Seeing God in All Places, Even the Bookstore


To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”~William Blake

I believe that God is present in all places and filling all things, just like we pray at Divine Liturgy. Recently I saw a glimpse of heaven at the bookstore, the movie theater and in the small joys shared with my family. I was reminded that God being everywhere present and filling all things means in the little places, the random encounters with strangers, and in different art forms. And also, in moments of simple fun and good times.  

Manny’s birthday was a few weeks ago and my parents were visiting from California, so we took advantage of my parent’s generosity and asked them to babysit “the littles” while we took our three oldest children out for a movie and dinner (something we rarely get to do since moving away from family).

We spent the day in Appleton. This is a fun college town and nice place to get away to, especially when coming from the little village that we live in, “AAHH, civilization! There are people in Wisconsin!”

We get to Appleton with time to kill before the movie, The 100 Foot Journey (a beautifully made movie that spoke of food having a soul and eating as memory, I highly recommend it). We decide to drive around and try to find a bookstore or an antique shop–somewhere to poke around and pass the time. We stumble upon both, right next to each other–total coincidence, couldn’t believe it.

We park and decide on the used bookstore first. We were in heaven. Books everywhere, crammed and shoved in tight spots with bowing bookshelves and rows of books in front of rows of books. To top it off, an elderly man sitting at a small table, surrounded by stacks of books with a typewriter in front of him–yes, I said a typewriter.

So we scatter throughout the store, each of us finding the genre of books we like to read. It isn’t long before I am being asked by the kids if we can buy this book and being told “mom look at this one.” All five of us find books we like and want to take home. By the time we leave, after realizing we are about to miss our movie, we have 3 tall stacks of books to purchase. Not only were these books reasonably priced to begin with but most of them were on sale for 50% off (I know, how can you pass that up right?)!

When it was time to pay for our stacks of treasures (by cash, check or money order only) the elderly man wrote the prices down on a piece of paper with his pencil, added them up quickly in his head and chatted away with us as we gave him an obvious boost of energy to see 5 customers (3 being young people) thrilled about his books. He said he was happy to see young people eager to read and excited for the treasures they found. We talked a bit then he handed us our bags and told me he placed his propaganda inside one of them.

The elderly gentleman also explained to me the care he put into one of the treasures I found,  a book published in 1883 that I picked up for only $10. Beautifully illustrated and in good condition. He saved it he told me, repairing some binding. I am so glad he did.

His propaganda was a copy of his typed out (on the typewriter) advertisement. The store’s contact info, hours which say Monday from whenever I get here… and a list of books with descriptions for sale. There was also a little article he wrote on writing well.  Did I mention the man was charming?

There is something so genuine and comforting about shopping in a little shop like this one, where you are certain the man behind the typewriter who described himself as a chronic reader, must be the owner. You know this business is a part of him, and that he is sharing something of himself by inviting you in to browse through his books and find jewels of your own. I think it is comforting because you connect on a certain level with another human being you would probably never know or speak to.

Much like what a writer is doing in allowing you to read their writing, letting you see a glimpse of their soul, see a bit of their heart. My good friend Mary said she has such a hard time parting with books because they are like people. I quite agree, books have souls. A piece of the soul of the author.

We barely made our movie. And never made it to the antique shop. But none of us minded.

The bookstore, movie, and the day in general reminded me of the sacramental aspect of life. The world is a glimpse of heaven and God can be found in all places and in all things. In the strangers we meet, the good times we share with one another, and the different art forms which reveal a bit of our fellow man and God.

“Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God. The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator. Such is the true nature of things; or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it, “the truth of things,” if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.” ~Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew




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