So, We Launched. Now What?

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WHAT'S NEXT?

We are still adding features to the app. In the coming days and weeks you'll be able to spruce up your personal profile, search and add friends, and chat in both private and group chat areas. It will only get better from there because as we grow we want to continue to offer you the best in inclusive devotionals, your favorite bibles, books, podcasts videos and more.

INTERNATIONAL DROP DATE

Launching in the US means we are one step closer to launching world wide. We've heard from many of you in Canada and the UK and we love knowing that you're in this with us. Check back soon to find out when we'll be releasing to our international homies or add your email to the list and we'll contact you directly. 

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Nine

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

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(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


(Dis)Belief. Psalm 27:3

“Though an army besiege me, 
my heart will not fear; 
though war break out against me, 
even then I will be confident.”

Where there is fear, love cannot be present.
Where there is love, fear cannot be present.
The two cannot hold the same space.

Your liberty must make the choice.

Shall I respond with fear or love?

When you feel scared to stand up against hate, you tell fear, “Shut the hell up!
When you feel scared to stand up for truth, you tell fear, “Shut the hell up!
When you feel scared to express Love through action, you tell fear, “Shut the hell up!

This is the ultimate war within. Let Love lead this battle, and no army wins against you. For the ultimate power is Love, even for your enemies.

Being confident in this Love, addressed against your enemy, weakens the fear residing in them.

The enemy is then shown to grow in Love within. The enemy will learn the ability to tell their fear, “Shut the hell up!

But, alas, remember, “Love IS PATIENT, Love IS KIND…” Therefore, do not put a timetable on your enemy for change.

Lead by example; allow your actions to speak for you. The more you Love, the more they in turn will begin their journey from fear to Love.

God is love. Therefore, wherever we write “love” let it be written, “Love.”

Love always, always Love.

xoxo,
Ranjeeta Singh


About The Author

One of today’s featured contributors is Ranjeeta Singh. Her bio is:
Whole Body Health/Life Coach
Mind, body, and soul
Race — human
Religion — Love
Living in my truth. I love, Love.
God is Love.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Eight

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


Unsettled. Mark 1:2–3.

Mark’s Gospel starts with a bang. Its words pierce the first-century skies of Palestine. We rarely read — or hear — it that way, however. It’s been shut up for so long, hidden beneath layers of pious sentimentality, sanitized by what my friend and #ShutTheHellUp co-conspirator Tuhina Verma Raschecalls “purityranny.”

 

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From the Saint John’s Bible (1998), the first handwritten Bible since the Middle Ages.

Mark is a story that refuses to back down. The shortest, oldest, and arguably most visceral of all the biblical narratives of Jesus, Mark says #ShutTheHellUp in many ways throughout its sixteen chapters — to the demons that plague God’s people; to the disciples who never seem to get it; to the powers and principalities who think they have a good handle on this uppity rabbi from Nazareth.

And to be honest, the Gospel of Mark doesn’t give a damn if we’re unsettled or not.

It’s sometimes difficult to get a good handle on biblical stories when we don’t encounter them in the way they were meant to be experienced. Our ancestors in the faith — when many of the stories of the Second Testament were first recorded — lived and breathed and worked and loved and died in a primarily oral culture.

And so when we read them today, often silently, alone, outside of community, from a book, we often miss the point entirely.

The former executive director of the Network of Biblical Storytellers, International, Dennis Dewey, says that when we tell Bible stories, our job is not to “bring the Bible to life.” Since, as people of the Book, we’re supposed to already believe in a living Word —

Our job is not to kill it.

I invite you to hear the story in this way, getting out of the way of its life-giving identity, learned by heart. No tricks, no gimmicks. This isn’t a midrash, either. Biblical storytellers aren’t making this up. These words come from our original script of scripture, passed down through the generations.

 

We’re so used to hearing these verses that we may miss the utter offensiveness of the first fourteen words.

It’s unsettling, this stunning proclamation to begin Mark’s Gospel.

The beginning…

This echo of Genesis is intentional. This is a creation story, y’all. The beginning of this story, though, doesn’t herald the beginning of the cosmos, but the beginning of a new world order. Everything is about to change.

…of the good news…

This word is also translated as “gospel,” and in today’s 21st-century we forget to divorce it from our overly Christian context. When Mark’s Gospel first appeared on the scene, the gospel was one thing, and one thing only: Pax Romana. It was the “peace through strength” propaganda of the Roman Empire. According to one contemporary historian, Rome “made a wilderness and called it peace.”

Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus, was specifically called the “son of god,” the great “savior” of the whole earth, bringing “peace” to Rome. The announcement of this was heralded as “good news.”∞

Mark’s Gospel takes these words and unapologetically, unabashedly, unsettlingly turns them on their head.

 

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Roman currency at the time of Augustus — the back of the coin names his God-like heritage, calling him “Divine Julius”

When Rome, in all its military might, conquered a people, whom they called barbarians (the word “barbarian” comes from ancient Greek, and simply means, “not Greek”), they would often erect a monument to honor it. This death and destruction was good news to those who lived under Rome! And they better believe it, and celebrate it, and be grateful for it, and fucking pledge allegiance to it — or else. (Sound familiar?)

…of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.

According to Mark’s stunning opener, Jesus’ title (not his last name) is Christ. In other words, Jesus is Lord — the most ancient of all Christian proclamations. And in first-century Rome, that meant something subversive, something punishable by death — Caesar was not Lord.

 

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These aren’t just nice adjectives for a carpenter’s son. These are radical, inappropriate words. To use the very words reserved for Caesar in order to describe Jesus was nothing less than treason.

The Gospel of Mark — truly, a good amount of the biblical narrative itself — unsettles the Powers That Be. This is intentional. And it’s dangerous.

It’s unsettling when the powerful and mighty hear this. Fifteen chapters after Mark’s provocative beginning, they string Jesus up on a tree, executing him for the whole world to see.

And it’s not just unsettling way back then.

We see the effects today when the powerful and mighty are unsettled: Poor people are blamed for their poverty. Trans people are murdered for their courage. Unarmed black people are shot for their insolence. Women are silenced for their honesty. People of color are demonized for their identity. People working for justice are shamed for their audacity.

And. That isn’t the end of the story.

The Gospel of Mark opens with a bang. Everything is about to change. A new world order is on the horizon. Now only if we could #ShutTheHellUp and listen for it.

§

∞ For a deep dive on this subject of Rome during the time of Jesus, read Kurt Willems’ thoroughly researched article.


About The Author

Today’s featured contributor is Tamika Jancewicz — a mother, womanist, and partner — is a spiritual empath and advocate for social justice and womyn empowerment. She is currently studying to obtain her MDiv at United Lutheran Seminary, while she spends her last two years as Vicar of Christ Lutheran Church in DC. She is a womanist theologian, who believes in the sacredness of the stories we choose to share. And she especially believes in the beautiful transformative power of biblical storytelling.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Seven

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


(En)Fleshed. Ezekiel 36:25–26.

Water” inspired by Ezekiel 36:25–26.

(en)Fleshed: give bodily form to; make real or concrete.

To make real. Real clean. Concrete in God’s cleanliness.

Clean from our idols. In our bodily form.

Have you ever heard of the expression “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”? I have. I’m not sure if my mom used to say it or not, but it was certainly meant to be an “encouragement” to keep yourself clean.

God don’t like dirty people, I guess…

Often when Xians are talking about cleanliness, it is associated with a sort of purity. To be made clean is to be a sinful being no longer. To be made clean is to be a good Xian that doesn’t do bad things.

God don’t like bad, sinful people, I guess…

These are all things I’ve grown up believing. It’s the silencing, damning shame that guilts you into believing that God will only accept you if you strive for this perfection in Christ. Being human is acceptable if you deny yourself a real bodily existence. Be clean. Individually clean. And in return, you get this individual blessing that is only for you; and maybe your neighbor can get on it if she does what you’re doing, so you should tell them.

So no wonder, then, when we find ourselves in times such as these, it’s so damn hard to see God in the midst of it all. No wonder when an oppressed, marginalized people scream at the top of their lungs,”Shit ain’t right,” those who hold power speak even louder to silence them because “what about individual accountability?” “What about being pure?” “What about your sins?” “If you knew Christ…” “If you would just do better…” “If you could just stop being…”

And to those who suppress the real and present oppressive suffering of others, I say Shut. The. Hell. Up. All of it.

You are not listening enough. Hear the words of the prophets before, and those who are here and now. Hear God’s promise to a deported, suffering, and exiled people pushed out and silenced by a violent and oppressive government. A promise of wholeness. A promise of restoration. A promise of holiness in real flesh. And a promise of transformation. Not individually, but in community.

I will make you clean from your uncleanliness and from all your idols I will clean you.

And this cleanliness.

It will change your heart to flesh. Real. Concrete. Beating flesh. To feel. To really really feel.

And how can we feel if we don’t acknowledge what is happening? How can this real, concrete, bodily existence indeed be transformed if we can’t seem to hear the pain of our neighbor as God so lovingly does?

So please stop. Listen. Be made clean. Let your heart beat in its full whole, messy, dirty, bloody state. Real. Concrete. In our communal bodily form.


About The Author

Today’s featured contributor is Tamika Jancewicz — a mother, womanist, and partner — is a spiritual empath and advocate for social justice and womyn empowerment. She is currently studying to obtain her MDiv at United Lutheran Seminary, while she spends her last two years as Vicar of Christ Lutheran Church in DC. She is a womanist theologian, who believes in the sacredness of the stories we choose to share. And she especially believes in the beautiful transformative power of biblical storytelling.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Six

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


For the Love of God. Jeremiah 1:7.

The Lord responded,
 “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
 Where I send you, you must go;
 what I tell you, you must say.


About The Author

 

Matthew David MorrisWriter | Musician | Postulant to Holy Orders in TEC | Student @iliffontheroad | Worship @SaintDavidPDX | Married @slamteacher | Queer | Mestizo

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Five

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


Shitstorm. Hosea 6:1.

Given the recent decision by the U.S. government to relocate the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Tuhina Verma Rasche and I sat down to talk about it and today’s word, shitstorm, for #ShutTheHellUp.

Thanks to everyone who has been following this Advent digital discipline. We love you, and we couldn’t do this without you.

Peace, salām, shalom.


About The Author

Jason Chesnut| jesus-follower | anti-racist | feminist | aspiring theologian | ordained pastor (not online) | founded @ANKOSfilms | restless creative | #BlackLivesMatter

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Four

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


Contempt. Psalm 79:4.

We are objects of contempt to our neighbors, of scorn and derision around us. — Psalm 79:4

Contempt.

I am no stranger to contempt. In fact, my earliest memory of it takes me back to a cool and breezy day (as cool as south-central Texas can be) sometime in early 1998. I was seven. My mother needed to run into the gas station (I believe it was a Diamond Shamrock) on East Southcross Boulevard, but I didn’t want to get out of the car. She let me stay, promised not to be long, and hopped out to finish a quick errand. You could do that then without the fears so many parents have today. As I relaxed in the seat, a beaten-down four-door rolled up to the right of me.

My eyes were met by a man with his arm in a sling behind the steering wheel and a woman resting on her hip in the passenger seat. I smiled, as was customary, to signal that I had manners. The man replied, “Hey you.” I don’t think I had expected verbal communication because hello, STRANGER DANGER! I didn’t respond, but I looked at him confusingly.

As cool as the day, he said, “I hate your kind.”

The woman in the car slapped his uninjured arm and screamed, “Shut the hell up! She’s just a kid!”

I carry that memory with me every day; it is not something I can forget. Some experiences are etched into our minds by the impacts they have even before we know what those effects will be. There is no shortage of people who tell us that what a stranger thinks about us shouldn’t matter, and I agree — and yet I can recall multiple instances of scorn from people whose names I never knew.

Scorn.

My senior year of undergrad, I got pregnant. I was working multiple jobs, taking a full course load, and preparing to student teach in the fall. Even with the 50+ hour work weeks, I qualified for Medicaid and SNAP benefits. I was embarrassed.

The way so many people spoke about Americans who received SNAP or TANF or some other type of social welfare made me hate that I qualified for it. I wasn’t any of the terrible things people called recipients of these services, and neither were they. I’d never bought into the “Welfare Queen,” “they’re all just lazy,” “they need to pay taxes” narratives to begin with, but now I was hypersensitive and aware of it, especially from “good” people in my life who regurgitated such callous words.

Here I was, busting my ass — day in and day out — to make it out of poverty and the hole that I was born into, and people who supposedly loved me were so open about their disdain for Americans who needed assistance. I was paying taxes. I was working. I was excelling in school. I was doing all of the things they said SNAP recipients don’t do. I wasn’t the exception either. They didn’t need to know that I was one of those Americans in order to change their views. If they had ever taken a minute to shut the hell up and reflect on the rotten words spewing from their mouths and tips of their fingers, maybe they would’ve realized how hurtful their commentary was to other people.

The 79th Psalm speaks to the willful destruction of Jerusalem and God’s people at the hands of unbelievers. It reads like a prayer or petition for leniency, reconciliation, and relief. It is a cry from people experiencing decimation and relentless oppression from their fellow human beings. I’d like, though, for us to juxtapose that context with what marginalized people face at the hands of dominant groups committed to maintaining the status quo.

It’s past time for those of us — with whatever privilege we have — to be critical of our internal contempt and scorn for human beings over whom we might wield power.

No, you might not own a white hood or attend rallies, but your constant microaggressions and dismissal of non-white people’s words & experiences has to be addressed.

You might not call for the deaths of transgender people, but your commitment to disregarding their pronouns and reinforcing a binary society as the “right” way has to be addressed.

You might not picket against marriage equality, but your need to dehumanize LGBTQ people via “love the sinner hate the sin” rhetoric and the like has to be addressed.

You might not say that women are worth less than men, but your perception that women are liars or were born to serve men & birth children has to be addressed.

You might not contribute directly to stagnant wages or people’s generational poverty, but your inaccurate discourse on impoverished people’s “laziness” and self-inflicted struggle has to be addressed.

Contempt and scorn for others are seeds planted within us by anybody — stranger, family, or friend. Whether we choose to let them grow into weeds that strangle us and squeeze out our light is a matter of free will.

 

As we reflect on what matters this season, I pray that each of us challenges ourselves to confront the internal hell of contempt and scorn for others that we’ve comfortably conflated all these years with righteousness.

Peace to you.


About The Author

We welcome Chawanna Chambers (Twitter: @DrChaeEd) as our #ShutTheHellUp voice on this fourth day of Advent. She is mother to two and wife to one — incredible beings who teach her daily that constant self-reflection is essential to growth. When she’s not trying to change the face of American education as a curriculum & nonprofit administrator, Chawanna enjoys Netflix and Hulu binges while eating nachos & drinking Big Red.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Three

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


Perish. Micah 4:9.

Callid’s words in the video above:

Micah. You ask me why I cry out loud.
Why don’t I put on a good face and prop up the crowd?
Why, you say, Can’t you just realize that things are getting better and have a little hope?
Your council is that I remember the glory of Zion and cope,
turning from the sight of now
to the promise of then
God, you say, has not perished and the time will come when
He will certainly deliver us.
But Micah, man, this news does crush,
It pounds and grinds,
And each cycle finds
More weight and burden that presses on us:

The stresses of lust.
The truth of power abused and revealed.
Covers blown once concealed.
Backroom deals and NDAs.
Nuclear weapons and trauma-laced days.

Do I hope beyond hope that someday we’ll see better?
I know I should. Write God some love letter…
But the fact is sometimes I feel like we’re in heaps of ruin out in open country
like stones have been poured down
and our foundations laid bare.

So, Micah… I hear you, I really do…
But right now there’s some stuff we’ve got to see through.

With the walls coming down maybe people will see
the American dream was built for me.
And if you aren’t quite this male or white or well
then this place can be horror, fright, and hell.

Micah, you asked “Is there no king in you?”
And brother, the fact is, the king’s in me through and through.

Too much desire to rule.
Too many kingdoms that need to be put down
given the civil unrest.
Too much power and too much beating my chest.
Yeah, that king is in me.
Captivity.

I’m trapped inside my need for power.
And when I don’t have it I use the King’s name.
Stake the King’s claim.
Play the same game.
Fan the same flame.
And call it destiny manifest.
 And so I confess.

So why do I cry aloud?
Because too many voices tell me to just stay proud.
To speak first and listen rarely.
To name it and claim it and stand squarely
in the middle of whatever space I want.
It’s mine if I’m here, and I’m here so I get more.
Whatever, whoever, any open door.

Have pangs seized me like a woman in labour?
No, no they have not.

Those cries yield life through struggle.
These tears are because I know I’ve smuggled
the words of scripture into my own pockets for my own use
like a thief I have taken the power they loose.

So here’s what I can offer, brother…
When that King in me perishes, or has repented
and when my life has turned from all that He represented,

Call on me then to talk of Zion;
of that land of promise and sweet fruit.

It is not until I am empty that hope will root.

And Micah, one thing more….
Many cry because they have been shot down or groped.
Many still remember the trees and their ropes.
Many have called out in the actual pain of birth
 their bodies full of power and grace.
 time bending to the pace
 of life emerging in flesh.

So before you go asking those questions to others
do some work and realize you are not the same as your brothers,
 your sisters, and those who labor out beyond our words.•

Micah, some cry because crying is right
given what happened that night.
And because by morning at dawn
the tears must be gone
so that breakfast can be made for hungry mouths and work can get done.

This world is nearly more than many can take.
But lives are at stake,
so they’ll rise and resist
and so I insist

Micah, come at me if you will,
but most others have already had their fill.

•It is important that those striving toward justice on all fronts recognize the need for categories that do not just easily split into simple categories. Yes, brother. And yes, sister. And yes to those whose gender doesn’t sort so neatly. There will always be people growing into who they were meant to be and ways of thinking that outpace the words we currently have. Our task is to learn, un-learn, and re-learn what we need to clear space at the table for any who want it.

About The Author

 

Callid Keefe-Perry is a minister within the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He is an organizational consultant, retreat leader, and teacher of discernment deeply influenced by both Quakerism and Ignatian spirituality. He is the author of Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer, has been a public school teacher, is a performer and coach of improv theatre, and was the co-founder of a community theater in Rochester, NY. He currently serves as the Executive Director of ARC, an organization committed to supporting individuals and organizations whose work is at the intersection of spiritual and artistic practices, especially as they are done for the building up of communities and work towards justice. Callid brings to us a unique, powerful, visual and verbal take on #ShutTheHellUp’s third day.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day Two

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

shutthehellup.png

(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


Defile. Psalm 79:1.

When I think about temples, my mind immediately travels to flesh and blood bodies as sacred temples, created in God’s holy and diverse image. Over the course of time, I think about how these temples have been named as marred and unholy.

I think about the cacophony of voices that claim a “Christian” faith, but have followed the unchristian practice of hammering nails into the vulnerable flesh of Christ’s body.

They are causing the outright harm of beloved people that are created as holy temples.

Everywhere I turn, I see the words that defile. I see actions that defile. Those in power have historically used words and have taken outright action to defile black, brown, indigenous, Jewish, disabled, and trans beloveds; those words and actions are amplified in this present day. Those in power who claim to follow Christ are laying Jerusalem in ruins. They are foregoing the inheritance that God has given them; they have ransacked the temple for their own gains. There are too many ways to express how those who claim to follow Christ have actually defiled the Savior’s very name and image.

“O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.”

Seeing these defiling words just not daily, but now minute by minute, are disorienting. The days and minutes are now stretching out to an eternity; my heart and my being are confused in this the midst of this disorientation. How can I keep up? Can I even keep up? I used to wake up reciting the words, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” As time progressed, it changed to “What the actual fuck is going on?” In these very recent days, it’s pretty much been, “Okay Jesus. Take the wheel.” The awfulness of what is happening in these days is enough to make me want to crawl back into bed and await the second coming of Christ.

I’m also noticing the defilement that has taken place within my own bones. I am angry. My anger is righteous and holy, and that anger serves as a spiritual gift to call out injustices taking place in the world. But I see defilement in my exhaustion, the lack of care I’ve given to this temple that God has gifted to me. The exhaustion comes as a brown woman living in a hostile environment that perpetuates a system of power and privilege that disregards my very existence and the existence of people I love, with that hostility causing a poisonous resentment in my own being. I’m tired of outside forces defiling and marring my body and my being, what I know God has created to be holy. I’m also tired of my own self-defilement, letting so-called “Christians” steal my energy and joy. It’s become unsettling and disorienting.

 

I then remember every year that the season of Advent stretches out time, and that in itself is disorienting. Beginnings become endings, and endings become beginnings. It’s the time of anxious waiting, watching, hoping, and praying for the vulnerable baby to arrive in a manger to take on our being and experiences. Yet it is also waiting for Christ to come again to make this world anew, to end this constant and violent defilement that takes place in these days. It is time to not just await that second coming that brings with it fullness and, dare I say joy, that has been made manifest in our midst, but also for us to live into that anticipation of fullness in these present days in a community of beloveds.

In this time of disorientation, I seek to reorient myself. I will reorient myself to find a rebellious joy. I will reorient myself, my time, and my being to anxiously await the arrival of a vulnerable child who will grow up to rebuke evil and death. I anxiously await the arrival of that child as a crucified and resurrected flesh and blood body who will reorient this world, who will rebuke those who take his name and defile it with grandeur and power that focuses only on the mighty.

May we all encourage one another to take on that rebellious joy and spread that joy to our communities. May we reorient ourselves to care for ourselves and to care for one another.

May we reorient ourselves over and over again to the one who, in the profanity of flesh and blood vulnerability, proclaims our temples as holy and rebukes those who have defiled God’s holy creation.

Defile. Psalm 79:1.

When I think about temples, my mind immediately travels to flesh and blood bodies as sacred temples, created in God’s holy and diverse image. Over the course of time, I think about how these temples have been named as marred and unholy.

I think about the cacophony of voices that claim a “Christian” faith, but have followed the unchristian practice of hammering nails into the vulnerable flesh of Christ’s body.

They are causing the outright harm of beloved people that are created as holy temples.

Everywhere I turn, I see the words that defile. I see actions that defile. Those in power have historically used words and have taken outright action to defile black, brown, indigenous, Jewish, disabled, and trans beloveds; those words and actions are amplified in this present day. Those in power who claim to follow Christ are laying Jerusalem in ruins. They are foregoing the inheritance that God has given them; they have ransacked the temple for their own gains. There are too many ways to express how those who claim to follow Christ have actually defiled the Savior’s very name and image.

“O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.”

Seeing these defiling words just not daily, but now minute by minute, are disorienting. The days and minutes are now stretching out to an eternity; my heart and my being are confused in this the midst of this disorientation. How can I keep up? Can I even keep up? I used to wake up reciting the words, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” As time progressed, it changed to “What the actual fuck is going on?” In these very recent days, it’s pretty much been, “Okay Jesus. Take the wheel.” The awfulness of what is happening in these days is enough to make me want to crawl back into bed and await the second coming of Christ.

I’m also noticing the defilement that has taken place within my own bones. I am angry. My anger is righteous and holy, and that anger serves as a spiritual gift to call out injustices taking place in the world. But I see defilement in my exhaustion, the lack of care I’ve given to this temple that God has gifted to me. The exhaustion comes as a brown woman living in a hostile environment that perpetuates a system of power and privilege that disregards my very existence and the existence of people I love, with that hostility causing a poisonous resentment in my own being. I’m tired of outside forces defiling and marring my body and my being, what I know God has created to be holy. I’m also tired of my own self-defilement, letting so-called “Christians” steal my energy and joy. It’s become unsettling and disorienting.

 

I then remember every year that the season of Advent stretches out time, and that in itself is disorienting. Beginnings become endings, and endings become beginnings. It’s the time of anxious waiting, watching, hoping, and praying for the vulnerable baby to arrive in a manger to take on our being and experiences. Yet it is also waiting for Christ to come again to make this world anew, to end this constant and violent defilement that takes place in these days. It is time to not just await that second coming that brings with it fullness and, dare I say joy, that has been made manifest in our midst, but also for us to live into that anticipation of fullness in these present days in a community of beloveds.

In this time of disorientation, I seek to reorient myself. I will reorient myself to find a rebellious joy. I will reorient myself, my time, and my being to anxiously await the arrival of a vulnerable child who will grow up to rebuke evil and death. I anxiously await the arrival of that child as a crucified and resurrected flesh and blood body who will reorient this world, who will rebuke those who take his name and defile it with grandeur and power that focuses only on the mighty.

May we all encourage one another to take on that rebellious joy and spread that joy to our communities. May we reorient ourselves to care for ourselves and to care for one another.

May we reorient ourselves over and over again to the one who, in the profanity of flesh and blood vulnerability, proclaims our temples as holy and rebukes those who have defiled God’s holy creation.

About The Author

Tuhina Verma Rasche Pastoring Lutheran-style in Silicon Valley. (Un)Intended disruptor. Loves/ freaked out by Jesus. Indian-American living life in the hyphen.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

#ShutTheHellUp: Day One

#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.

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(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)


“Woke” AF. Mark 13:37

Today begins Advent, the season of preparing for not just the Christ child in the manger, but also the second coming of Christ, come to reconcile the world into the fullness and God intended God’s original creation to be. Today also begins #ShutTheHellUp, the digital discipline as we await the arrival of Christ. In this waiting, many of us are realizing that in these days, the world is not as it should or could be. These are the days where we express to powers and principalities that their time is nigh with the arrival of Christ; that they will shut the hell up and be shut into hell on that day and time for which we long and wait. Here is the explanation for this year’s Advent digital devotional. Here is the video of what it could mean for those in power to actually #ShutTheHellUp.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Today’s featured voice is Joshua Serrano. He is the father of two boys, who teach him levity. He serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in San Carlos, CA. In his spare time he likes to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, read, and watch unnecessary amounts of television.

I’ve known many children who have a hard time making it to midnight on New Year’s Eve. Heck, I even have a hard time now. I’m not as young as I think I am. Minutes seem to lasts hours and hours seem like an infinity as my eyelids get heavier and heavier. Sleep calls to me and beckons that I just shut out the world and close my eyes. But then I wake up on the couch having slept through the ball dropping on television.

It’s hard to keep awake sometimes, especially when it matters the most. It’s hard to keep awake especially when tribulation is on the horizon. Not the kind of wakefulness of trying to not sleep, but the kind of wakefulness that comes with opening our eyes to the world.

Tragedy is everywhere. Looking for it is not required, it will find you. Eventually.

When I found out my cousin died in a motorcycle accident I was awakened by my father crying, something I had only seen once before. He was screaming the word “NO!” over and over again with tears spilling from his eyes. I walked around in a a dream-like state after that. It felt like the moments in bed where I am not fully awake but I’m not asleep either. I didn’t quite know what was reality. Was I dreaming? Was I awake?

So many people walk around in a dream-like state when tragedy strikes. It seems that when reality seems most harsh we have a tendency to not accept it, disengage, and remove our embodied selves into a disembodied mode of being.

A couple years ago I felt like this when going through a divorce.

Some of the best advice I received was from a mentor. I told him that I felt like I was walking around in a trance, like I was dreaming. “Son, you’re going to have to be ruthlessly present,” he said. We sat in silence for a minute while I processed what that meant.

I began to call myself back into my body. Sometimes when grief overtook me while I was in the shower I would say to myself, “You’re taking a shower right now. That is all you’re doing.” When I was eating and thoughts came flooding in like a tidal wave I would say, “You’re eating right now.” I tried to stay in the moment to fight the dream-like state that would come. I was keeping myself awake and present.

Keeping awake is hard when I don’t want to accept the reality of the situation.

I can’t tell you when I woke up. In fact I can’t tell you that I don’t sometimes drift into the dream-like state again, because I know I do.

I can say that I have woken to the needs of others in my life. I have accepted the responsibility and complicity in my divorce. I feel more present to people, especially to my children. I feel like I have my body again.

And yet, in the midst of this never-ending tragic nature of the human condition, there are some of us who are held captive by hope. We are a resurrection people. New life resides in our bones. As sure as Mary was pregnant with the baby Jesus, we have to keep awake to the new things that God is doing in our world and in our lives. Keep awake! Don’t drift off into sleep. Look for what God is is doing in the world.

When I speak of hope, I’m not talking about the Pollyanna kind of hope or the masking of pain or the downplaying of tragedy. I’m talking hope where life springs from death. Hope creates new life, imagines a better world, and speaks into the void that would try and make us nothing. I’m talking about the kind of hope that springs from the pain of having to face injustice day in and day out.

I believe in the kind of hope that walks right up to the devil and demands that he shut the hell up.

My dear family of God, when Jesus commanded his disciple to keep away in Mark 13:37, he was commanding them to look forward to his return. My hope is in his coming again.

 May this Advent keep us awake and hopeful in the one who was, who is, and who is to come. Amen


About The Author

Tuhina Verma Rasche Pastoring Lutheran-style in Silicon Valley. (Un)Intended disruptor. Loves/ freaked out by Jesus. Indian-American living life in the hyphen.

#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 11 of 11

Don't Get Frustrated If Everything Doesn't Fall Back Into Place In A Moment.

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

“ Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” –James 5:11

If you've been sick with HIV, the physical turn-around can happen fairly quickly with the new combination treatments. But the emotional, spiritual and practical adjustments can take awhile. And some physical symptoms may take longer to resolve than others. You may have been through several big battles due to HIV, and you may feel fatigue from the fight. Many of us want it back the way it was before HIV with simply the wave of a fairy wand!

First of all, life will never be the same for those of us who are now living through HIV and AIDS. We've lost too many good people before the advances were made; we have too much accumulated grief.

Those of us living with HIV will always have to pay special attention to our medical needs. Even though we've experienced healing, we haven't been cured. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, and the miracles of modern medicine, many of us will live with HIV well into our senior years, if we are diligent in caring for ourselves. Our experiences with HIV and AIDS have hopefully taught us and helped us grow.

Secondly, true healing can take a long time. It doesn't all happen at once, with the snap of your fingers. The timing is in God's hands, not ours. In any one day, we can do a lot towards finding a job, or getting our finances in order, or taking good care of our bodies, but at the end of the day, there may not be anything more you can do until tomorrow. At that point, we can give it to God, and trust in God's compassion. God loves us and is doing everything possible to help us, to strengthen us, and to continue to heal us.

“We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people.” -Colossians 1:11-12 (CEB)


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 10 of 11

Incorporate the Lessons of Dying Into Living

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

“Who lives their life without seeing death? Who is ever rescued from the grip of the grave?”  -Psalm 89:48 (CEB)

“Up to this very moment we are hungry, thirsty, wearing rags, abused, and homeless.” -1 Corinthians 4:11 (CEB)

Live what you learned when you thought your time was short. For example, many of us, in living with the potential imminence of death from AIDS, learned to be truly present to the present moment. Remember, death can still happen at any minute.

None of us, HIV-positive or not, have any guarantees that we will be alive tomorrow. Facing death can snap you to attention, and make you understand and embrace the importance of staying in the moment. Don't lose that gift now that you're going to live. This is just one of the valuable lessons that can be applied to your new life.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 9 of 11

Deal With Your Fear of Aging

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

Remember that David died “at a good old age.”

“He died at a good old age, having enjoyed a full life, wealth, and honor; and his son Solomon followed him as king.” -1 Chronicles 29:28

In old age, the righteous still produce fruit.

“They will bear fruit even when old and gray; they will remain lush and fresh 15 in order to proclaim: “The Lord is righteous. He’s my rock. There’s nothing unrighteous in him.” -Psalm 92:14-15

 Even to your old age I will carry you.

“Listen to me, house of Jacob, all that remains from the house of Israel who have been borne by me since pregnancy, whom I carried from the womb until you grow old. I am the one, and until you turn gray I will support you. I have done it, and I will continue to bear it; I will support and I will rescue.” -Isaiah 46:4

In Biblical times, heroes like David were said to die "in a good old age". This was a sign of their heroic status. People respected those who had lived many years.

Today, in some cultures great value is put on youth, to the detriment of older people. A number of people fear growing old, because of what it can imply: losing some of our physical abilities, or our youthful attractiveness, for example.

But consider the alternative. There are countless numbers who would have given anything to grow old, but they died before combination treatments made HIV more manageable. You have the chance to see what's around the corner yet.

Get to know some older people. Find out how much there is to love and respect in them. Learn to see the beauty in wrinkles or white hair! Make friends with seniors. Find out for yourself what the positive sides of growing old can be. Consider it an investment in your own senior years.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 8 of 11

Make Plans For The Future

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

Surely you have a future, and your hope will not be cut off. -Proverbs 23:18

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

 It's not only important to make plans for your financial future, it's important to make plans to enjoy life. Live your dreams! Many of us who have faced death had a long list of "If only's": ("If only I'd seen Tahiti," or "If only I had been kinder" etc.) Now you have time to make those "if only's" come true! You've got that second chance!


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 7 of 11

Resolve Financial Problems

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

"The scripture says, Don’t put a muzzle on an ox while it treads grain,[a] and Workers deserve their pay." -1 Timothy 5:18 (CEB)

"But we desperately want each of you to show the same effort to make your hope sure until the end. 12 This is so you won’t be lazy but follow the example of the ones who inherit the promises through faith and patience." - Hebrews 6:11-12 (CEB)

Some people may let their financial house get out of order when they're chronically ill, thinking "what's the point of even balancing the check book?" Now that you're going to live, it might be time to clear up any financial problems.

A number of people have accumulated too much debt. If you're in this situation, take one step at a time in resolving debts. If you're having trouble with your debts, find a reputable financial counselor or a debt manager. Such a person will be able help you plan how to resolve your debts.

Start a retirement fund. Start saving money. If you have viaticated your life insurance, you know how valuable financial assets can be in an emergency. It's time now to create new assets.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 6 of 11

Get Back To Work

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you. Think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.  -1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (CEB)

You may have been unemployed for one reason or another while living with HIV, and now you're finally getting well enough to hold down a full-time job. Some people can't wait to get back to work. But for others it may be difficult to give up the unemployed lifestyle.

There are decided benefits to working. It can do wonders for self-esteem. It feels good to work, to feel purposeful, to earn one's own way.

If you're thinking, "not in my line of work", then this may be a good time to pursue that alternative career you always wondered about. Seek out employment, vocational, or career counseling.

There is value in working.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 5 of 11

Continue Taking Good Care of Yourself

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

1st Corinthians reminds you that your body is a temple.

Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves? -1 Corinthians 6:19 (CEB)

No one ever hates his own body, but feeds it and takes care of it just like Christ does for the church -Ephesians 5:29 (CEB)

Even though you may be feeling well now, your body needs more than ever to be "nourished and tenderly cared for". You may have been through a number of battles with HIV, and your body may be recovering for quite some time yet. Good nutrition, exercise, massage, whatever you can do to make your body feel loved and well-cared-for is more important than ever.

It's important to keep doing the work of healing, even after you feel well. There's always more to heal, and we can create the conditions for God's healing power to continue to work in our bodies and souls.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 4 of 11

Reach Out For Help!

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. -Psalm 121:1-2 (CEB)

First realize and acknowledge that it isn't easy making the transition from chronically ill to chronically alive! Don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many trained counselors, clergy, and therapists who are helping countless people through this transition. There are many issues to sort through, many challenges to confront. You don't have to be alone in getting your life back in order.

And don't forget that God is with you through all of this, and can always be trusted with any concerns or problems you may have. After giving God thanks and praise, it's good simply to ask God for help through the next day. God will always be there with you.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 3 of 11

Take Required Medications With Discipline. Don't Stop!

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

"Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves."  -1 Peter 1:13

Many of the current medications require strict compliance. Your survival may depend on how well you are able to follow your physician's directions. If you stop taking one or more of your medications, that may stop the effectiveness of all the antivirals and protease inhibitors. Make sure you learn all the facts about your medication from your health care provider or pharmacist.

And just because you're feeling well, doesn't mean you don't need the medications anymore! It may very well be these treatments are the reason why you are feeling so well. If you go off the medications, complications can be very seriou


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

Facing Life After Facing Death: Day 2 of 11

Be Grateful

By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters (also posted on The Body)

A common question these days is, "OK, I'm going to live... now what do I do?" Here are ten suggested steps, based on my own experience of surviving AIDS.

Be grateful.

"O Yahweh my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed meO God, you raised my soul from among the dead, and restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. Sing praises to Yahweh, all who are faithful, and give thanks to God's holy name." -Psalm 30: 2-4

Give God thanks and praise! Celebrate life! Remind yourself every day that you're going to live, and that this is not only a good thing, it's a miracle. You are God's precious creation, and you deserve to live. Make a habit of daily counting all the good that has happened in your life. Don't just pray when you need help, but give God thanks and praise daily for all your blessings. After all, you're going to live! You've got a lot to be grateful for. God is a God of life.


About the MCC Church

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,  aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been  on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the USA and other countries worldwide.

MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human rights and justice including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.