Running

I’ve been running for a really long time. Almost four years it seems. I know, running is a silly word choice for someone who uses a motorized scooter. But we can run too! I am not even sure if this post will make it onto the internet. Here I am, though, typing anyway and seeing what comes of it.

No tea, no writing music, I’m in bed and not in a creative space. I am just tired of excuses. My thoughts were cluttered and super difficult to pin down so I decided to de-clutter my physical room as a symbolic exercise to declutter my mind. I know, super New-Age. But it seems to have worked.

So much has happened in the last 12 months. I started my first serious dating relationship. I quit seminary. I started working as a researcher for disability rights. I went back to counseling. I made a commitment to be all in on writing and speaking. I created and launched a Non-profit Disability Ministry. I began speaking at conferences and events about disability and inclusion. I started making videos. I found a home church. I met my biggest fear face to face and broke my ankle. I went to rehab. I moved back to New Jersey. I fought hard for four months to recover and get back to Nashville. I clawed my way, with help, out of the darkest pit of my life. I fell deeply in love with my partner, and someday wife. I moved back to Nashville. I launched my first video to get a decent amount of views (12k). And now here I am in mid-November hesitating where to motivate my legs to take me next.

While I have seen so much progression in my own life over the last year I am also painfully aware of the intense division that has consumed what seems like everyone in our country. But I don’t believe for a second that 2016 created all this discord and division. I believe whole heartedly it gave a voice to what was already lurking quietly in the background of our hearts. It was already there, now it has been clearly uncovered.

Maybe this is why I have been so afraid to post and write words for others to read. I DO NOT want to be another voice adding to the calamity and corresponding grace-less, unloving, polarized bickering that is controlling our hearts. Call it what you want. The truth is that our country is not one built on Jesus. It is built on the self-consumed, self-loving, self-seeking, self-indulging, self-proclaiming, self-preserving, self-deluded, selfish wants of our selves. Not one of us is free from that truth.

Harsh. Ouch.

And if you read what I just wrote and say to yourself “that’s so right! If only those (liberals/conservatives) saw how selfish they were!”

Then you literally missed the point of what I just wrote. I have never ever written a blog that pointed any direction but towards myself. I hope you can read these words in your own voice and take a beat from your overwhelmed emotions to consider this.

There will be no unity when the self is lifted above others. If we claim that it is not “the self” we advocate for, but those who look and sound and share views like us. I promise there is no difference to be had.

And the reason I have not written in four years with the conviction and depth and power that has always been in me is because I myself am self-seeking. self-preserving and selfish.

I am the man who took his talents and buried them away. Because surely, if I cannot lose any of what I have then I can keep it unharmed, unbroken and what I consider whole. I can show my Master that I have protected his gift from seeing the light of day. There is no weathering to be found. It has not been stolen or abused. It is the same as the day that He LENT it to me.

I cannot speak this next part to those who have not vocalized that they are a member of the Body of Christ. But I will write it so everyone can read it.

Our job. As the Bride of Christ. HAS NEVER been to use what has been given us for our own protection, preservation or provision. Those things. Those are God’s. Your job, our job is to be all in with every gift we have to offer.

We no longer bring our offerings to the altar to be burned before God. We take our offerings, our gifts, our talents and we hand them out freely to the Other. We share. No matter how much we are afraid it will hurt. We take scars and bruises along the way. And we give out what we have BEEN GIVEN freely.

Then we stand next to those we have shared our hearts with, we put our arms around them and we point to the Heavens and explain. “This is the God who gives and takes away. This is the Lord who so freely gives in abundance that we need not want, instead we are spurred on to give.”

We no longer burn offerings. No. We are the gifts God has poured out in abundance.

Turn your eyes, Oh Child of God, turn your eyes outward. Look at those who are not you. Those who are calling out in fear and in pain. Look to your hands. Look at your feet. Why are you not already running to those who are not you. Why are you not bringing them God’s gifts. The Spirit’s Gifts of love, patience, kindness, self-control, forgiveness and so on?

Will you stand in the gap? Will you show those in the world that there is a love greater than the self can ever muster? Run to them Dear Ones.

Much Love

BGTF

On Disability and Inclusion in the Church

What follows is an edited transcript from a short session I ran at the recent “TASH conference” in Nashville:

As I said at the beginning of this panel, my name is Matt Curcio. The capital letter “C” church has been a part of my life since I was about eleven years old. I have worked in churches, volunteered with ministries, gone to seminary and surrounded myself with Christian fellowship.

While I have been active in many different churches over the years, I have more often than not felt like I was on the outside looking in. But then again y’all are aware that there are still many obstacles and barriers to inclusion, which is why we are gathered here today.

One of the questions I pondered when writing this all down is, what exactly would it look like to be meaningfully included in a faith community?

I want to start with what it does not look like. It doesn’t look like people avoiding eye contact. It doesn’t look like being forgotten about or minimized to just the state of my physical body.

Not being meaningfully included is like the scene in Mark 2. Many of you here know the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through a roof to meet Jesus.

Something I didn’t realize until recently is that it wasn’t steps blocking the man from meeting Jesus and being a part of something world changing. In fact, scripture clearly states it was a crowd blocking him. A crowd of people, unaware and uninterested blocking this man from a potential that was unimaginable.

For me to feel accepted and welcomed and desired is when a few of those people in that crowd become a community. They stop standing in the way and work with me to get into that house to see what all the commotion is about.

To be meaningfully included means ultimately for others to see my potential when I only see my brokenness. It is to have my name asked and to have my story heard. To be meaningfully included is to be treated like a human.

While for me there are still many instances where stairs are a major obstacle to me being meaningfully included, to me the complacent and disinterested attitudes are the biggest barriers.

It is a rare occasion wherein programs, lessons and buildings are planned with disabilities in mind. Stages are even more rarely designed with the thought that someone with a disability would ever lead or speak on it.

In fact even when I was ministering to students, it was an afterthought to me! I’d plan the lesson, write the illustration and map out the activity just to realize I didn’t even take into consideration my own limitations. How backwards is that? I don’t think that is what Paul meant by being everything to everyone.

But, its not all bad, because if there wasn’t hope I probably wouldn’t be up here speaking. I have been meaningfully included. One instance was so powerful it is still shaking up my life even though it occurred over two years ago

I was working at a church in San Antonio doing full time college ministry. I knew my wheelhouse. College kids were easy. They liked video games, coffee and long talks about Jesus. No problem, I excel at all those things. But there was a Youth Director at this church that became a fast friend. We’d grill and watch every sport under the sun. It wasn’t long, maybe a few weeks after my arrival that he began inviting me to come spend time with him and the middle schoolers.

I was sick to my stomach when he first invited me. I smiled and in my most gracious voice declined. On the inside I was screaming “Dude are you out of your mind? Me, with a bunch of wild middle schoolers, running around being hyper and active and fun? You DO realize I use a scooter right? I don’t play sports, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The Youth Director then proceeded to invite me every single week for the next month. He promised food and fellowship. Finally after a month of invitations I caved in to his persistence. Nerves a wreck, I showed up and ate hot dogs and talked about Maundy Thursday with ten eighth grade boys.

I thought I would just have to make it through those two hours and then never have to hear his offer again once I explained how I’m not a fit to work with youth.

If y’all could have seen his smug grin when he watched me fall in love with working with those kids. Two years later I’m obviously no longer at that church, but I still get weekly texts from the many high school and middle schoolers. I had no idea that potential was in me.

I had no idea that there was a gifting and strength to my story that could connect to kids that I had grown up unable to connect with.

Side note: Kids, no matter the age, love sitting in rollie chairs and holding onto the back of scooters like a train. Extra side note: get a parent’s permission and have the kids sign a waiver before you do something like that.

But a faith community saw it in me when I didn’t see it. And in this scenario once I got inside the house and saw what the crowd was staring at, it changed my world.

What I want to leave you with today is just a few pieces of advice:

  1. Invitation is at the heart of faith communities, do not be afraid to invite those with disabilities to serve, and to share their strengths. Which of course means you need to invite them into your life so that you may get to see their potential yourself.
  2. This is off topic, but I feel like it needs to be shared. Disability is draining. It consumes energy, health and finances, goodness is it expensive to be disabled. I will be the first to say that I do not want to be seen as a charity case, but those I trust, who know me authentically and intimately and not just as someone to be served. I am grateful to share my struggles and needs with them. It is not easy to support and invest in someone with a disability. But the best things in life are never easy. Get to know people’s needs, but first get to know them.
  3. Finally, become a community. Lay down the simplicity of being a crowd. Make your plans with an array of abilities in mind. If you work with youth, you already know not EVERY kid likes dodgeball. If you are preaching, hopefully it’s not news to you that it doesn’t take having a disability or learning difference to lose focus on what is being said. Every obstacle has an accommodation. And

Maybe accommodations shouldn’t be an overwhelming word, maybe it shouldn’t be such a dirty word.

But an opportunity to let your creativity run wild, to try something new (I know new can be scary), but what if by accommodating for a few you give way to something more potent, and more world changing than ever before?
Thank you.

Much Love

BGTF

 

Announcement!


Dear Friends,

My life has taken a lot of interesting twists and turns over the years and I was hoping to share with you about my latest adventure. I am now living in Nashville, TN pursuing what I consider one of my greatest life callings. I was just thirteen years old when I opened scripture and read a verse in Proverbs that I have never been able to shake. The essence of the verse is basically: Be a voice to the voiceless. I recall reading this and feeling a metaphorical and literal rush of life and breath fill my lungs.

I knew then, as I still do today, that my desire and what I refer to as my calling is to speak up for those who are often forgotten and ignored in this world. Who though? Who are the voiceless? For me, in that moment I recognized my own muteness in culture and in the Church because of my disability.

The last twelve years have only fortified this calling. I have traveled from New Jersey to Philadelphia to Colorado to Texas and now to Nashville gaining experience and understanding how I fit into this great tapestry of life. Through some clearly God-ordained connections and, honestly, miracles I now find myself in the middle of one of my greatest dreams becoming realized.

With the help of some creative friends and family I have begun a non-profit disability advocacy group called Break The Roof. The name is based off of the story found in Mark 2. Break The Roof’s mission statement is clear:

To create a culture in and out of the Church that is accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities.

Thanks to the partnership of The After Sunday Project, inc. Break The Roof is already recognized as a 501c3 non-profit program. We will be recognized as a program of The After Sunday Project, inc. until we can raise enough funds to apply for our own non-profit status. Until that time, we will continue to work on our large agenda of projects and programs that are already in production.

We fully expect our reach to become national, but I personally hope to spend considerable time working with the communities that have helped to make me who I am today. I am so incredibly excited about all that God is doing through Break The Roof, already! I am even more excited to extend to you the opportunity to partner with us at the ground level and watch what is built in the coming weeks, months and years.

Would you prayerfully consider partnering with Break The Roof by making a MONTHLY or ONE-TIME donation of $20, $40 or any other amount? Every gift will make a difference.

If so, hop over to my contact page and reach out on how you would like to partner. Or head over to The After Sunday Project: Donate and include in the “special instructions” that your donation is for Break The Roof.

I am so excited to share with you what has been put on my heart and the good work Break The Roof will be doing!

Sincerely,

Matt Curcio

Founder Break The Roof

What next?

I have been thinking a lot about what is next for me, for this blog, for my dreams and for my calling. I have been pretty quiet on my blog since October. Writing has been fleeting and difficult to hold onto over the last few months and I would even say for the last few years. The last blog I posted wasn’t even out of my own desire but something I wrote for graduate school. Which by the way, you should all know. I added something new to my resume: Graduate School Drop-out. A year ago this time, I had just accepted an offer to attend a pretty great Divinity School. A year later, I am doing exactly what I believe I should be doing right now and it is not school

For some it is a surprise and you did not know that I stepped away from seminary, so if you are curious and intrigued, feel free to email me about it. But this post today isn’t about the intense experience of coming to terms with “quitting” something. No, instead today I want to give a life update, which I rarely offer on this site.

I dream a lot, I don’t normally feel alive if I am not dreaming. I love to hear about other people’s passions and callings. I love to sit across from someone over coffee and watch as an infectious smile goes from their face to my own.

It has been quite the journey since I graduated college. While some may think it was only three short years, in these (not even) three years I have lived in four different states, worked four different jobs, ran a company, worked full-time at a church, started Grad school and moved back to working. A lot of life has been lived, an overwhelming amount of life has been lived. But after three of the most arduous and painful years of my life, I am beyond excited to share with all my readers that I am, yet again, overcome by a smile that just won’t let up.

Now let me clarify, I am not in some blissful state of perpetual happiness or gratification, but rather I am in the start of something new. Something scary new, and if you know me you’d know that scary risks are my thing and get me pretty amped up.

This is the realest my dreams have ever felt in my life. This is the most I have believed in a calling on my life since I first thought one might exist for me.

Now today isn’t the day I get to share with you all the entirety of my news. But know that I am alive and well and hoping to bring you into the fold much sooner than later.

God never ceases to be good. And not because my dreams are coming to life, but because His love is unending, His thirst for justice is world-changing and His blessing to walk through life with us is like nothing else.

So side note if you would like to be on the front line of some major updates in the coming weeks PLEASE click on the link below and submit to me some contact info. You won’t regret it I promise!

BGTF

Much Love

http://goo.gl/forms/jZIzodOaMa

 

 

Who do I become?

I wish the title of this post was the question asked of graduating seniors. Who do you plan on becoming? While an acceptable answer is Chuck Norris, its not entirely what I am trying to get at

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This question is less about meeting your potential and more about coming to terms with who you were created to be, a cherished child of God.

As sweet and heart-warming as that sentiment may be, though, I wonder if we all know what exactly that entails? When I was in undergrad, the world seemed like a bad place, but my campus was seemingly safe. I am sad to admit that I resided in a bubble of sorts, well most of my friends did too.

Maybe you were a commuter or maybe you did everything in your power spend time off campus and involve yourself with the community at large. Either way, after graduating your peer group experiences a mass exodus. Some stay nearby, some move back to their homes and still some move out of state or to other countries. Your community tends to have a few drastic changes after college and if the people in the community does not change, limits of time and energy will surely be a new reality.

For me after graduation, it was shocking how quickly relationships went from being the easiest thing for me to manage to the hardest to cultivate in a matter of months.

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Maintaining friendships became hard and making new friendships in new cities felt near impossible at first, for me. I remember being in a bit of a tizzy for a while. I didn’t understand how being Christian (a supremely relational existence) and being lonely could be reconciled. I knew it was part of following Christ to be in community, but between work and cooking for myself I didn’t know how to maintain healthy relationships all that well. And relationships were only one part of becoming an adult! How could I ever do the other parts?

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Our culture and this world has put a lot of emphasis on being adults. And we seem to function in a society that teaches us how to learn and go to school well, but not always how to live well. And becoming an adult sometimes feels like this, also this is one of my favorite videos ever so I have no choice but to include it:

What I would like to argue is that who you become has little to do with what you actually do. Titles come and go. As I mentioned in my last post you might decide in your fifties to go for a Master’s degree in theology, who really knows. But who you are really doesn’t change. Maybe what you are passionate about changes, but who you are at your essence as a child of God does not alter. And if you are leaning into that identity you will desire to grow into that adopted child more and more. So what does it look like to lean into an identity formed by God? In a child you can often see the best parts of their parents, its not so different with God as your parent. Here are three aspects of who God is that can inform you of the type of adult you plan on becoming. God is:

RELATIONAL

God is three persons in one. The Godhead, Holy Spirit and Christ. In nature God is relational and God asks His children to take part in the same. While I mentioned above about how hard community gets after college, that doesn’t mean it gets worse, sometimes you just have to work harder for it. Be the type of friend you desire to be in relationship with. It took me a bit to realize that I didn’t have to wait for friends to be vulnerable or deep with me, I realized that no matter how scary I can be the one to initiate a trusting and intimate relationship. Check this article for more on the subject.

JUST

God is just. Justice is on God’s heart always. So as a full-fledged adult out of college now, you are fully participating in society and culture (I know its silly because you totally were participating in culture before you graduated). Now is the time to think about what breaks your heart and better yet what breaks God’s heart. Is it Human Trafficking? Disabilities? Prisoners? Racism? The list sadly goes on and on and hopefully more than one of these topics do break your heart. Now out of college, how will you participate (if you aren’t already) in healing the wounds from the sin in this world? God does not settle for a status quo of pain, will you speak for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-10)?

PATIENT & FORGIVING

I put these two together because I personally believe they are inseparable. I think true forgiveness is not rushed, but is patient. Think briefly on the patience and forgiveness that God extends to us. I wonder if God’s forgiveness would dry up without patience for us to be redeemed, to draw nearer to Our Creator. The human existence is a marathon, not a sprint and God is in for the long haul as we must aspire to be for the world around us.

If you were to ask me the question, who do I want to become? I would say a man after God’s own heart in every way. A man with the conviction to look evil in its eyes and say, “not in God’s Kingdom!”

Some practical suggestions on how to become a person after God’s heart:

  1. Don’t spend too much time church shopping. Choose one, settle down and begin seeing the brokenness just within those walls. One of the best places to practice patience and forgiveness is within the walls of a church. And allow others to be patient and forgive you.
  2. Try new things. I know, I know you have heard this before, but I have seen my heart ignited in ways I counted imagine because I tried something uncomfortable since I graduated college. I thought I had it all planned out, thats a story for another time though.
  3. Find “adultier” adults that you admire. Those you believe are leaning into their identity designed by a loving God. Learn from them and also, teach those younger than you.

P.S. Check out this awesome resource on life after college from InterVasity.

Much Love

BGTF

What Do I Do Now?

Let’s get something clear before we dive any deeper into the murkiness of life after college, the next two posts aren’t the cheat codes to life. Rather, what I want to offer hope that you can in fact do this and do this well.

So, the question is: What do I do now?

Well before we get there I think we should be clear about how life looks like after you have accepted that diploma and tried to do a back flip on stage.

Check out this post in Relevant Magazine about what to expect post college.

Scary and hopefully a little encouraging, right? Things will in fact become more challenging pretty much all around. But in other news if you really didn’t like being in school, at least you can say that is over now!

Practically, you have a few different options for what to do after undergrad. There is Grad School. There is the work force. There is the way of the Artist. And there is limbo:

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All are plausible options (some more desirable than others). But as unbelievable as it seems I have worn the shoes of all four since I graduated undergrad.

I had so many plans for myself after graduation. I knew since I was in high school that by the time I was done with college I would have my first novel published and I would be en route to my wedding day living near my friends and families.

Instead since graduating, I have been in limbo (more than once) been a poor artist living at home, worked full time in a church, started grad school and I have lived in four different states. You are probably thinking, Wow! That is a lot of experience Matt, you must be in your thirties for sure! 

My response is laughter because I graduated college a bit over two years ago.

So how does the ridiculousness of my experience after college help you, specifically? Well, the main theme that all four possibilities after college hold is that you can either do them well or do them poorly. The question shouldn’t be what do you do now as much as it should always be HOW do I do it well. Whatever “it” may be.

I was recently in a meeting for my graduate school program, where we discussed vocation. The speaker shared with us that we must eventually narrow down our options and pick a route of what we desire to do. I looked around the room and laughed to myself, I had thought we all narrowed down our options when we agreed to get our Masters degree, but apparently it has not been narrowed down quite enough.

I say this because this was a room made up of people ages 24-64. And it is safe to say that what we “do” changes over our life, but how we do it can be as consistent as we desire.

The fact is that after you graduate there will be a field in front of you. When you look at it you may see weeds that seem too fierce or your field may look empty and dry.  Either way there is life in that field and it is your job to plow and bring it life. To “plow” well after graduation, I think requires us to lean into two commandments found in the New Testament. Do not worry and love.

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Whether you are jobless, running your own start-up, raising a family, entering marriage or writing the next great novel you can choose not to worry and to love daily. The important things of life will either flourish or dry up and die because of how you do what you do.

While this advice might seem more holistic than practical, I assure you that trusting God and loving others will make your day more than worth living every day, no matter what you do. But, because I can’t help but to be practical here is a word of wisdom I received from a professor at one point.

If you are discerning your “purpose” is God’s divine tapestry, your place in the artistry of it all, answer these two questions: What breaks your heart and baffles your mind? Chances are if you know the answer to these questions you know which field your plow belongs. 

Much Love

BGTF

P.S. Check this resource if you are discerning whether or not to head straight to Grad School.