Your Greatest Darkness

What I’m going to say in the following paragraphs, may frustrate you. It might even cause you to click off this page, but my hope with the following thoughts cause you to see the glory of God again or for the very first time. Life is hard, and filled with pain. For some of us, it’s how we learn. Through the pain of consequences and actions of others. More often than not some of the most triumphant moments come out of our greatest darkness.

You might be similar with someone by the name of Joseph in the Bible, or you might not. But God gives him a dream, where he rules over his brothers. When he wakes up he goes and actually tells that about his dream, which I personally would not have done. His brothers think he’s full of it and doesn’t like how favored he is by his own father. Joseph’s father even gives him a colored robe, that according to some scholars even symbolizes favor.

The brothers of Joseph feel very threatened by him, so much that they have sold into slavery. There’s a lot more that happens within the story with Joseph, but what hit me today as I was reading through Genesis 45:
So God sent me ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on the earth, and to [g]keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

It was not you who sent me here, But God.
As a Christian, I believe that God is in control of every spec of my life, even to how the very universe functions. To the time I wake up in the morning. He was sovereign over the fact that I have cerebral palsy. I may not like at times, but so much good has come from it. I’ve gotten to help so many others and share how Christ has changed my life.

Joseph didn’t ask or want to be betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery. But he also didn’t know how the God of the universe would take the bad circumstances to completely change his life. This means furthermore, that God knew and foreordained- before the foundation of the world the suffering of Joseph.

I know that they make anger or even frustrate some, but I cannot help but see it as truly amazing. I believe that God- in his wisdom allowed me to have cerebral palsy, because it was the only way that my heart would surrender to his grace.

If it wasn’t for having cerebral palsy in my life, more than likely the very disposition of my heart would not be inclined to the providence of God. I wouldn’t be in awe of him and all that he has done for me. I’m not saying that we have to like all of the circumstances of our lives, but there are deeper meanings and purposes to them.

You might not seem them now, but you will see them in time. I promise you that. I am not who thinks that God is careless in his actions, but has neatly woven all events of our lives together both for our good and glory.

Your greatest darkness, whatever it is can be used for good. You’re madly loved beyond belief. You can trust him with every single second of your life.

Brief Thoughts on Romans 8:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Death- Are We Really Ready?

I’ve thought about death a lot, primarily my own death. No, this is not to be taken in a morbid context. The fact remains, for all of us. One day we will die, it is not a reality that we can run from. At least in this life. As a kid, I was raised with the philosophy of reincarnation, though my understanding of it was not the actual understanding. Many Americans submit to the definition that they will come back as something or someone else. When it all reality, it is a system based on karma and how well a person lives his or her life. In short, if a person has lived a crappy life, they have to make it up in the next.

The process goes on and on, until a soul reaches a state of perfection and then suddenly becomes nothing. Stop for a second or two and think about that…. We could never know if we have done enough good to over-right our wrongs. For me in my own life and in this current season of life, I think of two concepts or realities:

A. Standing before God
B. Knowing that I didn’t live a full life.

As I have taken a deep dive into the teachings of stoicism, I’m simply amazed at how brave they were in the face of suffering and death. Suffering was something that they accepted as a part of life, they faced it with dignity, grace and even let suffering teach them lessons and mold them into stronger souls. They admitted that life wasn’t fair, but again it was a reality that they accepted and still lived for what they called the highest good. They still lived a life of virtue. That speaks to me in ways that my heart and mind cannot simply express. At the end of my life, God is my highest good and I have to stand before him, it wont be about how much good I’ve done, because he is what makes make me good, he is what makes me have right standing with him. It is all about his kindness and grace. Still though, I fear God saying to me “Brandon, my son, you didn’t do enough good with your life.” I simply couldn’t imagine anything else more haunting than that.

That idea though, I believe stems from the fact that deep inside I haven’t reached my full human potential. In my estimation, there hasn’t been a deeper pain in my life. I hide this pain a lot. But it haunts me on a daily basis. Some days I’m truly happy and at peace. Other times the quiet despair, depression and anxiety seem to overtake me without a shed of mercy. I’m always asking “have I done enough?” “Have I done enough to please God?” I’m always looking at my life compared to someone else. Which is not right, but I do it anyway.

Life seems like an uphill battle towards greatness and potential, which is fine, but other times it’s a though I’m fighting not to drowned. There are not answers that can readily be given. I just think that we should live more sober, and think about what our lives might mean. Consider the time you have left, what you might need to do still, and who you want to be with that time that is left. Because it’s not as much as we’d like to believe.

A Christian Stoic- Me?

Not really, but I do like a part of Stoicism or rather a definition of it:

the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

In college, my senior year I took a crash course in philosophy, and loved every moment of it. Particularly weighing other branches of philosophy against my own Christian world view. A lot of the different philosophies and even religions, try and make sense of human existence and suffering. growing up around the Buddhist perspective. The thought of reincarnation was once cool to me, because I would never really die, I would just come back in another human life… Or something else. When I truly began to understand what reincarnation was, I understood it as endless cycle of paying past debts and sins. If you did not make amends for your past in some fashion.

I just did not like the idea of not knowing if I would have done enough to write my own wrongs in my life. Furthermore- I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that suffering was an illusion. Or that there was really no rhyme or reason to it. It just was… What spurred me onto the Christian perspective and following Jesus, was that I could see from the beginning that the world was the way it was because of sin.

On top of that Jesus even says that life is going to be hard (my own words- John 16:33). At least, with these two ways of understanding, I could wrap my head around why the world was the way it was. Better yet, someone that not only says that right out of the gate, but transcends it and over comes it as well with his death, burial and resurrection. I accept that as truth, because God has shown me his love in the actions and character of Christ.

Moreover, I know that I am not strong enough to absolve or atone for my own sin by myself. For as long as I have been trying to live this truth out, by the grace of God. I have been learning ways to handle adversity and suffering in life, in its many forms. That not only speaks and points to the heart and character of God. But the fruit of the spirit, that enables me to stand up as a man.

I look to how Jesus conducted himself as a man, within the pages of the new testament. Christ was a man- a God-man that was in control of his emotions. Always slow to anger, and when he did show anger, it was always calculated. He had a spine to him, wasn’t afraid to stand up to the religious big shots of his day. He was okay breaking away from people, to embrace solitude and divine connection with his father.

As I recall scenes from Mel Gibsons, Passion of the Christ. I can recall Jesus being calm while the Roman guards led him away. They beat him to a bloody pulp, mocked him, reviled him. And there he stood, silent in the face of the agony that was about to be set before him. He didn’t make a sound..

(By now if you’re still reading this, you might be thinking, get to the bloody point sir!) To me, some of the characteristics of Jesus seem very stoic, and as I have stumbled upon the definition of stoicism above. I have found that it has filled me with a new level of strength and even hope. As well as a way of conducting myself as man. Life has and will bring pain and adversity. But its how we deal with it that makes it all the difference.

A lot of us freak out when things don’t go our way, or have a level of ease. We lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean and sometimes even get violent… But, in reality that is nothing good or worthy that comes from that. So instead of doing all of that negative garbage. Why not look at adversity and suffering in a new way? When frustration comes our way, when pain comes our way. How about simply acknowledging its presence,

How To Be A Bad Ass Human Being

Tips For Being A Bad Ass Human Being

Human beings are amazing, we can do so much with our bodies and minds every single day of our lives. My own existence is something that I simply do not thank God for on a regular. Rather I piss-moan and groan about how much my life sucks. Anyone who knows anything about my own story, knows that the deck was stacked against me. And yet, by the grace of God I have gone onto obtain multiple degrees and certifications. Even though doctors told me I would always be dependent on others, and even though educational professionals told me I didn’t have what it took to attend university. We human beings have forgotten how beautiful our own existence is, we have lost sight of the fact that we can all be bad asses in our own right. So what are a few tips to become that person?

Finding Your Mental Resolve: We don’t like to hear this, but the only way we truly find our resolve, the only we become mentally and emotionally tougher is through hardship and challenges. Some of us have had very tough and painful lives, and because of that, it’s easy to feel defeated and buried under the ashes of life. Yet, we have forgotten that we can rise from those ashes. I am not always a believer of pulling up oneself by their boot straps. Though, at times in life, you will have to do that. Much more I am a believer of being shaped and allowing yourself to be molded and mentored by other people who truly care about you. I am eternally grateful that God gave me parents who not only told me I was strong, but showed me I was. I am also thankful that God let me experience all the suffering in my life. I’m thankful that he led me through the valley of death. Because it made me who I am today. Find the good in your life, face the darkness in your own life, try more and more every day, to not listen to the lies in your mind any longer. Suffering comes for us all, in different ways throughout our lives. As such, we should always have our armor ready when the fight comes, in the name of not being blindsided by an attack. Some of us are so comfortable with our own comfort, that the slightest bit of adversity sends us packing. Learn to be steady and calm and adversity, because the storm always passes.

Enjoy Solitude: This is art form, I have been working on more and more in my life. I have come to love solitude, by myself and without distraction. Some of us are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts, have to always be doing something. But there’s really happiness and healing, in being able to be still, and see what resonates inside us. It’s in the stillness of the night, that we can discover who we are, what we have to work on and where we want to go. It was in the solitude of my heart, that I discovered that the creator of the heavens and earth was drawing me to himself, he was making me a new creation, a strong soldier and a seeker of how he sees me. Get comfortable being your own company, interact with the thoughts in your own mind, no matter how dark and uncomfortable they may be. Get a journey, write things down, it could be a method of healing from trauma, holding yourself accountable for goals. Our biggest problem in society, is that we are constantly seeking information outward and we are not spending enough time discovering who we are and how bad ass we can be. Start seeking solitude today, even if you’re a parent, find time early in the morning, or even for a few minutes before bed. Take stock of your life. You will be better because of it.

Listen To Others: I’ve always been more of a listener than talker, and I honestly like it that way. Listening to others should be pretty self-explanatory, but some of us talk so much and we don’t listen enough. When we do that, we miss out on being teachable. We miss out on exercising empathy and compassion for others, who might be in a time of darkness. With utilizing our ability to listen, rather than speak. We have a better chance at showing others a light covered path to hope.

Become The Healthiest You: This will look different for each person, because we all have different abilities. But we all could be a bit, or even a lot more healthier in our lives. As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I haven’t worked with a lot of people with different abilities. The reoccurring theme, with working with a wide variety of clients, is that if you commit to the process of getting better each day, with proper nutrition and exercise you will see results. Yes, things take time, but that’s the beauty of it, in that we get to embrace the process and see the small changes gradually. The instant gratification that we crave with our health and the rest of our lives isn’t real. Nutrition and fitness are two categories of life that have been made overall complicated. As a whole, I feel that quite a few us could do much better, by saying no to a lot of processed foods, and yes to more water, protein, and some fruits and vegetables if you like them. (I’m not convinced that we need them and function fully).
In terms of fitness, you don’t always have to have a gym membership. Nor do you have to go balls to wall for hours on end. I did CrossFit for a number of years, and as much as I love it. Not all your workouts have to be that intense to get a good workout in. If you’re new to the world of fitness, I suggest taking a few 10 minute walks every day, (gradually work your way to a jog) while starting to master the push up (even if it’s on your knees) along with other variations and challenges to pushups as you go along. And mastering a good squat form- in different variations, weighted and single legged squats. Because we all do it every day. Just with those exercises alone, you can do a lot with those daily movements and habits.
Next, get yourself a pull up bar or some rings, you really can build a lean strong body with these two pieces of equipment. With rings, you can utilize harder variations of push- ups, dips, planks and bridges to build the core- etc.
Kettle Bells are great too, especially the swing, because it’s a total body movement that even throws in cardio at the same time.

How CP Led to My Happiness!

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” -Isaiah 45:9, New Living Translation

Snapshots of My Conversion
As someone who was born with cerebral palsy, this was one of my hearts most loaded questions. After all I just wanted to know what it was like to be like everyone else. To be able to run, jump, walk and do the things that normal kids/ people did. Doctors told my parents that, one of two scenarios would unfold in light of me having cerebral palsy. One) I’d grow out of it and two) I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything on my own.

Thankfully my parents are very stubborn and refused to believe any of the doctors outcome. Over time I gained weight and strength, as well as finding escapes from the confines of my wheel chair and leg braces through being raised in the martial arts and strength training, thanks to my father.

Still though, as a young boy, I had to endure the pain of various operations on my legs, hips and spine. Each operation, requiring a year or more of recovery and thus not being around peers my age and being confined to a bed, with minimal outside interaction apart from going to therapy and the doctors. As a young boy, I couldn’t help but ponder the age old question: If there was a God, why did he allow me to be this way? Why so much pain and suffering? As a kid, I was raised with the concept of reincarnation, thus the probability that I could come back as a new person with a new person.

Yet even that I was very skeptical about, in all honesty, I didn’t know if God was real, good or loving. In short, until I was 17 years old, I was an agnostic and yet deep down I wanted there to be something more and greater than myself. I only was suppressing the truth, as the apostle Paul states in Romans 1:18, the biggest catch was that in my own heart, if he was real that I wanted nothing to do with him. What I didn’t know, what was that through all the suffering, anger, bitterness, jealousy, depression and envy. Was that the Lord, in his grace was already affectionately drawing me to himself.
What I Have Learned
He is always in control: As I have grown in my faith journey over the last several years, I have found immense comfort and joy in his complete and utter control over my life. The words of Ephesians 1:3-11 “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Simply put I interpret the words of Ephesians 1:3-11 to mean, that he was in control, that he knew that in the midst of such suffering and darkness. That he had already set me apart, not only to the praise of his glory but that I may be a living reflection of love and grace to the world.

I/we are loved and not mistakes: The father has loved me so well, through his son Jesus. When the holy spirit softened my hard heart, I quickly understood how wide and deep and how vast was his love for me. I was humbled in knowing, that when he fashioned me in my mothers wombs, that I was not some sort of divine-cosmic accident, but that even in spite of having cerebral palsy, I was still fearfully and wonderfully made.

And neither are you. Look to the gospel of John 9, Jesus’s disciples see a man who was born blind and automatically ask, why this man was born the way he was. Was is his sin or the sins of his parents? Jesus says neither sinned, but that this man, was and is this way so that his glory might be revealed through him. We must truly cling to these realties. For I do not believe that I, nor my cerebral palsy is a mistake, but something that had to go through the authority of God first and foremost.

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I am not a mistake and you certainly are not a mistake either, for God has great lavished such an amazing love upon us. And is not a stranger to our pain, but plunged into suffering for us on the cross. Therefore, our Lord is not someone who has to seem like a stranger in our pain and darkness, but is one who is our deepest anchor and hope. If you find yourself, as I have, in great darkness. The arms of Christ can and is your greatest comfort. Not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But in him is true satisfaction, love and hope in spite of how great the suffering.

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