Saturday, December 11, 2010

Altar Building

As we move forward into harder times, I think it's important to keep the practice of altar building.  We have to remember what God has done for us while we attempt to build His Kingdom in obedience.  I'd like for us to record these here on our blog as we go, as a place of reference and celebration.  You cool with that?

Having disclaimed, Altar #1 (Providence):

Providencen. a manifestation of divine care or direction.

Two stories have been Written simultaneously, and to understand this altar, you have to see them happen separately before you can understand their Providence.

Justice Small Group's story; We have come from all over the place...literally.  We've been drawn together from different states and churches and backgrounds.  As we have strived to serve God in obedience, fasting, and prayer, we have watched as God has drawn up our blueprint.

1) Events of service to the Birchcroft Community; outdoor movies, community potlucks,  coats & shoes, clothing drives, home restoration, etc.  At least 6-8 events held this year that will invite the public out, and allow for our Renovatus Community to engage the Birchcroft, and visa versa.

2) Weekly gatherings;  small group Bible studies, ESL classes, Tech. classes, community farming, transportation, child care, dinners, etc.  The regular ways that a more select few of our Renovatus Community engage Birchcroft.

3) Fund raising; Grant applications, Art sales, Garage sales, etc.  How can we become self reliant to support the needs of Birchcroft without depending too heavily on Renovatus, for the use of things such as turning on power for homeowners, supporting live in missionaries, providing our our events, etc.

This was the general plan brought to us through our time of prayer and fasting.

All the while...

Steve Shak's story; The Charlotte Eagles have already begun partnering with the four Refugee Communities in Charlotte, long before we arrived on the scene.  They have live in missionaries, and seek to partner with local churches to get these people plugged into the Gospel and the Narrative of Jesus Christ, recognizing that they themselves are not the church.

While many churches have engaged this particular community in a very fleeting way; dropping things off, preparing food, giving shoes and coats, etc., none have stuck around for the hard work of relationship building and all the good and the bad that comes with it.

The requisites for partnership with the Charlotte Eagles are as follows;

Your church is commited to:
*  Establishing a prayer team - This ministry was birthed through prayer and will be sustained through prayer.  We ask that you would put together a small group that meets regularly to pray for your church, the Urban Eagles staff, and the children in the specific community you will be working in.  
"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." (Colossians 4:2)

* Serving the people in this particular community by:

1. Casting a vision within your church hat this is your outreach.
2. Promoting and enlisting volunteers to help with food/ snacks, tutoring, leading devotions/prayer/bible study, help with transportation and special events.
3. Being a resource to help the community's practical needs: employment, food, clothing, and furnityre.
4. Organizing 305 outreach events per year (food, foot washing, movie night, etc.)
5. As the Lord leads, increasing your commitment and support by giving financially to the needs of the full-time missionaries planted in the community.

God's story; Apart from each other's even knowing, The Lord clearly gave us the same plan, of no invention of our own.  I don't know what else to say, but AMEN!  

Praise the Maker who ties all things together and does all things well.  We remember your faithfulness Father and will worship you when times are as good as they are right now, and when we surround ourselves into the darkness while we try to bring your Light.  We well remain humble and dependent on your movement and guidance, as you have always been good to give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

Today, Oh Lord, we give you this Altar.  We will not forget.

~ Mat

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Common Prayer

Well, it's safe to say that last night was not what I was expecting, but no matter.  It was still wonderful.  I've started to move through Common Prayer, and it's already giving me much food for thought.  Shout out to our Dusties.  We missed your faces.  That includes Kate too.


Disclaimer:  This will be no guilt in your absence this Holiday Season.  Just do what you need to do.  Hang with your families, and spread some love.

Also, this Wednesday, we will be going over some legistics.  I've spoken with our pastor, and we definitely have some things to go over.  We need to start with our leadership body though, so come and prepare to be open as we get our heads on straight.  Spiritual gifts and all that type of "strategerie."

I'm nuts about this group of folk.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

Remember, no meeting today. Go enjoy some time with your family. Also throw your thoughts down about Birchcroft, its important. I need to check our spiritual temperature as it were so I can get some things going for when we get back together.

Have a great holiday. I miss everyone already.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Wet Toes

This weekend will be our first step into something larger.  I'm trying to keep my expectations in check.  We've seen/done it all, and I know that small and humble beginnings are the way to go.  This is going to be an amazing opportunity to start relationships in a neighborhood that we are going to start planting some roots in.

In preparation for Sunday, keep your hearts focused.  Look for opportunities to help serve, start conversations, pick up trash, fill in where needed.  Be flexible.  This wont be super organized, only borrowing from strategies we already know.  Be ok with that.  Take the initiative to lead and serve upon yourself.  Don't wait for me or Katie or Denis or Lisa or Tracey.  We are a body of leaders.  I want to be flexible enough to get pictures taken for us to document our first steps, so make sure you get there early enough to rally as we set up and get a loose structure.

Thoughts as we go forward:

Me.  This is how I work, so this is a confession and an explanation so you can see and understand me;  when I don't see anyone step forward in instances to take the "baton" (or whatever) of leadership, I take it and move.  This, over time, limits peoples ability to find their niche in leadership/servanthood.  Does that make sense?  I'm not trying to steal a spotlight, I'm trying to keep us moving.  Sometimes that's necessary, sometimes that isn't.  My weakness is, when I'm not careful, I can look over folks.  Forgive me when I do that.

My job is to play middle man between the leadership of our Pastor and our church, and ourselves, which puts me in a spot of communication a lot.  I'm humbled to steward your relationships/thoughts/passions/vision/gifts/leadership as we navigate uncharted territory.   Forgive me my short comings.  I have quite a number of them.

Us.  We are going to spend sometime during our next meetings to get to know each others gifts, and organize our leadership that way.  There are a lot of us, and it's going to take some time, but that's ok.  We need it.

Organization.  Make sure you are following the blog and our Facebook group.  These are the best ways to share thoughts and touch base through the week.   

I love you guys.  Keep humble hearts and minds this weekend.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bolstering Ranks

Our numbers are still on the climb.  This week we were joined by Kate and Adam.  I'm going to need the Lord to multiply some square footage at this rate.  

Kate, Katie H., Katie R., Thomas, Denis, Lisa, Patrick, Courtney, Tracey, Christine, Elizabeth, Paulo, Anthi, Adam, Jessica, Erica, and Saucey, my heart is filled with anticipation at getting neck deep in Kingdom work beside each of you.  I get goose bumps, for real.

Remember, next week (Nov. 17th) we are meeting at Birchcroft to walk and pray and learn.  Tentative address is 3143 Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205-5413, (704) 536-3520.  That should get you there.  I'll get Adam's address this Sunday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


  [sangk-tuh-fahy]  Show IPA
–verb (used with object), -fied, -fy·ing.
to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.
to purify or free from sin: Sanctify your hearts.
to impart religious sanction to; render legitimate or binding:to sanctify a vow.
to entitle to reverence or respect.
to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing.

If I listen to my heart to the messages put out there last night, I think it's quite clear, that while we've been praying for a direction, the Lord meant for us to be sanctified first.  I don't think that's meant to be a "Holy Pitty Party" where we dialogue about each other's sins until we are blue in the face, but that He means to put us to work, and to qualify us first.

I think I've heard it said before, but I'm not sure from where "He doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

It fills my heart to know that we are getting ready to be used.  

About Thanksgiving in Birchcroft.  I got the green light from Jonathan, (Speaking of, if you have the opportunity to, or even if you don't, stop that man when you see him and hug him around his neck, even if that means jumping.  I've known a lot pastors in my young walk with Christ, and I haven't met many who are so trusting in their flock that they would allow us to set a vision from the Lord out to the church without micromanaging or looking over our shoulders.  We are so blessed to have a leader like him.  I'm not blowing smoke.  We really are.)

I've signed up Reimagined Landscapes at I tried to use Friends Feed Friends, Denis, but I couldn't figure it out quick enough and we're on a time crunch.  We need to figure that out though for any preceding events. 

I'll rally the troops Sunday morning, having been given Jonathan's permission.

It feels like the Lord is steering is in a direction that is meeting us all where we are at.  Prisoners, the trafficked, the poor, widows and looks like they can all be found under this one umbrella.  

I don't say this lightly, but last night, I totally felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Keep your hearts humbled as you continue to seek him.  I'm so humbled to be surrounded by each of you.  I love watching what God is up to, and I'm eager to share this journey with you.

Do justice.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with your God.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Food for thought

"It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God's will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you - try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will yourself!"
- Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation, chapter 14, p. 107 (1949).

I have no clue how each of your spiritual journeys are going, but I can't wait to find out tomorrow. I know you're being obedient and humble as you seek our Father on your own behalf, on behalf of this group, and on behalf of what He is doing with Renovatus.  

Setting our direction aside for a moment, Elizabeth has presented an amazing idea and I wanted to share it with you before group tomorrow.

There's no harm in getting our hands dirty while we fast and pray for a vision.  What if we cook a huge Thanksgiving Dinner for the refugee community at Birchcroft?  We certainly have experience with pulling something like this off.
Food for thought.  No pun intended.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Justice Small Group: 11/03/2010

Last night was deep.  I feel like our wheels are starting to turn and it makes me excited.  The direction of our prayers and meditations this week go towards the Refugee Community at Birchcroft.  We are asking if this is the path we are to take, or are we supposed to clear it off the table.  Remember to pray for yourself primarily, and for the group.  Let God speak your language to you, and then come back to us next Wednesday and tell us what He said.  He doesn't need to speak blanket statements with us.  Let Him be as direct as He likes.

"Clothe the naked Christ - by your charity in the words and protecting the good names of others.  Give a home for the homeless Christ - by your making your own home a home of peace and joy and love, through your thoughtfulness for all and everyone in your family and your next door neighbour."

~Mother Theresa

We all got tickets to Shane Claiborne's conference here in Charlotte on December 1st on Common Prayer at Area 15, which I've got to say was spontaneous and wonderful.  It's not surprising though.  Our paths are directed for us.  Doors will be opened.  We'll get exactly what we need.  I can't wait to learn with you.

This week, Paulo is following up with our guy from Urban Eagles.  Just a quick conversation to keep his interest about speaking to us after the 17th.

Thoughts for us before we get back together; don't be afraid to put yourself out there.  This is totally a safe place.  Know and be known by each of us.  Teach us about your life and burdens.  Our purpose is to help you shoulder them.  We are each leaders with a limp, whose crutches are the man standing next to us. (Or know what I mean.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Justice Small Group: 10/27/2010

"The kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” He will quickly reply.

Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day.

The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities."
~Isaiah 58:6-12


I'm all wrapped up in that scripture today.  I found it this morning, and may have read it before, but never actually READ it if you know what I mean.  I think it's fascinating that God's leading us on a journey that he has led our forefathers on.

Foreigners seemed to be the topic of the night, mostly in reference to the refugee population that inhabits Ridgecroft...Birchcroft...Birchtree...Elizabeth help me out! (Inside joke).  I think that's unique considering the diverse population in our Justice Small Group.  I want to fight the temptation to jump the gun, but I will say that the addition of 7 new people (who for now shall remain nameless) bring an exceptional level of giftedness partnered with humility.  Some of us have been together for a long time, and we know and are known by each other.  I'm eager to get to know and be known by a new fleet of Kingdom Laborers.  You honor our household ( you know who you are :P ).

Foreigners can branch out into a lot of areas.  Underpaid immigrants.  The abused.  ESL.  Single mothers.  Divorced families.  The trafficked.  Providing groceries.  Tutoring.  You name it, we could do it.  I think it's a God sized vision to be certain.

The request has been made.  Fasting one day a week, however that looks for you, with the intent of emptying yourself, seeking His Face, and meditating on the following scriptures: Leviticus 19:18,1 Samuel 2:8, Psalms 82:3, Proverbs 14:31; 19:17; 21:13; 22:9; 28:27, Isaiah 58:6-11, Matthew 5:43-45; 19:19; 22:39; 25:34-46, Mark 12:31, 2 Corinthians 9:7-15, Ephesians 2:8-10, James 1:27; 2:8; 2:14-24, 1 John 3:17-19, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

I have no inclination to micromanage your spiritual life.  I trust that you will spend time with him and seek the truth.  I wish it were January.  I know I shouldn't, but I do!  I promise, I'll do my best to be right here and right now.
In the meantime, we've got our work cut out for us.  I already can't wait until our next meeting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Upside Down Kingdom

I'm going to do my best not to sound preachy or overly philosophical as I put my thoughts into words.  Sometimes blogs can sound pretentious in an effort to make someone seem pious or super spiritual.  The longer I've been on this journey with the Lord, the more I have become aware of my lack of piety in fact.  When we scale this hill, towards the House of the Lord, we inch closer and closer to Light that shows us who we are.  The things we're afraid of.  The secret places in our heart where we try to hide our indiscretions.  I guess I'm trying to say, I submit my thoughts in humility, to the aim of making this journey of Justice we are taking transparent to my brothers and sisters.

If you're reading, I'm blessed and humbled.  I offer to you my young experience in the Trenches of Kingdom Work, and hope to reveal to you the journey I've been on, as it's being revealed to me.

I'm spending my days thinking about the Kingdom.  If I'm honest, I have no clue what the Lord is up to.  I can say though, that when He opens a window into his Kingdom from time to time, Spirit and Scripture and Flesh all line up and make sense.  Wrongs are righted, no matter how small.  Seas are parted and mountains are moved.  Transgressions are forgiven.  There's food enough to share.  Smiles widen and tensions ease.  These are what it must be like to be in the King's proximity.  He once said, "Taste and see that the Lord is good..."  If the Kingdom had a taste, it would be like cold clean water to a dry mouth.  If you could see it, it would look like the marvel of my son as he attempts to make sense of a bubble landing on his finger.

So the Lord is getting ready to move the whole of Renovatus in a particular direction.  In a unified, mass effort, we are going to build the Kingdom of God, right here and right now.  We have fed the homeless for 5 years on "The Wall" in the heart of downtown.  The stories I could tell you of the Kingdom we saw there would make the hairs on  your neck stand straight up.  Then we saturated a neighborhood of the working poor in Reid Park for a year.  Tutoring kids for school, painting, yard work, garden planting, long conversations, home repair, kisses on the cheek, sweat, rides to work and church, and dirty hands.  We watch crime and prostitution statistics decline as the Lord expanded the borders of his Kingdom in that tiny neighborhood on West Blvd.

Now, the largest task yet looms in the distance, who's goal is still a little ambiguous.  Sex Trafficking.  Refugee communities.  Widows.  Orphans.  Homeless children.  Mental health patients.  Hospice patients.  The Aids Consortium.  Tendering the Elderly.  All noble causes, but we can only choose one.  I'm not nervous though.  We've asked for a vision and direction for Renovatus, and I know we'll get one. 

Here's how I know it will happen; the distinct ways that the Lord speaks to everyone on our team will slowly creep up on us unbeknownst.   For example, He lights me on fire fast.  I get excited and passionate right away, and could run a marathon.  Katie on the other hand, takes time.  The Lord gives her what she needs patiently.  We both arrive at the same conclusion at the same time.  It's like he ties up our narratives at their conclusion, though we took different paths to get there.  That's what He will do with Justice Small Group.  Tracey, Christine, Katie and myself, Dennis, Lisa, Elizabeth, and Erica...we will all arrive at the same vision at the same time in our own distinct ways.  That's how good He is.

So far, the thing that fills us with the most fear and passion seems to be Human Trafficking.  What does it look like to rebuild what the enemy has stolen there?  How will the Kingdom grow in the midst of modern day slavery?


"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."
~Mother Teresa

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Justice Small Group: 10/13/10

Ideas for Serving Him
*  Orphans, organizing and implementing a strategy to reduce the cost of domestic adoption.
*  Reworking a plan to feed the masses/ clothe the masses/ help the masses.
*  Rework a strategy to invade neighborhood of the working poor.
*  New Women's and Children's Shelter.
*  Home for aftercare of human trafficking.
*  Helping people in hospice.
*  Dealing with mental health.
*  Working in a Refugee Community in Bridgecroft on Central Ave.
*  Working with the Aids Consortium.
Available Resources:
Triad Ladder of Hope ~ Sex Trafficking
National Trafficking Information and Referral 
Hotline: 1.888.373.888
P:  336.883.2233 Ext. 223
E:  triadladderofhope@north
Triad Ladder of Hope is a grassroots, faith base, non profit, non governmental organization dedicated to eradicating the exploitation, sale, and enslavement of victims.  
Our Mission:  
Triad Ladder of HOPE works to liberate women and children trapped in modern day slavery and give them Hope, safety, security, and freedom.
Partner with the Dept. of Health and Human Services Rescue and Restore Campaign.  A National Christian Women's Job Corps site and part of the NC Ripple Collation.
Education:  Educating the citizens of America is a key to eradicating modern day slavery.  We offer presentations and enforcement, first responders, faith based community and organizations, health departments, NGO's, community, service and civic organizations.  
As a service provider:  
We provide a Christian context, wherein women are provided a safe environment, equipped for life, employment, and self-sufficiency, within a context wherein women help women.
Safety Net:  
Working to rescue victims by working with law enforcement and other organizations.  Offer assistance to victims.
There are 27 or more million people enslaved today.  More than ever before in the history According to the Department of State.  Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide.  According to the Department of State an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the US.  This number does not include US Citizens who become victims of exploitation of sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
A Childs Place ~ Homeless Children
P.  704.343.3790
With no permanent residence, homeless children often stop going to school -- the one place that should provide structure in a life of transition.  Without the influence and stability of a classroom environment, these children lose more than a chance to learn.  They also lose the crucial sense of belonging gained from interacting with friends and other students.  But there is hope for these children -- and help -- through A Child's Place.  Founded in 1989, A Childs Place is a collaborative effort between Charlotte, NC community and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
The goals for A Child's Place are to:
*  Provide stable, appropriate education to homeless students
*  Provide support services to enhance their opportunities for academic success
*  Provide services to families to ensure long term stability and self sufficiency.
Strategic Plan 2010 - 2012 manager/ACP_Strategic_plan_chart.pdf
Project Rescue ~ Sex Trafficking
P.  417.833.5564
Project Rescue is a ministry to women and children in sexual slavery focused on providing physical, emotional and spiritual rescue and holistic restoration.  our multifaceted programs aim to provide a save environment for transformation and growth. 
Rescuing today's young sexual slavery victims is nothing short of a miracle.  Our efforts to remove women and girls who have been forced into prostitution begin with providing long-term shelter in a safe place in which trust and healing can develop.  This often includes:
*  Negotiating the terms of release of enslaved women and girls.
*  Accepting trafficking victims who have been rescued during police raids and tacking them to one of our Homes of Hope.
*  Intervening to get sex workers' children out of the brothels during their mothers' work hours and into safe and nurturing Project Rescue Night-Care Centers.
During the first year of our efforts, Project Rescue utilized our financial resources to dismiss many young girls' "debts" to brothel owners, so that her freedom could be obtained.  As we began to better understand the sexual slavery trade and comprehend the horrors in trafficking system, however, we realized that this strategy only put money back into the hands of the organized crime; money that then used to enslave other young girls.
Today, Project Rescue takes a different approach.  We've established strong relationships with local police, city government officials, and even brothel owners who have come to trust our organization.  Project Rescue workers are now recognized and trusted in the cities' red-light districts and have become known for showing genuine kindness and demonstrating Christ's example of love in tangible ways.
My thoughts on organizations presented:
Well, it looks so far like the idea of stepping in behalf on those that are caught up in sex trafficking is what excites us the most.  Triad Ladder of Hope looks like it's struggling in comparison to Project Rescue.  I could see God using us with either; starting from scratch with a new Project Rescue or coming underneath Triad Ladder of Hope.  We would have to be very creative with how to get everyone active in a mission like this.  There would be many layers as to how to help; the front line, working with local police, building relationships, child care, fund raising, etc.  It's a little overwhelming to think about, but it sounds God-sized to me, which fills me with energy.
I have no inclination yet as to what direction we might head in, but I'm excited about our new prospects.  
Additionally, what does it look like to defend the widows and orphans in our area?
I love our small group already.
Meditation Scriptures:
Leviticus 19:18
1 Samuel 2:8
Psalms 82:3
Proverbs 14:31; 19:17; 21:13; 22:9; 28:27
Isaiah 58:6-11
Matthew 5:43-45; 19:19; 22:39; 25:34-46
Mark 12:31
2 Corinthians 9:7-15
Ephesians 2:8-10
James 1:27; 2:8; 2:14-24
1 John 3:17-19
Romans 13:9
Galatians 5:14
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Thoughts We Kicked Around
*  Fasting one day a week while we seek the Lord for guidance and direction.
*  Being open to either one of two solutions; allowing God to show us how to start from scratch, or provide energy for an organization that is already up and running.