Practices of Love
Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World
Spiritual disciplines are often viewed primarily as a means to draw us closer to God. While these practices do deepen and enrich our "vertical" relationship with God, Kyle David Bennett argues that they were originally designed to positively impact our "horizontal" relationships--with neighbors, strangers, enemies, friends, family, animals, and even the earth. Bennett explains that this "horizontal" dimension has often been overlooked or forgotten in contemporary discussions of the spiritual disciplines.
This book offers an alternative way of understanding the classic spiritual disciplines that makes them relevant, doable, and meaningful for everyday Christians. Bennett shows how the disciplines are remedial practices that correct the malformed ways we do everyday things, such as think, eat, talk, own, work, and rest. Through personal anecdotes, engagement with Scripture, and vivid cultural references, he invites us to practice the spiritual disciplines wholesale and shows how changing the way we do basic human activities can bring healing, renewal, and transformation to our day-to-day lives and the world around us.
Foreword by James K. A. Smith
Introduction: Spiritual Heroin: How Not to Get Fixed
1. Spiritual Disciplines and the Way of Love
2. "What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive?": Simplicity and Renewed Owning
3. Directions for Ruling the Mind: Meditation and Renewed Thinking
4. This Is My Tummy, Which I Will Curb for You: Fasting and Feasting and Renewed Eating
5. Time-Out for Adults: Solitude and Renewed Socializing
6. Controlling the Chatterbox: Silence and Renewed Talking
7. How to Make Friends and Empower People: Service and Renewed Working
8. Work Hard, Consecrate Hard: Sabbath Keeping and Renewed Resting
9. Who's Afraid of Love? Everyday Discipline for the Life of the World
"Spiritual disciplines, if done wrong, can become a form of sanctified narcissism. Bennett's book is a welcome corrective. He turns the disciplines sideways, and in doing so life gets oriented outward. We have focused much on the first great commandment. Bennett helps us put shoes on the second great commandment. After he discusses each spiritual discipline he gets down and dirty with specifics. If you take him seriously, your life and your neighborhood will be changed."
Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University; author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks
"If you stay the course with Kyle David Bennett's book, you are likely to find yourself wrestling with it, as with a mysterious stranger."
John Wilson, former editor, Books & Culture
"What if spiritual disciplines are not just for Sundays? And what if they are not just for your own spiritual growth? In this lively book, Kyle David Bennett shows how our everyday working and resting, speaking and listening, eating and shopping can be Christian practices with and for our neighbors. With earnest passion and humble humor, Bennett calls us to spiritual formation that is an intentionally social expression of love."
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Calvin College; author of Glittering Vices
"Kyle David Bennett helps us see that spiritual disciplines are for the good of others as well as ourselves. Take up and read this antidote to spiritual heroin and be encouraged to pursue a life with God with both vertical and horizontal dimensions."
Vincent Bacote, director, Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College
"Love your neighbor as yourself? Easier said than done! Kyle Bennett teaches us the practices that make loving our neighbor possible, even for flawed people like ourselves."
Gideon Strauss, associate professor of worldview studies, Institute for Christian Studies; senior fellow, Center for Public Justice
Outreach 2018 Recommended Resource of the Year (Discipleship)
"Astute insights from a philosopher about how to engage the classic spiritual disciplines in ways that do not only enrich our vertical relationship with God, but also our horizontal relationships with friends, family, neighbors, strangers, enemies, animals, and the earth."
"Bennett's unique and satisfying work on meditation contrasts the standard view of meditation as a vertical affair (persons connecting with deity) with a horizontal perspective (contemplation as a way of connecting with and serving others). . . . He goes on to provide a manual for reconfiguring the believer's inner struggle toward experiencing God's presence in the lives of ordinary people. Bennett's message is clear and concise as he continually refers back to his basic tenets. . . . A total, all-encompassing view of sanctification emerges in every page of this challenging work, which extends an invitation to all who call themselves believers. Bennett effectively implores readers to reach beyond the vertical view of worship and understand the importance of reverencing all of God's creation."
"Bennett believes that spiritual disciplines are supposed to help us as we seek to follow Jesus, but he is deeply concerned that spiritual disciplines, as practiced today, actually keep us from living as Jesus would have us live. . . . [Spiritual disciplines] should be preparing us to love God and neighbor in the everyday realities of life. Taken together, such practices are part of an integrated way of life, the way of Jesus. . . . As we practice the Sabbath each week, Bennett writes, God can help us see more clearly 'where God is at work in our lives and where we can be more responsive' every day of the week. Practices of Love applies a similar lens to a range of disciplines, dedicating chapters to simplicity, meditation, fasting and feasting, solitude, silence, and service. In each chapter, Bennett works to reconnect the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the practice. In one sense, this book can be seen as part of a trend . . . toward reclaiming the importance of the ordinary in our lives. Bennett contributes to the conversation with his emphasis on spiritual disciplines and his consistent reminder that loving our neighbor as ourselves is an essential part of the daily call to follow Jesus."
Kristen Deede Johnson,
"Bennett's take on the spiritual disciplines offers us none of the seductive charm of a minimalist wardrobe. Rather, in true monastic spirit, there is only the strange and uncomfortable, day in and day out enactment of a new sort of community, one in which love for one's neighbor is not just a beautiful idea or even a political position, but something sunk deep into muscle memory, something that fills even the in-between moments of ordinary days."
"Most of the material I have read concerning the disciplines are primarily focused on the personal practice of the disciplines with the exception of those practices which are inherently communal. For that reason, I believe Practices of Love adds a great deal to the discussion of practices. . . . I would . . . recommend reading this book. Taken within the context of all the literature on spiritual disciplines, this book is a needed voice."
Englewood Review of Books
"Practices of Love is a needed corrective to the way we often talk about the spiritual disciplines. While Bennett's proposal isn't entirely novel, he rightly raises this concern with a great deal of biblical and theological care. . . . Bennett has written a helpful and commendable book that seeks to challenge our individualistic tendencies, and I'd recommended it not only for personal reading but also for small groups. Hopefully this book will help others see that the story of the gospel starts with vertical implications, but quickly tips over into the horizontal."
Brandon D. Smith,
The Gospel Coalition
"There are indications in the book, easy to read as it is, that Bennett is pretty philosophically minded, and it makes the book very interesting: he asks what things actually mean, what they should look like, how they fit together, how they work. . . . Without being scholarly or arcane he asks pretty foundational questions and this is good; rare, even. . . . He is a thinker, a teacher, and has a colorful, practical, even humorous side. . . . Passionate and broad-minded and fun-to-read and down-to Earth raw as it is, Practices of Love is asking readers to rethink our assumptions about spirituality. . . . Anybody interested in this field or who has been involved in spiritual formation projects or spiritual direction really should ponder this book. . . . It is very highly recommended, with much hope."
Hearts and Minds Books blog
"The reason [my congregation] love[s] a good answer to 'so what?' is because, oftentimes, the line from sermon to discipleship is not always clear. . . . They want to draw nearer to Jesus somehow and delight when the way is made known to them. . . . I originally requested this book to consider it for a small group study. Such a use would be ideal for this book. Bennet has written clearly and makes liberal use of stories and examples. Readers from many places in their spiritual journey would benefit from reading this book. I expect to use chapters or even the whole book in a future small group setting. . . . If the folks that purchase this book are anything like my congregation, they will be ecstatic to discover Bennet offers them [a] whole realm of practices that answer the question 'so what?'"
Theology Forum blog
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