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Beguiled by Beauty

Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion

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Westminster John Knox Press
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Contemplative disciplines, such as centering prayer and meditation, have been part of Christian life for centuries. They seem hard to practice now, not simply because our distracted and hyperstimulated age makes them difficult but also because they can appear irrelevant to the needs of a fractured and ugly historical moment. Yet these practices are more essential now than ever, claims Wendy Farley. These practices essentially awaken and attune us to the beauty both of the created order and of human relationships. Farley helps readers discover being made for both kinds of beauty, with contemplative disciplines immersing us in it. Tying these disciplines with contemplation allows us to engage with the struggle for justice in an unjust society. Beguiled by Beauty includes practical advice for readers to learn several contemplative-meditation practices.

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Wendy Farley is Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality and Rice Family Professor of Spirituality in the Graduate School of Theology, University of Redlands. .
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“Thomas Merton wrote that contemplation is the spiritual life ‘fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.’ In Beguiled by Beauty, Wendy Farley develops a remarkable account of contemplation that demonstrates the truth of Merton’s insight. Drawing extensively on the historic wisdom of the world’s contemplative traditions, Farley describes the Christian contemplative life as one open and attuned to Divine beauty and immersed in everyday joy, sorrow, delight, suffering, and routine. Not a ‘how to’ book, this work is nonetheless filled with practical wisdom for anyone who longs to more fully embrace and embody God’s love, compassion, and justice in the world.” – Timothy H. Robinson, Lunger Associate Professor of Spiritual Resources and Disciplines, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University

"Lots of books ask questions, but few of them put us in question. By doing the latter, this book helps to make us who we hope to become. Contemplation leads to compassion and Farley leads us toward both." – J. Aaron Simmons, Professor of Philosophy, Furman University

Churches who are utilizing the Beguiled by Beauty worship series based on Dr. Farley’s book have commented, “in the midst of pandemic fatigue, it has ignited a spark,” “the images of creation were like a universal heartbeat… ones I will think of when I am fearful or anxious,” “I have been on the brink of despair… I want to thank you and Dr. Farley for touching my soul deeply.”
“Wendy Farley gently lures us into a world of wonder. We begin to sense the nuance of each detail, infused as it is with divine goodness. She pivots us from one scene to another, showing us ever more instances of inherent beauty even in heartache. She invites us to make a shift from a moral obligation to ‘do right’ to a deep desire for all beings to ‘be right’–whole and beloved. As we follow her lead into this theology of compassion, we finally come to notice that the world we have fallen in love with Is our own. We discover that the ‘rich, courageous, generous, and joyful’ life she describes can be our own. And she gives us tools to make it so, helping us into practices of contemplation to center and guide us, opening deep wells of respite in these times of grief. Dr. Farley’s writing style has wide appeal–theologians, philosophers, pastors, parishioners, and practitioners will find themselves ‘beguiled’ by the experience.” – Marcia McFee, Ph.D, Creator and Visionary of the Worship Design Studio and Ford Fellow Visiting Professor of Worship, Graduate School of Theology, Redlands University, home of San Francisco Theological Seminary
"In luminous and lithe prose, Farley invites readers into a more contemplative life. She situates that life in an alluring and compelling theological vision; one that connects the human and the divine not through arduous discipline, but through beauty, wonder, and compassion. That theological vision is, in turn, embodied in the gentle guided walk through various practices she offers in the concluding chapters. It’s an invitation that I hope we’ll all accept – for our own sake as well as that of our troubled, yet beautiful world."  – Ellen T. Armour, Vanderbilt Divinity School

"I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to delve more deeply into contemplative pursuits in the company of an astute theologian and experienced practitioner of them. It is basic enough for a beginner yet deep enough for longtime devotees of contemplative practices." – Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

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