Confronting Manhood and Disability

For the longest time I’ve wanted to write a book on manhood, but not just another book on manhood, but one that was directed to men that were living with cerebral palsy or otherwise. Why exactly? The reason is simple, there wasn’t anything in the market geared toward this particular people group. While I’ve read some awesome books on the subject, many of them have to do with the masculine man who can everyday things that a man is supposed to do. It was in this same season of life, that I became close with my friend John, via social media. We would talk as often as we could and when his health allowed. John not only had cerebral palsy, but severe chronic pain, his severity of cerebral palsy was unlike anything that my eyes have even seen. But the more we talked, the more he became like a brother to me, with were both Christian men, and did the best we could to pray and encourage each other.
Still though, what was being said to men like John? Even better what was the Church saying on this topic? You see it’s one thing to tell men to be brave, lead and provide for their families, but how do you do that if you are like my friend John? The obvious answer is that it’s not going to look the same. Of all my years of being a follower of Christ, I cannot remember one time where a pastor has spoken to this issue. At least not in protestant circles, however the late Henry Nouwen, who was a catholic spent time caring for men that were disabled in the form of a care giver. I can remember reading about how he would wake up and bathe and feed the men that were under his care, and when he would preach a sermon, he had a way of including those with disabilities into the service. The heart of Henry was remarkable, one that I wished spread throughout Christianity more.
As important as the topic of masculinity is, for me it was more important for men to know who they were in the eyes of God. For in my estimation, God is who makes men-men in the first place, as his image is upon us. The problem became, for me anyway, a wrestling match came between my flesh and inner convictions. What I mean is this, in the depths of who I am, there is a calling from God to tell others about him, yet the other side of my brain would tell me, that if only my mouth was shut up on the God topic maybe I’d make a lot more money. The words of Jordan Peterson come to mind in light of that battle, he says “when you have something to say, silence is a lie.” He’s exactly right, we lie to ourselves and others in the most disastrous of ways, when we choose to withhold words of truth that can be potentially life changing for others, regardless of how another person may perceive it. The other area of my life that has caused me to stumble in writing this book, is that I am not where I like to be in life, which who would want to take advice or wisdom from someone like that? In life we are suggested to take advice from someone that is living it out.
As of now, in this moment I am 37 years old and still in my parents’ house. My context of living is extremely complex. However, the general rule of thumb in life, is to take advice from someone who is living out what they should be doing and not trying to weave his way through the maze of his life. Still though, a fire burns below the layers of skin that cover this heart, a fire that can blaze the trail of a new discovery and journey in life. As it relates to fire, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Moses in Exodus three. Moses was shepherding a flock on his way to mount Horeb, which was called the mountain of God. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appears to him in a fiery bush, he so consumed by it, he says “I must go over and look at this remarkable sight, why isn’t this bush burning up?” (Verse 4)
He has no idea how his life is about to change, God calls out from the burning bush “Moses, Moses!”
“Here I am” he responded
God then tells Moses to not come any closer, and to take off his sandals, because the ground he was standing on is holy. You might wonder, what makes ground holy? Nothing specifically makes it holy, except when God occupies the territory. It could also be implied, that the moment is holy, because Moses discovers the destiny that is laid before him. God says to him “I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” Before this, Moses was just an ordinary man, who was given an extraordinary calling. You also have an extraordinary calling inside you as a man, you might shake your fist and say “How!?” I can barely do anything for myself!”
Moses had a similar response, in chapter four, Moses says to God, 10 But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since you have been speaking to your servant—because my mouth and my tongue are sluggish.”
But God responds to Moses with a pointed question:
“Who placed a mouth on humans?”
You may disqualify yourself from life because you have a speech impediment, you may disqualify yourself from life because you’re visually impaired, you may disqualify yourself because you must rely on others for care each day. Yet God see’s what you can be and will be even when we cannot see it ourselves. You may also spend large amounts of time and conclude that your life is over, and that there is no way of recovering semblance or meaning to your life. Abraham was seventy years old, before God called him to the unknown, away from his family, even though at his age he would be considered good for nothing. God still had some big promises and plans for him.
Moses and Abraham are not merely archetypes in which wisdom and lessons can be gleaned from, but they are people that were called from the ordinary to the unknown. Since reading and pondering the life of Abraham, I’ve sensed that calling to the unknown, which has brought upon a great sense of fear and excitement. Which is why, I’ve attempted to submit the following essays, because of the strong desire to let men like myself, know that they are worth more than they know, that they have purpose and that they can discover a destiny that can spend beyond what we can see in this life.

If you wrestle With Shame. Read This.

One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NASB)

Though I’m sure there are a few lessons that can be gleaned from the passage, one that sticks out to me the most, are those of us who wrestle with the past. Be it regret, shame, loss, and the like.

So many times, we try and correct our own wrongs only to continually carry around a sense of dead weight inside us. It robs us of joy and peace. Often it can seem as though there is no way out of the cycle.

However, Christ broke that cycle on the cross, so that you (me) are not only forgiven for the past, present and future. We become new creations in Christ, from the inside out when you place our faith in him by the power of his spirit, as such we no longer must be at war with the past and we can trust God with our futures.

Yes, we may still face consequences in life, but we can do so with the peace and courage of Christ.  We no longer have to be identified by the past, but rather, now, we can be identified but what Christ has done for us and who we are in him.

Purpose Over Emotion To Reach Goals!

When it comes to our health, people usually start out with the best intentions, they get all excited and think “Ok! I’m going to get this goal accomplished! Whatever the goal may be, losing weight, gaining muscle or whatever goal you have in your mind. Most of us do good for a very small window, and then fall back into the same old slump. Losing motivation and maybe even believing that the goal can never be accomplished.

Here is one big reason why this happens, ready?

Emotion.

What? Our emotions Brandon? Yes, think about it, we let our emotions get us all hyped up and when things get difficult, and the emotion isn’t there anymore we’re left with nothing. We need something more than emotion, notice that I did not say to rid yourself of them but rather regulate them and have some deeper to drive us.

That is, having a purpose to drive our actions. Why do you want to be healthy? Who do you want to be and why?? Find the deeper reason and allow to burn itself into your very being. Let that purpose be the driving force! When the emotions show up, say okay and notice them but then reinforce them with a more sustained outlook.

As a health coach, I’ve seen many lives change, so I know yours can too! If you need someone to keep you accountable, simply reach out!

My Cousins Passing and Processing Death

My cousin passed away recently, found out through the means of social media. So this short post is a way of me processing her passing.

Life has a way of stopping you in your tracks. Yesterday I discovered that a cousin of mine had passed away. And though I did not know her extremely well, the memories that was shared with her were great.

When she first came into my life, my aunt decided to make a random trip to Nebraska. At the time I was probably still in my early twenties. And very zealous in faith. The moment I saw my cousin Rachel, I felt the Holy Spirit Nudge my heart and give me the words.
“Tell her about my love”.

So, I said OK Lord give me the moment to do so. Later that weekend, the moment came. I forgot all our conversation. But eventually we, prayed, and Gods love filled the room
in such a tangible way.

I knew that something changed inside her, was it saving faith? I’m not sure but I know If Gods presence was there, it would not be in vain. I never saw her again after this day. In fact, we lost contact. But I never stopped thinking and praying for her. When I first saw her. I saw beauty and much potential. But sadly, know she was haunted by her own art

choices and mistakes.

I’ve always doubted my impact in the world and Gods kingdom. But I prayer the prayer we prayed returns in full. I believe that no gets to heaven in a straight line per say, we are all rag-tag humans. But he is so faithful and will never take his hand off his elect.

It’s funny how we think that earthly things will make us the happiest, we as humans put a high price on our comforts. We put value on fame, prestige, and awards. While those things are not bad, the question that we must ask ourselves, is are we ready to die? And what will those final moments of your life consist of? If you ask me, I’d rather die first, with a clean heart and mind before God. I’d rather die knowing that I did my very best to show people his love. The cry in my heart is to show people, that life is so much more than the external, it is more than working and saving up for a retirement of bliss, but it is about planting roots in eternity. When we can see beyond the external parts of life and see an eternal perspective. We no longer fear death, for we will transfer from the restlessness of our hearts, and into the peace that we all long for.

Don’t waste your life.

A Brief Musing on Sport Fighting and Asocial Violence

The ongoing debate between sport Combatives in real world soft defense is exhausting today the least, but here is some musing. Feel free to disagree. I’ve wrestled with both sides of the equation.
On the sport side of things, there is far more sparring, which at least gives the capacity to deal with stress and resistance. But in no way do I believe that that is equal to dealing with asocial violence.
Have there been instances where your typical mma fighter has done well in an encounter outside the ring or cage? Yes. But there is also instances where they get utterly destroyed.
The same goes with sport grappling, if sport grappling is so suitable for real world violence, why has 4 black belts died in altercations that involve knives, guns or blunt objects?
It’s a reality most do not prepare for, nor do they want to think about . When it comes to asocial violence, I have never seen a boxing attack. And when I have it’s mostly a form of social violence. See the difference? If we are serious about the protection of ourselves and loved ones, we must train appropriately for it.
Am I saying to quit training at your mma gym or whatever? No, but I am saying to start understanding the differences between training In your own weight class abc rule set. As apposed to someone that does not give a damn about who you are, and is willing to whatever it takes to complete their evil plan.

Reframing Self Defense Part 2

I once saw a YouTube video of a drunk Canadian, who was arrested and being taken to the local police station. The video went viral, because the intoxicated man, started belting out a queen song. Somehow, he nailed all the words, the thing that struck me the most despite how funny it was. Was when they arrived at the station, the officer (If my memory serves me well) says to the man: “is there anything else I’m going to have to worry about?”
The drunk guy responds by saying “Physical violence is the least of my priorities.”

Think about what he is saying for a moment, his statement goes against a huge part of the current self-defense industry. Where almost every school that claims to teach self-defense, starts with the physical violence first, and very little if not any word about situational awareness and legal aspects of violence.

For me, the more I learn about asocial violence, the more I want nothing to do with violence. I train self-defense, not because I love violence, but because I refuse to be a sheep the day violence comes toward me or anyone I care about. Again, the violence that I’m speaking of is the kind you can’t talk your way out of, nor walk away from.

And here’s the key, most forms of social violence, you can walk away from. That is, if you physically can. I mention that because, if you are in a wheelchair or some other context, you either must get darn good at verbal judo, or you must know when to flip the switch and defend your life.

Let your ego go. In fact, make it take a dirt nap, just because someone insults you, does not mean that you must go and prove what a bad ass you think you are. What happens then, when you walk over to that dude that insults you, and you knock him down only to have him hit his head and die? Or at least brain damage?

Do you have the pocket to pay for legal fees, counter lawsuits and so on? Was it worth it then? Was it worth to spend time in prison? I’m guessing not, plus, most people would regret their actions soon after.

There was a top ranked MMA fighter, who was said to be known for going around sucker punching people. This disturbed soul also claims to have the best sucker punch in the world. As of result of actions, his dumb ass got arrested. MMA coaches/gyms surely could do a better job instilling values into their fighters or at least laying out what they will not tolerate, because in all honesty it sets a bad precedence for the coach and gyms.

The moral of the story is this, violence should be avoided until it cannot be avoided any longer. We need to think more deeply about what we are being taught, and what is being taught to us. If you’re considering taking self defense classes (which you should) if all that is being taught is deadly force, you probably should reconsider. If all that’s being taught is how to break an arm, or take someone’s vision away, you might want to find another school.

There is a time for deadly force, but often, there is a scalability involved. Simply meaning that not all situations call for a level ten response. Sometimes compliance and restraining a person is all that’s needed.

Train smart, engage your mind, don’t let your ego dictate your actions, make violence the least of your priorities.

Depression and The Power of Words

There are many forms of suffering in the world, but one of the world’s most silent of killers is depression. Depression at times can be unnoticeable, either because we as people don’t know what to look for or the person that is suffering becomes so good at hiding it, they seem fine altogether. Depression can often feel like a sinking feeling or wearing a weighted vest that only brings you deeper below the surface.

Depression while giving a person a sinking feeling, can also be very hard to talk about. One, because it can be hard to find a person that will listen to you, two, people feel as though they constantly must fix things, so often quick platitudes are given and 3) a hyper form of positive thinking is prescribed: “Just think positive and you’ll feel better!” Or faith-based crowds will say to pray away the pain.

Now, how we think or rather how we feed our minds does matter, and I’ll get to that in a bit. But first I’d like to speak to the quiet agony that depression can have on a person. Depression can be an unseen battle in the mind, you might not ever see it, but someone close to you can truly be getting their asses kicked mentally.

Largely what this can look like, is feeling as though no one cares about you, or that you’re a no good, untalented fairly that will never amount to anything. Much worse believing the lie that this world would be better off with you. Truthfully, this is a battle that I wouldn’t want anyone to live.

I myself have lived with this battle for 37 years, my depression is not bad year-round, though it totally seems that way. All the thoughts mentioned above are things that I’ve grappled with you. Therefore, I truly believe that depression is a spiritual war, because even if one does not believe in God or a higher power, when you go to therapy, you are primarily going there to combat the lies inside your mind.

Essentially as your counselor uses cognitive behavior therapy, their aim is to change how you think about yourself, and the rest of your future. In that the words that they say to you, have the power to change your thinking. This is why words are so powerful. Knowing this truth, changes how we speak to others and ourselves. Be mindful of how you speak to people on a daily, we humans are quite imperfect at times, but that should be a motivation to be mindful with our speech. I truly am convinced that we should spend more time building others up, encouraging, inspiring and serving others. As opposed to letting our mouths run wild and careless. Even apologizing for things, we didn’t mean or didn’t say exactly as we should.

Lastly, learn to counteract the lies and statements that pop into your mind ever so randomly. If your mind tells you that you’ll never amount to anything, remind your brain of the things you have accomplished. As with ever lie in the mind, learn to take hold of it and replace it with truth.

This might not seem like it works in the moment, or even every single time. But the more you reinforce your mind, the easier it is to fight. And on the days that really are difficult, know that they storm will eventually lift.

Leading With Our Words

What I’m about to share with you, should go without saying but I’ll the more that I survey society, the more that this simple truth comes back to mind. Simply put, there is profound power in our words.

Our words can become a sense of life and death, not only for ourselves but for those around us. The power of our words extend to every facet of our lives, in our work places, in our ability to coach and lead others and most certainly in our home lives.

In my estimation we as a people are so flippant with what we allow to spill from our lips, you may respond by saying that, it’s not your responsibility for how some one else chooses to respond. While that is correct, it is still on you to learn to not only control what you say, but to also think before you speak.

Once again, we are all leaders in one way or another, and we have the ability to write with our words on the soul of another with what we say. We have the ability to encourage, build up and inspire. Or we have the ability to wound others with what we say, the time we have with people in our lives is so small. So do you want to be known for the amount of trash that comes from your mouth? Or do you want to be one who provides life and healing?

I’m not saying that fun and joking cannot be had, be there is still a vast difference in making someone laugh and making others feel even worse with crude humor. You can really know what battle someone is facing on the inside, so that is all the more reason to be mindful of what comes out of your mouth. Our words, in a sense can be that of a small spark, a spark that can start an entire fire. This fire can be one that ignites the human soul to fly, or it can be a very of destruction. These are the only real options that we have when it comes to our words. So may we become more cognoscente of every word, every thought that comes to mind. Is it useful? Will what I say actually build others up or have the potential to rip someone apart? If you want to lead others well, it starts by learning how to reign in our mouth. Even the things we say to ourselves, because also what we say to ourselves creates a multi-level narrative that plays out inside of us. For just one example, if we tell ourselves that we are worthless and no good, what do you think is going to happen?
Unless we take control of that narrative, it will spill over onto every aspect of our lives. This, if left un-resolved will keep us stuck and we will be unable to move any further into our God given callings. So now, the mission becomes for you to heal. And though this journey and path may be difficult, if you do not choose to embark on it, you will never know the beauty of what is on the other side of the pain. Only when you choose to let go of the pain, and let forgiveness be your greatest weapon, can you actually become free. Then, and only then can you start to help and lead others. Our words are in a sense a legacy, so choose them wisely, even the ones we say to ourselves.

Re-framing self defense

Psychology is a grossly over looked area of self -defense, if you look at the typical school that teaches any sort of combat art. The physical is the direct aim, already starting from the worst case scenario, meaning that someone is already choking you, punching you and so on. While we must start somewhere, I for one do not believe that this is the best approach. For me, as a martial arts instructor who has worked with nearly ever adaptive need, taught self-defense clinics to major colleges in my city, worked with retired military veterans, some law enforcement and even organizations such as DHHS. The one revelation that has kept coming to my mind year after year, is that real self-defense starts from the inside out.
Believe me, I know that this is extremely counter to what we are taught to in most schools today, because we just want to learn to kick ass. But honestly, we are not getting a very holistic approach. The most I’ve heard regarding awareness, is to simply “be aware” or have a 360 degree awareness at all times… Which is impossible to do. Telling someone to be aware is merely a way to cover a base, and doesn’t actually teach a student anything. What exactly are they being aware of? What are they looking at for? Do students actually know how handle and cope with emotional stimulus and stress?
Another reason that the psychology of self-defense goes untouched, is the narratives that coaches and or instructors provide. Some schools have weekend self-defense clinics, which are awesome and there can totally be some valuable elements taught. But the truth is, that one class isn’t all you need. It’s not going to make you a bad ass. If you are serious about self-defense, you must practice it the same way you want to get better at writing or math. One class, or once a month is not sufficient. There isn’t one technique that everyone must know and then your good. It doesn’t work that way. It never will. The other reality is this, most schools today do not specify to how fast and even complex a violent encounter is. Criminals simply do not care what you know, how long you’ve been training or anything of the sort. And so think that our modern training is going to prepare us in all areas is silly. Don’t miss understand me, MMA is a great base to learn self-defense, yet if we don’t know how to spot a threat, de-escalate a situation before it even starts, controlling our ego and emotions all we have is mere violence. Again, some martial arts schools only make this area worse, for example Krav t-shirts that say “touch me, and your first lessons free.” The saying truly gives off the vibe, as though you could take some Krav classes and kick anyone’s ass. Some of the BJJ community doesn’t help either, just the other day I saw a meme of a blackbelt, with his thumbs inside his belt looking all stoic. The Meme read “I’ve been doing BJJ 40 years. I fear no man.”.
I think that’s a bunch of nonsense. Any real person, is going to have a fear spike when a violent encounter takes place. Whatever the context may be. I’m fairly certain, that if you’re getting out of your car (with your kids in it) and the A typical person presses a knife to your throat. The likely hood of you having a sense of fear in that moment is extremely real. You might be fearing more for your offspring, and rightfully so. Perhaps this savage wants more than your car and money. Ever think about that? It’s in this context, that we must be able to rise above the ways of emotion and stress. How do we accomplish this? By training. I know that this might be hard to do, in some gyms that are more family oriented. Yet it doesn’t mean that in our self -defense training, we can’t train in a manner that prepares us for the real world.
We can practice training with heightened heart rate, being caught off guard and off balance. This is how life is, this is what it means to be human.
The self defense industry, is in serious need of an over haul. As mentioned earlier, if you’re serious about your own self-protection and even the safety of your loved ones. It’s up to you to start acting like it. It’s up to you to start training as though it actually matters. As coaches, instructors and the like. To start teaching and communicating to our tribes that it matters.

When the past haunts you

My past has been haunting me the last few days, or rather I should say, resurfacing. My stomach has been is shambles. A fire burning up my insides if you will. I’ve done so many stupid things in the past, the natural response is to say that we’ve all done things we regret or are not proud of. Yet when my own past come to my mind again, it has a way of making me feel like the worst, disgusting sinner alive. Life could be going smoothly, and then out of the blue a memory comes popping up. Usually a condemning state follows:

“Hey, remember when you did this and this? Yeah, you’re a real piece of ####” Then those same condemning statements, have a way of sinking down into the depths of me. Regardless of how much I try and shield them from attacking me so vigorously. So how do we begin to deal with these seeming random thoughts that come are way?

Well for one: We can Acknowledge them

What I mean is this, while it may be uncomfortable to do so. Acknowledging the thoughts is actually very useful. You can simply say, “yes that happened, and I hate that it did.” Now, the trick to acknowledging it, is also making sure that you’re not let down a spiral of inner destruction where we spend hours beating ourselves up. This of course, comes from someone that also fails at that as well.

I only share that, so people can learn from that mistake as well. It can be very difficult to find the balance, in accepting and acknowledging our sins and not completely mentally flogging ourselves. But it is needed. 

Seek Forgiveness

Again this is not an easy route and often it requires a huge chunk of humility and letting go of ego and pride. The reason I say this, is because of the people in the world, who’s disposition is “I’d never seek forgiveness of anyone.” Which leads to its own consequences. Forgiveness is actually a pivotal role in healing and arriving at a place of peace. Forgiveness, may require actually approach the person you hurt, and seek their forgiveness. Now then, whether they grant you forgiveness or not, is not for you to decide. Perhaps, they will forgive in time. The fact and reality remains that you did your part. Forgiveness is not only good on a human to human level, but it is also good on a spiritual level as well. Knowing that God can not only forgive you of your sins, but in a great exchange gives you his righteousness. Thus, when the father God looks us, he does not see us in our sin.

Know Who You Really Are

You may have noticed, that I put a bit more emphasis on the forgiveness of God, rather than human forgiveness. Reason being is because another human, might not grant you forgiveness when asked for it. However, if a person comes to God with a contrite heart, and whole heartedly asks God for forgiveness, the beauty of the gospel is that God is not one to say no. What kind of God would he be, if he said no?

When you are forgiven in Christ, there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus, the old has gone and new has come. Yes, there might very well be consequences as a result of our actions. That’s merely apart of living in this world. It will in fact, take some courage to face the past and make amends if possible, the difference is, is that you will not be alone in doing so. The spirit of God will be with you at all times.

Get Your Act Together
I’d like to end with this, the love and forgiveness of Christ, is not a free card to sin endlessly. No, it is a call to join the ongoing battle against the flesh and sin. It is a call to get your act together and be better than you once were. To submit the former self and way of living. It’s a chance to live for a higher calling and purpose. You don’t have to keep living as you once were, the shame of past regret does not have to define you. You can be a completely different person, with all new desires, hopes and dreams.