Although this book is written for Christians, Lauren Winner's message has universal appeal. Having converted from Judaism to Christianity in early adulthood, Winner (Girl Meets God
) is a joyful follower of Christ, but a more discriminating follower of Christianity. Early on in her conversion, she noticed that Christianity lacked much discipline or emphasis when it came to performing rituals, so integral to the Jewish faith. "This book is about those things that I miss," she writes. "It is about Sabbaths and burials and prayers, rituals Jews and Christians both observe.... Jews do these things with more attention and wisdom not because they are more righteous nor because God likes them better, but rather because doing, because action, sits at the center of Judaism. Practice is to Judaism what belief is to Christianity. Your faith may come and go but your practice ought not to waiver." She organizes her chapters according to the rituals and values that both religions share--such as prayer, candle lighting and weddings--and discusses how Christians could deepen these rituals by taking a few lessons from the Jews. For instance, she shows the parallels between Shabbat and the Sabbath, and asks Christians to consider the Jewish model--a true day of rest (not even shopping!) in order to deepen the connection to God. ("Mudhouse" is the name of the coffee shop where Winner reads an inspiring account of Shabbat from Nan Fink's memoir Stranger in the Midst
.) When talking about mourning a death, she discusses the Jewish "calendar of bereavement" that acknowledges the slow process of mourning, a spiritual discipline that readers of all faiths would be wise to study. Winner's writing is generous, personal and filled with practical suggestions-a perfect blend for the spiritual growth genre. Overall, she expertly invites Christians into a deeper and more daily level of faith. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Winner, who wrote about her conversion to Christianity in 2002's acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, draws on the Orthodox Jewish rituals that shaped her young adult life to rediscover the richness of those customs in her life as a Christian today. Through her personal reflections on 11 spiritual practices, including keeping the Sabbath, prayer, fasting and candle-lighting, Winner illuminates the profound cultural and religious significance of each practice within the Jewish community and modifies those practices to enrich the lives of Christians who seek of deeper experience of their own faith. Taking care not to turn the rituals into legalistic regulations, the author instead cuts to the heart of each spiritual practice and shows, through examples from her own life, how it can fit into a gospel-centered paradigm. The chapter on the Jewish approach to mourning, for example, poignantly conveys the inadequacy in the all-too-short grieving process among Christians. On a lighter, humorous note, a friend's suggestion that she continue the tradition of attaching a mezuzah, or tiny scripture scroll, to the door frame of her home forces Winner to face her unwillingness to expose her Christian faith quite so publicly. As much as anything else it accomplishes, Mudhouse Sabbath-"Mudhouse" refers to the coffee shop where the author read a compelling Sabbath account one Sunday afternoon-succeeds in establishing Winner as a writer of spiritual substance and grace-filled style.
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