Can we DTR?

Oh hey, DTR means “define the relationship” in case you did not know.

I never actually know who reads these things I write. When I freelance or ghost-write, I don’t think on too much about my ongoing relationship with those readers. It is primarily a one and done experience. But, with all of you beautiful people, I want to know you. I mean come on, when I actually am on here I tend to pour myself out a bit too much. So it shouldn’t be asking too much that we become best friends, right?

Well, okay maybe we do not have to be best friends, but I want my writing to be a lot more than a stop-off once every couple of months. The truth, though, is that this responsibility rests on me. Consistency and communication are the keys to any relationship flourishing, but here we stand at the brink of a fallout because I have been holding my words within. Will you forgive me? Will you give me a another chance? Because I think God might want to do something pretty cool through our relationship, even if it is just you reading what I am sending out into the internet. I want you to know that I think you are super special and are full to the brim with amazing gifts and talents that can change the world. And if the world is too big, know that you have every bit of potential in you to change someone’s world. Just know that my distance hasn’t been because anything you have done; that is all on me. You may not believe me, but this whole being human gets the best of me some days. Well, most days.

I’ll take your continued silent reading as confirmation that you forgave me and we can dive right in.

Let’s talk about accountability today. Yikes, a word that no one seems to want to utter into the vast emptiness of shame and guilt. Take a moment to think about how prevalent the idea of “you do you, I do me” is throughout our culture. Forget our culture, think about it in your own life. Tell me right now that you never wished some one (your parents probably) would back off and let you do things your way. I highly doubt you can tell me that you have never felt that way, even if you didn’t ask the other person to back off.

I am just going to come out and say that every person, every Christian I know struggles to have a healthy relationship with the concept of accountability. And therein struggles to have healthy intimate relationships with humans and with God. I have seen it in ministry, in family, in friendships. A hesitancy to fully engage with accountability because at the core they do not want to be seen as judgemental or even deeper they do not want to be held accountable themselves.

Let’s take a step back and define accountability so that we are all on the same page. What I mean by accountability is the active commitment to hold other people to a standard of living. The tricky part is that true accountability is rooted in mutual commitment between both parties. It is rooted in community. It is messy and sticky. It requires mutual vulnerability and intimacy. True accountability is supposed to exist in every single genuine relationship between individuals, but true accountability should also exist in between communities of people. We are dancing on the edge of something called the “Beloved Community” and how I perceive true social justice, but let’s pull in our focus this time around and just talk about accountability within individual relationships and with God.

I would bet money that you are incredibly ready to be there to support a friend or loved one. But I wonder how ready you are to embrace and receive the same type of presence you are offering? The clarification that needs to be stated is that accountability is NOT just asking questions and listening. Remember, I said it is active. That means accountability exists on the basis that we are able to actively speak into others’ lives and receive the voices of others.

Can accountability be misused and abused? Of course. It has throughout history. But the other end of the spectrum of avoiding accountability all together is nothing more than selfish self-preservation.

A few things that I want to point out:

Our choice to keep others accountable, but not to embrace returned accountability is self-seeking and hollow. You are better to not offer accountability at all. Mutual submission to vulnerability and honesty is how intimacy and growth flourishes.

The point of accountability is not to squeeze people into an image you have created for them. The point is not to make someone feel bad about their actions or lack there of. The point is to love someone so deeply that you refuse to let them settle for anything less than the God-given potential residing in them.

To the same point, you receiving accountability is not about you being corrected or shamed. Shut those hang ups down. Allow yourself to be held accountable so that you can thrive and become the world-changer God has made you to be. It is about you growing into the beautiful and mature creation you are meant to be.

Accountability isn’t meant to be offered or asked for flippantly. It is time-consuming and energy-consuming. Most people only ever offer and receive it from their spouse. Which is something, but our lives are meant to be roots spreading into the world. Like dominos, affect one person next to you and watch the world shift all around.

Be all in. In your relationships. In your love for yourself. You are meant for so much more than you might have convinced yourself. I can see in you the Image of God. That is no small thing. That is everything. Allow yourself to be helped. You might think you are protecting yourself, but you are hurting yourself and those you love.

Remember, true accountability exists midst intimate and intentional community. It is necessary, there is no convincing me otherwise. If you are having trouble finding intimate and intentional community to grow within, write me. Lets talk.

And in true form of accountability. I ask that you all engage with me and keep me accountable. My job is to write and sustain our relationship. Do not hesitate to let me know that I am slacking. I love you too much to continue down that road.

Much Love

BGTF

 

 

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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

 

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’s Next…?

Chances are you have been asked on a fairly consistent basis even since the beginning of your senior year; what is next? I know that when I was in my last year of college this was the question on the tip of every person’s tongue. Whether a new acquaintance, an old friend or a current peer, people were so incredibly concerned with what was next for me. And of course I sinned against my fellow seniors by asking them the same question. Maybe, just maybe, one of them would have the magic formula for what to do with life after school. None of them did… and most of us seniors, even into the hours right before receiving our diplomas, assumed life after college would go something like the video below:

While the humor in this video is overwhelming the truth is that there is a fear that every person who is transitioning through a phase in their life experiences. That fear is simply the unknown. What is on the other side? And while the transition from High School to college was frightening for most, there was still the knowledge of something familiar. You had been in school for 12 years at that point, another 4 or 5 isn’t too intimidating. But after college? After you have completed the culture’s mandate of schooling. What now?

That’s the question I want to walk through with you over the next couple of blogs. Nobody wants to fall flat on their face, but many do. That is the reality, in some way or another we will all have those moments and it will happen more than once. What I hope for is that you can learn with God by your side and the Holy Spirit leading you how to fall on your face, and make it look graceful.

You may even have your next steps planned out. Perhaps you found a job or have an apartment picked out or even have already been accepted to your first overall graduate school choice. That is beautiful and well and good, but (and I promise I do not say this to scare you) all the planning in the world cannot change the fact that life is unpredictable and life after undergrad is an unexplored territory. What is required of you is to lean into it, experience it and become wholly okay with not being okay. You aren’t supposed to have all the answers now and you won’t have all the answers after graduation either.

The areas of life I plan on looking at over the next few blogs will look into the themes of faith, community, vocation and identity.

What do I do now?

Who do I become?

These are the questions we will lean into. Most of what I share will be from my own personal experience, which is not universal, some voices of friends and colleagues and Ill be sure to throw in some pictures of puppies to lighten the mood:

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Let’s tackle whats next.

Much Love

BGTF

Reckless Abandonment.

If you have a calling on your life and you are not aligning yourself with that calling you are doing no one justice. I think there is a reason that trust and change have been on my heart so much lately. And by so much I mean over the last two years.

This has been one of the most fruitful three months of my life. I honestly cannot put it into words. God is faithful. And I do not want it to end or change. I am afraid. I am afraid of being afraid. And I have had zero clarity in my life about my next steps. It has filled me with anxiety, confusion and frustration. But luckily I have had a mudslide of distractions to keep my worries at bay, well until I lay down to sleep at night. And all this worry and craziness in my mind and heart has been because I do not want to take the wrong step.

That and also my thought processes have been convoluted with fear of taking risks, fear of failure, fear of success and being terrified of letting go.

I think we all know when we are getting a “no” about a certain avenue in life. I have spent the last few weeks running my head against a brick wall. I kept telling myself that God was giving me a “wait” and not a “no”. I was making a fool of myself. And when I talk about discerning my direction and God’s will I am in this moment talking about me ignoring the wisdom He has blessed me with through my own ability and through the council of others. I kept asking for clarity when I had clarity about this time in my life 3 years ago.

I am tired of waiting and coming up with excuses. I absolutely do not want to lose everything and everyone I love and care about, but more importantly I want to enter into the ministry that I have been called into for years now.

I am choosing to take some massive risks and trust that God is going to see me through the storm.

And in all of this, some times we just have to act. We just have to weigh the consequences and risks and leap.

The decision I made recently was one to trust God and to stop holding onto the blessings He has given me like they were mine to begin with.

Trust me, when you pray bold prayers… you will most likely get bold answers. Ive prayed some terrifyingly bold prayers often in my life and now more than ever it seems like it is time to jump. And I am stutter stepping the edge of the cliff.

The rocks look jagged at the bottom. The sea is roaring and I keep imagine myself looking back up to the top of the cliff once I have landed. I keep imagining myself looking up at what I left behind and being overcome with regret.

In all this imagining though I am somehow ignoring the roaring ocean that will be covering me and sweeping me away. That vast ocean with endless possibility.

Having confidence is not easy, but you were never asked to have that confidence in yourself. I keep hearing the Spirit whisper into my heart. “My son, don’t waste your energy putting your confidence in anything but ME.”

So I am making a choice to take a leap. To dive in head first and see where it takes me.

This will not be easy.

But since when are the good things easy?

I never asked for easy, I never wanted easy.

I have kind of jumped around in thought in this post, but that is because this is all fresh in my heart and mind.

So thank you for bearing with me.

I want to leave you with this thought: If you know what your passion and calling in life is, than I must ask, are you aligning yourself with it? Even when nothing is going your way, are you still striving forward?

Is there anything in your life that you have been putting off or coming up with excuses for? Have you been asking for clarity and leading but ignoring God’s voice all along?

Maybe it will be easier if I speak directly. I am called into writing. I do not just love to write. I am called into it. I am called to speak. Only God knows what that is going to look like.

I have been putting off getting published for almost three years now. I have no direction in my life it feels like, but I have a unique opportunity to work my butt off and devote every bit of my fiber into this dream. I am done waiting.

Some times we are called to act and not to wait.

God could still throw me a major curveball in the near future, as He can for you as well. But I am taking my next steps in faith.

I am setting my heart and mind on my dream and goal and aligning myself with whatever will give me a better opportunity.

All to the glory of God.

I want to live in reckless abandonment. I hope you will walk along side me as I learn more and more what that exactly means.

Much Love

BGTF