I just got word from Brazos Press that my book God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World, will be released September 1. The book is about using the Sacraments in a new and fresh way so that we can see the activity of God in our everyday lives.
Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:
Many years ago I played on my college’s baseball team. We weren’t particularly good, and to put my own talent in context, I was not a starter. To be on a lousy team, and to still begin each game on the bench, did not do much for my self-esteem. To quell the boredom of watching our miserable team get shellacked each game, I took interest in our opponents’ third base coaches. It was a practice I picked up while sitting on the bench in high school and Little League earlier in my unceremonious athletic life. When the other team was at bat, the third base coach would go through a series of gyrations to secretly communicate to the batter or base runner. Or, in our college games, the base runners. I knew from my own years of playing baseball that a hand to the belt, then to the bill of the cap, might mean “bunt.” A hand to the other hand or face (skin on skin), might be a signal for the runner on first to steal a base. But since everyone knows some of these universal signs, each team has its own “activating” signal, which says, “This time I mean it – all those other times were to throw off the opposition.”
Since I had time on my hands, I would try to figure these signals out. Once I broke the code, I would tell our players, and we could adjust for the coming bunt, steal or other play. It’s highly unethical to do this, according to some players and coaches. But mine were grateful. We needed every advantage we could get. A losing streak is no time to worry about ethics.
One team was not difficult to figure out at all. The third base coach gave signs only when he wanted the players to do something. For instance, if his team had a runner on first base, the coach would yell across the diamond, “Hey Tony!” and then grab his elbow. Tony (and the rest of us) now knew that the coach wanted him to steal second. Somehow the concept of disguising the signals was lost on this coach. I think it was the one team we could beat.
I think we treat the continuous ways God breaks into our lives the same way we look at baseball team signals. They are hidden, secret, and only for the insiders, like the clergy, or those with a lot of time on their hands, like the infirmed or elderly. And sometimes the signals are given strictly to throw some people off course because they didn’t know which signal was the “activator.” It is as if God is there, but He is hiding until we can figure out the signals he’s sending. In his book Rumors of Another World: What On Earth Are We Missing?, Philip Yancey tells of natives on the southern tip of Argentina ignoring the explorer Magellan’s great ships as they passed by because they were different from anything they had seen before and assumed they were an apparition. “They lacked the experience, even the imagination, to decode evidence passing right before their eyes,” he said.
But instead of trying to de-code God’s signals, a better approach would be to simply see Him where he always is: all around us, fixing our eyes on the unseen, as opposed to the seen, as the apostle Paul instructs us to do. Eugene Peterson, in his book Subversive Spirituality, describes the process this way: “We happen upon, we notice, we reach out and touch things and ideas, people and events, and among these the Holy Scriptures themselves, that were there all along but that our ego-swollen souls or our sin-blurred eyes quite simply overlooked – sometimes for years and years and years. And then we do notice: we sight life, we realize God and hear his word, we grab the sleeve of a friend and demand, ‘Look! Listen!’”