The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy, By Susan S. Phillips alt

The Cultivated Life

From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy

by Susan S. Phillips
Foreword by Eugene H. Peterson

The Cultivated Life
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 0 × 0 in
  • Published: May 22, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 9766
  • ISBN: 9780830897667

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Dallas Willard Center 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?

"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."

James A. Donahue, president, Saint Mary's College of California

"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."

Ivan Satyavrata, senior pastor, Assembly of God Church, Kolkata, India

"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."

Jeannette A. Bakke, author of Holy Invitations

"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."

Lynne M. Baab, author of The Power of Listening and Sabbath Keeping

"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."

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door

"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."

Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary

"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."

Emily Berman D'Andrea, The Presbyterian Outlook, August 31, 2015

"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."

Relevant Magazine, July/August 2015

"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."

Donna Watson, CBA Retailers + Resources, July 2015

"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."

Jung Eun Sophia Park, assistant professor of religious studies and philosophy, Holy Names University

"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."

Micah Andrew Hasty, Brave Daily, December 1, 2015

"Susan Phillips's book issues a gentle invitation, accessible to all, to run away from the circus and to cultivate our spiritual gardens."

Lynne Baab, Radix 38, no. 4

"This would be a great book for a Lenten study or other adult study or book group, definitely a slow thoughtful read."

Anne Metzler, The Lamplighter


Foreword by Eugene Peterson
Introduction: Leaving the Circus
1. The Way of Cultivation
2. Finding and Receiving Refreshment
3. Listening as a Way of Receiving Cultivation
4. Stopping
5. Sabbath Keeping
6. Cultivating Attention
7. Praying with Scripture
8. Cultivating Attachment
9. Spiritual Direction
10. Rooted and Grounded by Friendship
11. Practicing Friendship
12. Bearing Fruit and Enriching the Soil
Conclusion: Living toward Completion

Appendix: Guidelines for Practices
Index of Names and Subjects
About the Author


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Susan S. Phillips

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 The Crisis of Care: Affirming and Restoring Caring Practices in the Helping Professions and Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction. 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 Radix and Presence magazines and the journal Reflective Practice. Along with her husband, Steve, she has two sons and worships at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, where she has served as an elder.