i am who You say i am

The Inner

The last month has been hectic. COVID. lead actor in a film. George Floyd. Protests. Wrote a poetry book. Self published my poetry book. Articles started to get written about my activism and my art.

One day I was out with a friend who happens to be a crew member of the film I’m in, and she introduced me to her friend by saying, “this is Matthew he just self published a poetry book and he’s the lead actor in the film I was telling you about.”

Alarms went off inside of me as if I was a bank that was being robbed. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I wasn’t okay with being introduced like that.
Why? Well, one reason is that I didn’t want people to look at me differently.

Recently, an article came out called, “5 emerging leaders in Madison” and I was 1 of the 5.
When I read that article I thought to myself, “wow, THAT guy sounds awesome.”
But…THAT guy didn’t feel like it was me. I said everything they said that I said, so how come I felt like an imposter? A fraud?
“I’m not THAT big of a deal”, I’d tell myself, “I’m not really an emerging leader.”

How come I not only don’t like when other people see me for who I am? But I also feed myself a narrative that breeds imposter syndrome? Can’t I accept my own success as valid, and real?
“You can’t be as bright as they say you are”, I tell myself. Even tho I know that since my youth I’ve rigorously pursued developing myself so that one day I could shine. This double consciousness- at once permissive and restrictive of my shine- wars within me.

Where I come from people aren’t encouraged to shine, it’s almost as if we believe there’s not enough sky for all of us to be stars. But, I want to be more than a star- I want to be a sun.
Why must we let fear rob us of our bravery?
Pillage us of the treasures inside- leaving most of us so barren we can’t even imagine thinking highly of ourselves?
Most people don’t have articles written about them saying that their “voice is one that everyone should be listening to.” and so, I, more than most people in my life am confronted with this reality of other’s estimation of me. And it seems to be quite lofty.
I know what they say, “don’t believe the hype.”
But, rejecting the truth about yourself isn’t humility. It’s insecurity.

In writing my book, You Can Not Burn The Sun, SHINE is something I wanted to encourage myself to do. The sun IS bright. It IS seen most days. In fact, without it, none of us would be alive.
I want to cultivate the kind of courage to allow myself to shine. To be able to say, and believe, “my contributions to this world are important.”

To that end, I’m learning to be like the sun. From now on, if people tell me I shine brightly, I’ll say, “i am who You say i am”
because who better to tell you of your brightness than one who is warmed by your light?

Photos

Egypt | Imagine

The Poem

we walked thru metal detectors
before we were allowed to enter
church
who would’ve thought
our holy spaces would need defenses

like, isn’t God enough?
but how can a people forgo a response when the trigger
from their trauma comes?

why can’t we mortals be the animals in noah’s story arc of floods?
You who call us Loved- protect us!
You say no weapon

formed against us will will prosper but
they are being formed!
and we are being taught to fear for the lives you’ve asked us to offer up

as sacrifices

remind us that tho our body
and indeed this building
may be
defenseless
our spirits are being kept
like sheep by The Shepherd

The Story

Egypt; a land who’s treasure is hidden like the hair of the many women with Hijabs.
Getting to Egypt was an instant culture shock; the color of everything buildings, earth, and skin, different- all of it now a sandy tan. The 5x daily Call to Prayer blaring from loudspeakers in mosques nation wide, “Allahu Akbar”- vowels stretched beyond 1/4 notes making the Call almost songlike. When you heard the Call you could feel it in the air. It was like hypnosis-only, instead of our eyes being lulled to sleep it was the spirit of an entire nation. I’ve never felt anything like that before. None of my team had, either. How do you do ministry when legally, muslim converts to Christianity can and will be put to death- the very real tension of knowing that if we care about the life of the people we’re among it might be better for them if we don’t mention Jesus?
How do you do ministry when you have to operate in secret because if the government finds out what you’re doing you could get Blacklisted and kicked out of the country?
Or when Christians- and especially foreign Christians are not a welcomed sight? We were fortunate to spend most of our 2 Months in Egypt in a tourist hub called Hurghada on the eastern seaboard. Fortunate because it was far more tolerant of us than Cairo would have been. But still, we operated in secret. To the level that the Americans on our team were not permitted to tell people we were from the US because of a rising anti-american sentiment.
Our team felt repressed.
We had come to do ministry yet could not even speak the name of Jesus. This forced us to be more creative. We ran several week long kids camps and something I’ll never forget is that the 3rd camp we planned wasn’t able to happen. Why? Because the imam (head of a Mosque) of that area of the city didn’t permit the kids to come. We had run the camp in this area twice before and hadn’t run into this obstacle. The thing is, the community knew that our contact was Christian. At times parents would come to watch us. They would come not because they wanted to know more of Jesus- but because they wanted to be sure that we weren’t influencing their kids to convert. Under their watchful eye we never spoke the name of Jesus but we were able to teach Good things to the kids. Still, our camp was markedly, and unspokenly Christian. And as such, the community was forbid to come to it. That was hard for us! We had grown attached to these kids and thought that they as well had grown attached to us- groups would wait at the locked gate of the park we’d host the camp at and they would run to greet us when we arrived in our van.
We created a safe space for that group of kids. And safety was a key ingredient. Key, because many of these kids were being abused at home- many would come to the camp with bruises- marks of harsh home living. We came to see these camps as significant because at least we knew that when the kids were with us they were safe, and honored, and loved. So different was the culture that we created in the camps that it was like a dream to many of the kids. When you wake up from a dream you know it is not reality, no matter how beautiful and memorable the dream.
One day I was teaching on conflict resolution and I asked the kids, “when your friend makes you mad what do you do?”
Hands shot into the air, eager to answer my question.
I called on a boy named Mohammed, “I take a deep breath and count to 10”, he said, referring to a song that we had made and taught the kids. Surely, he had the right answer! And a good memory!
But, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to hear the ‘right’ answer, or what you think I want to hear. I want to hear what you actually do”.
The kids laughed and whispered among themselves and Mohammed spoke again, “oh! Then we beat each other.”

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of lasting impact we had. All I know is that when the kids were with us we made them resolve conflict differently. We brought them into a different world. And sometimes different worlds are like languages- they seem inapplicable in places that aren’t fluent in that tongue. While we may have showed them the tongue of love, will they speak it outside of our Camp? I don’t know. But we showed them that there is more. And for kids, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is showing them that it is possible to imagine “more”. So, what did we accomplish in Egypt? We helped a group of kids learn to imagine. And that, is beautiful.

The Pictures

Yes, Yes, Yes!

The Inner

Titled: Death be my amen

my LOVE’s heart beats loud as a swat team home invasion
boom boom boom boom
will you come in?
and once you enter make a home
or find that it’s already been made for you
He who’s heart is just as strong as it is tender
is a Living Invitation to see Him with the eyes of a hawk hunting for dinner
see Him clear as still water

LOVE! aren’t our eyes still clouded?

yes, clouded as Flint’s water
and we, Your children, drink in this poor perspective
LOVE!
when my eyes lie i need Your
breathe to become vacuum
a black hole
pull me in with Your inhale
that i become like Jonah in the belly of the whale
seeing You from the inside out
and as i am being swallowed
i will make a pit stop at Your heart,
so i can see
that
my LOVE’s heart beats soft as LOVER’s whispers
speaks sweet somethings of value and belonging
and when i don’t know where home is i can find it in You, mm
when i don’t know what LOVE is i can
find it in You, mm
i’m a child of the Truth, mm
and this world is at war tryna
divide me from You, mm

i want to be like prime numbers
divisible by One
and myself, only
i am temple of LOVE, its Spirit rests on me-
so wrest from me
everything of mine that’s not of You, mm

i give you full permission

LOVE, tho my eyes are clouded i say yes
LOVE, tho i know You not as intimately as i long to i say Yes!
LOVE!
let the fact that my body draws breath
be my eternal yes
and it’s death be my amen

The Discipleship Training School that I’ve been staffing since September had a “Creative Intensive Weekend” last week and as part of it, I shared ‘death be my amen’ with the school. If you read on you’ll see my inspiration for this poem.
You, me, and everybody in the world struggle to say Yes to LOVE. And we struggle with Yes because LOVE is Yahweh, and we as humans kinda suck at knowing truly who Yahweh is. I remember walking down State Street in Madison, Wi last year overhearing a conversation by 2 UW Madison students, “The God of the Old Testament is such a f*cking masochist!”, the one said.
Within me indignation arose like a mushroom cloud- a bomb had dropped and I could do nothing to defend my LOVE. I didn’t know the 2.
I kept walking. “my LOVE’s heart beats loud. . .” and it at times beats so loud that we become deaf to the life it signifies. Unable to hear my LOVE as loving.
And then the New Testament comes along and we get Jesus and He seems so nice and loving and soft and passionate and all the good stuff that we find so hard to see in “the f*cking masochist” that is “the God of the Old Testament”.
LOVE! aren’t our eyes still clouded? yes, clouded as Flint’s water
The next lines are a prayer to the One who is, at times, obscured from my sight the way a bride’s veil obscures her LOVE from her sight
when my eyes lie i need your breath to become vacuum. . . I’m a child of the Truth, and this world is at war tryna divide me from You“.
The poem ends with me speaking directly to my LOVE, telling Him
“tho my eyes are clouded i say yes
LOVE, tho i know You not as intimately as i long to i say Yes!
LOVE!
let the fact that my body draws breath
be my eternal yes
and it’s death be my amen”

and my “yes” is so emphatic because “i want to be like prime numbers
divisible by One
and myself, only”

The Outer

  • Destiny and I are leading a team of 15 students to Cyprus and North Africa for the next 3 months. We leave in 2 days!!
  • Due to my not staffing in YWAM Madison anymore the organization that processes my support has changed. I was able to get the new account approved just today. Dear supporters expect an email from me that tells you how to keep supporting me. Thanks for your support!
  • Being in Nurnberg is a tremendously liberating experience. Perhaps there was a proverbial “something in the water” in Madison because being here I feel like a weight has lifted and I am more myself than I have ever been in my entire life.

The Photos

Dear Supporters

  • Instructions for transferring your support (YWAM Madison has already cancelled your donations to me, the last deposit will have been in the first week of December so you don’t have to worry about cancelling your support but if you are- )
  • email: ywam@ywammadison.org and say, “my name is _______ and I want to cancel the support I send to Matthew Bogart.
  • to start supporting me Fill out this form: https://meigiving.com/Sites/meiGiving2.php and when it asks “Person/Project/Account” write in “BM3654”. This is my account number. You can choose how much to give, and how frequently, and the duration of your donations!
    As I’ll be on outreach I’ll have limited ability to check in with you to see if the transfer went smoothly, but I hope to be able to reach out.

i want to be close

may the voice of the LORD warm my ear
may the dust of His feet
be kicked upon me, all my years

i want
to be
close
as the clothes to my body
i want
to be
close
as stars to the sky
i want
to be
close
as lovers
as friends

my Teacher
let us be huddled together

titled: huddled together

The Inner

Intercession is one of my favorite rhythms of life- it’s a time we set aside to literally hear from Father what’s on His heart, and as we hear, we boldly echo His prayers. While I was in Madison, Father would often encourage me to write and share poems during group intercession times, and rarely would I do what I was asked. I was afraid and insecure. What if people think I’m sharing this poem just because I want to be recognised as a good poet? Or worse, what if my community thinks I’m a bad poet? Do they even want to hear a poem from me? What if I’m not hearing Father right? What if this- What if that- What if- What if- What if?!
All I could think was “What if” and I allowed my fears to get the best of me. Effectively, I was silenced. And that’s griefworthy because what if I’d remembered? Remembered last fall when the Head Pastor of my church and I collaborated every month. He’d sent me the bible passages he was going to preach on and he gave me free reign to create a piece that would be shared on church on a Sunday. We did that every month over the fall. If only I’d remembered the trust my pastor placed in not only my creative ability but also the fear of the LORD within me that would seek to honor Father in whatever I shared with the congregation. After one service a woman came to me and told me how a piece I wrote helped her wrestle through some of her own theological struggles. I was touched, and honored. And I forgot.
Forgot in such a way that my mouth closed up the way a powerful river does when it is dammed up. I was dammed up. And in my dammage I felt like I couldn’t contribute to the spiritual life of my community. I couldn’t, because I wouldn’t, because I was afraid to.
When I came to Nuremberg two months ago I made a commitment to be myself, no matter what. I told myself that I wouldn’t test the water, I’d jump in. That commitment has been the single most redemptive choice I’ve made in my whole life. All encompassingly it’s had trickle down effect on the way I relate to everything from the jokes I make, to how I handle conflict, to prayer life, to how I carry myself. These days when I interned and God tells me to write a poem I pull out my phone and start writing. Sometimes the “What if’s” attack me, but when it happens- I do my best to remember. Remember who it is Father is, and who it is He has called me to be. A creative who powerfully communicates His Truth while displaying just how beautiful He is.
May I be closer to Him and His Truth than I am to fear and insecurities.

The Outer

DTS Started!! We have 31 students from 15 different nations!! Thanks to all of you who have partnered with me financially- my outreach (to as of yet not publicly announced locations. message me and Ill tell you) for the next 2 years has already been paid off! Yay God, and Thanks y’all!!

The Photos

We hosted a team from China. Put on a few workshops, and presented the Gospel to them.
One girl asked me, “Nobody back home is a Christian…why should I be one?”
and I had the honor of sharing with her just how GOOD our Father is.
This is my friend Malorie. She loves Betty White and me.

Caleb and I collaborating on a piece I wrote called Growth

take me Home

Once you’ve been uprooted once
it’s easy to forget
that all you need is Living Water
and the light of the Sun to bloom


See,
I can be repotted into any soil
knowing that the plans of The Gardener are never foiled


He will have His harvest
He has come that Garden might become Kingdom
and harvest become choir of voices singing,
“when I was wilting you watered me
when I was growing you pruned
and tended me
and now I receive every ounce of goodness you intended me
You never left me
I’m thankful
Oh so thankful
for how you have befriended me”


Me, small seed that knows it must cling to soil
tightly as vines coil round a tree
if I am to grow here
I, in all things
must remember


The Gardener knows the soil and the seed
and it is Him
who planted me

The Gardener

The Inner

“Take me home”
I prayed, as the unmoving plane I’d been sitting in of for an hour that has a problem that the pilot says will be “probably solved” starts to rush down the runway.
When I said home, I meant Madison.
Lord said, “you still don’t get it, yet, do you?”
Right now, as I write this, I am flying home.

And that’s crazy.

Crazy because who am I but a kid from a small town in Oregon? A kid who didn’t even graduate High School.
A kid who up until 4 years ago didn’t actually have a firm understanding of what it meant to be or to have a home.

I made a mental note to myself in New York to journal, asking myself the questions, “How will they receive me? Will they pursue me? How will I react to their pursuit of me?”.
But honestly, I can’t answer those questions yet. Still, the fact that I’m asking them reveals my heart to myself.
I am most curious about how the relationships will go here. Curious of the new ones I’ll fashion. Curious of how they will be held together.
I once had a girlfriend I wrote a poem for and in it I said, “ I want you to come so close our hearts are like the snakes of the Caduceus tethered around the rod that is our God”.
We came together around shared faith. We believed in the same thing.
I think that it is what we believe in- and what we’re willing to do for those beliefs that cultivate a sense of Home.
I have a dear friend in Madison and we believe in Netflix, analyzing film, and trying to learn from things we’ve just seen.
Another playful friend believes in wine and card games.
A 3rd treasured friend of mine believes in beloved quality time and is willing to do almost anything to be with those she loves.
Those beliefs rubbed off on me.
I’ve become a wine drinking, card game playing, film watching, quality time savoring man, and as I fly Home, I’m excited.
Excited to find out what kind of Home awaits me, and how I will collaborate with them in cultivating a Home for everyone.

How will my new home rub off on me?

And how will I rub off on it?

The Outer

•I’ve moved to Nuremberg, Germany. And I’ll be here for the next 2 years.

•I’ve secured housing.

•working on starting the Visa process.

•This last week has been staff orientation. Good stuff.

•Staff Training for DTS starts August 26th

The Prayers

•Pray I start going to bed at a good time 😅. It’s a 7 hour time difference and my friends don’t wake up till late afternoon so I talk to them late into the night cause I miss them.

•There’s differences organizationally between Ywam Madison and Ywam Nuremberg and it’s an adjustment period for me

•Relational Adjustment. I’m in a new country and continent where I know nobody. I’m the outsider. They’ve made me welcome, but still, I’m the new kid.

•My family going thru some stuff. Please pray for them.

The Pictures

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The literal only pic of me I’ve gotten the last 2 weeks haha

img_2645St. Lorenz church.

img_2630Grandeur

Sent, and Sent For

The Inner.

“Leaving is an integral part of arriving.” That’s what I heard God say to me during an early April YWAM Madison Retreat at Lake Geneva. For the last couple years I’ve wrestled with the question of, “do I stay in ywam madison, or do I leave?”. As a person I pride myself on my loyalty and my resilience so I wasn’t about to just LEAVE, ya know? Unless God told me otherwise I was planning on being stationed in Madison and never leaving.

I’ve been in Madison now for the last 3 years and bit by bit I’ve taken up more ownership. The big bits being staffing at Pho’s House (discipleship housing for college students) and running Spark (art elective in DTS).

To leave I equated with giving up. Defeat. Abandonment. And none of those words I like using to describe how I engage with anything. I know I’ve made an impact here and I was scared that if I left nothing I’ve done would matter. It would return to dust. In His wisdom, Lord knew I’d need some serious emotional reconciling in order to be able to even consider transferring elsewhere.

During the Retreat we looked at the story of Jacob and Esau. And one point their mother tells Jacob to run because “if Esau returns He’ll kill you, and I can’t lose both of my sons today.” That passage spoke to my spirit, revealing that some battles are not for me to fight. And that God doesn’t always ask us to fight. In a lot of ways that passage broke this pride in me that said, “you can’t put down anything you’ve picked up”.

He told me, “I’ve sent you, and sent for you”. These words conjured an image of journey on my end, and request for my presence on another. A leaving of and a going towards.

I left the Retreat knowing I would be leaving YWAM Madison. But I did not know where I would be going.

Now, I do.

I will be moving to Nuremberg, Germany to work with YWAM Nuremburg, staffing Discipleship Training Schools there for the next 2 years. And I leave July 23rd!!

The base there is very arts centric. In fact, the DTS is called “Marriage of the Arts”.

I’m so excited to be a part of staff there, to experience new culture, and to develop myself personally and creatively!

The Photos

Pho’s friends! We’ve been watching films a lot lately and last night we shared a meal together before the movie

This is Bri, she just graduated DTS, she was one of my Spark students. I’m proud of her. This pose is an inside joke

Filming for a piece I wrote called, Affirmation II [The Dominance of Non-Belonging]

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I GOT A POEM PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME. YAYY

i need help

I now, no longer expect my friends
to understand my grief
nor do I give them space to

The Inner

The last 4 months have been quite turbulent. I’ve felt like a fisher in a small boat caught up in a storm. I’m powerless to quiet my environment. And honestly, at times I’ve done a poor job at recognizing His presence. February was a hellishly busy month, between planning and executing a retreat for Spark (retreats aren’t restful when you’re running them), preparing for a few performances at Black History Month celebration events culminating in the Black Arts Matter Fest ( I got to the finals), writing a song for the application of an internship, staffing at Phos House, tutoring kids at Vera Ct, and losing some financial support to the point where some days and weeks I had less than $10 in my account, and starting to see a counselor. I’ve been realizing that I need help. Support. I can’t do this alone: Financially, Spiritually, or Emotionally. And in recognizing that I need help, I’ve also seen my pride-fueled aversion to asking for it.
The above line in italics is an excerpt of a larger poem I wrote called, “Good Friend”. And I think that ‘my grief‘ can be substituted with, ‘need for help’, ‘hurt’, or even “how broken I am and how much love is like a healing salve that I need, but am too prideful to admit”
Why am I- one who is quick to help any friend in need- so slow to ask for reciprocity?
Not only am I averse to asking friends, and my community for help, I’m averse to asking Father for help. I was talking to a friend of mine a couple days ago who lost their father last year and they said they are trying to learn to recalibrate their relation to our Creator from ‘Good Man’, to ‘Good Father’.
I, too lost my father. However March 28th ’19 was the 8th anniversary of his passing, so I’ve been fatherless for a while now. I started thinking about how my father and I didn’t have much of a relationship. He was a good man. But he wasn’t present much. I never really knew him. I never felt like he knew me. And I can’t remember ever having a “father son talk”. Due to that poverty of relationship I don’t actually know what it’s like to relate to someone as a “father”. As a “provider”. As a “support”. In a lot of ways I’ve had to figure things out myself. And this commitment to independence has been detrimental to myself. As I’ve begun to see first hand how independent I can be I’ve started trying to rely on my community more. And on Father more. And one of the fruits of this is me bringing my problems to Him. I don’t dress them up to look all pretty. I share them in their unrefined-ness. I’m striving to be honest, raw, and vulnerable.  This has opened up new avenues of being supported, being empathized with, etc etc.
When people ask me how I am, I am more apt to be honest with them.
I’m tired of pride.
I’m tired of having to be ‘okay’.

It’s okay to not be okay.
Jesus still loves me.
Jesus still wants to be with me.

 

The Outer

  • Spark (art elective in Discipleship Training School) has finished. We had a great 9 weeks!
  • Phos Staffing goes well, the semester is concluding is about 5 weeks!
  • I’ve applied for a 2 month paid internship in Richmond, VA that runs from June-July. The internship is for worship leaders who are passionate about theology, racial reconciliation, and community engagement. I’ll know within the month of I’m accepted. Part of the application was writing a worship song based on Isaiah 58. I’m elated to know that if I’m accepted in this internship I’ll be around other young christians who are passionate about the working out of their faith in a communal, justice oriented lens.

 

 

The Photos

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Spark retreat. Featuring 1/2 of the Sparkies. We played a cooking game and this was the meal my team made! Yummm! food lowkey reminded me of being in Tanzania.

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A group of Christian Creatives got together to make chinese dumplings! Yay for community!

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Candid picture of Hannah and I working on, “We Are Guilty”. The song I wrote for the internship. Thanks for your help Hannah! Told you it’d be fun 😉

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Reyna, one of the Phos residents has a Figure Drawing Class. So, for 2 hours I sat still on her bed while she drew me. My hips were SORE after this. NEVER AGAIN REYNA! at least not in that position

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I got new glasses (insert fire emoji). and am trying a mustache if you mustassk

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Me performing my fav piece (Face Value) at the Black Arts Matter Festival poetry slam. I got into the finals!

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All the beautiful black poets that flew in to Madison for the BAM Poetry Slam!

 

Worship Leader

 

The Inner

September of last year I was at a conference in Minneapolis. The second day of the conference I was eating lunch by myself, happy and content, and a stranger came to me. He said, “I didn’t know why I was here, because I’m certainly not here for the conference. But when I saw you I knew that I was here to speak to you.”
He proceeded to tell me many things. When he left, I spent some time with Jesus and asked, “Are any of the things this strange man said true?”
To which Jesus replied, “I don’t want to tell you about these words. I want to instead inform you more of My calling on your life. My son, you were created to be creative. You are an Artist and I want you to learn how to stand in that call, strongly.
And not just an Artist- but a Worship Leader…this will be apparent soon”

I knew I was an Artist. But…a Worship Leader? What? I’m not musical! I just write poetry.
This bout with non-understanding launched a process wherein Father taught me how I’ve been limiting what worship truly is. He showed me how being a worship leader does not mean talented singer/song-writer, that worship, really, at it’s essence is this: “responding to God”.
And how my poetry in and of itself is Worship because through it, I am responding to God. And that if I learn what it is to use my Pieces to facilitate the movement of Spirit, I indeed can lead other’s into their own God-responses.

This revelation inspired me to go to my Pastor and offer him my creative services. He told me that he’d send me the bible verses he was preaching about, and I could write whatever I wanted, however he’d retain veto power.
Two Sundays later and my whole church was singing Song of Praise, a song I’d written.
At least once every month of the Fall I was sharing a piece during church in conjunction with the sermon.

Within all of this, too, is the story of God’s faithfulness to me. When I was 13 I lived in a hellhouse. As a result I was suicidal. At 1am I went into the kitchen to grab a butcher knife to slit my wrists- hoping I’d bleed out. As I placed the knife on my left wrist I heard a voice say, “if you don’t take your life, I will use your life to help countless others.”.
That was the first time I’d ever heard the voice of God, and nowhere near the last. When I was in Trinidad, 2 years later for a mission trip a Prophetess came to me, saying, “The Lord has some things He wants me to tell you.” So, I listened. She spoke of things I had not as of yet told anybody in my life. And then she spoke of the future I’d have, she said,
“you have the heart of David, and one day you will have words that can move mountains.”

Fast forward to today, and indeed. My words are incredibly powerful. A few weeks ago I was reading over one of the prophetic words that a friend had given me, “Poetry is a way for you to teach God’s values to the generations.”. And instantly, one specific Sunday at church came to mind. A woman had come to me and said that a poem (Titled: I Will Not Let You Live) I had shared during the service a few weeks prior had tremendously helped her wrestle through a serious theological issue (Malachi.Jacob I loved, Esau I hated). And that came from my poetry. So, from that one experience, there is a triple fulfillment of prophecy. And all being done in the context of me, increasingly taking up a mantle as somebody who leads people into responding to God.

 

The Outer

  • Leading Spark (arts elective in the Discipleship Training School)
  • Staffing at Phos House (YWAM Campus Ministry House)
  • Volunteering 2x a week at Vera Court- an after school program where I tutor kids.

 

A Photo

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A bunch of artists got together 2 weeks and made Chinese dumplings. yay for bonding over food!

 

 

[Cover Photo is a portrait by Reyna Groff. Find more of her art on ig @reynagroff.art]

National Poetry Slam

[This not footage from NPS because I wanted yall to have the uncut version]

 

 

The Inner

Being in Chicago this last week has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. We arrived at 10:45pm, and one of my teammates and I were immediately dropped off at the “Rookie Slam”- the event that allows only NPS rookies to compete. It was awe-inspiring to be in a room with so many wordsmiths!
The next night, Wednesday, was my team’s first bout. I was nervous! And excited!
And I had yet to realize how emotionally unprepared I was for the evening.
My team had chosen me to be our closer, so I performed in slot 3 of round 4.
At the beginning of Round 4 I left the room, unease and a desire to get my mind right filled me like incense in a small room,  I felt in my spirit like I should add an intro line to my piece- A RISKY ASS MOVE BECAUSE WE’RE TIMED AT A MAX OF 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS- AND THEN I FELT LIKE I SHOULD JUST DO A WHOLE DIFFERENT PIECE. AN UNPREPARED PIECE. A PIECE THAT WAS OVER 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS.
And I couldn’t shake the feeling.
I told myself, “nah just do what you came here prepared to do”,
but my spirit grew louder, “Perform Good Twin Dichotomy and add that new intro line.” And I buckled, because the spirit wouldn’t leave me alone.
The MC of the night called out to my team, “Urban Spoken Word, who are you sending up?!?!”
“MAAATTTTTHEEWWW”
Look. My team had no idea I’d called an audible 3.5 minutes before I’d went on stage. They thought they knew what I was gonna perform.
WELP. GUESS NOT.
My performance itself was fine. But I was 40 seconds over the time limit, and as such I got deducted A LOT of points. Pre-deduction I had scored the highest on my team. However, Post-deduction I was blessed with the lowest score.
And then the MC announced the places of the bout.
My team took 4th, dead last.
I went to congratulate one of the poets from another team who I’d seen at the Rookie Slam, “Congrats dude!”
” Your piece was dope bro”, he said to me.
I told him how right before getting on stage I changed what piece I was gonna do, and in changing the piece, I made a decision to not be competing this bout, as it was score-suicide to intentionally do a piece 40 seconds over the time limit.
And he said back to me, “that’s okay bro, you did it for yourself, you can’t guilt yourself for that.”
And he was right.
But I was still an emotional trainwreck on the inside. I’d known that my team and I weren’t going to be able to compete and WIN at NPS, that we were there for the experience. But I was shook because why the heck did I just change my piece? Why did I commit score-suicide? How the crap did we come in last? And last but not least, maybe I ain’t worthy to be here? Maybe I’m just frontin’ and I ain’t ever been good- in fact probably my creative ceiling is mediocrity. Maybe I should quit writing because I can’t compete??!
I left that building swift as a sudden storm, without telling any of my teammates, and
caught the train back to our hotel.
I wanted to be alone. To get some emotional and physical distance from that huge L my team and I just took.
But I needed to talk to a friend. To be listened to, and heard. So I called one.
They helped me gain a better perspective on the evening.
I wasn’t foolish. I was courageous.
I did even know what Slam Poetry was until 2 months ago when I was invited to be on the Madison Team. Everybody else at Nationals had been preparing for the last 10 months to be here at Nationals. I was different. I was like a G-League player, called up to the NBA. I was courageous. Bold. Innocent, even, of the kind of work that went into being on a competitive team- and still I showed up.
To my doubts I say this,
“And though they may loom over me like Giants
I, like David, aligned with the Divine on a quest for self actualization
will build a House upon the same rock I slingshot at Godspeed
toward any giant who opposes me”

NEXT NIGHT.

Thursday was our team’s final bout pre-semifinals (we ended up not making semi’s.)
and I was committed to showing up and showing out. I wanted to be recognized. So, that morning I went to a room of the hotel and reworked my piece. Originally the piece was about 4 min 30 seconds, and I could perform it fast enough to shave about 60 seconds off- which would still incur a time penalty. In the weeks leading up to NPS I had become fine with that because our team “wasn’t going to NPS to WIN, we were going for the experience”. But, fueled by the night before, I wanted to compete. I wanted to see how I’d do if I took the evening seriously and tried my best. So I shaved stuff out of my piece so it would be on time.
That night I was our team’s closer, and this time I was assured of the piece I was to do. I performed Affirmation II which is the only piece I tailor wrote for the National Poetry Slam.
I scored amazingly well. Out of 12 competitors that night, I was scored top 3, again head of my team, and this time, ahead of most of the competition.
When the MC announced the bout outcomes, my team placed 4th. And when I heard that, I didn’t have an existential crisis like the night before. I confidently knew that Wednesday and Thursday  I had done my best, and both nights what my “best” looked like was vastly different to the outside world. But I was conforming to the spirit that directed me, and that HAD to be enough. Enough for others, sure, but more than that- enough for me.
Before the MC ended the night, he made a point to call out a few poets who had lines he’d salivated over, and he started with me, he said, “Matthew!! That line.. and when they lost interest it felt like my value dropped off a cliff?!!  Hey! Everybody! Say, Yo Matthew”

“YO MATTHEW”

“You belong here!”

“You belong here!”

 

And they’re right. I do.
Because I forfeited nothing but my limits to come here
and I belong here.

 

 

The Photos

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My team: Tony, Julia, Me, F.J

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EVEN GOT A LANYARD.

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Tony bout to burn down the stage because he spits hot fire

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Stayed in a Hilton Hotel. Had a ballroom. I felt very out of place. But ALSO very valued.

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They call this a Boutfit. What you wear to your bout. and 9/10 was one of my scores. FUEGO.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Support Me?
Matthew works for free for a nonprofit called YWAM and lives entirely off of donations!
Want to help him out financially?
Follow the link:
https://ywammadison.org/matthew-charles/

I believe but help my unbelief

[Performance starts at 1:36]

The Inner

Jesus said, “All things are possible for one who believes.”
But I find myself like the father of the mute son asking for healing
and my prayer echoes his,

I believe but help my unbelief!

When I was in Congo late last year I had an experience with my own unbelief that I will not soon forget. As our team clustered together, communing, a few locals came to us. With them stood a girl, no older than 10 years old, and near her left eye socket was a bandage that was wrapped around a small circular something. We came to find out that this precious girl’s eyeball had literally fallen out of her face and was attached solely by sinew and bandage.
How did this happen?? We never found out. The girl approached us with what looked to be her mother, and the mother told us that she would be taking her daughter to the hospital, and she asked us to pray for the journey, and the medical procedure.
As we prayed, God spoke to me in ways that harken to Christ’s using spit, soil, and river water to heal a blind man. He asked, “If I asked you to unbandage her eye, spit on your hand, rub said spit into her eye, and place the loose eyeball back in her socket, would you do this?”

“[expletive] no I wouldn’t!!!”
And I didn’t.
But what if I had been  unhindered by unbelief?
Maybe that child would be seeing today. From two eyes.
orrr maybe my risk would have been for nothing and I would have actually harmed her, because maybe God didn’t speak to me at all?

All I know is that believing is far more scary,  exponentially more risky, and
a lot more rewarding
than unbelief.

And so, again, I say, “I believe but help my unbelief!”

And that prayer carries not just into ministry life, but into personal life
because “insecurities treat me like a summer day, with not an inch of shade”.
It’s a vast array of things I’m insecure about. Just this week I’m learning that while I enjoy conflict- it makes me uncertain of me and my co-conflictor’s relationship. Like, “are we good?” “Are we actually friends after this?”, and as a result of doubt I walk on eggshells uncertain of our relational security.

“It run through my mind like a sickness!”

I had a vision. In one scene, there was a boy with raggedy clothes draped on him. The wind whipped at his back like a Master to his disobedient slave- threatening to blow just hard enough that they fly away with the wind. His backdrop was barren war-torn ruins. And though his eyes were resilient, his spirit was weak and alone. Weary, and wanting to weave home from the disparate threads of his existence yet not knowing how to. His heart was constantly in a  posture of yearning for more,  but being perpetually incapable of experiencing moreness
In the next scene, there was a man wearing black armor, with gold trim. His feet were like the trunk of a tree, not in size, but in how rooted to the earth they were. Nothing could move him to uncertainty- He would grow here. His background was the same as the boy’s, yet his was a much different demeanor.
Sometimes, much to my detriment,  I choose to believe I am that child- insecure and uncertain of present and future.
As that child I feel alone, disinherited and unempowered.
But when I choose to dwell in reality as the man, the conqueror who’s confidence comes from His certainty, my feet too are like the trunk of a tree, not in size, but in how rooted to the earth they are. Nothing can move me to uncertainty- I will grow here.

“Surround me in such a way there is just light
and the darkness, the nearby insecurities are flung like
dung in a monkey fight- out of my hands
I need something new to hold on to
I’ve been wandering in the wilderness of disbelief for too long, too
Can you save me?
I know you can, but will I believe the words you’re saying?”

 

Wanna Support me?

The Prayer

  • Finances. Still tryna raise my monthly income from $960 to $1500
  • Family. My brother is getting out of jail soon. I’ll hopefully see him this summer. I haven’t seen him since we were 14 years old. Pray that our meet up goes well, and that he is doing well.
  • Opportunities. Lot of opportunities seem to be getting thrown my way. Pray that I approach them with Wisdom, and am saturated with God’s perspective on what to say ‘yes’ to, and what to say ‘no’ to.
  • Belief. Simply put I wanna believe I’m ready for the things God calls me to, but often I find myself wrestling with insecurity. To be insecure is to be human..but God asks us to be more than just human, He asks us to be Godly. And He ain’t insecure, so I don’t think I should be either.

 

The Pictures

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At our Art show, Lily (right) explaining her art. ISN’T SHE AMAZING.

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We [Spark] invited John Stenson [bearded] to teach the winter Discipleship Training School about Art Evangelism as they prepped for outreach. He summarized it as “finding creative ways to connect with people”

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After the art show, Spark staff and students picture 🙂

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Last 2 years I been on a team of campus ministers called Race & Faith, tryna engage the campus on issues of race through a faith perspective. This is the banner signifying our annual event. ( I didn’t take pictures during the thing)

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Springing from one of the connections I have with a co-laborer on the Race & Faith team, I was invited to perform a piece I wrote called Fight Back at Geneva Campus Church. Thanks Pastor Mike for having me! It was a great opportunity!

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idk who this professor is but I went to a conference on Howard Thurman- a seminal pre-King Jr. theologian that heavily influenced him. Reading Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year.

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Privileged to live and staff at Phos House for another year!

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As the semester winds to a close, this is Evan, a student that graduated from Aveda. I was his staff-backer. We met a couple times a month throughout the year with the purpose of friendship, guidance, and sharing ice cream.

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Went home for a week to fundraise, I stopped at my church’s youth group. The fun activity you see before you is them building a structure around her head from pasta and marshmellows. It was a competition and our team obviously won. CANDY FOR US WOOO!.

 

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Like this post? Deal with insecurity? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!