Look For Wrinkles, Find Wrinkles

Years ago, I devoured every single issue of Us Weekly within hours of its arrival in the mail. I couldn’t get enough of the celebrity scoop (that’s a cute little euphemism for gossip, you see). I also liked seeing how all the celebs dressed, what their hairstyles looked like, and I even enjoyed those pictures captured when the men and women of movies and television looked atrocious: bags under their eyes, puffy no-make-up’d faces, baggy, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair. This segment of the magazine always made me feel better because it made these superstars seem more relatable. That was it did, until I realized those unflattering photos were posted in a section Us Weekly called, “Stars–They’re Just Like Us.” Not cool, Us. Not cool.

Needless to say, after looking at this trash week after week, I noticed that there was so much appearance emphasis, so much body talk that I didn’t feel very good about myself. Despite my love of all things celebrity, I decided that I needed to break up with Us Weekly, and (surprise!) without all that comparison, I started feeling less focused on myself. I can’t say that I felt altogether better, but it just took the focus off the external…if that makes sense.

I have (mostly) maintained that mindset over the years until just recently. You see, back in January I turned 38, and while that’s certainly not old (y’all know what they say: 38 is the new 25, amiright?!), turning 38 brought something along with it that I’d not really been anticipating: the 20th anniversary of my having graduated from high school. I’m sorry, what?! It’s been HOW LONG since I graduated from high school? Clearly a mathematical error has occurred.

Well, with this tragic realization, I found myself returning to my focus on external appearance. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have a weird friend situation: they all look WAY younger than they are. They’re all vampires who do Lord knows what to maintain wrinkle-free skin and thick, luxurious hair. Frankly, it’s disgusting. I, however, haven’t met a face-crease I didn’t let move in permanently. So, needless to say, I’ve spent much more thought-time and mirror-time inspecting my aging self for signs of those 20 years that have passed since high school.

This is going to seem way off the point, but just keep it to yourself and stick with me for a second….

On the wall in our bedroom I have a horizontally-hung antique door, on which my super crafty and dear friend Jennifer Marie painted–at my request–the following scripture: Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). (I’d post a picture so you could see for yourselves, but I obviously don’t pay a large enough per month fee  for this website because that’s not an option for me. Dust off those imaginations! You’re welcome!)

From the sink in my bathroom, I can see this door and scripture, and one day, after more close examination of all age spots, sagging skin, and various other sordid facial changes, this scripture spoke in a different way to me. You see, I felt like God was telling me, Lindsey, if you keep looking for wrinkles, that’s exactly what you’re going to find, because that’s what you’re determined to find. If you looked for good, though, you’d find good. It’s your call.

HOLD THE PHONE! Boy, does this apply to our everyday lives, too, not just superficial skin inspection. In order to better understand the lesson I felt God had placed within my heart, I spent some time with that verse in Matthew, and I had a few thoughts. What’s that? You’d like me to share them? Why, how kind of you to ask. Here you go.

Basically, here’s what I believe is 100% the truth…and clearly, I’ve not exhausted what could be an incredibly lengthy list:

Look for wrinkles, find wrinkles.

Look for negatives, find negatives.

Look for love, find love.

Look for Jesus, find Jesus.

Let me explain. While I know I just mentioned this verse earlier, let me draw your attention back to what the Bible states very specifically in Matthew 7; this time let’s look at verses seven and eight: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Although these verses definitely work to explain that anyone who seeks God repeatedly and steadfastly will INDEED find Him, couldn’t they also work in the reverse to help us understand the critical importance of a godly mindset?

Friend, if in your marriage (or significant-other relationships) you constantly look for reasons to be upset with your spouse or you are always posed and ready to jump down their throats to prove just how much you do and how little they do, guess what you will always find? Yep, a reason to do exactly that. And if at work you’re always seeking to catch your coworkers or your boss in a mistake or to prove that he/she doesn’t work as hard as you do, guess what you will always find? Right again. Y’all, whether it’s with your friendships, work relationships, marriages, or relationships with pastors, neighbors, or in-laws, if you seek the negative, YOU WILL FIND THE NEGATIVE. If you knock long enough at the door of discontentment, upset, bitterness, anger, or resentment, that door will be opened to you. The Bible guarantees it.

After feeling like I understood this concept in a way I had not before, it begged the question, how do I change what I seek? And like a good Type-A nutball, I organized my thoughts and the insights God provided me into a few main suggestions. I hinged these ideas on a favorite saying of mine from Joyce “We’re Gonna Be Best Friends One Day In Heaven” Meyers: Think about what you’re thinking about. In other words, our though-life MUST be intentional, and since our thoughts spring from our heart, it’s best that we start there. So, without further ado, in an effort to change what we seek from negative to positive, from resentment and frustration to love, let’s hit our Bibles!

The Heart

In Matthew 12:34, we are told that, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and this truth is punctuated by Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” In fact, our heartitude is so important to God that it’s what He chooses to focus on. “All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but God weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2). Bottom line: whatever is in our hearts will flow out from there into our minds and our speech. It’s of utmost importance that we check our heart to make sure it’s full of God and His love to ensure that that’s what flows from it.

Our Thoughts

As we all know, it’s really easy to think about how irritating someone is, how much we do and how little they do, how unhappy we are, how unfair life is. However, it’s literally a sin to spend time in that mindset! Let me repeat: focusing on the negative goes against biblical teaching! Here, let me prove it. Philippians 4:8 instructs us very clearly to think ONLY on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy. Full stop. No excuses, no exceptions.

Our speech

And, y’all, the trickle-down from what’s in our hearts and our thoughts is shown in our speech. You can seek negativity verbally, just like you can mentally. Do you talk frequently with your coworkers about that other coworker? Or your boss? Do you and your mom or you and your sister spend time verbally building up your spouse or tearing him down? What about with your kids? Do you and your spouse speak life into the challenges of raising them or do you wallow in your circumstances and current trials? Ephesians 4:29 makes no bones about it; it states, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear.” God is really speaking to us here, friends, because He’s letting us know that not only does our speech affect those involved, but it directly affects anyone who even happens to overhear it! Anyone who has ever heard us talk negatively…boom! They’re affected.

But all is not lost. Why? LOVE <–the answer to all of this! Over and over again in the Bible it teaches us that God’s love for us, when accepted into our hearts, will flow forth from us into and onto others. It teaches us that without God’s love in our hearts, our thoughts and our speech become dangerous, both to us and others. Check out this repetition.

Romans 12:10–“Outdo one another in showing honor.” (AKA love!)

Ephesians 4:31-32–“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Luke 10:27–“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

And one last verse before we close and pray, one that reminds us we must purposefully and diligently seek good to find good, and we must purposefully and diligently seek Jesus to find Jesus (especially in others): “Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire love [make it your aim, your great quest]…” 1 Corinthians 14:1. Did ya notice that word “seek” in there? Yet again we’re given the promise that whatever it is we seek, we will find. Let’s seek love, life, goodness, and most importantly, let’s seek Jesus.

Dear Lord, thank You so much that You clearly direct us into a way of thinking and speaking that helps us show You to those around us. Father, it’s certainly not always easy to find the good, to seek good over bad, but I know that if I’ll bring my struggles to You, You will help me turn around my thinking. Help me to fill my heart, Lord, with You and Your love so that when it overflows, it’s You getting passed on to all I encounter. I choose happiness and contentment, and today, Father, I want to move forward only attempting to find the good in those around me and the circumstances in which I find myself. Be with me, Lord, so that I bring glory to You with my heart, my thoughts, and my speech. It’s in Jesus’s name that I pray. Amen.

 

How To Be Miserable

Full disclosure: I have been struggling with my attitude lately. With the recent start of school, we have faced some new challenges, and because they seem so large to my limited thinking, I’ve let myself get consumed by them at times. Per His usual, however, God has been making this trying time work for my good by helping me see how crucial time spent with Him in prayer is, and He’s leading me into losing more of my focus on myself (man, I am SO SLOW at this lesson!!!).

Recently I was listening to a Joyce Meyer sermon (Y’all, if you don’t already know, she has a FREE app with radio shows, full sermons with video, various resources, etc. GET. IT.), and she was teaching on the dangers of being so caught up in ourselves, specifically the dangers of self-centeredness. This really struck me because I wouldn’t describe myself as self-centered. But you know what? I am! I focus on myself, on my life, on my problems, and on my wishes a lot. A whole lot. Even an embarrassing amount at times. Through this sermon I really felt God pressing upon my heart the necessity of getting outside my own feelings and my own mind. I felt Him encouraging me to stop ruminating on my problems. Ephesians 5:15 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Praising God is wise. Celebrating His work in my life is wise. Pushing my emotions to the side and not allowing them to dictate how I’m going to go through my day or my life is wise. Keeping my mind stayed on God, the fixer of all my problems, is wise. Allowing my circumstances and my emotions to determine my course for the day/the week/the month? Very, very unwise. And even more importantly, it’s not just unwise, it’s sinful!

So, after listening to this sermon, I broke out my pen and paper to write down a little good-humored list that Mrs. Joyce gave during her teachings. No matter what’s going on in my life, I can usually (and unfortunately) find myself doing at least one of these things. Even on days when things are going well, I find that this list is a great reminder of what to avoid so that I can be the best me and share God more vividly with others I come in contact with throughout the day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Prayer is below list.) So without further ado…

HOW TO BE MISERABLE (By Joyce Meyer)

*Think about yourself constantly.

*Use “I” as often as possible.

*Mirror yourself continually by the opinion of other people.

*Listen greedily to what other people say about you, and if it’s not what you want to hear, get angry.

*Expect to be appreciated by everyone.

*Be suspicious.

*Be jealous and envious.

*Be sensitive and easily offended.

*Never forgive criticism.

*Trust nobody but yourself.

*Insist on respect and consideration at all times.

*Demand agreement with your own views on everything.

*Sulk and feel sorry for yourself if people are not grateful to you for what you do for them.

*Never forget how much you’ve done for other people; think about it at all times….BUT, always remember what they have failed to do for you.

*Shirk your duty and seek at all times to entertain yourself, and do as little as you possibly can for other people.

Dear Lord, I see myself so much in this list above. I am so thankful, though, that I can come to You for help in getting over myself and that You always hear my prayer. Gently guide me, Father, so that I might be able to lose my grip on my own self-centeredness. I know that when I’m focused only on my life and my wants and needs I’m less useful to You. Help me to see those times when my focus needs to change, Lord, and help me be immediately obedient to You when You point those out. I love You, Lord, and I am so grateful to be Yours. Help THAT to be my focus, even when things are challenging and upsetting. Help me to keep my mind stayed on You; give me an attitude of gratitude, Lord. Thank You for the life I live, for my many, many blessings, and thank You for teaching me how to better serve You. I offer this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Positively Negative

Okay, let’s play a little game. Mentally, I want you to raise your hand if you’re guilty of ever having said or thought any of the following statements.

  • “That’s just my luck.”
  • “I don’t know why I expected anything but…”
  • “Well of course that happened.”
  • “I’m not gonna get my hopes up…”/ “I won’t hold my breath…”
  • “I’m worried about_____”
  • “I’m scared that________”
  • “That’s impossible.”
  • “If the way things go in my life is any indication…”

{mentally raising my hand on ALL of them}

For most of my life, especially my adult life, I have had a mindset that included some of these exact phrases or ones like them any time something was disappointing or aggravating. In just the right mood, I was learning to be a supreme pity-party thrower. However, despite all of this evidence, I still did NOT consider myself to be a negative person. I was generally in a good mood; I didn’t get mad easily; I liked almost everybody; I didn’t complain frequently or often…while at work. Seems pretty positive, right? Wrong! As it turns out, just uttering simple statements like those above can have a devastating impact on both our mindsets and our blessings.

I first began realizing my attitude was definitely more negative than positive when I heard this dreaded phrase come out of my mouth: “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” Yikes! Nothing says I’m a pessimist louder. After that utterance, it was no longer deniable, I was positively negative. In my own defense (and I recognize that it’s a shoddy one), I wasn’t a doomsday-er or a continual Negative Nancy, but I certainly felt most comfortable preparing for worst-case scenarios just in case they happened. I felt more at ease expecting less because I thought that protected me from disappointment and hurt feelings. I would pray to God about things I needed or wanted, but I kept a “well, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll just do_____” mindset throughout my waiting periods.

It wasn’t until I read Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer that I began to understand that I was limiting, often even negating, my prayers with my decision to “protect myself” by expecting minimal/zero results. This might sound ridiculous, but until I read her book, it had NEVER dawned on me that I could push negative thoughts out of my head and actively replace those with positive ones. I felt like thinking that way was just who I was.  Through reading Joyce’s teachings and listening to as many of her sermons as I could on purposefully choosing what we think about (I love her phrase Think about what you’re thinking about!), I began to realize that just like any other new skill, I was going to have to learn to rewire my brain so that I could think expectantly and positively about the circumstances in my life. With Joyce’s help, and with the help of my husband who’s known this little secret for years, I slowly (and oh my goodness is it slooooow!) began retraining my mind to allow for more positive thinking, to allow for more blessings to be released in my life, and to allow God to work in me and my life in a way in which I’d previously been shutting Him out.

As with any lesson I’m led to by the Holy Spirit, I find it sticks with me better and transforms me more fully if I take time to study what the Bible says about this concept for myself. One portion of scripture that really stuck with me, and to which I’ve returned numerous times since, is the story of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. While continuing to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, Moses sent ten men into the land of the Caananites to see what that land possessed. Upon returning from their scouting trip, all of the men reported that the land was good, saying, “…surely it flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27). That was the good news. The bad news? The land was populated with large, strong residents (basically giants), and the city itself was highly fortified. Those Israelites were a bunch of Grumbling Gusses (takes one to know one!), so of course, that bit about the giants and the well-armed city caught their attention way more than that milk and honey part. The Bible tells us, though, that Caleb spoke up, encouraging with his positive attitude: “Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; we are well able to conquer it” (13:30). Hear that again, what positive thoughts allow you to declare: we are well able to conquer it. But his co-scouts–Joshua not included–didn’t share in his positive thinking. Instead, they allowed the negativity to consume them. “So they brought the Israelites an evil report of the land…saying, The land through which we went to spy it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we say in it are men of great stature…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (vs. 32, 33).

Let’s take just a second to evaluate their words in these two verses. First of all, I see nary a mention of the goodness of that land, the milk and honey they mentioned after returning (I think it’s even worth noting that, upon their immediate return, they mentioned the milk and honey before ever discussing the inhabitants). Instead, their entire focus is the challenges they face. I see no evidence of their faith, do you? I see no proof that they believe God is with them. I see no decisions being made to trust God’s sovereignty. (How very much like these negative naysayers I am when things aren’t sunny!) One thing I do see is how they described themselves, their own power, and their own ability: as grasshoppers. Powerless, tiny, completely inadequate creatures in the face of so very many things. But it’s not just that they thought themselves to be like grasshoppers; they got so consumed with negativity regarding their own insignificance that they transferred that vision onto the people of Canaan. Look at that verse, at the way that last line is written: “…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” Did they go up and talk to these people? No. Did they get beaten down by them, mentally or physically? Nope. Did they have any encounter with the Canannites at all? Nuh-uh. But because they were so negatively minded and so focused on the perceived problem in front of them instead of the God whose hand was over them, their minds were altered. They created problems and false “truths” because of their negativity.

This story begs the question, how many times have we prevented our own entry into a land of great blessing, a land of milk and honey as it were, because we decided we KNEW what was going to happen instead of taking it to God, keeping our eyes and minds stayed on Him, and letting Him walk us through it? To be honest, it’s upsetting to me to think what I’ve likely missed out on in my past because of my negativity, but in greater measure I’m motivated not to EVER let this type of thinking control me anymore. Expecting the worst, preparing for the worst, limiting myself to mediocre faith…none of that protects me. It doesn’t protect me at all. What it does do is prevent me. It prevents me from receiving the abundant blessings that my faith earns. It prevents me from maintaining my joy. And, most importantly, it prevents me from being a good, useful witness for the Jesus who died to give me this incredible life that I live. Sure it’s hard sometimes, and sure, like Moses and Aaron and the other guys, we’re going to face some giant challenges in an effort to get to our Promised Land, but how much sweeter will that Promised Land be because of what we’ve come through to get there? And how much stronger will our faith be, how much closer will our relationship with God be, when we’ve walked through those hard times together?

So, what if you’re a Negative Nancy by nature, like me, and you don’t want to be? First of all, admitting it is the first step. (That expression is SO overused, but it’s overused for a reason. It’s right!) Second, don’t expect to change overnight. You can ask my husband, I have been diligently working on this within myself over the last 4+ years, and I’m just now starting to really have something to show for my work. Real progress takes time, and this is a mindset you’ve likely been cultivating for years. Be patient with yourself and don’t get frustrated when you don’t “snap out of it” right away. And most importantly, pray for God’s help with this area of your life. Imagine how pleased He’ll be that you want a better thought-life and a bigger faith! Read what He’s said to you in the Bible about this very topic. Before I started seeking God’s Word about my negative mind, I had no idea that so many biblical principles centered on the fact that the mind controls so much of our lives.

If you’ve been in church very long (or if you’ve been on the Internet for longer than two weeks), you’re probably familiar with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Just think what those Negative Ned Israelites could’ve accomplished had this verse been what came out of their mouths! How about you and I do better than they did. When we’re faced with adversity, let’s remember Who is really in charge and Whose strength is really at work.

Another great reminder of the importance of getting our minds right is Romans 12:2, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to be transformed. As I am, it’s not good. But with Jesus and the grace and power He brings to the table, I can be made more like Him every day. And where does that start? With the renewing of my mind. Inside my own head. It begins with taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so that I can do what Paul instructs in Phil. 4:8, and fix my thoughts at all times and in all situations “on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable…think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Call me crazy, but that sure sounds a lot less like focusing on those giants and a lot more like centering on that milk and honey in our lives, don’t you think?

Dear Lord, thank you so very, very much for the wonderful life you’ve given me. Help me, Lord, not to be so negative in my thoughts that I create problems and fail to see You at work on my behalf. I pray today, God, that You would help me recognize these thoughts when I have them so that I can do as You’ve instructed and take them captive, exchanging them for positive, Christ-like thoughts until it’s these that become habit. Father, I trust You and I love you, and I so desire to have thoughts that please you, no matter the challenges I face. Help me to pay attention to the words that I think, the words that I say, and the focus of my mind. Thank you for helping me through each step of this important change in my life. Thank you for hearing me. In Jesus’s name I pray this prayer, Lord. Amen.

 

 

“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”  –Francesca Reigler