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The art of serving

The art of serving

Ignore the chair.

It’s what I do.  I don’t know why.  When I’m scribing, despite having a comfortable seat poised just behind me, I most often opt for going down on one knee. Even on a tile floor. I do this so subconsciously, I wear out the left knee of otherwise perfectly good pants on a regular basis.

But looking at this photo, taken by a friend as I captured students answers to questions I had written at a college campus in Baltimore, the pose seems to convey the attitude I carry with me into this fledgling ministry I’m attempting.  I’m here to serve and bless strangers.

I call this ministry idea Drawn Together.  (This is my logo for it.) The concept is simple: I create crowd-sourced art. Setting up a large surface in a public space with a decent flow of foot traffic, I encourage people to volunteer their thoughts, which I then add to the growing image. I’ve done this a few times on my own over the years, but for some time I’ve dreamed about attempting this with a team of “conversationalists” – people from a sponsoring organization who would be ready to engage people in dialogue, to hear their stories and make connections.

And perhaps those connections will lead to spiritual conversations over time.

Today, working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, we came up with two inviting questions:

  • What do you doubt?
  • What gives you hope?

It didn’t take long for the answers to start filling in the board.

As an artist, I aim to honor their thoughts. Their input is integral to the creative process. My delight is genuine: I need them for this to work. And in adding their comments, I open the door to a conversation.

Paul has some advice about that:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Col. 4:6

Grace and salt.  Words both unexpectedly kind and flavorful – both giving a taste of life in the kingdom. A taste that will, hopefully, draw them into a deeper conversation and questions of their own.

We certainly had conversations. A young Indian woman spoke with me about the beautiful art her culture makes with rice paste on dark floors. A sponsor for a Jewish student organization explained how he sees the concept of chaos developed in Genesis. Many students shared very personal doubts about their abilities and futures.

It was four hours of finding the common ground where relationships can grow.

As I get older, the chairs of comfort have a strong pull. It’s easy to stay within my routines and remain a safe distance from the challenges and discomfort of serving people. The trick, then, is to find something I love to do and then use it to give to others – give honor, appreciation, a willing ear.

And hopefully, an invitation to know the God of grace.

Lord, use the special abilities you have given each of us to bless others. In those acts of service, would you draw people to yourself?

Reader: what gift or ability are you using right now to serve others?  And how are you using it?

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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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