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.

The Path of Destruction

Philosophically speaking, there are two ways in which we view the world or rather people that inhabit the world. The first way people believe is that we are inherently good and some of us become wayward either due to be misguided along the way or some sort of traumatic experience along the way. This particular world view is in some ways easy to live with, because it also becomes easy to dismiss the darkness caused by others is only due to deviating from a path of goodness.

This particular philosophical out look can be a real stumbling block for my mind to try and comprehend. Having once worked in a Child Advocacy center, knowing that the young children coming into the center everyday faced a real physical evil causes something to rage against the view of inherent goodness. Sure, one could submit that the abuser experienced their own pain and tragedy. Yet the very rebuttal is not enough to make up for the pain caused.

Some where along the way personal ownership of ones actions has to be set in motion. In the A.A. movement one of the most important steps is to take ownership of ones actions and try to make as much restitution for prior actions. More on this point in a bit.

The second outlook then, is the belief or understanding that we humans are not inherently good. Quite the opposite, that we are all for a lack of better words evil, with a dark dragon inside us as it were. And left to our own devices, we are bent toward a path of destruction. Admittedly, this view is much harder for people to swallow, usually people are deeply offended by this particular view at first and carry a look in their eyes as though to say:

“How dare you say I’m evil!”

Trust me, this view wasn’t something that was easily accepted for me either. The biggest problem that some people have in accepting this view, is that we humans don’t want to take on the challenging and uncomfortable task of taking a cold hard look at ourselves. Down to the core of who we are. Again, this is very uncomfortable to do, because you may discover things about yourself that you never even knew about. And then you have to work on those areas too.

This isn’t something that people want to do, but it must be done none the less. It’s how we start to combat the dark dragon inside of us all. Going back to the A.A. example, for that person to begin to make restitution for past transgression. He or she has to first see that they first have a problem. A problem that they are fundamentally powerless over, and that they need divine help from. They need Christ to come in a make them a new creation.

If Alcoholics do not take the steps needed to combat the dragon inside them, they will die in a state of destruction of the soul. Even if you do not believe in a literally hell as depicted in the Christian narrative, there still is in a sense- a hell that happens to the soul when it is swallowed by darkness.

You might submit that you don’t wrestle with addiction to substance, but if you look deeper at your self and life you lead. You certainly do wrestle and stumble in other ways. Perhaps you have made a lot of bad choices in your life and your past eats your soul alive all the time. Perhaps you’re filled with resentment and hatred for things done to you, that is something you should aggressively work on before you are on your death bed.

Whatever it may be, we all have things within the stories of our lives that we must deal with. You have to do the hard work of finding out what that is for you. Write it down, even if it’s multiple items and them aim at overcoming them to the best of your finite ability.

Christ said in Matthew 7:13: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

The narrow gate is not a comfortable one, it was never intended to be. Yet it does lead to the most joy and freedom. The narrow gate requires to say no to things that will do us harm, and others harm. The narrow gate calls us to make war against the sin inside us the tangles us up. Finally, the narrow gate that Christ calls us to, demands that we are too weak to bare our burdens on our own accord and yet be filled with the courage to bare our crosses until our stories are over.

Do the hard work, it’s calling at you daily, screaming at you saying : “DEAL WITH ME DAMMIT!” Deal with it while you still can.

Meeting Death- Are We Really Ready?

I’ve thought about death a lot, primarily my own death. No, this is not to be taken in a morbid context. The fact remains, for all of us. One day we will die, it is not a reality that we can run from. At least in this life. As a kid, I was raised with the philosophy of reincarnation, though my understanding of it was not the actual understanding. Many Americans submit to the definition that they will come back as something or someone else. When it all reality, it is a system based on karma and how well a person lives his or her life. In short, if a person has lived a crappy life, they have to make it up in the next.

The process goes on and on, until a soul reaches a state of perfection and then suddenly becomes nothing. Stop for a second or two and think about that…. We could never know if we have done enough good to over-right our wrongs. For me in my own life and in this current season of life, I think of two concepts or realities:

A. Standing before God
B. Knowing that I didn’t live a full life.

As I have taken a deep dive into the teachings of stoicism, I’m simply amazed at how brave they were in the face of suffering and death. Suffering was something that they accepted as a part of life, they faced it with dignity, grace and even let suffering teach them lessons and mold them into stronger souls. They admitted that life wasn’t fair, but again it was a reality that they accepted and still lived for what they called the highest good. They still lived a life of virtue. That speaks to me in ways that my heart and mind cannot simply express. At the end of my life, God is my highest good and I have to stand before him, it wont be about how much good I’ve done, because he is what makes make me good, he is what makes me have right standing with him. It is all about his kindness and grace. Still though, I fear God saying to me “Brandon, my son, you didn’t do enough good with your life.” I simply couldn’t imagine anything else more haunting than that.

That idea though, I believe stems from the fact that deep inside I haven’t reached my full human potential. In my estimation, there hasn’t been a deeper pain in my life. I hide this pain a lot. But it haunts me on a daily basis. Some days I’m truly happy and at peace. Other times the quiet despair, depression and anxiety seem to overtake me without a shed of mercy. I’m always asking “have I done enough?” “Have I done enough to please God?” I’m always looking at my life compared to someone else. Which is not right, but I do it anyway.

Life seems like an uphill battle towards greatness and potential, which is fine, but other times it’s a though I’m fighting not to drowned. There are not answers that can readily be given. I just think that we should live more sober, and think about what our lives might mean. Consider the time you have left, what you might need to do still, and who you want to be with that time that is left. Because it’s not as much as we’d like to believe.

Reflecting On The Death of Ian

My friend Ian died last week, he was in the trenches with a battle against cancer. And sadly the ugly son of a bitch we call cancer won. I’ve always hated cancer and have lost a handful of loved ones as a result of it. When I first heard that Ian had cancer, I quickly lowered my head in prayer. Asking God to give Ian the strength to fight and joy to face each day.

I felt optimistic because other people were praying along side me on behalf of him. I knew Ian was a warrior. And I knew that my Lord was good. But man, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye in my own. I first met Ian at the 2015 grapplers heart tournament in Brooklyn New York. A tournament dedicated to adaptive BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu).

There, I watched Ian bravely go into all his matches with all he had. Most of his opponents could move faster then him and had much more mobility then him. Yet he didn’t doubt, he didn’t fear he simply went head and heart first into the storm. Ian lost all four of his matches, but not once did he complain.

Something that I could very much learn from, I was of Ian’s opponents in the nogi division. One thing that caught my attention was how he held on to the very last second before tapping out. I remember kneeling beside him, making sure he was okay. His coaches came to check on him and the only thing that I could think was that this kid was as tough as they come.

Since that time, Ian has went on to touch thousands of lives. He even received his blue belt, a belt that is not easy to get. Ian would soon find a way into the heart of UFC champion Chris Weidman. Weidman would fly Ian and his family out to a UFC event that he was fighting at. Ian got to accompany Weidman on his walk out.

I’m sure Ian also got to the honor to meet other UFC fighters, and I’m also positive that he left a lasting impression on them as well. The truth is, you don’t have to know someone for long in order for them to change your life or at least impact it in a tremendous way.

When I met Ian, I observed a lot of his interactions with people. He was always smiling, never shy and always willing to mingle with new people. Something that I have always struggled with and envied of others. I never actually got to say goodbye to Ian when we were in NY, but knowing that he had quickly found a place in my heart. I knew that it was okay.

When I found out that Ian had passed away, I remember sitting on the floor of my college dorm. I re-read the posting over and over again in hopes that I was reading it to fast. But I wasn’t, my heart started to pound and my palms started to sweat. Soon the tears would follow. I put my hands over my face and cried harder then I have in years. It didn’t matter to me how long I knew him. When you go to war with someone on the mat, you build a bond that cannot be taken away.

I then put my head into a pillow and screamed, I felt a real connection with Ian. Not only did we share a common bond in Jiujitsu but we both had cerebral palsy. And in my eyes that made us family. There’re a few things that I believe that we all can take from the life that Ian lived:

  1. Live a life without excuse, there is no reason under the sun that we can’t better our lives. Be it physically, spiritually or emotionally.
  2. Learn to love others well, as cliche as it is you never know when your last day will be.
  3. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to be you.
  4. Don’t take your body and abilities for granted, our lives are gifts and we are meant to treat them as such.

Do your best not to live in fear, fear only holds us back from experiencing life to fullest. Do your best to find joy in all of life, this makes life far more enjoyable and helps you to live in the moment and one day at a time. That being said, this blog is for you, Ian, thank you for all you have done, thank you for the impact you have had on my life, thank you for what you have given to the sport of Jiujitsu and thank you for being who you are. I will never forget you bro.

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