Tag Archives: hope

There’s Always Next Year

In 1964 the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship (pre-Superbowl).  This was the last time a Cleveland sports team won a championship. Around here even the smallest glimmer of hope that a team might make it all the way is snatched up in an instant by fans young and old.  For almost 50 years now, Cleveland fans have been shaking their heads at the end of each disappointing season with what should be our official motto: “There’s always next year.”

Now we have had plenty of opportunities over the years.  In the 80s it looked like the Browns had a shot at it but were left disappointed after infamous mishaps like “The Drive” and “The Fumble.”  Even if you aren’t a football fan, to hear these references even mentioned in conversation in Cleveland you would instantly know from the disgust and disappointment dripping from those words that these were not happy events!

Our basketball team, the Cavs, had all our hopes high for the championship in the 2000s with our star player LeBron James.  But the team failed to make it all the way and following LeBron’s publicly played out “Decision” to leave Cleveland, the team tanked.

Back in the 90s our baseball team, the Indians, was on fire.  We made it to the playoffs every year from 1995 to 2001 and even to the World Series in ’95 and ’97.  During that time we sold out 455 consecutive games with hopeful fans waiting for the drought to end, but left disappointed again.  We had an opportunity again in 2007 but blew it.

This past week we had another shot.  The Cleveland Indians had made it into October! We finished just barely 2nd in our division and had claimed the top Wild Card spot.  This meant that we had to play in a one game win-or-go-home situation on Wednesday night.  To be in Cleveland this past week you would have thought we were winning the World Series, not merely playing for a Wild Card spot. This was going to be our year!  The excitement was palpable and it seemed nothing could bring us down. Until…we lost.  Fans everywhere watched the game and our excitement slowly drained and was replaced by the depressing realization that…maybe next year we could win. 

Cleveland fans can be broken down into essentially two categories.  Fans who follow win or lose and becomes bitter at the constant disappointment.  And fans who remain true through it all, but also remain eternally optimistic, possibly to the point of delusion.  I fall into the 2nd category.

You see, I learned to be a “real fan” from my Dad.  And despite the agonizing outcomes of some games, he never gives up hope that eventually at least one of our teams will win.  So as people around me wallowed in a Cleveland sports induced depression, I remained positive.  In the inevitable re-hashing of the season, I brought up the good plays, the strong players, the surprise rookies, and our great manager.  I fervently believe that next year we will make it.  And in the meantime, why be sad?  The Browns are shocking everyone by playing awesome football after it seemed we had given up early on.  Maybe it’s the year for them?  Who knows!

And then it hit me.  Why don’t I have the same hope, optimism, and refusal to be discouraged when it comes to God’s plan for my life?   If I can say with all hope at the end of each baseball, basketball, and football season that next year it will happen, why don’t I say the same in my personal life?  Each time I am faced with disappointment, each time I discover God’s timing is not ours as we hope for a child, why don’t I simply smile and say “There’s always next month.”  Do I put more hope in the ability of a sports team than in the plan of our Lord and Savior?  Of course having a child is of much more importance to me than a sports team and the letdown affects me on a much deeper level, but that cannot be an excuse.  God is loving and faithful and His timing is perfect.

Being a Cleveland fan has taught me many things. It has taught me patience.  It has taught me to always have hope.  To always look for the bright side.  But most importantly and perhaps the least likely thing I have learned from baseball is to remain hopeful in the promises not of baseball, basketball, or football, but of God. While I may not be able to shrug off life’s disappointments the same way I do a lost game, the bottom line is God is faithful.  The things He has in store for me will be far greater than my team winning any championship.  And throughout all the “next years” that are to come, while the players and coaches come and go, God is always there.   So if God’s timing is not my own and I don’t see my prayers answered right away, I just need to remember, “There’s always next year.”

The Hope of Christ

I have always considered myself a pretty optimistic person.  I try my best to find the good, the silver lining, in every situation. Sometimes, I do admit, my outward optimism is merely a façade as I may inwardly be worried or upset.  It’s almost as if by forcing a positive outlook, I would expect the optimistic attitude to journey deeper within me until I truly am as constantly optimistic as I appear.

In the recent and highly publicized interview with Pope Francis, he talks about optimism:

 “I do not like to use the word optimism because that is about a psychological attitude,” the pope says. “I like to use the word hope instead…Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”

Ah…  Pope Francis really knows how to get to the heart of the matter doesn’t he?  After reflecting on this thought, I began to reconsider my so called “optimistic attitude.”  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a positive and cheerful person.  This attitude can encourage and uplift others around us and can indeed brighten our own day when we choose to focus on positive things.  But where does this optimism come from?  Is it just a false sense of happiness and momentary cheerfulness that we impart onto others?  Or is it the gift of hope transforming our lives and reaching out to those around us?  I know I can feel the difference when I am truly happy and filled with the hope and peace of Christ compared to when I lose sight of His light within me and instead project a fake smile and sense of “optimism.”

Surely the Lord does not expect that we will be continuously happy and pleased with every circumstance in this life.  Jesus Himself tells us we will face difficulty

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)

Our God knows that we will face trials in our lives.  But He offers us a way to remain positive despite the difficulties that come our way!   How can we let our earthly difficulties weigh us down when we have the hope of Christ in our hearts and His peace in our soul?  The hope that Christ offers us doesn’t promise that we will be free of pain and distress in this world.  It doesn’t mean that we will be constantly cheerful and smiling.  But it means that if we keep our eyes on Him and keep the hope of Christ alive within us, we will see the silver lining easier.  With the hope of the Lord in our hearts, we are already happier people and can pass on the true happiness to others instead of a false human attitude of optimism.

Optimism can fail us.  It is said that the optimistic person sees the glass as half full rather than half empty.  If we rely on this optimistic attitude only, what have we to fall back on when the end of the day comes and the glass is completely empty?  We are left with an empty glass and need to start all over to fill it up again.  Day after day of filling this glass with our perceived notions of positivity, only to drain it and have to start all over again…that is exhausting!   But the hope of Christ will never fail us.  He fills our hearts with His love, peace and hope.  And should we feel exhausted or as through we have used up all the happiness within us, we do not need to worry about starting fresh and filling the glass again.  God’s love for us is never-ending, His hope refills itself, His peace endures forever.

When we find ourselves feeling lost and discouraged or when we feel like giving up, we need to remember to be strong in the Lord!  We cannot give up the hope that Christ has for us!

“Happy are those whose hearts do not condemn them,
and who have not given up their hope.” – Sirach 14:2

Faith, Hope, and Baseball

I am a huge Cleveland sports fans and am loyal to the Browns and Cavs, but baseball is by far my favorite. I absolutely love the sport and my Cleveland Indians team. Since childhood I have been surrounded by Cleveland fans in friends, family, neighbors, you name it! If you are not familiar with sports let me tell you that Cleveland fans are tried and true! Although our teams may not be the greatest, year after year we start each baseball, basketball, and football season saying, “THIS is the year!” Year after year we are convinced at the start that this season will be the one where we go all the way. And year after year, we watch things fall apart and end the season saying, “There’s always next year!” These two phrases have been unofficially named Cleveland’s mottos by many sports fans.

Yesterday was the Home Opener for the Indians. A feeling of excitement filled the air! The local media could talk about nothing else! You see, this year, really could be the year! We have a new, proven manager in Terry Francona who took the Red Sox to the World Series a few years back. We have new players including some great proven leaders like Nick Swisher and we still have some of the wonderful young guys who have really started to shine in the past year or so such as Michael Brantley or (my favorite) Jason Kipnis! Even our pitching, we seems to be our downfall almost every year, has a feeling of promise. Yes, this very well could be our year. The fans in this town were so excited to start off this season that, despite having finished last season terribly, yesterday’s game sold out within 6 minutes of tickets going on sale. Needless to say I did not get tickets. But I did follow the game listening to the radio and receiving text messages from family members as the game went downhill and we lost the Home Opener to the Yankees.

Despite the loss, I woke up this morning, sadly marked an “L” on my Tribe calendar where I keep track of all wins and losses, and promptly checked to see the time for first pitch of tonight’s game. You see, even though they lost, even though a stadium full of hopeful fans was let down, we are still ready for the next one. After all, it’s only one game. And if they pull through and win tonight, the loss will almost be forgotten as the city instead will be filled with excitement and joy. Year after year, game after game, we root for the team and players we love. We remain true to those teams and players, even when they let us down.   We have faith in our teams! We have hope that they will give us the win we so desperately want. And, at least in Northeast Ohio, it is a shared experience. Growing up, after any big win we would go outside on the porch to cheer, and all the neighbors would be outside doing the same. You can strike up a conversation with anyone in line at a store about the latest trade rumors, who is pitching, what the prospects are for the coming year, and so forth. Even those who may not be huge sports fans get caught up in the excitement of a good win or a chance at the Playoffs. The faith and hope in baseball unites an entire region of Ohio.

What if that level of faith was in God? Not just by a few people, but by an entire city, region, or state? Can you imagine if everyone you met in the street was that invested in knowing God? Where you could be in line for any store and strike up a conversation about faith and the love of God. What if, even when times went bad in life, you could check off that day on your calendar, shrug and say oh well time for a new day. If we trusted that there must be a reason for it and chose not to dwell on the negative but instead got excited for each new day because it is a gift from God? What if we lived in a place where everyone was so proud of their faith that they shared it with everyone, much the way a sports fan will show their love for their team in every way possible?

There is certainly nothing wrong with being a sports fan. I proudly root for my team and will continue to through thick and thin! But we need to look at our lives and see where we place the majority of our energy and faith. If we can place all this hope, optimism, and love in a sports team, surely we can do even more for our God. Just as we might wear team colors to show our spirit, we can do the same through our actions for Christ. We can wear the love of the Lord as a smile on our faces or a kind word to a stranger. We can root for God by standing up for our beliefs even when they are not popular. We can wear a cross or other symbol of God’s love as a physical sign of our faith and perhaps as a prompt for faith filled conversation. We can make time for Church and the sacraments. We can start each day with excitement and wonder at what God has in store. Baseball is a wonderful sport. It can bring people together and fill us with delight. Let us take that bit of delight and turn it into praise and thanksgiving for all God has done! Let us thank the Lord for all He has given us – His Only Son who died to save us, our loving family, friends, food, shelter, the beauty of nature that surrounds us…and while we’re at it, how about some thanks for the little things…like baseball!

God Never Fails

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  

~ 1 Corinthians 13

This passage is probably one of the most well-known passages of the New Testament and was the second reading this past Sunday in Mass. Particularly the middle section, “Love is patient, love is kind…” These words have been set to music, used at weddings, in anniversary cards, on candles and plaques for the home, and so on. Even those who may not be familiar with the Bible have likely heard these words before. Many of us can rattle off the passage by heart, having heard or read it so many times. The beauty of these words touches people. But the popularity of these verses can sometimes cause us to forget their true meaning.

I have heard people say when planning a wedding that they do not want to use this reading because it is “overdone” or “cliché.” Yes it may be read a lot, and yes it is used in many weddings, but I believe it is so popular because it rings with truth. This beautiful passage describes the ultimate love. Not only between a husband and wife, but between God and ourselves. It describes God Himself and the qualities we should strive for here on earth.

There can be no love outside of God. God is love. (1 John 4:8) So what if we try reading the same passage, but with “God” in place of the word “love.”

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have God, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have God, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have God, I gain nothing. God is patient, God is kind. He is not jealous, is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek its own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.”

When you read the passage in this way, it forces you to look beyond the love between a man and a woman. It forces you to go deeper. In today’s society, many people are of the opinion that because they live a good life, are kind and loving to each other, that is all they need to do. They do not feel the need for religion, for faith, for church or prayer. Spread happy thoughts, live happily, help the needy. While these are all excellent things, without the true love that can only be found through God, without God Himself in our life, what does it matter? Many people put their faith in themselves, in hard work, in the people they love instead of placing that faith in God. Without God, we are nothing. We can do all sorts of wonderful things with our lives, but if we do not have God at the very center, we are still lacking.

Since God is love, the qualities that Paul writes of love are true of describing God Himself. God is patient. Although we may sin time and time again, although we may stray from His path, He waits for us with open arms every time. God is kind. He is not jealous or rude or boastful or selfish. In fact, God is so kind and giving that He gave us His only Son, forgiving us of all wrongdoing, of all injury. He does not rejoice because we make a mistake, does not revel in punishing, but loves us unconditionally. God bears all things. He believes in us, He hopes for us to turn to Him, He endures our failings and awaits our return to His never-ending grace. He never fails. No matter what difficulties we may encounter, He will never fail us. We can always rely on Him. How amazing is that?

 Knowing that this beautiful scripture describes the ultimate love that is only found through God and is God, we must go a bit further. We are called to love one another as God our Father loves us. And not just to love our spouse, our parents, our children, our friends, but to love our enemies as well. We are called to extend this love that Paul writes about to everyone. To truly exemplify God through our own expression of love. We are called to be patient and kind. We are called to be forgiving of wrongdoings and to rejoice in the truth of our Lord and Savior rather than to be jealous or involved only in ourselves. We are called to hold our temper, to let go of the hurts we have dealt with, to bear and endure all our troubles, all the faults against us with grace through Jesus Christ. We are called to always believe and hope in God and to share that with others. That is a lot to live up to! How in the world can we who are only human and are subject to so many earthly temptations hold up to such a standard? The answer? Only with God. We can try our very best, but as Paul tells us, without love, without God, we are nothing. Everything else we know will come to an end. We grow up, we learn more, things change. Friends, career, wealth, these can all come and go. All that we have constant is faith, hope, and love. And the greatest is love. The greatest is God. Because without God, without love, what have we to hope in? What do we put our faith in? The love of God must be at the center and greater than all else in our lives.

God knows us better than we even know ourselves. He created us in His own image and loves us with a love so deep, so pure, so true, that we cannot even comprehend it. This beautiful scripture shows us a glimpse of the power and wonder of that love. God can work in many ways. Perhaps the so called “cliché” nature of this reading is in fact God spreading these words of love even to those who may not fully believe. I know I myself have these words in my home in many places, but so often I glance at the familiar verses without truly thinking about the meaning behind them. And so today my prayer is that we all may take these familiar words to heart. To keep God at the center of our lives and to always be reminded of how truly amazing His love is. To learn how to better love our spouses, our family members, our friends, and even our enemies. To remember that without love, without God, we are nothing. And above all, to remember that even in the most trying of times, love prevails. Love never fails. God never fails.

Not Just Waiting

Tomorrow my husband and I will celebrate our one year anniversary as a married couple!  I can’t believe it’s already been a full year!  Some people would tell us as we were preparing for the wedding or shortly after, “You know the first year is going to be tough.”  And truthfully?  Our first year has been great!  Of course any couple living together day in and day out will have arguments here and there.  But overall our first year as a married couple was great!  And I am so blessed and happy!  Even so, there are still those who hear we are celebrating our 1st anniversary and express a different sentiment.  It’s what I call the “Just wait…” sentiment.

You know it.  When something great is happening to you and someone has the “well just wait until…” comment.  Like when I was planning my wedding.  I was a calm bride.  I made up my mind early on not to get stressed out over silly little things and I held firm to that.  As the wedding grew closer people would ask “Are you losing your mind yet?” or  “Are you going crazy with all the planning?”  or even “I bet you can’t wait until it’s over.”  When I would respond that things were going great, I wasn’t stressed or losing my mind, and that I actually was enjoying planning the wedding, preparing for marriage, and being engaged, often I would get this response.  “Well, just wait until…”  followed by whatever crisis they thought I should be awaiting.  “Wait until you do your  seating chart.”  “Wait until you have to do favors.”  “Wait until the last week before the wedding.”  It was as if I couldn’t possibly be enjoying myself.  And if I was, it was only a matter of time until it ended.

And now that we’ve been married, I still hear it.  Just in a different form.  People will ask how my husband and I are doing.  When I tell them we’re doing great, I might get a response like “Well, just wait until you have kids, that will change!”  or “Just wait until you’ve been married a few years.”  or various other responses along those lines.  Now, I am not naive or living in a fantasy world where everything will always be perfect.  I know that, like any couple, we will have some times that are harder than others.  I know that once we have children things will change.  But why do I need to be waiting for it?  Instead of waiting for something to go wrong, I am simply enjoying what is going right.

We are blessed to be healthy, we have amazing family and friends who support us, we will soon be moving to start a new chapter with my husband’s new job, we are both content to spend time together playing board games, going to the park, watching movies.  We share our Catholic faith and are constantly inspiring each other to strive for an even deeper faith.  And we are more in love than ever.  So why would I spend this wonderful time we have together as a couple by waiting for something to change that?  I would much rather enjoy the time we spend together and be happy and thankful that I found someone I could share my life with. 

Romans 12:12 talks about rejoicing

“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”

Right now in our lives, we are rejoicing in hope.  We are blessed to not have numerous afflictions in our lives.  We pray together for God’s strength and guidance for ourselves and for others.  And we rejoice because we have hope!  Hope in Christ and hope for what is to come in our lives!  We are not “Just waiting” for something to go wrong.  We are living happily  and thanking God for what we have been given.  We are rejoicing in the wonders that God has already given us and in the hope for all the wonderful experiences we have yet to face!  Sure, we are still young in our marriage.  And sure there are things we simply haven’t experienced yet.  But instead of “just waiting,” we are joyfully living out our lives and looking forward to what lies ahead with hope for the future.  Because after all, no matter what lies ahead for us, there is no one I would rather have by my side than my wonderful husband.  And with God’s help, I know we will continue to be rejoicing together for the rest of our lives, no matter what.

I am a Catholic

There are many ways we define ourselves.  We might define ourselves by our physical characteristics (I am tall, black, white, blonde), by our relationships (I am a mother, a father, a wife, a son), by our occupation (I am a doctor, a student, a lawyer), by our stage in life (I am in college, in high school, retired, just married),  and the list goes on and on.  These various definitions need to be prioritized to see who we truly are.  Are we more concerned with our occupation or our relationships?  With our relationships or with our physical attributes?  I often think of this for myself.  How do I prioritize the varies definitions that I fit into?  What would the first few terms be that I use to define myself?  I am a wife.  I am a daughter.  I am a sister.  But first and foremost: I am a Catholic

Being a Catholic comes first in my life because it defines everything else that is important to me.  Being a Catholic is not about following rules, standing up and sitting down in Mass, chanting prayers, and carrying rosaries.  Being a Catholic is about following Christ.  It is about striving to live like our Lord commanded.  It is about growing closer to God, helping to spread God’s love with everyone around us, and worshipping the Lord for all we have been given.   Among the many things we have been given, being Catholic gives me even more.

Catholic is my religion and my faith.  My faith in Jesus and His saving grace!  Being Catholic offers me a way to pray using my own words or prayers given to us by our Lord and various holy Saints throughout time.  It gives me an opportunity to worship God in His holy church each Sunday.  To praise Him in song many times throughout the Mass.  It means I can receive my Lord in the flesh each Sunday during Holy Communion.  It means I can trace back the roots of my religion to Jesus himself.  I can follow a line of men who have served as the human leader of Christ’s Church here on earth starting when Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)   From Peter to Linus to Anacletus to Clement and on and on throughout time I can trace a line all the way up to Pope John Paul II and now to Pope Benedict XVI.  And what’s more, Jesus has told us that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against His Church!  I know that despite the bad times, our Church will stay strong in faith and will be protected for all of time.

Being a Catholic gives me hope.  I have hope for whatever lies ahead because of my faith.  I know that my God will always be with me.  I know that what we have here on earth is only temporary.  That our time spent here, while it seems long to us, is only a small portion of eternity!  An eternity that we can spend with Christ because of His great love for us and His sacrifice for us on the cross.  Even in the worst of times, I have hope because of my faith.

Being a Catholic allows me to love.  1 John 4:16 says “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”  Without God, we cannot know love.  Without God’s love for us, how could we begin to love anyone at all?  God loves us so much that He creates us all with free will.   He loves us enough to let us make our own decisions.  He loves us through our triumphs and through our mistakes.  He loves us despite all our sins.  To remain in God, we must believe in His deep and everlasting love for us and show Him that we love Him too.  We can show our love for God through our thoughts, our actions, our words, and our relationships.  To live like Christ lived we show God we love Him.  To speak the word of God and spread hope to others, we show God we love Him.  And through the love we have in God, we are capable of building our own loving relationships.  It is because of God’s love for me and my love for Him that I am capable of being in love with my husband and being loved by him in return.

Certainly I must say that the Catholic religion is more than just what I have listed.  And I do not believe that only Catholics will be in Heaven, nor am I condemning other religions.  But if someone were to ask me to define myself, I would say I am a Catholic.  I am a Catholic because I can’t imagine my life any other way.  I am proud of my Catholic faith and religion.  I love that through the Catholic  faith, I grow closer to God.  With millions of other Catholics around the world,  I pray and praise God and I hope in salvation.  I know the love that God has for me.  And I love Him.   And through that love I can know how to love others.   I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, and many more things.  But I am nothing without my Catholic faith and my God.