I went to Israel two weeks ago with 32 amazing people and the Israel Collective.
On Friday night, while staying in Jerusalem, we were invited to a family’s home for the Shabbat meal. Seriously. ALL 32 OF US.
Unlike anything we do here in America, the entire city of Jerusalem shuts down for Shabbat, or the Sabbath. Stores are closed, home and shop lights are turned off, people are around the table with their family for dinner. No computer, no phone, no technology for 24 hours.
We massively overran their living room and dining room, but somehow this lovely family was skilled and prepared and cooked for all of us, serving many traditional Shabbat dishes. We learned songs that are sang weekly around the table, and we laughed and talked and told stories. The whole thing was absolutely lovely, including our host family and the matzah ball soup.
No phones. No interruptions. No FOMO (fear of missing out) because when an entire town is shut down, you aren’t missing much. There isn’t a better option — where you are is the best option. We were all right where we wanted to be.
It was just beautiful how everyone stopped and everyone looked inward.
I felt connected with God and with my “family” around that table. Something about the quiet of the city added a reverence to the night. It felt like God enjoyed our time around the table as much, if not more, than we did.
After the dinner was over and our team lollygagged through the streets of Jerusalem, my buddies Ross and Matthew and I talked about how we bring this home.
How do you add Shabbat rest and quiet and family focus into a culture that doesn’t live like that?
Sure. I can turn off my phone from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, I can sit in my candle-lit house alone, but with no one else in my community stopping to make space for rest, my FOMO will rage and I’ll miss all the fun Friday nights and breezy Saturday morning walks and BRUNCH. I love brunch.
So I’ve come home with a big Shabbat question.
How do I add rest, not only to my life, but to my home?
How do I find quiet, not only in my community, but WITH my community?
How do I build a life that celebrates the stop of Shabbat?
I don’t know, and I think that’s okay. Something tells me God is just happy that I’m finally asking the question.
How do you celebrate Sabbath in your life? Give me some ideas!
by Annie F. Downs
Crissy pinzon says
I love being in our flowery garden just pondering at nature . Just resting in his presence .
Annie, what an amazing experience. Thank you for stopping us to think about and reflect on this. For me, I think this rest in and with my community requires me to step back more, listen more intently, offer grace instead of words that hurt, take the initiative to invite people into my home without expecting anything from it in advance. Letting go and trusting God. And repeatedly turning back to God for grace.
Just this morning, I taped the following Scriptures to my fridge: Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 16:24, James 1:19, Proverbs 14:29, Psalm 94:19, Jeremiah 31:3. I want to be a vessel for His Love and Peace and not a vessel for anger, impatience and cutting words. I am so thankful for the encouragement of this community and for the week of prayer this community has led us through. You have all been encouraging me to reclaim the rest of God instead of the anxiety of a broken bond with God.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When I read this post, I admit, I felt envious. Envious of the Jewish culture that says, “We will listen and we will cease doing for one day.” Maybe it’s small, but I try not to support our culture that says shop on the Sabbath. I try to avoid things where others have to be working in order to support my leisure activity. Instead, I opt for walks, being around the house, having a good meal together with my family, reading, and a nap is a real bonus 🙂 I try to focus on anything that will point my gaze to God and the peace and grace He has so lovingly given me. I don’t always succeed…but I try.
My family and I have observed the 7th Day Sabbath for all of my life. It is truly refreshing to shut down other weekly intrusions and bask in the rest and relaxation of the Sabbath. And yes, our heavenly Father Yahweh and his son Yahshua meets us there. We have a wonderful bible school lesson in the morning and a awesome praise and worship service in the afternoon; followed by a stirring message. During lunch break we fellowship with each other and just enjoy being together. This weekly practice is both refreshing and exhilarating.
Mary Haynie says
I love my QUIET AREA . I pray, read my Bible, do devotions, and look out on our back yard to see nature. Thank you Lord for being there with me.
What a memorable experience for you. I could visualize it and the only time I can think of this happening in my area is when the power goes out and shuts things down. But while I was growing up it was rare for someone to work on Sunday. It was all about rest.
The other day while walking home, my son and his friend stopped to crouch down and watch two woolly bears cross the same path as us. Every so often they stopped. The thought came to mind, how long it would take for those two little caterpillars to make their journey. To think they were created just as we were with purpose and a destination but they took their time and stopped. And that’s my answer for you. That no matter where I am, I like to take time and give thanks to the Lord.
Thank-you for sharing with us,
How completely wonderful that you got to experience this with them! I grew up in a tradition that was mired in legalism and Sabbath-keeping was a big part of how we did community. There was a love-hate thing with Sabbath since it provided some of the very glue that brought people together but it also served as an idol of sorts, as well as a dividing line between “us and them.”
Leaving that community proved wonderful and liberating and I have grown in ways I am doubtful I ever could have there but the one thing I miss? The built in reverence and enjoyment of the Sabbath hours. Time to be a human “being” instead of a human “doing.” Time where one is expected to be “lazy” in terms of stepping away from all the go, go, going we do in this generation.
it is an ongoing struggle to make space for Sabbath now, especially since we are no longer in community with people who embrace this concept. I suspect it might be anyway however since we live in such a busy and distracted generation. Just means swimming against the current is more necessary than ever. It’s a worthy effort as Sabbath can be so life-giving and life affirming. Thanks for your post on this, Annie.
Rosie Bachand says
i don’t think Sabbath was meant to stop but to focus differently. focus inward, focus on God. that can be done in a family but it’s hard in a society that does not acknowledge a Sabbath. we can, like everything else take it to the extreme. Lights on but Bible open, tv off but discussion on.
I love the community aspect of this. I’m not sure why I’ve never thought about this in terms of community before. Hmmm…food for thought. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I would love to have a similar equivalent to what you have described in our culture. It sounds wonderful. I don’t celebrate Sabbath well. I want to. It is one of the few days, though, that we usually manage to get our whole family around the table, for at least one meal- and that, I love.
Last month, one of the ladies who spoke at our church’s women’s retreat touched on the topic of shabbat. She and her husband spent a number of months in Israel, and she came back with such a passion for celebrating a weekly sabbath. I admit, I’m not good at taking an entire day EVERY week to simply rest.
Here are a couple thoughts I wrote down from what she shared: Matt 11:28-29 talks about rest for our souls, not only for our bodies. This really challenged me. No, I don’t have my answers yet, but two other verses she shared were Psalm 46:10–Be still and know that I am God . . . and Isaiah 30:15 that talks about how God’s desire is for us to choose repentance and rest. The question is, will I (we) choose this? My takeaway from some of what she shared is to ask Jesus to help me know what rest for my soul looks like. And then do it. 🙂
No, I don’t have a solid plan formed, but I’m pondering, and your post reminded me to continue to ask Jesus what this looks like. 🙂
Sorry I don’t have specific suggestions, and I’m sorry I wrote a novella! 🙂
Rebecca Jones says
By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. Genesis 2:1, I was surprised to find that there is no mention of day and night, I found this on From His Presence, He still resting! And He wants us too! I also have been blessed by the teaching of Pastor Joseph Prince on rest as well. Jesus completed salvation on the cross and that is what we are to labor for, to enter into His rest. It causes us to rethink Hebrews 3 & 4, it’s hard to rest if you are too busy, worried, anxious or depressed, facing illness or financial woes. I knew He loved me, died for me, I knew the Bible but had to delve deeper on this subject. He wants us to have grace, rest and peace in life. Our God is an awesome God!
In Quiet Places Devotions says
Your trip sounds amazing, I read about it on your blog and was touched by all that you shared and how much it meant to you.
In our own culture, seems like we should resist letting Sunday turn into just another day with a long to do list. Remember when Sunday used to be treated like a day of rest? Maybe we should try it!
I love Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.
We need to slow down…
We need to sit at His feet.
I am 62 years old and recently moved into an Independent Living Facility (Apartment Complex for the Elderly). We have many activities going on here during the week but the weekends are very quiet with the staff gone and some of the residents visiting family members and no sponsored activities. I am fortunate enough to have a car and take some of us to Church on Sunday. When we return sometimes we share meals with each other or go outside to what we call our “Secret Garden” to sit and talk and enjoy the flowers, trees, blue sky and the green grass God has created for us. Some would think that these weekends would be boring but the down time allows us to share stories, make new memories and really connect with God. Sometimes I go outside by myself to sit and take in the beauty of nature and to pray and thank God for His goodness to me.
I love this! Thank you for getting this discussion going!
My family goes as tech free and low-key as possible for a day (although lately we’ve been lax!) and we have a special “Shabbat meal” including candles and homemade challah bread once a week! We all look forward to it every week.
We started this tradition after I read Spangler and Tverberg’s “Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus” a few years ago and God really woke me up to the importance of Sabbath Rest, etc. I loved all the book taught me regarding the historical context of so much of what Jesus and his era’s Jews did. Such an insightful book!
Gail Noe says
Thank you for sharing your amazing experience. I was in Israel in 1999. Absolutely amazing and awesome adventure with the Lord. It is still with me after all these years. For me in truth, Jesus is our true rest. He is with us always, that is His promise. In all the activity and confusion that is currently in my life, I am learning to rest in Him. Jesus is love. As I celebrate his love coming alive in me, I am able to reach out to others in love. Thankfully, I do have a quiet spot in my home, where I allow His Word to come to life deeper and deeper in my heart. He is changing everything. What I see! What I hear! What I do!
I recently received some deeper understanding from a friend. Foundational to entering into “His rest,” as I abide in Him and he abides in me, is that i believe that “He is” and He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Heb 11:6) That as I wait on Him, He renews, or exchanges my strength for His strength (Is 40:31). That he will never leave me, nor forsake me (Heb 13:5). How important it is that we let these truths sink deep into our spirits, as we spend time in His presence with His word!
Beth Williams says
I remember a time back in the 1980s when there was nothing open on Sunday. You went to church, went home ate a meal, read the paper, walked and enjoyed the day. So now I try to avoid going pl. aces where people are forced to work on Sundays. I take walks, rest, enjoy the scenery and the fun of my friends at church.
I wish more people would avoid stores on Sunday and more companies would be like Chick-fil-A not open on Sunday!! Now trying to walk/exercise and rest not just body but mind and soul!!
Mary Reynolds Landis says
We’ve simply started taking time to rest and relax. It’s not perfect. We do a sabbath either Saturday or Sunday. In order to make it work, we’ve had to be flexible in which weekend day we take to rest, but we are a work in progress. I’ve certainly come to see the wisdom and many benefits of shabbat! It’s a lovely restful refreshing time!
Beth Werner Lee says
Hi Annie! I preordered Speak Love as a 48 year old because the title was JUST WHAT I NEEDED. That being said, here’s the answer to your sabbath question. My dad always kept us from doing homework on Sunday, but in recent years, studying Hebrew for homeschool with my girl, I began to think why not keep Friday/Saturday and then treat Sunday as the first day of the week? So, trying not to do work, not to have anything on the calendar, but then be free to do fun things as they arrive spontaneously…