Friday, June 6, 2008

Pay Attention


Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline
by Lauren F. Winner

"You find candles in the homes of people who are trying to pay attention." This is one of my favorite lines from this Lauren Winner book, and it became REALLY real to me this week, when an electrical storm caused our neighborhood to be without power for around 24 hours. There were parts of that little adventure that were kind of a nuisance, but it was fun snuggling in our big bed with the little boys, looking at the patterns that the candles made on the ceiling. Such a situation helps us see how much light one candle puts out when contrasted with overwhelming darkness. I am not ashamed to confess that a few times during that dark evening I followed Winner's suggestion and whispered within myself "The light of Christ. Thanks be to God." It did bring an unexpected sense of serenity.

I am not sure that Lauren Winner says anything really new in this book, but that is not her purpose. Instead, she is trying to remind Christians of the Jewish spiritual disciplines that are part of our mutual heritage and inviting us to be more intentional about integrating those practices into our own lives. Most Christians are already doing most of these practices to some extent (prayer, Sabbath-keeping, candle lighting, hospitality, and mourning are a few of the 11 practices that she discusses), but Winner reminds us to pay attention to what we are doing, and to consider all of life as a part of our spiritual journey. As someone who has difficulty with the meditative, contemplative side of life, I thought Winner had some great suggestions for how we might enrich our spiritual lives through practices that can be woven into mundane tasks and everyday occurrences.

If you are familiar with Lauren Winner's work, you will remember that she was raised Jewish and converted to Orthodox Judaism as a college student. Her book Girl Meets God tells the story of her subsequent conversion from Judaism to Christianity. Her intertwined history makes her uniquely able to pick up on the common threads between the two traditions, and Mudhouse Sabbath benefits from her dual perspective. She is someone who is honest about her own struggles and shortcomings, and she does not claim to have all the answers. She instead positions herself as a fellow traveler, one with whom I am glad to be on the road.

Lauren Winner writes about important things with gentle humor. She takes her subject seriously without taking herself too seriously. This is a quick read with lots of helpful nuggets of information, engaging examples taken from real life, and suggested disciplines from which anyone could benefit. I see myself reading this over and over again to remind myself of the ways to integrate daily life and real life.

Reverent Reader

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