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It was a dreary day when I pulled into the parking lot. The “Visitors Only” sign directed me to the parking area. Crossing the lot I approached a tall watch tower with one-way glass windows. Silently, I stood in front of the large cage-like entrance feeling unseen eyes looking at me. The gate slowly slid to one side; I walked in and the gate closed behind me. In front of me, another sliding door opened, leading to a walkway. I moved forward and heard the sliding door close behind me as I approached two more doors.

As I entered, the guard stated in a monotone and bored manner, “Remove your shoes, take off your belt, empty your pockets, shake out your handkerchief and walk through the metal detector.” On exiting the scanner, I was instructed, “Hold your arms out and spread your legs apart.” Expert hands felt carefully for any possible hidden object on me. My shoes and belt were examined. “OK, put on your shoes and belt and fill out the information form over there, and hand in your car key.” A docket with a number on it was given to me. “Stand over there,” I was told. Another caged door opened silently. Again, I stepped into a cage, and the door closed behind me. Then a second door opened into a large room.

Two guards were seated on a small raised platform allowing them to see everything in the room. About 20 tables with four chairs were strategically located at regular intervals, allowing a little privacy. Everything was watched and controlled in this visiting area. About every 30 minutes, inmates were allowed to use the bathroom when given a signal from the guards. Other than that, prisoners were not allowed to move from their chairs.

I looked around and my eyes met those of a seated prisoner. He nodded, and we met for the first time. I was there after he requested to talk to a minister

How did he get incarcerated? What did he do to deserve such confining treatment? His story was like many others. A poor family with a fractured background of divorce, alcohol and drug abuse, combined with little parental guidance. This led to a lack of self-discipline and direction. Then came a series of bad decisions. Drugs and alcohol quickly led him down a wrong path until he ran afoul of the law.

In 2015 there were an estimated 6,741,400 persons under supervision in the adult corrections systems, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (bjs.gov). Sadly, this is all too predictable!

In the wisdom Scriptures, Proverbs 13:15 Proverbs 13:15Good understanding gives favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.
American King James Version×
states it clearly: “A good understanding wins favor, but the way of the transgressor is hard [like the barren dry soil or the impassable swamp]” (Amplified Bible).

Matthew Henry’s Commentary adds: “Good understanding gains favor with God and man [but] the way of sinners is rough and uneasy, and, for this reason, unpleasant to themselves . . . hard to the sinner himself, who can have little enjoyment of himself . . . The service of sin is perfect slavery, and the road to hell is strewed with thorns and thistles.”

Sadly, many don’t know how to set their lives on a better course. Many may not think it’s even possible. But it is. George Bernard Shaw, a famous playwright, once said: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Probably there are untold numbers of people who have little idea about creating themselves. Rather, they just sort of evolve, blown about by the winds of circumstance, and they just end up being whatever they are.

There is a wonderful power in comprehending the idea that we can actually create good outcomes from our decisions. We can think and decide at any moment to do good things or bad things. We are responsible for our “creative workshops”—our minds.

Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

We either create ourselves for good, not so good, or actually evil. Whichever, it is the result of our thinking. Aware of it or not, we decide what we will do with our thoughts and actions at any moment. Has anyone ever said to you, “You are not thinking,” or, “What on earth were you thinking when . . . ?” My mother would say to me, “If someone jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?”

There is an old saying: “rubbish in, rubbish out.” If we eat junk food all the time we will become “junk.” We will not be healthy, vibrant and strong. We may appear to get away with it when we are young, but the older we get the more it affects our body. The result is poor health. The same principle applies to our minds—“rubbish in, rubbish out.” The thoughts we conjure up in our minds and dwell on are what create our actions. All the things we do first begin as thoughts and then later become a reality through our actions. We may have had thoughts a long time ago, and suddenly a situation comes along where we react to it based on those previous thoughts and make an expensive mistake.

In contrast, Philippians 4:8 Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
American King James Version×
says, “Finally, brothers, 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” (New International Version).

A wise person will listen to God and his or her parents more than peers. A proverb of King Solomon states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:7-9 Proverbs 1:7-9 [7] The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. [8] My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother: [9] For they shall be an ornament of grace to your head, and chains about your neck.
American King James Version×
).

Life is about choices, about how we think, and about letting God create in us a new person. A compass gives you a direction only if you decide to follow it. Please do.