Friday, December 27, 2013

Jean Fleming’s “Pursue the Intentional Life”

The art of the journal is practiced for any number of reasons – to remember what we might forget; make observations; remember significant words, phrases, quotations, and ideas; take notes; and so on. It was some years ago that I noticed people at work beginning to take up “journaling” – to keep track of the multitude of meetings required in modern organizational work life.

I keep a journal, too, for all of the above reasons, but most of all for writing drafts of articles, blog posts, and poems. Sometimes I combine several of those journaling functions – and take notes from a sermon in the form of poems, for example.

Jean Fleming is a mother, grandmother, and former member of The Navigators staff, with assignments in California, Korea, Colorado, Arizona, Seattle, and Colorado. She is also the author of several books: A Mother’s Heart, Feeding Your Soul: A Quiet Time Handbook, Finding Focus in a Whirlwind World, and The Homesick Heart: Longing for Spiritual Intimacy. Fleming also keeps a journal, which has been transformed into Pursue the Intentional Life.

This is not simply a reprint of a writer’s notes, jottings, and observations. Instead, Fleming has created a cohesive understanding of why life should be pursued intentionally, that life is not simply something “that happens” but is instead filled with purpose and meaning, and often profound meaning.

“Numbering my days,” she writes, “forces me to confront universal and irreducible truths. Life is short. Soon my life on earth will give way to my life in heaven. Rather than leading to panic, the reality leads to a peaceful and settled urgency. Although thoughts of heaven are so lovely to consider, the Lord reminds me that my short stay on earth is my only chance to honor Him with faith and faithfulness. Isn’t this, after all, gaining a heart of wisdom?”

And gaining a heart of wisdom is what lies at the core of Pursue the Intentional Life. This is a book meant to be read slowly and savored, with wisdom and experience reflected on every page. It isn’t a “finding joy in 10 easy steps” book that can be devoured in a few hours and then tossed aside, forgotten like most of those books should be. It is a thoughtful, carefully constructed, work, filled with what Fleming has learned about faith, life and God over a lifetime.

She also de-romanticizes what a life of faith is, even including a chapter with that title. Life is hard. Faith is hard. But both life and faith offer great reward.

Pursue the Intentional Life is what I’d call a wisdom book. It’s not a book that could have been written by a millennial or a GenX-er. It’s not a book written for people focused on time management and squeezing even more activities into a hectic schedule. It is a book written, as writer Monica Sharman suggests in the foreword, for people asking the question, “What kind of woman (or man) am I becoming?”

And Fleming answers that question with insight and grace.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Lovely, interesting review.