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Life-giving Force

Author and Sabbath-keeper Keri Wyatt Kent shares the joy and surprising discoveries of taking a day off every week.

Keri Wyatt Kent is busy. She works full-time from her home, volunteers at church and in her community, is a wife, mothers two teenagers, speaks across the country, and writes books, including her recent Rest and Deeper into the Word. How does she accomplish it all? "I keep the Sabbath," she admits. Here's what she's learned about this neglected commandment.

Kyria: How did you start practicing Sabbath?

Keri: When my kids were little, I wanted a day off, but Sunday was a busy day for my realtor husband. So I made little changes, which evolved over time.

What did you discover?

I was calmer. I easily get flustered, but I gave myself permission to lighten up.

I also built relationships with my kids. I often say, "Just a minute. I'm busy." But Sundays I'm available.

One Sabbath my daughter and I just watched the squirrels play outside. That may not seem spiritual, but it is. Kids form their image of God from how they're interacting with their parents.

It's the sacramental ordinary.

The sacramental ordinary?

Both Lewis and Tolkien write about ordinary moments, and yet they're sacramental. Like when Lucy has tea with Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sabbath is like that—it's routine, but because of that, it's transformed into something sacramental. In its ordinariness it becomes sacred.

That adds another dimension.

Right. It's not just a day to chill out. It's a day to focus on God. So worship and church need to be part of it. Let go of being in charge and see what God lays in your path.

Practicing Sabbath changed the rhythm of our lives. It's a process and a journey.

How do you convince the family?

Start with yourself—the only person you have the power to change. Gradually cut more tasks, aim for being a calm presence in your family. See if you can change enough that they notice without you saying anything.

After a month or more of changing only you, tell your family what you're doing, and set a boundary. You might say, "I'm trying to slow down my Sundays and make them a day of rest, as the Bible commands. I'd love for you to join me. The next step in this process for me is to not run errands on that day, even for a school assignment." (Give them advance warning.)

When we first started this practice, I'd gently challenge my husband to make different choices. But I also knew I had plenty of work to do on myself.

In what way?

When I first brought home my newborn daughter, for instance, my mom said, "An editor called about an article." So I handed her the baby and walked to my office! I had no boundaries whatsoever on my time.

Part of the process for starting to practice Sabbath is to say, Where have I not set boundaries? When have I said yes when I should say no?

I learned to map out my obligations over the next three or four months. I was coaching my daughter's soccer team, volunteering at church and in the PTA. It was too much. So I drew a timeline with how long I'd committed to each thing and when each ended. I couldn't renege on some commitments, but when that commitment ended I said no to create some space.

So you can practice this without anyone else coming along.

Right. Don't think, I'll do that when my husband gets on board. A wise friend told me that when you change the steps of the dance, your partner has to change to keep up with you. So change yourself.

My husband noticed a change in the atmosphere and wanted to join me.

When you honor God with a little bit of your week, he gives back to you in unexpected ways.

But many women feel guilty taking time off.

In the Bible the day before Sabbath was called preparation day. In the Jewish rhythm of life, you had three days to look forward to Sabbath—the crown of the week. And then you had three days to reflect on it. Preparing, celebrating, and reflecting.

Work for five days, spend one day on domestic errands, then the seventh day let go. Make a chore chart, so they don't all fall on Mom. Part of the reason we feel guilty is because we're doing everything.

That's true!

One of my Sabbath mentors, Sybil Towner, said, "You have all the time you need to do the things that God has called you to do." But we feel, That's impossible. I do not have all the time I need. You don't. You have all the time you need to do the things that God has called you to do.

Sabbath is about freedom. The Bible says to remember the Sabbath because you used to be slaves in Egypt; slaves don't get a day off. We have the freedom to take one day a week off.

Cut one chore this day and do everything else normally. Give yourself a year to build your Sabbath practice. You'll have weeks where it falls apart, but then just get back on the next week.

One life-giving day.

It really is. People ask, "How am I ever going to get everything done if I take a full day off?" It's one of those mysterious paradoxes: resting makes you more efficient. I get so much done on Mondays because I'm refueled.

God made us this way. He wouldn't give us a command that doesn't fit with what we are. He didn't make us to go nonstop. He made us to live according to a rhythm that he spelled out for us in creation.

What's been the most surprising benefit?

The way it's formed me. I'm a doer and I can believe that God loves me based on what I do. But when I don't accomplish anything—and realize God's love is still there, that's when I understand that God's love is unconditional. I'm not sure I'd truly know that if I wasn't practicing Sabbath.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Ginger E. Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.

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Busyness; Rest; Sabbath; Slowing Down
Today's Christian Woman, May/June , 2011
Posted May 2, 2011

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