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Losing Your Cool

Frozen Air ConditionerJudy and I returned to our condo in Phoenix after six weeks of visiting friends and family. We enjoyed the sixth child to be born in my son’s family. Altogether now, we have nine grandchildren.

Great trip! But Judy and I were ready to be home again.

Looking forward to our bed and enjoying the sun in Arizona, I walked through the garage door into the condo to see water dripping from a ceiling. Long story short, the air conditioner froze over.

My mind went to all kinds of places looking for the reason as to WHY this happened.

Friends in Phoenix graciously invited us over to sleep until we could get the inspector to come over after Labor Day and give us a quote on the damage. I was thinking big bucks! We turned everything off and waited two days for the ICE to melt that was on the air conditioner and the furnace pumping the air into the condo.

Then, my friend called his friend who was an expert on air conditioners. His friend indicated there could be one of three reasons why the conditioner and furnace froze up. When he got to number two, I got this crazy embarrassed feeling that was it.

Plainly, a dirty air filter can cause what we were experiencing.

After the ice melted and we cleaned up, I turned the air conditioner on. Cooling started and the temperature went from 95 degrees to 80 degrees within the next few hours. Mind you, it was 110 degrees outside!

I can’t tell you the thoughts I had about being inconvenienced. I’m ashamed to even admit it. They were twisted and feeling sorry for my self – playing the victim. And me of all people should know better since I authored the book Transforming Twisted Thinking.

I had a friend tell me when giving him the story and confessing having a problem with being inconvenience say, “About half way through your story Jerry, I was thinking of telling you to get over it. That’s life.”

I smiled because he was absolutely right, especially in the view of eternity and how others struggle even more. I said, “My irritation was at the thought that I’d have to hire someone to do what I use to be able to do in fixing up my home.” He understood and indicated he knows what that feels like but now it’s about having God leading me to someone who could fix it.

Upon reflecting, it’s amazing what a dirty air filter can cause if it isn’t changed out every month or so in Arizona. Then it hit me.

If any twisted thinking isn’t dealt with in my life, that filth will clog up my ability for sound reasoning and having a sound mind. People will get hurt. Relationships will be damaged and tons of work cleaning up the mess is needed. The cost can be huge.

I was glad I was caught with egg on my face when I started to go dark about who was responsible for the damage in my home. In a gentle and kind way, through a friend calling his friend and letting me know without knowing he was letting me know it was my fault, I knew it was my fault.

Now we’re back in the home and the damage is nowhere near what I imagined. But it’s scary how twisted thinking can screw things up in my marriage and other relationships. These next words are so important to me when checking the filter of my mind as to how I think.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9 NLT.

I’m still working on going from being twisted to transformed in my thinking. Just because I’ll be 68 years old doesn’t mean I’ve arrived.

My father used to tell the story of the guy trying to find out where the stink was coming from until he realized it was the Limburger cheese underneath his nose on his mustache.

Allow me to say, would you, to check the filters of your mind too, when it’s so easy to go to the blame game.

Twisted Thinking In A College Class

I was in a community college yesterday teaching about Twisted Thinking in a sociology class of a professor friend of mine. It will be sad to leave this because Judy and I are moving to the Phoenix AZ area in June. Well actually we land there in August with stops along the way to see people we love and our kids and grandchildren.

To start the class, the professor gave students the evaluation that’s in my book Transforming Twisted Thinking and told them that there was no need to report their score in the class. The evaluation reveals whether a test taker is a responsible, somewhat responsible, moderate twisted thinker or extreme twisted thinker.

As the students were finishing up, one older student asked the professor about closed thinking because he said he didn’t agree with what was on the evaluation. Then he immediately said, “I got a 19 on the evaluation and I’m not like that anymore.” The man had a criminal record.

I noticed some other students shuffling about – the majority of which were females. The man throughout the rest of the class hour kept trying to report about how much he knows.

I began talking about what’s really important in addressing Twisted Thinking. It was to go below the street to look at the motivations and the thinking before we’re to be impressed with behavior. That behavior should be seen as something that is consistent without outside assistance. In other words, the changes are internalizing.

Then I looked at the man who (proudly) reported on his score and said, “Twisted Thinking is sort of like when you reported your score before others in the class had finished theirs.” That may have been twisted regardless of a lower score. I kept thinking about one young student who inadvertently let out he had a 7 on closed thinking – not a good score. I thought about other students who took the evaluation who may have been shocked at their scores and could have felt pressure from this guy.

The rest of the class hour went well but for whatever reason, the guy toward the middle of the class hour got up and left, probably to another appointment. Okay I can’t jump to conclusions here, but even if we or I am changing from twisted to responsible thinking, it’s amazing how one irresponsible thoughtless decision can hurt others – and that guy announcing his score was self serving/twisted. Why? He had instructions from the professor not to do it. The dude came across as INFLATED!

Yes, motivation of the direction of our behavior and the thinking must match the behavior consistently before anyone can begin to say, that person is changing. Otherwise, what looks good and seems like growth – isn’t anything but twisted.


God Like Games

Every twisted game mentioned in this series is wrapped by the God Like game: I want it-I own it-You have it-I want it-then I own you and it too.

So much can be said about this game but in the movie Hunger Games, we see Donald Sutherland’s character personifying anyone with a god like attitude.

There’s enough in history to assess the evil behind any atrocity of those playing this game, but I want to illustrate this game player’s attitude by twisting scripture. That’s right – deliberately changing what God says – to be god like, and not like God. I won’t talk about Satan misquoting God to Adam and Eve. We all know about that impact on humanity.

So here’s one. “The LORD is close to those whose hearts are breaking and he rescues those who are hurt by that.” Ps. 34:18 TTB or The Twisted Thinker Bible. There’s no such Bible because this game player is too lazy to write one. They’d rather twist truth instead of coming up with an original thought.

Here’s what it actually says. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18 NLT

In the proverbial TTB, this game player acts and feels like their heart is breaking and uses God-talk and the Bible to control others that they think shouldn’t hurt, leave, or be independent of them. They’re so hurt and pull on you to feel bad for the hurt! They control the storyline and out of jealousy make you pay if they think you act like you’re out of their control.

I’ve seen this god like game being played when counseling groups of men who did and said unmentionable things to or about their wives. Most of them were not crushed in spirit because of what they perpetrated.

In the NLT, the context is about the LORD’s people calling out to him for help. It’s preceded by “But the LORD turns his face against those who do evil….”  Quite different from the TTB rendition isn’t it? These people were crushed in spirit by what was happening to them by those who do evil.

To mind this gap it’s imperative to see the difference between acknowledging the rights of others and demanding our perceived rights; avoiding and exposing double standards where what’s right for this game player isn’t right for anyone else; and believing that ownership of people only belongs to the creator.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16 NLT

There we have it! The creator gives us a choice. He won’t play this game. He respects our dignity and although he provided the sacrifice of his one and only Son for our sin/depravity – we still get to choose to believe him or not.

What other thoughts would you like to add about the god like game to end this series?

Overconfident Games

If there’s anything that sets up the twisted games I’ve previously mentioned, it’s the Overconfident game. How?

As a kid, I remember standing in an open lot and taking a baseball bat to hit stones. I would imagine myself being Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, Charley Maxwell, Norm Cash – all home run hitters on the 1960 Detroit Tigers team. There’s nothing wrong with imagining who you can be like.

Did you know we operate with images in our minds? They provide powerful energy to accomplish what we want to do or be. The problem comes when we distort who we think we are by using images to reflect something confidence was never intended to be – Overconfident.

It’s amazing what a person will do to protect their overconfident images. This person quits on anything that threatens their mental self-portrait. In truth, the overconfidence hides their fear of failure not because of failure per se, but because the failure exposes them as nothing more than anyone else!

Before my father came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way, his heroes or images were Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd – criminals – and look out if anyone resists.

Overconfidence is the poster child for entitlement issues. All twisted games rest on this cornerstone image of being different and better than anyone. How dangerous and arrogant do you think that is?

Once, a commercial from Canon featuring Andre Agassi used to say Image Is Everything. Is it possible to pursue excellence to our last breath and still not live off some distorted image which really expects more out of others than we’re committed to deliver ourselves? Yes!

Jesus taught us about commonality. He left the glory of heaven and became flesh just like us. He made himself a servant and didn’t quit on us when things got tough – like on the cross.

To mind this gap, we can pursue excellence; remember we’re all made of the same mud; ask for help when we need it and stay out of any self-imposed isolation or fantasy world which has no accountability for the images of who we think we are. And like Jesus, serve others out of love. How can anyone live overconfident when we remember Jesus?

What images come to mind when you see this game being played with others or yourself?

Last Word Games

Were you watching the RNC? I’m not going to weigh in on which political party is right or wrong. My observation centers on how these political conventions run and what the media does. After all, I’ve lived through thirteen USA Presidents!

We saw convention delegates cheering keynote speakers, followed by comments from news people? Then, at times, we’d see a shift into Last Word Games. The agendas flew, depending on the media person or the guest they invited to comment on these speakers. It’s almost like watching the Green Bay Packers play the Dallas Cowboys. What sport it is! Who will win the last word game as the clock ticks down?

Sometimes I see this game played when counseling marriages. “No I didn’t say that!” “Yes you did and…..” then the one upping starts. Wish I could say I haven’t played the last word game but I can’t.

Grade school kids play it when they argue with other kids about whose number one. Then insults fly and we might hear something like “Your mother wears combat boots!” Wish I was making this up but I actually remember hearing that when I was a kid. Those were fighting words!

The rule for Last Word games is “I’ll get control. I’ll run the show and if you don’t let me, I’ll hurt you with a blow.” These games always spring from lickety-split games where fearful thinking threatens the last word game player. Then “Boom!” this individual starts acting like a big shot, tough, sneaky or slick person – it’s not what they’re saying as much as what they’re not saying that controls you. How manipulative is that thinking!

Here’s something I do to mind this gap. On the spot, I called it out in a matter of fact manner. Then, I’ll encourage the hard work of letting others think for themselves, which is what Jesus did with Pilate in John 18:34 by asking “Is this your own question, or did someone tell you about me?” He respects others who own their own choices and conclusions. There’s no need to play this last word game when that happens. Thoughts?

Lickety Split Games

Maybe you’ve heard the Bible quoted that God doesn’t give people the spirit of fear. What does that mean? Certainly it doesn’t refer to experiencing the emotion of fear because we all do.

The spirit of fear is what I call “fearful thinking.” It’s about irrational perceptions or having profound fears about death, injury or being put down by others.

I was in the Lava Caves in Bend OR with my six-year-old grandson. It can be a hundred degrees outside but in those caves, it’s cold and dark! We had to have a lantern. Nothing was wrong until we went a mile into the caves. For a moment I turned the lamp off to experience the darkness. Whoa! We both felt the emotion of fear. I quickly turned the light back on.

Then my grandson said he wanted to wait for more people with lanterns. His imagination got the best of him about bats in the cave etc and maybe he thought I’d turn the light back off.

I bent down toward him and said, “I won’t turn the light off again. Will you trust me?” He did and holding his hand, we started going deeper into the cave. Once we returned to the surface, he was glad. He was ecstatic. Actually I was too. We were warm again.

Lickety Split game players find ways to avoid being afraid at all cost. They won’t ever admit they’re afraid. They’ll avoid being held accountable for anything and feeling lousy if they can’t be in control. They trust no one.

Jesus willingly made himself nothing by entering a dark cave of death for our sins on a cross. Did he experience the emotion of fear? I think he did. Did he have the spirit of fear? No. There was a balance between experiencing the emotion of fear and understanding fearful thinking. How do I know that? He chose to trust the Father even when a question he asked wasn’t answered. Three days later the Bible states he arose from that grave.

Where do you find balance when feeling afraid verses thinking about being afraid?

BTO Games

I have a bias. Without a future there is no hope and without a past there is only the present.

Ever been in relationship with someone who had great talent, a great personality and great potential but its squandered? It blows the mind doesn’t it? Some may say, “Oh they have an addictive personality” as if to mean it is what it is. I don’t buy that.

Before my father came to faith in Jesus Christ, he spent time in prison. He said new inmates were called fish who were schooled by the BTO’s or Big Time Operators. Those guys acted as consultants hearing the details of their crimes and offering advice so those dumb cops on the outside wouldn’t catch them again. My father said that amazed him because all the wise guys were on the inside and all those dumb cops were on the outside!

The BTO Game is about not learning from past mistakes; expecting what they want when they want it; and making decisions based on assumptions and not the facts. Twisted!

All the BTO game player has is the present. Living in the present means without instant gratification, they have NOTHING! So, their life becomes focused on forbidden excitement or a demand for immediate satisfaction. I believe that’s why some people lock themselves into emotional childhoods. If we look past their personality or potential we’ll see that in their core, they’re choosing to be kids and foolish to boot.

The development of impatient thinking happens early in life and under the radar. Suddenly – the ones we love can be in trouble or are gone. And for what? Just to play the BTO game! How sad is that?

Jesus said, “….I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” John 18:37 NLT Pursuing truth involves the total picture, our past, our present and hope in the future. Anything less sets up the BTO game. What do you think about the truth factor correcting this game? For me, the truth factor starts with and is Jesus, who can set us free from the twistedness of thinking we’re Big Time Operators.

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