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

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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. 

Messy Second Chances

Before you start reading this post I would encourage you to watch the video above and then when you are done watch the video at the bottom of the post. It is not often that I include media into my posts. But I believe both of these songs have dictated what I am about to write about.

I want to talk about abandonment, fear, brokenness, grace and Jesus. Just so you are prepared for what I am about to get into here.

I was reading John chapter 11 this morning. Perhaps you know the chapter. It is the very famous passage where the author writes the words “Jesus wept.” Let me paint the picture. It has come to Jesus’ attention that his friend Lazarus has fallen very ill and may be nearing death. Jesus is unmoved by this and declares that this situation will not end in death.

Fast forward a couple of days and Jesus arrives to Lazarus’ home where his two sisters are mourning (Martha and Mary) Martha runs out to him. Mary does not.

This is what I want to look at, I have heard many sermons on this passage, but nothing like I experienced this morning.

Has someone ever hurt you before? Someone that you trusted and believed in? And after that hurt you found it incredibly difficult to face them? Maybe not because you are angry, but deep down you are terrified that they no longer love you? That they have abandoned you? That your trust was misplaced from the very beginning? You are terrified to face them because you are terrified that everything come out as false.

That is what abandonment does.

What does Jesus do? He calls Mary’s name.

Mary in turn runs out to him and falls at his feet weeping. The first words that come out of her mouth are drenched in salty wet confusion and brokenness. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would still be alive!” (Why didn’t you come, why weren’t you here, I thought you loved me, why did you forget about us, why God, why GOD, WHY GOD?)

Just then, Jesus is deeply moved in spirit as the author tells us. A verse later we get the “Jesus wept.” line.

Of course he wept. Yes he was saddened by his friend’s death, yes it showed us human emotion. But this ENTIRE scene in scripture paints a more beautiful picture of our human relationships with God than I could ever put in ink. It keeps just BLOWING my mind.

Jesus is heart broken, God is heart broken, that his children think he has abandoned them. He knew before Lazarus died that He would be glorified, but that doesn’t change how unbelievably messy and broken the situation, neither does it change how he takes complete brokenness swirling into chaos and spin it all on its head. He mixes the colors of tears and fear and paints a brand new picture.

He brings Lazarus back to life. There has never been a sunrise so awe-inspiring.

That is what it means that God takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful. I am getting chills as I write this.

Jesus did not need to prove to any one there that he had not abandoned them. He is God, why should he have to remind us that we are loved and fully known? He did not need to call out to Mary in her desperation and pain.

What does he do instead? He first calls to Mary, he has not forgotten her. Then he listens to her, he hears her pain. Then he asks his Father to bring Lazarus out from death.

He stomps down so hard on the lies of abandonment and of a God that does not love us completely and fully. The lie about of a God who does not care. The lie about a God who does not forgive. Jesus stamps them out and changes every human life in the process.

Maybe I am insane, but I cannot express fully the beauty I am seeing in this chapter. I have never seen it like this before. Jesus wept. For us.

Like a parent who is truly devastated that a child has been hiding in shame and fear because they are afraid that his or her parents will never look at them with love again.

Like Adam and Eve hiding from a God so powerful, how could He ever love a mess so corrupted?

Yet still. He takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful. Yet He is the God of second and third and infinite chances. Grace has no bounds. That is reality.

So I ask that if you struggle with any of these lies, look to Jesus, look to the cross, look at how God’s heart breaks to know we are afraid of him, that we are terrified that He will not take us back.

Jesus, that is what Unconditional Love is. Turn to Him and watch the master piece He paints on your heart.

He is calling out to you, He is waiting for you to run out to him, to fall at his feet and plead with him. He is waiting for you to be exactly who He made you to be. He is waiting for you to bring your ball of mess out to Him so he can make it beautiful.

Much Love

BGTF

30 Days of Writing: Day Fourteen

Day 14.

Well my laptop stopped working today am I had a lot that I wanted to write. There is only so much you can type on an iPhone but alas that is what I have to do.

So I am asking now that you forgive the many spelling and grammar mistakes that are about to follow. Typing on a phone is just not ideal.

Enough complaining, let’s talk about words.

I think we play down how much power language has. Most literary and cultural theorists talk about the power of language a lot.

Humans talk a lot about how money defines power, especially in the USA. But I would take it in a different direction and stet that those who control language hold power.

Words give life to ideas. Throughout history words have given ideas terrible power. Power enough to segregate, enslave, and manipulate.

But I don’t want to look at the ability of words to destroy. I want to look at their ability to heal.

If you are fighting through something call out the truth in the situation out loud. If you are fighting inner demons. Say out loud what they are. Minimize the power negative thoughts have over you and take ownership by verbalizing.

If you are dealing with lies yell from the rooftops the things you know to be true. Like that you are loved and you are valued.

When negative words come your way overcome them with words coated in love.

This is one of the reasons that I love writing so much. When I write I find truth so much easier.

Give it a try. Let words be powerful and use them to grow beauty and love in this world

Much Love
BGTF

30 Days of Writing: Day Twelve

Day 12.

I was not able to post anything to the blog yesterday because my internet decided to take a vacation day. Well it is working now. So I guess I have to proceed.

Not posting one day and today I am fighting myself to get back on my laptop and type. It seems too true that when you mess up on something it becomes easier to do it a second time. It was so much easier to come up with excuses of why not to write today since I didn’t get to post yesterday.

So I think today we will have to focus on commitment and perseverance.

One of my favorite things to say is that the best things in life are never easy. The work involved is part of what makes the best things so great. The reward of persevering is pretty fantastic on its own. But there is always something coming up against our ability to push through or overcome.

I think we can attribute a lot to our inability to persevere, but one of the most universal factors is fear. Now what we fear, though, is pretty much subject to our individual struggles and experiences.

Maybe you fear rejection, failure, success, vulnerability or something else that only you can put your finger on. These fears I have found tend to be the complete opposite of what brings us joy in life.

Think about what you fear, then think about the opposite, is your fear taking away something you value?

Do you love people but are terrified of rejection?

DO you desperately want to be known, but are terrified of trust?

Do you LOVE writing but are afraid of failure, rejection and even success?

What fears are holding you back from what you love?

These fears are lies. They are stumbling blocks that seem insurmountable, but that is not true. Both you and I know that is not true. We know that is true because if you take the time to look at your past you will see moments where you were faced with fears but acted nonetheless. And you prevailed.

Fear is a lie from Satan. Whether you are Christian or not and reading this blog. Know this. There is no fear in perfect love. If you love something in a pure manner. Fear is just sneaking in to rip that love away.

God loves us completely. Fear will try to rip that away. Fear is a lie. Do not let it stop you from persevering. Let what you love overwhelm your fear!

Much Love

BGTF