Living in south Florida (where we spend 6 months of the year watching the weather) we have to be in a constant state of preparedness. There are certain items we buy leading up to the month of June that stay in a special place in our homes. We need several days worth of water, food, flashlights, batteries, battery operated radio, medicines, pet supplies, etc. All this just in case a hurricane decides to pay us a visit. So why do we find planning and preparedness for one day a week so challenging and so unusual?
Well, maybe you don’t live in south Florida. Maybe you are fortunate enough not to have to worry about hurricanes, or tornados, earthquakes or flooding. How can you relate?
Have you ever gone on a vacation or a weekend getaway? If so, then you know you plan for it because, for a short time, you won’t be part of the normal flow of the world. You pack your clothes and whatever else you will need for the trip. If you’re anything like me, you get your house cleaned better than when you are home. My daughter once called me as she was prepping for one such getaway. Rather than the customary ‘hello’ in response to my greeting she said, “I hate you Mom. I’m leaving tomorrow and I’m going crazy housecleaning.” 🙂
Even if you don’t go crazy cleaning, you ensure your house is ready for the time you will be away. You unplug most of your appliances, turn the a/c up or the heater down. You arrange for care for your pets if you have any. You do those things you know you need to do to take care of while you are away.
It’s the same with planning to enter God’s Rest, better known as the Sabbath (or Shabbat).
As with planning a getaway, it all starts with the decision to do it. Next comes the plans and preparation that decision created. Thinking of the Sabbath in these terms helps us, who are unaccustomed to shutting down for a 25 hour period, put on a mindset of planning.
So first and foremost, the decision is made to enter God’s rest. From Friday sunset to just after Saturday sunset, you and your family are going on a retreat with God. Doesn’t that sound nice? For just over 24 hours you are going to relax at home, read His word, eat good food, play games with your family; maybe even fellowship with other believers.
What you aren’t going to do is worry. You are going to trust that your Father has everything under His control. You aren’t going to have to go shopping because you already did what you needed to do for your getaway. Besides, this is God’s time. Why would you take time away from Him to go to the store?
You also aren’t going to hang on social media because, hey, this is God’s time. You aren’t going to clean because this is God’s time. You aren’t going to watch TV because…say it with me…this is God’s time. We get to spend a whole night and day with the King of the Universe. Why would we want to be involved with things that draw us away from Him? Seriously, guys, it’s a date night and day with the King. Why would we want to do anything else?
Now for your getaway you will have to be prepared. Decide what you will eat for dinner on Friday, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday. Make a list, then by Thursday night, get the shopping done. If you’re one of those people who shop daily, buying what they are in the mood for that night, try this once. Who knows? You might like it!
Now I can hear some of you balking at this. Time is very precious for those of us who work a full time job (or more than one job). I’m right there with you. There’s no one telling you that you have to bake bread from scratch. What’s wrong with getting something to go? What’s wrong with pre-packaged food? (For my healthy friends cringing at this, please remember there are some of us who survive on only 5 to 6 hours sleep a night in order to get things done. While it might not be the best, prepackaged works.)
That leads me to another objection regarding time. As I mentioned before, two things to keep in mind:
- You’ve gone on vacation, or a small getaway. Think of this as the same.
- Do you really think God can’t keep your world spinning while you take some time to be with Him?
Okay, so practical step number one was decide to do it. Practical step number two is plan your meals and buy them ahead of time.
Practical step number three is this – make the Sabbath a delight. Dress up for dinner. Set a tablecloth on the table. Don’t have a tablecloth? Use a sheet. Yes, I said ‘use a sheet’. When I was growing up in New York we had parties in my uncle’s garage. We covered his collection of tires with sheets, and a sheet on the workbench transformed it into a table for the food. No one cared and it made everything look festive.
If you have cloth napkins, use them. If not, paper can be made to look very fancy. Take a look at this YouTube tutorial on folding a paper napkin.
If you have a special set of plates, pull them out of storage and use them. If not, don’t worry about it. If possible, add fresh flowers in a vase or glass. Maybe, unlike me, you have a green thumb and there are flowers growing in your garden. If not, do what I do. I buy a small bouquet at the grocery store for $4. I find if I trim them, I can use them for two weeks. There have been times that I didn’t have fresh flowers for one reason or another. I used silk flowers and the table was just as pretty.
Maybe it’s because I’m Italian, but for me, the holiday feels special when it’s filled with good food. When my granddaughter and I started celebrating Shabbat, we started by lighting the Sabbath candles and added a special dessert to dinner. Whole Foods sells a chocolate cup filled with chocolate mousse. For us, this dessert said, “It’s Shabbat.” Maybe chocolate is not your thing. Whatever IS your thing, add it to your Sabbath meal.
Now, nothing says ‘vacation’ to me like pancakes or waffles for breakfast. For my friends who are already Sabbath keepers, please don’t freak out. But I’ve got to tell you that when I first started setting aside the Sabbath as a special day, it included making a big breakfast on Shabbat morning. If that helps you enter into the special time this day is, then do it. Make the Sabbath a delight. Any changes you need to make as you get in the habit of entering into God’s special day, He will let you know.
The point is to just start doing it. Once you do, you’ll find that you can’t do without it. You value this precious time away from the world, basking in the presence of your God and King, and the family He gave you.
In closing, I’m going to leave you with a couple of lists to help in your Sabbath planning.
For the table:
- Tablecloth (or sheet) and napkins (cloth or paper)
- Dishes and utensils
- Flowers in a vase (or glass)
- candle holders with candles
For the meal:
- Challah bread (if you can’t find challah, any bread will do)
- wine or grapejuice
- appetizer (could be as simple as a dip for the bread – honey or hummus)
- soup (any kind – my granddaughter’s favorite is broccoli cheese soup by Campbell’s)
- salad (our favorite is Asian Sesame premade mix by Dole or other brand)
- main course (meat, starch, vegetable – remember, grocery stores have inexpensive meals to go)
- dessert (this is where I splurge – a small, fancy cake or individual fancy store bought dessert)
For your soul:
- The Word of God
- books to read (that are inspiring for you and children)
- games to play (especially ones that make you laugh, laughter is good for the soul)
- sing songs of praise and worship
One final note: my granddaughter and I close the Sabbath using this YouTube song by Debbie Friedman. We light the candles to welcome the Sabbath, entering into God’s holy time. Then we close the Sabbath with a havdalah candle, biding the special time goodbye until next week. It helps to distinguish holy time from common time.
- Braided candle
- spice box (we got a small box from Michael’s, filled it with cinnamon and cloves)
- glass of wine
There you have it, three practical steps to start entering God’s rest – decide to do it, plan your meals and do your shopping and preparation ahead of time, and make the Sabbath a delight. That’s it. You don’t need all of what I listed above to get started. Start with what you have. Remember, just get started. As we take this tentative step, with a heart to honor our God and this wonderful gift He has given us (this special date night and day with Him), He will honor our attempts and lead us and guide us in the way we ought to go.
If you need any other information, please let me know in the comments below. My prayer and my hope is that you will discover the wonderful gift of the Sabbath. Any way I can help, please don’t hesitate to ask.