Spiritual Gymnastics

By Mike Shortspiritual gymnastics

“All you have to do is fight valiantly, and never throw down your arms, nor flee, no matter how many wounds you may have sustained.” – Lorenzo Scupoli.

I was recently relaxing in front of a crackling fire when my six-year-old daughter scrambled into the living room and caught my attention. “Watch me, Daddy” she said excitedly as she threw her arms up in the air and shifted her weight to her back leg.

With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye she shifted her weight back to her front leg and dove towards the ground, placing her hands down in order to land a cart wheel. I watched in delight as her feet left the ground and suspended in air momentarily before she came back down in the same spot.

With another smile, she said, “wait, wait, Daddy… watch me! I watched as she tried again and again with the same result. With her childlike joy and innocent determination, she never gave up.

While I watched her Our Lord provided me with this image of how God encounters us in prayer. As we attempt to come to know Him, often by fumbling through prayers, He sits close by, listening intently to His beloved sons and daughters with delight.

You see, before my daughter had the core strength and upper body conditioning to hold herself up, I watched for months as she would rise just a few inches and crumple to the ground. She would get up over and over with the same eager request “wait, wait, Daddy… watch me.”

Spiritual Life Progression

The spiritual life has a progression as well, but it has infinite depth rather than finite height. We usually begin by reciting rote prayers, but often run into times of dryness and wonder, “is he watching?”  He’s always watching and never tires of hearing us recite them. Just like you never tire of hearing your daughter or son tell you “I love you, daddy”.

I had watched as my daughter progressed quickly over a short time and I was ready to step in at the right moment to spot her and hold her feet so that she could experience the feeling of being completely inverted with no danger of getting hurt.

As we progress in the spiritual life, we gain strength and understanding in how to encounter Him in prayer and our friendship matures as we spend more time with Him. Even though we may wonder if we have His attention, He’s waiting to step in at the right time to show us that we’re capable of doing something that we thought was impossible just a short time ago.

Why is Prayer So Hard?

So why is starting a prayer life so difficult? I think it’s because we’re comfortable and get bored easily. Most of us have bought into what our secular culture holds out for us regarding religion… that it’s a nice idea for your private life but is really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. There’s nothing to see here. These sentiments are in the air we breathe.

But if we contemplate the life of Christ, we see that He was surrounded by sinners, beggars, prostitutes and tax collectors. These people sought as much satisfaction as they could find from everything that the world offered; money, sex, and power.

They were people that had experienced fleeting gratification, but still, bored easily. None of it satisfied their deepest desires. But Jesus was not boring. His personality was magnanimous, He was powerful beyond words, and when they encountered Him they dropped everything and completely changed directions.

This very same Jesus is seeking a friendship with you and me… by name. “I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, He’s constantly seeking an encounter with us. So now is the time to consider how much time we’re spending fostering this relationship with Jesus. And when we wonder if He’s watching, let us spend a little extra time each day with Him and expect an answer.

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He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions

By Ron PereiraTSG Campfire

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

I recently experienced one of the deepest, most intense, spiritual moments of my life.

My son and I belong to the Troops of St. George and this past weekend our local troop – Troop 5 – camped out.

Now, each night of a Troop 5 campout consists of a few things… awesome food, a saint story, and the Holy Rosary prayed around the campfire.

And this past Friday night was no different. My son and I enjoyed a nice dinner and Intentional Encounter’s own, Mike Short, shared the story of Cardinal Van Thuan, which was intense in its own right!

Praying the Rosary

Once Mike was done it was time to start the Rosary. Now, let me set the scene. It was cold this past weekend… at least for us Texans. It got down into the 20s so we were most definitely leveraging the warmth of the campfire.

So there I was sitting in my lawn chair close to the fire. And by close I mean to say that if I moved any closer the hairs on my legs would have been singed!

My 9-year-old son moved next to where I was sitting and we settled in to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries with around 50 other men and boys.

I lead the first mystery – the Agony in the Garden. And since I was leading around 50 other souls through the decade I was pretty locked in and focused on the mechanics. I mean, yes, I’ve prayed the Rosary many times but nobody wants to be the guy who forgets his place or messes up the prayer in any way!

The Scourging at the Pillar

Once we were done with the first mystery my friend, Andy, called out the second mystery – the Scourging at the Pillar. Since I wasn’t leading this decade I was able to sit back and really meditate on the mystery.

I remember looking deep inside the fire… where the orange coals seem to throb due to the extreme heat they’re giving off. And as I locked in on these coals I immediately thought of the pain our Lord endured during His scourging.

I imagined the Roman soldiers drawing their flagellums (whips) back. And as they were being drawn back I could see the iron balls and sharp sheep bones ready to thrash into our Lord’s back, buttocks, and legs.

I then imagined these soldiers unleashing every ounce of their power onto our Lord. And with each strike the lacerations across His back would tear into His muscles resulting in quivering pieces of raw, bleeding, flesh.

And, as I sat there moving through the decade I struggled to fathom the pain Our Lady experienced as she watched her son flogged like a common criminal.

I then looked down at my son and tried to imagine what I’d feel if someone stripped him and tied him to a tree and began to whip him with sharp sheep bones while I was forced to watch with no way to help or stop it.

I then wondered why, on this night, I was so moved by this mystery even though I’ve prayed it countless times before.  But, for whatever reason, I was completely shaken to my core by the visions of what our Lord endured for me and for you.

Intentional Living

So, what does this have to do with living intentional lives? What does this have to do with eating clean? What does this have to do with working out and not being a lazy, undisciplined, sloth like I was not so long ago?

Well, I contend it has everything to do with these things and every other aspect of our lives.

You see, if we truly believe there was a man named Jesus Christ who died for you and for me… then we’d realize how much He gave for us.

He was beaten to near death before a crown of thorns was pressed into His precious, bleeding, head. He was then forced to carry His own cross before being hung from it where, a few hours later, he died from asphyxiation.

And, to be clear, our Lord could have unleashed a heavenly fury onto these Roman soldiers. He could have stopped it all. But, he didn’t. Instead, He sacrificed His body and His life and took our sins – past, present, and future – to the cross.

Now, I don’t know about you but I want to be the best man I can be as a result of what our Lord did for me. I want to be the best husband, father, son, brother, friend, and entrepreneur I can possibly be.

So, when my alarm goes off at 5:45 AM and I know it’s time to get up and begin my morning routine but I just want to hit snooze one time and rest a little longer… I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to pop out of bed thankful that God has given me another day to be the best I can be. And then I’m going to attack every aspect of the day with intensity, focus, and purpose just like our Lord did for us.

So, my dear friends in Christ, I’d welcome you to do the same. Our lives are gifts. And, we have been given so much. And, as scripture tells us… to whom much is given, much is expected.  The question is… what do you believe our Lord expects of you?

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5 Steps to Conquering Self-Doubt

By Ron Pereira

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

Have you ever struggled with self-doubt? Most of us, if we’re being honest, have. I know I have.

But, over the years, I’ve been able to overcome much of the doubt I’ve faced. Now, to be clear, I am far from perfect and have MANY flaws. But, facing uncertainty, or new challenges, rarely ever scares me anymore.  In fact, I love new challenges which is one of the reasons Intentional Encounter was born!

And, it’s been my experience – both personally and professionally – that self-doubt just may be one of the most paralyzing feelings a person can experience.

Just over the past few weeks I’ve heard different people tell me how they can’t do push-ups, couldn’t ever give up sugar, and wouldn’t ever be able to start their own business.

Now these are good, successful, people.  But, for whatever reason, they’re sometimes paralyzed by self-doubt.  And, sadly, this paralyzation often means these folks never take action or push the limits to what they believe they can accomplish.

So, what I hope to do in the article is share a few tips that have helped me overcome self-doubt. Again, I’m still a work in progress and have many limitations. So, this article is for me as well.

1: Pray

prayA few years ago I had to make a huge decision. I needed to decide if I should I leave an executive leadership position at the company I worked at in order to become the first full-time employee of the start-up I was also involved in.

It was nerve racking… and I was experiencing plenty of self-doubt since I had a wife and kids to support. What if I failed? How would I support my family?

Now, from a business perspective, the company I helped co-found was doing well. We had enough money in the bank to pay me for 4 months if we never sold anything and my wife and I had prepared our own personal finances accordingly. So while this helped… there were so many other things to worry about like health insurance, which I’d have to pay on my own if I left my day job.

My wife and I obviously talked about it and were in agreement that the time was right. But, man, it was still scary.

So, one afternoon, I drove to my parish and decided to bring it to our Lord in prayer. I sat in that long pew in silent prayer.

Now, I didn’t hear God whispering instructions or career advice to me. But, what I did experience was incredible peace. I also experienced a rush of confidence and belief that I could, and would, be successful. So, after an hour with our Lord I was ready.

A few weeks later I gave my notice and took the leap into full-blown entrepreneurship and, thanks be to God, our little company now employs 13 full time employees and I’ve never looked back.

So, the key take away is to always bring your concerns, and any self-doubt you’re experiencing, to our Lord and Our Lady in prayer.

2: Remove The Word “Can’t” From Your Vocabulary

cantNext, the word can’t is what self-doubt feeds on. In fact, I’m quite certain Satan also loves it when we use this word.

Tony Horton, the founder of P90X, has some incredible advice when it comes to the nasty can’t word.

He advises people who say they can’t do something like pull-ups, or push-ups, or really anything to quit saying they can’t. Instead, they should say they presently struggle with it.

So, instead of saying you can’t do push-ups you’d say, “I presently struggle doing push-ups.” Or, instead of saying you can’t read the entire Bible you’d say, “I presently struggle reading the entire Bible.”  Or instead of saying you can’t start that business on the side you’d say I presently struggle starting that business on the side.

The reason this change in vocabulary is so important is saying you can’t basically assumes you won’t and that you’re not willing to at least try.

But, when we say we presently struggle we’re admitting it’s a challenge, which is totally fine, but we’re also leaving ourselves open to the opportunity to try.

So, the key take away is instead of saying you can’t do something… say you presently struggle with it.

3: Persevere & Don’t Ever Give Up

persevereWhen my daughter was first learning to play soccer she was pretty bad… hard to watch if we’re being honest.

In fact, during her first year on the mighty “Little Angels” she was the only kid on the team to not score a goal. Oh, and there were only 6 kids on the team and they played 3 versus 3. Put another way, it was hard to go an entire season and not score a single goal!

But, my wife and I kept encouraging her and she came back out and tried again the next season.

That season started much like the previous one ended… she wasn’t scoring but she kept trying.

Then, the craziest phone call I ever received came in. My awesome sister-in-law, Kristen, brought our daughter to one of her games since my wife and I had a conflict and couldn’t bring her.

We were curious to hear how the game was going so we called Kristen. When she answered she told us that our daughter had scored around 10 goals and the coach had to take her out of the game since they didn’t want to run the score up.

My wife and I had a good laugh and told Kristen to be serious and tell us how she was really doing.

Kristen told us, “I am being serious. She’s on fire and scoring at will!”

To say we were blown away is the understatement of the century. Our daughter quickly became the best player on her team and, to this day, is a fantastic little select soccer player in addition to being a great kid who loves Jesus and His Mother with all her heart.

But, the only reason she was able to succeed was because she persevered and learned to believe in herself.  Sure, there was some figuring out of the game involved… but the only way she was able to figure it out was to not quit.

My other kids also remind me of how important perseverance is… whether it’s learning to get their back walkover or learning to multiply they keep trying and, eventually, succeed.

In fact, if I only teach my kids two things I pray it’s 1) to always practice their Catholic faith and 2) to never give up when learning new things!

So, the key take away is to persevere and never quit trying even though self-doubt tells you that you’re no good and are going to fail.  Don’t listen!

4: Avoid Toxic People

half fullNext, if you’re surrounded by people who constantly bring you down… constantly complain… constantly moan and groan about how bad, and unfair, the world is you should do everything you can to avoid them.

Now, if these people happen to be family members who you can’t avoid you should have a real heart to heart with them and explain that you’d really appreciate it if they could stop being so negative… at least around you.

And, once you’re spending less time with negative people it’s extremely important to seek out positive, like-minded, folks who will build you up and encourage you.

I belong to a few different Catholic mens groups and I can’t tell you how important they are to me.  There’s nothing better than to share your struggles with other like minded men (or women if you’re a woman).

So, the key take away is to avoid negative, energy sucking, people if at all possible and begin to spend more time with like minded folks who share your same values and dreams.

5: Believe in Yourself

A week or so ago I was having a rather heated conversation with a work associate. We were talking about a new project that’s going to really push the limits. In fact, we’ve never done anything like what we’re thinking about trying… but I was supremely confident we could do it.

My work associate, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, this guy is fantastic and VERY good at what he does… but, alas, self-doubt was eating away at him.

Well, as were talking I looked up and saw my screen saver running… it read “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and I immediately experienced the same peace and confidence I felt years ago while sitting alone, in church, talking to our Lord about my career situation.

After seeing this I relaxed and continued to talk things through and my confidence and assurance that it was safe to fail as we worked through the kinks eventually helped my colleague come around and kick his self-doubt to the curb.

You see, I truly believe, with all my heart, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ll immediately be successful, or that I won’t have to pivot a few times when things aren’t working out, but I won’t quit and I won’t stop believing.

So, the key take away is to believe in yourself.  You are most definitely made for greatness!

Final Words of Advice

Hopefully these 5 steps will help you the next time you’re facing self-doubt in any area of your life.

Now, we’re obviously partially focused on clean eating and exercise here at Intentional Encounter so if self-doubt is holding you back from making improvements in those areas… please, I beg you, don’t let it.

God loves you and wants you to be the best you can be.  He truly does.

So, to conclude, I’d like this leave you with these words from the Gospel of St. John… my emphasis added.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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Bitter Sweets

By Mike Short

While working the streets as a beat cop, and now a detective, I’ve had ample opportunity to see the devastating effects drugs like heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine have on people and their families.

These people are somebody’s son or daughter but have, sadly, become shells of themselves. Many times you can’t even recognize these addicts when comparing their figure to their driver’s license image or old family photos.

These powerful drugs rip families apart and the addicts often find themselves involved in all kinds of criminal activity that their former self would never have dreamt of. Why does this happen? Simple. They desperately need that next high and will do just about anything to get it.

While researching the effects of processed sugar on our bodies, I discovered that sugar and drugs, like heroin or cocaine, have a common biological response when introduced into our bodies. Scary, right?  Processed sugar, which is found everywhere in the western diet, works similarly to the way drugs like heroin do.

Because we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God has created our bodies in such a way that everything in us works synergistically to enable us to live full, happy lives. One example of this great plan is how the biochemistry in our brains work.

Neurotransmitters

neurotransmittersWe have chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters, which allow our neurons, or nerve cells, to communicate with one another. These various neurotransmitters are responsible for everything from telling your heart when to beat to when your stomach should digest food.

We were created to have all the levels in sync but our modern western diet, stress and anxiety, and lack of sleep affect the balance God designed leaving us, in many cases, sick and tired.

One of the most powerful neurotransmitters, and the one we’ll be focusing on, is dopamine. Dopamine is a very important chemical that’s responsible for our focus and attention as well as our mood.

Impact of Low Dopamine

When our dopamine levels are low it’s difficult to complete daily tasks such as focusing at work, remembering where we placed our keys, or even remembering our anniversaries (eek!). Low dopamine levels can also lead to feelings of depression and sadness. This neurotransmitter is also responsible for our drive and motivation to be productive.

When we consume sugar, alcohol, or even heroin these addictive substances create a dopamine dump and give us an immediate feeling of euphoria and satiation. Rada, P., et al 1 describe in their research that “under select dietary circumstances, sugar can have effects similar to a drug of abuse.” In fact, sugar acts on the neurons and neurotransmitters in the same way as the opioids I mentioned above.

I Need a Sugar Fix!

Additionally, a less than optimal side effect of this unnatural dopamine rush is that our bodies often stop production of naturally occurring dopamine, which leaves us with intense cravings for that next sugar, or in more extreme cases, heroin fix.

As this pattern perpetuates, our brains become more and more dependent on the drug since we need it to focus, feel happy, and be productive.  We’ve asked our naturally occurring regulatory systems to step aside since we’re now controlling our dopamine releases through the fulfillment of our cravings.

This vicious cycle continues, demanding us to remain on the hamster wheel of addiction, until we use our will power, with the grace of God, to make a conscious decision to get healthy.

So No More Donuts?

Now, I’m not claiming that the next donut you have will push you over the edge and cause you to start breaking into your parent’s house and cleaning them out so you can get your next pastry fix.  But to say there aren’t parallels between sugar dependency and an addict’s drug dependency is to hide from the truth.

It’s also instructional to look at the issue from the perspective of the order in which God created things. Before there were mass produced candy bars human beings hunted and gathered their food from what was created. When looking at how people lived before the industrial revolution, we can clearly see that their sugar intake was little to none due to its scarcity and seasonal availability.

Maybe God was on to something when he created this earth from nothing and provided a limited amount of sweet tasting fruits as delicacies. Looking from this perspective we can see that He delights in our enjoyment and happiness but doesn’t shower us with these treats all of the time because it’s simply not good for us.

As a parent I often have to rein my kids in since, if given the option, they would binge on chocolate and lollipops. I know that this isn’t good for them and can ultimately hurt them, so I limit the amount of sugar they consume.

Each day we make parenting decisions like this because we have the experience and wisdom to know what’s best for our children. You can also see this fatherly desire for what is best for each of us written in God’s creation.

What About Feast Days?

easterThe church’s liturgical life is sprinkled with feast days in which we celebrate the lives of the saints or significant portions of the life of Christ. These are times to celebrate and enjoy a nice meal and possibly a dessert.

By sticking to having sweets during times of celebration like these and including regular periods of fasting as Christian tradition promotes, you’ll be on your way to a well ordered and intentional life!

Next Steps

Hopefully this helps you to see the impact processed sugar has on our bodies and how God has weaved it into His plan.

The next step is to take a look at how much processed sugar you’re taking in on a daily basis. Do you find yourself snacking before bed or craving a morning sugar rush?

Perhaps it’s a great time to take stock of your current habits and begin to make small intentional changes… starting with sugar.

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  1. Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG., Neuroscience. 2005; Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. 134(3): 737-44

Encounter Others

By Mike Short

In this ‘stepping out’ it is important to be ready for encounter. For me this word is very important. Encounter with others… because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others. – Pope Francis

Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has continuously proclaimed the idea of encounter. The Holy Father uses this word to refer to a meeting and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Whether it was due to poor catechesis growing up, a bad experience with the Church or Her ministers, or simply not ever knowing anyone who had encountered Our Lord, especially in our families, we have missed out on this encounter in our own lives.

Never Evangelized

It has been said that many of us have been “Sacramentalized,” but never evangelized. We’ve been given the weapons for spiritual battle, but, sadly, have never met the person for whom we are fighting.

This website is designed to help us encounter the person of Christ.  But first we need to reclaim order in our own lives so we can make the time and have the energy to experience this encounter. Through a series of intentional decisions regarding our diet and fitness we can create good habits, which will allow us to reclaim the freedom for which we were born.

The Need for Self Mastery

Throughout history, the Church has taught the importance of discipline and self-mastery. But in today’s culture, which is soaked in overindulgence, many prefer an extended adolescence filled with distractions and comfortable consumption. Even though these choices often bring a taste of temporary gratification, they never ultimately satisfy our deepest desires for peace, joy and greatness.

We can begin to cultivate the skill of self-mastery simply by changing our eating habits and beginning to exercise, which can help us find a path to live intentional lives. Once these physical aspects of our lives are in control we’ll be in far better position to meet and Encounter Jesus Christ who ultimately satisfies our every needs and shows us our ultimate purpose.

Will You Join Us?

So, if you’ve desired to deepen your encounter with Christ, and His Church, while also bringing order to all areas of your life we’d like to welcome you to the Intentional Encounter family.

In order to gain maximum benefit here is what we suggest.

  1. Download the Intentional Wellness eBook by completing the form below this article. This also subscribes you to our weekly newsletter.
  2. Subscribe to receive new articles by email.
  3. Like us on Twitter (if you’re the tweeting kind).
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  5. Tell others about us by sharing this article with them.
  6. Finally, please pray for us as we begin this website!

How I Dropped a Pants Size in 30 Days & Have Far More Energy and Focus

By Ron Pereira

First 30 DaysI’ve been eating clean and exercising for a little more than 30 days, which, as it turns out, included Thanksgiving & Christmas. It hasn’t always been easy… but, shooting straight, it hasn’t been that hard either.

Now, a quick story, I’ve worn size 38 pants for the past 5 years or so… as in waste 38 inches.

A few weeks into my Intentional Wellness plan I began to notice my pants were starting to fit big. In fact, I’ve had to retire some belts since they know longer go tight enough to hold up my britches!

Then, on Christmas day, my amazing wife gave me two new pairs of jeans. I glanced at the tag and saw they were size 36! I was a little nervous since, you know, I haven’t worn sized 36 pants since my mid 30s.

Long story short… when I tried them on they not only fit… they’re a bit big and I’m certain 34s would fit me now. How cool is that?

And while it’s nice to lose some weight the most amazing part of my new clean eating and moderate exercise plan is how I feel. I have more energy and mental focus than I’ve had in years… maybe ever to be honest.  And, most importantly, I have definitely benefited on the spiritual side of my life which we’ll explore, in great detail, in a future article.

My Intentional Eating Plan

So, what I want to share in this article is how I’m eating. Now, to be clear, I don’t expect anyone to copy my exact plan since I’ve gone pretty hardcore right out of the gate.

But, if you want to experience immediate results, I’d encourage you to read what I’ve done with an open mind and then pray about whether this is a plan you’d like to try. We also share far more details as to how to eat clean in the Intentional Wellness eBook that can be downloaded, for free, at the bottom of this article.

Principle 1: No Processed or Greasy Fast Food

I’ve cut out all processed food from my diet. If it comes from a box, or includes ingredients I can’t pronounce, I avoid it.

In its place I eat whole foods – mostly grass fed meats, veggies, some fruit, and good fats like grass fed butter and avocado. Now, I’m lucky that my wife has been eating clean, and feeding our family clean foods, for many years. So, for me, the biggest adjustment has been avoiding fast food restaurants for lunch and late night “snacks.”

My biggest struggle has been salty foods. Things like salt & vinegar potato chips are my kryptonite… so avoiding them hasn’t been easy but I’ve done it and it’s definitely getting easier.

Principle 2: No Grains, Bread, Rice, or White Potatoes

Next, I’ve cut out all white foods from my diet including grains, bread, rice, and white potatoes. Wait? So I’m not following our government’s suggested diet plan, which calls for some grains? Correct.

I’ll share much more on this in a future article since, you know, many will attack this principle with the argument that Jesus ate bread! Heck, He called himself the Bread of Life and the Eucharist comes to us in the species of bread at every Mass!

As an aside, my wife’s favorite blogger, Katie, has written a magnificent piece on this very topic… so be sure to check that out if you’re curious about the differences between the bread our Lord ate and the poison we eat today.

So, again, I’ve personally decided to remove these foods from my diet and I’m convinced it’s paying massive dividends.

I do eat sweet potatoes, which I love, so even though I enjoy a nice piece of bread like you probably do… I’ve been able to manage. I’m also eating some fresh fruit and tons of veggies with most meals, which are also delicious.

And if you’re still skeptical about this no grain stuff since you’ve read some other articles that contradict what I’m saying… my advice is simple. Try it for 30 days. No bread. No pasta. No cereal. Cut out all grains and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll feel better than you have in years (or ever).

Now, you may feel weird for the first week or so as your body adjusts to not having to deal with the constant insulin spikes all that bread causes… but as long as you eat plenty of fresh veggies, some fruit, meat, and good fats you’re going to feel fantastic. Heck, if you don’t I’ll refund your money. Wait? Nevermind.

Principle 3: No Processed Sugar

Now, if the first two principles didn’t get you… this one may. I’ve cut out all processed sugar from my diet.

No more soda, candy bars, piping hot apple pies, cookies, cake, ice cream, or even ‘Smores around the campfire! And – get this – I’ve even given up that yummy vanilla flavored coffee creamer! Those that know me realize this last one is a pretty big deal!

Again, I do eat fresh fruit, which helps with any sweet tooth cravings I get, and I now use these amazing stevia drops in my morning coffee along with a little organic heavy whipping cream. I also add some grass fed unsalted butter to my coffee… but more on that in a future article!

Now, full disclaimer. I’ve slipped a few times with this principle. If we ever eat out I almost always get a salad of some sort… but, alas, the salad dressings usually contain processed sugar. Since I know this I do my best to only use a little of it.

Principle 4: Drink Green Smoothies

green smoothieNext, something I’ve tried to incorporate into my diet are “green smoothies.” Yes, I know, it sounds nasty and they often look even nastier… but, made correctly, these bad boys are incredibly delicious and oh so good for you!

I’ll share some recipes in a future article… but my basic green smoothie consists of fresh baby spinach or kale, carrots, celery, and some frozen fruit like mango or blueberries.

Add in some water and my Vitamix blends it up into a perfectly smooth, incredibly delicious, power meal. I will add that a good blender is very important if you want the smoothie to be chunk free.

Principle 5: Drink Lots of Water

Finally, the last thing I’ll share is that I’m drinking lots of water. I try to drink at least (8) 8 ounce glasses of water per day.

I’d say this is the principle I need to focus on improving the most. I don’t always drink this much water and I’m confident my results will be even better when I do since water naturally flushes toxins out of our body and good hydration is essential to optimal brain performance.

Bonus Principles – Sleep & Exercise

So, while this is what I’ve been eating the last 30+ days I will add that I’ve really focused on getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night. This has been huge and I’m finding myself waking up refreshed and ready to attack the day!

Like water, I am far from perfect with this principle and plan to experiment with different ways to ensure I’m flat on my back, in bed, no later than 10:00 PM.

And Mike has me doing some sort of exercising several days per week. I will say the working out these first 30 days hasn’t been crazy at all. I literally started out with a few push-ups and crunches. Check out the Intentional Wellness eBook at the end of this article for the exact workout plan I’ve been following.

What About Alcohol & Dairy?

To wrap this article up I’d like to share my current approach to alcohol and dairy since I haven’t completely cut them from my diet.

As it pertains to alcohol, I only drink a beer or two in social settings. And if I drink wine I keep it to a glass or two at the max.

And what about milk and other dairy products? Yes, this is a hotly debated topic in the fitness and nutrition world.

You could say my new diet is basically Paleo. But, Paleo purists definitely shun all forms of dairy (and pretty much all alcohol) and since I do enjoy a glass of grass fed whole milk from time to time and grass fed butter on my cooked veggies and in my coffee (again more to come on this later… so don’t judge it until you try it) I can’t say I’m all in on the Paleo diet.

My Advice to You

So, this is what I’m doing. What, if any, advice do I have for you?

Well, if you feel like God is calling you to clean up your diet I’d definitely encourage you to think about what you’re eating on a daily basis and compare it to what I’m trying to do.

I’d also encourage you to pray about it and then, if you’re feeling called, give some (or all) of the things I’m doing a try.

And, if nothing else, instead of eating greasy cheeseburgers every day for lunch… try to cut it down to a once a week treat. Improving what you eat, any way you can, is better than doing nothing.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I don’t want to die and leave my wife and 7 kids without a husband and father. So, any inconveniences I feel by saying no to junk food seems pretty insignificant when you imagine the benefits of me being able to walk my daughters down the aisle or enter religious life, or God willing, seeing one of my son’s ordained to the Priesthood!

What About my Spiritual Life?

So, this is what I’ve done and experienced from a physical perspective. But, obviously, living an intentional life has far more to it than weight loss and energy levels.

Specifically, our spiritual lives are far more important than any physical improvements we may experience and I’m happy to report that I’ve most definitely experienced many spiritual blessings since I committed to cleaning up all aspects of my life… but I’ll share those details in a future article!

Until then… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

What do you think?

I’m curious to hear what you think about my results and approach to clean eating. It’s most definitely OK to disagree.

And, by no means do I think the way I’m approaching this is the only way. So, if you’ve gotten similar, or better, results using another approach please share your story in the comments section below!

Why Functional Fitness?

By Mike Short

Though I wasn’t looking to change the way I exercised, my friend’s enthusiasm about a brand new way of working out piqued my interest. He had learned about a program called CrossFit that, he claimed, enabled him to view fitness in a totally new way.

By this time, my friend had done functional workouts for several months and was excited to share it with me. He had a leaner, more athletic, body type and exuded enthusiasm because he found something that had positively changed his life.

Prior to functional fitness, my friend had enjoyed bicycling as his primary mode of exercise, but had never experienced the increased fitness capacity he had in the past few months when he learned how to apply the CrossFit methodology. He had gained strength, power, and coordination and what excited him most was the variety of workouts that were performed which helped keep his interest and motivation.

I was convinced by his powerful testimony so I decided to give it a try. Once I did I was hooked!  After a 20-minute high intensity workout that only included a few body weight movements, I was not only exhausted but also convinced that this was the best workout I had ever done. Although I had spent many years in the gym doing traditional weight lifting, this work out revealed weaknesses I never realized I had.

What is Functional Fitness?

Functional fitness helps to train your muscles to work together by simulating movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. By using various muscles in the upper and lower body consecutively, functional fitness movements find their foundation in building core stability.

For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up objects from the ground. By training your muscles to work the way they were designed to, you can prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.

I found CrossFit, a program whose basis is rooted in functional movements, and dove in head first. CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied functional movements performed at relative high intensity.”

No More Leg Days

Unlike traditional workout routines where you have “leg day” and “arm day,” the CrossFit methodology applies the functional movements we use on a daily basis to provide programming that’s constantly varied so your muscles don’t gain strength only in isolated movements.

CrossFit is also performed at relative high intensity. The important word here is relative, meaning it’s up to you how much intensity to apply to the workout. A workout is scaled, or adjusted, in relation to the speed, load (weight), or range of motion of the exercises to safely maximize the effectiveness of the workout, while reducing the possibility of injury.

My Journey

I began my CrossFit journey by learning as much as I could about the different functional movements through YouTube videos, and performing the workouts that were provided at local CrossFit gyms.

I also began slowly acquiring equipment such as barbells, kettle bells, and bumper plates… all of which gradually transformed my garage into a home gym.

After using these functional movements for some time, I noticed a dramatic change in my capacity to perform the ten generally recognized physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, speed, balance, and accuracy. These 10 skills are generally recognized in the fitness community as an individual’s measuring stick of personal fitness.

Sharing it With Others

With my new found love for functional fitness I wanted to share it with others just like it had been shared with me. I soon had several people coming to work out with me at my home gym. After several years of garage gym work outs, I went on to become a certified CrossFit trainer so that I could properly coach others. This led to a unique opportunity of opening up a CrossFit gym in my city for my fellow police officers and firefighters.

Intentional Wellness

I’m sharing my experience of how functional fitness developed in my life so that you’ll have a better understanding of the journey we’ll go on together when you leverage the Intentional Wellness eBook and the follow-up plans we’re currently creating.

The eBook contains 40 days of workouts thoughtfully programmed for the beginner, which can all be done in around 5-10 minutes.

The first week or so of Intentional Wellness may seem like a slow way to start for some, but by gaining a routine through intentional living you’ll develop the core strength and increased mobility needed to perform more difficult work outs down the road.

You can also expect to find articles about building your own home gym by finding out what equipment to start with and things that you can build yourself to save money. Eventually you’ll be calling your friends and asking them to come over and try a new workout with you!

Intentional wellness is a great way to build community and brotherhood by persevering through tough workouts together. We will take one step at a time and help you to begin your Intentional life. Ron and I will be sharing our journey with you and we would love to hear your experiences too!

Get Started Today

To get started download the Intentional Wellness eBook by completing the form below (click through to article if you’re reading this via email). You’ll then have all the info you’ll need to begin your own journey towards living an intentional life.

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Bishop Olmsted Calls Men to Battle

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land… (Ezekiel 22:30)

Mike and I started Intentional Encounter to become better husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers.  In short, we hope to become better men by increasing self mastery and discipline in all areas of our life.  We also hope to, God willing, inspire other men to do the same.

And, it would seem, Bishop Olmsted and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix feels the same way since they recently released an extremely powerful, beautifully produced, documentary-style short film that seeks to create awareness of a crisis in masculinity found in today’s society.

You can read more about His Excellency’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Into the Breach” by clicking here.

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Could Potato Skins Lead You to Hell?

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

If you’ve recently stumbled onto Intentional Encounter you may be wondering why two guys are focusing so much time and effort writing about faith, fitness, and clean eating.

More specifically, you may be scratching your head wondering what faith, fitness, and clean eating have in common.

I, for one, contend they have a lot in common. In particular, I believe taking control of your physical life through consistent exercise and clean eating will, in fact, allow anyone – man, woman, or child – to strengthen their spiritual lives.

How is this? Let’s explore.

Heavenly Potato Skins

I want you to imagine you’re three weeks into your clean eating and exercise plan. You’ve done very well and are seeing real progress. But, alas, the time has come to go out to eat with your family at your favorite restaurant.

The appetizers have arrived and there they are. Potato skins. You know the kind… the ones buried in cheese, chives, and sour cream.  And that delectable dipping sauce is always conveniently located right beside them.

And let’s just assume, for the heck of it, these just happen to be your favorite even though you know, for sure, they aren’t part of your clean eating plan. Oh, and the fact you’re extremely hungry isn’t helping the situation at all.

What do you do? Do you resist and wait for something healthier to arrive? Or do you cave to the sight and smell of these delicious potato skins and quickly throw two onto your plate?

Growing in Holiness

Well, I contend this is the perfect opportunity to practice self-control, discipline, and resolve while also growing in holiness.

Wait? Growing in holiness? Am I saying eating potato skins – or any junk food – is going to send you to hell? No. Of course not… although that did make for an awesome blog post title, right?

But, what I am saying is if you have the courage, and discipline, to pass on those potato skins you’re most definitely going to strengthen your resolve.

And, conversely, I am saying if you cave and eat those potato skins since, you know, you’ve been really good – and, gosh darn it, you DESERVE a little treat – you’re doing nothing but weaken your resolve while proving to others, and yourself, you have little, to no, self-control.

Rejecting Sin

You see, if you can’t say no to potato skins what makes you think you’ll be able to say no to impure, or other sinful, thoughts?

Or what makes you think you’ll be able to control your sinful anger the next time your kids push your buttons the wrong way?

Or, if I haven’t touched a nerve yet, what sin, or sins, do you consistently confess again and again? Whatever that sin is… ask yourself if you’ll be able to say no the next time the evil one whispers into your ear. Put another way, will you say no even though you can’t resist some lousy potato skins?

Far More to Holiness

To be sure, there is much more to growing in holiness than saying no to unhealthy food.

But, all I can say is that I’m a repeat sinner and need all the help I can get. And, recently having the opportunity to say no to bad foods, and yes to consistent exercise, seems to be having a direct impact on my ability to say no to sinful tendencies I’ve long struggled to control.

So, my dear friends in Christ, I’d invite you to unite all aspects of your life together and continuously practice self-control and discipline no matter the situation.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Do You Agree?

I’m curious… do you agree with what I’ve shared in this article? If so, how are you doing with this aspect of your life? And, if you don’t agree, which is definitely cool, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well in the comments section below.

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Will You Wake Up and Settle For Average?

You can wake up and settle for average… and it’s OK.  But it’s not about being OK, it’s about being excellent!

Check out the video below… then, if you’re ready to get started, download the Intentional Wellness eBook by filling out the form below the video.

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