Spreading the atmosphere of heaven

Elder Thaddeus
Elder Thaddeus. Detail from the cover of Our Thoughts Determine our Lives (Photo by Goran Veljkovic).

How powerful are your thoughts? For better or worse, they are affecting every relationship you have.

I am reading for the second time a wonderful book about the life and teachings of a Serbian monk, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, called Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. It covers many topics, but the central theme is, as Elder Thaddeus says, that “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture.”

“If our thoughts are kind, peaceful, and quiet, turned only toward good, then we . . . influence ourselves and radiate peace all around us,” he explains. But when our thoughts are evil, “we radiate it among our family members and wherever we go.”

“The Kingdom of God creates within us an atmosphere of heaven,” he says, “as opposed to the atmosphere of hell that is radiated by a person when hades abides in his heart.” That phrase, “the atmosphere of heaven,” forms a useful image. Thoughts after the heart of God enrich our atmosphere, while others sour the air.

It is easy enough to see that the light or dark within us radiates and affects those around us. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” is but one example. Our thoughts and intentions toward others affect our manners, moods, and more. And they have an effect beyond our minds—for good or ill. We live in a world with a lot of the latter, mostly because we harbor uncharitable, ungracious, and unkind attitudes. I can think of several relationships like this in my life right now.

Throughout the book, Elder Thaddeus gives examples of coworkers who struggle and spouses who have fallen out of love. He sources the difficulty and distance they suffer to the negative and sinful thoughts they cultivate.

“In our country and all over the world, people are reaping the fruits of their thoughts and wishes,” he says. “Our desires are not good; neither are our thoughts. How then can the fruits of such thoughts and desires be good?” Our thoughts and desires foul us up far more often than we realize—at work and home and elsewhere. Only by repenting (changing our minds, as the word actually implies) can we put a stop to the unnecessary suffering that comes as a result.

“We are the sons of light and love,” he says, “the sons of God, His Children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness toward all.”

The good news is that this is possible. Elder Thaddeus provides many examples of people who have turned around seemingly impossible situations once they began to cultivate charitable, gracious, and kind thoughts about others. Something shifts in the heart. Something better and sweeter radiates when the fruit of the Spirit grows within.

“The role of Christians in the world,” says Elder Thaddeus, “is to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

How would our lives, families, churches, and companies—even our politics—change if we took that role more seriously?

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  • I do believe that our Thoughts determine our Destiny. I think i should read this book (See again it all starts in out thoughts :)) We should take every thought captive in Christ.
    Thanks for writing!!

  • “We are the sons of Light and Love…” Wow. I love this. So profound and incisive. It seems that a lot of our problems come as a result of remembering our true identity and calling in Christ. Thanks for pointing me back in the right direction.

  • Such truth! Thank you.

    Philippians 4:8

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

    • Love that passage. And Galatians 5. After he talks about the fruit of the Spirit he says that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” We need to put our destructive thoughts and desires to death.

  • I knew you put up this post this morning but I couldn’t take the time to read it until now. I’m falling on my face, as the day has run it’s course, but I couldn’t go to sleep before I read it. And I am SO glad I did. (I, too am reading this book and made reference to it in my blog yesterday http://snipurl.com/happy.new.year/).

    It became clear to me, as I was reading this post tonight, and especially the following sentence, that it exactly what I needed to hear before I fell asleep and what I need to meditate on in the “night watches:”

    “The role of Christians in the world,” says Elder Thaddeus, “is to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Thank you for pulling this all together for me.

    May the peace of the Lord be with you.

    • That book was probably the most important book personally for me last year. It really helped me see some things clearly — mostly the idea above. The way he applies it throughout the book is really wonderful.

  • I once believed that I had no control over my thoughts and emotions. Learning that I indeed had power to submit them to Christ seemed contradictory to me. My thoughts were there to guide me, right?

    Once I discovered how deceived my heart could be, I was grateful to seek God’s help. I still struggle, but I would rather wrestle with them than allow them to dictate my life.

    • Amen. Struggling through our frailties and failures with God’s mercy and grace is what purifies us.

  • Darrell

    A companion to Elder Thaddeus book is one written by Mary Margaret Funk: Thoughts Matter, the Practice of the Spiritual Life.

    Her book is largely based on the teachings of John Cassian, a fifth-century Monk.

  • Thank you for this article and introducing me to Elder Thaddeus.

    • Joel J. Miller

      You’re welcome. He’s a gem.