Gods Grace

Gods grace is the single most beautiful, amazing and life changing gifts in my life and the world around us. Jesus Christ is the perfect, beautiful and amazing embodiment of that. His grace is all that I am and all that I have. Without his grace I am utterly lost, like a homeless soul begging to be let in to a warm home or begging for scraps.

gods-grace1His grace has changed my life, grace has rescued me from myself. Grace has given me the ability to discover my true self, it has given me the ability to live free from within and grace has taught me to smile regardless of what circumstances may be put before me.

The apostle Paul said that Gods grace made him what he is (1 Corinthians 15:10), the apostle Paul is most famous for his conversion in acts 9. Before his conversation, he hated and persecuted Christians, he had them thrown into prison and even killed.  Paul was a man who new the Jewish tradition inside and out, he even followed with utmost care and perfection it seemed. Though, he was a deeply religious man, he did not know true inner peace or who he really was or meant to be.

In my own spiritual journey, that following the commands of the Lord, is far more difficult when I am trying to do them out of my own strength and religious piety. But when I am operating out of a place of love and grace, things are more easy and light. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

You might be thinking: Okay, well how does one begin to operate out of the heart beat of grace? Great question, but I will first tell you that, at first, grace will not feel comfortable or even very “loving” why? Because grace has to break through the resistance of your mind, heart and being.

Again, this might be very comfortable at first, because God in his love, has to break through your pride, your self-reliance, your will, your desires everything. Basically in love, the Lord has to break you down to build you back up. He makes you a new creation.  He gives you a new mind, heart and will.

God did this in my own life, when he graciously allowed me to encounter his son Jesus. He melted me, he made me see all that I ever longed for and was longing for. He made me see, just how miserable I was and how horrible I was at playing god with my life. More importantly, he showed me that only he could be the satisfaction and peace that I so deeply longed for.

Feeling and knowing his amazing grace, spun me inside and out in the best way possible. I was happy and truly smiled! What I learned though, over time and actually on countless occasions, is that grace is much more than a feeling, but a true state of being, a deep anchor that a child of God can hold onto in the midst of life’s most violent storms.

No, I don’t always feel grace, but I have learned that it is so profoundly sufficient. Some days I am reminded of the sins of old, and the shame and regret that comes with them. Somedays I am so desperate to feel his grace, as though I am some sort of addict. I’m crying out for it.

In this time, Christ cries back to me saying I am the embodiment of grace! His life, death and resurrection is the all the grace I need, not a mere feeling. When I cannot feel the grace of God, he reminds me of what he did on the cross for me.

One) He took my place on the cross, and died the death that should have been for me (and you).

Two) He took my sin, shame and guilt. And in a great exchange, he gave me his perfection and made righteous in the sight of his father.

Three) While on the cross, he was momentarily separated from his father, so that you or I never have to be.

Four)  The resurrection of Christ, means that we have died to our old selves and that we have risen with him. Furthermore, it means, we will have a resurrection of our bodies when he comes again.

This is the only assurance we will ever need, in regards to his grace towards us. Even if we never saw another shred of evidence. Christ’s actions on the cross are more than enough evidence to show us the depth, width and breadth of his grace for us.

 

 

Advertisements

Cerebral Palsy. Body Image and Internal Healing.

I’m starting to see a correlation between cerebral palsy and body image, this correlation stems from being in contact with numerous people who live with cerebral palsy through social media. In this particular regard, I’m speaking about having a negative self image.

You may look at the image of me below, and not think that I am “fat” all, but when I look at myself. That is what I see.

unnamed.jpg

When I look at the sides of my stomach, I think “Ugh gross” then I start thinking or obsessing over what I eat and upping the intensity of my daily workouts. Which is not a bad thing at all. It is a problem though, when you are in the middle of your workout and you can’t stop dwelling on how disgusting you feel and look.

I posted that above photo on instagram a few weeks ago, lots of people said that I looked great, or that we all had those feelings, or even “that’s just skin!” The comments were heart warming and helped me to think more positively.. For awhile, but then I would find myself in the downward spiral of self destruction and sabotage.

My workouts have consisted of lots of burpees, probably two-four hundred every single day. Along with Kettle and Bar Bell lifting. I sweat a lot, recover well but am utterly hungry the rest of the day.  Nor am I afraid of eating my carbs, protein and Beer… My one beer after work.

The engine is constantly stoked, and I’m constantly pushing my mind and body.. But there is this area of my life, that needs change. I’m tried all the thought stopping methods, all the positive affirmations etc. And still nothing helps the crap shoot stop.

After CF today, I came home, ate and then went to wash my stinky self. There I was, looking at my body with contempt. And then I thought, “this has to stop!” Truly the only thing that gets me through life is my faith. So after redirecting my thoughts back to it, I whispered to God:

“God, you don’t want me to hate my body, I know that. Help me to see myself differently, as you do.” At that moment, something clicked on inside of me. I’m not saying that you have to do, as I do, that is something that you have to decide and work through for yourself.

What I am saying though, is that these destructive thinking has to stop, or at least be put in its rightful place. A vast majority of therapists would saying that working out is killing me, and steer me away from it as they would most addictions. But I don’t think that that is the end all be all solution.

Yes, some things might need to change, or pause. But this is less a physical issue, and more a mental, emotional and spiritual issue. And until those issues heal, nothing we change the way we long for.

So! We have to understand that this is going to be a long journey, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have to accept where we are at. I know that this is something that will not want to be heard, you might spend lots of time in a wheel chair, and be on lots of meds. Okay, we can work with that, the fact is that we cannot give up.

There are plenty of exercises that can be done from a seated position, plenty of ways to even build stamina too. I should get on making videos regarding these topics. Yet the biggest component is learning to take care of ourselves from a place of love and not so much a “I have to” but an “I want to” there’s a huge difference.

Change your forward thinking: Think less on your image, and think more about prolonged health, mobility, strength and focus. So that we can be the strongest version of ourselves, not so much for ourselves but for others.

The internal healing is more tangible than we believe, more closer than we think. Much like any medicine though, it takes time for the benefits to show up, but rest assured. Through discipline and diligence change will come.

Blessings!

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

The Lies I Believe And The Power of Ephesians

Contrary to popular belief, or how social media my portray I don’t wake up with a smile on my face all the time. In fact, some mornings I wake up and it seems as though, there is a spiritual war going inside me. A war against regret, doubt, shame, hopelessness and so much more.

The lies I believe:

You’re not good enough

you don’t have what it takes

nobody actually cares

no women will ever want you

you’ll never be all that you dreamed of being

God hates you

Just give up.

There’s more lies in there I’m sure, but you get the point and maybe you can relate. Sometimes I’m not even sure how these thoughts enter my mind. I could just wake up that way! Wake up feeling like I’m in a fight for my life, my mind, my eternal destiny. I have to be reminded that I’m not hopeless, that the God of the university is for me and on my side. His eyes are ever upon me. The one thing that has caused me to hold on and fight back against all these thoughts, is the love letter of Ephesians. I could easily copy and paste the entire 6 chapters in this blog, but I think I will settle for Eph 1:3-14

eBlessed be fthe God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing gin the heavenly places, 4 heven as he ichose us in him jbefore the foundation of the world, that we should be kholy and blameless before him. In love 5 lhe predestined us2 for madoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, naccording to the purpose of his will, 6 oto the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in pthe Beloved. 7 qIn him we have rredemption sthrough his blood, tthe forgiveness of our trespasses, uaccording to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 vmaking known3 to us the mystery of his will, naccording to his purpose, which he wset forth in Christ 10 as a plan for xthe fullness of time, yto unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained zan inheritance, ahaving been predestined baccording to the purpose of him who works all things according to cthe counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be dto the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard ethe word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, fwere sealed with the gpromised Holy Spirit, 14 who is hthe guarantee4 of our iinheritance until jwe acquire kpossession of it,5 lto the praise of his glory.

I can think of no other writing in the world, that makes my mind and soul come alive in this way. I can think of no other spiritual or religious text that makes me want to put on my armor, grab my brave heart sword (metaphorically speaking) and start slaying these lies in my head. Because Christ has overcame it all for me. He has done the same for you, so that you no longer have to be chained to these crippling thoughts any longer.

24650837_10159748603495165_359226427_o

Rediscovering Discipline

For the past several weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jocko Willink. He is a former Navy Seal and BJJ black belt under the legendary Dean Lister. I’ve found myself drawn to the fact that he talks so much about self-discipline, in fact, he says that discipline is freedom. I can remember being in college and getting up at 5 AM most every morning, usually because I was scared of waking up late and missing breakfast, class or whatever was on task for the day.

The fact that my father was in the military sure helped with this, and the fact that my mom, would have to get me up early to get ready for school only added to the fact that my body and mind would become accustomed to rising early and chipping away at the day. As a kid, I hated it, wanted to sleep in more and be a bit lazy. But eventually I got used to it. The early rise and grind is what would carry me through a huge majority of my life.

Because my parents disciplined me in such away, conditioned me to get the job done. Even when I didn’t want to. In college I would be done with assignments way before other people were. People would often tell me “I don’t know how you do it..” And at the time, the only answer I had was that God gave me parents to help train me to live in such a way. And that the Lord is faithful in waking me up each and everyday. Was I perfect at it, no way, in fact there were days when I would hit the snooze button once or twice.

Another way of saying it, was I went through the daily motions of life. I’ve always been taught that this was a bad thing, especially being a Christian. But Jocko says that you go through the motions and do it anyway.

Don’t feel like reading my bible? do it any way!

Don’t feel like praying? do it anyway!

Don’t feel like lifting heavy weight? do it anyway!

You’ll feel better having done it. Because the the things we don’t want to do, are the things we need to do the most. It’s how you get ahead in life and how you succeed. Living a life of discipline, I believe, is how we see a difference not only in ourselves. But others, meaning that we can greater help people wherever they are at in life. Living the disciplined life is how we combat our vices, the temptations, the addiction, the bad habits that only long to derail us.

Discipline wins the battle, discipline is wisdom. Discipline may very well be the voice of the grand commander and chief saying, “Hey, I love you, now get up, get on mission and get it done!

Discipline, from the Christian perspective, is not so much our own might. But His, but thats for another blog!images.duckduckgo

 

 

 

What Can The Secular Say To The Holy?

I am working on a new manuscript, a devotional entitled What Can The Secular Say To The Holy (And Vice Versa). The manuscript takes mainstream “secular songs and filtering them through a Christ-centered lens.  Here is a sample of what I am working on:

Day Three

In Your House I long to be, Room by room patiently, I’ll wait for you there like a stone.

-AudioSlave

The focus of every Christian should be the presence of God, we are to hunger and thrust for it. The psalmist David once wrote “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42). In our physical thirst we long for something to quench our thirst, our physical thirst should in some ways be a reflection of our spiritual thirst. Jesus said that when we drink of his living water (John 4:14), of course one might wonder, even when I do have Christ in my life, why do I still thirst. It might seem quite paradoxical, but I believe that God created us to thirst for him and nothing else, he gave us a thirst that only he can satisfy. The problem is then is that we all believe that other that other things can satisfy, be it people, relationships, sex and other forms of gratification. These things are not bad, relationships, sex, food and things of that nature are meant to be enjoyed, both because they’re all gifts from the grand creator and they are meant to point us to his glory. So as I find myself listening to the lyrics of AudioSlave, I can’t help but long for to be in God’s presence, in his house, room by room being being surrounded by his presence.

Again, one might ask, what if I’m seeking the Lords presence and can’t “feel” anything? Great question, I believe that the key comes in the above AudioSlave lyrics, Patiently, like a stone.   Like a stone we patiently wait for the Lords presence, we refuse to move until we have his presence. Moses pleaded these words to God in Exodus 33:15, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” I think our attitudes should be the same as Moses if the Lords presence is not with us, then we shouldn’t even consider moving. Of course, though, as believers, we have the Lords presence and constant favor. Nothing can separate us from that (Romans 8:35-39). Again, having longings for other things like connection, intimacy, community and so on are beautiful and Godly. But nothing can satisfy and sustain us as the Lords presence. Seek him now at this moment.

images

 

Word Vomiting on Anxiety and The Christian Life.

Breath… Breath… I tell myself as the sense of panic sets in.

My chest tightens, along with the shortness of breath.

This doesn’t make any sense, shouldn’t I have the most peace and Joy in all the world?

Instead, I feel like everything is going into a spontaneous flat spin. And you call yourself a Christian!?  

This tends to be the inner conversation that I have with myself most days, when anxiety seems to be getting the better of me. Anxiety and depression are things that any and all people may experience in a life time. But it can be a little tricky (a lot tricky actually) if you are a professing Christian.

I’m willing to bet that there are many bible believing Christians that live with either or both anxiety or depression. But their timid about speaking up about it. I know that when I visit a new church, I tend to put my smile on and be prepared to tell everyone that greets me how great I’m doing.

Why?

Because talking about anxiety or depression in some christian communities is like a drill sergeant who goes into a room full of marines who are sleeping and decide to let loose a flash bang. It can be painfully deafening and stunning to ones vision, but that’s what it’s like when a fellow believer talks about mental illness in the church. It hurts peoples ears and blinds the perception of life. Or the Christian life rather.

I personally have reached a point in my life, where I am tired of stuffing how I’m doing just to better sooth others. Yet I am still tremble at the thought of hearing another cliche response to pain.

Are you praying enough?

In the word? (The Bible)

Are you memorizing scripture?

(even better) are you in fellowship with other believers?

Or… Or.. “oh, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you”… As the pat you on the shoulder, as if to say “there there little one, its going to be alright”

Verses will then be quoted about how were not meant to worry, and how God knows every hair on our heads. I very much understand that. And I actually believe that deep down, though the anxiety in my heart wants me to believe other wise.

Believers that struggle with anxiety are not people that simply need fixing, we don’t need quick fixes for things that we might have until the day were led home by Aslan (Chronicles of Narnia reference to Jesus). For some, having mental illness could be the Lords way of using something seen as evil, for our good.

God knows that if I didn’t have CP, I probably rely or need him as much. I few my own anxiety and depression in the same. Not in the sense that I enjoy living with anxiety or depression, but that I know that God uses these things as a way of making me a more loving and compassionate person.

The classic passage in scripture where the apostle Paul, pleas that God would remove the thorn from his side, only to have the king of the cosmos say “my grace is sufficient for you”. The key word here is grace, for a Christian, grace is meant to be our driving force. Not our mustering of effort, Not our lists of accomplishments or failures.

Something inside believes, that this is how Christians are meant to live in community and relationship to one another. Yes, there is always room to encourage and push each other to grow. But more then anything grace is meant to abound all the more.

For so long pastors, and the church as a whole has seemed to only want to “fix” those who are learning to live and cope with various shades of mental illness. And that should never be the answer, nor the motivation for the church.First and foremost, I believe that the Church should learn to sit quietly with those who are in the midst of the storm.

This is best scene through out the story of Job, job in the opening chapters loses everything he ever held dear to him. He finds himself in a place of distress in every area of his life. His friends would soon arrive on the scene of his life. There they sat quietly as their friend mourned the loss of his children and vitality, but they seemed to be silent with him for a moment.

Then they started accusing him of doing something to royally piss God off. And as a result, God was then punishing job for something that he had done. The sad truth is that we Christians do the same thing today. Rather then sitting with someone in their pain, we tend to spew at the mouth with cliche statements and things that really say nothing in the end.

Could this be because were scared of not having the answer for something or someone in life? I think so, some of the most meaningful moments in my life have been when a friend has sat beside me and just let me cry. Not giving me a sermon, although we sometimes need that too. But they let me cry and scream until there wasn’t anything left to empty of myself.

We all could be better at this couldn’t we? As I have more then likely said before. If you have anxiety or any other form of mental illness. your not a freak, your not something that needs simple repair or fixing. you are not your diagnoses. your loved, created in the image of the king and thus have more worth and value then you could ever know.  Your pain runs deeper that mere pat answers. Healing and recovery are possible with time and diligence. You don’t have to go through life alone, nor were you ever meant to.

You were created to loved and be loved. Seek help, don’t be afraid to need it. Ignore what others think, your life matters to much to lay quietly in the darkness.

 

images-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between Worry and A Dream

Anybody else wrestle with worry?

I do.

People have various responses to worry, some believe its self centered, others believe it is wrapped in arrogance. Others assert that it is due to lack of spiritual center and putting ones trust in the wrong person, place or thing to find ones sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I don’t think that many of these perspectives can honestly be argued with. But none the less, the reality of worry is a real one.

And today, its almost crippling for me. My chest is heavy and my stomach feels like it’s in knots. I know I’m not crazy, even though I often feel like it and this isn’t simply something in my head that can be easily dealt with by a simple solution.

Rather it requires time and albeit faith to know that you will make to the end of this discomfort. But making it to the end is not something we can muster on our it. It requires asking for help and finding the right people that will actually listen and understand. Not simply dealing out blanket statements.

For me, my worry comes from the dreams that are placed before me. I want to start a non profit. I want to put a team together, but what if I put a team together and nobody sticks with me? Will I keep fighting and moving forward.

This dream is so much bigger then me… I want to help people, I want to be a good friend, husband and father someday. But what if all of it blows up in my face based on mistakes that I have made in my life? I know I can’t control everything around me. But dammit it would be nice to know that others are willing to come along side me for the long hall.

Francis of Assisi once wrote:

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As I said, I can’t control the future of what choices and actions others decide to make. But I can work on me. I can learn ways to cope with this anxiety. I can learn that irrational thoughts are simply that if they have no proper founding. I can learn to address them with the right people.

I only refuse to give in to societies treatment of mental illness, preferably from Christian circles that inform you of your little faith or how you can pray away the anxiety. And not from secular professionals that say that you only need medication. In actuality, a holistic approach is greatly needed in my view. Because a human being is not simply just the chemicals in their brain, nor the physical make up of our body. But we are a physical, emotional and spiritual beings at the same time.

Its okay that we as human struggle, its when we choose to stay there that becomes the problem. I write these blogs just as much myself as I do for my readers. Let us desire more for ourselves and others.

images

 

Walking Into The Dark Nights

I haven’t written in quite some time, college life has been at the forefront of my life. Everything else, except my faith falls further down the list. There have also been other issues as well. One of which is depression, often around this time of year the depression seems to wrap its arms around me in a un-wanted bear hug. Its tight and heavy all at the same time.

It becomes difficult to keep the perspective or outlook on life that I normally encourage others to have. It becomes increasingly difficult to get out of bed each time. Yet like a robot, my feet hit the floor, I shower, get dressed, brush my teeth and go on with my day.

I force myself to not isolate myself from others, but it is all the more tempting to shut down and with draw into the dark nights of the soul. The tears seem to fall from no where and no reason, yet it feels good to release and let go. The second layer to this season is the ever increasing amounts of anger. I don’t remember being filled with such anger and frustration. Probably not since I was a punk kid.

But I can’t deny this time in my life, as much as I wish I could switch things off, I realize that the only thing I can enter these dark nights holding the flame of God in my hands. In the words of the prophet Isaiah:”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (9:2, ESV)

I wish that there were easy answers, solutions and satisfying blanket statements. But there aren’t, sometimes life is a really pain deep in the gut. Sometimes all you can do is scream and find ways to cope. But I also hold fast to the belief that God gives a shit. He has and always will. Its our choice to open ourselves up to him and let him do what he will as the grand artist of our souls.

Hang on, hold fast. This season will pass and the warmth will some embrace us again. In the mean time, embrace all the chances for growth, intimacy and community. In this we find our strength and purpse.images

Cerebral Palsy and Depression

Following my previous post What’s It’s Like To Live With Cerebral Palsy? I felt it would be good to continue on with writing about cerebral palsy and what it is like to not only live it, but also mental illness at the same time. I know it must seem harsh that a person might already have C.P. and now add on a mental illness as well.

While some may raise a clenched fist (which I have in the past) I’ve come to accept this fact, my cerebral palsy and even mental illness are apart of me, but not who I am as a whole. I can’t exactly remember when depression made its ways into my life. It would be easy to think that from a young age, enduring all the operations that my body has had to endure. The intense pain, the time spent in recovery (which has taken a year and half each time) and the intensive therapy to get back to a normal functioning state.

It makes sense that depression would begin to appear, after all, every human being has bouts with depression at one point or another. No one is immune to depression, But when you have other physical elements added on from something like C.P. it’s sometimes all the more difficult at times.

But having lived with depression (and anxiety) since I was seventeen, I am here to tell you that it can get better. Talk therapy, coping mechanisms and adequate exercise are some of the best ways to combat depression.

As far as exercise, its something that I’ve done my whole life, however discovering Cross-Fit over a year ago, it has been a fascinating way to night only improve my body, but also my mind. Cross-Fit is amazing because it can be scaled down to meet people who are in wheel chairs.

Talk therapy on the other hand, can be a bit tricky. It can be difficult to find the right counselor, one that actually listens and doesn’t not simply provide short arm answers, but when you do it can make a world of difference. We all need help in this life, we are not the lone rangers that we think we are.

So my wisdom is simple, if you are a person living with C.P. and also feel that you may be experiencing depression, or long periods of sadness. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you trust, a close friend, family member and even professional. You might not find what what you are looking for right away, but never give up the hunt.

If you are a parent, with a child who has C.P. (or any other condition) and you sense they are struggling, talk to them, ask questions. And if they talk, practice the art of listening. It will make a world of difference.

Lastly, if you would like to know more about my life with cerebral palsy, depression and faith. Please check out my first memoir The Emotional Struggle. here: http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Struggle-Brandon-Ryan/dp/1434348113/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438269703&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Emotional+Struggle     1936383_124215146308_4705139_n

In The Midst of Anxiety

Here is an same from my very first devotional “A Journey Toward Intimacy” which will be releasing via Amazon.com fairly soon.

Day 16
In the Midst of Anxiety
Psalm 34:4-7

Last night I was overcome with anxiety, perhaps you can relate. Sleep was far from me, it was as though the enemy (Satan) was at war within inside my mind and heart. As we have seen in a previous devotion, the enemy is the farther of lies. The trick to the enemy’s lies is that they almost seem true.

God doesn’t love you, because you’re not good enough.

Well yes, your right I am not good enough, but God does love me because he sent his son for me.

Satan might reply: Even so, you’re a horrible Christian, you don’t love God for who he is, and you love him for the gifts he gives you.

Very well king douche bag, I am not a good Christian, but his mercies are new every morning.

In the midst of anxiety, our only hope can and must be Christ himself. As I got out of bed the next day I dove into the psalms, instantly God brought come to my frantic self. As today’s texts reads: I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

In the midst of anxiety, we have a mighty fortress to run to, in the midst of anxiety the peace of the father will rest upon us and we will smile with radiance, in the midst of anxiety there is a strong and mighty hand to deliver us.

May you know his peace and the beauty of his presence, and may it be well with you today.