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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A Day in the Life…

Today was a perfect example of how being married to Jimmy makes my life weird.

We showed up at Panera bread this afternoon to meet with a pastor in our area for the very first time. We had just sat down when a stranger walked up and asked, “Excuse me, but are you Jimmy Needham?” After Jimmy signed a sheet of notebook paper for her, we exchanged a few cordial introductions then returned to our conversation. I am very grateful for that girl today and her support of Jimmy and his music but again, these are the things just make our life… weird.

Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with my husband and his music. For those of you who have no idea who he is and wonder why you should, I am glad you are here! Honestly, he is just a normal guy like any other. But to most people he is Jimmy Needham. He is a Christian singer/songwriter and recording artist with Inpop records. He is played on radio stations across the country and in many other countries as well!

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my husband and I am thrilled to be married to him and absolutely love supporting him in his calling as a singer/songwriter/recording artist. But the truth is, that because of what he does, our life is different. 

Jimmy’s growing fame was originally a source of great insecurity and frustration for me. When we got married, all our friends and family knew me for me: my personality, my strengths and weakness, my love for Jesus. But when we were on the road, people only knew me for one thing: I was married to Jimmy.

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Norwegian Lessons

Lively in Sweden!

1:30am here in Norway, and Jimmy is about to take the stage for the 3rd time today! You’d think that’d be way to late to start a concert, but since it doesn’t get dark till around 11pm, it’s easier to stay up that long. I actually don’t know if these people actually sleep at night! I’m definitely loving the long days, but 9pm comes so quickly when the sun is up! It’s amazing how much I count on the sunset to let me know what time it is.


I mentioned in my last blog that I have been hoping God would speak to me while we’re here, and so far He’s come through! Though the lessons I’m learning since arriving in Scandinavia have been good, they’ve also been hard. It all started with “an honest moment” I had with God in Sweden a couple days ago. Though I’m generally pretty frank with Him, I tend to keep silent when my frustration is aimed at how He is running things because I know how limited my view is. But every now and then, I just have to let Him know my grievances. Let me share this moment of honesty with you.

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Greetings from Sweden!

Greetings from Sweden!


Lively and I are traveling with Jimmy and the band this week on a tour of Scandinavia! We will be visiting the beautiful countries of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and enjoying the cool weather and many hours of sunlight! Being here reminds me of when Jimmy was in Denmark last September. It was during his 10 day trip to Denmark that I decided to do 10 days of prayer and repentance. What a joyful and sweet time that was for me! You can read about what God spoke to me here on my blog in the September archives. This week, I am hoping and praying God speaks to me just as clearly!

Honestly today, I am just happy to not be on a plane! I feel like every mom who travels overseas with an infant should be given an award! A 3-hour flight followed by a 9-hour flight is no small feat. Especially when you have passengers staring at you every time your baby cries. Then we arrived in a country where it is 7 hours ahead of the time zone Lively has known all her short life and where the sun doesn’t set till 10pm and rises around 3am. Let’s just say yesterday was just a tad exhausting.

Now that both my daughter and I have had a good night’s sleep, things are going much better. =) Plus, it is always a joy to be around Jimmy’s band. These guys are like brothers to me and are such incredible men of God. They have embraced Lively like their own niece and gladly entertain her and hold her as I need help.

So now that we have settled in here in beautiful Sweden, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in my day and a half of being here:


1. Don’t assume every carton next to the cereal is milk. Today I poured what appeared to be something like sour cream on my cereal.
2. There are a lot of very tall and very blonde people in Sweden.
3. You don’t need air conditioning here because even in the summer it is cool.
4. The Swedish have really good coffee!
5. Needing sunglasses outside at 9pm is a very strange feeling.


That’s all for now! I’ll be posting pictures later this week and more updates from Norway. Goodbye for now!

Lessons in Sleeplessness

Teething + stuffy nose + out of town = one very unhappy baby


This is the equation that plagued me last week. Our poor little girl had her first cold and boy was it rough! For about 5 nights in a row, I was up almost every hour trying to get her back to sleep because she couldn’t breathe. The frustration followed into the next day because our sick baby was now a tired, sick baby. Then top that off with constant pain from teething and the fact that we are not at home with all her regular toys and Baby Einstein DVDs…. And wow. I felt like I was just trying to make it through one hour at a time.

It’s amazing what a lack of sleep over multiple days does to you. I had checked-out emotionally and spiritually. Discouragement began to set in as I wondered if this was ever going to end. As I drove around Nashville waiting to pick Jimmy up from a writing appointment, I noticed this license plate in front of me. It read: 2COR610. An acute awareness of God’s sovereignty causes me to take these “coincidences” very personally as if God were sending me a message to read 2 Corinthians 6:10. Though it didn’t mean much to me as I quickly glanced at it in my car, I decided it was worth a more in depth look later.

Thankfully, Lively soon fell asleep in the car seat as I drove giving me a precious hour and a half of time to myself. I found a coffee shop and claimed the small nook in the back as my own to sit with this chapter of the Bible and a much needed cup of caffeine… I mean coffee. I began reading from earlier in the chapter: “But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger…” Wait a second!! “in sleeplessness” Those words were balm to my soul. The moment I read them my eyes filled with tears as God’s Word ministered to my soul. In just a split second God spoke so many things to my heart.

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On the road again…

View from the stage

It’s 7:30am on a Sunday morning and I have already left Massachusetts, driven into Connecticut, flown into Washington DC, and am now on a flight to Houston. You know you’re on the road with the band when you have already been in 3 states before 8am. Last night was the first of many concerts Jimmy will be doing with Acquire the Fire, a conference whose purpose is to ignite a movement of students who are passionate about Jesus. With multiple bands, speakers, drama teams, hundreds of staff and volunteers and thousands of students, it was quite an event! I am grateful that I was able to join the guys for this concert in Amherst, MA.


A lot of you know that I used to travel with Jimmy all the time. Our first 2 1/2 years of marriage I was Jimmy’s road manager, merchandise manager, violinist, and for a time, his general manager. I loved this time we had to travel together and will never forget the great memories we have from those early years. But when the opportunity arose for me to take a full time position in our church’s high school ministry, I couldn’t pass it up. Now, joining my husband on his worldwide travels is a much more infrequent occurrence.

Blake, Tim, Jimmy, Josh, Chasen

 

One of my favorite things about being on the road is seeing Jimmy’s ministry and calling in action. I love being able to pray for him during his set and hear the excellence of his music in action. He is passionate about the Gospel and it is evident in every song and every word. Another joy of traveling is just being around the guys again. Through years of traveling together in vans, buses, and planes, Jimmy’s band have become like brothers to me. All of them are such godly men of character and integrity and are an absolute joy to be around. Though you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you how ridiculously goofy they are when they get together. It always keeps me laughing! (By the way, you can follow Jimmy’s band on twitter by clicking on their names: Tim, Josh, Chase, Blake. I think they’ll keep you laughing too.)



As I was preparing to leave for this weekend, I began thinking about what it means to be a help to my husband on the road. In the past, running merchandise and road managing was the way that I helped. Now that I don’t have any of those same responsibilities, I tend to feel helpless and out of place when I’m on the road with him. In past shows, I have been a distracting and attention-demanding wife due to my lack of purpose. Not wanting to carry on that inappropriate habit, I began thinking through my role as Jimmy’s wife a few days before leaving with the purpose to be a bit more proactive in my approach to this weekend.

During the concert

 


When I think about what it means to be a wife, the word ezer comes to my mind. This is the Hebrew word used of Eve in Genesis 2 when she is described as Adam’s helper, or help-meet. A very dynamic and telling word, ezer is used only twice of woman and is most commonly used of describe God. “I life my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of Heaven and earth.”(Psalm 121:1-2) “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Both of these verses use ezer in the Hebrew. As I have studied every other place in the Old Testament where this word is used, amazing new meaning arises for what it means to be a helper to your husband. The use of this word in the scriptures brings to life the sense of protection, strengthening, and life-giving encouragement it was meant to convey. To be a help to your husband is so much more than simply housework. It is the vital role of strengthening and enabling him to do what God has called him to do while becoming a place of encouragement and protection for him when that calling gets rough. It is a great honor and privilege to play such a critical and indispensible role.


As I contemplated these things in preparation for this trip, I began to ask myself: how can I be this kind of help to my husband when I have no actual role to play on the road? I started by eliminating what I should not do. I am not helping when I am demanding his attention throughout the course of the day. (Yes, I tend to think Jimmy should always be paying attention to me when I’m with him. I mean, I am his wife right?) Though they might not look like anyone else’s, Jimmy’s workdays consist of sound-checks, twitter postings, band meetings, prayer time, concerts, autograph signings, and meet-and-greets. And when I become a distraction to these things, I cease being helpful. So this trip, I brought a few things to work on to alleviate my tendency to need to be the center of attention.


A second way I can practically be an ezer is by simply being a servant to Jimmy and his band. It may be getting extra waters, helping sell merchandise, filming the show, or simply holding open doors.


Lastly, being a help to my husband is sometimes simply being available to him. Whether he needs encouragement, good company to eat dinner with, someone to pray with or bounce ideas off of, or just a listening ear, I long to be for him a place of refuge and comfort.


All in all, I felt like this trip was a successful one in those respects. I effectively stayed out of the way to let the guys do their thing, while serving and providing help to them as needed. I love the privilege I have in being an ezer to my husband! I believe this is my highest calling and most important ministry, second only to growing my relationship with God. I was created to play a vital role in my husband’s ministry and calling and there is such joy in doing just that.



More thoughts on this weekend coming soon…

Day 4 – Unwilling Grace

My favorite podcast is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today, I listened to a recent interview she did with Dr. Henry Blackaby called “Revival and Repentance.” Obviously I was drawn to it because I am in a week and a half time period of personal repentance. It was so encouraging, thought-provoking, and refreshing that I wanted to share it with you all. So if you have 25 minutes to spare, please download and listen to it, or read the manuscript from it. Click here to get it.


One point he made is that we often think of revival as something our schools, community, or nation needs, but not us. But it’s quite the contrary. Revival starts in the hearts of God’s people. Here is a quote from this interview: “You cannot have God in your midst and remain as you are as a people of God. You will come under severe conviction of sin. God’s people will feel the awesome presence of the holiness of God and expose their sin and will cry out unto God in repentance.”~Henry Blackaby. It is like Isaiah 6. When we are truly in the presence of God, there is an intense awareness of our wickedness before Him. Revival starts in us, His children, and it starts with repentance.


I am praying that this time for me will be the start of a personal revival, inviting God’s manifest presence into my life in such a powerful way that I am radically changed by it.


I was very surprised today by my time of prayer. Not sure what I expect God to be revealing in my heart, but obviously this wasn’t it. The first word that came to mind…. grace. How is that something to repent of? But as I prayed more, I realized that it wasn’t simply grace, but specifically the lack of grace I have shown. At times, I have an unwillingness to show grace. This is the problem.

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Day 3 – To Do Lists

Well I figured I should give an update on how things are going this week as it relates to my time at home and Jimmy being gone. It’s actually been wonderful! I feel joyful, peaceful, not lonely, and excited about my days. It’s amazing what some basic intentionality will do! Jimmy and I have talked a few times and each time has been really good. We are starting to figure out the best times for us to connect during the day and getting into a rhythm of what to expect this next week or so. It sounds like Denmark is beautiful, and though I wish I could be there, I am trying to be grateful for what I have here. Right now, I am most grateful for some cooler weather! It gets quite hot down here in Texas, but we’ve had our first cold front the last few days (which means lows in the 60s) so it’s been great! I have also stayed quite busy (which I try to do while Jimmy’s gone), thus my posts are coming out late at night. But to those of you who are following along and praying along, thanks for being patient!


Tonight I had dinner with God. After coming home from work, I sat down to eat my much desired PB&J and asked God what was in my heart that needed to be cleaned out. The very first thing to come to my mind was to do lists.
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Day 2 – Fear

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts;
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting”
Psalm 139:23-24



Fear. That is what I have in my heart that God wanted to deal with today. Fear of failure as a child of God, as a wife. Fear of the future and what life will be like with children and a traveling husband. Fear of being forgotten. Fear of what will happen if I really give up control.


I am realizing that my obsessive need to control things is because of fear. Fear drives me to action. I may be extremely tired and feel like I am unable to run, but as soon as a wasp comes flying up behind me, I run faster! (I hate wasps by the way.) Fear drives us to action faster and stronger than anything else. And my incessant need to control things is driven by the fears I am trying to protect myself from.

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Day 1 – It’s not about me.

First of all, I am excited that a few of you will be joining me in these 10 days of prayer!  Karen and Vertina, I hope your time with God these next days is refreshing and powerful.  I know it already has been for me in just day 1.  Can’t wait to hear from you at the end.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts;
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting”
Psalm 139:23-24


Be careful when you pray this.  God might show you things in your heart that you didn’t know where there.  After my first day of prayer, I have concluded that it’s not about me.  Of course this is a truth that I think I know and have “mastered,” but, unfortunately, that is not the case.

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