My youngest son Giovanni as a toddler on Christmas morning.

So much to discover!

Julie Hart’s weekly devotionals are now available via the website and on our app. They are published on Thursdays and have a new name, “From the Hart”.

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“From the Hart” Devotional for Nov. 2, 2023

“Being Toddler (or Truly) Present”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

We are on week three of our Disciple’s Path study and sermon series. Pastor David talked about the path we are on as the spiritual disciplines that we practice as Methodists. This week, we are focusing on the discipline of presence. David gave many examples of how we can be present, such as technology, prayer, study, serving, and worship.

I have been thinking about what it means to be truly present. It is more than just showing up. We can recite prayers without even thinking about the words that we are speaking. We can study our Bibles without taking time to consider how to apply the scriptures to our own lives. And we can volunteer to help without having joy in our hearts.

I believe that the spiritual discipline of presence requires us not just to show up, but to show up being open and receptive to how God might meet us in that moment. Of course, we know that God is always with us, but we often miss it because we are so distracted. You know what I mean… things like making our grocery lists while Pastor David is preaching, worshipping online while doing the Sunday crossword puzzle, or teaching Sunday school with the football game on our phones in our laps.

If only God was more like a toddler, it would be so much easier to be present, wouldn’t it? I can remember both of my kids as toddlers. They would stand outside the bathroom door saying “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” trying to get my attention. If they were trying to tell me something while I was folding laundry or paying bills, they would grab ahold of my face to look at them while they talked. They would often take hold of my hand and drag me to what they wanted me to see. Toddlers are not easily ignored or dismissed. They also have a much slower pace in life because they are busy taking it all in and experiencing the world for the very first time. Everything is new and exciting to them: roly-poly bugs, puddles, clouds, garbage trucks. You know, things that we stopped noticing years ago. It doesn’t matter how rushed we may be to get somewhere; toddlers insist on stopping to smell the roses … or dandelions. Toddlers have mastered the discipline of being present.

I remember trying to get my son to sleep one night when he was a toddler. I was exhausted (I suppose all mothers of toddlers are) and I turned the nightlight on before leaving his room and he lifted his sleepy head up and saw his shadow. It was the first time he had ever noticed a shadow and it was the most magical thing he had ever seen. He watched it move and finally understood that it moved when he moved. He was amazed, astonished, astounded! He was fully present in the moment. And I became fully present witnessing his awe and wonder.

I could easily have missed that magical moment. What’s worse, I could have caused him to miss it too. I could have turned out the light and demanded that he go to sleep. I could have tried to crawl out of his room without him noticing so I could crawl into my own bed. But, in that tired worn-out moment, I chose to be present. And the simplest thing of a shadow turned into a moment of learning for both of us.

So, as you work on practicing the spiritual discipline of presence this week, consider the following questions:
What are the things that distract you from fully engaging in how God is at work in your life?
How might you limit some of those distractions?
Is there a time that you could set aside once a day, or even once a week, to be fully present with God?
The last question is not a question for you to answer, but rather a question for you to ask of God. As you spend time in God’s presence this week, try asking how God needs you to be present for someone else.

God of grace and God of patience.
Thank you for your presence in my life —The times when I am doing great things, the times when I am doing the wrong things and the times when I am doing nothing. Help me to be more aware of those around me. Help me to start each day rejoicing in the day that you have made, recognizing the opportunities that each new day holds. And help me to be present in my time with you so as not to miss the blessings that you continually pour out on me.