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The Gift of Rest

How to embrace the blessings of the Sabbath.
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When I first started observing the Sabbath 25 years ago, it wasn't by choice. My husband and I lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, at the time, and everything in our neighborhood—stores, movie theaters, and restaurants—closed from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Even the buses stopped running for 24 hours. Since we didn't own a car, this greatly affected our lives.

At first we struggled to find activities for Friday evenings and Saturdays. But after a few months, we began to enjoy a day with few entertainment options. We read, we walked, we talked. My husband sometimes went bird-watching in the field near our apartment. I wrote long letters. We napped. Sometimes we prayed together leisurely. We simply slowed down. We rested in God's love and experienced his grace.

Our Sabbaths in Israel became God's gift to us individually, and enriched our life as a couple. Through Sabbath-keeping, we experienced the truth that God's love for us isn't based on what we do. We yearned to keep growing in our ability to receive that unconditional love once we returned to the U.S.

Back in the States, our family decided to continue observing the Sabbath on Sundays. Our first son had been born in Israel, and our second son was born soon after we returned home. As a young family, we read to our children, took long walks, and went to the zoo and the park after church.

As the years passed and our children grew up, our Sabbaths changed. But two things stayed constant: a slower pace and no work.

Slow Down

Never did a culture need the Sabbath as ours does today. It pressures us to be productive 24/7. Everything we do has to look good and accomplish something. Nothing encourages us to stop. But the word "Sabbath" literally means stop, pause, cease, desist.

One young woman recently told me, "I'd like our family to observe the Sabbath. I've been reading books about it, talking with my husband and kids, and we're going to start soon."

"Great," I replied. "Tell me about what you plan to do and not do on your Sabbath."

"I love the idea of starting on Saturday at sunset with a festive meal," she explained. "I'd like to have special food, blessings for the children, prayers and candles, like Jewish people do. Maybe we could sing some songs. Then the next day, after we go to church, I hope we can read some Bible stories and do some crafts to help the kids center the day around God."

"What do you plan to stop doing on the Sabbath?" I asked.

She looked at me blankly. Slowing down hadn't figured into her Sabbath observance. She was focused solely on adding new activities.

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Related Topics:Relaxation; Rest; Sabbath; Simplicity

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Lorraine

March 27, 2013  8:38pm

What a great and very important subject! I think that most students of the Bible would agree that 7th day Sabbath like marriage was instituted at creation. Like marriage it is a holy institution - it was 'blessed' and made 'holy'. As Christians that 'setting' apart by God (way before the jewish nation existed, might I add) should mean something to us. We also see the seventh day Sabbath being kept from Genesis to Revelation (The 7th day Sabbath we are told will be kept in Heaven). History and sociolinguistics, anthropology and linguistics unmistakably verify that the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week - Saturday - Google 'Saturday' in Spanish, Italian and the other 200 plus world languages which translate Saturday as a variation of 'Sabbath' e.g. in Spanish = Sabbado or Italian = Sabato. The Sabbath is such a special gift to mankind from God, a time when he wants to meet with us and refresh us with his blessings. I hope that we will just take a look at His word and enjoy His Holy day

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Linda Dietz

February 16, 2013  2:36pm

This article is very much needed in our activity-driven 24/7 society. Instead of quibbling over the day...I think we would do well to "master the concept or discipline" of even observing a Sabbath. I personally do not know of any friends or acquaintances who practice observing the Sabbath...and I worship with a fairly conservative, non denominational body of believers. I have been convicted once again to embrace the Sabbath as a precious gift to us by a Father Who knows & loves us. We are only hurting ourselves when we choose not to accept His gift!

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Karen Miller

January 29, 2008  10:31pm

Overall, I appreciated this article for the author's intent, but was disappointed to hear her encourage the 1,700 year old "switch" to "keeping Sabbath" on the 1st day. Few people dispute that the Sabbath is indeed Saturday (actually Fri sundown to sundown Sat as the author pointed out), yet millions of Christians dispute the relevance of observing it on the 7th day. Why did the author, who kept Sabbath on the 7th day (even understanding the sundown to sundown principle) while in Israel, came back to the states and decide to "keep Sabbath" from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday - convenience? It is time for Christians to be taught the biblical truth of the 7th day Sabbath Jesus kept, and when that involves "coming out and being separate", so be it. God really did mean ALL of it when He said "the 7th day shall be for you a day of rest". He did not say "pick a day to be a sabbath". He said "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy [set-apart]". Let's begin to take Him literally.

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