Word Pictures

word pictures
The most substantial and lasting change in my life is a direct result of many hours spent alone with the Bible.  Sometimes I get asked about how to become more spiritually maturity, grow closer to God, or walk in freedom from sin.  For me, the answer to all of these things is time in the Word.

Yet I find so many people struggle to enjoy the Word of God.  Some resort to skimming a few chapters or searching for that 1 verse that will bring good feelings.  For some, it has become a dry and bland duty, void of any delight.  Or worse, others resort to searching for verses to debate with others.  This ought not to be the case for those who follow Jesus.

In light of that, let me give you some Word pictures (yes, that’s an intentional pun!) to grant a fresh perspective for your time reading and studying the Bible.   Continue reading

The Inner Circle

the inner circleI vividly remember standing outside of a literal circle of people. Though these girls were just acquaintances, I had hoped to join their conversation.  As 4,000 students shuffled through the halls of my high school, I awkwardly waited for someone to notice me.  No one noticed.  And to avoid looking weird, I headed off to class.

I hated feeling like I was missing out.  Like the real fun is just beyond my reach.

Fast forward 9 years. Jimmy and I were backstage at a festival in Norway with our 6-month-old. The green room was bustling with the sounds of bands prepping for their sets, artists and managers talking, and meals being served.  We sat around a table laughing and talking with a few other artists.  The kinds of people you name drop, you know?  Awesome people who love Jesus, but people I only had access to because of Jimmy’s rising music career.

Then Lively started crying. Why can’t this baby just sleep?  I mean, when else am I going to get to talk to these people?   Seeing that all my efforts to soothe our daughter weren’t working, I resigned, with much frustration, to head back to the hotel for the night.

Rocking my daughter to sleep, I sulked as I thought about the laughter and conversations I was missing out on. I felt so sorry for myself, sitting outside the inner circle.

WE ALL HAVE AN INNER CIRCLE

You may laugh at me, or think me overdramatic, superficial, and immature.  But I think this is a universal struggle. Whether you are in high school, in the corporate world, or a stay-at-home mom, we all have a sense of who the “important people” are.  The popular girl. The pastor’s wife. The CEO of your company. The blogger with thousands of followers. The couple with a lot of money.  The pretty one, the wealthy one, the one with lots of kids, the one who makes everything from scratch.

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The Church is a Body, Not a Body Part

The Church Is a Body

How do you respond when the sermon doesn’t apply to you?

Maybe your pastor is preaching about marriage, and you’re single. Or you came across an article about suffering, but you’re in a season of rejoicing. Or maybe the recent episode of Revive Our Hearts is about parenting, but you’ve been barren for years.

  • Do you roll your eyes?
  • Do you groan and complain in your heart about your own circumstances?
  • Do you mentally check out and start planning your to-do list, assuming there is nothing you can gain from this particular sermon?

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The Best Marriage I Never Wanted

I love Revive Our Hearts.  God has used this ministry to change my life and bring peace to my heart through the teaching of the Word of God.  I have yet to find a better ministry dealing with Biblical womanhood in such a God-centered, balanced, and humble way.

A few months ago I was surprisingly given the opportunity to become a contributor to the Revive Our Hearts blog, called True Woman.  (Umm… to say I was excited is a serious understatement.)  What a sweet gift this has felt like from my Heavenly Father to allow me to write for a ministry that is so dear to my heart and has been so precious in my own walk with Him.

Sooo… in light of all that, I’d love for you to check out my first post on the True Woman blog titled The Best Marriage I Never Wanted.  While you are there, take some time to read a few other posts or listen to some of the radio programs.

Here’s a excerpt from my post:

I married a humble, godly, romantic man at twenty years old. Did I mention he just happens to have a phenomenal voice and is a gifted songwriter? He writes me songs, loves Jesus like crazy, and because of his music career, we’ve traveled the world together. Every girls’ dream, right? Yet, exactly two weeks into marriage, I wrote this in my journal:

“Why am I so unhappy? So scared and confused?”

Surprised? I was too. Let me explain.

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Pride, Death, and A Great Redeemer

“Stop trying to do something for Me. Just let Me be your Redeemer.”

This is the message I sense God is continually speaking to me lately.  Oh what a hard lesson for me to learn. There is something in me that desperately wants to do something amazing for God, to live a life that makes Him proud and impresses Him and others.  If I’m being gut-level honest, I just want to be awesome on my own and have some bit of glory for myself.  I don’t really like to live in the reality that apart from Christ I can do nothing. And because my Father loves me, He has set up circumstances in my life to sanctify this sinful tendency out of me.

Last year, I studied the Pharisees and realized that I am just like them.  The pride in my heart mirrors theirs, these people whom Jesus so regularly condemns.  This awareness birthed profound brokenness in me and a desire to live the life of a servant, which Jesus says makes a person truly great in His Kingdom.  With true love for God in my heart, I have since then been regularly asking for dependency on Him and humility and grace to have a servant’s heart.  Then our pastor’s wife asked if I would speak at our Women’s Christmas dinner.

Ummmm… no. Of course not! Hello! I just learned how bent toward pride and arrogance I am, the last place in the world I need to be is on a stage.  So imagine my surprise when Jimmy told me I should do it. Not only that, he said all my reasons to say no were based in fear and self-protection.  He pointed out that I was trusting circumstances to save me from my sin of pride, not Jesus.  Ouch.  After much wrestling, I came to the same conclusion: none of my reasons to say no were God-glorifying.  I had to say yes.

The irony of all this is that had I been asked to do this a few years prior, I would have jumped at the opportunity and subconsciously thought “It’s about time!”  But here I am, painfully aware of my pride having to face a stage, the surest snare of pride there is.  Never have I felt more in need of God to save me from my sin than preparing for that event.  Prayer for dependency. Answered.

Within a month of our Christmas dinner, I got 2 other opportunities to regularly write which were quickly confirmed by my husband and a few others as something I should say yes to.  But Lord, these are the things that bring out my pride!  Shouldn’t I get rid of all this? This is where God’s sweet message meets me exactly where I’m at:

Stop trying to do something for Me.  Let Me redeem you.

The natural thought process for me in all these new writing ventures is that I am mainly doing this for the benefit of others or to please God.  And maybe that’s not a totally bad reason.  But something I am convinced of is that this season of writing is mainly for my sanctification.  My redemption.  For God to put to death things in me that enslave me.  He is causing a perfect storm of circumstances to showcase my self-sufficient, proud, and self-glorifying tendencies.  Why?  So that He can redeem me.  Because I have A Great Redeemer who loves me enough not to leave me in my sin!

It is amazing, since starting to post things, I feel an immediate and sudden urge to find validation in all of this.  I hate the stats page on these blog sites.  Of course I want to know how many people viewed my blog!  Of course I want to know what people are saying about me.  I love me!  Not only that, I find that I really want to impress others with how great of a writer I am.  Yep, let’s just get it out in the open and into the light: I want to impress you!  And yet, I am supposed to do all things unto the glory of God?!  Oh Jesus, please redeem me.

Oh how this brokenness has lead me to the cross.  I have never been more grieved by my sin, more wowed by Christ’s perfect life, more wrecked by His brutal death because of my sin.  The cross of Christ is so much more precious to me than ever before.  For the first time ever, I am starting “to sing joyfully of His righteousness” (ps 51:14) and not my own, because I realize any goodness in me is of Him anyway.  Though painful to be this aware of my sin, I deeply desire for God to continue redeeming me.

Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”  Those are strong words.  Jesus also used strong language to describe how we should fight our sin: “If your right hand causes you to sin cut it off.” (Matt 5:30)  Knowing that this season of writing is mainly about my sanctification and redemption, I want to yield to God’s work in me as much as possible.  So, I will be doing more “off-the-cuff” writing like this post.  My tendency is to present clean, polished, and excellent posts to impress others.  There is nothing wrong with excellence, and in some of the other avenues of writing I currently have, I think excellence there is necessary and honors God.  But since this blog is a place I have more freedom to write however I want, I feel like it would be a great exercise for me to post more often without overanalyzing and polishing off all my posts.  Because, let’s be honest, the reason I do that is often for my own glory.

So, just a heads up, you’ll probably see more posts on here, but they will probably have more run-on sentences, more spelling errors, and won’t be as organized.  But through this exercise, I am praying God will redeem some of the sinfulness I see in my own heart.  Praying for dependency and brokenness seemed like a pleasant thing at the time, but it sure does feel like death right now.  Oh yeah, that’s because it is a form of death!  But “if a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  May God fully crucify the old me that trusts in my own abilities and loves my own glory and make room for Christ to live in and through me and bear much fruit.

Social Media Overhaul

Social Media Overhaul - KellyNeedham.comIn my last post, I discussed some harmful effects of unrestrained and purposeless social media use.  These were all things I saw in myself while taking a 6 month break from it.  Since reintroducing these noticeably addictive apps back onto my phone, I was disheartened to see that I began to struggle with all the same things.  In a matter of days I began to default to looking through Instagram multiple times a day, even when there was nothing new there.  Like a moth to the flame, I was drawn back again.

Seeing this brought an awareness for something I had not had in regards to social media before: purpose.  I had no meaningful why to social media, which fueled the mindless, habitual scrolling.  But as a Jesus-follower, I am never permitted to be mindless in any area of my life.  I am to “run in such a way that I may win, exercising self-control in all things.” (1 Corin 9:24-25)  In all things. This includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

While many may recognize the need for limits on social media, few will effectively set or keep them without establishing a purpose.  Without purpose, all limits on social media will feel arbitrary and often be disregarded. Purpose determines where the boundaries go and why they are there.  Not only does this remind you why you limit yourself, but also gives you a larger reason to resist the urge to break those boundaries in the moment you are tempted.

So after my 6 month break, I began to do a complete overhaul of my approach to social media.  Let me share 3 major areas of change, that by God’s grace, I have been striving to implement.

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Twitter-itis: Is Social Media Making Us Sick?

Twitteritis-Is Social Media Making Us SickCould you live without Social Media?  How many hours a day do you spend looking at news feeds and pictures?  What is the result of a life of constant entertainment, connectivity, and distraction?  What is the condition of the soul dulled with a steady input of mindless screen-watching?

I began to ask these questions after noticing some undesirable patterns in my use of social media last year. My days were bookended with checking news feeds; my phone was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing at night. The urge to keep scrolling and scrolling echoed the feeling of trying to pull myself away from a bag of chips yet hopelessly saying, “Just one more” til the bag is gone. I remember thinking, “This is not how I want to live. Only halfway living my life while spending the other half passively connected to an online world.”

Out of desperation to regain balance and soul health, I spent nearly 6 months of last year completely free of all social media. No instagram.  No twitter.  No facebook. And very limited Pinterest use. YES, I did survive! Not only that, I began to see 6 harmful effects of unrestrained and aimless social media use. Continue reading

A God Worth Waiting For

A God Worth Waiting For.jpg

It’s Monday morning and you walk out the door at 6:30am to head across town for an important meeting you have at 7:00am. All is going as expected until you turn the corner to see you left the headlights on all night. Your fears are confirmed as you turn the key in the ignition to no avail.

Two choices emerge in your mind. There is a city bus stop 1/2 mile from your apartment that can get you there. You’d probably be late, but it’s definitely a possibility. Then there is your friend who lives about 5 minutes away but is known for her ability to turn every 5 minute task into half an hour. You call in the favor and she says she just needs to get dressed and will be there shortly.

By now it’s 6:40am. Do you begin the half mile treck to the bus stop or wait for your friend who continues to claim that she will be there soon? Whether on your driveway or at the bus stop, your choice will reveal what you deem as most reliable to fulfill your need of getting to your meeting. We wait on what we believe to be reliable.

There’s a reason no one is standing in line at an empty register at Walmart, hoping for a cashier to magically appear. There’s a reason no one is sitting at a Chick-fil-a drive thru on Sunday afternoon waiting to place their order. No one is coming. Waiting is pointless. We only wait on what we believe to be reliable.

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1 Way to Do Everything

1 way to do everything.jpgI was just looking for a recipe.  That’s all.  A small request to ask of Pinterest, really.  But a simple quest for a good enchilada recipe evolved into researching how to be better at life. Two hours and much discouragement later, I’m wondering what happened.

If you’ve been on Pinterest lately, you may know what I’m talking about.  The abundance of articles out there on self-improvement is growing rapidly.

“10 Ways to Have a Christ-Centered Marriage”
“5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child”
“15 Ways to a More Peaceful Home”
“30 Questions to Ask Before You Date Him”
“25 Ways to Declutter Your Life”
“12 Filthiest Places You Should be Cleaning”

I can’t help but be drawn in like a moth to the flame by claims such as these.  I am bent toward self-reliance.  Nothing is more attractive to me than feeling like I have the power to change my life and the promise of 7 easy steps entices me to click through and keep reading .  I like feeling in control, like I have the power to change myself.  Simultaneously, the thought of not reading makes me wonder, “How will I know if I’ve said any of the 5 things I should never tell my kids?” Self-sufficiency and fear dually coerce me to trust in myself and strive for a better marriage, kids, house, and life.

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Four Ways to Wage War On Pride

Every one of us is susceptible to falling into pride.  But it is the Pharisee’s religious pride that is the most dangerous because it  doesn’t appear prideful on the outside, instead it has the external appearance of holiness.  As Andrew Murray said: “There is no pride so dangerous, because none so subtle and insidious, as the pride of holiness. [There can grow], all unconsciously, a hidden habit of soul, which feels complacency its attainments, and cannot help seeing how far it is in advance of others.”

andrew murray

As I wrote in my last post, Four Marks of a Pharisee, I believe the first and most important response we can have when fighting this type of pride (or any sin) is one of brokenness and repentance.  It is a lowly and contrite spirit that God loves and we need Him walking along side us to see any victory in this area.

With that in mind, I want to share four practical ways I regularly choose to fight this religious pride in my own heart.

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