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Archive for August, 2008

Intentionality

I thought I had made up the word “intentionality” but when I googled it, found that it’s got a long philosophical history.

According to Wikipedia:

“The term intentionality is often simplistically summarised as “aboutness”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is “the distinguishing property of mental phenomena of being necessarily directed upon an object, whether real or imaginary”.”

Intentionality has to do with pure thought.  This philosophical theory supposes that intention does not exist on any physical level.  I find this fascinating considering I live in an intentional community, and we have a fair number of conversations here about our intentions (or sometimes our lack thereof).  We are spending our lives entirely concerned with something very important that doesn’t actually exist!  Or does it…

Intention is more powerful than we want to acknowledge most of the time.  Whether I am paying attention to it or not, I am always directing my intention at someone or something, and as the Oxford Dictionary says, these someones or somethings can be real or imaginary.  I’d like to say that most of my intentions are good, but…well…I’m a human being and I like to be right and that means that often you need to be wrong.  And watch out if I actually have to prove to anyone that I’m right and you’re wrong, because you might wind up the victim of my intention run amuck.

So how do human intentions get so easily led off course?  It baffles me because I believe that we are all created in the image of God, and therefore we have goodness at our core.  But then there’s that whole pesky fall from the garden thing, and the fact of our imperfection.  Try as I might to always make you happy, eventually I am going to screw up and you are going to be mad and I’m going to be frustrated and we might not even know what hit us as we groan and gnash our teeth at one another.

I am part of a couple of 12-step groups, and one of the things you hear often in meetings is the advice to “act your way into right thinking,” because the best thinking of an alcoholic often winds him up in jails, institutions, or AA meetings.  This adage is fine for the newcomer, when old habits are being broken.  But I think the point of recovery work is that new habits will be formed.  Eventually I will need to learn to think my way into right action.  Eventually I will train myself in the practice of right intentionality so that my best thinking can lead me into some of my best acts.

My dear friends Michael and Jessa were married earlier this month, and their wedding was stunningly beautiful.  The best part was that they were so honest about what they expect out of a marriage relationship.  They talked not only about the joys of matrimony and wedded bliss; they acknowledged the difficulty and confusion that will inevitably visit their relationship.  In their vows, which Jessa wrote, they spoke of what tonight I know as intentionality; at one point they said “I will inevitably hurt, anger, and upset you, but I will not mean to.”  Their intention is in the right place!

As I listened to their vows, I was struck by the number of times I have meant to hurt, anger, and upset the people I love the most.  It was a call for me to get my intentions back on the right path.  Not saying I ever  hope to be perfect.  I’m a human living in a world where I have free will to control my actions.  This means that I have absolutely no control over your actions.  But I can change my responses to your actions, and in time we can learn to interact with highest intention, whether we happen to like each other or not.  If only more people would consider their intentions, peace on earth might be closer than we think…ok, lofty ideals aside, at least there is hope for peace within my household, and within my community.  What a blessing!

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Here I am, doing another one of my “nevers.” (A “never” is something I laughed at when I first heard about it and said “I would never do that.”) But I’ve done it now: I’m a blogger. I’m going to be living out a portion of my life in cyberspace. The gateway was a hotmail account, then a cell phone, a yahoo e-mail address, a facebook, a flickr account, and now a blog!

My title, “Turning Dreams into Deeds,” comes from one of my favorite quotes by Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA. Koinonia is an 65-year-old intentional Christian community. I have lived there for nearly three years now, and it is a place where people don’t just talk their faith, they live it. I live here with my husband Brendan, my two daughters Ida and Kellan, and with about 30 other men, women and children who also call this place home.

Now, I never, and I mean NEVER, thought I would be doing any of this. Not just writing the blog; in college I swore I would never get married or have kids, and I certainly was never going to give Christianity a second look. Fortunately for me God had other plans. In a fairly desperate situation about five years ago, I prayed to “the universe” for some stability. “The universe” delivered, and now my life is filled with strong relationships with my family, friends, my community, and God (whom I now refer to just as “God” instead of trying to be new-agey and vague about it).

I believe God has called me to live my life in community, to demonstrate an alternative to the ills of mainstream society. Like I said before, Koinonia is a place where people live their faith. In the words of Clarence Jordan: “Faith is the turning of dreams into deeds; it is betting your life on the unseen realities.” Every day here is a journey into the spiritual, as we work to live out our mission and align each of our individual paths with God’s will.

When I first came to visit three years ago, no one preached at me or told me what to believe. They invited me to sit with them during the shared community lunch, to listen to and tell stories, to ask questions, to join in their work and fellowship and prayer as I felt comfortable. There was no force, no friction. There was nothing to resist. Now, I grew up in a dysfunctional church environment and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with any church by the time I got to college. But like I said, God had other plans, and a sense of humor. Not only do I call myself a Christian today, but I live in a community that was founded as a church!

I really do love it here, and I’m looking forward to telling more stories about my journey. I hope you enjoy reading along!

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