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.

What William James Teaches About Life

Isn’t it weird? I have a four year degree in psychology and never took the time to read about the life of William James. The founder of American Psychology. Now what I read about him was a small snippet from the book by Mark Mans: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A #@%! . Again what I read was really brief, but man was powerful and God only knew that it was I needed to read at the given moment.

I never knew that he had so many health problems, such a stomach, vision and back problems. Or more precisely back spasms, that could take a lot out of him. Much like myself. He was born into a wealthy family, had a very successful brother and sister.

I also didn’t know that he at one point of his life spent so much time at home, doing the one thing that he really enjoyed doing. Painting. His father on the other hand, was not very keen on the fact that his son wanted to be an artist. He wanted his son to be successful like his brother and sister and make lots of money. Which isn’t wrong.

However, the pressure and disconnect that William experienced with his father, sent him into long periods of depression. One can only imagine would that must be like, on top of having severe health issues. I could see that even through this small introduction to his life, that he wrestled with shame over his life. It got to the point where he even ran away from his home, for several months. Only driving the wedge further between his father.

William James in spite of all his tribulation, did indeed go onto be very, very successful as his father wanted. It just wasn’t in the way, nor time line that his father desired. Which I think is key for people to wrap their minds around, especially in this society that we live in. Another area of Williams life that stood out to me as well, was that he felt trapped in his circumstances, as though there was no escape for him.

So, he gave himself a years time line, and in that year if his life did not improve at all. Then he would know he was truly powerless over his circumstances. And thus, the only option he would have left would be to end his life. Again, his life did improve.

William James was like me, in his thirties and spend a lot of his time at home. And sometimes I feel like my life cannot get better. And yes, I too have dealt and wrestled with much of the same darkness as he did. And there’s many days in my own life, where the negative self talk runs wild in mind.

What I believe that William James teaches us (once again) as that if we as humans, are wiling to slowly get moving in a forward motion. Life will in fact get better. It may not happen in the time frame that we desire, but it can happen. whatever that is for you. For me, it’s becoming more independent. Which has been a slow process, most of which has been my fault. On the other hand, I think that, this could be all apart of Gods plan at least in some sense. I don’t really know.

What I do know, is that life can get better. If we not only believe it- but put our heads down and move forward. Forgetting about what lies behind.

Put Your House In Order. While You Still Can.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and this particular phrase in 2 kings 20:1

This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

I do not intend to dig a lot in the context of this passage, but rather center the focus of this around what verse one means for us today. My room has a lot of clutter in it, I know where everything is at, but it has a lot of clutter.

Now, on one hand there is a method to how my room is, its easier for me to reach certain things and doesn’t require me to stand and reach for high objects. I know this annoys my family, but for me it works. It’s not because I intend to live like a slob. My clothes are not neatly folded because folding can be tough for me.

My parents come sometimes and fold things as they see it should be, it stays neat for awhile but then as time goes by, things return to the way they were before. People within the design word, claim that your outside world reflects your inside world.

So, if I have a lot of clutter in my room, I probably have a lot of clutter on the inside too. It makes sense and I would agree that it is true. I do have a lot of clutter on my inside life. I’ve been trying to get it in order for a long time now, I’m not where I want to be but I am damn sure much better than what I was.

Getting your room in order is not only physical, but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. I would submit that the latter three are of greater significants. All of us are headed to our graves, and to a degree we can choose how we get there.

Maybe for someone its getting your mental health in order, so that the heaviness of depression and anxiety don’t completely drain you of all joy and appreciation of life. Perhaps its getting your money in order, where you actually plan for a future and not burn your money on meaningless pleasure. Maybe it’s making peace with your past and people that you have wronged or wronged you.

If you and I don’t do this, what is the consequence? We die in the state we have chosen to live in and we will not recover. We will die holding onto that shame, regret, bitterness and anger. We will die, never know what we could have been.

I think hell is a real reality, not some metaphorical reality. And I believe that God reaches out to us every day, telling us that he is the way out from the suffering in our lives. That’s why he sent his son Jesus on a rescue mission, for us. He can make us new, fill us with peace and joy and give us a completely new road map to destiny.

The sad part is, some choose to stay in the pain and suffering because that’s all they know. It’s become their norm of comfort. Shedding the old skin and experience new life can be painful too. In one of the Narnia movies, a young boy turned into a dragon, who was then a mean and grumpy soul.

In order for the boy to be transformed from being a dragon, Aslan had to remove the dragon flesh from his body. Which was extremely painful. Which is true for us as well, it hurts an extreme amount. But when our own dragon skin is removed, it is as though we are all new people.

I’m still working on getting myself in order, you can too. We can still recover while there’s still time.

Mental Illness and Church Leadership- Responding to Dale Partridge

Recently, a pastor by the name of Jarrid Wilson committed suicide. Admittedly I knew of his name until I saw a post on social media that spoke of this tragic event. As a phycology major, a lover of the mind and as one of has a soft spot in his heart for people who suffer with the beast of depression. My heart ached. It ached even more, when I saw a blog from the Christian post that had as a headline:

People struggling With Mental Illness Shouldn’t Be In Church Leadership https://www.christianpost.com/news/people-struggling-with-mental-illness-shouldnt-be-in-church-leadership-jarrid-wilsons-friend-says.html?fbclid=IwAR3cW6bcPkMpaFWqxE1q6AypIFoYXPI2SUkROzOxx1_thJgcORpCuD0o_po

Now to be fair, I can see the authors intent, pastors are very often over worked, hardly ever get any time off and tend to be everyone’s go to when they have a problem. However, it is extremely troubling to me to say  that it is “reckless” and “unbiblical” for churches to put someone in a position of leadership, if they are having struggles with mental illness or doubt.

Okay, I can kind of see the doubt part. But to say that people who struggle with mental illness shouldn’t be in church leadership, is in its self a very stupid and ignorant thing to say. That would eliminate a huge majority of the Christian community serving the body of Christ.

            Moreover the passages used to support the authors position are 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, The author focuses on the concept of being “sober minded” as its states in 1 Timothy 3, along with self- controlled. There in a huge danger, I believe in applying these passages to people who suffer with mental illness. Because we first have to have a clear understanding of what “sober minded” actually is in this context. If we are talking about someone that is still on the recovery road due to recovery, okay I can deal with that. If we are talking about someone who isn’t very rooted in their faith, and is easily influenced by others, I can see that too.

Sober minded and dealing with a chemical imbalance is something utterly different, yes, depression can sometimes can get very dark, and we can lose our way. But to say that a person is not sober minded is a grave insult. I think that a person can depressed, and be sober minded in that they cling to Christ like a weighted blanket rests on the body. Those of us who suffer, might need a gentle reminder of who we are in Christ. But to suggest that it is automatically removes us from church leadership is dangerous and unrealistic. Think about the amount of people that have anxiety, or having a rough day and their thoughts are not the best. OOPS! I guess there goes their ability to serve Gods people!

            …. And for the record, have we ever thought about how Jesus himself might respond to this? Have we even considered all the problems his own disciples had? Let me tell you, they were many. I don’t ever recall Jesus saying “Hey Peter, you got too many problems, you can’t be my disciple anymore!” Nor, did he ever say to Thomas “Gee Thomas, I can’t accept you for your doubts, good bye!”

So what gives some Christians today, the right to act differently? Jesus didn’t give his disciples the boot right away, why should we? Now, I firmly believe that there is reason, as to why a fellow believer wouldn’t be inclined to a position of leadership within the church. And I don’t think that mental illness is one of them. We very well need  to institute better care for our pastors, but simply disqualifying then is utter nonsense. If you’re a Christian and struggle with mental illness in any form. It’s okay to talk about it, you are not weak or less then because your battle is different than the next person. Having this struggle does not in any way negate how the Father see’s you in his son Jesus.          

I really Want To Go Strict Carnivore!

I really love steak! I really. Really. Love steak. Always have-always will love steak. Not simply because it tastes amazing, but because of how it makes my body feel. As a kid, I hated eating my greens. My parents would all but force me, the meat on my plate would often go first. That or the carbs on my plate.

Typically I eat half a pound a steak every morning, and if I’m hungry I’ll have a nice piece of fish. That’s my food window for the day, then my intermittent fasting kicks in with plenty of water and tpically don’t eat until the next morning.

So what’s stopping me?

Well, I still live at home and live in a family where, sometimes I have to eat what’s in front of me. Which is typically a lot of asian food with a lot of carbs. Typically when I eat whats in front of me, I often feel sluggish, tired and my joint pain spikes up immensely.

Yet, when I eat a lot of steak and eggs, fish and cut our carbs and sugar. My body feels amazing and I have less depression, more energy and my joint pain is much less. I have read countless articles and listened to many stories of how the carnivore based approach has changed peoples lives.

I understand the carnivore approach is still so taboo, but I truly believe that there is more to the carnivore approach. If it helps put auto immune disorders, depression and so much more into remission, I strongly believe that we ought to pay more attention to this. I’m not saying you can’t eat your carbs or have your greens.

I’m only stating that as a society, we have been lied to for so long about red meat. And what we actually need to thrive as human beings. I would like to try it for 30 days straight, in the name of seeing what this does for my body.

We Adapt. Or We Die.

I don’t believe that having a disability is a means to completely stop a person, from leading a great life. Be it mentally, physically or spiritually. I don’t. Sharing my story is something I do all the time. And if you know anything about me, you will know that I have had the deck stacked against me since day one.

Perhaps it’s because I had parents that pushed me in the direction that I am now, I’ve been at the bottom. For awhile I listened to all the negative crap that people spoke into my life. I let the words of people barrie me deep- in a pit of nonsense.

Again, if it wasn’t for my family pushing me to be more. I’m positive in knowing that I would still be in the hopeless place. I feel as though its my mission in life to tell people (especially those with disabilities). That they can be more, they don’t always have to listen to doctors, teachers or feel entrapped by their own disability.

For years, I hated my body, I didn’t think that my mind or body could improve. Yes, I will always have CP, but no it will not keep me from being the strongest and healthiest that I possibly can be. Yes, I still may have bouts with depression and anxiety but I will always rise.

Make the most of what you have. Work with what you got.

If you can only lift a certain about of weight, with one side of your body. That’s fine. If one side of your body is stronger, I can deal with that. If you don’t have much mobility in your lower body, there are ways to adapt to the context in which you find yourself. But staying in a mindset in which there is no growth: Mentally, physically or spiritually is equal to death.

Because if we do not choose to allow ourselves to grow, every single day. We will die without every really knowing who we are. We adapt. Or we die.

Why I Quit Leaning on Anxiety Meds

If you know anything about my personal history, you would know that anxiety and depression have been present in my life, since the age of seventeen. I have cycled through various medications, seen different counselors. And hell, I’ve even spent a few days in a psych ward. For the simple fact that I hated my life and simply wanted things to be over.

To this day, I hold in high regard and esteem, anyone who goes to a doctor, knowing full well that they need help. That is the single bravest thing a human can do. It takes a lot of guts to say “I’m not well right now, and the thoughts in my mind are far too much to cope with on my own.”

Again, thats a beautiful and brave thing to admit. Within my own journey in learning to cope with anxiety and depression have almost always been a part of it. I have tried several times to slowly get off of whatever drug I was on. But the side effects were too great for me. So I’d hop back on the given medication.

To be clear, I have always wanted to be off them, because I have always hated how they made me feel. Tired, slow, and sometimes more hopeless than I was at the start. To be blunt, most of the counselors I saw sucked, they were filled with pat answers and didn’t grasp the pain that was inside me.

The more depressed and anxiety ridden I felt, the healthier I ate and focused more on trying to fight back against the anxiety and depression on the Jiujitsu mats or with the weights. Eating cleaning, saying no to a lot of carbs and sugar and saying yes to more protein and water worked. Making my workouts more challenging and taxing worked.

Yet, this lingering depression and random panic attacks through out the week would hit me still. I didn’t know what to do, I was tired of feeling this way, and I wanted it to stop. Fast forward to seeing my girlfriend for to weeks (she lives in NY) I was so happy to see her, that thinking about taking my medication was the furthest thing from my mind.

I even told her a few days into my trip “Babe, I haven’t taken my anxiety meds in a few days.” And you know what, I felt fairly good. Apart from the slumps that I would have mid day, when the depression would come slamming into reality again. I would have moments, where I would sit on my girlfriends bed and cry. Being the amazing woman that she is, she held me and waited until I was done crying. She also would gently remind me that everything would be okay, because God loved me and she loved me too.

It was in these moments, when I realized that, I’d rather feel the weight of my depression and anxiety. Knowing that I was mentally stronger than I gave myself credit for. I’d rather face the pain and darkness head on, knowing with a hundred percent fact that this darkness couldn’t beat me.

I did as David Goggins talks about in his book “Can’t Hurt Me” and started to harden my mind, not in the sense of being angry or bitter. I started hardening my mind to be strong in battle, I would speak to the negative thoughts in my mind.

“Is that the best you got!?”

“Your wasting your time, because you have no authority or power over me”

I would ask myself, “do you know who you are? You are warrior, a child of God and one bad mother F’er.”

The more I began to allow, embrace and feel the mental and emotional pain, the more I allowed myself to accept it, and started using it as more of driving force, to push forward. I often would use anxiety meds to cope with sadness, despair, shame and my perceived failures in life.

At this moment in my life, I have a deeper understanding that, allowing the darkness to swallow me up is never the answer. Wanting to not wake up anymore is not the answer. Being able to go to the root of your pain is the answer.

Once again, if you are in counseling and on medication, I’m not telling you to get off them cold turkey as I did. And as of now in my life I feel fine. But I am telling you, that you are loved, by God and people in your life. I am telling you that you are warrior and a bad mother f’er and I am telling you that the darkness has no authority over your life.

Movement As Blessing

 

I’ve always had the conviction that being able to move your body everyday, is a huge blessing. That conviction has only grown, upon getting my certifications in fitness  and nutrition. I want to ignite the fire and passion for people to love and honor their bodies inside and out.

Exercise can be a huge part in this, but more so, I am speaking toward the reality, that getting to move your body, everyday in small ways is a blessing. Even as I move my fingers to type this blog.

I long to see people with special needs, have a deep zeal everyday, to get themselves out of bed and do what they can to be healthier, happier and stronger. I know everyone has different ranges of ability, energy and so on.

The one objection that stem from this: Well, thats easy for you to say, you don’t.. (fill in the blank).

Actually, along with having CP, I am always in some sort of pain, I’m always tired, a lot of days I have to fight to even get out of bed. And yes, there’re a lot of days where my own struggle with depression beats me down. So I do understand very well.

But here is the deal, life is too much of a blessing to let any of that stuff have victory over me. Even on the days when I don’t want to get out of bed, you know what? I get out of bed. Regardless of the war that may be going on inside me on a giving day, I try and make someones life better.

Jocko Willink talks a lot about going through the motions, going to the gym when you don’t want to. Doing the things you would rather not do, because in doing so you’re better because of it. The moment my eyes open in the morning, I hear Jocko’s voice saying:

GET. OUT. OF BED. NOW!

Do the work you have to do.

Wash the dishes

Wash the clothes

Do the everyday and mundane things you’d rather not do. why!? Because your moving, your using the body that God gave you. Much better, you are forsaking the laziness in your mind, that says “oh no, you don’t have to anything today!”

Now, I’m not implying you can’t rest. What I am saying is that you can rest, after you have gotten everything on your to-do list done. Workout included! There’s something so beautiful about going to bed tired, knowing that you poured yourself out and crushed the day. That’s a wonderful way to live lives!

Then, you can rest and rest deeply.

So wake up everyday, rip the the covers from your body and get moving. Workout, do the mundane tasks (and even your prospective on them will change), better yourself in every way you can, help others and then you can rest deeply. Do what you can everyday, so no to the lazy voice in your head, so that when you rest, you will rest fulfilled.

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How CP Led to My Happiness!

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” -Isaiah 45:9, New Living Translation

Snapshots of My Conversion
As someone who was born with cerebral palsy, this was one of my hearts most loaded questions. After all I just wanted to know what it was like to be like everyone else. To be able to run, jump, walk and do the things that normal kids/ people did. Doctors told my parents that, one of two scenarios would unfold in light of me having cerebral palsy. One) I’d grow out of it and two) I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything on my own.

Thankfully my parents are very stubborn and refused to believe any of the doctors outcome. Over time I gained weight and strength, as well as finding escapes from the confines of my wheel chair and leg braces through being raised in the martial arts and strength training, thanks to my father.

Still though, as a young boy, I had to endure the pain of various operations on my legs, hips and spine. Each operation, requiring a year or more of recovery and thus not being around peers my age and being confined to a bed, with minimal outside interaction apart from going to therapy and the doctors. As a young boy, I couldn’t help but ponder the age old question: If there was a God, why did he allow me to be this way? Why so much pain and suffering? As a kid, I was raised with the concept of reincarnation, thus the probability that I could come back as a new person with a new person.

Yet even that I was very skeptical about, in all honesty, I didn’t know if God was real, good or loving. In short, until I was 17 years old, I was an agnostic and yet deep down I wanted there to be something more and greater than myself. I only was suppressing the truth, as the apostle Paul states in Romans 1:18, the biggest catch was that in my own heart, if he was real that I wanted nothing to do with him. What I didn’t know, what was that through all the suffering, anger, bitterness, jealousy, depression and envy. Was that the Lord, in his grace was already affectionately drawing me to himself.
What I Have Learned
He is always in control: As I have grown in my faith journey over the last several years, I have found immense comfort and joy in his complete and utter control over my life. The words of Ephesians 1:3-11 “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Simply put I interpret the words of Ephesians 1:3-11 to mean, that he was in control, that he knew that in the midst of such suffering and darkness. That he had already set me apart, not only to the praise of his glory but that I may be a living reflection of love and grace to the world.

I/we are loved and not mistakes: The father has loved me so well, through his son Jesus. When the holy spirit softened my hard heart, I quickly understood how wide and deep and how vast was his love for me. I was humbled in knowing, that when he fashioned me in my mothers wombs, that I was not some sort of divine-cosmic accident, but that even in spite of having cerebral palsy, I was still fearfully and wonderfully made.

And neither are you. Look to the gospel of John 9, Jesus’s disciples see a man who was born blind and automatically ask, why this man was born the way he was. Was is his sin or the sins of his parents? Jesus says neither sinned, but that this man, was and is this way so that his glory might be revealed through him. We must truly cling to these realties. For I do not believe that I, nor my cerebral palsy is a mistake, but something that had to go through the authority of God first and foremost.

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I am not a mistake and you certainly are not a mistake either, for God has great lavished such an amazing love upon us. And is not a stranger to our pain, but plunged into suffering for us on the cross. Therefore, our Lord is not someone who has to seem like a stranger in our pain and darkness, but is one who is our deepest anchor and hope. If you find yourself, as I have, in great darkness. The arms of Christ can and is your greatest comfort. Not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But in him is true satisfaction, love and hope in spite of how great the suffering.

A Tighter Grip.

I don’t even know where to begin

All I know is that I want to get a grip on myself.

My anxiety has been so bad.

My emotions have been everywhere.

And sometimes I feel like my chest is going to implode.

I find myself crying when I am alone.

I find myself utterly sensitive to the energies around me.

One moment I am happy and the next, anger, sadness, frustration rage.

I hate this…. I hate this.

My soul is desperate for change.

I want to know what it’s like to feel stable.

I hate feeling like such a wreck.

Perhaps its only a season or moment in time.

All I want is to break free. And not be dominated by this internal, unstable and insecure war inside me.

I want to get to the bottom of this, one breath at a time, one step at a time.

 

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