, eleven invitations in all:
  • to Participate in Your Own Healing
  • to Follow
  • to Practice the Presence of People
  • to Rest
  • to Weep
  • to Admit I might be Wrong
  • to Forgive
  • to Wait
  • to Pray
  • to Remember
  • to the Most Excellent Way
And within each "invitation" chapter is a marvelous grid (very Adele-like if you've read her other book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) that outlines steps for responding/following that particular invitation.  She starts by defining the invitation, associates a scripture reference, then outlines the roadblocks to following, lists things you should be aware of as you follow, and then practices to do.

Here are some favorite quotes to savor. 

From Chapter 2, Invitation to Follow:
"God's servants are the biblical heroes. They are the men and women who, in the crunch of life, laid down their own plans, gave up their own agendas and let go of their own power. They disentangled their identity from their own version of success and became followers."

"Following Jesus means caring about more than me and my family. It means identifying with God's broken heart over poverty and his holy anger at injustices in our world. It means following his lead on who and what matters."

"In God's economy, nobody is known for what they have; we are all known for what we have given away. We are known for how we followed Jesus--down--to the point of giving our lives for others."

From Chapter 4, Invitation to Rest:
"Rest is a transcendent anchor in the midst of doing."

"God invites and even commands us to trust him to manage the world for twenty-four hours each week without our labor. Sabbath is the day that reminds us who we are."

"Sabbath keeps us from drifting away. It is evidence to us and the world that we are not slaves to our to-do lists."

From Chapter 6, Invitation to Admit I Might be Wrong:
"The type of humility that admits you are wrong when you know you are wrong is confession. The humility that admits you might be wrong when you're pretty sure you're right is maturity. Without both types of humilty, we become rigid and unteachable. Without both types of humility, relationships flounder and implode."

From Chapter 8, Invitation to Waiting:
"Doing something feels so much better that doing "nothing." But waiting is not doing "nothing." And waiting is often better than doing "something.""

"Expectant waiting requires openness to something good happening beyond out expectations. Expectations are what get us into trouble while we wait. We expect God to do things a certain way: our way. We have expectations about timing: our timing. Expectations bind our happiness to one particular end. I get this job. My house sells. Unmet expectations are resentments and disappointments waiting to happen. The difference between waiting for our expectations to happen and waiting expectantly for this moment to unfold is huge. Being present to what is: this is what matters. What is happening here and now is important. What goes on while I wait may become the foundation for some new undreamed-of and unexpected future."

"Waiting is God's crucible for transformation. Waiting is how God gets at the idols of our heart. Waiting addresses the things we need besides God to be content: money, comfort, expedience, success or control."

"God's goodness anchors my waiting. It's not a matter of if God's goodness will come through; it's only a matter of when."

This is a book already marked throughout by pencil (I rarely read a book with out one!). It is also one that has marked by life and was worth reading slowly and deliberately.

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