Keeping it simple

The speaker I am about to scribe has a message for me from Steve Jobs.


He is the keynote of the conference I’m working and is a former colleague and friend of the late creative whiz. Just a few minutes before, I was told the title of his talk, so I hastily drew a marker portrait of Jobs along with the title. The speaker, Guy, stopped by, looked at it and said, “You should keep it black and white. Steve would have loved that.”

Simplicity. It’s one of the lessons he gleaned from his friend. Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex.” I find that to be true as I am wandering the grounds of the conference center outside Dallas, looking for something to photograph. The challenge is always to find a way to cut the clutter – not just find a blossom among the cacti, but how to frame it to reveal its glory.  Or bright blossoms in the reeds.


As I think about how to hone in on the core elements around me, I realize I have a powerful tool at my disposal: thankfulness. Thankfulness sharpens the senses and focuses the mind on the thing being framed by gratitude. The more granular we get in our thanks, the more uncluttered our moments become.

Not a general, thank you Lord for giving me food to eat. But a specific, thank you for this soup and its hot, savory sweetness. (Celery root and brie: amazing!)

It even holds true for scenes without a single visual focus. Thank you for the early sunlight on these delicate grasses and the way they seem to move joyfully in their stillness.


This is the challenge before us every day. Thankfulness requires a slower pace and an eye for detail, as well as a bubbling pleasure in the goodness of God, who “gives generously to all without reproach.” (James 1:5)

Paul called for us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thess. 5:18) There’s a recipe for a simple life, laid out in black and white.

We do thank you, God. Through your Spirit, train our hearts and minds to respond gratefully to your kindness to us throughout each day. Make it the lens through which we see our lives, one blessing at a time.

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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