God Hides in Plain Sight

How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World

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A Crossings Book Club Selection
2010 San Diego Book Award Winner

"This book has wonderful and valuable things to say. I won't soon forget them."--Frederick Buechner

Have you ever had a conversation that went far deeper than the words spoken or an experience where you felt you had participated in something sacred--that you had been part of the unbidden activity of God? Although these situations may seem rare and unexplainable, they are reminders that God's grace surrounds us constantly and shows up in manifold ways to those who have eyes to see the sacred in everyday life. "These sacramental moments are the bursts of revelation that give spiritual order to our otherwise disordered lives," says veteran journalist Dean Nelson. In this colorful, story-driven introduction to sacramental living, Nelson offers all Christians a way to see the presence of God amid the chaos and monotony of daily life. Each chapter emphasizes a different kind of sacramental moment, showing how it can be a lens through which we can see more of God.


"Dean Nelson has a lively, conversational writing style, and this book has wonderful and valuable things to say. I won't soon forget them."--Frederick Buechner, author of Listening to Your Life

"In a world where so much miraculous is perceived as ordinary, Dean Nelson points out the places where we see God in our everyday lives, helping us understand that the mundane might actually be holy. In a wonderful narrative, Nelson weaves the sacred presence of God through his text and reveals that thread also running through our own lives. A lovely read."--Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz

"Dean Nelson is God's spy, looking for God in all the times and places most of us would never think to explore. He doesn't miss much. Nelson combines a journalist's gift for involving us in the stories that are happening all around us with a professor's attentiveness to the sacramental nature of this God-created, Christ-redeemed life in which we are immersed. Combining the readability of excellent writing and the reliability of sound scholarship, God Hides in Plain Sight is better than a spy novel."--Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message, professor of spiritual theology emeritus, Regent College, Vancouver

"Dean Nelson writes beautifully. And no less wonderful, he sees beautifully and knows how to help us see what he sees. In God Hides in Plain Sight, he will help you spot what is most worth seeing (and very easily missed): the beauty of God camouflaged in the sacrament of your daily experience, around you, right now, whoever and wherever you are."--Brian McLaren, author and activist, brianmclaren.net

"If God is indeed hidden in the world around us, then we're blessed to have a warm, entertaining tour guide in Dean Nelson. He leads us through the sacraments with humor and creative insight, expertly pointing out the places--and the Presence--most of us miss along the way."--Jason Boyett, author of Pocket Guide to the Bible and Pocket Guide to the Afterlife

"The church has long used the concept of sacraments--outward signs of inward grace--to name the spaces where God meets us in an especially present way. For many Christians, however, that language seems abstract, even (sadly) foreign. Dean Nelson lovingly explores those spaces of encountering God; his luminous book has helped me see anew the sacred in the ordinary. I am grateful."--Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God, Duke Divinity School

The Author

  1. Dean Nelson
    © Bronson Pate

    Dean Nelson

    Dean Nelson (PhD, Ohio University) is founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, where he serves as professor of journalism. He has written extensively for dozens of newspapers and magazines,...

    Continue reading about Dean Nelson


A Crossings Book Club Selection
2010 San Diego Book Award Winner

"A wonderful new book. . . . [Nelson has] got wonderful wit and an eye for the uncanny sense of God's presence, and a broad spirit that reads all over the map. This book has taken me by surprise. . . . Nelson is a master story-teller. . . . At times I sense Dean Nelson could be our generation's male Anne Lamott. He offers to us a disarming honesty along with an honest quest for God, but there's nothing romantic, idealistic, or utopian. . . . Really well done. . . . [This book] drew me in with its prose and its utter seriousness punctuated by [laugh out loud] humor. This book would be a great book for an adult book reading group, a good Bible study book, and especially good for middle agers who are contemplating the presence of God in the corners and flat places of life."--Scot McKnight, blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed

"God Hides in Plain Sight will help readers become more attuned to the divine that exists in everyday events and interactions."--Whitney Hallberg, ForeWord

"A thought-provoking manuscript that breaks down all seven ancient sacraments--vocation, communion, confession, confirmation, marriage, baptism, and last rites--and applies them in simple, but transforming ways. . . . Poignant at times, funny at times, the book strips away the modern trappings of religion to expose authentic faith."--Lori Arnold, Christian Examiner

"God Hides in Plain Sight is both a guide to the sacraments in a conversational style and a memoir of important personal events in Nelson's life. Nelson is a strong writer, and his firm grasp of not only the importance of the sacraments, but also his insight into their meaning, created a book not only worth reading, but re-reading to continue to remind oneself about how to slow down and see the works of the Spirit as one goes about their life."--San Francisco & Sacramento Book Review

"In this beautifully written book, Nelson is both storyteller and philosopher, weaving together thought-provoking quotes, insights, and heart-warming personal anecdotes. He gives particular attention to relationships we tend to take for granted and to ordinary moments and events that escape our awareness, inviting us to see how God is present in them. . . . [T]he author offers us a rich variety of examples, as well as hints on how to recognize the beyond that we may be missing by living on the surface of things."--Sr. Lenora Black, OSB, Spirit & Life

"In conversational and thoughtful prose, [Nelson] uses his and others' stories, Scriptural references, and the writings of theologians to explore the possibility of finding God in the present moment and in the ordinary, even the frustrating, experience."--ForeWord enewsletter

"In a world filled with so many distractions and lights contrary to that of Christ, God Hides in Plain Sight helps the reader to refocus attention on where it needs to be in order for God's presence to be seen and especially felt. God Hides in Plain Sight is not a theological treatise, but it is a spiritual masterpiece. . . . The book is the obvious culmination of man in love with God who has the grace and the good sense to keep his eyes open to see and acknowledge the presence of the divine at every level. For those Christians who might be wondering if God is paying attention to what is going on in this world, God Hides in Plain Sight is well worth reading to help find the answer."--Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, North County Times

"'Virtually anything can carry something of God to us,' writes Dean Nelson. . . . Nelson thoughtfully (and often humorously) reflects on eight sacraments--rituals most of us only expect to experience within church walls--and finds evidence of these holy moments in the mundane."--Julie Polter, Sojourners blog

"[This] thoughtful and accessible guide to [existential questions] addresses profound truths with humor and a light touch. . . . Nelson intersperses anecdotes from his years as a globe-trotting reporter . . . and journalism professor . . . with a thorough examination of the sacramental moments that he sees everywhere. . . . Like the excellent journalist he is, Nelson does lots of showing and not so much telling as he spins stories from forays around the world to illustrate how God is at work in all manner of mundane activities and often takes us by surprise. . . . As tour guide on this sacramental journey, Nelson is full of good humor and creativity, often shining the spotlight on himself and his family, foibles and all, to illustrate how--like the rest of us--they have been known to get a tad bit too caught up in the chaotic frenzy of life to recognize the neon light of God's presence for what it is until after the fact. . . . The proclamation that God is at work in the everyday world permeates the pages of God Hides in Plain Sight. In this beautifully written book, Nelson urges us to open our eyes--and hearts--to see irrefutable evidence that the sacred is in the mundane, the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary."--Phyllis Alsdurf, Books & Culture

"[A] practical and anecdote-filled book. Recommended for use in small groups."--Tony Jones, blog.tonyj.net

"[Nelson] roots his gentle, moving essays in the seven historic sacraments--vocation, Communion, confession, confirmation, marriage, baptism, and last rites--as well as a new one he christened, service. . . . Nelson's stories bespeak the God who revealed himself to Elijah not in an earthquake or a fire but in a whisper."--Madison Trammel, Christianity Today

"In each chapter [Nelson] interprets the sacraments as recurring themes of our lives, with the liturgical expression of the sacraments as only one manifestation. . . . The book is filled with anecdotes--each chapter is mostly a string of stories from Nelson's life as father and globe-trotting journalist, interspersed with quotes from observers of the life of faith including Anne Lamott, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Rohr. It's well written for a general audience, and would work well for a study group. . . . This book helps us to see the holy in our own lives more clearly."--Margaret D'Anieri, Englewood Review of Books

"Dean Nelson is a highly skilled author--one who can tackle the delicate mix of religion and pop culture in a mainstream manner that won't necessarily scare away a secular audience. . . . Nelson's lively, conversational writing style captivates the reader, whether zealot, skeptic or the vast group in-between. In God Hides in Plain Sight, he unravels the sacred presence of God in our daily fabric. Through parables, he illumes the valor and virtue expressed and felt when one follows a love-filled heart."--Heather Back, SanDiego.com

"[Nelson] brings to the task both the eye and the craft of the trained journalist. Many of the chapters begin with a story from his numerous travels and are written in a style meant to attract the reader's attention and to hold it rather than to merely dissect the subject matter. This makes the book not only extraordinarily readable but downright interesting, as well. . . . I must confess to being partial to this book for several reasons. First, the author not only knows the literature, but as a non-theologian and journalist he is able to present the argument for paying attention to God in the interstices of our lives more forcefully than those of us who teach and preach this material on a regular basis. Second, this is a book which would work really well in a small group study or in a Sunday School class which has six or eight weeks to focus on the theme. . . . Get this book. Read it yourself. But more importantly, pass it on to your friends and family. I guarantee that it will spark numerous conversations about seeing God in the everyday and the ordinary."--Brian T. Hartley, OSL, Sacramental Life