The “How” of Suffering

Throughout history, many people, poets, pastors, theologians and even philosophers have tried to do the best that they can to make sense of suffering within the human experience. After all suffering has been with us since the beginning of time and human existence. Even though, I myself have much first hand experience with suffering, there is something inside me that hesitates. Probably because so many other thoughts of wisdom and hope have already been uttered.

Yet, I believe that holy spirit is softly whispering from within, saying “share what I have placed inside you.” So when the holy spirit commands, the obedient son or daughter must follow. One of the most frequent objections to the existence of God or any other divine figure has been the reality of suffering. Cancer, AIDS, rape, murder and suffering in all other forms all stop us in our tracks.

Why would any sort of higher power even allow suffering? That’s a very good question that we all have asked regardless of creed or background. Cerebral Palsy, was the cross I was given when I was born. If you want a full breakdown of my story, you can check out my first book The Emotional Struggle on Amazon.

With having cerebral palsy, my life has been tested with not just physical pain from surgeries and therapy. But emotional and mental pain as well. I’ve had the entire lower half of my body operated on, each other operation taking a year or more to recover from. Doctors and professionals with the realm of education, telling me that I wouldn’t amount to much because I wasn’t smart enough.

To add more to the equation, throughout my 36 of life, there have been battles against depression, anxiety and there was once an attempted suicide. Why? Because I felt so trapped in my own life circumstances, as though nothing could or would ever change. Others in the world have faced suffering far greater than even my own.

Nowhere in my life was I ever starved to death, or tortured by evil and wicked people. Which is another reason why there was a hesitation inside me to share in the first place. And yet the starkest of realities is that some of us never make it out of suffering. Not so much in the reality of suicide, but that some of us never find a way to prevail in spite of it. Some make the choice to let the weight of suffering swallow them up like a tidal wave. As mentioned above, many of us ask of the why of suffering.

The why is important, but dare I suggest that the why is not as important as the how. How are we not going to let suffering swallow us up? How are we going to come out the suffering more brighter and courageous? I will caution you (the reader) in that, if you decide to ask the how. You must also decide to follow through with whatever the how asks of you.

For example, if you discover that your how, is being able to look at years of trauma or destructive habits. Are you willing to face it all? Are you willing to endure the process of what it takes to heal and start new chapters of your life? The consequence of not doing so, means that everything in your life stays the same.

And in choosing to stay in that reality, also then means that you’re fundamentally making a choice to cling to that suffering. Reasons for that might very well be, that it’s all you know. On the other hand, some of us are far too stubborn (such as myself) and know what we should do and end up not do it. Regardless, we both are making a choice.

In processing and embarking on our how, we first need a new perspective on suffering. That may raise some eyebrows, but it’s the only option we have. We can agree that suffering sucks, it hurts and can beat the will out of us. But if we slowly started looking at the suffering in our lives differently, we might very well find that there is more to live for.

The author of the book of James in the Bible, he says to “count it all joy” when trials come our way. As humans, we scoff and even are appalled by such statements. Because there is nothing joyful about suffering on the surface. But as the author continues by saying

“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James says, in other words that suffering we endure, produces something in that. That something is steadfastness. Meaning that we are anchored in something greater than ourselves. We admit that suffering is awful but we are not destroyed by it. When the grace of God allows to become more steadfast with time, we can find that a sense of calmness fills us up. Where we don’t always have to fly off the handle because life is not going how we want it.

This true peace and steadfastness is in divine, because one could not find it anywhere else. As much as I love stoic philosophy and philosophy in general. It does not lead to true peace. In my own life, I have surveyed every world religion and even tried meditation and even believed that I would come back in my next life as some other person. The biggest problem with that rests in the reality that, you can never know if you have done enough good to outweigh the bad. 

Biblical writes like James and Paul, their how is Christ himself. Christ for them, is the how to transcending the suffering and not simply running from it. But rather they can stare that suffering in the eye knowing it won’t win in the end. For James and Paul, they know that something far sweeter is at the end of suffering.

So that patiently and even joyfully endure, while living out the mission that God has set before them. Let us not forget Christ himself, Christ was sent by God the father in human likeness. In the Philippians 2:7, it says that Christ “emptied himself” interesting, what on earth might that mean? To empty comes from the Greek word Kenosis, Tony Evans has a very clear and beautiful way of explaining this, when he writes:

What does the self-emptying of Christ mean? The theological doctrine is called the kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning “to empty.” Did He empty Himself of His deity and become merely a man? No, the focus of His self-emptying is not heaven, but earth; that is, what Christ emptied Himself into.
He didn’t empty out God and pour in man. Rather, He emptied all of God into man. In other words, He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t say, “Deity, I’m going to leave You in heaven and go down to become humanity.”
Furthermore he writes: What Jesus did was take all of His deity and pour it into humanity so that He became much more than mere man. He became the God-man-God poured into man.
Let me tell you something impor¬tant. When Jesus Christ did something about your sin and mine, He didn’t give us the leftovers. He poured all that made Him God into man so that man would have all of God. There is nothing that belonged to God that man didn’t have when Jesus emptied Himself into man.

One of the reasons that Christ came to live among us, I believe, was to show us humans that he is the answer to the human condition and suffering. Even when on the cross, Christ took all our suffering on himself. Moreover, the cross shows that even in spite of suffering still present. The cross still shows that Christ is present with us. I don’t believe I’ll ever understand why God chooses to heal some but not others, but I do believe that he has given me the greatest gift ever, himself, his love, his presence and grace. What is more amazing, is that eternity with Christ, means no more suffering and complete joy.

Until then, Christ is my how in my own journey. He is why I can give all my fear and anxiety, and instead breath in his peace. He is why I can have joy and smile in the midst of life not being as desired.    

Virtuous Masculinity is Not Toxic

The 4 virtues of a man- I derived this from the Order of Man news letter. These 4 virtues are also seen in the Bushido or warrior code of the samurai.

1. JUSTICE

This is the righteous man. He is fair in his dealings with others. He understands the difference between selfishness and selflessness.

2. PRUDENCE

This is the man of action. He’s able to discern the appropriate path forward. He governs himself with reason and makes good choices.

3. FORTITUDE

This is the man of courage. He has the willingness to face danger, pain, and uncertainty. He displays bravery in both physical and moral strength.

4. TEMPERANCE

This is the man of moderation. He practices self-restraint, forgiveness, humility, and discipline in all areas of life.

Masculinity, as I survive current culture landscape is seen as such an evil and frowned upon trait anymore. As you may or may not know, my father raised me in the martial arts. Through that he taught me to never let my disability stop me. To hold my head up and stick my chest out. To be tough and hold my ground, and to never use my skills for the sake it. Always to restrain evil from either self or the life of another .

I learned all of these above virtues in the martial arts, being a martial artist has in many ways taught me to be a more peaceful person. Peaceful- but also knowing when to use my skills to handle real evil or an unruly person who’s just having a bad day. It makes me a more kind and loving person.

And yet men like me, disabled or not. Who train or teach martial arts, shoot guns, eat a lot of red meat and so on are seen as a antagonist. We are seen as toxic. Why? In my estimation it was once seen as good, for a man to be tough, capable, a protector and knew how to treat a woman.  Call me old fashioned if you must, but I believe that a man should still hold a door for a woman, and treat her with the utmost respect while taking care of her mind and heart. The obvious objections to this are:

I don’t need a man to hold a door open for me.

I don’t need a man to take care of me in any way shape or form.

A woman might not need a man to hold a door open for them, or take care of them. But I’m not going to change my values as a man in the name of succumbing to new culture norms. And for the record, I have zero problems with a woman who is strong, educated and has her own interests in life.          

In my weekly martial arts practice I know many women who can handle their own in a fight, and can even lift more weight then me. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that virtuous men, would still do all they could to protect and woman from violence should they have to. It has nothing to do with whether or not a woman can defend herself or not. But that being a protector is hard wired into the DNA of a man, or at least it should be.

There is nothing toxic about this, it’s what makes up the warrior inside of the inner man. There’s so many men today that are scared of their own shadow, afraid to getting punched or roughed up. We frown upon boys that get into scuffles with their friends and someone getting a bloody nose. I can remember the first time that I ever got into a scuffle with someone, I ended up elbowing them in a face as hard as I could. Was it the right thing to do?

No, but after all the drama resolved, my dad had us shake hands and we actually became friends after. The point being that when you have a masculine father step in, and demonstrate that while there is a time to use violence, virtuous men understand that they are more often willing to pursue peace and use violence as a last resort.   

We need men that are capable of violence, we need men that are capable of even being able to hunt for their own food, in the name of providing for their own families. We need men that are disciplined so that they can accomplish their life’s mission. We need men, that are also filed with compassion and empathy, so as to help ease the burdens of others in this world. We need men who are willing to stoop down and lift others up, so that they too can set themselves on solid ground.

Masculinity-or rather virtuous masculinity is not toxic. Nor should we seek to strip it away from the hands of men. We need it greatly in our currently societally standing. We need to take it back, and show it to a desperate world. We need to take it back from other men in this world that are not living up to all that they could be. We need to take it back from all the other men in the world that are using their so called “masculinity” for all the wrong reasons.    

Becoming A Man With Balls (Not Just Testicles)

Every man has testicles, but not every man has balls – George Bruno (Man in blog image)

I know that the above quote might be a bit bold and even provocative, but the words of Mr. Bruno truly resonate with me. As someone that frequents his YouTube channel, he as an older man has a ton of great things to younger men like myself. Young men and men in general need someone older and wise to speak into their lives and help them to develop into strong, confident and know how to conduct themselves in life.

When I heard the above quote, my first reaction was shock, as in there was no way he just said that. But after the quote circulated through my mind, the more his words rang truer as time went on. A lot of men have testicles, in the sense that they know how to have sex with countless women, or watch countless hours of porn and not know how or have any desire to commit to one woman.

Whereas a man with balls knows and learns how to control his urges, he learns to master himself and ultimately is able to give himself to a woman that he deems worthy. Men with just testicles are riddled with fear when it comes to facing the harsh realities and challenges of life. While men with balls are willing to be brave and figure out a way to overcome the adversity.

I’m sure that there are many more examples that could be given, the more important question to ask though, is how does a man become a man with not just testicles-but balls? That’s a great question to ask ourselves as men. As mentioned about, learning to control our sexual urges is a great start. Life is not simply where the penis goes, but learning to be a man that a deeper sense of self to him. Learning to control our urges is one of the best missions a man can embark on. It truly is worth it as time goes on. Another way a man can learn to live with balls, is to conquer his health. Stop eating the crappy foods, eat more steak and greens, do some sort of resistance training whatever that is. Build lean muscles, melt the body fat and learn to fast even if it’s for sixteen-eighteen hours a day. Your confidence will rise because of it.

Next, a man with balls learns to be alone. Not depending on women to fill his cup. A man with balls is at peace with himself and doesn’t need anything else to make him happy or have a sense of purpose and worth. This can take some time to master as well, but when as men we realize that we can be happy in ourselves, we are able to handle darkness far better when it comes hunting for us.

Men also- with balls are at peace with God. They are in right standing with the king of the cosmos and find all they are in him. I know that some of my readers don’t believe in God. But for me, being in right standing with God leaves a man knowing who he truly is and where his happiness truly resides.

Lastly, a man should know how to fight to some degree or another. He should have some skills in boxing or jiujitsu. Both sills together are an amazing combo, imagine hitting like Mike Tyson and having the ability to calmly restrain someone even using the most basic of BJJ skills. A man with these skillsets is calm and knows only to use physical violence as a last resort. He doesn’t go around puffing his chest out showing how tough he is.
These are only the tip of the ice berg, of how a man with testicles can become a man with balls. The purpose of this blog, is to get men to become the best men they can be. Not settling for mediocrity but conquering themselves and the vices that stand in their way.

A Real Escape- Why I seek it.

In recent years, probably a few times a month. I am filled with the desire to go rock climbing, skydiving or hiking. The interesting fact is, I’ve never done any of those things. So its not as though I could simply pick up and do any of those. I would love to though. Up until recently, these desires seemed so odd to me. Why would I suddenly want to do something, seemingly dangerous, that I have never done before?

Two reasons:
One- a sense of adventure and thrill.
Two- a way of escape.

With the sense of adventure, I believe that this stems from living with cerebral palsy all of my life, being confined to the same daily context. It’s not directly a bad thing. But there is a huge part of me that wants to break free and experience new things.

And with the way of escape, another catalyst to my sense of adventure is to find peace. Peace, away from daily drama, complaining and the like. When I was praying in the early hours of the morning, God revealed to me that my longing for escape, is much deeper. In fact, my longing for escape is much deeper than this world.

CS Lewis once wrote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I love these words, because they perfectly explain the longing in my body, mind and soul. I want to be in the arms of Christ. Because He is my peace and the real escape that I long for. When I am finally with Him, I will be able to do all the things that randomly spring up in my heart to do.

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.

While You Wait (Thoughts on Relationship)

Relationships are complicated, tricky, frustrating and even heart breaking. And yet at the core of the human experience, we are meant for them. Though not every relationship is romantic, there is deep friendship and  the surface level friendships with people you see once in a while. I was never good at the romantic side of relationships, always saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things and over all going after all the wrong people.

It’s tough to sometimes look back on your history, and think wow, I have quite the string of failed relationships. Many of us have a lot of relational baggage if you will. I didn’t believe that I would every find anyone who would understand me or love me. Of course, my faith offers me great hope, comfort and peace. But still I wanted there to be a person, a human being in my life.

Flesh of my flesh

Bone of my bone.

I’m sure that people reading this can relate on some level or another, there was a season of my life where, my frustration grew at God. Wondering When he would provide some sort of answer to this longing inside me. I didn’t think it was “fair” that everyone else around me was happy and I wasn’t.    

I grew very annoyed with people who kept informing me, that things would happen when I least expected it. But, they were right! There came a point in the journey, where I simply decided to focus on bettering myself and helping others. As time went on, however, as I focused more on myself, pursuing my passions and helping others. I met my girlfriend. We are in a long distance relationship and met through a cerebral palsy group , started talking as friends and the rest is pretty much history.

            The point that I want to get across, is that there is hope. If you like me, long to find a significant other. Give it time, get to know yourself, become the person that you would like to date. Be comfortable in your own skin, love yourself. You and the relationship you enter will be better because of it. I love my girlfriend, so very much. She loves me in all the ways that my heart has always desired. We better each other in a lot of ways, but the one truth that I want to get across is that your significant other is not your savior.

The person you date and or marry, will let you down, frustrate you and maybe even break your heart. Which is why I believe that forgiveness is some vital in any relational context. It is extremely important to love how you want to be loved and forgive as you also want to be forgiven.

Once again, relationships are vital and the very DNA of human existence. But they are not the path the peace we all seek. To assume the reality that one person is going to take all of your sorrows and hardships away, is a sad reality and can lead you down some very destructives paths. As much as it pissed me off to hear, when I was single. Enjoy your singleness while you have, get to know yourself, your likes and dislikes. Really think about the person you want to be with, and the person you want to become. This is how you will begin to find fulfillment in yourself, and how you can only begin to love your significant other as well.         

Arguing Toward Peace (Why Jordan Peterson is Right).

Some days ago, I watched a video of Dr. Jordan Peterson on the Dr. Oz show, Dr. Peterson was talking to a married couple who were on the brink of divorce. The wife had the papers all ready to go, but she had not signed them yet.

Link here: Dr. Jodan Peterson saves a marriage 

The wife had said that she didn’t go through wife signing the papers yet, for the soul purpose of there being hope still. Which I applaud and even find admirable. Dr. Peterson said a lot of good things in the three minute clip, but the one thing I found to be absolute gold was when he uttered the words:

Argue Toward Peace

Argue toward peace… Which is something we don’t do as Americans, why? Because we all want to be right, we all want to hold onto grudges and resent and not forgive and move for the better. Now most certainly, there’re times when it is right to walk away from a relationship and even family, if it is completely toxic and no parties want to meet in the middle.

Arguing toward peace, requires a few things

One: Letting go of your ego, meaning that one stops thinking about only about what they want. And why their right, actually hearing the other side. This can even be said in light of our political climate as well!  Who would have thunk? Once again I know it can be difficult to control our emotions when we are bitter, frustrated and angry. Lord knows, that I suck at this myself.

Its easy for me to blow and raise my voice, and even harder for me to step away and breath for a moment. Yet, that is what we must learn to do more and better. Scripture informs us that fruit of the spirit is:

Love

Joy

Peace

Forbearance

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

And-self control.

Furthermore, scripture says Blessed are the peacemakers  (Matthew 5:9). The reality is, we could all do a lot better at being peace makers, that doesn’t mean holding firm to our own convictions, or stepping into battle when the time is right. But it does mean, that we learn to make peace with those we love. For example, my girlfriend and I have made an agreement not to go to bed angry, This is partly a biblical approach and partly logical.

I hate going to bad with any sort of anger or frustration it literally robs me of all joy, makes me toss and turn and takes me away from my true self. That usually leads me to call my girlfriend to apologies, which of course leads us both to feel at peace. Arguing toward peace, means sitting down, and calming talking through things, not screaming and holding onto how they hurt you or vise versa.

It’s about knowing that things are with fighting for, even when the world tells us to give up and start afresh. Not doing the relational hard work to reconcile our differences with one another. Arguing toward peace, in my opinion must become the new norm for us as a society.

And only when we have exhausted every option, is it worth giving up. In closing, I’d like to say also, that arguing toward peace Does NOT Mean allowing someone to walk all over you, cheat on you and even be physically abusive with you.  Arguing toward peace is a methodology,  that is to be used to facilitate healing in the lives of two people or even a group of people. But never under violent relational circumstances.

Blessings

-Brandon

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God Spoke To Me

There I was sitting on the toilet this morning, as I always do. Taking care of the demons in my stomach. Truth be told, I have not been feeling all that great about myself the past few days. For reasons that I do not wish to share on this blog.

But there I was, the few places that I pray are when I am in the shower, working out or on the toilet. I tend to pray more privately these days… As I was sitting on my throne, I was noticing all the negative thoughts coming out from my mind, making their way to my heart.

When I heard and felt a soft whisper say from underneath all of the crap coming out of (non pun intended).

Your my son… 

I know its crazy, and this blog might very well make you think that of me. So be it. For many religious crack heads have said that God spoke to them, well, let me tell you quickly why my experience is different. The words that were spoken to me, can be back up with scripture.

Psalm 2:7

Matthew 3:17

Luke 15:11-32

To name a few, I don’t think this is as crazy, because God speaks to various people in various ways through out the whole of scripture. Further more, the Lord reminding me that I am his son, is far (far) different than some other Christian claiming “the phone rang and that was a sign I was meant to marry this person!”

I know my soul needed these words today, I needed to be reminded of my true identity today. Does this happen often to me? No, but when it does. Its very special to me. Today my hope and prayer is that you know that God loves you, in Christ all things can be made new.

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Like Martha

The idea came to me during Jiujitsu class, that I should start posting short devotionals. My hope with these small entries is that people will be spiritual stirred  to draw closer to God and even work out where they might be in their daily lives.

Luke 10:38-42jesus-mary-martha-396319-print-do-not-copy-notice

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

I’m a type A personality, I like to get things done in a timely manner. And when things don’t, I tend to freak out. My anxiety sky rockets and I am anything but a peace. In fact saying that I’m a grump just doesn’t do it.

Martha is one that I would relate to, one can easily tell that she is stressed out. And probably wants to leave a good impression, especially when you have someone like Jesus in your home. Martha is obviously frustrated with her sister Marry for choosing to not help her with all that needs to be done. If I was her, I’d probably be cussing her out quietly in my heart and mind.

Yet Marry chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to every word he utters. What Marry chooses to do is stunning to my soul, yes she knows things need to be done. No, I don’t believe that she is simply shunning her sister. I think what is happening is she knows that for the moment, it is better to sit at the feet of Jesus. To simply be still in his presence.

We should do the same, why? Because the more we learn to be in the Lords presence, the less our anxiety wraps it’s arms around us. The more joyful and peaceful we will be. We won’t be so let down by others, for we will know that God is the one that provides us with all we need.