The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy
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The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy

InterVarsity Press / 2015 / Paperback

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Product Description

In The Cultivated Life, Susan S. Phillips offers food for thought to help you slow down and awaken your imagination for living the Christian faith with intention and grace. Return to the garden of spiritual rhythm and discover what a cultivated faith looks like. The Appendices include guidelines for Contemplative Listening, Sabbath Living, Lectio Divina, Finding a Spiritual Director, and Cultivating Friendship.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830835989
ISBN-13: 9780830835980

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Publisher's Description

Dallas Willard Center 2016 Book and Research Award Finalist Hearts & Minds Bookstore's Best Books of 2015, Spirituality and the Devotional Life "This is a book written specifically for those of us who are assigned the task of developing an imagination for living the Christian faith with insight and skill in and for a society that is disconnected from the biblical revelation and the Jesus incarnation," writes Eugene Peterson in the foreword of The Cultivated Life. "But it is equally useful for all of us who are committed to following Jesus with our families and coworkers and neighbors." Sociology professor and spiritual director Susan Phillips walks us through the "circus" of our cultural landscape to invite us into a cultivated life of spirituality. If we want to accept the invitation to return to the garden, then we must face down the temptation to live life as spectators of the circus that plays on around us. We want to be rooted and grounded in Christ, but are pushed toward constant work, alternating between performance and spectacle. Cultivation requires a kind of attentiveness that is countercultural to our age of distraction. These pages unfold the spiritual practices that can lead us into a new and delightful way of living. Are you ready to leave the circus?

Author Bio

Susan S. Phillips (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is executive director and professor of sociology and Christianity at New College Berkeley, where she previously served as academic dean. She is a sociologist and trained spiritual director who also serves as supervisor for spiritual directors and consultant for Christian organizations. Drawing insight from the diverse fields of the social sciences, biblical spirituality and practical theology, Phillips has authored books such as the award-winning and In addition to lecturing internationally and leading retreats for churches and organizations, Phillips also teaches at Regent College (Canada), Fuller Theological Seminary and the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction program at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She sits on the editorial boards of and magazines and the journal Along with her husband Steve, she has two sons and worships at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, where she has served as an elder. Peterson, now retired, was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. In addition to his widely acclaimed paraphrase of the Bible, (NavPress), he has written many other books.

Editorial Reviews

"The book is a helpful resource for an adult education class. The appendix, in particular, is a hands-on resource for the how-to of developing these navigational tools. I could see this book being used at my own church in an eight-week study on Christian practices with the goal of helping folks in my community navigate their way into the garden while living in the circus. Thank you, Susan Phillips, for such a practical and fresh look at ancient practices."
"Susan Phillips's The Cultivated Life is a remarkable work on so many levels. Her insightful and sophisticated analysis is able to synthesize both the theoretical and practical in profound and compelling ways. Her skills as a creative theologian and biblical interpreter, a wise and insightful spiritual director, and one grounded in the common-sense particularities and complexities of human experience and history makes her work an extraordinary contribution in so many arenas of pastoral and theological practice. The breadth of her sources and insights—from literature, psychology, philosophy, theology, ecumenical and religious history, and personal history, among others—make this a must-read for scholars, students and practitioners alike. Phillips's style is accessible, engaging and invitational. . . . I recommend Susan Phillips's book with great enthusiasm for all audiences—for all who are searching."
"Susan Phillips, a noted sociologist, not only challenges us to 'leave the circus' of fast-paced mainstream culture, she offers a compelling vision of how we can begin to embody the rich joy and attentiveness of Jesus."
"Susan Phillips's book issues a gentle invitation, accessible to all, to run away from the circus and to cultivate our spiritual gardens."
"This would be a great book for a Lenten study or other adult study or book group, definitely a slow thoughtful read."
"Phillips' academic exploration of cultivating Christian spirituality is told through great stories and vivid word pictures of life in a circus versus a garden atmosphere. She concludes each chapter with a reflective study and provides extensive guidelines for practicing contemplative living, Sabbath living, lectio divina, finding a spiritual director, and cultivating friendship."
"We all struggle in the circuslike culture of contemporary society, which often causes difficulties in attention and healthy attachment in the midst of yearning for the spiritual life. Susan Phillips provides us with ways to cultivate the contemplative life by examining spiritual practices within the Christian tradition such as spiritual direction, lectio divina, listening and friendship. I believe the author's use of stories— stories that have emerged from her practice of attentive listening—will affect readers deeply."
" The Cultivated Life reads like the cool evening breeze at the end of a blazing hot day in the desert. . . . It is also a prophetic clarion call—a warning to a generation trapped in the meaningless rat-race of twenty-first-century existence, suffocated by the demands of addictive consumerism, obsessed with the lifeless toys of modernity, while the breath of heaven who is only a prayer away eagerly waits to share with us the real joys of living. This book is a timely gift to the community of faith to be treasured and shared. More than that, this is essential survival reading for every true pilgrim seeking after the pearl of great price."
" The Cultivated Life is filled with gifts of a generous, transparent spirit. Reading this insightful book and reflecting on its profound questions invite us to taste the life Susan Phillips lives. . . . When I reached the end of The Cultivated Life I returned to the beginning to soak in the words, insights and prayers that arose. Thank you, Susan, for giving us a glimpse of wholeness by offering gifts of spiritual direction through your writing."
"Susan Phillips tells great stories and uses vivid word pictures. Her contrast between circus and garden reveals deep truths about the overstimulation in our daily lives and Jesus' invitation to cultivate a restful and focused life rooted in him. Cultivation implies habits and discipline, and Susan winsomely invites us into new patterns of living. A garden implies lush green leaves and fruitful bounty, and Susan guides our paths into joy and rest. Come into the garden with Jesus and journey into abundant life."
"The most basic human question in daily living is not so much 'what?' but 'how?' Just check the magazine covers in the check-out line. Articles promise to tell us how to lose weight, how to get rich, how to be sexy. But what if you've lived enough to know that life is about more than health, wealth and a good time? This is a book for people who are interested in the how of a life that's really life. Would that it could be front-and-center in every check-out line."
"Susan Phillips can write this book because she lives it. For three decades and more, I have observed the choices she makes to cultivate life and this has been the hallmark of her story. This book is a deep and magnanimous invitation to live in such a way that the flourishing for which we are made can become our experience. Let the grounded welcome she extends and encourages lead us through the circus towards life itself."
"Susan S. Phillips has written a beautiful work in The Cultivated Life . She gives many detailed descriptions and options for spiritual practice and discipline that can help in the cultivation of our lives as we seek after God. Cultivating is hard work and it can become monotonous. Her goal in this book is to remove the monotone and give way to a beautiful flourishing canvas of color and life."

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  1. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Return to the Garden
    July 6, 2015
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Proximity to the land, awareness of seasonal patterns of frost and heat, rain and shine: these are among the chief benefits of a garden, and in my ongoing cultivation of the beautiful mess where my veggies grow, I am continually renewed and inspired by the metaphors that spring forth from every aspect of life in the garden. Susan S. Phillips has captured this peaceful fruition for those who are committed to following Jesus. In The Cultivated Life, the garden as a metaphor for the life of spirituality is contrasted with the life of the circus where our souls ceaselessly strive, and we are pressured into assuming the role of spectator or performer in our three-ring world of anesthetized frenzy.

    In garden-living, spiritual disciplines shed their associations with the guilt of toxic do-lists and become row markers, holding space in which our desire for God can be kindled and in which we might notice God. The cultivated life is both free and rooted. As Paul instructed believers in Colossae, we walk in Him, rooted, (Colossians 2:6,7), a journey that is firmly planted in truth and yet proceeds forward through steady seasons of prayer, listening, sacred reading, and spiritual friendships. The author draws on her interactions as a spiritual director and her mentoring relationships with students to breathe life into her words, drawing her readers into intimacy with the radical stop of Sabbath keeping; the healthy effort of listening and of cultivating attachment; and the mindful bending forward of ordered attention. In the embedded memoir of Susans experience of grieving her parents deaths (within three months of each other) and her celebration of their fruitful lives, there is heart-stretching truth to enhance genuine worship and holy love for a God who enriches our soil through the harsh realities as well as through the times of flourishing.

    Personally, I was left breathless reading Susans gorgeous prose, and I frequently stopped in my tracks to ponder and apply her images:

    . . . we would slam on the brakes as we came upon the stop sign, [and] all our kids sports gear catapult[ed] forward from nether regions of the car. When we stop for Sabbath or in fallowness, we discover our baggage.

    In prayer, as in Sabbath keeping, we turn from so that we might turn toward.

    Countering strong forces in our culture, spiritual disciplines increase our capacity to choose ordered attention and attachment. Attention helps us notice whats real, while attachment connects us to all that matters . . . Its a circular truth: attention (for instance, noticing hints of grace) begets attachment (love), which aids attention (knowing God, the other and ourselves better), and the spiral continues.

    I read these words and then delight anew in my sunflowers, still in their leaf-forming prelude to days of attentive leaning toward the sun. With my bare hands, I pile up the rich garden humus around the bean plants and recall that I, too, am sustained by significant soil with its buried nutrients. With thanksgiving, I uproot the volunteer radishes, a pastel palette of offspring from last years long-forgotten root gone to seed, and I pray for my grandson, for his parents and his uncles, and for all his future siblings and cousins. They are my dear cathedral of redwoods, (Susans rich metaphor for generativity), and through reading The Cultivated Life, I am encouraged to trust for grace to enrich their lives; to pray that they will find Life in the living of it; and to believe that they, too, will choose garden living.

    This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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