Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Brave and the Beautiful

I have yet to see the Disney movie, "Brave" about the adventures of Princess Merida as she shoots arrows and battles to save her mother. From what I have heard, though, Merida breaks the traditional Disney Princess mold in that she's daring, active, natural in her beauty, and the hero(ine) who does the saving (instead of the damsel in need of a savior).

Recently, she was crowned the 11th Princess in Disney's line-up of royalty, and like all celebrity make-overs for a big event, Merida received enhanced curves, lengthened eyelashes, sparkled eyes, softer eyes and stylized hair. She was also de-bowed; the weapon used throughout her story was stripped from her for her Princess Portrait (click here for an image from The Guardian with the before and after). Why? Princesses, and therefore value in this marketing strategy, are only derived from beauty and can't involve anything but being beautiful once crowned.

Surprisingly, and thankfully, only days after her coronation, Disney reversed Merida's extreme makeover. Due to an overwhelming response from parents who voiced outrage over this emphasis on physical appearance, Disney re-instituted the real Merida sans airbrushing, surgery, botox, make-up and other appearance enhancing techniques. In doing so, Disney displayed immense courage in also re-instituting why so many young girls were attracted to Merida:

Beauty emanates from within.

As the father of two daughters, I feel I have the incredible responsibility of teaching them what is beautiful. I have the task of doting on them not just because of what they look like but instead for who they are. I must allow them to be than just pretty and do more than just need saved. I must show them a future that for them could entail, potentially, more than just being pretty - especially in finding value in how pretty the world says that they are (check out this letter a father wrote to his daughter about her future husband: letter). I must teach them that God created them fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully. I need to guide them to give their hearts to Jesus so that any man who hopes to win them must go to Jesus first...and then me.

I do this each and every day in every interaction with them, my wife, and any other woman in my life. I'm blessed to have the most incredible and incredibly beautiful wife in the world. The way that I show Emily my love paints a very detailed picture as to how my daughters will view love in their own lives. Emily sets the example of womanhood. I add the detail of how a woman is to be loved, treated and valued. I must show my daughters that Emily stands holding my hand next to me, not sitting behind me. I must show them that true womanhood is more than a pretty face. 

My daughters are beautiful. As a father, my willingness to show them affection and attention will significantly impact their future understandings of beauty and love. Studies prove that their relationship with me, their father, will dictate their propensity to engage in pre-marital sex, eating disorders and drug use. It will determine their self-esteem, body image and self-worth. It will hopefully make them courageous enough to live in a world that defines and sees beauty with a different definition and through a different lens. Prayerfully, my relationship with them will make them brave enough to understand that they aren't loved because they're beautiful but rather they are beautiful because they are loved. 

By me. By my wife. But most importantly by God. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


HEBREWS 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every sin and burden that clings to us and run with perseverance the race marked out before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith. 

Class of 2013, this past school year we have focused on this scripture passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews in many and various ways. We’ve talked about the cloud and how we need to surround one another with love and support. We mentioned how difficult it would be to run with a heavy backpack or full arms. We focused in on the fact that perseverance involves commitment, determination and grit. We stated the importance of keeping our sights set on our goals, dreams, aspirations and even more importantly Jesus. We unpacked the word RUN - READ, UNCOVER, NOTICE - and how an emphasis on the words of this acronym could lead us to more knowledge, an enhanced ability to solve problems, and more purposeful eyes to see areas in our lives and world in need of our help and assistance.

Since we have so many great people - parents, teachers, classmates - surrounding us, supporting us, loving us, we are able to do wonderful things. Since we are encouraged to leave behind our baggage that would otherwise weigh us down, we are more capable of carrying out the work that God has entrusted us to do. And, since we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can come to truly understand what specific work God has in store for us. When we have great people around us, when we put aside those faults and failings that make us less than who God created us to be, when we remain committed to Jesus despite all of the many distractions and disturbances in life, we are able to RUN. St. Paul, obviously, uses the words RUN and RACE as metaphors. His strong athletic language compares the spiritual and sporting lives. It conjures up images of athletes spent after expending a great effort. When talking about running a race he promotes the urgency with which we need to live our lives. RUN, don’t walk. PERSEVERE, don’t quit. COMMIT, don’t waver. PREVAIL, don’t endure.

RUN. With all your heart. For your heart. To show your heart. RUN. 

Look around you. Notice the cloud of witnesses that are surrounding you. Look at your classmates. Look at your teachers. Look at your families. They are all around you today. They are next to you, they are behind you, they are at your side, they have your back. They RUN with you. They RUN to you. They RUN because of you. They will always be with you.

RUN. With all your heart. For your heart. To show your heart. RUN. 

Don’t look back. Focus on Jesus. Don’t carry the loads of sin, doubt, worry, and fear. Focus on Jesus. Don’t stop. Keep going. Press on. Focus on Jesus. Look straight ahead. RUN. He will always be there waiting, hoping and loving.

To close, I offer to you a poem inspired by your 8th grade books and the wonderful witness you have been to me and our entire school community:

RUN deep. 
RUN and PLAY for you are filled with God’s embrace. 
Bask in His beauty and glory, you have been one of his most stunning works since birth. 
RUN unshackled. 
RUN because you choose. 
Fight the wicked. 
Protect all from harm. 
Spread the peace. 
Remember to smile. 
Your never ending song goes on. 
Your pyramid touches the sky, rising to mythical stars, wandering through space and defying gravity. 
Follow your heartbeat quick and rise up again. 
Shine brighter than before over mountains never climbed and oceans never swam. RUN. 
Remain healed despite rain, corroded steel and broken shells beneath your feet. 
You are not a fail. 
Like a Titan you were made for power. 
You were made to RUN. 
RUN into the great hall. 
Give them one more reason to remember the name. 
It was everyone’s dream one time ago, evermore to be a happy ending. 
Into His arms. 
His spirit lights up. 
RUN the race, your race. 
Fight the battle. 
Keep the faith.
He’s at the finish line.

Class of 2013, may God continue to bless you and may you run your race with perseverance and may you win. We congratulate you, we will miss you. Good luck. God bless and GO IRISH.