Tuesday, June 08, 2010

lauren winner: mudhouse sabbath

mudhouse sabbath by Lauren Winner on Amazon

Small in size and light to hold, making it easy to slip into purse or backpack, mudhouse sabbath could become a handbook and resource for almost anyone's spiritual journey. Lauren Winner writes from the perspective of two of the great Abrahamic traditions, Judaism and Christianity; from her Jewish upbringing she brings perspectives on prayer, liturgy and community and she filters her Christian experiences as a present-day member of the Episcopal Church. Each of the eleven chapters has a dual title in (transliterated) Hebrew and English; topics include sabbath, food, morning, hospitality, weddings and doorposts. Notes at the back reference scripture and other books, too. Her words and sentences flow almost exactly like real-life speech and the sentences are short enough not to need to go back and read it again to be sure you got it. Such a pleasure to read!

mudhouse sabbath"Mudhouse" is the name of the coffeehouse in Virginia the author enjoys and at the time of writing (book is © 2003) sometimes visited on Sunday after church. (The site looks very pretentious to me.) I didn't try to find the origins of the name, but I like to think of similarities with mudrooms that form a liminal space that's neither still out in the world (or even in the yard) nor quite yet completely inside the house, a conscious bridge between outside, more public space and inside, more private space. They're especially common in climates that feature winter snow, and provide a handy, safe place to shed boots, shovels, mittens and parkas so you're not out in the elements and you're not wrecking the best rug or the great room, for that matter, with mud, dirt and leaves. In each chapter Lauren talks at least a little about her own perspectives and sometimes struggles between being private and being public, about how much to bend in order to let other people into her own bent spaces, something that only can be done in spaces where you're not afraid of spoiling pristine surroundings, where you know it's okay to drop some crumbs and let sentences hang mid-air.

Lauren talks a lot about obedience. As a Jew, you don't do something because it feels good or because you desire or like the outcome; you do it because God has commanded it. And not surprisingly, in the long run you usually do feel good and discover the outcome is exactly what you desire. Life grounded in Torah and directed toward God is intentional and almost seamlessly integrated between sacred and secular, between public and personal. I particularly love how shopping for food, preparing it, feasting on it and fasting from it, preparing for Shabbat, grieving death and anticipating new life in marriage all take time and thought because they need to be done properly, in a way that almost forces you to consciously be aware of God, gracious Creator and bountiful Giver to Whom it all belongs, anyway. As I mentioned in my intro, this is literally a hand book and Lauren could have included other subjects or expanded on the chapters she chose. But one of the beauties of mudhouse sabbath is the way every chapter can apply to every reader and easily be adapted to your own circumstances. I hope you'll buy the book, enjoy it and make some of these insights, disciplines and practices part of your own daily walk.

my amazon review: bridging and integrating Judaism and Christianity

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