Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner

It's safe to say I have never read any book like this before.  I can't even think of a comparison.  But I loved reading it, and I would recommend it to almost everyone I know.

Lauren Winner converted to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism when she was in college.  That alone is mind-blowing to me.  In this book she writes about 11 spiritual practices she misses from her "jewish ways."  Then as she gives clear explanations of each practice, she explains how she is trying to incorporate it into her Christian life.  The information is great, the writing is great, and reading it made me want to be a better person.  It inspired me to evaluate my devotion, my spiritual practices, and what I could learn from traditions and practices of a religion I know very little about.

In her introduction she says, "Practice is to Judaism what belief is to Christianity." Then she writes, "your faith might come and go, but your practice ought not to waver."  This totally resonates for me.  There are times when I might be questioning my beliefs, or not feeling as convinced about something, but I just keep doing the things I know I'm supposed to be doing, and it comes around again.  You know?  And I think it's when you stop doing the things, that you stop believing.  Not the other way around.

I loved when she talked about the Sabbath.  "In observing the Sabbath, one is both giving a gift to God and imitating Him."  Her descriptions of ushering in the Sabbath, and then enjoying it, were beautiful.  I'll admit I've let some things slip in my observance, and reading this made me want to work more on Saturday, so that my Sabbath can truly be Holy.

The chapter on mourning was fascinating to me.  Judaism has these very specific, structured time lines for mourning.  I loved the part about the prayer that must be said twice a day, but must be said with 10 other people.  So no one is left alone in their sorrow.  When Winner has a close friend die, she is reminded that "I might not know what to do in the face of this death, but the tradition that raised me knew what to do."  This made me think of the way that having practices and procedures can help you to deal with the pain.

Winner has a chapter on fasting.  I love that she admits up front that she doesn't like to fast.  So I think this chapter was especially personal in her attempts to find meaning and balance. "It is not meant to distract us from the really real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are."  This is a nice way of saying what I know, that fasting humbles us and makes it easier for us to be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit.  She also quotes a Rabbi saying, "When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent.  When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies."  One thing she doesn't mention, which is the only way I can fast, is fasting with a purpose.  Having a particular need that I focus on all day gives meaning to my fasts.

Another great quote: "Most good and holy work is sometimes tedious, but these tasks are burning away our old selves and ushering in the persons God has created us to be."  I love it.

There's another chapter about community, and I love that our church puts so much emphasis on creating a community, or family among believers.  I know it isn't always successful, but it can be.

Look this one up.  Its a tiny little volume that was both thought-provoking and inspiring for me!


salty c-snake said...

your post made me want to read this book!! lots of books here to catch up on. can't wait to read some of these. slow down so i can catch. wait don't slow down, i like lots of choices;)

kim said...

this one sounds great! i love hearing from people who have made the jump to conversion and how cool that she can find great things about both religions. thanks for the tip!

Kammy T said...

Yes! Read it. It is really good, and I'd love to hear what someone else thinks about it!