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 amazon.com or christianbook.com. For more information about Keri Wyatt Kent, visit her website at http://www.keriwyattkent.com/ or http://www.sabbathsimplicity.com/