Looking back

This blog started a year ago with two questions from Jesus.

The first had to do with observing. The second, remembering.

“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” Mark 8:18

Hence my blog's title.

The issue in that chapter of Mark was bread. The disciples had forgotten to bring any on their journey and supposed that Jesus was upset about their oversight. In his words to them, he clearly expects them to not only take in what he is showing them, but to hold on to it. He had just recently fed five thousand people with a few loaves. Surely he wasn’t concerned with provisions for thirteen.

Jesus expects us all to be aware of his work around us. And for that awareness to shape who we are.

I love this time of year, when we all have a collective look back. Top ten lists are fascinating to me. Even better are the worst ten lists. (The cultural equivalent of slowing down to view an accident.) It’s good to sift through the past twelve months and collect the important memories.

This marks one year I’ve been blogging 8:18. In the midst of 64 trips I managed 120 posts – 10 a month. For those of you who are regular readers, I salute you. That’s a lot of musing to digest. Thanks for coming with me on my jaunts.

In my own effort to remember, here are my favorite photos from this year (out of the thousand or so I took), with a short explanation.

I found this collection of frosted leaves along the sidewalk as I was strolling in our town. It didn’t look like much until I framed it in my camera. It showed me that beauty can be found in ordinary places.

On a misty winter’s day, I drove to a nearby state park and walked in the quiet forest, noticing how the moisture in the air was collecting on the ends of twigs. I took dozens of shots trying to capture this effect of pearl-like drops. God’s wonders are often transitory, requiring a willingness to be ready for them.

I include this incident in Chicago because it’s hard to take photos of people in public. And it’s tricky capturing a moment that tells a story. I wish I were better at this, and braver -- for many of the reminders of God’s work in my life have involved people.

This is my favorite shot of the year. I was working in San Francisco and stepped out in the late afternoon into a public square, where the colors of a bright mural reflected in a shallow pool. The black birds posed for me only a few seconds. This was a moment of pure joy in the midst of my work world, suggesting that God shows up everywhere we look for him.

These moments, along with all the others, were a discovery of the presence of God in my ordinary life. Each time they were a bit startling, like coming up from a book to find a friend sitting next us on the train.

Perhaps Jesus’s point about memory in the second question is that over time, truly observing – letting what we see and hear of his activity get down into the fiber of what we’re made of – will make each new experience less surprising.

But no less delightful.

Lord, in the words of Psalm 77, we will remember your deeds of old. And of recent days. We will remember your wonders – even the small ones we encounter throughout the day. What we see and hear of you we will ponder, for we want our observations to change us. Shape us, Father. We want to be like you!

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.. And 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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