Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I Am Not Eve

‘She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master's finishing touch… Eve is… breathtaking.’  
(‘Captivating’, Stasi Eldredge)

“But I am not Eve”, I tell myself.

“I’m plain. I’m nothing special. I’m ugly. I’m impure. I have too many flaws to be a finishing touch. I could never be described as breaktaking. I’m a mistake.”

    How many of us have heard these words in our minds or even on our lips? We know the creation of Woman. We may even love it. And yet we separate ourselves from it. We place Eve of a pedestal and marvel at the creativity of her Creator and stand in awe and wonder at the glory and goodness of God. We proclaim “Yes! This is the crown of creation!", yet we reject that truth about ourselves.
    But here is the truth we so often neglect: Eve is not a goddess. Eve is a woman. She’s a woman just like you and me.

    Eve’s innate beauty is the way she reflects the beauty of the God whose image and likeness she was made in, and for that reason her beauty is the very thing that will inevitably come under the most attack from the enemy – who doesn’t want her to know her true identity. He doesn’t want her to know the power of who she truly is.  

    You, too, bear the image and likeness of your Creator. You, too, have power in your identity. You, too, are breaktaking. 

    … And so you, too, are a threat to the enemy. And he SHOULD be afraid of you! But, sister, you have no reason to fear yourself! We daren’t recognise our own beauty because Satan has planted his own fear in us. So we criticise and fantasise and agonise. 

    Catherine of Siena said “Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire!” Well, let me ask you this: What would happen if each of us were to truly know, embrace who we are as daughters of God. Can you envision the day that Satan realises He no longer has any hold on us because we have no doubt in our God-given identity and inheritance? He conquered by a woman, and now a woman conquers him. She that was once his weapon is now his destroyer, brave and invincible.’ (John Crysostom). 

 ‘You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.’ (Isaiah 62:3)

You, dear sister. YOU shall be a crown of beauty.

You ARE a crown of beauty. You are the crown of all creation, and your Father looks at His creation in you and declares “Behold, it is very good!”

… And no, I am not Eve. But I am something greater. I am a unique creation. That uniqueness means that womankind – the crown of creation – is not complete without every single one of us. You are necessary for Woman to be complete.

Monday, 29 June 2015

You're Beautiful: A letter from men

I ran a workshop recently for teenage girls exploring the beauty of God’s design in creating men and women differently, and how we can be a gift to each other. I wanted them to know that authentic masculinity is not the same as the immature boys who humiliate and objectify them, and to lead them to a place where they were able to see (and desired to treat) the men around them as their brothers in Christ.

As I prayed about it, I remembered the LifeTeen post several months ago in which Catholic guys explained what they really found beautiful in women. This post reassured me not only that I am beautiful because that’s how I was created, but also that there are men who see that. There are men who are looking at my heart rather than my figure, who seek God and holiness above all else and who are passionate about upholding my dignity, and that those are the kind of men who deserve my heart. 

I so wanted the girls I met in ministry to come to the same revelation, so I decided to recreate the concept from the point of view of people I know and can vouch for. I asked some of the very best men I know to complete the sentence: ‘You’re beautiful when…’  

The result blew me away. Brothers, I am so incredibly blessed to know you! Thank you for restoring my hope.

Sisters, as you read each line, allow the truth that YOU are beautiful to sink deeper and deeper in your heart.


You’re beautiful when you find a reason to smile in even the smallest things.

You’re beautiful when you show those close to you how much you love them.

You’re beautiful when you treat everyone with compassion and respect, and always have time to do something that will make someone’s day.

You’re beautiful when you build people up.

You’re beautiful when you share what you truly find rewarding.

You’re beautiful when you prefer to spend more time with Jesus than anything else, even more than with me!

You’re beautiful when you don't conform to what the world has to offer.

You’re beautiful when you choose the way of God and not the way of the world.

You’re beautiful when I see the way you love Jesus and it makes me want to love Him more!

You're beautiful when you accept a compliment gracefully.

You’re beautiful when you accept and are aware of the truth and power of your beauty.

You’re beautiful when you put all your trust in Jesus.

You’re beautiful when you desire to be the best you can be.

You’re beautiful when you recognise your dignity.

You’re beautiful when you detach yourself from what the world wants you to be and you realise the beauty of who you truly already are.

You’re beautiful when you love the person God made you to be, and don’t want to be someone else.

You’re beautiful when you worship God freely.

You’re beautiful when you are brave in your honesty.

You're beautiful when you look at me right in the eye, not because you're trying to seduce me, but because you are genuinely interested in what I have to say.

You’re beautiful when you challenge and call the best out of the men around you.

You’re beautiful when you smile and laugh in the face of trials and difficulties.

You’re beautiful when you step out in faith and trust despite not knowing the outcome.

You’re beautiful when the world can see Christ in you.

You’re beautiful when you believe, even just for one second, that you are a work of art.

You’re beautiful because you’re made in the image and likeness of Beauty itself.


But you are beautiful… always… end of!

You’re already beautiful, and you’re already precious. Don’t change that!

You’re beautiful because it doesn’t matter what I think, only what the Creator thinks.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Where are the men?

    Whenever I read about male or female identity in the way God intended it, something within me comes alive. My heart burns to see those identities restored within our nation and within our Church. I long for men and women alike to truly know their identities in Christ: to know not only the unique gifts that they can bring to the world around them, but also to know that they are gifts themselves. My vision is that by being secure in their God-given identity, these men and women will be able to confidently step into the calling God has placed on each of their lives. 

    Working in youth ministry, I’ve noticed how many of the people in pastoral positions serving as role models for young people, aside from priests, are female. Research has shown that children are more likely to remain in the Church if their father has provided a model of faith, yet a high proportion of the Catholic Church is female. I know the ideal of authentic manhood, I believe it exists and I long to see it in action. But, if I’m honest with myself, there are a lot of moments when the question buried deep in my heart – and I believe the hearts of many of us – emerges: ‘Where are the men?’ I’m disappointed to know that the doubt exists within me, but it’s one which takes determination and a lot of faith to challenge.

    In my ministry I have the privilege of visiting a lot of different parishes around the country, and witnessing a pretty good cross-section of the Church. At times it’s naturally easy to be critical of the church set-up and in particular the gender balance, but right when I need the reminder, God always points me towards the signs of hope that, in my cynicism, I overlook. 

    Not long after I joined my Catholic community, around 15 of the men in the community staged a flash mob of ‘Let It Go’ in bold, deeps tones during a talent show to support a couple of nervous little girls eager to showcase their favourite song.

    A few months ago I had a really fruitful conversation with the assistant head of a school my team were going to be visiting, standing in the porch after mass whilst his 3 year old son clung to his leg and his 18 month old daughter used his shoulders as a climbing frame.

    The other day I noticed a man sitting a few rows in front of me in mass with his hand outstretched on a piece of paper for his 2 year old daughter to draw around (or more accurately scribble over!) whilst listening intently to the homily. It struck me that he seemed to be depicting the ideal of manhood within the Church: whole-heartedly seeking the Word of God whilst being a strong, calm presence providing love and security for his child. 

    This is fatherhood. This is man as he was created to be. These are men of God, and men of the Church. They are models of leadership within their families, teachers of the gospel to their children, servants to their community and defenders of the faith. Above all they are sons who know their sonship, and they are beacons of hope – both in our Church and in my heart!