Is one of your goals for 2018 to experience God more often and more deeply this year?

Thanks to some wise friends of mine, I have a list of three things you can do that I’m certain will help you achieve that goal, if you’re willing to take them seriously. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing my friends’ ideas just because they’re short! The thoughts of these first and second graders aren’t cutesy nothings. Well, their words might be endearing, but the theology is sound. See what you think.

These three suggestions for your spirit sprouted from a discussion with their Sunday school teachers a few weeks ago. After sharing the part of the Christmas story in which the angels visit the shepherds, the teachers asked, “I wonder what those shepherds were thinking as they were hurrying to Bethlehem to see the baby.”

Their teachers jotted down their responses, and ever since I read them, my heart has been leaping around in my rib cage, leading cheers for Team Children, God’s most creative spiritual experts, wishing that I and everyone else I know could reach down into our souls and fish out the child’s heart we used to have. The list the kids inspired is already helping me connect with God. I hope it helps you too!

Are you ready for their answers and the three suggestions, three practices they inspired?

First the question, just to remind you:

“I wonder what those shepherds were thinking as they were hurrying to Bethlehem to see the baby.”

“I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl!” a child piped up.

Don’t you love that?! How delightful to imagine the shepherds wondering if God would show up as a baby girl or boy!

I know what you’re thinking. Turn off that urge you feel to stand over the child and explain that in those days women held no power- were even seen as objects by people (certainly not by God), so OF COURSE God would appear as a baby boy. I get it- I’m sure that first grader me, sitting on my shag carpet back in 1970, would have told you that God was father, so Jesus would have to be a boy. (Poor first grader me.)  How happy for children of today! They can see holy possibility! They can more closely imagine as God imagines!

Practice #1: Open your eyes and your heart to the holy possibility that God might come to you in a way you don’t expect- perhaps even in a way that you might not want!

God can speak through the kid on the corner with the lemonade stand or the check-out clerk at Walmart or the guy who asks you for money outside a McDonalds. Or through your annoying boss or the lady you argue politics with on Facebook. Or even the silver haired prostitute in the thigh high boots on rue des Gras or the old guy in coveralls walking around a restaurant supply store with a live chicken under his arm, searching for a knife. (It’s true! Ask readers of The Holy Éclair!)

Wake up to the idea that the world is throbbing with God whether we notice or not. So, if I really want to see God, I need to take a good look at every person I meet and listen to what they say, expecting that it might be something holy.

Ready for the next one?

“I wonder what those shepherds were thinking as they were hurrying to Bethlehem to see the baby.”

“They were saying, ‘I want to touch the baby on the belly!’”

Of course that’s what the shepherds said! Duh! Who can pass up a baby belly?

I love that a child imagines the shepherds getting excited about walking right up to the manger and touching Jesus’ round little belly! Don’t all babies want to be touched, cherished? Surely the Source of All Love wants to be touched, approached, looked upon, loved! Know that it is possible to touch God, and that God welcomes you to walk right up and do just that.

Practice #2: Know that God wants you close, wants your touch. Take the risk to touch God by hanging out where God hangs out: with broken people. Know them and find ways to be part of their lives. (Don’t just pray for them.) You will find God there.

Jesus says that whatever we do to the least of these- those needing God most- the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the stranger, those invisible to society or hated by society, we do to him. So there you go: God’s belly, God’s most tender part, waiting for your touch.

Remember that you are wounded too. Quiet your mind and invite God to be close. If your mind wanders, pray for help. Then open your eyes and get back to God’s people (otherwise known as broken people.) God will be there, guaranteed.

Ready for the last one?

“I wonder what those shepherds were thinking as they were hurrying to Bethlehem to see the baby.”

“They were thinking, ‘We need to find him. And we need to protect the sheep.”

Oh sweet child! You do notice the way this world works, don’t you!

The child sees the conflict. How do we run off looking for Human Baby God, when there are sheep to take care of? Did the shepherds leave their sheep on the hillside and high tail it to Bethlehem? What about wolves? What about bears? (Were there bears outside of Bethlehem?) But God’s baby was there in a manger and the angels said GO! What’s a shepherd to do?

And what about us, we modern day shepherds / seekers of God? How do we live our lives-uphold our responsibilities- and search for God at the same time? How do we get anything done if we’re constantly looking at strangers, waiting for them to say something holy, or hanging out with broken people, enriching our lives and touching God’s tender heart?

Practice #3: We give time to what we value. Give a hard look at how you spend your days, and see what you can chuck to make time to reflect and listen for God.

It’s hard for me to look for God when my mind is consumed with myself. If I don’t make time for reflection, I will miss seeing God when God was right beside me. It’s true. The Holy Éclair is full of stories in which I encounter God, but 95% of the time I didn’t realize that it was God I was encountering until I had time to reflect on what happened.

It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Turn off the radio in the car when you’re by yourself. Or take a few moments before bed and go over your day in your mind. Jot down anything unusual or interesting that happened to you. Let it stew in your brain for the next few days and see if God has something to say to you about it.

Here’s hoping we all fall deeper in love with God in 2018!








Many thanks to Martin Gommel for the use of his fabulous photo from flickr through creative commons.