“No man shall die on my watch. Failure is not an option.”

Are you a movie watcher? I hope to be a movie watcher someday. But sadly, my track record is not very good. I can count on one hand the movies I have watched in the last decade. It isn’t that I don’t like movies or the idea of relaxing in front of a comedy or something more intriguing and thought provoking, but I think my problem lies in fact that I cannot hold still.

The first assignment for my master’s program was to watch Apollo 13. (Yes, I know. You have seen it. I should have had you write the paper!) I downloaded it from Amazon on my iPad which was convenient for someone who can’t sit still. I watched it while making breakfast, doing dishes, and folding laundry on a Saturday morning. With all that multi-tasking, you may not think I got anything out of the movie, but I did.

Since the movie was made in 1995, let me give you a brief recap. The Apollo 13 space shuttle under the command of James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) took off without a hitch. An explosion occurred when the crew stirred the oxygen tanks and the forever famous call was made to NASA by the commander: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Receiving the call was Gene Kranz (Played by Ed Harris) who replied: “We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure…not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.”

In my leadership class, I wrote about how Gene Kranz kept the vision of saving the men in front of his team at all times. Failure was not an option. And in the end, by utilizing every strength, ability, and skill of each team member, they succeeded in bringing the men safely home.

Even after my paper was finished this phase kept running through my head, “No man shall die on my watch. Failure is not an option.” And then I realized why I thought it was profound. This is the same mission we have as the church. But I wonder if we are as passionate as Gene Kranz about saving people’s lives? Are we passionate about saving people who are endangered to live without Christ and endangered to live without God in eternity? Or have our churches become programmed institutions instead of the hope that Jesus chose them to be to the world? Have they become so ingrained in church culture and the needs of the congregation that they are willing to forsake the future to preserve the past?

I may be an eternal optimist but I believe that God is still acting in human history. He chose to build a community of believers that would take stewardship of humanity and bring hope to the world. I don’t believe that God has changed His mind.

Every day, Christians are breaking walls and barriers that keep people divided. They are working together, honoring each other’s gifts and strengths in the body of Christ to move this world forward towards glory. I see church as a broader community refocusing its vision on the one thing that really counts: “No man shall die on my watch. Failure is not an option.” I see the church as the hope that Jesus empowered it to be.

Do you know Leah?

Today, I had the honor of being a guest blogger on Deep Imprints in their “Coming to your church on Sunday” series. If you are a leader in the church (that means volunteers too!) I highly reccomend you stop by and check it out. It is a great series!

Do you know Leah?

You may or may not notice Leah right away. She is reserved, melting into the background. Leah would consider herself a wall flower and a no-body.

It is no wonder Leah feels this way about herself. Her parents gave her a name that means, “wild-cow,” “weary,” and “tired.” She has worn negative labels all her life, including, unloved and unwanted.

Sitting in the shadows of her beautiful sister, Rachel, Leah has never known what it meant to be center-stage, or on the stage at all for that matter. Leah was always the one hidden behind the curtain.

Whereas the Leah of the bible was married to a man who never loved her and was tricked into marrying her; your Leah might wonder if anyone will ever love her, or if her husband (if she is married) really wants to leave.

Can you help Leah know and experience God’s unwavering love and acceptance for her?

Can you help her see herself the way God sees her?

Leah has never known what unconditional love is and will probably wonder about people’s motives are when they reach out. She finds it easy to compare herself to others and feels that she will never live up to the expectations of others. She is not only critical of herself but jealous of others. It will take a time investment in Leah’s life to help her understand the truth of God’s word about her life and the safe friendships that Christian community can bring.

One of the best ways to help Leah connect to community and begin to experience the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus is by helping her realize her strengths in the body of Christ. Leah needs to know that regardless of what life looks like on the outside, God has a destiny for her to fulfill and a legacy for her to leave in the Kingdom of God!

Leah needs a community where she is accepted for her individual gifts that God has given her. When she finds this, she will be able to strip off the old tattered labels and replace them with what God’s word reveals about her.

Can you help Leah know and experience a Godly love and acceptance?

Will you help her replace the old labels of worthlessness with new labels of God’s word?

Can you help her build strong and trusting relationships in community?

Can you invest time in helping her discover and develop her strengths in the body of Christ so she can fulfill her destiny and leave a lasting legacy on God’s Kingdom?


The people in this “Coming to Your Church This Sunday” series aren’t real – even those who are designed from television characters. They are a compilation of people we have known, read about, heard of and heard from throughout the years. Their purpose is to help church leaders get to know those in their congregation and those who might walk through the door. If you see yourself in them, you just have a lot in common with the rest of the human race.
Angela Craig is the Director of Women’s Ministry for the Northwest Ministry Network. She has just written a new Bible study, called The Story of Leah: When Life Is Not What You Expected It To Be. You can buy it on Amazon, or get the free kindle version on November 19.

When bad things happen…moving beyond the black and white of life

Are you living in black and white?

Do you believe that if you do something bad, you will receive bad things in return and if you do something good, you will receive good things in return?

“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth…” (Exodus 21:24) is a common scripture used to describe this type of thinking called, the laws of retribution.  The book of Proverbs is filled with antidotal statements and life lessons along the same line of thinking and teaching.  In Proverbs chapter three alone, it say that those who find wisdom in the Lord will be blessed with abundant crops, a long life, and safety (along with many other beautiful things).

It is true that living in obedience to the word of God brings quality of life and blessing. But living a good life and expecting good results is not limited to the Christian belief. Think about it, you don’t need Jesus to follow the rules and live in a black and while world. Ecclesiastes 1:5 says, “The sun rises and the sun sets.” God doesn’t leave anyone out. The blessing of the sun is available to everyone. Just like the laws of retribution are available to everyone. These are universal laws. For example, if you believe in Karma, then you believe that destiny or fate follows as an effect from cause. This is the same concept.

I believe that the word of God is true.  And there is no denying that the rules of Karma exist in our world.  The problem with living in the black and white of these laws is that they will fail you. Someone who never did anything wrong will suffer and die. Another, whom you know as a giver and a servant will lose their job and their house. And someone else you know will never be able to have children, even though being a parent was the only dream they ever had.

This is when black and white crumbles to the ground like a mime who screams out loud at the end of a long act. Somehow, living a life of rules and obedience didn’t pay off. Our formula of who God is or how Karma works goes up in smoke.

If we live our lives in the black and white trying to erect blessing out of obedience we will miss the entire reason Jesus came.

Jesus came for relationship, for redemption, for salvation, and to bring mercy, grace, and healing.

But you do have a choice of whether you will enter into a relationship with Jesus or if you will live in a world of black and white which is about as real as a mime that doesn’t talk.

What will you choose?

Are you a person of influence or are you holding out for “Future Rock Star Status”?

We all want to have influence in this world.

This thought specifically came to my mind at a Tim McGraw concert when he yelled into a crowd of five-thousand people, “Let me see your hands in the air!” And immediately, everyone, like robots, shamelessly threw their arms up in the air with shouts of praise. (Did I mention I was one of the shameless five-thousand acting on command?)

So many leaders strive for that same power. The ability to have influence over large companies, countries, churches, and fans, as it is in the case of Tim McGraw. But in reality, most of us will never walk the path of CEOs, presidents, mega church pastors, or rock stars.

Instead, we can become stuck in our fantasies, striving for what I call “future rock star status” and miss God’s real purpose for our lives.

Have you ever thought about how Jesus used his influence? It is true that Jesus taught to the masses. This was a vital and necessary part of his ministry. But the true life change and multiplication of disciples is seen in the influence Jesus had on the few individuals he shared life with. It started with Mary and Joseph, his brothers, the twelve, and friends and family of the twelve. Relationship is where influence began and ended for Jesus. Transforming relationships like these would be impossible in a crowd.

I believe if you want power and influence you should multiply like Jesus did. In his book, Mentor Like Jesus, Regi Campbell talks about the legacy he will leave by mentoring small groups of eight to ten men at a time. Regi states that if he mentored 64 men in his life time and each of those men did the same over five generations, then one-million people would be following Christ!1 I would call that rock star status, wouldn’t you!

I will always be a person who tells you to be who God created you to be. But if God did not create you to be a CEO, a president, a pastor of a mega church or a rock star like Tim McGraw, maybe you can try what Mother Teresa suggests and “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” I believe, it is here, in the depth of personal relationships, where you will find multiplication begins and ends.

1 Campbell, Regi. (2009). Mentor Like Jesus. B & H Publishing Group. Nashville, TN.





The practice of awareness – What I learned from a day at the spa

“The only job you have is to focus on your breathing,” said my massage therapist. His accent was so mixed with Australian, Mid-Western and English, I wasn’t sure if it was real or fake. “Observe if one lung takes in more air than the other and then see if you can make them evenly destitute the breath.” “Breathe deeply and slowly.”

As I lie there on the feather covered massage table, my reaction was mixed with angst and curiosity. First, I thought, this was a spa, why did I have a “job” or the responsibility to “focus” on anything? But of course, because I am a learner and a good student, I took the instructors advice, breathing in and out as slow as possible. As I focused on the breathing exercise, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I breathed. Maybe I had just been holding my breath the last year.

As I contemplated this phenomenon, the student in me could not resist asking this question: “Is it true that we breathe more air into one lung then into another?” My massage therapist replied with this answer, “Yes, because we are completely unaware of how we are breathing. If we want to change the patterns of our breathing, we must because aware of how we breath.”

Awareness, isn’t that the key to unlock the door to any type of transformation? We begin with becoming aware. In this case, I became aware that I couldn’t remember actually breathing slowly (or breathing at all for that matter), which would lead to taking action towards the outcome of health and relaxation.

The word awareness would not leave me that day. As I sat in the spa sanctuary with my friend, Mary, we had a conversation about communication. She told me a story about her Mother. Mary said that her Mother had a habit of asking her a question on the phone and before Mary could answer, she would ask another question. There would be no time for Mary to actually talk or to say what she would like because her Mother was always talking.

In my new state of awareness, I realize that I do this very thing. Why? Mostly because I am afraid I will forget whatever it is I just thought of. But no excuses, it is rude and thoughtless. When Mary brought it up, I was made aware of the bad habit I had developed over the years. It was something I would like  to change, something I would like to take action on. In this case, I realized I needed to surrender the questions and information in my mind to allow the person the entire stage to talk and have me be the audience, listening intently so that I could be a better communicator and show I care about the person.

Although that day at the spa led me down memory lane of how many things in my 44 years I had become painfully awaken to that catapulted change in my life, I knew that I could do just what the massage therapist suggested: Take a deep breath, be aware and present in the moment and as I practice awareness, I will improve along my journey.

The Leaf

I always dreamed of myself driving a candy-apple red convertible Porsche down a long tree lined drive to my two story stucco Tuscan summer home on the hill. The opalescent sunset on my face, the soft wind in my hair, with an Italian silk laces scarf around my neck floats wistfully behind me…

My dream of a tree lined driveway has come true. But it isn’t located in a Tuscan village in Italy. Instead, I live in a quiet country suburb of Seattle. The kind of small town where you will find one family run corner grocery, a church, a school and four taverns, all of which run along the main street overlooking a rushing river. I don’t drive a convertible – it wouldn’t be practical. The only thing shining down on my face where I live would be rain. Instead my husband bought me a Nissan Leaf – the first all-electric car.

The leaf is not nearly as sexy as a Porsche. In fact, I remember the day my husband was going to order the Leaf.  Before he did, he asked me this question, “Are you sure you like the way it looks? Are you certain you would feel comfortable driving it?” (What he was really asking me was: would I care what people think.) I laughed out loud at his questions and said, “Honey, no one buys a leaf for image.”

One buys a Leaf for practical or moral reasons, I told him (thinking to myself, doesn’t it suck to be 40 something and so responsible.) You buy a Leaf because it is the right thing to do, I heard myself say in a voice so convincing that I wasn’t sure if I was telling this story for his sake or for mine. In the back of my mind I tried to resist the urge to change my mind and beg him for my daydream of that candy-apple red Porsche or even the more practical but expensive gas guzzling 2012 fully loaded leather interior silver-grey Suburban (perfect for carting around a baseball team).

As I pondered my confusion I realized my dilemma. We all have a need to be seen and heard. I am confident that it is an innate desire. It begins at birth. We all arrive at how we will be seen and heard differently. Some buy flashy cars and houses. Some get attention by being aggressive and negative. Others do good deeds to be recognized. Many seek to be seen and heard through relationships. But what I know for a fact is that no car or person or good deed will ever fill the desire to be seen or heard for more than a moment in time. The only person that can fulfill those needs in our lives is God. He is the one who created us, accepts us wholly, and knows everything about us.

I have had my Leaf for about a year now and I love it. Not only does it remind me that I made the right chose in car buying, but it reminds me that there is nothing I can do to change God’s mind about me. He will always see me and hear me regardless of what I do or drive. That is better than a candy-apple red convertible Porsche any day!


What my Dad taught me about remodeling

Sometimes life is not what you expected it to be.

A job loss. A broken heart. A disability. Cancer.

Unexpected storms in our lives can leave us standing in the door way of life wondering if our house will fall down around us; wondering if all we will be left with nothing but a pile of rubble.

All my life, I watched my Dad overcome the storms of life. He chose to see the opportunity instead of the ruin.

My Dad taught me that regardless of the storms that come into your life, even when you feel like the walls are caving in around you, you can simply choose to remodel.

But first, you must reframe your thinking that your future is filled with sunsets and not clouds.

Second, my Dad taught me that you must have a vision bigger than that storm; one of courage, determination and perseverance.

Third, check your tool box. This means, use the gifts that God has already given you. Stop trying to be someone you are not. Embrace who you are and get to work.

Fourth, utilize all your resources. My Dad believed that, another person’s junk could hold a world of possibilities and potential. Tangible resources are important but there is another resource that my Dad would say is the key to a remodel. PEOPLE.  Ask yourself who you know that could help you remodel. Bringing community together in a storm becomes a gift to all that are involved, but people need to be invited to share their ideas, talents, and other treasures.

Lastly, when you remodel, make sure your world becomes a little larger so you can invite more people to the party!

So when you find yourself in the middle of a storm, I hope you will think of my Dad and simply choose to remodel. I know I will.

The Girl Factor

Extreme poverty has many dimensions. Topping the list is:  income poverty, hunger, disease, inadequate shelter, marginalization, exclusion, and sex trafficking.

What if I told you a girl is the answer to the problem of extreme poverty. Would you believe me?

The United Nations, world leaders, and many other world organizations like the Nike foundation and the Ted Turner United Nations Foundation believe in the “girl factor” to end poverty. These leaders, countries, and organizations have come together through both the Millennium Development Goals  other initiatives like the 1994 Cairo Consensus recognized education, especially for women, as a force for social and economic development.

The United Nations believes so deeply that extreme poverty can be eradicated, that they have invested time, money and human resources to create a set of common goals for developing countries, known as the Millennium Development Goals. (I encourage you to visit the United Nations website and learn more about how these goals intend to end poverty.)

Identifying that two-thirds of the world’s 799 million illiterate adults ages 15 and over are women, one of the benchmark goals of the Millennium Development project is to eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education by 2015 and empower women. They understand that many children in developing countries start life without adequate means of learning but women and girls are the ones that are particularly challenged.

UNICEF and United Nations’ research state that some 67 countries have primary school attendance and enrolment rates for girls less than 85 percent. Globally, there are just 96 girls for every 100 boys in primary school, with disparities at the secondary level even more acute. Yet uneducated girls are more at risk than boys to become marginalized. They are more vulnerable to exploitation and sex trafficking. They are more likely than educated girls to contract HIV/AIDS, which spreads twice as quickly among uneducated girls than among girls that have even some schooling. Nearly a third of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are under the age of 25, and almost two thirds of these people are women. As unschooled adults, these girls will be less likely to have a say socially and politically and to be able to support themselves. Women earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one percent of property, so households without a male head are at special risk of impoverishment, lack of healthcare and immunizations.1

Even Wall Street is interested in promoting girls and education. Sandra Lawson, author of a 15-page paper given to clients by the prominent New York investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs says, “Education, and particularly women’s education, is critical” to economic growth, says Lawson. Her paper goes on to insist that, “Educating girls and women leads to higher wages,” and that they will have, “A greater likelihood of working outside the home; lower fertility; reduced maternal and child mortality; and better health and education. The impact is felt not only in women’s lifetimes, but also in the health, education, and productivity of future generations.” But if you don’t want to take another woman’s word on the matter, listen to what Malcolm Ehrenpreis, the head of special gender unit at the World Bank believes. He says, it is just plain “good economics” to promote the welfare of girls! 2

In a book review I read recently on Women Hold Up Half the Sky, the writer of the review, Kate Grant said something I will never forget. “The enemy [to change] is not men. The enemy is indifference and its evil twin inaction.” Kate is correct. When we talk about promoting and empowering women, some people will automatically assume that our statement means we must not be promoting and empowering men; that somehow we plan to work alone to promote the “girl factor”. This could not be further from the truth in my mind. It is imperative that both men and women, both bearing the image of God, should be treated with dignity, compassion, honor, love, mercy, and justice and should partner together to treat each other the on equal terms. This is the way Jesus treated every individual and this is what is expected of us if the world is ever going to be a different place.

I believe it can happen. And I believe in the “girl factor”!


1 United Nations Population Fund. Empowering  Women Through Education. Retrieved August 16, 2012 from, http://www.unicef.org/mdg/gender.html

2 Francis, David (August 4, 2008). As women progress in developing nations, so do those countries’ economies Retrieved August 20, 2012 from, http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2008/0804/p14s02-wmgn.html

Watered Down Presence

I am in the middle of reading one of my favorite Biblical Scholars, N.T. Wright’s, latest books, Simple Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Have you ever been reading a book and the author makes a profound statement they didn’t even intent to make? That is what Bishop Wright did for me when he was discusses the ways in which God makes himself present to the Israelites in scripture.

Here are some examples that N.T. Wright gives of how God reveals His presence in the lives of our biblical ancestors. When God visits Moses, Moses saw a burning bush. When God came to Abraham, Abraham saw three men whom he invited for a meal. When God guided Moses and the Israelites through the dessert, they saw a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When God revealed His glory to Isaiah, Isaiah tell us that God was high and lifted up, surrounded by angels, with the hem of his robe filling the Temple.1 When Hagar saw God, she saw an angel and then declared: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seenthe One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).

When I read these examples of God’s presence in the lives of people in the Bible, I thought:  “I surely don’t experience the power, grace, and glory of God in the same way that they did. There is no fire, angels or men for dinner.  Has God changed the way He is present with His people? Or have we changed the way we are present with our God?”

I will be the first to take responsibility for my watered down opinion and experience of what I have believed to be the presence of God. Although I will never discount the moments I have experienced God in nature, amazing worship, His Spirit-filled scripture, or by hearing the encouraging words of an anointed friend or mentor (all of these hold incredible value to me as a Christ-follower), I have lacked the ability to ask for more of God’s glorious presence like we see repeated in the word of God and  then to be an expression of that presence to others.

Look at Jesus as an example. God came to His people in person as Jesus. When Jesus was present for others, there was always a crowd and a celebration. Matthew 4:23 gives us the reason. People flocked to Jesus and celebrated because wherever he went, he “proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, healing every disease and every illness among the people.”

Jesus understood and experienced the true presence and power of the His Father in His own life and gave that to others. People’s lives were changed forever. Jesus has offered the same to us, we have only to ask, believe, and open ourselves up to all the ways that God wants to be present in our lives. Imagine how the world could change!

1Wright, N.T. (2011) Simple Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Harper One: NY, NY.

Waving the white flag on the line of the “Mommy Wars”

Marissa Mayer is the newest CEO of Yahoo. A woman with two Stanford degrees in computer science, one of the first employees and executives at Google, and a long list of professional and personal accolades, Marissa was a shoe-in for this top position. So why would this announcement throw the media and many bloggers into a full-fledged battle of the “Mommy Wars” between stay-at-home-moms and working moms? Why, because Marissa Mayer is not only the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company, Marissa Mayer is pregnant with her first child.

Headlines from, “Focus on Marissa Mayer’s brain, not her pregnancy” to “Do Marissa Mayer’s maternity plans make her a fit role model for women?” along with “Can Marissa Mayer really have it all?” have re-engaged people in the ongoing debate of who is a better mother;  a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom.

It reminded me of my own journey through the early years of motherhood as I traversed the “Mommy Wars” of stay-at-home-moms vs. working moms. It began when I was dating my husband, Mark and we were discussing our values on marriage and parenting.

Both of us came from divorced homes where there was little stability and rarely a parent in sight (due to the circumstances of absent fathers, single mothers, and work situations), and so we adamantly agreed that “one” of the parents should stay home with the children and the other should work. It seemed black and white to us at the time. Our belief, birthed out of our experiences as children, was that unattended children do not develop self-esteem without the stability of a “Leave it to Beaver” style home and therefore, make poor choices which can lead to a lifetime of regrets and negative consequences. And neither of us wanted that for our children.

But if you have ever noticed, God does not live or work in black and white. God lives and works in color.

Mark and I were married and had two handsome boys. In the first few years, I could not imagine leaving them to go back to work and was confident in my stay-at-home decision. But then God began to speak to my heart about other things He wanted me to focus on. The question He kept posing to me was how I planned to express my relationship with Him to the world. Of course, raising strong Christian children to be leaders in the next generation is one way of answering that question. But the answer became broader as I felt God’s calling to continue my education, grow through volunteering, and eventually accept a part-time position helping women discover not only Whose they are but who they are! My black and white world had turned to color and I was still a good mother. In fact, I was a better mother because I was becoming a better Angela through all that I was learning and experiencing.

What I have learned through this process is that it is not our purpose is to be a stay-at-home-mom nor is it our purpose to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company.  Although, both are “purposeful” and can shine Christ’s light on a dark world, I believe as Christ-followers our purpose is to be the glory of God.  Our identity should be founded in Christ, not our motherhood or our profession.

I am not the glory of God when I am judgmental, jealous, or self-righteous in my thoughts or actions towards other human beings. I am also not the glory of God when I do not allow people the dignity to choose their own path. After all, isn’t that what God has done for me.

So today, I wave the white flag on the line of the “Mommy Wars” and ask each of you to give honor and dignity to each woman in your life to choose her own path. Offer her a supportive hand and your prayers and trust God to do a great work in her life. After all, isn’t that what you would like?

%d bloggers like this: