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Ruth Haley Barton at the Dominican Center Part I No. 36 by Joshua Banner

Do you have a longing for deeper things than your church and other regular sources of spiritual nourishment are able to help you with? The Holy Spirit can lead us to places of solitude away from what is familiar, structured, and safe. This is so we can learn a new kind of dependence on God in a place of solitude that the church even in its most robust and healthy forms can understand.

Spiritually hungry, desperate seekers throughout the history of the church have turned to the ancient vocabulary of contemplation and mysticism. The Invitation seeks to make bridges for these deeper, transformative resources to move into the church. This is a service of translation, finding ways to make the vocabulary of transformation accessible and approachable.

Author, teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader Ruth Haley Barton is a leader in this work of translation. I had the joy and encouragement to sit with Ruth in an extended, public conversation at the Dominican Center last January. This is Part One of two episodes where I share this conversation with you.

This episode also marks the beginning of a new collaboration between the Invitation and the Dominican Center, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, MI. Our shared hope is to offer you a series of similar conversations with lead authors, teacher, and practitioners.

Please visit www.dominicancenter.com for more information, and make sure you subscribe to the Invitation Podcast at www.invitationpodcast.org

A BRIEF INVITATION MINISTRY UPDATE

Spring is here and that means I’ve been outside all week swinging a hammer on the new building that will be the home for the Invitation. You may have followed the info blitz last fall as I worked the Kickstarter campaign to raise capital funds? Things have been much quieter from me since December because its implementation time! The wonderful result of that Kickstarter adventure has lead to this current season of literal building as well as infrastructure building (getting the business of the nonprofit afloat).

We will get back to creating and sharing more regular podcast content once the building is done. I especially have more news to share about the prison prayer practices!!!

This building is proving to be much more difficult that I could have imagined. Maybe if I knew in advance, I wouldn’t have stepped out on this crazy faith journey. I continue to be encouraged that God is leading more people to the Invitation revealing himself to them in transformative ways. Please pray for the Invitation and consider a financial contribution to sustain our work.

Peace & Love of Christ to you!

Josh

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Retreat #7 Sharon Garlough Brown, Mark 1:35-38 No. 35 by Joshua Banner

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This winter has been intense, the church is struggling, our politics are a mess.

In episode 31 with Jonathan Wilson Hargrove, I suggest that prayer is deeply connected to our politics. I’ll leave you to work out those things for now. I am committing to small amounts of daily news and larger amounts of prayer for my neighbors near and far.

In terms of the church: I’m watching pastors resign their positions on a local level and reeling from the recent conviction of a high-ranking cardinal in the Catholic Church. I vividly understand the real discouragement with organized religion, yet even still I dare to hope. The Invitation exists to serve the church, to build up the body of Christ.

At home we’ve struggled here to get much of anything done with sickness and kids home from school on snow days. We have often feel trapped and then of course we easily get on each other’s nerves and angry with each other.

There are many things that could keep us from prayer. There are many things that could harden our hearts and close our hearts.

 How do you keep your heart connected to God’s warmth when the cold days are long and cruel? How do you hear the Good News when our public conversations are full of so much bad news?

Praying in the prison is my greatest subversive act of hope in our culture of despair. Prayer is rebellion against the status quo. I am buoyed with the goodness of finding love and patience, wisdom and kindness in the darkness of a prison.

Offering you prayer resources through the Invitation is another subversive act. I find great comfort and delight knowing that my practice of spiritual direction offered through the Invitation Podcast is invigorated by the movements of the Holy Spirit in a prison, and that this goodness is able to somehow reaching you wherever you are spread across the world.

I just looked. The Invitation has listeners in Austria, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and Peru among other places. It’s a small group, but the Spirit can do much with our small things.

This episode is a long-form retreat from our dear friend, retreat leader, spiritual director, and author, Sharon Garlough Brown. Conversation #3, episode No. 7 is a conversation with Sharon. This time she helps us consider the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced by walking us through Mark 1:35-38 in prayer and meditation. 

I pray that this audio retreat will help you live into and practice your own subversive acts of hope and joy. I pray there will be ripple effects of goodness and light all around you today.

Peace of Christ,

 

Josh

Awakening Series #1: What Can a Sixteen-Year-Old Teach Us? No. 34 by Joshua Banner

The only other space besides the prison where I have regularly been excited to discover the Holy Spirit is a summer camp. 

I didn't think I'd last long as the director of discipleship for the Awakening. It's a worship arts week in the for high school students. I've been going deeper into contemplative prayer in a prison. I thought maybe I'd offer a few years at the Awakening and then focus more on the prison and the Invitation, but I've been surprised and humbled.

In fact, these teenagers have something to teach me, and to teach you.

I don't go into the prison to bring Jesus to the men there. I go to the prison as a spiritual director to join with the men to discover Jesus who is already among them. Likewise, with these high school students of the Awakening. Jesus is already vibrant within them.

This is the introductory episode in a new collaboration with The Awakening. In this episode I practice something like group spiritual direction to discern with the students how Jesus is with them by asking: what is the unique gift you have to offer us as a teenager right now, today?

The word we focused on was vulnerability.

Here in this introductory episode to a new series of collaborations with the Invitation I offer you a chance to join into our discernment and to see what the Spirit might show you.

More information about the Awakening can be found HERE.

Don’t forget our public, spiritual conversation with Ruth Haley Barton at the Dominican Center, January 23. LINK HERE.   

And if you are a church leader of any kind, you are invited to join the Invitation's 3rd Annual Contemplative Prayer Retreat Feb 11 & 12 here in Holland, MI.

Be sure to subscribe to the Invitation at www.invitationpodcast.org 

Love & Peace,

Josh

Dying to Comfort Vs Dying of Comfort: A Journey to the Prison - Micah Matthews No. 33 by Joshua Banner

Micah Matthews recently finished and MFA in fiction at Warren Wilson. This episode is his audio essay where he describes his visits to the prison with Josh. These visits cause Micah to reflect on the spiritual good of going outside of his comfort.

Without permission to take microphones and cameras into the prison, this essay is the next best way for you to come inside to taste and see the movements of the Holy Spirit in a prison.

The Invitation is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to cover our capital budget. Please consider contributing financially so that we can create more creative spiritual formation content like this for you. tinyurl.com/y9gqmnha 

Please subscribe to the Invitation Podcast to stay in the loop with all the new content as it becomes available.

Thanks for joining this journey with us!

Much Love & Peace to you!

Josh

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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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Conversation #10 Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove No. 31 by Joshua Banner

Who wants to talk politics & prayer?

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This conversation with Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove will lead you into a Spirit-filled wilderness of hope in the midst of our political wasteland.

Yes, trusting Jesus with our politics will be difficult and intimidating. We should offer more than any party-line assent. Opening ourselves to engage in this kind of learning curve and conversation will require courage and patience. This wilderness journey will bring us to exhaustion and then likely to our knees, to repentance, and then finally to Hope.

Here in this wilderness we must especially learn to wait on the Lord in quietness and trust. He alone is our salvation and help.

However, there are several voices in our country pushing back on this call to prayer. "No thanks," they say. "We don't need your thoughts and prayers. We need new legislation and we need your action!"

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
— C.S. Lewis

This response is fair if its in response to small prayers. C.S. Lewis famously argues in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory” that our desires are not too strong but too weak. We are far too easily pleased.

In a similar way our politics are not too strong but too weak. Our neighbors do need our thoughts and prayers if we are engaging God’s love in a transformative way. They need us to be so thoroughly changed by our thoughts and prayers that we might become agents of justice and righteousness in our neighborhoods and cities.

In this episode I offer you a hearty introduction to this conversation by encouraging you to enter into this wilderness desert for the sake of loving God with your strength for the sake of righteousness, which is justice. This episode is a challenging invitation for you to bring your politics under the Lordship of Jesus no matter your political leanings and affiliations.

Can we trust the Spirit to lead us into the wilderness, to brave this political storm growing our faith to believe yes, everything is going to be alright?

Truly truly! Verily verily! Amen amen!

Let it be so!

Love,

Josh


Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne edited the prayerbook Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Each day’s prayer is concluded with this:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
— originally from the Celtic book of Prayer
 

"Jonathan is a moral prophet and spiritual physician for our time. In this timely book, with the precision of a heart surgeon, he exposes the sickness that has long-plagued American Christianity and infected our society and politics, revealing that none of us is untouched by the disease. With the credibility of his life lived in solidarity with systemically oppressed people, he resounds a clarion call to reform the way in which we live the gospel. This is a must-read for all Christians in America. You will be humbled, enlightened, and motivated to heal the ailing heart of our country and recover its soul." 

-Philenna Heuertz

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