Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner

***The following review was writen by my wife Lisa. She stole the book from me when I brought it home, so I will post my thoughts on the book once I have finished it. ;-) ***

Lauren Winner first struck a chord in me with her tactile little book Mudhouse Sabbath. Liking my coffee as much as I do, and being very visual, the book – which has a picture of a diner table and a cup of coffee on the front cover – grabbed my interest. It did not disappoint.

I have struggled myself with a switching of religious upbringings, which this book addresses, and then some. But its appeal to me stems largely from my wanting a rich and full experience of God not just in the realm of reading his word and prayer but things I can “hang my hat on.” I like being tactile. I want tradition to wrap me up into Gods’ holiness, to quietly be reminded to seek and look for him in daily reverences.

Coming from a background where this was not just a requirement but the only way to find one’s holiness and deliverance into the Kingdom of God, I have spent more than half of my life pushing away any traditions at all. Now having read this, and the place I find myself in life (wishing I had some traditions), I see a thinly veiled security in her looking to Judaism to bring depth to her Christian walk. I think she hits a chord in all of us in wanting a daily experience to bring us closer to God in all we do. But it comes at a price.

The freedom God gives us to experience his glory is not found in these made up moments to remember him. It comes from his Holy Spirit ringing true in us as we make moment-to-moment choices to do things that glorify him and bring us closer to being like Christ.

I would really like the experience of lighting candles, smelling the incense and watching the flickering light burn to be a holy one; a pause in my day to reflect about God. But I’m not really sure how it can be holy. I am finding as I have striped away all these traditions in my life I don’t really know how to venture back there or if I really want/need to. Lauren brought me to think about these things in a way that was benign yet comforting, yet, as I discussed it with my husband of 12 years, I realized how painful of a crossing this was for me.

Traditions in their own right are a valuable way to stay connected to our past and to look forward to our future, even my hodge-podge traditions growing up gave me ice fishing every Dec. 25. (no santa, tree or presents included) and I actually anticipated it greatly. But traditions can also bring you into a mixed-up place of falsehoods that can leave you really empty.

I think the way Winner draws on her Jewish experiences, and the enlightenment that comes from tying these two backgrounds together, as a way to look for a deeper mesh of holy traditions make sense. There is a pace to her book that gave me moments to reflect and those moments come too few and far between in my busy and lackluster life style. I am beginning to wonder how I am going to try to fill that space of ice fishing for my daughter.

Mudhouse Sabbath has helped me to light that candle and to start an old journey anew. I hope this has peeked your curiosity about the book. It is a good short read, go find it and enjoy.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


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