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.

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.