One of my best life lessons came from a tiny silver-haired woman with a twinkle in her eye. I met Nana Gert, the grandmother of a dear friend, many years ago when I first moved from North Carolina to New York. Upon hearing that I was new in town and had no family in the area, Nana Gert insisted on inviting me, a Baptist from the South, to her famous Friday Shabbat dinners on Long Island.

Each week, I would gather with her family around her table which simply groaned under the weight of matzo ball soup, veal cutlets and noodle kugel. Marveling at how Nana Gert, who was in her mid-80s, had the energy to prepare such a huge dinner every week, I finally asked her for her secret. She explained it like this:

“Traditionally, Jews celebrate Shabbat on Friday evenings into Saturday, but at my age, I need a break — a Shabbat — more than once a week! So, whenever I’m tired, whether it be on a Friday or a Monday or a Wednesday, I just sit down, and declare, ‘Shabbat? Why not!’”

All these years later, her words still strike me as so very true. For Christians and Jews alike, keeping the Sabbath holy is a commandment and a blessing from God: “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 2:3.

Her words also make practical sense today. In our fast-paced world, one weekly Shabbat may not be enough. Why limit ourselves? We have the power to claim Shabbat anytime, anywhere we need it! While it may be nice to take a six-month cruise through the Greek Isles, a one-minute Shabbat pause during a busy workday can sometimes be just as rejuvenating. Simply give yourself permission to take a break – whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

A physical break is easy: go on a short walk, do some stretches, or take a few deep breaths. Studies show that a simple five-minute break from your desk can substantially increase your energy and efficiency and reduce your stress levels.

An emotional break is equally easy. Sometimes it is simply a matter of managing your expectations. Take a Shabbat from demanding perfection from yourself and those around you. Rest in the knowledge that we are all just human doing the best we can. As the saying goes, “Lower your expectations and claim a victory.”

Shabbat can also mean taking a moment to meditate or pray. This could be anywhere; you don’t have to be in a church or synagogue or a Nepalese monastery. Taking a spiritual Shabbat break is like charging your cellphone; you are simply taking a moment to access that which empowers you.

Sadly, many of us believe that working non-stop makes us good people. Perhaps, we were made to feel that we don’t deserve to rest or to take care of ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we began to believe that if we were less productive, we would be less loved, as if love were based on a market economy.

In the end, what are the times in our lives that we will remember? Not the board meetings or the political rallies or the committee meetings or the checks on our to-do list. They are the times spent around a table with friends or family; times engaged in activities about which we are passionate; and times spent renewing ourselves, gaining perspectives, and healing.

To this day, I still can’t cook a lovely dinner like Nana Gert could. But I’m getting better at cooking up the gift of time for myself. Why not consider giving and receiving same gift in your life? Give yourself permission to take a break. Honor God’s commandment to rest. Remember the wisdom of Nana Gert: no matter what the day of the week, if you’re tired, stop, pause, and declare to all the world, “Shabbat? Why not!”

— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City and the author of Laugh Your Way to Grace. Contact her through her email at revssparks@gmail.com, or her website, www.SusanSparks.com