Short Form

Update: A Hasidic Tale & Giving Tuesday! No. 32 by Joshua Banner

In this update episode, a Hasidic tale from Abraham Joshua Heschel helps us understand the Spirit's invitation to find the treasure right here in front of ourselves, right at home.

We are on the eve of #GivingTuesday. If you haven't had a chance to watch our Kickstarter video, please do.

Here's a link: tinyurl.com/y9gqmnhaA 

We hope you can catch onto the larger vision of what the Invitation is up to as a nonprofit connecting the prison to the local church parish through spiritual direction and this podcast. If you have means, please support the Kickstarter campaign as it raises money to fund our capital budget, money that will help us efficiently and creatively offer you spiritual formation resources on a more consistent basis.

Share the Invitation with your people, and pray for us on this crazy journey of trusting God. Peace & Love of Jesus to you!

The picture of this episode is the home of what we are calling 'Cloudstreet' as it is under snowy construction. Cloudstreet will be the hub of our practice of spiritual direction, a retreat space, and a production space!!!

Big hugs and LOVE!

Josh

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5-ish Minute Prayer #7 "Autumn Prayer feat. Jordan Bruxvoort" no. 30 by Joshua Banner

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Have you taken a moment to breathe today? Have you noticed up close the changing colors? Have you stood still long enough to enjoy the wind on your face?

How is your sleep? How about your peace of mind?

There is much working against our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The local, national and world-wide news continues to waylay us with death. Death by tsunami (Indonesia). Death by suicide (my community). Death by body failure and age (my church and my great aunt).

And of course there is strife. We seem addicted to indignation and rage in America (pick any of today’s political news bites).

In this 5ish Minute Meditation, Jordan Bruxvort invites us to consider how the movements of Autumn teach us how to let go and trust. As the weather splinters, leaning towards winter, we are reminded that all things in creation disintegrate. All things eventually go to sleep. Yet beyond sleep and death, we yearn for and we trust in a greater hope of new life, of resurrection and spiritual help.

In this five-ish-minute meditation Jordan and I invite you to join Autumn in a season of letting go.

Peace & Love of Christ to you!

Josh


Jordan Bruxvoort was the first to help me identify the Jesuit vocabulary of “contemplatives in action” as he sought Ignatian spirituality to sustain his activism on behalf of immigrants. Jordan and I got to know each other in the first year of our practicum in spiritual direction with the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. He approaches his vision for social change through the lens of spiritual direction in a wise, generous way. A big thanks to him for being involved in the Invitation—for his encouragement, insight, and collaboration! I encourage you to take a look at his website and bio below.

And please don’t be shy. Email me if you also have something to offer the Invitation:
* a response to a guided prayer or conversation
* a creative insight into what the Invitation can offer
* if you’d like to write or even record a 5-minute meditation

Jordan Bruxvort Bio

For the last ten years, Jordan Bruxvoort has worked as a community organizer, primarily in the struggle for immigrants' rights.  Jordan, his wife Sarah, and their two children Amos and Abigail live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where Jordan directs the Naomi Project, a workers' and immigrants' rights project (www.projectofnaomi.org).

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5 Minute Prayer #6 'Begging' no. 20 by Joshua Banner

This short meditation is a response to #6 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend Five Minutes With God." 

Here I’m offering two episodes for you that might deepen your Lenten journey.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15,16

Lent is a season for us to come to terms with just how evil our days are. That is to say that during Lent we accept our desperate need for a Savior. I have tried to take in the news less frequently, but the school shooting at Parkland Florida and the questions of gun violence keep me returning to my phone. This national conversation is just one of many examples of the perilous nature of the world.
 
In my last short-format, five-minute retreat, ‘Begging,’ I borrowed a section from a recent conversation with pastor, activist, and author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove where he explains, “prayer is begging.” This month Jonathan releases his newest book, Reconstructing The Gospel: Finding Freedom From Slaveholder Religion. Racism. Poverty. School shootings. Spiritual poverty. Yes, the days are evil. Lent. Let’s rehearse again how we need a Savior.
 
Then in our most recent episode, Nathan Foster leads us through a long-format retreat with Psalm 131: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother, my soul is like a weaned child that is within me.” Our groaning, longing, and begging for a Savior doesn’t lead us to despair. It leads us deeper to a confidence that even though Christ has died, Christ will rise and come again. Nathan’s guided prayer helps us confess our sins of false comfort and then to rest in the comfort that quiets and calms our souls to the point that we can truly “hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.”

Amen!

 

For more information about Jonathan, visit: jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com

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5 Minute Prayer #13 'Meditation on Isaiah 9' no. 18 by Joshua Banner

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"Drop the mirror and let it shatter.
Crush the hourglass and stop the clock's ticking.
Stand still.
Hold your breath."


Immanuel, God Incarnate with us. The manifestation of God in human form is a first principle, absolute salt, the truest Reality, terra firma, the fabric of the cosmos. Words fail. How can we say anything well about Advent? No, we must immerse our consciousness in the presence of the Incarnate One, whom one theologian described as an "ontological revolution." Our minds will never wrap around Advent, yet it helps to proceed how St. Anselm and others encouraged have taught: to believe in order that we might come into understanding. We begin with Him, present in his Kingdom, and then everything else becomes clearer and true.

We had wandered in a darkness and then the Light of lights dawns upon us.

A few weeks ago I offered you a  long-form retreat, a mediation on lamentation. I humbly offer it for your advent prayer and worship if you haven't already spent time with it. It is perplexing that a few days after sending that your way, I enter into a new experience of confusion and hurt. This isn't the space to elaborate on my personal trouble, but its safe to say that I have new reason to understand Advent as a time of longing and ache. 

When we lament and ache, we have access to Jesus, our terra firma. He is ground zero. He is base camp, our safe harbor of love and healing.

I invite you to join me in this short-format, 5-Minute Prayer where I pivot off #13 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend 5 Minutes With God."In approaching this prayer method I recite a Meditation on Isaiah 9, a creative piece I wrote for a worship service back in 1999. Both the prayer guide and the reading can be found on the 'resources' page on at invitationpodcast.org.


Words will fail me in expressing how helpful it is to return to this writing on Isaiah 9 after all these years right here in the midst of personal hurt--to "drop the mirror" and rehearse Immanuel. I've been attentive to the swelling #metoo movement that has overtaken our country in the wake of the revelations about film producer Harvey Wienstien. These days I have to limit my daily intake of news and politics. I even deleted my facebook account to better find solace from the many heavy things pressing upon us. I assume you are also experiencing your own difficulties. Great or small, whatever our hindrance to faith, we bring every part of ourselves, every experience to Him especially during Advent. This year my gift box is full of questions instead of gold. Let's rehearse Immanuel and drawn near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings us, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:22).

Peace of Christ to you!

Josh

5 Minute Prayer #41 'Our Father Is Younger Than We' No. 15 by Joshua Banner

G.K. Chesterton says that children are strong because they can enjoy monotony.

I've watched Casper, my seven-year-old, sit with markers, paper, scotch tape, and scissors for hours. He has a powerful internal strength that keeps him so focused on making things that it is difficult to get his attention. He gets thoroughly lost inside his rich internal world. Nothing seems boring to him as long as he is free to experiment with colors, textures, shapes, and the stories he tells about each drawing or cut out. Imagination and creativity are strong with this one.

God asks us to love him with strength, to be squarely focused on him. He desires that we might lose ourselves in abandonment to his love and presence, that we might be so consumed by him that it will be difficult to distract us from that love. 

How can we become so focused, so consumed by God's love? "Focus" shares the same latin root as the word "hearth," that space around a fireplace. We stay focused on that which warms us. Fire is mesmerizing. It attracts our gaze like almost nothing else. If you watch Casper at play with his art projects, you'll see a little boy lit by an inner fire. When he brings me his finished crafts, a shining light of excitement glows in his eyes. He is in love with his art. Art gives him a kind of strength that compels him to do strange things. He often wakes up early before school to have some alone time so he can piece together something new. When we have favorite guests over, he will go to the other room to make them special gifts of his art. He wants to share his fire. He does so easily.

How is the fire inside of you? What are you focused on these days?
What fire is consuming you?
Do you want to be aflame with God's love? 


I invite you to stoke the fire of your own strong love for God in this newest 5 Minute Meditation, "Our Father is Younger Than We" based on prayer exercise #41 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend Five Minutes With God."

Peace of Christ to you!

Josh

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5 Minute Prayer #26 'Patient Trust' No. 13 by Joshua Banner

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In the Gospels Jesus asks, "how can I help you?" and also, "what do you want?"

Do you know how to answer these questions? Do you actively talk with Jesus about these questions, or are you leading a life, in the words of Thoreau, a life of "quiet desperation"?


Essentially Jesus is asking us, "how is it with your soul? Is it well? If not, what can be done?" We may sing the words of the great hymn, peace is like a river attending our ways in the midst of troubled, stormy seas. We learn to declare those words by faith. Yet, is it possible for you to carry yourself through each day in love, joy, hope and patient trust

Another way to consider this is, if Jesus' death and resurrection were necessary to save our souls, what is the experience of a 'saved soul' today, right now, in this moment, in this breath? Is the goodness of salvation reserved only for our a soul in heaven, or is there not some abundant life of the soul, of the mind, heart and body for today? Does the presence of Jesus not break into our practiced existence right now into our presence?

Most of us do not have a working understanding of our own souls. We do not have a practical and personal engagement with our soul, and so the soul is misunderstood and shrouded in mystery. Without a working understanding of the soul, how can we practice soul engaging prayer that will transform us into the likeness of Jesus? 

Many shrug their shoulders in bewilderment and move on. The soul? Who can know it? They assume the soul, that Jesus' presence through the power of the Holy Spirit in the deepest parts of our being is a mystery never to be understood or practiced. Thus many Christians end up living lives that Thoreau described so well, "lives of quiet desperation," lives of resignation distracted by the "games and amusements of mankind."

If you are returning to the Invitation Podcast, something is stirring in your soul. An ache is becoming more defined inside of you, a holy desire for God. You are answering the invitation, hearing Jesus' words, "what can I do for you? How can I help? What do you want?" The next step is to wait patiently for his help. We wait patiently in trust through prayer.

Another reason why we avoid the soul is because soul-work is slow. Soul-work requires honesty and humility. Soul-work depends on our ability to trust. Ultimately soul-work involves our bodies, our actions. Soul-work invokes our emotions and engages the way our minds work. What we think about...what we hope for...how we wait patiently.

Susanna and I welcomed Merritt Terese Banner into the world on July 14, at 6:40pm in the evening. The waiting for her was a kind of soul-work. Over three years we lost three previous babies, excruciating pain that is difficult to describe. Then there was the nine months with Merritt of course, nine months when time slowed down. Each week we wondered if she would make it, if she would be healthy. The actual birthing was of course incredibly physical, messy with the primal elements of life. Susanna likes to recall that when Merritt emerged, I let out a full, deep, belt of laughter. I also treasure that joy-filled memory. The laughter was a deep response of my soul that resounded out through my body. When it was all done and our hospital room became silent, our bodies were exhausted but our souls refreshed and renewed. And so we couldn't stop touching our baby girl, smelling her, kissing and codling, reveling in the new gift of life.

The gift of soul-work is like the slow, precarious work of birthing. Prayer can be both easy and hard. Time never seems like its on your side. Time moves either too fast or too slow. Prayer can be excruciating. It requires patient trust, hours and years of waiting. Then suddenly new life sneaks up on you in a way that is completely out of your control. The Spirit gives you gifts of faith in his timing and on his terms because he knows what is best for you. Then we return again to prayer faithfully waiting in patient trust for the new life to arrive.

The Invitation Podcast can serve as a 'birthing coach' for you. Each of us need some help, some coaxing into solitude. As a friend said just yesterday, "most of the time I need someone to give me permission to be quiet and rest." I invite you to use this short meditation to give yourself permission to eagerly await the help of the Spirit in 'patient trust.'

"Patient Trust" is a prayer by the Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin. Chardin was part of the the expedition that discovered the "Peking Man," homo erectus, a prehistoric human who Chardin was surprised to discover used primitive tools. This prayer has helped Susanna and me for several years of suffering and big questions. Its a prayer that can excavate and preserve your soul!

Peace and help of Christ to you!

Josh

5 Minute Prayer #14 'Lion or the Dove' No. 11 by Joshua Banner

A lion or a dove? How do you meditate?

The awkward truth about prayer is that you can only learn it by practice. This can be a very discouraging realization. This truth can cause many to avoid prayer altogether. We don't like being beginners. We don't want God to be difficult, and we don't know how to be alone and quiet. We assume that if Jesus is really about love, then a relationship with him should be convenient and simple.

I know how to confess the difficulties of prayer because I've been discouraged most of my life in regard to prayer. Even while serving as a ministry leader, I held God at arm's length and struggled to sit still and give myself to his presence and truth through prayer and meditating on the Scriptures. 

While we can't learn how to pray from books or from someone else, it is possible to gain some inspiration and even some practical coaching on what to look and wait for as we approach God. This is the gift of spiritual direction and what I hope is the gift of this podcast outreach: that you can find some inspiration and practical help to get started or to try again to know and be known by God.

Prayer is simple. It is accessible and even convenient, but not in the way we think of any other simple, accessible, or convenient thing in our lives. Once you enter in you will understand in your own way what I mean. Talking to God is unlike talking to anyone else. Being in his presence is different than the personal presence of any other being. This is God. No one is like him. When you go to prayer on your own, you will learn your own way. There are various ways! You might pray like a lion or a dove, or in some completely other way. 

To understand what I'm getting on about, I invite you to listen to episode no. 11 based on prayer exercise #14 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend 5 Minutes With God."

5 Minute Prayer #4 'Listing Your Loves' no. 9 by Joshua Banner

The goodness?
The truth?
I'm having a real good time. 

Living into my vocation has become a delight. Yes, there are genuine difficulties. Susanna and I lost three babies in the past three years (Jericho 20 weeks, Tiernan and Havilah at almost seven). I really miss being with college students and running a recording studio at Hope College. At times it is a mess managing two little boys, the house, the calendar, making meals.... Yes, I'm at my worst in the 'witching hours' of 3:30-8pm. 

However, I'm happier, healthier, and more emotionally and spiritually present than ever. In fact, the Spirit is changing me in ways that are beyond anything I could ask or imagine. 

How? Meditation, the Scriptures, contemplative prayer, spiritual direction, serving in the prison, risking with God. These are all things you and I have known for a long time about faith. It's just that I've only begun to take it all seriously in the last five or six years. 

Please consider the Invitation Podcast my attempt to share the goodness with you, to invite you to listen to the Spirit's invitation. What could be more fun than to watch the Holy Spirit speak to incarcerated felons and pastors?

A NEW 5-Minute Format!
This will end up being five-ish minutes. As you see, I've put a big No. 4 on this one. The 4 refers to exercise #4 from the prayer guide "Forty Ways to Spend 5 Minutes with God" that I wrote for Harderwyk. The idea is to do guided meditations of each of the 40 prayer exercises. N. 4 is my first attempt at this. As always, I appreciate your positive/critical feedback.

I started with #4 because I hope it might especially help with the front end of Lent:  During Lent we are attempting to slow down, do less, eat less, drink less…to empty ourselves…to create internal space for God as we anticipate his resurrection. I pray episode No. can help you live into Jesus' death and resurrection.

I invite you to 'list your loves' here in Episode #9 on prayer exercise No. 4.  

The closing song, "Psalm 23:1-2" is used with permission from theversesproject.com and Zach Winters.