Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old School Monasticism

I am currently reading The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and came across this bazar account of the ascetic Simeon Stylites (AD 309-459).

"[He] built a column six feet high in the Syrian desert and lived on it for some time. But is soon grew ashamed of its small height and found one sixty feet high, three feet across, with a railing to prevent him from falling off in his sleep. 'On this perch Simeon lived uninterruptedly for thirty  years, exposed to rain and sun and cold. A ladder enabled disciples to take him food and remove his waste. He bound himself to the pillar by a rope; the rope became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it, and stank, and teemed with worms. Simeon picked up the worms that feel from his sores, and replaced them there saying to them, 'Eat what God has given you.'"


Saturday, June 27, 2009

mewithoutYou "A Stick, a Carrot, & a String"

Around a month ago I posted this entry, about my favorite track from mewithoutYou's most recent album.

Anyway, I have listened to the album pretty consistently since then and I have been repeatedly drawn to the track "A Stick, a Carrot, & a String."

The song begins, oddly enough, with the conversation of the animals in the stable where Jesus is born. In traditional Christmas carol fashion they pledge their service in some way, with the exception of a goat, who feels inadequate to sing praises to the child-king.

The response is a beautiful picture of grace.

"there's a sign on the barn
in the cabbage town
"when the rain picks up
and the sun goes down
sinners, come inside
with no money, come and buy

no clever talk, nor a gift to bring
requires our lowly, lovely king
come now empty handed, you don't need anything"

Next the song makes an interesting turn to the Garden of Gethseneme, where Jesus contemplates his impending death.

"and the night was cool
and clear as glass
with the sneaking snake in the garden grass
deep cried out to deep
the disciples fast asleep
and the snake perked up
when he heard You ask
'if you're willing that
this cup might pass
we could find our way back home
maybe start a family all our own'
'but does not the Father guide the Son?
not my will, but yours be done.
what else here to do?
what else me, but You?'
and the snake who'd held the world
a stick, a carrot and a string
was crushed beneath the foot
of your not wanting anything"

My friend Gabriel often observes that everything depends on how you tell the story, and this seems to be exactly what's going on here. Like Marx, Aaron Weiss seems to be defining the human dilemma in primarily economic terms. The serpent of Genesis 3 is pictured with Looney Toon esque imagery: dangling an oh-so-tempting carrot on a string just out of the reach of greedy humanity.  However, Jesus' desire to please the Father coupled with his divine contentment fulfills the protoeuangelion of Genesis 3:15, effectively defeating the power of the serpent.  Essentially, Jesus' selflessness on the cross gives humanity an alternative way to to live. 

Although these things are true to a degree, it is extremely problematic to both (1) reduce sin to mere greed and (2) to see the crucifixion as being exclusively an act of selflessness.  Human selfishness is certainly a product of the fall, but it is one of many symptoms of heart with a larger sin problem.  Greed is just one manifestation of idolatry, which can be understood to be placing one's ultimate allegiance or affection in any person or thing other than God.  Likewise, Jesus' atonement on the cross is multifaceted.  It certainly was the most selfless act in human history, but the Bible also speaks of Jesus conquering sin on the cross, and bearing the Father's just punishment for our sins.  Colossians 2:8-15 is one amazing passage that addresses both of these aspects! 

As followers of Christ we certainly are motivated to live selfless lives that reject the materialism that is rampant in our culture, but this is an implication of the gospel story- not the whole thing.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Love to God disposes men to see his hand in everything; to own him as the governor of the world, and the director of providence; and to acknowledge his disposal in everything that takes place. And the fact that the hand of God is a great deal more concerned in all that happens to us than the treatment of men is, should lead us, in a great measure, not to think of things as from men, but to have respect to them chiefly as from God- as ordered by his love and wisdom, even when their immediate source may be the malice or heedlessness of a fellow-man. And if we indeed consider and feel that they are from the hand of God, then we shall be disposed meekly to receive and quietly to submit to them, and to own that the greatest injuries received from men are justly and even kindly the ordered of God, and so be far from any ruffle or tumult or mind on account of them."

-Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits

Happy Birthday Dabo!

This weekend was the much anticipated visit from Davy, Kenny, and Terry who drove up from the 'Ville to check out Veritas and celebrate Davy's 20th birthday.  In addition to showing them my favorite coffee shops, cafes, and stores, Kenny and I finally launched this blog- a concept that we have been developing for a long time.  Hopefully it will be the first of many more posts to come. 

On a oddly enough related note I smell like a cross between John Letoto and Chris Heiniger right now- like maybe they both wrestled each other after an extended run.  The reason? Davy brought me the unofficial official Sojourn bike jersey that both individuals have been using in my absence.  Davy did not have time to wash it- but that did not dissuade me from wearing it to this evening's Monday night ride.

Also a special day-late shout out goes to my Dad, whose Birthday coincided with Father's Day this year... so technically should be getting a double present in the mail- though more likely (and accurately) will be getting both birds killed with a single proverbial stone.  Love Ya! 

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Wow. So epic.  

Man, I want to go to this.  I mean espresso beverages and Sigur Ros are probably both on my TOATs and GOATs list in their respective fields.  Toto, you want to come? I mean, you already have your passport being from Hawaii and all right?

This song is in danger of becoming the soundtrack to my summer.  Thanks to our friendly neighborhood music snobs at Pitchfork you can acquire this track for free... legally! Thanks 'Sonium for turning me on to it. 

I have now been "re-tweeted"... and on a popular business's Twitter no less! I was pretty excited until I actually visited theirs and it seems that is all they do- retweet customers who tweet about them. Oh well, I'll take it anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wide Rosetta

Kenny busts out one of the best I've seen... thankfully the cameras were rollin'.

Nietzsche on Morality and Aesthetics

I am reading through Thus Spake Zarathustra and found this quote particularly disturbing... mostly because how many of my generation have so fully embraced it.

"Many Lands saw Zarathustra, and many people; thus he discovered the good and bad of many people. No greater power did Zarathustra find on earth than good and bad.
No people could live without first valuing; if a people will maintain itself, however, it must not value as its neighbor valueth. Much that passes for good with one people was regarded with scorn and contempt by another, thus I found it. Much found I here called bad, which was there decked with purple honors."

Essentially, it is the community that determines values: whether something is right or wrong; beautiful or ugly, et cetera.  Morality and aesthetics are not tied to any transcendent reality, they are simply what a group of people agree to value.  There is no higher standard to which one community can compare it's preferences to another's.  Therefore power becomes key, as one community is able to exercise control over another.  We see this line of thinking played out in American politics all time.  For instance, homosexual rights groups and the religious right are two communities with opposing systems of morality.  Through Nietzschean lenses, which ever group prevails simply exercised more power.  For this reason the warrior is exalted in Nietzsche's system.

However, Zarathustra (i.e. Nietzsche) ultimately concludes that the ethical inconsistency is derivative of a flawed species:

"But pray tell me, my brethren; if the goal of humanity be still lacking, is there not also still lacking- humanity itself."

How strange that Nietzsche, who so keenly sees the deficiencies of humanity, looks for the Superman to emerge from this insufficient source. 

From the Library of...

I found this online and immediately broke the ninth commandment.... no wait, I mean tenth. Anyway, anyone who has yet to get my a graduation present can feel free to do so. I am thinking the text will say, "From the Library of Michael J. Butterworth"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Do Something

The will of God. In many evangelical circles it is seen as some quasi-gnostic secret knowledge that only the faithful discover.  What does God want me to do for a living? Who should I marry? Where should I go to college? These sort of questions are transformed into opportunities to either make the "holy" decision or forever fall out of what could have been God's wonderful plan for your life. 

In my experience this line of thinking is disastrous. 

Thankfully Kevin DeYoung has written a fantastic little book that addresses this often misunderstood subject.  The following exert from Just Do Something: The Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will captures his overall argument succinctly.

"Wisdom is what we need to live a godly life. God does not tell us the future, nor does He expect us to figure it out.  When we don't know which way to turn and are faced with tough decisions in life, God doesn't expect us to grope in the dark for some hidden will of direction. He expects us to trust Him and to be wise."

In other words, as long as your primary motivation is to glorify God... just do it! God can use you in Cairo or Chapel Hill, so stop stressing out over the small stuff and take some chances. 


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Total Church

So I am suppose to be reading this book as both a Sojourn College Community Group Leader and as a Veritas Community Church intern, i.e. two birds, one book.... yes, I throw my books at birds.

Anyway, I thought this exert in the first chapter was solid.

"If we want to see the Spirit of God at work, we must proclaim the word of God. We might even say that being word-centered is synonymous with being Spirit-centered. The difference is that we cannot control the Spirit. We cannot determine or even predict when and how he will work (John 3:8). Our role is to read, hear, proclaim, teach, and obey the word. The Spirit's role is to do the work of God through that word. The Spirit's role is to do the work of God through that word. Through the Spirit our words become the living word of God
92 Samuel 23:2). And so we center our lives and ministries on the word of God while praying that God's Spirit will do the work of God." (32)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rickshaw Bagworks

I just invested in this messenger bag by Rickshaw Bagworks. It may not have a snazzy seat-belt buckle like Chrome's messenger bags, but it is made from one whole piece of fabric to eliminate waste. I got Barn Red- which wasn't necessarily my favorite color, but it's hopefully a little more visible for all of those friendly cars who share the road with me. Besides, red is an earth tone in Sedona right?

Am I too old for these?

Because I sure want to buy them

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Advance 09 Messages

You can download the messages from Advance 09 here.

If you only hear one, download Eric Mason's sermon, The Ultimate Shepherd. I mean they're all good, but man... you need to hear this one.

Friday, June 05, 2009


A few highlights.

Started the day off with coffee from Cafe Driade. The owner, Todd, is one of only 7 American WBC judges. In other words, he's a baller. My latte was perfectly steamed. Quite possibly one of the best cups since I've tasted since Inteligentsia.

The conference.

Free copy of this book. Of course, I was given a free copy the day before by Sojourn. So anyone want a free copy of a great book?

Matt Chandler. Wow. He could be a younger, hipper John Piper. A rare mix of humility, burden, and Jeremy Enigk-esque emotion. I will need several days to muse over his message. I hope the mp3s are posted because I expect I will want to hear that one again.

The Sojourn band killed. Definitely fighting back some pride on behalf of my homies. Copies of Over the Grave seemed to be flying off the merch table. Even though I've only been in Columbus 2 weeks, it was still great to see my fam.