Compound Growth

Which would you prefer to have? The sum of 1 penny doubled every day for 30 days or $1 million dollars right now? For most of us, the logical answer is $1 million right now. But why? Well, because it looks like more, there is no delay and getting $1 million dollars today is much more quick and easy.

However, the reality of compounding growth is astounding. If we can choose to delay the instant gratification of what appears to be the richer and easier choice, our return will be 10 times more in the end. The real numbers of 1 penny doubled every day for 30 days results in $10.7 million dollars!

What does this have to do with getting fit physically and spiritually? Everything really. The concept behind compounding growth demonstrates that if you can make consistent small deposits over a period of time, eventually you will cross a threshold of exponential growth that will yield wealth beyond compare to the quick and easy approaches of comfort or a lukewarm faith.

If we can delay the instant gratification for 24 days in the example of monetary growth, than you can see how the money begins to really add up. In this same way, if we can keep plugging away with our workouts and clean eating plan you will see exponential results within 6 months.

By deciding to become intentional and create a habit of completing a 5-10 min workout daily while cutting out sugar, grain and dairy from our eating plan, we can experience the compound effect of wellness which provides a decrease in inflammation, increased energy and decreased body fat.

Which will you choose? The instant gratification which has led us nowhere, or will you consider the power of compounding growth? You decide.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

The Secret to Surviving Cold Showers

If you’ve completed (or are in the midst of completing) Exodus 90 you already know about the cold showers.  I also think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re planning to start Exodus 90 the cold showers just may be the scariest part of the process.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that they’re no big deal or that they’re fun or that they’re easy.  They’re not.  In fact, if you’ve never taken a cold shower you’re most likely going to gasp for air and make noises you didn’t know you were capable of making the first time that cold water cuts into your back.

But, I’ll also be the first to tell you that you can do it and that you’re likely stressing out more than you should.

In fact, I’m going to share a cold shower secret with you.  I actually just learned this secret from my Exodus brother, Colter.  And, as fate would have it, I also recently heard another person talk about this same “cold shower technique” on a podcast I listen to.

I’ve since implemented this “secret technique” into my own cold shower routine and can tell you, for sure, it really works.

So what is this cold shower secret?  It’s really quite simple.  You must relax and stay calm when the cold water hits you.  That’s it.  Relax.

The first time I tried this technique here’s how it went.  I got into the cold shower and did what I normally do… I turned so the cold water hit my back.  I then did what I normally do and gasped for air.  I then forced myself to stop gasping and calmed my breathing.  It was hard to do initially but I was able to relax once I really focused.

Once my breathing was normal I closed my eyes and focused on being still and relaxing every muscle in my body.  After a few seconds the craziest thing happened.  I wasn’t cold.

Now, I’m still far from “good” at this and want to continue to practice this relaxation technique since I still eventually lose focus and feel the cold water again.  But I’m pretty confident more practice will eventually enable me to stay in control of my breathing and relax for most, if not all, of my cold showers!

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

Get Behind Me, Satan!

Yesterday’s Gospel included a passage I’ve long struggled to understand.

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” – Mark 31-33 (my emphasis added)

Get behind me, Satan? Goodness. Could you imagine our Lord referring to you as Satan (or acting as if you were Satan) to your face? It would be one thing if I called you Satan… but we’re talking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords here.

Anyhow, as I finished up the Gospel I sort of shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Man, sure would have sucked to be Peter that day!” and moved on.

I then transitioned to the Catena Aurea to begin the second phase of my morning spiritual workout. Specifically, I wanted to hear what the Church Fathers had to say about these same words.

As usual there were some interesting comments but, admittedly, I was growing a little disappointed since none of them focused on the “Satan” aspect of story. Then I got to Pseudo-Chrysostom’s (unknown author sometimes wrongly attributed to St. John Chrysostom) take on the situation. Here’s what he had to say:

“But he saith not to the devil, when tempting Him, Get thee behind me, but to Peter He saith, Get thee behind me, that is, follow Me, and resist not the design of My voluntary Passion. There follows, For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but which be of men. (my emphasis added)

The part that really struck me here was when he said, “follow Me.” You see I’ve always assumed our Lord was telling Peter to get behind Him since He didn’t want to see Peter’s face. You know, like when we tell our kids to go to their room when we’re so angry we don’t want to see them for a while? Perhaps that wasn’t actually the case.

Of course no one really knows for sure what our Lord meant… but the idea of our Lord telling Peter to get behind Him so that Peter can follow Him and be shown the way to salvation makes a lot of sense to me.

So, the next time you fail our Lord… and, let’s face it, we all fail Him from time to time I’d encourage you to imagine Him telling you to get behind Him so He can show you the way to the Cross and, ultimately, to salvation. And, if you really want to crank up the intensity, go ahead and imagine Him calling you Satan!

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

Missionary Disciple

Ever thought of being a missionary disciple? For most of us who are married and have kids, the possibility of going overseas somewhere to share the Gospel with others by feeding the poor and clothing the naked just isn’t practical for our state in life. Had we encountered Jesus earlier in our life things may have looked differently and hopefully we would have taken advantage of mission opportunities.

However, the truth is that all Christians are called to be missionary disciples, no matter your state in life. The pre-requisite of course is that you have had an encounter with Christ and allowed him to begin to remold you into the man you were made to be. I’d like to share with you a way to consider looking at yourself as a missionary disciple. They can be compared with a SWAT operator in many ways, which may be helpful to envision this call.

Made to Save

The original purpose of a SWAT team was to save lives. Particularly, the lives of those who are on the brink of disaster and whose freedom has been taken from them in hostage situations. As a SWAT operator your purpose is to repel evil with swift and distinct force and to place yourself between the threat and the one you are sent to save.

A missionary disciple has a similar purpose. We are to be sent to help save those whose freedom has been robbed from them by sin, attachments and self-induced sedation. We are made of the same stuff as the people who we see trapped, but our encounter with Christ has so radically changed us that we yearn for them to see the freedom that they are made for.

Protection

SWAT operators protect themselves with armor because they go into hostile environments. Driving up to a scene operators can see the flashing red and blue lights of police activity. It is a clear sign of the real danger that lies near it. To prepare for the ensuing engagement, you first must ensure that your armor is affixed to protect you from the enemy. In addition, the work is done in groups and as a team they provide the necessary security for each other by relying on the brother next to them to watch their back.

Missionary disciples must also acquire protection for the battle. The culture is an unsafe harbor for our kind. We obtain protection through the Sacraments, which confers grace and makes us bullet proof. Without the influx of grace from the Sacraments, missionary disciples walk into battle vulnerable and weak. Secondly, we must have a battle buddy, a band of brothers. Men need a tribe to do battle with in order to provide the necessary protection for each other on the journey.

Weapons

SWAT operators are skilled weapons handlers who hone their craft so that when the moment arises when they must use them, their hands are steady and aim is true. The weapon is the instrument of the skilled SWAT operator who can unleash great power through it in order to bring peace and order back to an environment of hostility and chaos.

The missionary disciple’s weapon is prayer. St. Padre Pio said the “Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today”. The beads of the rosary are not some fuzzy meditation, but are belt fed rounds; combat effective and each one calls to mind the name that is above every name, Jesus. The other weapon that every missionary disciple carries with him is Eucharistic Adoration. Our Lord asks “for an hour of reparation to combat the hour of evil” and to share in the work of redemption.

Christian missionary disciples are those who willingly go into harm’s way to save his brother in his own community and is willing to lay down his life for his friend. We can see how SWAT operators serve the community where they work. As missionary disciples we don’t have to look far to see those in need around us who could benefit from our friendship and the life changing message of the Gospel.

Put on the Armor of God (Eph 6:11)

Fasting

Across the blogosphere and airways of podcasts, people in the nutrition and wellness industries have been talking up the advantages and disadvantages of a seemingly new fad; fasting. Fasting is the choice to abstain or reduce food, drink or both for a period of time.

Athletes and medical practitioners have been toying with the practice of forgoing food intake and have discovered varying degrees of benefit depending on the population and their goals. Dr. Jason Fung recently published a book called The Complete Guide to Fasting. Dr. Fung discusses the therapeutic benefits of fasting from food for periods of time and how it boosts the effects of a healthy diet and exercise.

A lot of Dr. Fung’s work has been with the population of folks who suffer from type 2 diabetes. He has found that people in this population typically need to lose weight and in order to do so must reduce insulin levels. Intermittent fasting and low carbohydrate, high fat diets accomplish this goal and are great strategies for reducing insulin levels which is the best method for treating obesity.

While fasting is not ideal for bulking up (duh), it has been used in recent years by many athletes as a strategy for detoxing and has been attributed to faster fat burning, improved mental clarity and concentration, and the potential activation of cellular cleansing.

Findings from research and the practical experience of those who have their diet dialed in, like Robb Wolf, certainly lean in the direction, from the science point of view, that intermittent fasting is another tool to improve wellness over time.

Christian Fasting

“When you fast” (Matthew 6:16)

For Christians, the word fasting should arouse in us a different aroma than the mere mechanical health hack that our non-Christian brothers have recently discovered. Fasting, for Christians, is an ancient practice with deep meaning that Jesus himself gave advice about over 2000 years ago. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus tells us “when you fast”. Notice it doesn’t say “if” you fast, so we can infer that the practice of fasting ought to be interwoven into the very fabric of our Christian lives.

Like most health nuts that are calling fasting a “new” phenomenon, most Christians have forgotten our story and how fasting fits into the way we respond to an encounter with Christ. For many Christians we have reduced the words fasting and asceticism to connote the masochistic practice of some ancient medieval monks who dwelt in Italy somewhere and instituted practices like this to somehow earn their way to heaven. We have been convinced that there is no value in fasting in this day and age for our spiritual journey. After all, it doesn’t feel good.

However, Jesus, the eternal King wasn’t only speaking to the first Christians when he told us that we should fast and how to do it. He was speaking to us…now. In fact, every time we open Scripture He is communicating with us in the here and now.

The surprising and good news for Christians today is that the advice given 2000 years ago will give new and profound meaning to our lives, but we must respond to the call. Author Romano Guardini synthesizes the beauty of asceticism in a Christian’s life in his book “Learning the Virtues that Lead you to God”.

“Every day makes new demands and obliges us to keep ourselves in order. And this is asceticism. The word, derived from the Greek ákesis, means practice and exercise, exercise in the proper directing of one’s life”.

The Christian life involves training; initiating discipline to form one’s will to the Truth. Fasting is an element or tool that God has shown us to be effective in helping us with this training process. It is no surprise that God’s battle plan for us, which includes fasting, is also being uncovered by the science community and shows that it is beneficial.

However, if we stop there and only view the goodness that comes from intermittent fasting from the physical perspective than we risk losing out on the rich depth and meaning that can be discovered when ordering our lives for Christ. When we become intentional about training as disciples and soldiers of Christ we can more quickly and definitively respond to Gold’s call in our life.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

It’s Time to Start Exodus 90

If you’ve been following Intentional Encounter for the last year you’ve likely heard Mike and I talking about our Exodus 90 experience. If you haven’t, no worries, click here and you can get up to speed.

Mike, myself, and two other men started our 90-day Exodus on Ash Wednesday 2016. It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a year!

I won’t rehash our experience in this article since you can read about it in earlier articles. But I will say Exodus 90 changed my life.  It made me a better follower of Christ, a better husband, a better father, and, generally speaking, a better man. Of course, I’m far from perfect and still a work in process… but Exodus 90 changed me in a radical way. I just don’t know how else to say it.

So, why am I mentioning this now? Simple. Lent 2017 starts Wednesday, March 1 and every man reading this article should start his own Exodus 90 journey. Yes, every man.

You still have a few weeks to pull a group of guys together. We have 4 men in our group but there have been groups range from 3 to 7 start here in the North Texas area. So seek out a few guys and prepare to start no later than Ash Wednesday. You can, of course, start immediately!

And, if it helps encourage you, our Exodus group and several other “Exodus 90 Alumni” groups here in North Texas are going to practice all of the Exodus disciplines through Lent in order to sharpen the saw so to speak. So we’ll be right there with you gasping for air in our own cold showers!

Finally, when you find yourself making excuses for why Exodus isn’t for you, or why you don’t need it, or why it will be too hard please realize one thing… this doubt and fear is nothing more than Satan whispering his lies into your ear.

Don’t listen to him. Instead, I challenge you all, my brothers in Christ, to rise up and start/join Exodus 90 and change your life forever.  Just click here and start the journey.

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

p.s. When you do start Exodus you’ll discover the 90-day workout and clean eating plan was developed by our own Mike Short!  Intentional Encounter doesn’t make any money if you start Exodus 90.  We simply believe in the movement and wanted to help out any way we could.

p.s.s. If you ever feel called to donate to Intentional Encounter we’d most definitely appreciate it!  You can do so by clicking here.

Control What You Can

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. -Marcus Aurelius

At around 5:30 in the evening on Dec. 10, 1914 Thomas Edison was informed that his factory in West Orange, New Jersey was in flames.  Upon arriving on the scene with his 24-year-old son Edison quickly realized that much of his life’s work was indeed burning to the ground.

After gazing at the fire for a few more minutes Edison turned to his son and calmly asked, “Where is your mother?”  Wracked with anxiety his shaken son replied, “I don’t know.”  Edison immediately responded, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.”

After seeing his son’s bewilderment, Edison explained, “Don’t worry. It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.

Now, as you may already know, Edison would go on to rebuild his campus… barely missing a beat.  In fact he started the very next day.  Put another way, instead of sulking and falling into despair Edison took control of what he could… namely his perception of the situation followed by immediate action.

Along these same lines, Epictetus, the great Stoic Philosopher, once explained, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle.  Some things are within your control.  And some things are not.”

I’ve been doing my best to keep the story of Edison’s fire and how the Stoic’s encourage us to keep our emotions in check no matter the situation.  Now, obviously, this is far easier said than done but I think it’s worth the effort.

So the next time you get to the store and realize you forgot your wallet don’t fret or get upset.  It won’t help.  Really.  It won’t.  Just go home and get your wallet and go back to the store.

And the next time some guy (or gal) cuts you off in traffic and you want to send a few “hand signals” their way… let it go.  Heck, say a prayer for the guy (or gal).  You have no idea what’s happening in their life.  Perhaps one of their loved ones just died and they’re rushing to be with family.  You really don’t know.

Now, obviously, words are easy to type and I often wonder how I’d react to real tragedy.  Would I be like Epictetus, Edison, and most especially, Our Lady?  Or would I crumble?

I’d like to think I’d be the former… but, only God knows.  So, for now, I’ll do my best to practice self-control, discipline, and mastery as best I can in everyday life.  And I’ll also continue to ask our Lord to make me strong and to make me holy in the event I am faced with real adversity.  I’d invite you to do the same.

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

Stay In Your Lane

We’ve all had teachers who have shaped our thinking positively and left an indelible impression on the way we look at the world and conduct our lives. Many times these impressions can be recalled with a simple phrase which tells a story or unlocks a hidden code of wisdom.

While studying to become a police officer in the police academy years ago, I encountered a teacher such as this. Our lead instructor was a grizzly Dallas PD vet who had all the street cred you could imagine, but he also carried himself in such a way that exuded confidence and demanded respect. He was courteous in speech while weaving in language that demanded authority and control.

He was also a military veteran and drove tanks for his MOS, so he had plenty of acronyms and military jargon to throw down. He instructed the class to simultaneously respond “Hooah” when he was making points that he wanted to ensure we understood. Even this term is an acronym which the phonetic spelling HUA means heard, understood, acknowledged. This dude was spun up to say the least.

Beyond the distinguished command presence that this man displayed, he also shared a phrase that has stuck with me all of these years. He would often repeat “Stay in your lane”. Its’ obvious reference is to something most of us practice daily on our drive to and from work. Keeping our vehicles between the dotted lines will protect us from running into others that are on their way to work and will ultimately get us to the destination where we are headed.

He would deliver this phrase when he caught himself getting off point and encouraged us to stay in our lane as a way of maintaining focus and grasping the essential things. We can easily see in our own lives that when we become distracted from what is important and lose sight of our goals we tend to swerve between lanes which causes chaos. If we drift too far from our lane we will find ourselves clear off of the path we are traveling.

There are tons of choices and opinions on how to improve our wellness and we can easily get overwhelmed and veer off course. When we are inundated with different diet choices or more commonly, chances to indulge our pallet…stay in your lane. Eat real food. A balanced approach of lean protein, carbs from veggies and good sources of fat will lead us on the path of optimal health.

We all are pulled in one way or another by distraction and fleeting pleasure. It takes focus, attention and discipline to travel the path set out for you. While the struggle is certain in order to become intentional about our nutrition choices, whether or not to work out, or setting aside time for prayer, just remember…stay in your lane.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)