The sun rises every morni…

“The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”

— G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908


New Year’s Resolutions 2012

1) Harden Up

I’ve basically realized I’m a big poon and love to feel all sorts of sorry for myself when I encounter pain, discomfort, or have to wait longer than 45 seconds for a hot meal. Apparently I’m not alone, since my generation will forever be stained by our entitlement complex *cough cough* (Occupy Wall Street protesters) *cough cough* and overall ineptitude to take on adversity without wireless and a macchiato latte. Regardless, I am going to do my best to inoculate myself against pain and stress and doing a better job of denying myself. What’s that, Burton? You want a snacky cake? Cram it in your cram hole and go do wall sits till you vomit or pass out. I hope to push myself further in my workouts, stop complaining about 95% of the things I whine about, and be better about my diet.

2) Stop Fearing Failure

I grew up in a family that placed a premium on sarcasm, which was great for learning to laugh at myself, but also seemed to function as operant conditioning for my never wanting to undertake anything that would make me look foolish or inadequate. Perhaps that’s natural to an extent, but it can have debilitating effects in that it has prevented me from realizing my potential at a lot of things. I remember getting the starting job as a defensive end in 8th grade and then telling the coach before the first game that I was sick and couldn’t play (because I was really afraid of sucking). I remember countless girls I was interested in that I never asked out because I didn’t think they would say yes (though things still worked out for me in that area). I’ve always remembered that cheesy quote that says something like, ‘You’ll miss 100% of the shots you never take’, but it never inspired me to take action. But self fulfilling your own doomsday prophecies is a crappy way to live, and I don’t want to be driven by fear. I don’t really know how this will work itself out, but we’ll see.

3) Cut the crap

One of the many beautiful things of the Bible is the mandate out of Genesis 1 for us to essentially go and make culture in the world (and I think we will all do that again one day). Obviously we took that a little too far and screwed everything up, but I think today we are still screwing it up. I look back at some of the movies and music I’ve listened to, and it’s shameful. There is nothing redeeming about Superbad or other raunchy comedies, and most of the reality TV shows I see clips of aren’t doing us any favors either. Come to think of it, I don’t really know many people at all that are actually careful of what they expose themselves to; it’s almost a foregone conclusion that ‘it just doesn’t really affect us much’.

I’ve realized that the phrase, ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ isn’t some trite phrase your parents throw at you so you don’t watch R rated movies or listen to Nickleback (in the latter case, they were truly shielding you from soul destroying garbage). It really is important to guard yourself from what you watch, read, and listen to. As Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

I’m always puzzled by some of the unkind things I say, joke about, or think, when all along I’ve been taking the equivalent of a spiritual upper-decker and then wonder why my spiritual reservoir is filled with crap. Realistically this resolution will look like cleaning out my iTunes, being very judicious with the movies I watch, and be even more careful of the things I read.

4) Stop Procrastination/Being a Lazy Sack of Crap

Judging by the timing of when I’m releasing this, it shouldn’t be too far-fetched for anyone to believe I have a big issue with this. Sometimes I’m literally too lazy to answer a phone call or text message. Seriously? Too lazy to put my fingers to the keys of a smart phone?

 I chronically wait till the last second to turn in my homework or study for school like I need to. If there are clothes or dishes to be put away, well, I’ll just do those later tonight (and by later tonight, I mean maybe this weekend).

 I have noticed my resolve to be productive and proactive seems very proportional to the amount of sleep and even moreso, the specific hours I sleep. If I’m in a good rhythm, waking up and going to bed at the same hours every day, I feel great and more motivated. Realistically this should look like me getting good rest, writing out what I want to accomplish, and then just forcing myself to do it (see number 1).

5) Get in the best shape of my life

Related again to number 1, I have done a poor job of consistently working out and pushing myself hard while I’m at the gym. Time to sack up and embrace the pain!

6) Gluten Free 2K12

I did a pretty good job of this last year up until our honeymoon. The allure of those Mexican tacos wasjust too much though, so I caved. The next few months after that were off and on, and having a wifethat eats whatever she wants makes it more complicated. I know how great I feel and perform when I’m not eating crap like that, and it will not be conducive for my other goals if I do not follow this one.

7) Memorize a book of the Bible

I’ve never really tried to memorize scripture, let alone done a good job of consistently getting in the word (see numbers 1 & 4), so I want to really do a good job of getting more of God’s word (see number 3) written on my heart.

8) Pray 5 Days a Week

And I’m not talking about over meals and stuff like that. I want to spend 5 days a week in meaningful prayer for the people I care about, myself, Ethos, and our country. I think it’s one of the most important things we can do.

Belated New Year’s Resolutions for 2011

No doubt you’re puzzled by a post about New Year’s Resolutions in the middle of February (yes, February is spelled with an ‘r’ after the ‘b’). I did that on purpose, so that you would be reminded of the promises you made to yourself (that’s a complete lie; I’ve just procrastinated writing about it, even though I do think it will serve as a good reminder, but that’s a theme we’ll discuss later in this nugget). Here are my goals for 2011 in no particular order:

1. Low expectations.

I’m not talking ‘low’ as in Negative Nancy/I’m going to be a huge wet blanket on everyone I know and cry in the corner listening to Dashboard Confessional. I’m talking about having no expectations. It’s impossible to experience disappointment unless you already had a false expectation of what would happen.

I didn’t like Napoleon Dynamite. At all. Was it because it was a bad movie? No, it was because for 2 or 3 years straight, I had the entire movie quoted to me repeatedly and was told by everyone that it was better than sliced bread. I saw it, and it was clever and entertaining, but I probably would have liked it a lot more if I didn’t know anything about it. How many broken hearts (mine, not others *cough cough* my fiancée *cough cough*) would I have dodged if I had used this in dating?

2. Simplify.

This was a theme from last year, that I’ve tried to improve even more upon. Last year, I sold my Xbox, my electric guitar, my digital SLR, and a few other things I had that I either didn’t use much or didn’t “need” anymore. I want to take that further this year.

3. Get in shape.

I’ve always heard it’s not the years, it’s the miles. If that were so, 2010 was a year of hard living on the BurtonMobile. I put on about 10 pounds of pure fat while losing most of my muscle mass and metabolic conditioning on my way to getting literally zero exercise the whole year and eating burritos and pizza like a Hispanic-Roma hybrid. I guess you could say I was fat and happy, even though it’s tough to be happy when your fat rolls are staring at you every time you get out of the shower.

I’ve cut 20 pounds doing Paleo (10 of it was water weight, 10 was fat) and am leaner than I have been in years. Now I’m starting weights and cardio to get in really great shape.

5. Read and pray every day.

Ah, another part of my life that lapsed into obscurity in 2010. You would think the two most fundamental things to a Christian would have more precedence, but my own needs were met time and again before these two. I’ve been doing a red letter study (only the words of Jesus) with my friends Brian and Andy, and it has given me new eyes for the Gospel and stories I’ve read a hundred times. Once again, attitude dictates reality.

6. Gluten Free year, Paleo 99%.

I plan on going the whole year free of gluten (barring accidental exposure), and doing Paleo almost 100% (cheat meal every 3 or 4 weeks, gluten free of course!). I’m excited for how healthy I feel and how much better it will get.

7. No texting and Driving. Like being a registered sex offender, this is one of those things you really don’t feel warm and fuzzy about admitting on the internet. I admit, I do it. I justify it by “only doing it at red lights” or whatever shallow ruse I can summon to deceive myself, but the fact of the matter is that it is remarkably selfish behavior that is unbelievably short-sighted in the grand scheme of things.

8. No procrastination.

If ever there was a gold standard for a vice that has caused  a lot of small-ranging-to-humongous FAIL-trains in my life, this is it. Everything from cleaning my room or filling up my gas tank to filling out important paper work that will determine the rest of my life is like pulling teeth for me to get started on. I don’t understand why, but I’m sure it means I have some deeply planted psychological complex for using it as a defense mechanism to avoid failure. Perhaps my subconscious logic is “You can’t fail if you don’t try” (even if that means I just fail in a roundabout way by never accomplishing anything).  This introspection was already written about here.

9. Less sarcasm/cynicism.

I’ve always labeled myself a realist. Most people seem to think that’s just a polite term for a cynic, but I do believe there is a difference. Realists try to see the world for what it is, especially taking care to remove their own opinions or biases from what is pure and objective fact. Obviously, this is difficult to do all the time, and many times I’ve found myself toeing the line on into cynicism and negativity.

Ah, cynicism—the god of mockers and naysayers everywhere. Cynics are people who overflow with witty remarks and criticisms, but never seem to apply their intellect to offering solutions or encouragement. While constructive criticism is a remarkable tool for making corrections and helping someone out, cynicism offers a proverbial kick to the groin of whomever it is directed against.

If cynicism is the god of mockers, sarcasm is cynicism’s gift to them. Middle school served as a trial by fire for developing my wit, while high school served as a graduate school for throwing in zingers under my breath or belittling people in front of everyone else. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles says, “It was long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.” If that’s true (and I know it is), I am weaker than most.

10. Cut the technology.

It seems the older I get, the more I see the role that technology plays in destroying the community I have with loved ones. My friends and I get together so that we can sit in a room and watch football while we all text our girlfriends and play on Twitter or other apps. I can’t think of a greater sense of false intimacy short of having sex with your spouse but telling them to wear a bag over their head.

One of my favorite things in the world is to go to my buddy Aaron’s farm/ cabin and hangout. Our cell phones usually don’t have service. There is no TV, no internet. It’s dark, sometimes scary, and all we can do is eat terrible food, tell stories, and have stupid discussions about life, God, and probably inappropriate things. All we have is each other, and it’s the purest sense of community I’ve ever felt. I don’t know if that’s sad, or if we’re all so far gone that we don’t even see what’s going on.

When I was in Europe for 3 months, it was so incredible to have 3 months of freedom from the leash that I call a phone. Can you imagine a world where people had to show up to meetings of coffee or dinner because there was no way to text and say, ‘sry dude. i had something 2 do tat jus came up. i cant make it 2 ur place’? You’re already forming mental images of all the Frosted Flakes you have for friends that bail on you as soon as they find something better.

Either way, I’m cutting the internet off my phone, using the internet primarily for learning vs. wasting away on Facebook, and trying to be very intentional about staying off my phone while I’m with friends.

*On a side note, does it bother you that I only did 10 resolutions, even though it would have been really cute to say something like, ‘Here are my 11 for ‘11!’?

Bucking the Trend

The other night I was watching the show Surviving the Cut on the Discovery Channel. The show examines a different branch of special forces training every week. Each group presented thus far has been driven to their breaking point and a majority of the recruits quit.

The episode in question focused on the Army Rangers. On their first day of training, the soldiers paired off and began drills to try and take their partner to the ground. The camera pans from pair to pair, but stops on one set of soldiers. The men are told to stop, and their instructor begins berating them for holding back and not giving 100%.

I sympathized with them though. It makes sense that if you are about to endure three months of pure hell, you’re going to need all the strength and energy you can have.

Almost as an evolutionary instinct, most of us rarely give 100%. We conserve and hold back with a “just in case” attitude. Whether it’s in our own physical training, our jobs, our relationships, or our bank accounts, most of us are trying just enough to get by.

Our entire generation (I guess we’re unofficially titled the Mellenials) is afflicted with a paralyzing fear of failure. I consider myself a fairly confident guy, but a cursory examination of my own past reveals quite a bit.

I remember working really hard to win a starting spot on my 8th grade football team. I was 6 feet tall, but weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve always subconsciously liked being the underdog–the only expectations placed on you are marginal at best, so naturally if you accomplish anything you appear successful compared to what the world has forecast for you.

I remember finally earning the position and our first game was coming up. I got so nervous that I threw up and felt feverish. My coaches asked me if I was alright to play. I was so afraid of starting and not doing well that I told them I wasn’t able to play.

I was a victim of my own self fulfilled prophecy; I assumed I would fail, and so I did.

You would think I would learn, but the pattern just continued in high school.

While I thought maybe some of the girls I thought were cute might have been interested in me, I convinced myself that that was a ridiculous idea, and I was just imagining things. It is for that reason I didn’t date anyone till partway through my junior year.

Feeling attractive or confident about yourself is unfortunately so dependent on your peers. I remember my mom, my mom’s friends, and even my sisters’ friends telling me I was handsome, but none of them were in my peer group, so I would brush it off, chalk it up to them trying to bolster up my insecurities, and bury it somewhere deep inside.

Looking back, I see lots of missed opportunities. It’s not like girls were throwing their tops at me as I walked down the halls, but hindsight is 20/20, and I can see several girls I could have asked out.

After my freshman year, where I started every game, the decision to play on the high school team the next year presented itself. I almost crapped my pants. I mean, seriously!? Have you seen those giant linemen? They have all these giant plates on both sides of the bench press! They have lots of pit hair and have to shave and stuff!

I was extremely close to quitting, but decided to actually give it a shot. I ended up having a blast. I was always undersized, even after I gained a lot of good weight, so I had to work harder than everyone else.

Irony of all ironies was that I broke my collarbone in spring practice of my sophomore year, strained by ACL my junior year and got a bulging disc, and then finally blew my knee out altogether the week before my first game of senior year.

But, I could care less about the variables that I can’t control. The point is that I tried, I gave it my best, and while the ending is not what I envisioned, I have no regrets.

Call me crazy, but I imagine I’m not the only one who has sold themselves short.

We all have grown up in postmodern times where everything our parents have taught us is to be questioned and there are no absolutes. While I completely disagree with that sentiment, allow me to present to you an absolute.

Stop being afraid of failing.

Work till your bones hurt. Throw you heart and soul into everything. I know your job sucks, but blow it out of the water. Paul talks so much in Corinthians about keeping your freaking mouth shut, working with your hands, and winning the respect of everyone.

Which lessons do you learn the most from? The ones where you fell on your face or where you succeeded easily on your first attempt?

When you half ass it at most of the things in your life (including the things you’re passionate about), you are going to lie on your deathbed with two fistfuls of regret.

Make a fool of yourself. Ask that guy or girl out that you don’t think you have a shot with. Go in the weight room even though you have a muffin top and think everyone is watching how small the weights you’re using are.

Do this for six months and then come back and tell me if your life is drastically better.

Somewhere along the way (possibly Blink by Malcolm Gladwell), I read that the reason people choke in musical or athletic performances is because they’re consciously trying to control things that they’ve been doing subconsciously for years.

Let go of the stranglehold you have on yourself and become who you really want to be.

What Will You Be Remembered For?

Comcast will be remembered for their abysmal customer service, inconsistency, and poor attention to detail. They will not be remembered for that Saturday that I had a blazing internet connection and tea-bagged the entire team on my way to a 27 kill streak in Modern Warfare:2.

BP will be remembered for taking a giant diarrhea in our gulf and then shirking responsibility, photoshopping, and outright lying about the damage they caused (Picture Bill Clinton times 1000). They will not be remembered for all the awesome road trips they fueled.

Kevin Watson will be remembered for putting his namesake on this slipshod mug, which then dumped burning hot coffee into my lap as soon as I tried to drink. Kevin will not be remembered for his cut-rate refinancing.

You have limited contact with people every day. How you treat people, the things you say, how hard you work, and the products you put your name on will be captured in the picture frames of people’s minds. It is these snapshots that will be taken as the whole of who you are and what you’ve done.

Did you show up to work landscaping with your shifty friend Greg, shuffling your feet and whining about how hot it is, or did you work till your hands bled? Did you convince yourself that doing the puke-and-rally is acceptable because it’s your 21st birthday, or did you already know you can’t just “forget” your character for a night?

Sure, you look back on your life and recall the highlights, handing out high fives to your subconscious self, but how many people only know your lowlights?

Maybe it’s not fair that we get judged based on one encounter, but maybe we should think more about the actions we represent ourselves with.

English and You: A Helpful Guide for Pulling Your Head Out of Your Bum

I heard it once said that God sent Jesus at the exact time he chose so that the New Testament would be written with the precision of the Greek language. Not that anyone can peg out the motives of God, but it sounded interesting at least.

Semantically, the English language sucks. The words are not phonetic. There are countless words that have multiple spellings but different meanings (your/you’re, to/too, it’s/its, etc…). So, it should not come as a surprise that our language has frequent communication errors and misnomers.

The real question is, why are we making it worse?

Joe Somebody: “Dude, I LOVE this pizza.” Translation: Joe really enjoys the taste of pizza, but does not actually feel affection or sexual desire for the pizza.

Hans Irgendwer: “Man, I HATE splinters!” Translation: Hans dislikes the pain brought about by a wooden splinter, but does not actually loathe, execrate, or despise splinters.

John Doe: “Oh yeah, man, I’m totally coming to your party tonight!” Translation: John will only come to your party if he has nothing better to do, and if he does come, he’ll be an hour late.

Seymour Butts:  “Oh you’re having a party? Yeah, I’ll probably be there.” Translation: Seymour is not coming to your party, but he doesn’t have the balls to tell you.

Brett Brosky: “Oh yeah, brah, that dude is a TOTAL fag.” Basing his self worth on how many girls he can hook up with, Brett feels threatened by “that dude”, so he uses a homophobic slur to call his opponent’s sexual orientation into question (a favorite of frat pappies down here in the South).

Ever sat around and listened to someone who’s vocabulary consisted almost solely of four letter words? Odds are you probably didn’t come away feeling enlightened by that individual’s prodigious wisdom. “Wow! You really impressed me with the broad strokes of your colorful language! Who knew f*** could be used as a noun and an adjective in the same sentence!?”

The examples are endless.

There is seemingly a disconnect between the words we’re using and what we’re trying to communicate. There are myriad reasons for people doing this—insecurity, fear, or whatever cop-out people use to justify themselves.

I don’t care what your excuse is because it’s not good enough.

I’m tired of hearing people be fake. I’m tired of friends flaking on each other because they found something better to do. I’m tired of ‘yes’ meaning ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe’ meaning ‘no’. I’m tired of the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ being dumbed down to describe pizza and splinters. I’m tired of everything that sucks being called ‘gay’ or toolbags being called ‘fags’.

What would it look like if everyone you knew said what they actually meant? Would you not find it refreshing if you asked someone to come over, and rather than them saying, “Oh, sorry, man. I’ve gotta mow the grass.” (and then you see them on Xbox Live in 10 minutes), they said, “Actually I’m really tired and would really just like some alone time.” Refreshing, no?

Stop perpetuating the cycle. Grow a pair. Be real with each other, and I think you’ll see fruits from it. Stop using terms that treat other groups as less than human. “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” Don’t be another cog in the wheel of ignorance and superficiality.