If Only I Had . . .

(This is a repost from 2012. As I’ve been working on a lesson on the sovereignty of God today, I was reminded of this post from several years ago. Thought I’d share it with you again.)

Waiting in LineHave you ever had a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” day? This is a day in which you second guess yourself and the way you did things because the results were not what you had hoped for. If I would have done this… I should have done that… I could have done that, and wish I had… Things would be different if I would have…

I had one of those days this past Friday as I had the privilege of driving to downtown Memphis to sign up for my week of jury duty. Memphis does this differently than the other cities where I have lived. Instead of getting a summons to appear on such and such a date for jury duty, you get a summons to appear at a set time on a certain day to sign up for a week you want to serve. It sounds simple, right? Wrong.

This was my first time to get a summons for jury duty in Memphis and so I was not sure what to expect. Even though friends told me to take my calendar, and sit on the outside, I was not prepared for what transpired that afternoon. Over 4000 people were there, all trying to get their “perfect” week. There was a system we had to follow, but it didn’t go as smoothly as one might think from the directions. Competing with 4000 people to get your preferred week is no easy task.

I had two weeks out of the choices given that would have been a good fit for my schedule, but I was too far back in the line to get those weeks. I finally got the last week offered, but it was my last choice.

All the way home, I kept saying, “I should have gotten in line right away, even though I didn’t want the first week called. I could have gone to the other line which was probably shorter and maybe I would have gotten my choices. I should have sat on the outside of the room instead of the center of the room. I could have stayed and pleaded with the judge for another week. If I would have sat on the far side of the room, I would have had a better chance.” You get the idea.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve . . . We can say it all day long, but it’s not going to change the situation. What’s done is done. Get over it, I kept telling myself.

What are some lessons we can learn from these “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” days when we wish we had done things differently?

  • Remember that God is sovereign. He is ultimately in control and will cause “all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can’t change what’s in the past, but we can trust that God will use it for good in some way.
  • Learn from this experience and do it differently next time. Don’t make the same mistakes twice. Next time I get called downtown to sign up for my week of jury duty, I know exactly where I am going to sit and which side of the room I’m going to move toward to stand in line. I know what I should do and could do and will do.
  • Tell others what would benefit them before they go through a similar situation. Prepare them and help them avoid the mistakes you made.

The next time you find yourself saying, I could have . . . I should have . . .  if I would have . . . Stop! Trust God to use this for good, and let Him teach you from it.

What has God taught you from your “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” days?

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When Mother’s Day Can Be Tough

mom at luauSunday is Mother’s Day. I realize that Mother’s Day can be difficult for women for different reasons. Some long to be a mother but can’t have children. Some have estranged relationships with their moms or children. Some, like me, have recently said goodbye to their moms. God knows what is going on in each of our hearts, and He cares.

This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom on this earth. There’s a part of me that is sad as I think about the special memories with my mom.

But my heart is also filled with joy as I picture mom with Jesus and experiencing things far more glorious than I can ever imagine. I would not want her back here in the state she was in. She is where she longed to be, and I can celebrate with her this Mother’s Day.

I am so thankful that God allowed me to move mom to Memphis five years ago so I could see her every day these last five years of her life. I am thankful He allowed me to be with her when she stepped into His presence on December 19, 2014.

I am grateful for the way God used mom in the lives of those she was around wherever she was – assisted living, nursing home, hospital. Her smile ministered to others even when she couldn’t say a word.

So, as I look ahead to Sunday and the focus on mothers, what can I do to make this day special without my mom (or children)?

  • Give thanks for my mom, even though she’s no longer with me physically.
  • Reflect on all the things my mom taught me, not just through her words, but through her life.
  • Give thanks for the spiritual moms in my life.
  • Thank Him for the spiritual children He’s given me.
  • Pray for those I know are struggling this Mother’s Day.

To all of you moms, Happy Mother’s Day!

What is one word you would use to describe your mom?

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impossibleThis morning I was reading Jeremiah’s prayer beginning in Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.”

That doesn’t mean God WILL do everything I want Him to, but He CAN do anything. I may look at a situation as impossible, but nothing is impossible for God.

I was convicted this morning as I thought about this. When I find myself in a seemingly impossible situation, I sometimes assume it’s too big for God too. But it’s not. He may choose to handle it differently than I would desire, but nothing is too difficult for Him.

Are you struggling to believe that God is bigger than something in your life? Are there things you’re not even asking God to do because you doubt He will (or can) do it?

I wrote in my journal a list of things I had to admit that I had stopped praying for because I didn’t think God was going to do anything about it. And then I wrote down things I felt were “impossible” apart from God’s hand intervening; things that are beyond my ability that only God can do. And I began praying for those things.

I know God CAN do all of them, but they may not be His will, and I have to trust that His plan is perfect, even when it’s not according to my desire. My part is to pray and ask, with pure motives and in faith, believing that God can do anything and then trust Him with the result.

I realize how much I put God in a box, not even bothering to ask Him to do something because it seems impossible or too big. But when I do see God answer and work in impossible situations, it brings me to my knees in praise and thanksgiving and awe of just how powerful our God is.

Is there something you’ve stopped praying for because you think it’s impossible? Why not take it to the Lord now? Acknowledge that nothing’s impossible for Him, and trust Him for the result.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

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Making a Difference

make a differenceWhat do you think of when you hear the names Corrie Ten Boom, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, or Billy Graham? What comes to my mind is that they each made a difference with their lives, a difference of eternal significance. Most of us, in all likelihood, will not be big names like that, but we can still make a difference with our lives.

Nehemiah is a great example of someone who made a difference. As I studied the first two chapters of Nehemiah, I noticed ten things he did that enabled him to make a difference. He gives us a great example to follow.

1. Look beyond. (Nehemiah 1:1-3)

It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and focused on what’s going on in my small circle of life that I never look beyond my “world.” Nehemiah looked beyond his comfortable setting and  saw the needs outside. His heart was burdened, and he stepped out to do something about it.

  • Do I look beyond what’s going on in my life and see the bigger picture of what’s going on?

2. Commit to prayer. (Nehemiah 1:4)

Nehemiah was burdened for Jerusalem, and he committed himself to prayer – not just occasional prayer, but faithful, consistent prayer for four months, night and day.

  • Am I a faithful, fervent prayer warrior?

3. Focus on who God is. (Nehemiah 1:5)

Nehemiah faced a situation he knew he couldn’t solve or fix by himself. But he also knew nothing is impossible with God. So he went before God in prayer and focused on His attributes.

  • Do I believe God is big enough to do the impossible if it’s according to His sovereign plan?

4. Stay humble. (Nehemiah 1:6-7)

He humbled himself before God and acknowledged He was God’s servant, confessing his sin and the sin of his people. It’s so much easier to put the blame on someone else and we’re often tempted to make ourselves look better than others, but Nehemiah didn’t do that. He included himself as part of the problem. Even though he was in a position of prestige and honor, he humbled himself.

  • Do I let pride convince me I’m better than others?

5. Stand on the promises of God. (Nehemiah 1:8-11)

Nehemiah “reminded” God of His promise to Moses. He knew God’s Word and believed God would be faithful  to do what He said He would do.

  • Do I believe God is faithful to do what He says He will do?

6. Wait on God’s timing. (Nehemiah 2:1)

Nehemiah didn’t jump out prematurely and try to take things into his own hands, but instead waited on God’s timing. He waited four months before saying anything to the king as he prayed, and God used that time to prepare both Nehemiah and the king for the day Nehemiah would present his request.

  • Do I get impatient with God’s timing and try to take things into my own hands in my timing?

7. Take risks. (Nehemiah 2:1-2)

Nehemiah was willing to take a risk by going before the king and asking for something that seemed impossible, apart from God’s hand. He was willing to show his true emotions to the king, even though that could cost him his job or his life.

  • Am I willing to take risks regardless of the potential outcome?

8. Boldly ask. (Nehemiah 1:11; 2:4)

He boldly prayed for something he knew he wouldn’t be able to accomplish on his own. He boldly asked for something from the king that could have had negative consequences, but he still asked.

  • Do I ask boldly of God and man, or do I assume it would do no good to ask?

9. Do my part. (Nehemiah 2:6-8)

Nehemiah did his part to be ready to answer questions when he went before the king. He knew what was necessary to make things happen.

  • Am I doing my part of what God wants me to do while He’s working?

10. Give the glory to God. (Nehemiah 2:8)

Nehemiah knew his success depended on God’s help. He didn’t pat himself on the back for being a great prayer warrior, or for being so smart, so wise, so prepared. He gave the glory entirely to God.

  • Do I tend to take credit for something God did?

Nehemiah made a difference of eternal significance with his life. We can too. Will we?


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Can Women Speak in Church?

tape on woman's mouth jpgThis past Monday night I spoke to a group of women on some of the difficult passages in the New Testament concerning women and the church. One of the issues that we addressed was the issue of women being told to keep silent in the church.

Paul talked about this in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”

Does this passage prohibit women today from speaking in the church service? Can we not share a testimony or story of how God is at work or read a Scripture passage or pray aloud?

Paul obviously didn’t mean that a woman couldn’t speak at all in church because he talked about women prophesying and praying in 1 Cor. 11:5. So what did Paul mean?

In the Greek culture at that time, women were not allowed to confront or question men publicly. Apparently, some of the women thought their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship. The women were disrupting the service by asking questions of their husbands inappropriately, perhaps trying to dominate the conversation or arguing with their husbands about the teaching. This was causing division in the church and disrupting the service.

The Greek word for “silent” used here is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:28, referring to the silence commanded of the person who desired to speak in tongues but without an interpreter present. Obviously, this didn’t mean that this person was never to speak in church, but only to remain silent when certain conditions were not met so that the church service would not be disrupted.

The speaking to which Paul referred was inappropriate speaking that would disrupt the worship service. The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about the role of women in church. Paul was not forbidding all speaking by women, but speaking that creates a disturbance in the service.

The timeless principle we can take away from this passage is to avoid doing anything that would disrupt worship. Sometimes, that may mean we need to be quiet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Hope in the Midst of Darkness

good-friday-crossesAs we approach Easter weekend, I wonder what the disciples must have felt on the day Jesus was crucified. I put myself in their places this morning, imagining the emotions and thoughts I would be experiencing had I been there when Jesus took His last breath on the cross.

Would I have been overwhelmed with thanksgiving and hope in light of what His death would bring? Or would I have been feeling just the opposite?

  • Disappointment
  • Doubt – Were you really who you said you were?
  • Questioning God – why?
  • Fear of the future without Him
  • Perhaps even anger

It was a dark day, but the darkness wouldn’t last forever. The darkness was necessary for the joy to come three days later.

If the Crucifixion hadn’t happened, we’d have no hope for the future. This life would be all there is, and as good as it gets. The Crucifixion wasn’t the ending; it was just the beginning.

As we find ourselves in dark times, overwhelming situations in which we see no hope, remember the significance of Easter. Because of the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we have hope. No matter how hard life is on this earth, there will be a day when we will no longer remember the pain and suffering. We will be in the presence of the One who went through pain and suffering to give us eternal life.

I was by my mom’s side this past December when she took her last breath on this earth and stepped into her Savior’s presence. Last year was a season of “darkness” as I watched her decline and suffer. I frequently asked God why, and I questioned what He was doing. But when mom took her last breath, I knew she was free from this suffering and experiencing life beyond anything I could imagine here on this earth – all because of that dark day on Calvary and the Resurrection three days later.

I can’t imagine living life without the hope that Jesus died to give us. May we rejoice this weekend as we contemplate all that Jesus did for us and what that means for each of us personally.

He is Risen!

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What is IT?

kneeling in prayer 2A few years ago, I heard a young pastor by the name of Craig Groeschel speak on a topic he had just written a book on: It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It. His words challenged me:

“Some ministries have it. Some don’t. Most churches want it. But few have it. When a church has it, everyone can tell. And when one doesn’t, everyone can tell. It is always unique. It is always powerful. It is always life changing. By now you’re probably asking, as I did, what exactly is it?”


And he was honest in his answer, “I don’t know.” But he went on to say,

Here’s what I do know. If you’ve ever been part of a ministry or church that had it, you knew you were part of something special. In other words, you knew it when you saw it. And it was an awesome work of God that couldn’t be contained, couldn’t be harnessed, and couldn’t be explained… I can’t tell you exactly what it is. But we know that God makes it happen. It is from Him. It is by Him. It is for His glory. We can’t create it. We can’t reproduce it. We can’t manufacture it. It is not a model. It is not a system. It is not the result of a program. When a church has it, when a ministry has it, lives are changing, and everyone around knows it.

Everyone wants to be part of it.

I revisit this book every year, and I ask, does our church have it? Does our Women’s Ministry have it? If so, I pray we won’t lose it. I pray we would continue to see lives changed and God at work in ways we can’t explain and we can’t take credit for.

I also recently read David Platt’s book Radical, in which he asked two questions that I continually ponder.

(1) Is your life marked by desperation for the Spirit of God?

(2) Is your church characterized by a desperate dependence on God? 

David Platt goes on to challenge his readers to not ask God for what we know we can accomplish, but to ask God to do those things that only He can accomplish.

When we lose that desperate dependence on the Lord, when we start doing things in our strength, we lose it. We stop seeing God working in ways that only He can do.

What are some practical things we can do to insure that our ministries have it and keep it?


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Six Things to Never Say to a Single

Not listening


1. You must be too picky.

I admit I do have high standards. But I’m not looking for perfection. I know there is no perfect person in the world, including myself. But, I do have certain standards that I know God desires for me, and I don’t want to compromise my values just for the sake of being married.


2. Oh, I’m so sorry…

When someone said that to me, I responded with, “Oh, don’t feel sorry for me. Let me share with you all the benefits of my singleness and things I can do as a single that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were married.” There can be hardship and pain and loneliness in any state of life – married or single.

3. I know just the perfect guy for you. Let me set you up!

I’ve been open when someone asks me if I’d be willing to meet someone, but, to be honest, most of the time, I wish I hadn’t agreed to it. I have come to the place where I would rather just meet someone naturally as God brings them across my path. When people set me up, it can be awkward for both parties if it’s not working.

4. You’re just not ready for marriage yet. When you’re ready, God will bring your husband into your life.

Nope. I don’t agree with that one. I know way too many people who were not ready for marriage when God brought them their husbands. And to be honest, are any of us really ready for marriage? I’ve heard many of my married friends say, “I had no idea marriage was going to be this hard.”

5. What’s wrong with you?

Actually, no one ever says that to my face, but  their expressions communicate those words. And sometimes I am tempted to ask myself that question. Being single doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. (Actually, we all have things “wrong” with us, married or single. None of us have it all together.) God has called some of us to singleness. That’s not a curse, but a blessing, as it allows us to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

6. Have you ever been married?

That’s the normal follow-up question after, “Are you married?” It almost feels like they would look at you more favorably if you had once been married.

I have always had a desire to be married, but the older I get, I love my singleness. It would take a true Prince Charming to get me to give up my singleness now. And after all, I have the best Husband in the world!

What would you add to this list of things not to say to a single?

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Are You Covering Your Head?

girl-in-churchAs I have been preparing to teach on the role of women in the church in a few weeks, I’ve been looking at some of the New Testament passages that deal with women in the church.

Recently, I was asked if we women should wear head coverings to church in accordance with 1 Corinthians 11:2-15. Verse 5 reads: “But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved.”

If you just read the passage, without taking things in context and looking at the cultural period in which this was written, then yes, it does sound like women should wear head coverings when they pray at church.

However, this passage goes beyond surface reading. This letter was written to the church in Corinth, probably one of the most licentious cities in the world at that time. Paul wanted the women to (1) demonstrate submission to their husbands by wearing a head covering, and (2) set themselves apart from the prostitutes who shaved their heads and didn’t wear coverings. Paul was dealing with a specific issue going on in the Corinthian church.

At that time in Corinth, women wore long hair and wore a covering over their heads in public. This covering symbolized her submission and purity. The only exception to that were prostitutes  who shaved their hair or wore their hair in a disheveled manner.

The head covering was a sign of submission.

So is this a timeless principle for all women throughout all ages? The principle in this passage is for the wife to honor her husband and demonstrate submission. The application of that principle in the Corinthian church was for the woman to cover her head in public, in contrast to the appearance of the prostitutes.

The universal, timeless principle that transcends all times and cultures is not that we need to wear head coverings at church, but that we are to demonstrate a submissive spirit to our husbands, our head. The application of that principle today is not by wearing a head covering, but by showing respect and honor to our husbands in other ways.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.


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Leaving a Legacy

footstepsAs I sat down to think through what to say at my mom’s memorial service this past December, I realized just how great an impact she had made in the lives of so many. She left a legacy of eternal significance. It made me stop and ask, what kind of impact am I making? What would others say about me when my life on this earth is over?

I want to share with you four questions I’ve been pondering as I’ve thought about this.


1. What kind of legacy am I leaving with my words?

Are my words predominantly negative or positive?

Do I grumble and complain, or do I spend more time giving thanks and praising God?

Do my words tear down and discourage or build up and encourage?

A few weeks ago, I was facing a very busy Sunday, and I woke up grumpy thinking about the long day ahead. I had church all morning, then a quick lunch before attending a memorial service at 2:00, and finishing the day with a Dinner 8 group at 5:00. I was dreading the day because of how packed it was, and I found myself grumbling about it. But as I sat down to have some quiet time with the Lord that morning, He convicted me of my grumbling and murmuring. He turned my attitude around as I began to thank Him for these things.

God, thank you that I can worship freely this morning with other believers without fear of being arrested or killed. I GET to worship; not I HAVE to.

God, thank you that I can celebrate the life of this godly man this afternoon and encourage his wife and family. I GET to celebrate his life; not I HAVE to.

God, thank you that I have friends I can gather with tonight for food and laughter and encouragement. I GET to hang out with them; not I HAVE to.

I don’t want to leave a legacy of grumbling and murmuring.

2. What kind of legacy am I leaving with my faith?

Do I demonstrate doubt and unbelief, or faith and trust that God will do what He says He will do? Do I choose to focus on the obstacles instead of God’s faithfulness, or do I demonstrate faith in God even when the situation seems overwhelming and impossible?

I don’t want to leave a legacy of doubt and unbelief.

3. What kind of legacy am I leaving with my actions?

Am I obedient to God, or disobedient and compromising my Christian values? What kind of impact am I having on others as they watch what I do and how I respond to situations? Am I setting a positive example or a negative one? What do my actions reveal about my relationship with God?

I don’t want to leave a legacy of disobedience.

4. What kind of legacy am I leaving with my life?

What or whom am I investing my life in? Am I investing in things of eternal significance or in things that won’t last?

I recently found a note written in a cookbook that my mom’s Sunday School class compiled years ago. Each lady wrote a note of wisdom for the generations coming behind them. This is what mom wrote:

Conduct yourself in a manner that is pleasing to God by – loving others, put God first in your life, learn to forgive and forget, control your tongue, be humble, have a right attitude, and last but not least, pray to God and thank Him every day for all the blessings He has given you.

Mom not only communicated this wisdom with her words, but with her faith and actions and life. She left a legacy of eternal significance.

My nieces wrote these messages on Facebook the day mom went home to be with Jesus.

My Grandma passed away this morning. She lived close to 99 years here on this earth and is now dancing down the streets of Heaven. I will be forever grateful to have had her in my life, and she will always be my hero.

My sweet Grandma went home to be with Jesus this morning. While I’m sad that she is gone, I’m happy that she is whole and healthy again. At 98, she lived a long and fruitful life, and it can definitely be said that hers was a life well-lived.

Mom left a legacy of eternal significance. Will we do the same? What kind of impact are we making with our lives?

To listen to the audio message, click here.

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