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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Invitations

jenmichel@me.com

4:59 a.m. Andrew wakes up, protesting that Colin won't move over. They're sharing a double bed this week that we're spending in Chicago, and Colin is stretched horizontally across the mattress, dead, sleepy weight unresponsive to his twin brother's tugging and pushing. I pick Colin up and move him, readjust the blankets, and soon Andrew is breathing heavily again. I lie in bed another half an hour, knowing that these quiet morning hours are some of the most valuable of my day. I get up finally.

My father-in-law has prepared the coffee maker the night before. An angel, that man. All I have to do is flip a switch, and coherence will soon be mine.

I settle into the couch with my new book given to me by a great friend: Invitations from God: Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and More by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. I only read the Introduction. I must force myself to read a book like this slowly, letting myself hear, consider, and respond.

"Learning to listen and respond to God's invitation is the path to real freedom."

The past many months, especially since our move to Toronto, have helped me see the ways in which I am not free and long to be more deeply free in Christ. I want to be free to hear God and respond to Him without fear that others will misunderstand. I want to be free to resist the expectations of others which want insistently to shape me or move me away from God's invitations. I want to be free from the dominating forces of greed and idolatry. I want to be free of the ambitions that corrupt me with notions of my self-importance. I want to be free to serve and surrender more fully to Christ. I want to be free to live my moments, my days, my years (as many as God grants) full to the brim with life and purpose and joy and vitality.

"The truth, however, is that when we say yes to invitations that keep us compulsively busy, we may be exhibiting a lazy ambivalence that actually keeps us distracted from the invitations that matter most. . . Ironically, our many yeses to invitations keeps us stressed, drained and inattentive to the divine invitations that bring real freedom and belonging."

Distracted. Inattentive. Yes, I live like that. And it's the story of my own invitations from God I haven't purposefully committed to remembering and understanding until more recently. I know it's my own story, as it bears out the truths of the story of Scripture, that will remind me that God is present. When I open my eyes wide, I see Him. In the good and ordinary gifts of today. In the seasons of disappointment and uncertainty. In the movement of my own heart toward Him. In the familiar faces of my world. My faith is strengthened in direct measure to my purposing to see. Ann Voskamp taught me that.

"Do our yeses to invitations simply divert or stroke our ego? Or do they nurture and grow body, soul and spirit? Do they build connections within the body of Christ and bring health to our marriage and family? Do the invitations we accept make us more free or less? Which invitations are shaping your world?"

Having an invitation doesn't confirm it's from God. We've been taught to pray for open "doors," as it to say that if a road is easy and opportunities available, that surely God is in it. But I'm finding more and more that opportunities abound and invitations multiply, and it isn't as easy to identify where God is leading me. There is a greater need for discernment, for listening well to the quiet voice of the Spirit and determining when I'm to say yes and no.

"Jesus learned how to discern between invitations. He learned discernment by first saying yes to God's invitations to rest, wait, pray, forgive, remember and love. Time with God was not a luxury that got squeezed out when business picked up."

I am desperate to grow in this kind of discernment. It feels more and more urgent as life complicates.

And I know and believe deeply that it's time alone with God that shapes us and reforms us and reorients us to truth.

It's why I got out of bed this morning.