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 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.

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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Four Marks of A Pharisee

The chief priests and the elders came to Jesus. … And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”  Matthew 21:23-32

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Last week I shared about my personal realization that I was a Closet Pharisee.  Though I had a true love for Jesus, my pursuit of holiness took a slight wrong turn and a hidden and insidious pride began to grow in my heart.  If you grew up in church like me, you must be careful to discern your heart in this matter.  You may know certain truths in your head that your heart does not yet believe.  I knew that “all had sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I knew that “the wages of sin is death.”  I could tell you that I deserved hell for my sins and that I was saved “by grace alone through faith and that not of myself or works so that no one may boast.”  Yet, in my heart and my actions, I believed I was good enough on my own apart from Jesus.  As you read this, I invite you to check your heart and motives.  Just because you have a genuine love for God and aren’t aware of any sin in your heart, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The Danger of Self-righteousness

The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’s day.  They were very moral and religious people who were often in the temple, studying the Law and making sacrifices.  And ironically, they receive the harshest words of judgment from Jesus during his time on earth.  Why is this?  Because they looked to their own good works and good deeds to save them.  Therefore, they didn’t have the ability to relate to Jesus as a savior, because they were looking to themselves for that.  They were self-righteous, looking for righteousness within themselves.  Comparatively, this is why the prostitutes and tax collectors, who knew they had no righteousness and no hope of salvation in themselves, were able to receive Jesus as savior.  As our pastor said earlier this month, “The Pharisees good behavior is more dangerous and more damning than the sin of tax collectors and prostitutes.”

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Closet Pharisee

“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” ~Jesus, Matthew 23: 32-33

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You’d think these words were said to a murderer, or a sexually perverted or promiscuous person, or a thief.  But no, Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day.

Wait, did you catch that… Jesus’s harshest words of judgment are to the religious leaders of the day.  This should cause the ears of this religious church girl to perk up and listen.  Why such harsh words?  And what did these religious people do to merit such severe judgment?  And how do I make sure I am truly following Jesus and not the path of these anti-Jesus religious people?  These are questions I should have asked in my early years of following Jesus.

Even though I fell in love with Jesus early in my life, there grew an inward bent of my soul, slowly and stealthily, that was hardly noticeable.  I’m not sure exactly how it started.  Maybe it was the subconscious joy I found in the acclaim of people in being such a “good Christian.”  Maybe I couldn’t help but notice how much “better” I was than my peers.  Somewhere along the way, I began to delight in my good works more than the work of Jesus.  My heart started to reflect that of a Pharisee more than Jesus.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

No matter how it started, a root of pride began to grow in my heart and for years it was watered with the praise of others and my own comparison to my peers.  I became really good at “being a Christian.” In the morning, I trusted my ability to have a good quiet time and memorize scripture.  In the evening, I found peace in my “maturity” to worship with hands raised.  I no longer needed Jesus as my savior.  My good deeds had become my functional savior.  I knew the right words to say, the right things to do to look like the best Jesus-follower out there.

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The Myth of “The One”

“I think he might be the one!”

Aren’t we all waiting to get to that moment in a relationship? There is this concept that has been propagated through an abundance of romantic comedies as well as our American Christian culture that we all have one perfect soul mate out there somewhere. But I want to propose that this idea of “the one” is a myth and is an idea that is actually bringing more harm than good to those who embrace it.

First, let’s talk about what I mean when I say “The One.” There is a right way and a wrong way to view this. As Christians, we know that Psalm 139 says “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Because God is aware of what will happen throughout the course of our life, he obviously knows who we will marry if we get married. This is 100% Biblical and a correct way to think. If this is how you see “the one,” then this article is not for you. But there is another, more common way that “the one” is viewed that is not Biblical. It defines the one as the singular other human on the planet who can complete you, satisfy all your longings, and the only one with whom you can have a successful marriage. We see this concept in movies like Jerry Maguire (the famous “You complete me” line), and Twilight (“You’re my only reason to stay alive.”). This concept of “the one” is what I am dealing with in this article. The idea of hoping in one person to complete and satisfy you might not seem that bad on the surface, but underneath it results in numerous problems in marriage and singleness.

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Is Jesus Really Enough?

Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains



These are lyrics to a worship song called “One Thing Remains.” We sang it in church a couple weeks ago and one line in particular stood out to me: It overwhelms and satisfies my soul. It reminds me of my favorite verses in Philippians 3:7-9 which speak of the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” in which everything else by comparison is rubbish. The love of God… is it true that it overwhelms and satisfies my soul?


And what if that were true? What if His love not only satisfied my soul, but overwhelmed it to a point of overflowing? There would be such contentment in my heart and soul that all other longings and unfulfilled desires would dissipate. I would be so filled up by the love of God that I would no longer seek what I can get from my earthly relationships, but rather what I can give. All sorrow, pain, and sadness would shrink in the shadow of the love of God for me. In all areas of life I would be operating from a place of contentedness, not desperate longings for things other than God.

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Clearing the Stage: Waiting for What?

Well, today is the last day of our “Clearing the Stage” blog posts. Jimmy’s record releases tomorrow and we are so thrilled! And what a better way to usher in a new record than by Jimmy and I actually seeking to live out the message of this record. I hope that you have been challenged to do some stage-clearing and idol-crushing in your own life. I also hope you will get yourself a copy of Jimmy’s new record tomorrow, either on iTunes, jimmyneedham.com, or at your local Christian bookstore. I really believe that this record will minister to you, encourage you, challenge you, and give you something fun to dance around the house to.


I have recently been studying through the Psalms and noticed the recurring phrase of “wait on the Lord.” There are many promises for those who wait on the Lord and many psalmists who promise to be people who wait on Him. I’ve written about waiting before (see my blog, “What are you waiting on?”), and am always amazed at how little I wait on God. I usually find that I am waiting on many other circumstances in my life: waiting to graduate from college, waiting to be able to have a healthy baby, waiting to get to a more “financial stable” place, waiting for Jimmy to get home, waiting, waiting, waiting. It seems that I’m rarely content in my current circumstances.

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