Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lonely Bookshelf

Picked up a book by Paul Tillich at my local PTA thrift shop. Thank you God, for that lone bookshelf of Christian gems that has provided me with three years of dirt cheap Christian classics. Thank you God, for allowing me to live in a time and place where I can find copies of your word in the NIV, KJV, NKJV, etc, etc. for rarely more than 50 cents. How ironic is it to see people shell out $20-30 for the latest "achieve comfort in your own lifetime" manual, when for a few pennies, one can find the eternal truth? I somehow doubt Jesus would be surprised, since He Himself was sold for 30 pieces of silver.
I've probably haunted this thrift shop's "religious" bookshelf at least weekly over the last three + years. I'm always curious as to what kind of person I'll find myself browsing with. Alas, I'm usually alone, stunned at how nobody else seems aware of the treasure trove. Among the handful of shoppers who I have stood beside, I recall three:
1) A guy who had already selected a few books to buy, including one by popular author Philip Yancey. I tried to engage him in a little enthusiastic conversation about Christ, but he informed me that he ran a used bookshelf himself, and was really just there to stock up on inventory.
2) A lady with a radiant smile, who didn't like my recommendation of a particular author, since the title clearly indicated traditional Christianity. I did attempt to humor her by agreeing that many religions have elements of truth, but went on to suggest that they can't all be pointing to the same God, since there are irreconcilable differences in their basic tenets. She informed me that the Bible was simply "that era's" reflection of the larger truth. Our conversation didn't get any further. She grabbed her selection from the New Age shelf, and was gone.
3) A Hispanic guy in a jean jacket. His broken English was barely good enough for us to talk. He told me about how much he likes his church. I gave him the call-letters of the BBN radio station where he could listen to sermons. He was thankful for the info. We could barely communicate, but we both knew we were brothers, and I left feeling thankful to God for a new eternal friend. I can imagine that day in heaven: "Hey, I remember you! Remember when we met at that dingy thrift shop back in 2006?" We'll speak each other's language that day. We'll both be wearing white. We won't need any books to understand Christ better.
Back to the bookshelf: I'm fairly impressed by the loose categorization the staff have put the books in. There's Christian fiction, Holy books (Bible, book of Mormon, etc.), Christian living, religion in general, Eschatology, New Age/Occult/Mysticism. My pet peeve is when I find books like Benjamin Creme's Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (a new age anti-gem) alongside solid doctrine. That's when I take the liberty of doing a little "re-shelving." Lord forgive me for presuming to know better than the staff how to shelve, but it's probably a lesser sin than my desire to just burn them?
Anyhow, I better not get too righteous here. I should probably spend more time reading the one book where the author is present every time you open it. Meantime, thank you Lord, for the black lady at the thrift shop checkout whose radio is always tuned to the black gospel station. I can always count on her smile as she looks at the titles I'm buying. Even though ours is a simple retail transaction, rather than any service on my part, she always makes me think of Hebrews 13:2:

"Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it."

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