Lessons From My Favorite Prayer

The serenity prayer is one of my favorite prayers to recite,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The prayer is simple, but one that is always there in time of need. It also can be one that serves and comforts you. The first step is the acknowledgement of God, and our need for his mercy and help. One might stumble over the reality of a higher power existing, regardless of how one believes or feels.

There will be times in life (for all of us) when we feel powerless over our circumstances, and we will most certainly seek help outside of ourselves. Even if it is from another person or group of people. In these times, we seek out hope, wisdom, truth and even serenity. It points further to the reality that as humans, we were never meant to walk alone. Hold onto this given inclination, it might point you to the greatest truth ever discovered or even your destiny might be revealed.

Things we cannot change

All of us in life are surrounded by things we cannot change, for example, one could wake up in a perfectly good mood and ready to take on the day. Despite that, however, there might be the furthest from how you woke up. In fact, if you or I are not in control of faculties, we can find ourselves absorbing their very own mood. This is written from both experience and repeated failure. There are times in life where it is easier to deal with the world around me, and others where nothing but chaos surrounds. Anxiety pounces, and depression finds a way to mix itself in.

A few things that have aided me in this, beyond saying this prayer, is slow breathing through the nose and out the mouth: Breathing in 5 seconds slow and exhaling 5 seconds slowly. Repeat this for 2-5 minutes daily. The second practice is knowing that you cannot control how people act or what they decide to do. If on the other hand, were the cause of another’s problems, then take ownership of it as much as you can. Make the amends that are needing, with the understanding that is up to them how they respond. Thirdly, pray, even if you have never prayed before. There have been times, when alone that my prayers have been screams and laments. Though, I am not proud of the fact, none the less God’s spirit has always comforted me.

The Things We Can Change

Most often the things we can change, are the same things we refuse to do. Our hearts have a God ordained way of letting us know what’s wrong and what requires fixing. Yet, we knowingly suppress the truth of what we should do. For instance, we might believe that it is time to embark on the path of our own destiny. And yet, we don’t because we’re afraid of the judgement or attitudes of others. What we are meant to do, will continually rise to the surface until we do what must be done. We might not be able to control what happens around us and to us, but we can change how we respond to them. It takes a lot of time, and grace but it is a skill set that can be improved upon.

Its also something that you will fail at, a lot, rather learn to get back up quickly and stay on course. We can change quite a lot about ourselves, we only must be able to put in the work daily. We can learn self-control, to eat better, we can shed weight or body fat, we can improve the relationship around us, we can make the environments around us look and feel better. There is so much more that can added to the list, if only we let the discover the dreams and visions that God has placed inside of us, then we will find a mode of being and a true reason to live.

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.

Depression and Stubborn Hope

I’m going to try and express what living with depression feels like, and the battle that wages violently in my mind. I have long wanted to open my chest up and share the grappling match that takes place from within. My aim here is not sympathy, but rather to be candid not only for my own personal reasons but to help others as well. As that has always been my biggest goal in this life. Many times the depression that I experience inside, is like that of what person being attacked by a group of people. Completely outnumbered, and all I can do is cover up to guard myself even a little bit from the heavy blows. Often, there is a smile on my face, but that often is a mechanism to not show what’s truly going on. I’ve been smiling my whole life, so in some ways it’s my default. I’ve learned and sadly so, not to open up because then I won’t have to deal with the responses of others. People of faith have told me (over the years) that my faith is weak if I wrestle with depression, and if I go down the spiritual check list, everything should be just peachy. Little do they know how harmful statements like that are. Or “you have a good life, what could you possibly feel depressed about?”

With that line of thinking, its okay for everyone else to have bouts with depression and despair-just not me? It only makes me want to close myself off all the more. It’s painfully lonely when you feel so stuck in life, you keep spinning your wheels and feel as though you aren’t going anywhere . Similar to being stuck at the back of the line always. Often, it feels like I’m paralyzed on the inside and can’t move. And yet, each and every day, I get out of my bed and do what I’m supposed to. The dark enemy in my mind says “you better get comfy, because this is all your life will ever be, because you’ve blown it too much to get better.” And as many times as I have attempted to drive out the dark enemy, all I want to do is curl up under and blanket and not move.

A few days ago I was listening to a man, who deeply depressed, and so to attempt to get the pain to stop. He jumped off a bridge in San Francisco, by the grace of God he survived, but what he said struck me. He said that as he was falling off the bride, he instantly regretted the choice he made. He said that many people don’t want to die, they only want the pain to stop. And you know what? He’s exactly right, I have had many dark nights of the soul, I have even spent days in a hospital, and I can attribute myself resolve to stay in the fight, to God gracing me with a stubborn hope. Anne Lamott says

““Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”


Going back to the analogy of being beat up by a group of people, after the beating, I lay there for a while. But eventually I find the strength to get back up. It reminds me when Neo fights the agent in one of the final scene, Neo is getting his ass handed to him, the agent thinks that he has completed his task at finally shutting neo down. And yet Neo gets back up again, the agent in a state of disbelief wonders what’s in Neo that helps him get back up. Why!? Why do you persist!?

I persist because in the depths of who I am, I know that there is something else on the darkness. In spite of such paralyzing heaviness. Christ has given me himself and he alone is my anchor in life. And even he got back up after the worst suffering imaginable. The other night, a friend reminded me that depression is not my true identity. That being a beloved child of God is, that is my truest self. As we walk, crawl and drag ourselves through the heaviness , know that you were never meant to carry your pain alone. You can cast all your pain upon Christ because he cares for you. I’m reminded of the line, in the foot poem “when you see only one pair of foot prints, it was then that he carried you.”

I don’t know when the pain will end- or that it will even stop. But I can tell you, that it is worth it, getting up each time you feel destroyed by life’s current. You never know what life could turn out to be.

The Power of Jiujitsu Against Depression

            My intent for this post is to get members of the jiujitsu community, to see beyond the surface of jiujitsu. Beyond the belts, the shiny gold medals and even all the latest trends. To see the people around you and how the art can truly help others cope and even heal mental illness.

It would seem as though, I’ve had a grappling match with depression most of my life. Even as a kid, I’d go from smiling to having a wave of sadness wash over me. Of course living withcerebral palsy brings it’s own battles. Knowing that you’re not like everyone else in the world. Knowing where you belong in the world is as equally daunting. Truth be told, I’ve always felt like a misfit.

As a child, I went through a handful of surgeries, each requiring months to recover, taking me out of school and away from friends is in some ways worse than the physical pain. My one saving grace as a kid was learning how to grapple. It was my escape from even knowing I had CP, it was an escape from my mind and so much more.

Learning to grapple made me feel as though, I was alive and that this could all lead to a greater purpose. I’ve been a martial arts instructor since the age of sixteen, teaching very styles, disciplines and people from all walks of life. I love the arts. But the one art I love the most is jiujitsu.

I truly believe that it can change people’s lives for the better,  students and professors have the ability to use the gift of jiujitsu to change people’s lives for the better. The way some other arts cannot. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Rickson Gracie once said that sometimes as a teacher, you are sometimes a psychologist as well. In that sometimes you have to teach others to be calm, control their emotions and transcend the challenges of their lives.

As many may know, speaking up about depression or any challenge can take a lot of courage. It’s often what we are most willing to speak about that gives us healing and hope. Most of the time, my team mates see me with a smile on my face, sometimes the smile is real, but sometimes the smile is a means to hide the pain.

I smile and don’t let anyone see the fight going on inside me. Which is daily. But once I feel my GI and belt wrap around me. I know everything will be okay. For me, I love the human contact of Jiujitsu. Which I don’t get much of. I know that either when I’m learning a new technique or rolling with friends. The pain and sadness will leave me. Then- I can breath and feel that everything is right in the world.

Jiujitsu has taught me to breath. To breathe through the heaviness  of depression and even anxiety. To move and make space even when I am feeling smothered by life. There’s always a way out of a tough position.

My hope is that members of the jiujitsu community will look deeper into jiujitsu, and see the healing properties that it possesses. It’s not about the pursuit of gold medals, the stripes on your belt or how many cool techniques you can do. It’s about the people around you. Open your eyes, pay attention to your team mates, check in with the people around you. If you know someone is struggling, and you don’t know the words. Offer them your silence, your listening ear. Keep them rolling and moving forward in the journey. Am I completely free from the weight of my own depression? No, I am not. But Jujitsu has offered a healing, and am community that I have never had. And quite frankly, it is better than any medicine a doctor could offer me.

Remember, we are a community that exists to make each other better. Jiujitsu exists, not so much for the sake of violence. But to reveal the greatness that lives inside us all.      

Brief Thoughts on Romans 8:28

The other day I wrote that my hearts prayer was Romans 8:28, which says:

28 And we know that [a]God [b]causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Admittedly, in college I found this to be the most annoying passage because almost every one would quote it in times of hardship and suffering. When it comes to walking with others in human suffering, some times Christians can absolutely suck at comforting others. Rather than offering compassion and silence, we often rattle off a verse or two, in hopes that it brings hope in some ways.

Most times it doesn’t do anything. Often, when we suffer, our hearts and minds are too hard and guarded to hear anything. And it isn’t until we get further away from the suffering that we begin to see hope, truth and resolution to the problem.   

The thorn in my flesh has been depression mostly, and wondering what God is doing in the circumstances of my life. It becomes very easy to doubt his goodness and kindness toward me. It hit me the other day, that the good that the apostle Paul speaks of in this passage is in one sense- eternity.

What this means practically speaking, is that any thorn in my side, any sort of illness will all be no more when we are finally with Christ. Nothing happens in our lives without the Lords say so. This means that he can allow the greatest of suffering in our lives, if it means having a deeper relationship with him.

In another sense, the good that Paul speaks of is also character development. Are we becoming more like Christ on a daily basis? Are we walking in obedience with his word? Are you becoming more refined and stable in mind and will? The providence of God is so stunning and amazing- you can trust him. In any season of your life.     

Rambling on Depression

Depression sucks, especially the kind of been experiencing the past three days. It’s like something dark, just came and busted out a lawn chair and began to relax while it indulged in it’s favorite beverage and snack. Then I think to myself, “Hey, I didn’t invite you here” Then this dark creature replies “oh, but you forget I show up every year.. When you least expect it.” That you do, but it doesn’t mean this depression is welcome.

So I’m going to express and share about what I’ve been feeling without giving power to loathing and deprecation of the self. Which I have been prone to do. However it will be a goal of mine within the new year to really fight against feeling sorry for myself and speaking negatively about myself. Depression is interesting in the sense that, it can feel your mind with lies that you know aren’t true. And yet, because its so heavy it feels true all the more.

The depression will say that I’m a fraud, no woman would ever want to be with me again, I’ve made to many mistakes and that my life is as good as it could possibly get. Meaning I’m stuck and life as I know it. Is over.

Again, I know it’s not true, but as I said the depression makes it seem all the more real and powerful. I’ve been on different medications for depression, and been to various counselors and I’ve had bad experiences with both. Medications only seemed to make feel worse, physically and mentally and most counselors I’ve seen have cooking cutter responses to my pain. So I said screw it both.

For me I believe that nutrition and fitness are big parts of fighting it, but you can do all that and still grapple with depression, however short the duration. For me, I’d rather have short durations, than to be where I once was, where I was having a couple panic attacks a week, puking before classes in college and so on.

This year hasn’t helped, though I’m thankful because here, in small Nebraska were not that restricted by Covid. But it doesn’t help, hearing about it every day, having a never ending political battle. Moreover, having cerebral palsy doesn’t help at all. It’s not like I can just leave the house whenever my heart desires. It’s also difficult when you don’t have any friends who can readily come pick you up or hang out with you because of their own circumstances.

Which is why I’ve tried a lot to be happy with myself and my own company, this is not just my battle but for many with cerebral palsy. Depression doesn’t make you weak, I just choose to lower my head and keep moving forward, to keep taking the shots. I’m not directly apposed to seeking help- I’m more open to talk therapy than anything. I’d only like to find a decent fit.

In the midst of the depression and the powerful blows that it deals myself and others, I’ve learn to channel a deep warrior strength inside me. One that knows that this darkness will pass, I’m learning to notice the pain and darkness within, and yet not be over ran by it. I’m learning to not let the depression over ride the duration of my day.

I still manage to workout, eat healthy, workout etc in spite of the depression that faces me. One might say that that’s not healthy. But to me, I say that that’s making war against the depression. It’s me fighting, going down swinging no matter what.

My greatest anchor through all of this is my relationship with God, prayer and reading my Bible. That’s what’s bigger than any darkness in my life.

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.