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Wherever You Go

This morning I wrote in my journal the words of the Lord to Jacob in Genesis 28: 14-15

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

I note how God is a God who is with us, who watches over us, and brings us to where we’re supposed to be. He doesn’t leave us. He fulfills His promises to us. But why? It’s because of Who He Is, not because of our goodness or skills or any kind of behavior.

I’m amazed at how sinful Jacob can be. He tricks his own father. He deceives his father-in-law. He’s not a perfect man at all. But the promise of God obviously doesn’t depend on his good behavior. I love the picture of grace I see in God’s words to Jacob–that extend to us today.

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Very Near

Did you know that Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need”? Maybe you’ve read that verse to say “an ever-present help” but the Hebrew translation is indeed “very.”

It means exceedingly present, more and more present, super-duper present! It means, most accurately, especially present.

God is especially present with you in times of need. After this verse, we read this powerful line: “Therefore we will not fear.”

Don’t you love it? We don’t have to fear anything because God is especially present when we need Him. He is very, very near.

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What God Sets Up From the Beginning

I cannot help myself: I’m starting again with Every Word: A Reader’s 90 Day Guide to the Bible. I just love structuring my morning with this Bible reading plan.

When I start Genesis, I always wonder if there’s anything else to learn. I mean, I’ve read it a hundred times maybe. But today, I discover something so beautiful and powerful that I had never noticed before.

A few months ago, I heard a pastor ask if we knew the very first thing God declares as holy in the Bible. Was it creation? People? Himself?

No. The pastor said that it was “rest.” You can check for yourself in Genesis.

So this morning, I read for myself the astonishing statement in Genesis 2: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

It struck me: God doesn’t need to rest. Why would God declare resting from work holy? Why is it the very first thing, of prime importance, that we understanding this holy moment of resting from work?

Can you guess?

I remembered Hebrews 4:9-10, and my heart began to sing. We read: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.”

The symbol. The signpost. The plan.

Was God setting up a plan of salvation from the very beginning? Was He forecasting how one day soon we would rest from our works-based righteousness and enter into the holiness of Jesus where we receive the gift of salvation through grace alone? Paul tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works. . . ” 

God sets it up from the beginning. He declares the holiness of rest that we learn is the rest from earning our salvation, of working for God’s favor.

We rest. And it is a holy place.

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When You Don’t Know What to Do: The Comfort of Psalm 25

I love Psalm 25. It pulls my heart! It’s such a perfect psalm for anyone reading who doesn’t know what to do next. David writes this:

“Show me your way, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

He continues:

“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. . . Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him . . . May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you” 

I think of the phrase, “[God] will instruct [the person that fears the Lord] in the way chosen for him.” It’s so comforting!

When we pray for God to teach us His paths and instruct us in the way chosen for us, we know to look for and consider what form this instruction might take: wise counsel from other Christians, fresh opportunities, peace from the Holy Spirit about certain directions, alignment to scripture, and the desires God gives our hearts.

I wonder, too, if David worried that he might have made a bad decision along the way (like some many of us do!). What now? David says this powerful statement that I often pray when I feel like I’m in a situation that’s not God’s best for me: “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my foot from the snare.”  

I ask what feels like a “snare.” I pray David’s prayer, and I rejoice that God will not fail to instruct us in the way He chose for us.

 

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A Moment of Insight While Feeding a Cat Tuna Flavored Treats

This morning as I fed my neighbor’s cat, I remembered to offer him a few treats from his treat box. I found a little squeezable pouch of this tuna flavored paste. I quietly tore open the pouch.

Instant insanity! The cat went crazy with joy! The cat ran faster than any creature should to my hand that held the treat.

The cat became so focused on consuming this tuna paste that nothing—and I mean nothing–could distract him. My husband was in the kitchen filling the cat bowl with fresh water and fresh food, and I heard him rustling around to locate some of the other treat options.

Normally, this sound in the kitchen would draw the cat in for food and water. But no, not now. Nothing could distract from this cat’s singular motive. Nothing could break his concentration on the tuna. Nothing!

At that moment, as I watched the pure bliss of this cat, I observed his focus. At once point, he turned his face to acknowledge all the distraction from the kitchen, but then he immediately turned back to my hand that held the treat.

I said to him, “Nothing is better than this. You won’t be distracted by anything because what you have here is so much better.”

I thought of my walk with the Lord and what a pleasure it’s been to leisurely read God’s word during COVID-10 and then the holidays. I lingered with the Lord without distraction. It was so good and so pleasant. But this week, with fresh work responsibilities, I feel the distraction of other food, other treats. I want to remember how good it can be to feed on God’s word, to receive from His hand.

I want to be the cat that races in, heartily feasts, and will not leave.

 

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Back to Work–And Making the Most of It

It’s back to work after the holiday break. I consider this fresh season of work with a new semester and a new year, and I know one thing the pandemic has taught me:

Make the most of today because you don’t know what’s coming. 

The phrase resonates all day:

Make the most of today. 

It’s fun to ask, “How can I make the most of today? What does that look like for me?” In simple terms, it’s like asking how we can enjoy something as much as possible, how we can treasure the moments as much as possible, and how we can make the best use of our resources and skills. Biblically speaking, it’s a call to attune our lives to God each day and embrace the opportunities He gives us.

It’s about being fully present, more aware, more open to God, more willing to do unusual, faith-filled things. It’s about loving those around us more radically, about giving more generously, and about opening wide our hearts.

Ironically, it’s not about doing more. It’s more about pausing to absorb, reflect upon, and enjoy. It’s worship and wonder most of all. From there, I think of making the most of the day by using my words wisely and serving others.

I think of Ephesians 5:15-17: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

We can approach our day with this idea of “making the most of every opportunity.” We can pray we are not foolish, but instead understand God’s will for the day.

 

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Deeper Into Winter

The last snow and ice thawed. I imagined a warm, spring breeze coming the other day. But no! We’re just deeper into winter today, and it is truly beautiful. Spring can wait.

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The Thing Requiring Faith

These past two days of 2021, I’ve been inspired to think about doing things that actually require faith. 

It’s so exciting! What an adventure to live this way. Consider Hebrews 11:6–the famous passage that says this: “Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Or think about 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and the idea of our work “produced by faith.”

I know I’m doing something that requires faith when I feel like I’m not doing something in my own strength. It’s faith when I’m depending on God because I can’t see my way ahead. It’s faith when I do something that scares me or when I step out in a new direction as I follow God’s leading. I know it’s faith when I’m trusting God with the outcome as I talk to people about Jesus. It’s faith when I think, “I can’t do this, but God can!”

Some of my faith steps include launching that Facebook author page writer’s encouragement for January, reaching out to friends who don’t know Jesus yet, sending a young adult novel to my agent and publisher, and accepting speaking engagements and new teaching assignments at Penn State. I’m excited to think about this new day and what I’ll do that requires faith. If nothing in my life requires faith, maybe I’m in the wrong spot.

 

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What You Give

Happy New Year! I pray this is your best year yet, full of marvelous, fresh joys, laughter, creativity, wonder, and rich community.

Last night, some neighbors invited our street to come down to watch fireworks they bought. We could stay socially-distanced while still laughing together and bringing in the new year with all the children. It was a generous fireworks party, just for the neighbors. Another family brought beverages, and still another set up a fire pit in a driveway with little slips of paper where we could throw 2020 into the fire to say good-bye to a hard year. Both events made me grateful, hopeful, and happy. Those families gave us a great gift of love and togetherness on New Years Eve.

For 2021, in addition to committing to daily moisturizing (Ha! I’m serious!), I want to add good to others, to give more to others, and to think about how I can bless wherever I am.

Here’s to a fresh, new year!

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In case you’re not on Facebook and want to know what I’m posting to encourage writers in January, I included my post below:

Today is the day! Consider the writing project you’d most like to finish. By the end of the month, you could finish this project.

Tip: The single question: Think of your writing project as the answer to a question someone is asking. Write that question down. Every book I’ve written began with a great question I needed to answer first for myself and then for others. What question does your project answer for the world?

Question: Is your question best answered by a novel, a poem, a song, a nonfiction book, a blog post or a news article? Decide which form of writing your project should take and why.

You can start writing today! Try just 300 words (about a typed, double spaced page).

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Something Fun for January 2021–Writing Tips for You

Happy New Years Eve! I have something fun I’m doing on Facebook with my much underused author page.

https://www.facebook.com/writer.heatherholleman

Here’s what I posted, and feel free to join me if you need encouragement in January:

I thought I’d use my author page to encourage your writing in 2021–at least for the month of January. I LOVE coaching writers! I’ll provide a tip and a question both intended to develop your writing goals.

Tip: Write down your favorite story to tell about your life. Usually, it’s a treasured memory—a single beautiful moment. Why do you like to tell it? What happens to readers when they read it? Great novels and nonfiction often stem from single moments.
Question: By this time in your life, what have you become an expert in? Think broadly. This expertise grants you great authority to write. You can tell me your expertise in the comments. Be proud of yourself. Some are experts in time-management, grief, gardening, listening, waiting, singing, baking, parenting, failing, walking, resting. . .

On New Years Day, I’ll ask for your book idea for 2021!! Eeek!!!

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