On Hell

“For the one principle of Hell is “I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject.” – George MacDonald

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he’s in prison.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” C.S. Lewis

“All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” — C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)

“At the end of things, The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” And the lost will say, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.” — C.S. Lewis

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

C.S. Lewis (Screwtape Letters)

Happy Desire of our Thoughts

“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”

Soren Kierkegaard

We must be careful with our thoughts – they determine our vision; the lens through which we view the world and the course and happiness of our lives.

Our thoughts direct our decisions, and our reactions to the actions of others. If we engage our ability, born of free will, to shift our thinking, to turn from a degrading thought to an uplifting one – we can, thought by thought, build a life of joy.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Carl Jung
Woman Pondering, Artist Unknown

Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” To gain the wisdom necessary for a happy life, we must witness the nature of our internal world and how our thoughts are revealing themselves in our life.

Over the years, I have been plagued with discontented thoughts. “When we move, then things will be better” “If only I could travel more” “My laundry room is just too small!” These ideas have been extremely unhelpful in my life. When they linger, they keep me from appreciating the bountiful blessings that surround me. When I take the time to notice these discontented ideas taking space in my mind, I try and stop and shift to gratitude. Two thoughts cannot occupy the same mind at the same time. Through prayer or pondering we can shift our focus.

If we find ourselves disproportionately angry or hurt by something, we should examine what thoughts have been ignited: “She thinks she is better than me” “He never cared about me” “I am not enough”. If we can examine the thoughts, as disinterestedly as possible, we can search for clues to the source of such thinking. We can determine if these thoughts are helpful or harmful.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Carl Jung

Examining our thoughts takes introspection and often a struggle against our own nature. If we have a more negative disposition, the quest will be arduous. It is painful to admit to the destructive nature of many of our thoughts. We may uncover envy, bitterness, and cynicism driving many of our ruminations. But the first step is to notice – to be a witness to our own thinking – and be honest enough to admit to the harm our thoughts may be doing. The next time we see a tired, old, negative-thought pop up, we can let it pass away – seeing it for the devil it is.

If we want our life and relationships to improve, reigning in negative thoughts is crucial. Abraham Lincoln, a man with a life full of suffering and tribulation said – “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” We must make up our minds. When we do, we will transform our thoughts – and our lives can begin to express the happy desires of our thoughts.

As someone thinks within himself, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

Ally

On Judgement

“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices.” C. S. Lewis

“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to faultfinding.” Corrie Ten Boom

Art: God Speed by Edmund Blair Leighton

The Debt of Fatherhood

Fathers provide the strength, perspective, and love that enables their children to thrive physically and psychologically. When a father is absent, the consequences are steep- his departure is felt by culture at-large. Fathers, unlike mothers, are not physically compelled to stay with their children. They must be compelled morally. We must make clear to our sons that leaving a child is an immoral choice. Men that desert their obligations will have to stand accountable before God, their own children, and the society they leave in ruins behind them.

However, men that stay and love and encourage their children deserve our respect and admiration. Those that minimize the importance of fatherhood are simply ignorant to the foundation that has been laid by every unassuming and unheralded father. This week, let’s acknowledge the hero that every Dad is. Imperfect as he may be, he is fulfilling his moral obligation, which lesser men have fled. His children and society should thank him.

This article, from The Art of Manliness, show the debt we owe to our dads and the scourge left behind by absent-fathers.

The Importance of Fathers (According to Science)

A quote from The Brothers Karamazov demonstrates the torment fatherless children are left with. Surely the command to “Honor they Father” does not apply to men that abandon their children.

“The sight of an unworthy father involuntarily suggests tormenting questions to a young creature, especially when he compares him with the excellent fathers of his companions. The conventional answer to this question is: ‘He begot you, and you are his flesh and blood, and therefore you are bound to love him.’ The youth involuntarily reflects: ‘But did he love me when he begot me?’ he asks, wondering more and more. ‘Was it for my sake he begot me? He did not know me, not even my sex, at that moment, at the moment of passion, perhaps, inflamed by wine, and he has only transmitted to me a propensity to drunkenness- that’s all he’s done for me…. Why am I bound to love him simply for begetting me when he has cared nothing for me all my life after? Oh, perhaps those questions strike you as coarse and cruel, but do not expect an impossible restraint from a young mind. ‘Drive nature out of the door and it will fly in at the window’.”

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Without the encouragement of your father the world is a dismal place. It is difficult to be a courageous person unless you have your father behind you in body and spirit. It is very demoralizing. … If your father rejects you, or doesn’t form a relationship with you, it’s as if the spirit of civilization has left you outside the walls as of little worth. It is very difficult for people to recover from that.

Jordan Peterson

Thank you to all the courageous men that live lives of quiet power, as fathers.

– Ally

The Worry Pit

Princess Tarakanova, Konstantitin Flavitzky

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

We all have good reason for worry. The sufferings, uncertainty, and anger we see all around us may leave us feeling powerless and at the mercy of an unloving world. A few nights ago I felt a darkness surround me. I was concerned about a relative’s health uncertainty, my own children’s future in this world, the economy, and numerous other anxieties. I tried to distract myself, but a feeling of dread weighed upon me. I went to bed but could not sleep. As I lay awake the story of Corrie Ten Boom came into my mind. She was a strong Christian woman from The Netherlands, placed in a concentration camp during WW2 for the crime of hiding Jews in her home. Most of her family was killed, including her beloved sister who died while in the camp together. Her book, The Hiding Place, is a testament to the power of love and faith in overcoming darkness. Corrie Ten Boom was a woman who had every reason for anxiety, anger, and despair. Yet she understood the self-defeating nature of worry.

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear….Worry is like a rocking chair: it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Despite living through horrors we can only imagine, she found peace in their midst. She placed her fears at the feet of one much stronger than herself. She forgave the unforgivable. She became a beacon of hope and love to her fellow prisoners.

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

When we attempt to fill our hearts with love, with gratitude, with optimism – and get busy in sharing those feelings with others – our fears have nowhere to rest their heads. We have to be willing to let go of our worry, to have faith they will be caught by someone much more capable of handling them. Someone that sees the end from the beginning.

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

The next morning, after remembering Ten Boom’s example of strength, I woke up feeling lighter. I hope this feeling can remain with me. It is difficult to maintain faith in the face of crisis. It may seem uncaring and cold to not be consumed with torment in such times. But a soul in torment cannot be a light. We must always attempt to free ourselves from that which impedes us from accomplishing good. If we can trade worry for love our lives will be lighter. As it says in John, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” I am grateful for the example Corrie Ten Boom provides that such love is possible.

“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”

All quotes by Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Boom

-Ally

-For Christians and non Christians alike, I highly recommend the book The Hiding Place.

Young Man at a Crossroads

My grandfather had a difficult childhood. The son of a rough and often-absent cowboy, his mother died when he was young. He was shuffled from relative to friend and grew up without much disciple or direction. Later in life he would tell his grandchildren of the time he stood at a critical crossroads in his life, when he met a “wise and noble” man at his church. This man took the time to guide him with his example and influence. He exemplified the adage, “A man stands tallest when he stoops to help a child.” My grandfather never forgot him; he owed him a great deal. He would quote this poem to describe his experience.

He stood at the crossroads all alone,
The sunlight in his face.
He had no thought for the world unknown—
He was set for a manly race.
But the roads stretched east, and the roads stretched west,
And the lad knew not which road was best;
So he chose the road that led him down,
And he lost the race and victor’s crown.
He was caught at last in an angry snare
Because no one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better road.

Another day, at the self-same place,
A boy with high hopes stood.
He, too, was set for a manly race;
He, too, was seeking the things that were good;
But one was there who the roads did know,
And that one showed him which way to go.
So he turned from the road that would lead him down,
And he won the race and the victor’s crown.
He walks today the highway fair
Because one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better way.
(The Upward Reach, Sadie Tiller Crawley)

Let’s not forget the millions of young men at crossroads. They too are “set for a manly race”. This month, as we celebrate fathers, I hope men, particularly, are inspired to use their greatest power – the power of their righteous influence. They can change the course of a young man’s life, son or stranger. They can inspire him to go upward, to win the race – rather than downward to lesser roads. Within all men’s sphere of influence there is a young man who needs a strong and wise arm to guide him. If you help this precious young man, generations will be shaped by the victory he achieves.

Ally