The Celebration That Never Ends

“Sport is a universal language that brings together peoples, and can help persons meet and overcome conflicts. Therefore, I encourage you to live the dimension of sports as the gymnasium of virtue in the full development of individuals and communities.” – Pope Francis

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It figures.

It figures that the one time my beloved city of Cleveland did something relevant and timely and AWESOME and RARE by winning a CHAMPIONSHIP, I was on a retreat.

Of course I was. Where else would I be?

In my quest to pursue the full certiication from the TOB Insititute, I decided it would be a great idea to take a week-long course for Theology of the Body in Pennsylvania. Day 1 of the retreat started the night of Game 7 of the Finals.

Great timing.

Now this may be starting out as a pity party for me, but hold on.

Yes, I missed out on high-fiving my family members and my friends who were watching the game at home or at bars or at watch parties. I missed seeing the team come home to thousands of people at the airport. I missed the million+ attended parade. I missed it all but there’s something to be said for social media at this point  – the pictures and videos I saw of all of this was a sufficient substitute for being there in person. I was never more proud of my city and fellow Clevelanders. And to completeley honest, I needed to stop idolizing sports. So this was actually a great way to detach from it and realize there is much more to life than sports.

But of course that didn’t stop me from watching the final 5 minutes of the game. 🙂

Those (very few) of us that watched the last moment of the game on our little mobile devices at the retreat center screamed and shouted and celebrated once that final buzzer sounded and the game was over. We remarked how it seemed like we were in disbelief. I know I was! I didn’t really celebrate until I saw about a minute or two of the team on the court. Then it became “real.” But even the next day, so many people remarked on how surreal it was. I myself even posted:

“Is this real life? Did this really happen? We WON something!?”

To the outsider, yes, it’s just sports. It’s entertainment. And those of us who are fans had nothing to do with the team winning this trophy. But when people, complete strangers, are crying and hugging each other and smiling and saying “We did it! We won!” you get this feeling in your heart that says, “We are united in this!” Even if it’s just for this one brief moment.

There are far more important things that will (and have) taken over the headlines in the week since the Cavs won this championship. I noticed one of my friends posted something on Facebook about how this world is so messed up (she used much more colorful language) when more people are celebrating the Cavs win than focusing on gun control in the wake of some recent violence in this country.

(Instead of responding directly I was inspired to write this post. So thank you for the inspiration, friend!)

Of course we should focus on preventing violence, ending terrorism, looking for cures for diseases, feeding the hungry, etc. The problems we have in this world are endless. But can we allow ourselves to celebrate for a brief moment?

Those that just want to despair and complain and lament that this country has its problems and we’re too busy celebrating a silly basketball game to take notice isn’t fair.

Where’s the allowance for joy to balance out all the evil being done in this world? Isn’t it nice, once in a while, to take a breather from the bad to relish in the good?

I think we can use the escape of sports entertainment to briefly take our minds into something “other worldly.” Some that feels like a dream, especially to the fans who live in the city that WINS.  Allow people to be joyful. Allow their smiles to bring back memories for you when you celebrated something with your favorite team or when you were with family or friends at a party, a wedding, a graduation, etc.

And here’s something you may not know: That dreamy feeling does last forever. But only in one place. It’s a place that puts a record breaking parade to shame. A place where the feeling of a championship win occurs every time someone enters there.  Some don’t believe it exists. But many of us do. And that’s what I live for. That feeling of never-ending bliss. That’s what keeps me going.

Dr. Bob Rice from Franciscan University at Steubenville wrote about this place that also served as inspiration for this post today:

Imagine this: You close your eyes for the last time on this earth, and when you open them again, you are in a different place. It is the most beautiful place you have ever seen. Before you is the finish line. As you head toward it, you see deceased family members calling your name and shouting for joy. You see angels and saints clapping and shouting louder and louder. Behind the finish line you see Jesus, with a huge smile and His arms outstretched. As you break through the finish line into his arms, all of creation erupts in song. He then puts you on a pedestal and, in front of all of creation, he places on your head the crown of life. It is the most incredible moment you will ever experience. And it will continue forever.

How beautiful is that?!?

I know not everyone believes. And it’s still hard for me sometimes to truly believe this, too.

But if there are people walking around just assuming there’s NOTHING at the end of life, well…what would be the point of all of this? What in the world are you living for if you don’t think there’s an endgame?

There’s gotta be an epilogue to this life.  That’s how I get through the depressing and dark times and awful headlines that I read every day.

I try my very hardest to live in the moment, knowing the ultimate celebration awaits us all. God-willing, I’ll see you there. And the best part?  EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY!!!

 

What God Wants From Us

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

To be joyful always, to pray constantly, to be thankful throughout our lives – This almost sounds like an impossible task.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy, a reason to stop praying and a reason to be ungrateful. We can find many reasons to think, “Prayer doesn’t work,” or “What’s there to be happy about? I can barely pay my bills!” or “Who should I thank for hitting my car and not even bothering to leave a note?!”

It’s difficult to turn those unfortunate circumstances around and think, what’s so good about this situation I’m in?

This passage from St. Paul reminds us, no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for. We kind of have to search for it sometimes. It’s not always so obvious.

For instance, to be joyful always, even when it’s not exactly a joyous occasion can be really challenging. It’s not in our nature. But let’s some circumstances and try and reverse them:


 

Loss of a loved one after a long battle with a debilitating disease. How can we find joy in such a sad circumstance as this?

The joy can be found in the friends and people who come to support you during the wake or viewing. The joy can be found in the stories and memories that are always with you and never leave. The joy can be found in the photographs when your loved one was healthy and vibrant. The joy is found in the life that person lived while they were here. And there’s joy knowing your loved one is no longer sick. The pain and suffering is now over.

Praying at all times in our lives can also be challenging. People may think that prayer couldn’t possibly work because they don’t see the results instantaneously. But the way prayer works is not always instant, it works on God’s time. Also, there’s always something  and someone to pray for. You can pray for the blessings in your life, you can pray for someone else who needs help, you can pray to God for the ability to find the JOY in all circumstances.

Being grateful is also a challenge when times are tough. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right for us. But to be grateful when things seem like they’re going downhill can be especially difficult. Perhaps you have lost your job or having a hard time getting over a breakup or divorce. What’s there to be grateful for in these situations?

One saying I like to share is: “No matter what is going on with you, there’s always someone somewhere who has it much worse.”

So although you might not have a job, be grateful for your former boss who wrote that letter of reference for you so you can find a better job. Or be grateful for your previous job that gave you experience that you can put on a resume. If your relationship has just ended, you may feel lost or incomplete.

What’s there to be grateful for here? You can be thankful for a new beginning. You can be grateful that you are now in a position to be solitary and spend time alone, but not lonely! You can be grateful that someone you may have thought was the person for you, is not and that means perhaps the one you ARE meant to be with can now find you.

Fit In You Faith Today: What do you struggle with currently – Lack of joy? Showing ungratefulness? Never praying? Focus on one of these actions this week to grow in your relationship with Christ. As St. Paul has said, “This is what God want’s from you.”

 

 

Give (Joy) to Those in Need

The scriptures for the next 31 days are courtesy of the 31 Day New Year, Fit Spirit Challenge started by Sarah Shaffer who works for The Dashing Dish. Give Katie Farrell and the crew over there a look, it’s a wonderful blog and recipe sharing website where our favorite dishes are made into healthy alternatives. 

Nehemiah 8:10

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

According to The New Life Study Bible: The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws and realized how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them they should be filled with JOY because the day was sacred. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need. Celebrating is not to be self centered. Ezra connected celebrating with giving. This gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate as well. Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy. Enter into celebrations that honor Go, and allow him to fill you with his joy.

My first thoughts on this are what I have discussed and blogged about on my fitness site – “Share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared.”

I have recently tried fasting as a way to teach my body and my mind patience when it comes to my next meal. I also wanted to emphasize that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where there is no shortage of food. I, God willing, will always have access and the funds to purchase good food when I need it. So in a way, I fast as a form of expression to thank God that I don’t need this food RIGHT NOW. I will eventually eat it….but I don’t need it right now.

Right now, there is someone else in need. Right now, perhaps not in my neighborhood, but probably in my city somewhere, someone is hungry and really can’t afford a meal. So I can sacrifice a meal or two so that others can purchase that food that I would normally buy. Or, of course, I can literally give someone else my next meal. That’s my gift to those who have nothing prepared.

It’s also interesting and I think important to note that you should give with Joy in your heart. Even if you might not particularly want to, it’s not helpful to show especially in your face, how unhappy you are to give to others. You might feel like you deserve to be a little greedy. Or maybe you feel you deserve a reward (of food) due to a great week of dieting or celebrating a little victory. I think this passage is saying celebrate, but celebrate by giving with Joy to others. That way, they can have some of the joy, too!

Fit in Your Faith Today: When was the last time you celebrated by giving to others instead of rewarding yourself? How can you flip that switch and celebrate by giving to those who are in need? It doesn’t have to be a donation in the form of money or food. It can be something that costs you both nothing. Get creative and have a joyful look on your face when you share that gift with others!