Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Playing within the frame

Playing within the frame

When I finally notice the old man, he is looming over me with his arms raised over his head.

At least, that’s what the tree looks like. Walking toward an office in downtown Atlanta, I am so lost in enjoying how the morning sun glints off the tall buildings that I almost miss this arboreal geezer.

I’m glad I found him.

This changes my visual contemplation. I begin to look at the tree in juxtaposition to the skyscrapers behind it, trying to frame a branch as if playing along the edge of one. This contrast of the organic against the geometric resonates deeply inside me. It is as familiar and welcome to my artistic sensibilities as Beethoven’s da-da-da-DUM is to a classical music lover. Or the first waft from a hot cup for a coffee junkie.


A little farther on, I confine another tree within a border of another corporate tower. Why does this contrast delight me so? Is it because it is at the heart of what I do professionally – creating free-flowing collections of contents inside a never-ending stream of rectangular boards?


Perhaps. But I think it goes deeper. It has theological roots. I see in Scripture a similar contrast between hard-edged frame of an exacting law and the beating heart of a living love. I see it even in the familiar verse, Romans 3:23-24: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The straight lines of the law; the surprise of relational grace.

And this is at the heart of creativity. For twelve years, I taught elementary students about how to “think outside the box” as I traveled from school to school. One of the truths I passed on was that creativity needs a loose framework. New ideas never appear in a vast, open space. They need boundaries, but not too constricting – enough space for ingenuity to play.

Later, as I leave the office at exactly 8:18 PM, I approach the door to the street. On the glass, a pattern of light dances within the frame – shimmering, moving, disappearing. I snap a few shots and each one is unique, as if the lights were alive and unwilling to keep still.


I’ll never get tired of this.

All delights come from you, Lord. We thank you for those wonderful contrasts we often see between the immovable line and the free-form shape. You have embedded that concept deep within us, for it is a reminder of your grace. How your law and your love combine to thrill and satisfy our souls! Remind us daily of them.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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