Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Winner's Mudhouse Sabbath

Another short book review for NetGalley: Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (Study Edition; Paraclete, 2015).

I've only read snippets of Lauren Winner's work before, so I was happy to read this new Study Edition -- some 50 pages longer than the 2003 edition, thanks to more endnotes, multiple sidebars, and reflection/discussion questions. In the introduction to this edition, Winner points out that although "study" itself could have been added on as a twelfth chapter, instead it "threads" throughout as a further invitation, echoing the book's new subtitle. It's a little difficult to tell from the advance proof, but I think this idea will work well, as it offers (there's that invitation again!) greater depth and opportunities to study, without overwhelming those who wish to read more sparingly. Winner even acknowledges this, noting that she herself, her students, and her colleagues don't necessarily ruminate on the texts that they purportedly "study," but race through and even "cannibalize" their readings. She doesn't condemn that practice, but wisely offers, again, the chance to read more deeply here.

Other than the sidebars and so on, the text of the book stands much as it did in the earlier edition. Winner guides us through eleven spiritual disciplines, each informed both by her Jewish upbringing and her conversion to Christianity: sabbath, "fitting food" (kosher), mourning, hospitality, prayer, body (i.e., embodied-ness), fasting, aging, candle-lighting, wedding, and doorposts (the making or setting-apart of Christian space, drawing from the traditions of Deuteronomy 6). Winner's decision to leave her original text largely unchanged gives her readers a bittersweet window to her past -- we know that her mother will die, and that the marriage she is about to begin will end -- but that adds a rich, honest poignancy to her earlier words. And the words she adds in sidebars bring additional warmth to her invitation, and occasionally some humor, too: having noted that sabbath-keeping entails rest from the act of creating, she asks us, "What do you make" of the weekly reiteration of this ritual? With this and other pointed but hospitable questions (many of which have both individual and communal applications), Winner shows us the best of what a "study" edition can be. I highly recommend this book as a welcome reminder that the rich heritage of spiritual disciplines is an integral resource for our practice of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment