Tony Otten: A New Jacob’s Ladder (The 45th Parallel)

Written by on April 30, 2014

New Jacob's Ladder

Congratulations to inspiring guest blogger Anthony Otten of Erlanger, Kentucky. A New Jacob’s Ladder is the second-place winner of The 45th Parallel Contest.  Tony took this picture of clouds above his home. The clouds inspire a series of questions:  In what ways are God’s ways ours? Is it natural to see things from an earthly perspective – or  can we view them from the vantage point of heaven?  How do we climb the staircase and gain the Lord’s mind of grace, anyway?


This white ribbing of clouds happened to appear above my house one day, tempting me to photograph them in contrast to the homes and fences doused in blue shadow below. It is a commonplace to hear thoughts about heaven being “that great place above,” but this pale staircase sweeping across the afternoon sky reminded me of Jacob’s Ladder, the Old Testament vision of an ascendant path into God’s presence.

This “stairway to heaven” suggests the same thought found in Isaiah: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts your thoughts” (55:8-9 NKJV). Not only are God’s ways higher than ours, they can also feel unnatural…about as unnatural as, say, flying in the sky would be. It is not natural or comfortable to stop worrying or to forsake the claim to vengeance or complaint against someone who has done us wrong, at least not at first.

Paul wrote that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14). He is right that learning to go against our nature is a veritable “climb,” if you can indulge the stair metaphor once more. But no matter the work before us, our choice remains: stay below among the darkened houses, besieged with anxiety and resentment like any other “natural” person, or let God draw us up that staircase to have His mind about all things?

The climb is hard, but like Paul, we have a Helper who will get us to the landing (John 14:26).

Tony Otten

Anthony Ottenof Thomas More College in Kentucky, has published work in Wind Magazine, the Louisville Review, and the Penwood Review. He blogs on faith and writing at and is on Twitter: @AnthonyOtten.

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  1. Susan   On   May 1, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Anthony: not only a powerful picture, but your authentic perspective
    with our human struggles and how to rise above them with the One from above is very convicting as well as encouraging to me. Fantastic. Thank you.

    • Anthony Otten   On   May 1, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Thank you so much, Susan. If my piece did this for you, I can only imagine your reaction to the 1st place winners! I would only add, of course, that it is much easier to write about why other people should have God’s mind than it is to seek it myself. He gives grace one day at a time. Blessings…

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