Mudhouse Sabbath: mentoring with a cuppa joe

Several writing and editing projects are currently competing for my time, but lest I allow this blog to atrophy, here are a few quick comments:

First, a reminder of my upcoming online discussion on Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton. On December 27, I’ll post a few questions and hopefully spur you to dialogue. If a few of you participate, I might do it again—so if you’re interested in starting an online book club, get thee to a Barnes & Noble and grab a copy of this classic. Only 14 reading days left!

Secondly, the latest issue of Christian History & Biography was in my mailbox tonight, and can you guess who is on the cover? Sick of C.S. Lewis yet? Before you eschew him forever, please go see the movie. Brandon and I saw it opening night with film buffs Jen and Joe Troutman (they’re not professional critics, but they’re serious enough to have taken a seminary course on how to watch movies!). My short review: beautiful color, great casting, significantly faithful to the book. If that’s not enough for you, my sweetie has written a longer interaction with links to various other reviews. (Side note: a few weeks ago I posted about a lecture on Lewis by Wheaton prof Leland Ryken. Audio of the event is now available online—thanks to Diana for posting the link.)

Finally, over the weekend I read Lauren F. Winner’s Mudhouse Sabbath (Paraclete, 2003), recommended by my sister Sarah. I first read Winner this summer when I picked up a copy of Girl Meets God, an account of her journey from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity, and I was impressed by her insight.

In Mudhouse Sabbath, she urges Christians to consider eleven spiritual disciplines she first learned as a Jew. This is not an attempt to “reconcile Judaism and Christianity,” as the book jacket declares, but simply a call to practice those traditions and physical reminders that help maintain a fresh, authentic pursuit of godliness. To anyone familiar with Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines (or other mainstays of Christian spirituality), some of these are obvious—prayer, fasting, hospitality. But you may not have considered candle-lighting or aging or weddings as disciplines in their own right.

Still, what makes Winner unique is more style than content. She is vulnerable and winsome, offering biblical wisdom as she hands you a packet of Splenda across the café table. This is mentoring in book form, pointing to Scripture, speaking to the heart issues, confessing her own mistakes, like the church friend you meet for coffee and prayer. Systematic theology it’s not, but it’s not decaf spirituality either—Winner is clearly versant in the heavier literature of Judaism and Christianity. Mudhouse Sabbath is a quick read that will spur you to think about your daily and weekly rituals as opportunities to worship God.

12. December 2005 by Mindy
Categories: Reviews | 12 comments

Comments (12)

  1. Did you notice any variations in the way fasting is said to by done in the Jewish tradition versus how someone like Dallas Willard might write about it for the Christian tradition?

  2. Good question. Both Winner’s and Willard’s books briefly describe the history of Christian fasting, which is rooted in the Jewish tradition. Since Jesus observed the Jewish fasts, fasting was a major aspect of the Christian tradition until the Reformation (when apparently it became suspect like other Catholic practices) and is now observed by Protestants almost exclusively at Lent. Orthodox Jews fast more regularly.

    The one major difference between Jewish and Christian fasting that Winner notes is that Jews are obligated to fast, especially on a high holy day like the Day of Atonement, when fasting involves abstinence from not just food, but also anointing yourself, sex, and even wearing leather shoes (too comfortable). Jesus doesn’t specifically command his followers to fast on certain days, but he does assume it when he describes how to practice it in Matt. 6:16-18.

    Though fasting has to do with repentance, Winner insists that it’s not “like a back-room deal at the courthouse, the lawyer for the penitent trading three weeks of food in exchange for divine mercy.” Instead, “When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies” (p 91). Willard agrees: “Persons well used to fasting as a systematic practice will have a clear and constant sense of their resources in God” (p 167, 1991 edition). The dates, regularity, and specific deprivations may vary, but the purpose is the same: to turn attention from physical concerns to spiritual ones.

  3. um i love lauren winner

  4. oh, and also i’m not sure if i’m going to be able to join the discussion thread on too late the phalarope! with the move and all (and not being to find the darn book in the store!) i’m not sure if i will be able to give it the time and attention it deserves! (i kind’ve made the book sound like a person or a pet… weird). anyway, don’t hate me because i’m moving!

  5. Min,

    I like the way you described the consistency in purpose, even if practice is different. After I suggested Willard’s book to someone once, he looked at me and said, “You mean, try to earn my salvation like a Catholic at Lent?”

    This person clearly didn’t understand the idea of discovering dependence on God through these types of disciplines.

  6. Oh, and don’t worry Sare, we have plenty of other reasons to hate you. :)

  7. ..er…tried to think of something funny, but..nothing.

    I would try Thackery’s in your area. They are almost certain to have it since they are by the University. Maybe you can do a quick, light read, for the discussion and then go over it in detail later on.

  8. Yeah um Thackery’s closed like …. almost a year ago.

  9. Brandon:

    Winner is certainly not advocating that observance of spiritual disciplines has saving power, only that God has built into our physical human existence various opportunities to exercise control over our bodies and/or focus on serving and worshiping Christ in the most basic of our experiences–not just by fasting (the one we tend to get worked up about!) but also by serving meals in our homes or celebrating at a friend’s wedding. Because those functions or rituals are so basic to us, they make for regular opportunities–but they are also harder to think of in terms of how they can help us grow spiritually. That is, of course, why we call them “disciplines”!

    As Paul reminds the believers in Galatia, “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

  10. Sarah, I’ll be there on Saturday to help you move, so maybe you’ll have time to read after all!

  11. Yeah, bring the book for me to read!!! I can probably crank it out that night!