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

Lord of the Layers

Lord of the Layers

I hadn’t expected my journals to elicit a challenge.

But here it is, from T.M., who saw my recent entries about Charleston: Tell me a Kingdom story out of this - drawing and all. And a deeper question is still rumbling from a conversation I had earlier this week: What is distinctive about the Christian life? I woke this morning considering what my capture of a short getaway with my wife might have to say to these.

First, here are the pages.



Any sequence of experiences can be sliced into different narratives. Some have broader implications. Others are more personal. Here are a few layers from this trip.

Legacy of race. Half of the enslaved Africans who entered this country came through the port of Charleston. That great sin shaped the city’s past and colors the present – in the talks given by docents in the houses built by slave owners. In the Negro spirituals in an evening concert. In the “Bench by the Road” that looks over the harbor. And most poignantly, in the tragic shooting at the Emmanuel AME church.

Celebration of a marriage. This was a getaway for my wife and me after we dropped our fourth and last child off at college. Each day held dozens of little moments of realization of how much we enjoy each other. Sights, meals, conversations – all are coins dropped into the bank of our shared memories.

Unplanned interactions. I only occasionally draw the people I interact with, for there are so many. The elderly woman at the bus stop on her way to advocate at the courthouse. Wood, the Captain of the Bells at the Episcopal church. The opinionated carriage driver who gave us a tour. Kim, my friend (and two-time 8:18er) who met us for dinner.

Visual translation. And then there’s how I decide to capture experiences. Thought goes into all the elements: typeface, drawings, layout, writing. And like any good storyteller knows – what’s left out is as important as what goes in.

What’s the Kingdom story? Pick the slice, because Jesus is in every one. Jesus is the healer of every social divide, including race. He empowered Emmaunuel AME to forgive its killer. Jesus is the source of the love in my marriage – enabling us to submit, one to another, out of reverence for him (Eph 5:21). He is present (or can be if I’m aware) in every interaction – ready to bless me or use me to bless others. And the Lord is my creative inspiration. All beauty and order flow from his original thought. I am just an imitator – but oh, the joy that’s present in the attempt!

And there is the Christian distinctive. As David wrote, the Lord is “behind and before,” laying his hand on us (Ps. 139:5), giving meaning and a presence to every moment. No experience of ours is too small for him to care about. But all our little pieces add into a narrative so great, we can hardly imagine it.

In the light of his love, every day is a Kingdom story.

Jesus, you are the beginning, you are the end. For you everything was made and through you everything holds together. You are in the midst of all the narratives of our lives, if we only had eyes to see you. Awaken us to your presence in all of our layers.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. If you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!



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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