Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's your Sabbath routine?

I've enjoyed hearing about people's morning routines on my last post, and I'm gathering ideas from you - so please keep them coming. I'm revamping mine, then I'll share it with you later this week. So more to come on that.

Meanwhile, let me ask you, what is your Sabbath routine?

If it's to nag your kids to put on something appropriate, fight with your husband on your way out the door, sit through the church service while you think about where you'll eat lunch, then spend your afternoon running errands, and your evening finishing up household chores you didn't yet complete this week - have I've got a gal to introduce you to! Today I'm welcoming Keri Wyatt Kent to visit and tell us about her new book, Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity.

Keri's book is very practical and looks at how we can move from living hectic, hurried lives, to living lives of Sabbath Simplicity. Keri is also the author of Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life - a book that I've long liked and remains on my shelf so I can read back through it every so often. Her new book (Rest) picks up where that one left off—offering life-giving guidance for living a sanely paced, God-focused life.

And she's going to be giving away a copy, so keep reading and then post a comment to enter to win!

Keri, welcome. As you know, I've read both Breathe and Rest, and I love this idea of Sabbath Simplicity. Would you explain what that means?

Sabbath, first and foremost, is a gift from our loving God. He invites us to take a day to rest from our labor, so that we might engage in relationship with him and with others. Its purpose is to refresh us physically and spiritually, to celebrate our freedom, to draw us close to God, and yet to remind us that we are not God.

Sabbath Simplicity is a sanely-paced, God-focused life. It’s a lifestyle that includes the practice of Sabbath-keeping, but goes beyond just taking a day off each week. In a way, it’s living out what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6:33: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Sabbath Simplicity seeks God first.

I'll bet some of my bloggy friends (not to mention me sometimes) have Sabbath days like the one I described above. What brought you to make your Sabbaths different?

Sundays in my house when I was growing up were mostly a relaxing family day, even though we didn’t call it Sabbath. But when I had my own family, I found myself getting very busy—not just with kids’ stuff but also getting over-involved at church. I tend to have a work-a-holic approach to life.

When the kids were small, God brought a couple of books that mentioned Sabbath across my path. The idea of Sabbath stirred a longing in my soul, which is one way God speaks to us, through our deep desires. So I started, on my own, to set aside my normal work. It was very gradual, and it took my family a while to even notice.

It’s a mysterious practice, in a way, because to “do” it, you have to stop doing. It is simply resting—and yet it brings you into the presence of God. It’s been a profound part of my spiritual journey. And my children know that Sunday is a peaceful day at our house. They also have learned that I am available to play, to listen, to cuddle. It’s given us a day for quality time, and I think it’s helped me be a better parent. It also silently affirms to my children, you are loved, apart from your accomplishments. It is okay to just be.

Yes, and I think that is something God says to us with His gift of the Sabbath. One thing I really like about your approach to Sabbath-keeping is that you take it seriously, yet make it enjoyable. Tell us how you like to spend your Sabbath day beyond attending church?

It depends on the time of year. In summer, I love being outside: gardening, walking the dog, riding my bike, just sitting on the deck reading. Some weekends, we are at my in-laws lake house, and we go sailing, water skiing, or just spend time with extended family.

In winter, my best Sundays include a walk or a workout, and then some time on the couch, drinking coffee and reading (The Sunday tribune or a good book), with a fire in the fireplace and Mozart on the stereo. If I feel creative, I might cook but I always plan ahead enough to have leftovers available for dinner.

Mmmm, sounds so inviting! How can we get to that place of Sabbath Simplicity in our own lives?

The first step is to assess the current pace of your life—what activities have you and the people you live with said yes too. How hurried are you? You can’t figure out your next step, really, until you know where you are starting from. You may have to get very concrete and write down your schedule and look at it. Because your activity level during the week is going to affect your Sabbath.

Second, choose a day that you will keep Sabbath. I recommend Saturday or Sunday, but if you must work on those days, pick a different day. I recommend going from sunset to sunset. The Old Testament Sabbath was from sunset on the 6th day of the week to sunset on the 7th day—although as I explain in detail in the book, their ancient calendars were different from ours.

Third, choose one thing to refrain from, and one thing to engage in. For example, refrain from housework or running errands, and engage instead in reading a spiritually challenging book, or playing with your kids. Start with small steps, and think about building your Sabbath Simplicity life a little at a time, gradually. After a few weeks, add another thing you will refrain from, and another thing you’ll engage in. Pray and listen, let God shape your Sabbath practice. Make your relationship with him the focus. Allow yourself flexibility.

That sounds like a sensible approach to me - although I admit when I read your books I get motivated to dive right into Sabbath-keeping! Keri, I imagine some people may be wondering, "Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? If so, do we even have to practice Sabbath at all?" What did Jesus say about the Sabbath?

By that argument, it would be okay to kill because we are free from the law. What Jesus set us free from is being saved or in right relationship with God through the law. We’re saved by grace, not by law keeping. So we won’t be saved by Sabbath-keeping, but it is still how God invites us to live.

The ancient Jewish Sabbath had very strict boundaries, but within those boundaries, there was freedom and relationship. The Torah and traditions prohibited what was known as melachah, work that is creative or exercises dominion over your environment. There were 39 specific prohibited tasks, such as reaping, lighting a fire, etc., that correlated to the 39 tasks needed to build the temple.

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, gave us a new way of following the ancient law. Jesus reminded us that the law was originally meant to invite us into relationship with God. While the Bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace, and not by the law, God’s law still remains a great way to live—as long as we don’t get legalistic or think keeping certain rules will save us.

Sabbath is important for many reasons, which I cover in the book. But here’s just one key reason: it allows us to experience the unconditional love of God in a physical, tangible way. It’s one thing to say he loves us even when we are not accomplishing or performing. But if we never actually stop performing, how can we experience that unconditional love? It allows us to say yes, with our bodies and our schedules, to Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Sabbath is not so much something you “do” as a gift you receive.

I have a whole chapter in the book that talks about what Jesus said about Sabbath. Researching that chapter was very interesting. I noticed that Jesus often taught by saying “you’ve heard it said…but I say.” For example, he’d say, “you’ve heard it said, don’t commit adultery, but I say, if you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery.” But he didn’t use that particular style of teaching regarding Sabbath. But the thing he seemed to get in trouble with the Pharisees and teachers of the law for most was breaking their Sabbath rules. I think that in breaking those rules, he was saying to them, “you’ve heard it said…but I say” with his actions.

He healed on Sabbath, restored relationships, taught and confronted, and defended those choices vigorously. He called us to a new understanding of Sabbath—and clearly stated that legalism is not his way.

I know there are lots of ideas in the book, and I know you've said that you never legislate Sabbath for anyone else in your home, but will you give us -- particularly those of us with families to manage -- a few tips for working this Sabbath Simplicity into our lifestyle?

Substitute whole family activities for individual activities. Going for a bike ride or walk together, attending church, serving in your church or community together—these are ways to keep kids active but not running in different directions. It builds your family’s cohesiveness.

Do the housework together with your family the day before Sabbath to get ready. The day is more restful if the house is clean.

One Jewish tradition is a family meal, which begins with lighting candles, prayer and saying a blessing over your children. Kids love rituals, and prayers of blessing can re-align our hearts.

Some families have a box of toys that only comes out on Sabbath, so that they are special. I have an entire chapter on “playing” which I think is a very important part of Sabbath with small children.

Don’t run errands on Sunday. It’s a nightmare with little kids in tow anyway. Do it another day, and save Sunday for just relaxing with your family. I have very specific suggestions on how to do this in my book.

Thank you, Keri, for calling us to a new understanding of Sabbath. There is lots more great ideas and teaching in the book. Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity provides practical ways to slow down and simplify. It offers the gift of Sabbath, as a lifestyle and a spiritual practice.

Now, if you’d like to be included in a drawing for a free copy of Rest, leave a comment or question below. If you leave a question, Keri will be glad to try to answer it. We’ll select a winner on Wednesday evening (EST).

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity is available at bookstores everywhere, and on-line. Click here to purchase it from or For more information about Keri Wyatt Kent, visit her website at or


  1. Sad to say we don't make it about half the Sundays. That doesn't mean that we don't take the time to read the Bible and pray. Just that we didn't make it to church.
    We like the early service w/o all the distractions the later/family service has.
    Sunday seems to be like any other day except everyone is off from work.

  2. When I was growing up, Sunday was definitely kept as a Sabbath day, with church in the morning and a definite "do-no-work" policy the rest of the day. Unfortunately, while we still do church in the morning, I've fallen away from the more restful practise as an adult and would like to return to it for my own spiritual growth as well as as an example to my kids.

    Your post gave me some inspiration on how to get back to it.


  3. Since my hubby often says I don't know how to relax, this might be straight from God. Count me in for the drawing.

  4. Oh my! Did I ever need THAT. I gotta have both of those books! How awesome.

    The Sabbath has been tricky for us lately. We recently moved, are looking for a church home, and expecting another baby! Thanks so much for refocusing me on this one!

    Wonderful, seriously :)

    Sweet Blessings,
    Kate :)

  5. I don't need to be entered in the drawing as I already have the book, but I thought I'd share...growing up my parents never called it Sabbath, but we always went to church, ate a simple lunch (frozen pizza or something) and then they tried to pick out a new and different place/activity for us to go/do.

    I've started Sabbath with my boys (almost 3 and 5) and we go to church, go to lunch with friends, then come home and relax. We like to light candles instead of turn on the lights as the sun goes down on Sunday evening. It makes things feel different that day. And I turn off the computer on Saturday night until Monday morning which is my own personal Sabbath.

  6. I've been more intentionally observing and resting on the Sabbath in the last couple of years and it has made a world of difference. I've also found that if I rest my family usually follows suit. Unfortunately, this weekend was the first weekend in a very long time that rest on the Sabbath just didn't happen and I can tell a big difference as I start my week. Makes me want to guard that day even more diligently!

    I'd really like to have a copy of the book because I'm a firm believer in the importance of taking one day to redirect our focus for God and family. I'm sure she had much more to say on the subject than I've discovered thus far.

  7. I love all the great ideas. Even if I don't win the copy, I'll be getting this book.
    We do some of those things on Sunday right now but I definatley will be making a few changes to make our Sunday's even better. Some of the chores I do on Sunday will not be done anymore. If they don't get done on Saturday, then they can wait!

  8. This is so awesome! I have been trying to have a day of rest for a while now and I take a nap but that leave my children 11 & 12 playing without me which they don't like. We attend morning and night service on Sunday so it doesn't leave a lot of time and I feel guilty not attending night service. I'm tired on Sunday and I work the next morning, but I also know the importance of a day of rest while hanging out with the children. The book sounds like it has some great suggestions. Thanks
    Columbus, OH

  9. My husband and I just talked about this very subject with my sister and brother in law yesterday as their pastor gave a sermon on keeping the sabbath. I would love to be entered into the drawing as our sabbath could use some tweeking!


  10. Hi I would love to be entered in the drawing for a book on rest!
    Thank you! My husband and I try to protect Sundays as much as possible by not making committments to go anywhere after church except maybe a quick trip to the grocery store.

  11. With life being so busy its hard to settle and take in Gods beauty. Thank you so much for giving me an insight to a restful Sabbath.

  12. Thank you for this post! My family could certainly use help with this! I am the type of person who feels the need to always be "doing." It is very hard to relax! Please enter me in the drawing!
    Thank you,

  13. Was i ever convicted reading this!! Ouch.

    The bad thing is.....I normally have to do much grocery shopping on Sundays, b/c that's when the coupons come out and it's the only day I know for sure my husband will be home!! =) I KNOW bad excuse!!

    Thanks for your thoughts about this homeschool thing. I'm encouraged to know that you too did it for a season. I keep telling myself that word "season".

  14. Because my husband is a pastor, Sunday mornings can be very busy!! But, We are trying to make it a family day of rest. We often have to stay around for two services and then some so we have gotten our kids involved in some of the clean-up type serving we do at church. Even our two year old daughter helps out by pushing a trash can around. It is a great feeling to serve alongside our young kids! Next, we go get some lunch out (a big treat for our family) and then we head home. By now it is our 2 yr old's nap time so we all follow her cue. If we aren't all crashed out on the couch together, then we are watching a movie or something quiet. It used to really bother me to be "wasting" time by doing nothing but I have come to cherish this time with my family. Just being together and doing nothing. Later in the evening, we have a simple dinner (usually still full from lunch) and then we try to play a family game.

    Anyway, I love the idea of a simple Sabbath and would love to read more ideas on how to protect this special time with my family.

    Blessings from Somerset, KY

  15. Thank you Keri and Rachel - for the most part we tend to lay low already on Sundays, however I'd like to set apart that day even more and even refer to it as Sabbath.

  16. This book sounds perfectly heavenly! I'd love to be able to read it!!

    Thanks for offering the book in the drawing.

  17. Just a question? Does Keri include Church in her "Sabbath"? Not that I feel going to church "Makes" you a believer. I do believe it is a VITAL part in the Sabbath the Lord calls us too.
    My husband and I are youth leaders at our church. And I grew up in a Pastor's family. So my Sabbaths have always incuded church on Sundays, lunch with the family. (It started as 5 of us, and now with extended family there are 12 of us that gather together.) After lunch, I ALWAYS get a nap with my 5 year old daughter and my 8 year old son and husband play a game together. The evening we are back at church with the teens. Our kids participate too, and they feel like teens themselves. The teens are very gracious to them. When we have lesson time, they are in the church child care, but when we play games and have snacks (We call it SNURCH, snack after church...they join us and LOVE IT.)
    We try to put the kids in bed early on Sunday nights to start their week off right. Please enter me for the book. I'd love to read it.

  18. Rachel, thank you for featuring Keri and her books on your blog! I definitely want to read them both.

    Recently our small group has begun informal gatherings on Sundays to walk or run. We've been meeting at a different location every week. It's great, the athletes run, some of the kids skate or bike, and then there's a group of dog walkers. This has been taking me away from that grocery/laundry routine. I hadn't really thought about it as a Sabbath activity until reading this post, but it truly is. It's great to meet again with my small group outside of our normal Bible study/potluck. It is strengthing our bonds with the Lord and with each other.

  19. I have read and reread Breathe and Oxygen. Keri's writings are very encouraging and I often need to be reminded to be still and listen to what God wants for my life and the lives of my kids. I am trying to incorporate a Sabbath each week. I need to be more intentional about it but with 2 small kids and a husband often busy thru out the week, it has been difficult to establish one consistent day as my Sabbath. I am anxious to find Rest and begin reading it now.

  20. Great post! God has been working on my heart lately about "keeping the Sabbath". I have 2 young kids, and I think we will start to be more mindful of "resting and worshiping" more on Sunday..besides just going to church. Thank you!

  21. Great post! God has been working on my heart lately about "keeping the Sabbath". I have 2 young kids, and I think we will start to be more mindful of "resting and worshiping" more on Sunday..besides just going to church. Thank you!

  22. Sounds like a wonderful book. Put me in the drawing :-) I am always looking for creative ideas :-)


  23. Rachel: thanks for sharing this!

    Keri: thanks for the inspiration!

    It's a desire, goal and challenge to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest in today's world. As the wife/mom, I do try to make it a restful, family day. We go to church, usually go out for breakfast and then go home. No "to do" lists on Sunday (unless there is an unusual exception). I always try to make a special meal on Sundays and linger at the dinner table. This time of year, we watch football together as a family.

    We have to go against the tide and pace of the world to keep a day of rest!

    Thanks for the help!

  24. I try and am usually successful in doing no work on the sabbath- there is church and dinner either purchased or at my mom's house. When at my mom's house I usually get a nap the only day I can get one. I try to keep this a day of rest, sometimes there is bible study or christian reading material but not alwys. I truly would like to make my sabbath more quiet time with God, a day of reflection over the week and how I can do better in the coming week. You have given much for thought. Hope I get to add your book to spiritual libary. thanks for sharing and encouraging family time.

  25. The book sounds really good. I read Keri's first book and really enjoyed it. Put me in the drawing, please.

    I've made an effort to rest on Sundays, though it is not always easy. We get up and have a leisurely morning before church drinking coffee, reading the paper, playing. After church we do some more laying around reading, napping, etc. If the weather is nice we go to the park. We usually have an easy dinner or leftovers.

    Last Sunday I made the mistake of going to the grocery store for a few small items. It was really crowded and took forever. I was pretty uptight after that experience. I won't be doing that again. For me, it is better to brave the grocery store with two small children in tow than to ruin Sabbath.

  26. I'm already excited to start. God spoke immediately to me about one thing I can remove from my Sabbath rest. I think also that allowing myself that day of rest will strenghten my work days for the rest of the week. Personally I need that. Instead of stealing "me time" here and there, I'll know I have that sacred special sabbath day. Thank you Keri! I'd LOVE to read your book.

    Lisa, Washington, NJ

  27. I like the idea of keeping
    Sunday as a Sabbath day. We did this when I was growing up and it made a positive impression on me. How do families handle ball games on Sundays? We have two grade school kids in soccer and games are sometimes on Sundays. We attend as a family , but I wouldn't call it restful.

  28. TATE - yes, Keri attends church.

    AMY - Here's what Keri says...

    "I have never legislated Sabbath for anyone else in my home. My kids have freedom that day to rest or to play or whatever. They know that I am available to listen or to talk. Sometimes we will play a board game, go for a bike ride or a walk.

    My daughter has played soccer for ten years, and she sometimes has games on Sunday. But we are never running from one game to the next, or from the game to the grocery store because she is not in more than one sport at a time. (so in that way, we do restrict—they can do one sport and one artistic pursuit at a time, no more). But the restriction is not just a Sabbath thing, it’s a lifestyle thing."

    EVERYONE - I'd love to hear about it if any of you do make changes to your Sabbath routine.
    ~ Rachel


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