This letter went out to inmates in our New Park Street Project studies.
I hope all is well with you! Summer is officially here—this means warm temperatures and long, lazy days! As for me, spring and summer are my favorite seasons—I happen to like hot weather and lots of sunshine. Of course, Mother Nature is always on the move. Soon, the warm temperatures will give way to crisp fall weather and the sun will set a bit earlier each day. Before we know it, winter will be here. And as the temperatures plummet, warm weather lovers like me will dream of spring. Nothing stays the same.
Well, that may not be true. Some people stay the same. That is, their thinking stays the same. They repeat old habits. They refuse to learn. They refuse to explore. They refuse to evolve. They refuse to be challenged. Day after day, they live with stagnation. Their minds are stifled. Suddenly, life means nothing more than whatever happens to be on the dinner plate or whatever happens to be on television. That, my friend, is no way to live.
As critical thinkers, we must keep our minds active and alert. Mental stagnation is the enemy. Our surroundings may remain the same and the routine of life may repeat itself, but we must not fall into mental complacency.
It is good to ask questions. Why am I doing what I am doing? Why am I feeling the way that I am? What can I do to improve my life? How can I grow? How can I serve others? We may not always be able to change our circumstances. We may have little control over our surroundings, but must we live in mental bondage? No!
Self-examination is good. We deal with this in Step Four. Many of us refer to this vigorous self-examination as our searching and fearless moral inventory. This is where we place ourselves under the microscope, so to speak, and learn about who we are. Who we are is substantially determined by the quality of our thinking.
A word of warning: we must not identify ourselves with our failures. We must not become “what we did in the past.” You are who you choose to be.
We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We can be more. We can be better. We can be wiser. We can be more content. We can make our lives matter—really matter—and we can make our lives more fulfilling—even while serving a prison sentence. If I did not believe this, I would stay home Tuesday evenings and watch sports rather than hanging out with you.
Just for today, let us ask, “What routines and habits and modes of thinking are holding me back? What can I change that will allow me to grow?” Focus on what you can do—not on what you cannot do. Commit to change. Commit to growth.
It is my prayer that you live a fulfilled, satisfying life!
Right in our own community, a homeless man was brutally beaten by three youths. This was hardly an isolated incident, for the National Coalition for the Homeless reports that attacks against the homeless have skyrocketed within the last few years. 84% of these attackers are under the age of 25 while 62% of these senseless acts of hate and violence are committed by kids between 13-19 years old.
Because homeless people are often looked down upon as being lazy or worthless, there is often little public outcry when street people are beaten or murdered. In truth, many homeless persons suffer from mental illness. Others are bound by addiction. This much is certain—their lives matter. The homeless are important to God. They should be important to us, too.
What can we do to stop these senseless acts of brutality? If you have teenagers, talk to them about violence against the homeless. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders can and should lend their voices to the homeless. There is more. Please pray for the safety of those living on the streets. And do remember to support local shelters—particularly members of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. Please stand with those whose lives matter, too.
I hope all is well with you! A couple of weeks ago, I attended a two day critical thinking workshop at the University of Louisville. As we have discussed, critical thinkers are people who think about their thinking. Our decisions, our actions, our choices—what we do, how we act, where we’ve been, and where we are heading is based upon our thinking. Good thinking leads to good decisions. Bad thinking leads to bad decisions. This seems so obvious, but most people never give much thought to their thinking.
I think I am a reasonably smart guy, but I must admit that I’ve made a lot of bone-headed mistakes because I never thought the problem through.
Critical thinkers, that is, people who think about their thinking, must be aware of their limitations. No individual, regardless of IQ or education, knows everything. Each of us has limitations. As an example, a physician with years of arduous medical training may know very little about architecture, cooking, or mechanics. A medical doctor may be able to speak on spleens and kidneys for hours on end; even so, the physician may know nothing about the stock market or, for that matter, how to boil an egg or sew a button onto a shirt.
Our thinking is based, in part, on what we know, what we do not know, and what we think we know. To admit what we don’t know and what might not know takes intellectual humility. Humility is the opposite of pride and pride is the doorway to destruction.
Intellectual humility is shown in those who understand the limitations of their knowledge. All of us have limitations that are based upon upbringing, education, life experiences, prejudices, personal philosophies, and preconceived ideas. Again, what we know, what we do not know, and what we think we know can limit our understanding of a particular person, circumstance, event, or subject matter.
For many of us, the road to wisdom begins with an admission of our intellectual shortcomings. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul, perhaps one of the greatest intellects this world has known, wrote, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise (I Corinthians 3:18 ESV).” This was the Apostle Paul’s call for intellectual humility.
Much of what we know comes from our upbringing. As an example, a child brought up on a farm will likely have a better understanding of agriculture than, say, a child growing up in Manhattan. On the other hand, a child raised in Manhattan will grow up understanding the complexities of big city living more than the kid born and raised in Nebraska. Both of these individuals may have the same level of education; both the New Yorker and the Nebraskan may have similar IQs, but their varying upbringings may determine, to some extent, what they know and what they do not know.
My friend, I am going to challenge you not to allow prison to limit your understanding of the world. Let your mind extend beyond the perimeter fencing and guard towers—read good books, engage in meaningful conversations, and expose yourself to music and entertainment that will broaden your world.
God has given you a good mind. Let me assure you that He wants no one among us to check our brains in at the gate. Do not be afraid to think.
According to His will, I will see you at our next Tuesday evening meeting!
Chaplain Mike is a follower of Jesus Christ, a proud father,,a part time cranky old guy, a fan of minor league baseball, and a writer, composer, and musician. He's not very good at any of these endeavors, but it does make for an impressive bio.