Whiteboard Lessons

By Ron Pereira

As I mentioned a few months ago I decided to join a local CrossFit box called CrossFit PAF.  BTW, if you live in the Keller, TX area you need to check this gym out!

My main reason for joining was to have a full time coach that could watch me and help me improve each and every time I worked out.  This has been fantastic and I’ve learned so much.

I’ve also met some incredible people.  I usually attend the 5:30 AM or 7:00 AM class and have gotten to know these folks well.  This has also been fantastic.

I’ve also learned to push harder than ever during workouts for one simple reason… there are others suffering right beside me!

Now, here’s where the “confession” portion of the article occurs.  You see, like most CrossFit boxes all of our scores and results are logged on the virtual “whiteboard.”  In other words, your workout performance is ranked against everyone else’s performance.  You also get to see who “Rx’d” the workout and who “scaled” the workout.

I’d like to say I’ve always done my best and ignored the whiteboard.  But, goodness, that would be the biggest lie of my life!  You see, for the first few months I checked that stupid whiteboard more than my work email.

And, once the last 7:00 PM class was over, and the final results were added, I’d assess my performance.  If I was towards the top of the whiteboard I’d feel satisfied… but, if I was towards the middle, or bottom, I’d feel pretty crappy.

Then something interesting happened.  And it happened after a particularly intense, aerobic based, workout that caused my soul to briefly leave my body.  Kidding of course… sort of.

After the last round of rowing was over I sort of rolled off the rower and moaned on the ground for a bit.  After a few minutes my soul came back to me and I smiled like I had won the lottery.  I then let out a little chuckle.

You see, there’s no way I could have gone harder than I did.  I did my very best.  I also knew my performance would leave me towards the bottom of the whiteboard since my aerobic capacity is my biggest opportunity fitness wise.  But, for the first time I didn’t care. Instead, I was totally satisfied with the effort I gave and knew it was my absolute best… thus the smile!

Now, I’m not sure why it took me close to 3 months to realize that the only thing that truly matters is that I do my very best.  Obviously pride played a big part.  And, like many reading this, I’m also competitive and want to win.

But the key person I now want to compete against is myself.  Can I do my very best at whatever it is I’m doing?

And, to be clear, this doesn’t just mean while I’m doing CrossFit. Have I done my best as a follower of Christ?  As a husband?  As a father?  As a business owner?  This is the question we all must answer now, and, most importantly, at the hour of our death.

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

Abs are Made in the Kitchen

Abs are made in the kitchen.

You are what you eat.

These popular sayings are nice but they usually don’t inspire us to actually change the way we live our lives. Ron and I want to show you a path to real freedom. We have found that making changes to our physical health we can begin to reclaim our freedom and it is linked in a unique way to spiritual conversion and living radically as a disciple of Christ. We try not to just give you wise sayings or anecdotes that may provide a spark, but will quickly burn out quickly and fade away.

In this article I wanted to provide you with 3 practical tips for changing your eating habits. Ron and I have both found through our experience that you will the see the quickest and most dramatic health changes through an intentional change in how you eat. Making this change requires some re-wiring in your habits and planning for success. Once you get the ball rolling with a healthier diet, combine movement (through exercise) and you will see radical changes in your life which is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Here are a three ways you can get started to begin eating radically.

  1. Write down your goals. Ron and I both started to use the Self Journal to help articulate some short term goals and then hold ourselves accountable through the action of writing down your plan each day and infusing your smaller plans to meet those goals throughout each day. This has been a very fruitful exercise for me and helped me be more productive and see what I have accomplished. While using this exact journal is not necessary, intentionally writing down your short term goals and the path to get to there is a proven way to change your habits.
  2. Start small. Pick one meal this week to tweak. Breakfast is the hardest meal for me to get right, so I have had to become intentional about planning and executing a healthy breakfast each day. Once you get that one meal right, switching to eating real food at other meals will come much easier.
  3. Form a Tribe. We are communal by nature so when there is an external threat (overweight, disease, spiritual laziness) people overcome these problems with the help of friends. Start with your family and create a challenge with your kids to eat differently for the one meal and help each other meet that goal. Your kids look to you for leadership and when you sacrifice and include them in the challenge it will build a bond with them that is unbreakable.

We all have excuses as to why we don’t workout or have time for prayer. However, changing what we eat is the perfect place to begin your journey towards authentic freedom. We all are going to eat…we all eat at least a lunch and dinner meal of some sort. By engaging our will in the decisions about what we eat, we can begin to discover that our desires do not control us, but we can control our desires.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Tribe

What can we learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning. Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. – Sebastian Junger

Today’s society is filled with ideas of individualism and making it on our own. The American dream has become synonymous with the idea of individually becoming all that we can be with little regard for those around us. The ideal of manliness today is based on self-sufficiency and becoming a “self-made” man. The problem with this image is that we weren’t wired to thrive in this environment…it gets awfully lonely at the top when we climb to these metaphorical heights.

Sebastian Junger is a bestselling author who wrote a book titled “Tribe”. He is also a journalist who was embedded with American troops in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through this experience of watching a platoon of men come together under high stress and the constant threat of attack, Junger saw them come together as a tribe in order to survive and thrive.

Junger noticed that several soldiers were reluctant to return home. This corresponded in some way to the high percentage of soldiers who had fought in combat and later diagnosed with PTSD when they returned home. This made him ponder some deeper questions about what this experience of war and disaster brings out in the human person.

He found that it wasn’t the violence that the men missed from the experience of war, but rather the community that had developed out of the necessity for survival. When the men returned home they were thrust into our society which is blessed beyond belief in many respects, but our material abundance creates an environment where individuals become just a number and aren’t made to feel necessary as was the case in their platoon. Throw in our addiction to electronics which further inhibits human interactions and it is no surprise that depression and suicide rates rise when societies, like ours, gain affluence.

The question becomes how do we, who live in the land of great abundance, create or find a tribe in order to thrive as we are wired to do? If you look at the explosion in popularity of CrossFit in our country it is an anecdotal solution to the problem of tribal living.

The magic behind CrossFit isn’t the burpees or muscle ups, it is the community. They have developed a way in which affluent people can rally and suffer together and it creates this tribe in which each person benefits from looking after the person to the left and to the right of them. Within this workout community, the strong athlete (the alpha) will regularly be seen coming back and picking up the weak one and encouraging them through the rest of their workout.

At Intentional Encounter it is our goal to build tribes like this in your community beginning with physical wellness and then taking it to a deeper level through an encounter with God. Junger talks about a study that he read in which a group of about 30 men were put together and developed a good functioning community. However, when this group was told about an enemy or an adversary group their cooperation and corroboration accelerated dramatically. Innovation and excellence are born from trust and cooperation.

Although we live in a society that is relatively secure and enjoys peace, make no mistake about it, there is an opponent that is “prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Christians should form the ultimate tribe regardless of where they live because of the real spiritual battle that is raging and the cost is souls.

We want to wake the men up who don’t realize that there is a battle to be fought and gather those fighting the good fight in order that we not fight alone. We are wired to come together and form groups that can do great things when we look out for the person to the left and to the right of us. Will you join me?

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

How I Treated (Healed?) Heel Spurs

Note from Ron: I am not a doctor, don’t play a doctor on TV, and have no plans to ever become a doctor.  This article is meant to share my story and should, in no way, keep you from visiting a doctor for any issue you may have, including Achilles/bone spur issues.  Also, the point of this article is meant to provide additional info for folks dealing with this sort of injury.  If you’re not dealing with this sort of injury I’d still encourage you to skim the article in case you ever do!

Over the last month or so I’ve been battling what I thought to be Achilles Tendonitis which, in hindsight, was partially true.  While I’m not 100% sure I am quite certain the issue was created by poorly fitting running shoes.

Initially, my doctor gave me instructions to not run or jump (which is how you must ask a CrossFit athlete to “rest”), to ice my Achilles several times a day, and to stretch the Achilles/calf several time a day.

I was a good patient and followed his instructions.  Instead of running I spent A LOT of time on the rower and assault bike.  Side note, if you ever need to know, for sure, if the devil really exists… just jump on an assault bike and go all out for 90 seconds.  You will definitely realize the devil is real and that he actually manufactures assault bikes on the side.

After a few weeks of rest, ice, and stretching I went back and explained that things weren’t getting much better.  In fact, I saw no improvement.  At that point they did X-Rays and discovered that I had heel spurs on both feet.  A heel spur is caused by the displacement of calcium on the bone.  And once that area gets inflamed pain can be pretty constant (mine was).

Once the doctor figured this out he put me on a new treatment plan.

  1. More “rest” which meant more rowing and assault biking. Ugh.
  2. Continued stretching exercises (think calf stretching).
  3. Wear a night boot that positions the foot in a 90-degree dorsiflexion.  I only have one night boot so I just alternate feet every night.  This boot stretches the fascia (flat band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes).  Side note: they tried to sell me a night boot for like $250.  I asked the nurse if there were cheaper options.  She said to try Amazon.  I pulled my phone out and found one this one on Amazon for $22!  She smiled when I showed her.  Needless to say, I placed the Amazon order!
  4. Wear a special “orthotic” in my shoes that, apparently, helps to support the heel and plantar fascia.
  5. He also said prescription anti inflammatories could be used if I wanted.

So, with this new info and plan I was sent off for another two weeks.  The only thing that bugged me was none of this seemed to be addressing the actual heel spurs that had formed.

So, I took to Google and did some research on whether heel spurs could be healed.  The first article that popped up came from Dr. Axe, a functional doctor I REALLY respect.  He’s also a former triathlete who has actually dealt with these sorts of injuries.  Upon reading that article, and a few more articles from other functional doctors, I had a few more things to include to the above treatment plan including:

  1. Soaking my feet in a magnesium bath.  I poured 1 cup of epsom salt into warm water and soaked/massaged my heels every night. Magnesium is an essential mineral for bone formation and utilizing calcium
  2. I drank 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.  This is meant to adjust the pH of the body.  Messed up pH levels can also lead to bone spur issues.
  3. I massaged my heels with coconut oil and Rosemary essential oil every night.
  4. I continued to take fish oil pills every morning (have done this for a long time).
  5. I started to supplement with both Vitamin B5 and Vitamin C.

It’s now been 2 weeks since starting this latest treatment plan.  And, man, guess what?  I am totally pain free!  Unfortunately I haven’t had another X-Ray so I don’t know if there’s been any improvement to the actual heel spur.  But, again, I have no pain at all no matter what I do (even a little test run I did… don’t tell my doc please).  I’m hopeful my doctor will allow me to do X-Rays next time I visit.

So, even if you’re skeptical with the “natural” treatment plan I followed you can always try the “doctor prescribed” plan first.  Then, if you’re not seeing the improvement you hoped for you can add in the functional treatment plan.

But, again, no matter what you should definitely see a doctor before any of this… just realize they will probably think you’re crazy when you mention magnesium baths and coconut oil if they have little to no functional medicine experience.

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

Whoever Hates His Life

Thursday’s Gospel (John 12:24-26) about the grain of wheat falling to the ground really made me think.  Here’s the full Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

The aspect of this Gospel that really made me think, and do some research, is the whole “whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it”  especially since, a few chapter earlier, we read, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” -Jn 10-10.

Having an abundant life doesn’t exactly seem to jive with hating my life.  So, since I’m no Bible scholar, I took to Google for some research.  After a little digging I came to this response from Fr. Echert on the EWTN website.

The Hebrew language and culture did not express the superlative and comparative with single words, as we typically do in English, but often expressed this with stark contrast. That is how we properly interpret this text. We are not to hate our life in the sense that we see no value in it and have no happiness, but we are to “hate” it in the sense that we are not in love with the world view and values, and are willing to sacrifice everything in this life–including mortal life itself–for the sake of the Eternal Life to come.

Father Echert

So, like our Lord, who died in order to redeem us all we too must die to the things of this world.  And while it’s OK to be happy with the many blessings in our life we must never become so enamored with the things of this world that we lose sight of our ultimate goal – heaven.

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

Silence

“Without the capacity for silence, man is incapable of hearing, loving, and understanding the people around him” (Robert Cardinal Sarah).

Podcasts and blogs across the web tout the importance of infusing meditation into our day. Popular hosts like Tim Ferris or the Art of Manliness founder Brett McKay often feature guests on their shows who spread the life hack that silence is good for us. Increased productivity, focus and direction are all healthy byproducts of carving out times of silence in our day. It is also a great hack for treating anxiety, depression or a lack of motivation.

It is interesting that these highly successful individuals who people flock to for advice on how to become happy, interesting and well…more human; have stumbled across a truth that has been around since the beginning. Matter of fact, our desire and need for silence has been placed in us for a purpose by the One who created us.

I wanted to share with you my morning routine of silence so that you can see how other men pray and hopefully uncover the life hack that God has placed in your heart which has been there all along.

I found that the mornings are the best time for me to find this time for silence. If I wait until the evening I am usually too tired to give it the necessary attention and I just end up dosing off. By becoming intentional about getting up early and giving God the first fruits of my day, it sets the tempo and lays the foundation for my often hectic life.

Even on weekends I ensure that I wake up first before anyone else.  During my work week I am up at 4am.  This allows me to enter into this necessary silence before the demands of work and family life begin.

After brewing a cup of joe, I get down on my knees in front of an image of Our Crucified Lord and pray. I adore Him and thank Him for the many blessings He has given me and ask for the strength to be His instrument in the day that is beginning. Next I plop down in the most comfortable chair in the house. The chair is situated in a place in my home that is set apart and adorned with sacred art. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, but dedicating a place to this important part of your day will help motivate you to get up and add purpose to your time of silence.

I don’t treat this time as a method for emptying myself of thought, but rather it is meant to be a time to open up the Sacred Scriptures and listen to what God has to tell me. I typically begin with the Psalms and will read and reflect on one of them. The Psalms are great training tips on how to communicate and encounter God through the various circumstances and stirrings of the heart that arise in the human person.

I will then flip to the Gospels and read about the life of Christ and His band of brothers who spread the truth of Christianity which they witnessed even at the cost of their own lives. I usually just bite off a small part each day to chew on and listen for what God is trying to tell me through His word. Recently I have begun to write down what I hear. This is an effective tool for reflection and a good reminder throughout the day of what God wants to convey to you…by name.

After reading the Bible I pick up the Office of Readings for the day. These are often ancient texts from early Christians and it shows me how they thought and understood God’s word and lived it out. Just like reading about and getting to know how our modern day sports heroes operate so that we can know how they do what they do; reading about the lives of the Saints helps us to understand their motivations and how they lived radically for Christ and changed the world in the time and place when they were alive. I don’t rush through these readings, but sit with them and see where they fit into my journey and how I can live a more heroic Christian life.

The last thing that I read is a small part of a spiritual book that I work through. I am currently reading a book by Venerable Fulton Sheen titled “The Life of Christ”. I usually choose books about Saints or read current authors who can convey the truth of the Christian Faith in extraordinary ways. This time of silence typically takes between 30 and 45 minutes and has grown over the years to the point where I am now. If I miss a day then I find myself discontent and am usually chasing my proverbial tail with no hopes of ever catching it.  On the other hand, when I spend time in silence with Him, my days are filled with peace and purpose.

“But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic lie that helps men avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness. The awakening will necessarily be brutal” (Robert Cardinal Sarah).

Beginning this habit and dampening the noise in our lives will necessarily be brutal…but it is worth it! Take the challenge and commit to 10 days in a row of waking up early and offering the first fruits of your day to God…and be silent.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

I Didn’t Know My Daddy Wasn’t a Strong Man

By Genni Pereira (Ron’s Wife)

This article was written by Ron’s beautiful wife, Genni Pereira.

“I didn’t know my Daddy wasn’t a strong man.”

These were the words that came from my 15-year-old daughter’s mouth the other day during conversation. My daughter had seen my husband’s transformation over the past couple of years and it had become obvious what qualities make up a “strong” man.

These were qualities that are not always heralded in men in our society these days – qualities like self-denial, self-control, and industriousness or hard work. As we discussed, it became clear that she did not mean “strong” in a physical way either, even though he is stronger in that way. She had seen him become strong in a spiritual and intellectual way as well.

When my husband started his journey with the Exodus 90 program we thought we were doing pretty well at living our Catholic Faith. We went to Mass on Sundays and I went to daily Mass with the kids. We went to Confession a few times a year and prayed the Rosary, or had prayer time, in the evening sometimes. We were involved in our parish and homeschooling groups, and trying to pass on our Faith to our children.

Unlike some other families, Ron is home often. He is involved in the kids’ lives and would coach and/or manage sports teams, drive them to practices, etc, but there was something lacking in his relationship with us when we were home.

When we were home you could find Ron parked on the couch watching baseball or football and looking at his phone, taking breaks oftentimes at night to make a second dinner run to Sonic. He mowed the lawn and that was about the extent of his household duties. We were blessed with his time, but not blessed with his PRESENCE.

Memorial Day 2017: Ron and His Oldest Daughter After the “Murph” Workout.

Like my daughter mentioned to me she did not know her Daddy was not strong until she saw the improvement. My children were very aware of what my husband was doing during his Exodus 90. They saw him turn off the television and leave his phone at the door, get up in the morning to pray and work out, cut out alcohol. They saw him go to daily Mass and Adoration. He only listened to Christian music and took cold showers.

They heard other men laugh when they heard that my husband was taking cold showers, and say they could never do that themselves! In fact, cold showers seem to be a deal breaker for most guys.

Are you telling me that, as a wife, I’m supposed to believe that my husband is going to care, provide, and protect his family at all costs when he can’t even deny himself hot water? It’s kind of a joke, yet there has been a feminization of our men over the past couple of decades. They have become fat, lazy, apathetic, and absent physically or just emotionally and the fact is we, as women, do not even realize that it’s happening.

In our technological and materialistic age it is more difficult to show our children the art of self-denial and self-control. Many parents are able to buy extra things for their children. I know we often have to deal with entitlement issues in our family. We also live in a world where most of a man’s work can be done sitting at a desk in front of a computer. This does not give him the opportunity to go out and show his children the beauty of hard work, or how to create something with his hands.

Once my husband started working out and lost weight, and did not have the distractions of tv and his phone he had so much extra time and energy to put toward our family and household.  My children got to watch and help him make me some benches (this was a first for my husband), and help him build a fire pit in the backyard for us to gather around. He started to throw the football with my son, and play pick up games with the kids, and they started going outside to work out with him in the mornings. He was PRESENT with them.

I am so glad that the bar has been set so high for my children through my husband’s example. If my children choose a vocation in marriage, our daughters will know the qualities of a strong man, and our sons will know how to be strong men.

As a wife, I have loved my husband for over 20 years and I would have continued to love him. However, in the past couple of years my RESPECT for him and my TRUST in him have grown exponentially. Although I believed that my husband would always do whatever he needed to do to provide and care for us, I know now that he CAN because I see it through his daily acts of self-control and self-denial.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. -Ephesians 5:28-32

Achieve Your Goals with the SELF Journal

By Ron Pereira

It is not enough to do good things, but we must do them well, in imitation of Christ our Lord, of whom it was written Bene omnia fecit – He did all things well. We ought, then, to strive to do all things in the spirit of Christ; that is, with the perfection, with the circumstances, and for the ends for which He performed His actions. Otherwise, even the good works that we do, will bring us punishment rather than reward. -Saint Vincent de Paul

I believe there’s a serious crisis within the Catholic Church.  Specifically, I believe the vast majority of Catholic men are failing to live up to expectations our Lord expects of us.  I also believe we Catholic men are professional excuse makers.  And, listen, I’m part of the problem so I’m definitely not casting stones.

You see, we Catholic men make excuses for why we don’t pray daily.  We make excuses for why we don’t work out at least 4 to 5 times each week.  We make excuses for why our diets are horrible and we drink alcohol several nights a week (or more).  And we make excuses for why most of our wives are the primary spiritual leaders in our homes.

Gentlemen, I say it’s time for the excuses to stop.  I say it’s time we become intentional about the way we approach every minute of every day.  I say it’s time we plan out, hour by hour, how we intend to go about each and every day.  And I say it’s not only time to set goals… it’s also time to form a specific, action based, plan of attack for how these goals will be accomplished.

And since this Intentional Encounter blog is a way for me to share the things I’m trying in my own life I’d like to introduce a new tool I’ve started to use as I attempt to rid myself of excuses and distractions – the SELF Journal.

Simply put, the SELF Journal is a 13-week journal that allows you to set 3 big goals.  It also guides you through a process of breaking these big goals down into smaller progress goals.  And from there the journal helps you identify the daily tasks and activities you need to be doing in order to achieve these progress goals.

The journal also helps you plan out, in 30 minute increments, how you plan to go about your day.  And, an aspect of the journal I really appreciate, is how there’s a place to note three things you’re grateful for at the start of each day and 3 things you’re grateful for at the end of the day.

I haven’t been using the journal long… but since starting I can already see, and feel, a difference.  I personally plan out my day and then do my very best to stick to the plan.  And if something pulls me away from the plan I document it.  This allows me to reflect back on what happened so I can make a plan to minimize the disruption in the future.  And beginning and ending each day with a spirit of gratefulness has been game changing.

So, if you also struggle with distractions and not getting the things right things done each and every day I’d highly encourage you to give the this SELF Journal a spin.  And, if you do pick one up please do let us know how it goes.

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