Manhood and Disability Part 1

I’ve never been one to feel sorry for myself, going after things I want has always been part of what made me who I am. It was ingrained in me by my parents, to not let anything stop me and not take no as an answer.

As a child, I felt as though nothing could touch me or wound me. But as you get a little older in life, you suddenly discover that you aren’t invisible as you once thought. You find that the world isn’t as nice as you once thought, and not everyone will give you a chance or think that you will ever amount too much.

Some where along the way, we lose that since of healthy confidence in our selves, and we allow other voices to influence us. There have been quite a bit of times in my life, where I have felt like less of a man, because I can’t drive or do all the typical things that a man is supposed to do.

Never learned to change a light bulb, change the oil in a car none of the typical things that a man is called to do. Growing up, my mom beat into my mind that the man does everything, provides for the woman, so on a so forth. Now I know that some might insert right away, that there is a very old traditional view. And to a degree I would acknowledge that disagreement.

But I do think, that to a a degree a man is supposed to be a warrior poet, much like William Wallace. One who knows how to capture a women’s heart. And vend off evil man if they ever had to. Inwardly and in the back of my mind, I have always felt like I am that.

The deeper reality is though, there a days and moments when I don’t feel like a measure up at all. That is why, my heart often goes out in a deep way to young boys/men with cerebral palsy. Who like me, don’t feel like they measure up, or never be seen as a real man.

In mays I am blessed to have a very mild form of CP, I can do a lot of things for myself. But what about those young men, or fully grown men, that don’t feel like a women could ever love them? Those of us, who is not what the worlds deems to be a man? It’s very easy to turn inward into shame, regret, isolation and even blame shifting.

So my hope, is to speak into that darkness and bring about some hope, bravery and encouragement.

YOU ARE A MAN.

Regardless of what severity of cerebral palsy or other physical condition you may have. You are a man, endowed in the holy image of God. An author who I once frequented, wrote that:

IF you have a penis, you have what it takes to get the job done.. You may not be able to do any sort of physical task, involving a car, kitchen or whatever. But that doesn’t mean, that you couldn’t make the simple phone call to get it fixed.

You  might not be able to spin your wife or girlfriend in circles, or even cook for them.  But you can love and protect them mentally, emotionally and spirituality. So much of my life I was blind to this reality, because I was so fixated on the physical.

When there is so much more to it, than physical aspects. I didn’t think that I would ever meet a women that loved me, until I met my girlfriend. I wasn’t finding relationships that worked out. And the more that happened the more alone I felt.

This only pushed me to cling to God more, finding peace in his love and being made in his image. Which is where all my worth and dignity as a human stems from. When I met my girlfriend, I was so shocked and overjoyed, because  I never thought I’d find another human that loved me in all the ways my heart desired.

I was blown away that even doubted Gods goodness and ability.

I do all I can to help my girlfriend when we are together, but the reality is, is that we have learned to take turns helping each other. There are times, in this current season of our relationship. Where I can’t help her with every little thing, and sometimes the greatest thing I can offer her is encouragement, love and my support.

I believe that us men, buy into the lie that we have nothing to offer, that we have no purpose and that we are not worthy of love. It’s all a lie that we accept when the depression sets in.

But the truth is, is that you have much to offer, you have purpose and you are worthy of love. It’s all abut finding out who you are, what makes you come alive and being comfortable in your own skin.

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But I’ve Sinned Too Much (Grace Part 2)

The other day I was writing in my journal, about how I simply could not understand how God could be so loving toward me. How deep and wide his grace is for me, how!? I have clearly sinned far too much in my life, I am far too prideful, stubborn and absorbed and have clearly out sinned the grace of God…

Except, I haven’t, you haven’t and we cannot exhaust his grace for us. If you are in Christ, your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103). We are new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:27).

The problem becomes, when we can know this in our heads, but we fail to live as if we are out of our hearts. We know it mentally, be we live as though we are still condemned. Yet scripture tells us, that there is NO condemnation when you are in Christ (Romans 8:1-1)

There is no condemnation for us, no guilt, no shame! But I still struggle, you say, yes me too, I believe that we are struggle in our own ways. And anyone who says that they no longer struggle I believe is a liar. Furthermore, if a person is fully healed and does not struggle with his or her sin nature any longer. Then they need to speak up and share their secrets.

For the the only way I have learned to combat my former self, is to renew my mind with the truth and love that Christ offers me through his word.

You might even think that there is no way, you could have victory over the besetting sin in your life. whatever it is. And so you think, there’s no way Gods grace is big enough for your situation, but I tell you that that is a lie the enemy wants you to believe.

I believe that the grace of God is big, far and wide, that you can complete wreck your life, and God’s grace would still be more than enough to cleanse, re-create your heart and sustain you.

Consider the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43)

Not much is know about this man, he might have had an entire life of stealing, cheating and lying has way to get what he wants. And in the last moments of his life, he begs the Lord to remember him in his kingdom.

What happens inside this man? In the final moments of his life, I believe that the holy spirit softens this mans heart and opens his eyes to see the Christ that is suffering beside him and for him. And so in other words he, says, Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.

The common reply to this is:

So your saying I can screw my life up and God will forgive me?  Well, yes and no. We just saw that Christ can forgive the man on the cross, who was asking to be remembered. Yet that was only by the grace of God to begin with. And even though Gods grace can make anyone new, I do not believe that God is saying to go make a disaster of your life. In fact, I would submit that he wants us to live a better life. One in line with him.

I’m telling you that the grace of God is so good, is more amazing than anything else in the world. It can make everything new in your life, regardless of what your prior life has been. But it is always amazing because it will set you on a pathway to a new destiny.

For his grace to us is this, when you and I are in Christ, it as though we have never sinned. For the father see’s the perfect image of his son in us, therefore the father see’s us as he see’s his beloved son.

There is hope,

don’t give up the fight.

Because he hasn’t given up the fight for you!

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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.

 

 

My Thoughts On “Trans Abled”

I can remember being in college, in hearing all the craze, about a woman who wanted to become paralyzed from the waist down. Link Here I remember scratching my head and thinking to myself this can’t be real, right? But I was truly wrong, it was real. I was made aware of the Psychological disorder called BIID, or body integrity identity disorder. 

B.I.I.D. according to the NCBI, is defined as: Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) is a rare, infrequently studied and highly secretive condition in which there is a mismatch between the mental body image and the physical body. Subjects suffering fromBIID have an intense desire to amputate a major limb or severe the spinal cord in order to become paralyzed.

Now, as a person who has lived with an actually disability (cerebral palsy) for 34 years. It is extremely difficult for me not to take a stand against this. For the simple reason that I didn’t have a say in the matter of being born in the matter that I was. There was no psychological imbalance or trauma that caused me to be born with such a condition. But rather complications in the birthing process and actually trauma to my brain.

Cerebral Palsy is not the worst thing in the world, but it does have its taxing days, both on my mind and emotions. And yes, some days I wish I could walk, run, and live like everyone else. Somedays I wish that I could have a new body, but never could I ever have imagined the new momentum of wanting to be “Trans-Abled”

Where people actually want to not have use of their eyes, legs or even arms. And the torture in which they put themselves through. In the name of achieving such goals is down right disgusting and frankly demonic. Forever, there are doctors and seemingly “medical professionals” who are willing to aid their patients in the process! And if not done by a medical professional, then physical harm is done by the person seeking those results.

As a society, what is happening to us? And are we actually willing to accept this as the new social norm? Furthermore, if we are willing to accept this as a new social norm, provided more and more people actually want to move into this supposed “life style” are we actually fighting for human flourishing? No, we are are not fighting for human flourishing, rather we are accepting a deep form of human denigration.

As human beings we should be pushing people with mental illness and various disorders, to thrive and be at peace with themselves at some level. This also goes for medical professionals as well, as most already are, but there’re also quacks everywhere you go. I don’t meant to sound in-compassionate to these people that have this mental disorder, because they’re people too.

But no, you don’t and shouldn’t have the right just to cut your own arm off, simply because you want to be called “One arm Jack” which is a real story too. This is heart breaking, these people need deep compassionate mental care. For no real human being should set out to accomplish the goal of becoming disabled in various ways just to feel whole.

That in my estimation is the very definition of Ab-normal. I get that a lot of people feel trapped in their own bodies, but the answer is not harming yourself to accomplish a sense of people or even taking ones life, no way no how. Finding a sense of inner peace within oneself can be an extremely daunting journey, I know it has for me.

And I mentioned earlier, having CP is not the worst thing in the world, but there are days when it sucks and my body is in great pain. And yes, the days where I would like to experience what it is like to be like every other person, they come too. But I have done the hard work to have a sense of peace with myself and my maker.

I dealt with the shame of my right hand, the scars on my body and so on. And though my struggle is not the same of one that suffers from BIID. I can honestly tell you that I am at peace with myself, I still struggle, but I’m very okay with the body that I have been blessed with.

The same, I believe can be found for someone that suffers with BIID, to find true mental healing and restoration. It may be a long process, but it is possible, it takes the care and compassion of mental health professionals to help them work through a lot of layers and change the way we think.

Though I profoundly and disagree with the desire for one to become disabled, in any sense. Does not mean that I love or care for them any less. These people still have the image of God on them, and  whether they know that or not. That is their truest self of identity. And from that everything else follows.

They have such worth and value, and they need people who will show them that, not just cave to their desires.

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What Defines You?

How we answer this question, is very vital. For it it makes up a vast majority of how we function in daily life.

First, what are we NOT?

We are not our disability, if you have one.

We are not our mental illness, if you have one.

we are not our grade point average.

We are not our sexual orientations.

We are not our political party.

We are not our past failures.

We are not our success.

We are not our body image.

We are not our relationship status.

On and on we could go.

Our core identity, is founded upon being made in the image of God (Genesis 1). Now I know that some might take issue with that. But for me, it wasn’t until I discovered how much God loved me, that I ever truly knew peace. It was then that I stopped the endless hunt for something to fill me up or satisfy me. Money is a blessing, but that can never bring us lasting satisfaction.

All of us, are on a hunt to find what gives us a sense of worth and purpose. For some of us, that’s children, status, money, sex, power. The reality is though, that may satisfy us for a while, but those things will all leave us empty when they are taken from us. And they will be!

Knowing that our worth, value, purpose and self-esteem is founded upon the Lords image in us. Thus allows us to be able to not only realize our true selves, but to see ourselves in  healthy and balanced way. It also allows us to endure the hardest of circumstances, knowing that God is in control and our truest satisfaction and joy.

And until we come to that understanding, we will be, as  saint Augustine says: Restless until it (our hearts) rests in you.

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How To Endure Suffering and Embrace All of Life.

 

Life is a series of moments, moments that are quickly escaping us. Whether we are aware of it or not. Which is breath, each month, each year, with every word and with every thought. And what we do in these moments is up to us. What we believe in these moments is up to us.

We can choose to be a pessimist or we can choose to be optimist. Sure, each day brings trials and worries of its own, yet the choice is still ours. Even in the darkest of times, we don’t have to be completely swallowed up by suffering.

Suffering does not have to crush or destroy us. One of the ways I have found to endure the hard times of life, is to condition myself in the midst of suffering. The same way I condition my body in the gym and on the matts. I condition my mind to be strong and stable in the harshest of conditions.

Am I always successful at it? No, I am not. I fail at it a lot, but if I/we do not condition ur minds to endure suffering. Life will in fact crush us. How do I condition my mind, you ask?

two ways:

  1. Patience’s in suffering- this is something we humans do not want to hear, but it is true none the less. Wishing the pain away, really does nothing for us. But being calm and as steady as rock, thus allows us to pray, ask, seek and knock. It allows us to endure and learn optimal lessons about ourselves. Consider the words in James 5:7-8 (NIV)  Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.    When we know that the Lord is near, nothing can shake us. When we truly know his character and his love for us. The suffering and adversity is momentary compared to his steadfast love.

2. Learn the art of Joy: Psalm 30:

 will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.[a]

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.[b]
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.[c]
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

 

The poet David knows suffering all too well, and even he has endured much difficulty and despair. And yet he has learned the secret of rejoicing in the Lord, for he understands that God will not let the darkness triumph over him. Yes, I know that others may not share my same belief and faith in the Christian world view- but I believe that it is the only world way, that has anything to say about suffering. And it is the only world view that confronts suffering head on. Some say that faith in God is a “crutch” per- say, and yet most of us, that have been put the ringer of life, understand what it’s like to walk with a limp.  And so yes, Jesus comes along side us in our suffering and gives us himself to trust and lean on.

After all, he was plunged into the deepest sea of darkness for us, to show us his mad love for us and that we are not alone in suffering. He knows our suffering, temptations and weakness very deeply. The blessing of life then, as I said in the beginning, is a bundle of minutes and precious moments, passing us by whether we like it or not, believe it or not. As such, it is up to us to embrace the moments, darkness in all. We all have a choice in how we handle and view the suffering.

I say embrace it, head on, knowing that God is the great shepherd. Who can lead you beside still waters, regardless of where you have been, what you have done or have scared you may be about the future.

You are loved, it is never too late to accept the hand with the most amazing love and grace.

Caught in the Storm

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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It’s Back…

I can feel the depression setting in again, it has been for the past few weeks. It’s like an unwanted guest trying to take of space in your home when they’re not wanted. There have been moments where I have lost interest in things that made me happy, in those moments I’d rather eat ice cream, drink beer and sleep.

I’m not trying to glorify the depression, I’m only trying to express what a bitch it is. Depression is never  simple or easy to bring resolution to, in my experience, it needs to be  met with heavy love and hope.

Normally when I am faced with depression, the only thing that I want is for a friend to put their arm around me, to tell me they care, that they love me and that I’m worth it. Quite honestly, I haven’t had a love like that for many years. Ever since my friend Garret moved away, got married etc. Things changed drastically. Garret used to hang out with me all the time,  take me places and remind me of who I was.

I miss that, so very much. These days my days are spent attempting to seek the type of community and connection my heart desires, after all, the golden rule of all life and religion, is to treat others how you would want to be treated. In the words of Bono and U2 “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

Maybe the honest to God truth is that I’ll never find a friend like Garret again, and I just have to be okay with it. But he will always be the example of how to treat and care for others. Sometimes I just feel like selling all I have and going somewhere where people who are in need of a friend, a touch, a huge and warm words for the soul.

I would rather give my heart to people who wanted than to live wondering if I mattered.  The one factor that I have found that truly fights this evil monster of depression, is a purpose. Give a person the smallest hint of light and watch what they can do it. I know that this isn’t always the case, but it almost seems as though that something changes in the soul and even brain chemistry. When a person knows that they might be able to little less dark than when they found it, is truly powerful.

I just am tired of feeling like I am but a memory in this world, I miss being able to smile and meaning it, I miss feeling like there was a dragon to be slain. I miss feeling like a warrior..

 

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Letting Go of The Heavy Load.

Do you ever feel like you have to have it all together?

Do you ever feel like if you don’t have your act together 24/7, then you’re not measuring up?

I relate to both those questions, both in a physical and spiritual sense and for me they both intertwine with one another. In a physical sense if I’m not winning then I do not amount to much.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Brazilian Jiujitsu or Crossfit. If I’m not submitting people and bringing home the gold medals, then I further down the mountain while losing the respect of my team and sponsors.

If it’s Crossfit, and I’m not hitting the huge PR’s in the gym, if I’m not making the fastest time in competition and make it to the podium. Then others are beating me out and taking that spot that I desired in my heart.   As an athlete, I believe that wanting to win is a right and healthy mindset, but when we put too much unhealthy pressure on ourselves, I think that we willingly put ourselves into a mindset of slavery that we were never meant to be in any way.

You see, performance should never determine our worth. Sure, we should have dreams and be motivated to complete those goals. The bedrock of our lives should be centered around the understanding that we are loved. Loved by God, our family, and friends. When our lives are based on our performance and what we can produce with our lives, then it isn’t loving. It’s a tireless effort to meet a standard we could never meet on our own.

When the love of friends, family, and even coaches is based on the way we perform. Then one might strongly consider that the problem has little to do with you and more to do with them.  If it’s a coach treating you this way, I highly suggest not giving them anymore of your time.

Secondly, this can esaily translate over to the spiritual mind set, in that if we constanly feel that we have to earn Gods love, approval and favor then we have a foggy perspective of who God is. As sch our view of God most be quickly cleared up. So often we feel that if there is a God, then we first have to clean ourselves up in order to even approach him.

That couldn’t be more of a lie, the truth is that we can come to him despite how many flaws we have or how dirty we think we are. God longs for you to come to him, you don’t have to carry around the heavy load that is in your soul. Freedom and hope are possible.

There is a vast difference between God desiring for you to better off then you were, out of a new desire to be less of the person you were yesterday and wanting perfection. God wants you to be a brand new creation, but he understands that you will fall down time and time again. He won’t stop loving you just because you fall or have a bad day. He will love you to the sky and back. You just have to let him.

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Reflection on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

 

March is cerebral palsy awareness month, I’ve made a few posts on FB but I thought that a full-length post would be  good as well. I have lived with cerebral palsy (cp) for 30 years now. Yes, I’m 30 years of age, but I don’t feel it or look it. For that, I can thank the genetics that is in me. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that I have, not who I am.

Cerebral Palsy may be an extension of myself, but it is not who I am. First and foremost I am a child of God, who is loved from the earth to the heavens. This is where my identity lies. God knew my small frame long before time began, he wonderfully made me and gave me worth and dignity.

Having cerebral palsy then is a way that he has gifted me to reach out to others. It has allowed me to empathise with those who feel lonely, hurt and rejected by society. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I probably wouldn’t have as big as a heart for people as I do now.

If anything, I probably would be more selfish and self-focused than I already am. That being said, there are many dark days that come with having this condition. There are many days that I wish I was different or like everybody else. Meaning that I wish I could run, walk and sprint. There are days when I cry out to God wishing things were different.

In these moments of self-pity and feeling of  helplessness, I ask the “what if?” and “why me?” questions. We all ask these questions, so to an extent its okay, God can handle these questions. Cerebral palsy is in no way easy to live with, it has taken me quite a long time to be at peace with myself, God and others.

The biggest truth that I can leave you with is that God loves you and created you with passion and purpose and no one can take that from you. People may not understand what we go through, they may even make fun of how we are. But I fearlessly proclaim that you’re loved beyond anything you could ever long for. Even in the times when you feel most alone, the most rejected the most misunderstood you’re loved.

I’ll be honest, there have been times where I have wanted to die. Just to be free from this body full of scars, but some how God keeps this smile on my face. But I say again, you are loved . Never give up the fight. Chase your dreams. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve, be who you are.

Another truth I submit to you is this, you are not a burden. If people do not make time for you, if they do not take the time to get to know you. That is merely a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. Futher more, do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid to speak hope and encouragement. I truly believe that we can be the change we want to be in the world.

It may seem like you get nothing back in return, but as it is quoted in the movie Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. Do not shy away from pushing yourself physichally, I have been doing Brazillian Jiujitsu for almost 6 years and CrossFit for almost 2-3 years. With both of these elements in my life, my body has never been stronger. Even when doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do much on my own, even when teachers told me I wouldn’t amount to much. It is by Gods grace I am who I am.

The same reality can be present in your or own life, you just have to take that small step forward. That might require asking for help, swallowing your pride and letting others be your teacher. It might require you sitting down and discovering your dreams and who you are as a person. Regardless, you can rest assured that there is no glass ceiling over our heads precerebral_palsy_awarenessventing us from conquering the obstacles that stand in our way.

Be well my friends.

-Brandon