Invitations of the Scary Kind

I wrote yesterday about how I don’t see myself usually as the cowabunga-bungee-jumping for Jesus type.

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But I am trying to be a person that responds to whatever God invites me into.

Sometimes that’s leaning in to hear a whisper and being obedient in one of the million small invitations from God in daily life.

But sometimes there are big scary invites that take us off-guard.

They are as clear as a public marriage proposal booming over the loud-speaker at the Twins Stadium.  And that can be the most disconcerting kind.

So when I got a request to go teach a class to seminary students in middle-of-nowhere-rural Northern Kenya I wanted to put on Bose head phones to drown it out. (Yes. They are clearly desperate.)

I’ve never taught a seminary course and I’ll be alone without John, my best coach in all things challenging.  So the refrain in my head is “Ican’t/I’mnot/Ican’t/I’mnot…”

But like I’ve written before, I’m not, but He is.  And I really can’t ignore this, even though it makes me quake in my boots (or in my TOMS as the case may be).

And I’m inspired by some friends of mine who are responding to an much bigger crazy invite…adopting two orphans from the D.R.C.  You know, Congo, where there’s been horrendous gender violence (that means rape and worse) and warfare and the perfect storm of natural disaster, poverty, and evil.  And yes, you read right.  Two, yes two kids, with two more at home.

This is a big invitation that God has confirmed in both their hearts from the time they were dating until now.  Through scary developments and uncertainty they are trusting God to knit together a loving family of American born biological kids with Congolese babies abandoned out of desperation.

But there are also invitations of a different kind.  Big invitations to rest, that come in the form of end-of-your-rope-exhaustion and require you to say “no” may be just as scary and as the invitations to jump.

Here’s the thing…I don’t think we’re ready to say “yes” to any of the “bigger”, riskier things unless we’ve said “yes’ on the days of small things.

Would David have been ready to say “yes” to God’s invitation to fight Goliath, if he hadn’t said “yes” to the ordinary, boring, everyday stuff of protecting his sheep before that?

Would Elijah have had the courage to say “yes” to a showdown with the prophets of Baal if he hadn’t trusted God to provide food and water before that?

Would Daniel have been prepared to defy Darius when push came to shove if he hadn’t quietly been honoring God daily before that?

So as I prepare to send the email responding to the loud scary-big invite in my life, I’m trying to say “yes” to the whispers of today.  And I’m praying for my dear friends on their journey to respond to Jesus’ invite to come pick up two toddlers in Congo.

Are there ways you’ve seen God use everyday whisper invitations to prepare you for loud riskier ones?

Invitations and the Three Things You Need

I’m not that person.  I’m not the sell-everything-move-to-the-slums-of-Calcutta-like-Mother-Theresa person.  That’s not the invitation I’ve sensed from God.  Yet.

I’m an ordinary girl trying to follow Jesus where He’s put me and getting it wrong a lot.

But if there’s one passion I have, it’s responding to the invitations God extends, as crazy as they might seem in my ordinary world.

The thing is these invitations rarely arrive in a giant Oscar-like envelope with a red seal screaming “THIS IS IMPORTANT!  PAY ATTENTION!”

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We long for invitation, but sometimes we have to lean close because the invitation is a whisper not a shout.

Recently, Bob Goff wrote,

“Jesus won’t try to speak over the noise in our lives; love whispers so we won’t be confused about who’s doing the talking.”

Sometimes it’s a whispered invitation to stop.  And do something you’ve never done before.  Something a tiny bit scary, or uncomfortable, or potentially embarrassing.

The whispered invitation may come right in your cramped apartment, or in your dysfunctional family, or on the road to work.

The invitation might look like a Jamaican cleaning woman stranded on the side of the road needing a ride,

or an injustice that begs for a note to your congressperson,

or a kid who could use a mentor or a meal.

The other day I saw a friend of mine who responded to the quiet invitation from God to take her aging parent for a delightful afternoon tea out, giving her mom loving attention and a listening ear no matter how confused she got.

Here’s the thing though.  I believe three ingredients are needed if you’re going to respond to these gentle, holy invitations.

An eye, an ear, an hour.

An eye for those in need, an ear attuned to the whispered prompts of God, and the time to respond.

I guess maybe the fourth thing that is needed is a willingness to actually do the work of responding, but the element that I think is most often missing in our lives, the thing that prevents us from responding to God’s invitations, is lack of margin.

A mentor of mine always said, “If you’re too busy to take a pot of soup to someone in need, you’re too busy.”

I know, I know…in some seasons margin is beyond our control.  And maybe the person in need is you.  You’re the perpetual care-giver who, like Elijah after an intense season, needs to respond to the whispered invitation for a snack and a nap.*

Then do that.  Pray. Rest.  Replenish.

But whether God whispers an invitation to be part of some kingdom work, or kingdom rest today, which element is most likely to get in the way of you responding?  An eye to see the needs, an ear to heaven, the guts to respond, or the time to do it?

God, show me where You want to work today, and invite me to be a part of it.  I’m trying to pay attention.

*1st Kings 19

Two Questions to Consider Every Day

This week is the one year anniversary of the start of this little blog.

A year ago about this time I had nothing.

Ok, that’s “a lie from the pit of hell“, as daughter Maggie would say.  I “had” a lot of things.  A lovely home, and delightful family and friendships I treasured.  But it felt like I had nothing partly because I didn’t have an impressive job title.  Actually I didn’t have any job title.

I felt like an untethered space station floating in the inky cosmos.

We had just returned from a five month sabbatical and I was clueless about how the next season of my life would look.  What was my “place“?  Who was my “tribe“?  Was there anywhere God could use me to add value?

The answers seemed to be “nowhere”, “no-one”, and “nowhere” (again).

Maybe your circumstances are different, but you can relate.  You’re “in transition” (that horrible euphemism for “in a place that feels scary and directionless“). Or maybe you’re just feeling unsettled and under-utilized.

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You’ve got this. Kind of.

A few weeks ago some gifted young women who live in another part of the country, asked me to sort of mentor them.  I haven’t heard from them recently so I think they may have come to their senses and realized this request was kind of like inviting Zacchaeus onto their basketball team.  But anyway, what went through my mind is exactly what has gone through my mind when others have graciously approached me with an invitation:

Wow.  I LOVE them!

I must be special!

Holy Buckets!  What do I have to give them?

What if they expect, you know, wise words whenever I open my mouth and I’ve got, like…NOTHING!?

What if I say I’ll do this and then they’re disappointed in me?  What if they decide I’m a Loser Mentor?

And then God whispers

You’ve got this.  

Because really…you don’t.

But I do.

And that’s all that matters.

Listen to them.  Listen to Me.  Listen to them with Me and that will be enough.

Because I’m always more than enough.

This was a nice invitation.  However, there are many times when I question my adequacy because there hasnt been an invitation.  I don’t feel called, or challenged, or included in anything “significant”  But in those moments God whispers…

You’ve got this.  You’re chosen.  But not because you’re adequate, or even asked by others, but just available.  And I am with you.

And He brings to mind the story of the widow at Zaraphath in 1st Kings who had only a handful of flour and a little oil, preparing a last meal for herself and her son when the prophet Elijah showed up asking for one meal.  And then another, and another.

God’s word to her through Elijah is His word to me and you.  “…make a small loaf of bread from what you have…” And there was food for every day.

Just use what you have.  And I will make it so much more.  

Just respond to the small things I’ve put in your hands.  In front of you.  In your family.  In your neighborhood.  In your workplace.

You’ve got this when you realize that you don’t, because I do.

 Where do you feel inadequate?  Where are you afraid you won’t have what is needed?