The Way Up is Down

Two Way Traffic

On the 4th Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. John Climacus, who wrote the great spiritual classic The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Mark 9.17-31) reminded me of an important spiritual principle connected with ascent: the way up is down. The one who wishes to be great must become the servant of all. The one who humbles himself will be exalted. Click here to hear my most recent sermon on this reading. Also, please leave a comment to share other expressions of this principle in life or in the Bible. It would be interesting to see how many we can find!

Dents & Bruises

USMC helmet

After watching the Super Bowl last weekend, this worthwhile article by one of my former professors at seminary came to mind. Drawing on Shakespeare’s Henry V, Fr. Frank makes a great point about the bruises we all inevitably receive in the course of our lives:

The concussions of one’s career can actually be absorbed as concentrated catalysts of spiritual awakenings. Understood in this fashion, life’s dents and contusions are the very drivers that often force the talented, powerful and resourceful to the knees of prayer, repentance and humble transformation.

In the not too distant past, it was easy for me to become enamored with the thought of doing “great” things. That’s probably not all that bad. But for some strange reason–perhaps due in no small part to the bumps and bruises I’ve sustained–I’ve been given the grace to be content with the little things that have been entrusted to my care. Matthew 25.21 has become more real to me.

How have your dents and bruises contributed to your personal growth?

Our Two Drives

Solid gold from a new book by Henry Cloud:
“There are two human drives. One is connection and the other is aggression. Aggression here does not mean anger. It means initiative and energy, used in the service of goals. Everything we do is either relational or goal directed–or, ideally, both. Basically, we are ‘lovers and workers.’ We have relationships and we do things. We connect and we accomplish tasks. Care and drive. Be and do. Love and work. The love requires a positive relational tone and the work requires drive, expectations, and discipline.”


Cloud goes on to say that we get into trouble when we do one without the other. We should aim to do both at the same time and to be open to having one affect the other.

In the language of Chick-fil-A’s SERVE model, this is the “V”: Value results and relationships.

I know I don’t spend enough time on relationships. Toward which drive do you tend?

What is Normal?

On Sunday, I offered this sermon, which I hope you find edifying. While thinking about the hypocrisy of which the ruler of the synagogue is accused in this passage, I remembered step 18 of Saint John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent, on insensibility or insensitivity, and concluded that one of the main themes of Luke 13.10-17 is the stiffness, hardness, and insensitivity that is the cause of the hypocrisy into which we so easily fall.

What is it for you that causes that spiritual drift into insensitivity toward others?

Welcome Home

In this life, we’re all living in a wilderness. We were born into it. It’s the wilderness of a fallen world, permeated with sin. To hear more about this and the way out of it, listen to my most recent sermon.

What is it that makes it easy for us to forget that we’re living in this wilderness?

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