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  • Writer's pictureJen Stone-Sexton

The Gift of Rest - 5 Practical Tips to Create Intentional Rest

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Do you feel like you are too busy to rest? Learn about types of rest and 5 practical tips to create intentional rest in your life in today's blog, The Gift of Rest, Part 2

On the seventh day God rested from all his work.

Genesis 2:2

Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

In The Gift of Rest -Part 1, An Invitation to Receive, I shared a story about the importance of obedience, receiving rest, the relationship between rest and trust, and what “Be still and know” means. We continue here exploring the deeper meaning of rest and I also share five practical tips to create intentional rest in your life.

Years ago I sang in a concert chorale in Nashville and our weekly rehearsals were at a beautiful white church built in the southern antebellum architectural style. After rehearsal one day, I noticed a stack of pretty tri-folds, with soft colors like a gentle sunrise, lying on a bulky, dark wooden table, titled An Invitation to Sabbath, Rediscovering a Gift. Picking up the inviting tri-fold, and opening to scan the highlights I read about Sabbath being a gift and a sacred rhythm God had created in all of life. The message spoke serenity and hope to my weary mind, parched soul and crammed schedule. I felt drawn to begin to understand the meaning of Sabbath and to learn to create space for it in my life. I took the tri-fold home and laid it out on my table every weekend. It was a reminder I wanted to experience more serenity in my life and embrace the sacred rhythm of rest in exchange for the dizzying merry-go-round I was barely hanging on to with every orbit around the sun.

“There is a restlessness within us that cannot be satisfied until we fully rest in God.”

A.W. Tozer

God desires for us to rest in a way that refreshes, renews, restores and replenishes us. However, in addition to trust (discussed in Part1), there are two other obstacles we face in order to rest. One of them is busyness.

Mark Buchanan points out in his insightful book, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath that Almighty, sovereign God, Elohim, King and Creator of the Universe, did not need to rest. (“Haven’t you known, haven’t you heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not grow tired or weary?” Isaiah 40:28) God chose to rest to set an example for us to follow. Sabbath invites us to stop. The essence of Sabbath is paying attention. Being completely awake and fully present to each moment.[1]

It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’m too busy to have a weekly Sabbath.” Or “I’ve just got too much to do in order to rest one entire day a week!” Consider all of the modern conveniences we have in the western world and that this command was given before any of them existed. If people who had to labor for everything could take one day to rest, then we have no excuse.

“I am so busy” has become the standard greeting everywhere.” [2] Regardless of socio-economic status, demographic, geographic location, race, or age. “In all of our busyness, something within us dies. We have let ourselves be consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul. Busyness also robs us of knowing God the way we might.” [3]

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

The other obstacle is legalism. Making up rules in our heads or attempting to follow strict religious man-made rules for how we rest. “Legalism is the reduction of life to mere technicalities. It substitutes code for conscience, ritual for worship, rectitude for holiness, morality for purity. Legalism requires little or no personal engagement. You just follow orders. It draws nothing from your heart, your mind, your strength, your soul.” [4] Legalism strokes our ego but saps our soul. Jesus had strong words for the Pharisees who were more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of the law, or the Law Giver Himself. (Matthew 15:1-14; Matthew 23)

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all His work which He had created, so that it itself could produce. (Genesis 2:3)

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (Emphasis mine.)

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)

Of the Ten Commandments, one through three have to do with our relationship with God. Commandments five through ten pertain to our relationship with others. Commandment four, the command to rest - which happens to be the longest - is the one that bridges our relationship with God to our relationship with ourselves and others. It is also the only commandment that begins with "Remember" because God knew we would forget.

If all of God’s Word is written for us as an instruction manual on life, and obedience to His commands" is how we show our love for Him, how is it that we pick and choose what commands we will obey? Jesus said in John 14:15,

“If you love me, you will keep my commands.”

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Sabbath is a sacred rhythm God has woven into the fabric of life and all of creation. Rest means more than sleep. Rest means more than cessation of all activity. “What if rest is in itself a vital activity required to tend the garden of our lives? What if rest is the water that replenishes the dryness? What if rest is fertilizer awaking us to growth and greatness? What if rest is the hands of the gardener pulling up the weeds threatening the edge out beauty?

All rest is not created equal. Much of what we consider rest fails to work because it is not restful. The most effective rest occurs when we are purposefully reviving the parts of our life we regularly deplete. Any so-called rest that doesn’t meet this goal isn’t rest; it’s just more work adding to the busyness.” [5]

In her excellent and insightful book, Sacred Rest - Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith reveals that there are 7 Types of Rest we all need in order to thrive: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Sensory, and Creative Rest. (Her Rest Quiz is linked at the end.)

“Rest is not for weaklings. Hollowing out space for rest is work. Finding time to rest is the hands and feet of the promises we long to claim. It means saying no. It means having limits with ourselves. It means having limits with others. It takes courage to rest in the midst of an outcome-driven society. It takes strength to walk away from good in the pursuit of better.” [6]

How do we incorporate a weekly Sabbath into our already full and busy lives?

my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Here are 5 practical tips to carve out one day in seven to have a Shabbat.

1. Decide on 1 day of the week you will rest.

Many people look upon the Sabbath as Sunday; others keep the Sabbath from Friday at sundown through Saturday. (It is my personal conviction, based on how I understand Scripture to observe the Sabbath on Saturday.) That being said, rather than being legalistic about the day - especially if you have a job that requires you to work on Saturday and/or Sunday, or you work night shifts – what’s important is that you choose one day of the week you will intentionally rest. (Romans 14:5-13)

2. Plan ahead.

If you work Monday-Friday, chances are errands, shopping, laundry, house cleaning, bill paying, yard work, and everything that didn’t get done during the week is lumped into the weekend – on top of church, other activities, sporting events and so on. The way I carved out Saturday, was to do a little bit each day of the week instead of all on one day.

If you have children age 3 and older, involve them in the daily responsibilities of home caring and meal preparation. Doing so is one of the best ways to teach them, instill responsibility and pride in their work, and prepare them to be able to manage their own homes once they are grown.

If you are able to hire someone to clean regularly or do the yard work, some of the time you would have spent on these chores is ransomed for something else more important.

It is also helpful to plan 1-2 weeks of meals ahead of time so you can write out your shopping list and make fewer trips to the grocery store. Using apps to shop online can also be timesaving, especially if you repeatedly buy a lot of the same things. Batch cooking or buying pre-made meals ready to heat is also a timesaving strategy for meal preparation.

3. Set a sacred rhythm.

A rhythm and routine gives us something to look forward to. Just as when you go to the same beach for vacation year after year or invoke the same traditions at the holidays, these rhythms actually ground us. Your weekly Sabbath is something to celebrate and delight in, so find ways to make it fun and special! Find ways to set this day apart from all the others. One way I often set it apart is to prepare a nice meal and set a lovely table with candles on Friday night. Sometimes we invite friends to join us for the celebration and other times we might do something special together as a couple. The point is to make it different than all the other days of the week so you look forward to it!

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

4. Determine boundaries.

Realize rest is counter-culture and you will most likely hear or experience resistance or push-back from others. That’s fine. Your example may actually make a difference for others in re-examining their own schedules and activities.

Boundaries include technology. Technology exists to serve us. More often than not - if we don’t have clear boundaries around it - we can find ourselves serving it. I have found it most helpful to turn off all notifications on my phone, set Do Not Disturb hours, avoid looking at any messages or apps before I’ve had my quiet time in the morning and after 8:00 in the evening, and I designate one day a week to unplug – no screen time on any device. The first few weeks I implemented these recommendations it was hard. Kind of like a withdrawal from a bad habit.

Multiple studies have shown how technology is literally re-wiring our brains and depriving us of focus, presence, creativity, productivity, peace, serenity, contentment good communication skills, and genuine connection with others. Once I adapted, I no longer missed seeing notifications, being constantly interrupted, feeling the impulsive urge to mindlessly scroll through social media, having my mornings go sideways or my ability to mentally relax so I could sleep well in the evening disturbed by a text, email or phone call. The quality of my life, work and relationships has improved as a result of setting limits around screen time. I encourage you to try it for yourself for at least 30 days and notice how you think and feel as a result.

5. What to do / not do on your Sabbath.

What is not recommended that you be doing on your Sabbath: strenuous household chores (preparing meals is fine, but keep them easy or festive, depending on your choice); catching up on work that you didn’t complete last week or getting a head start on work you’re supposed to start on Monday; shopping and errand running; tackling major projects you’ve put off or anything that keeps you distracted instead of present.

Scripture says, “ordinary work” so that which must be done every day of the week, is not done on Sabbath. Sabbath is permission to pause. A reprieve, a deep breath of fresh air, from all the “ought to”, “have to”, “must do” and “should do”, even though your “to-do” list is long and never done. “It’s the one day when the only thing you must do is to not do the things you must.” [7]

Sabbath is for reverence, rest, renewal, rejuvenation, reassuring rituals, recreation, rejoicing, revelation, remembering how much you have to be grateful for, and saying, ‘thank you!’ What matters is that you do something special that speaks to your soul and that you revel in whatever you do. Your activities on Sabbath should uplift you, bring you joy, connect you closer to God, others, and/or nature, and provide enough inspiration to sustain you during the week to come. [8]

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

I invite you to take the Rest Quiz HERE to discover where you are rest depleted and areas where you can incorporate more intentional rest into your life.

Here is a downloadable template for you to use in creating your own Sabbath plan:

Writing My Sabbath Plan
Download PDF • 450KB

If you enjoyed this blog, read Part 1 - The Gift of Rest, An Invitation to Receive

If you would like support with overcoming fear, determining your values, setting healthy boundaries and creating intentional rest in your life, I would love to come alongside you to help you create the results you desire! To learn more, you can schedule HERE for a no-obligation Create a Life You Love Discovery Session.

Click HERE for Your Free Flourish Guide!

Editor's Note:

This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.

Jennifer C. Stone-Sexton © 2023 Freedom to Flourish, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

All graphics created by Morgan Howard © 2023 Freedom to Flourish, LLC.


Referenced books are available on the Resources page of our Website.

Credits: [1] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, © 2006) [2] Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Restoring Sacred Rhythms of Rest (New York: Bantam, 1999) [3] Ibid, 1 [4] Ibid, 1 [5] Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, Sacred Rest (New York: FaithWorks; Hachette Book Group, 2017) [6] Ibid, 5 [7] Ibid, 1 [8] Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance (New York: Warner Books, Inc. © 1995)

Photo Credits: Cover Photo by Vadim Butenkov on Unsplash | Photo 1 by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

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