Little Sabbaths – a guest post from Karen Swallow Prior

[Today’s guest post is from Karen Swallow Prior.]


The Bible is clear about our need for rest and re-creation. Besides everything else that it does, rest from our labor restores equilibrium to our lives. As Rev. Tim Keller explains in an article at Q Ideas,Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance.”  Whatever it is we do in our labor, our rest needs to provide a counterweight that restores balance to our lives and our being. (Consider the lament wrought by the “busman’s holiday,” which is no Sabbath at all!)

Yet, I don’t go on vacations. I travel a fair amount for missions, for family reunions, for work and so forth, so I do manage to get around. But when I don’t have to be somewhere else, there is simply no place I’d rather be than home. Instead of taking a big chunk of time away, I prefer to re-create every day by taking “little Sabbaths.”



Because my labor—teaching and writing—is primarily mental, rest for me, is physical activity. And because I can do much of my work from home at hours of my choosing, I am able to whittle out a little time almost every day to engage in that “rest,” which for me is running, walking, or biking. The more intense my mental labor is, the more intense my physical exercise becomes, too.  And the more time I spend with people—teaching in the classroom, meeting with students or colleagues, serving on committees—the more restful I find the solitude of these daily little Sabbaths.

Stopping in a snowy woods

Stopping in a snowy woods

Jesus exhorted his disciples to do similarly, saying to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NAS).  If Jesus found such solitude and rest necessary, I know I need it, too.

Lucy in the field

Lucy in the field

Yet, these little Sabbaths are about more than just rest. According to Keller, the Sabbath “is about more than just taking time off.” It is about enjoyment, too. And enjoyment is good. Keller explains,

After creating the world, God looked around and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made. What does this mean for us? We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.

Field and Sky

Daily Sabbaths bring me great joy as well as refreshment. They allow me to reflect upon what God has done and is doing, in and through me; to give thanks for the work he gives me; and to celebrate the work of His hands. Just as people take pictures on vacations, I like to capture the beauty of my little Sabbaths and share those photos with others on Twitter and Facebook, and now here. The pictures are my little celebrations of my little Sabbaths.

Road to the sky

Road to the sky

Keller concludes his essay on Sabbath rest with these words:

The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to any material object or human expectation. The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.

Stopping to smell the roses--or something like that

Stopping to smell the roses

My little Sabbaths revive my sense of that freedom and that hope, gifts I take back to my work, my community, and my home. Most of all, little Sabbaths allow me to enjoy more fully my life, my work, and my God.


Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012). Follow her at Twitter. Her writing is always lucid, always full of blessing, wit and wisdom. She also takes wonderful photographs and regularly posts them on Instagram and Twitter. All photos in this essay are from Karen’s neck of the woods; the captions are hers as well.]


I reviewed Booked in December 2012, and participated as a caller in a radio interview she did the month before (I show up as the last caller, along about 42:30 on the recording, but the whole interview is worthwhile).

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22 Responses to Little Sabbaths – a guest post from Karen Swallow Prior

  1. Jeannie says:

    What a wonderful idea: that Sabbath revives our sense of freedom and hope in God. I really enjoyed this post AND the beautiful photographs; thank you!

  2. jamie says:

    Thanks Karen and Tim! I never stop to think about Jesus needing rest. How true that if Jesus did, then I do to! I will remind myself of this next time I’m tempted to keep going.

  3. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Yes amen and amen and amen and amen! THANK YOU! Even though I haven’t been in full time vocational ministry for a few years, I STILL have a reputation among the college students as “the woman who’s always talking about rest”. It is such a poorly understood and poorly practiced thing in our time… So this “woman who’s always talking about rest” simply has to re-post this post today 🙂

  4. Tim says:

    Karen, thank you so much for your reflections on Sabbath rest. Your words and pictures make it all so real.

    One of the great pleasures I’ve found in God is that I no longer need to search for rest, because I have been found by the One who is Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Wonderful news, blessed rest.

  5. Aimee Byrd says:

    Love that last point, Karen. I like to think about how privileged we are as Christians to first rest in Christ, and then be called out to to our work. And I long for that great day that we look forward to where we will no longer be toiling with our sin, but fully and freely living holy lives before God, resting in the works of our great Savior.

  6. That definitely gives us great food for thought. Our bible study group which is made up of stay-home moms were discussing how we are to apply the Sabbath in our own lives. I’m looking forward to hearing their thoughts after reading this! Thanks!

  7. Adriana says:

    Oh how this post resonates with me, Karen! My camera is like part of my body. If I didn’t carve out time for “little Sabbaths” in nature, I’m sure I would not be sane! The process of capturing beauty is essential for me.

    “The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.” — I love that quote.
    I am now resolved to go to bed early tonight so I can take a walk and watch the sun rise tomorrow.

  8. Melody Weaver says:

    Hey karen…this is melody (Duttweiler) Weaver (bob and Mary’s youngest child)

    Love your point that sabbath is a counterweight to our daily work!!

    I may need to start following you on twitter now. 🙂 It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you guys. Hope all is well.

    • KSP says:

      Hi, Melody! It’s so nice to hear from you! It has been a long time. Thanks for reading and commenting! Would love to connect on Twitter.

  9. A topic near and dear to my heart. Sabbath is a joyful practice, in whatever form. Loved the way you’ve provided a fresh perspective, KSP!

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  13. Karen, I think we are built similarly. After an intense day of writing or after I teach, I need to get outside and stretch my legs/mind. I look forward to long bike rides once a week, when I get let everything go and enjoy the road, the changing of the trees, the unexpected September wildflowers, and the random peacock that might cross my path along with the usual cattle, goats, and sheep.

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