Stumbling Through Lent: God in the Cow Dung?

As Lent moves along, I'm keeping a special look-out for God. My favorite place to look for God, I've noticed, is in people -- in their human warmth, but also in the sometimes surprising, shocking even, ways that they encounter the Divine.

I'm thinking right now of a woman named Savitri Hari, whose story appears in my book, "Wrestling With God: Stories of Doubt and Faith."

In the case of Savitri, who seems so alive and so full of gratitude for everything around her, I learned to notice that the sacred inhabits even the smallest, most humble of things.

At the time of our interviews, Savitri was living in Walnut Creek, California, teaching classical Indian dance in her home and working as a psychotherapist in nearby Oakland. The following is a passage from the story she tells:

I grew up in a Hindu family in South India. In my village, Koru-Tadiparru, we children used to gather cow dung for a special holiday in January.

We rolled the cow dung - it was heavy, like mud - into a ball and drew mandala designs on it with rice flour. Then we decorated it with flowers. We invoked the sacred energy into this menial thing and called it God Krishna.

That's how I grew up. For me, the sacred was nothing special. It was not up there somewhere, it was everywhere. It was in the cow dung as well as the beautiful sky, it was in everything. There was no distinction between God and regular day-to-day life

Many people have a hard time seeing the God in the menial, in the downtrodden. But that's how I see the divine, in the lowly things..

When you're looking for God, where do you look?

© 2016 Barbara Falconer Newhall. All Rights Reserved.

A version of this post first appeared on, where Barbara riffs on life and her rocky spiritual journey. If you enjoyed this essay, you might like "Memoirist Anne Lamott: How to (Gracefully) Not Have It All." On the light side, look for "The Baby Quilts Are Ready. Now All We Need Are the Babies."