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It was as a stranger that Leslie Verner learned the most about hospitality. Verner begins Invitedby sharing her experiences as a young woman walking with loneliness and strangeness in China and Uganda. In these very different cultures, she was welcomed as the stranger and invited into homes and communities, overcoming barriers of culture, food and language.

Verner began pondering hospitality more seriously when she found herself relocating with her young family to a new home in middle-class Colorado neighborhood. As time passed, she discovered that “loitering and lingering” were needed in order to know and become known.  Lingering longer in the front yards, sidewalks and parks of her neighbourhood opened her up to people. And “when we begin to love people, we begin to love place,” she writes.

Verner considers the culture of hospitality that Jesus lived and demonstrated: one that welcomes the stranger but also allows oneself to in turn be welcomed by the stranger and outsider. God’s invitation and imperative is to ‘show hospitality.’ “Jesus’ default,” writes Verner “is hospitality. The Western default is privacy, individualism, and independence.”

Invited is Verner’s compelling antidote to the increasing loneliness experienced by so many in North America and around the world. She considers how the IPhone and smartphone might be the most significant culture changers of the recent past. Our ability to be constantly connected has only contributed to our aloneness. An additional contributing factor is our western understanding of ‘time,’ treated as a commodity in a similar way to money—something to be saved, spent or wasted, rather than primarily a gift to be shared.

Verner touches on the success and intrigue of intentional communities in the U.S. and beyond.  She wraps up her thoughts with ideas for practicing invitational living from Christmas open house to summer cookouts. She encourages the reader to be holy and humble in the building of hospitable communities, adapting to the ages and stages of our lives. A recommended read for those who sense a longing in their life to be more connected to their communities but need a nudge to extend the invitation. (Herald Press)

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