How to Gain Control of Your Distraction Box (iPhone)

I’ve been experimenting with a few iPhone and computer hacks in order to reduce the amount of time I waste on these devices.  Here’s what I’ve done.

Freedom.to

For my computer I have installed a program called Freedom.to.  With this program I’m able to block certain websites for specific periods of time.  This has allowed me to block specific social media sites and the sports related websites I used to waste far too much time on.  It’s working very well.  It’s impossible to access these sites during the work periods I set.  So, for my computer, this is the best solution I have found.

Screen Time

And while Freedom.to does work on my iPhone it’s very limited.  It only works in Safari and apps cannot be blocked.  So, at least for me, it’s pretty much useless.

The good news is the latest iOS software comes with something called Screen Time.  To access it simply go to Settings > Screen Time.

Once here you can see how much time you waste, I mean spend, on your iPhone.  And if you click on the time from that first screen you can drill down for more details.

I just took a screen shot of my current Screen Time situation.  Today I have spent 1 hour and 7 minutes on my phone… and towards the bottom you can see what I used most (Messages, Gmail, and Chrome).

You can also set limits in Screen Time (and password protect if you want to do this for your kid’s phones).  I give myself 10 minutes to waste, I mean spend, on Facebook and 5 minutes on Instagram.  Once 10 minutes is up I am kicked off Facebook.  Easy as that.

And, honestly, now that I’ve done this for a few weeks I rarely come close to 10 minutes on Facebook so will likely reduce this time.  Perhaps I’ll even, gasp, remove Facebook from my phone!

iPhone Home Screen Configuration

Next, avoiding the near occasion of sin is obviously really smart.  Closely related to this is avoiding the near occasion of time distraction.  This is why I’ve reorganized the apps on my iPhone.  All the time suck apps (social media, etc.) are hidden inside a folder on a secondary screen.  The only things on my home screen are apps I want to use on a regular basis.

As you can see I have folders for work, listening, reading, and most importantly apps that help me to grow in holiness!  And since I do listen to a lot of podcasts I do have that app outside of the listen folder.

Going Gray

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last.  I’ve enabled the grayscale color filter on my iPhone.

I discovered this tip after reading this minimalist themed article that explained how phone makers spend A LOT of time and effort to make smart phone screens beautiful and bright to look at.  This is done on purpose since most of us like to look at things that are beautiful and colorful.

So, by enabling grayscale all the colors are gone making my phone less attractive to look at.

And let me just say… if you try this you’re going to hate me initially… but, if you persevere through the detox phase, you’ll thank me later.

Here’s how to enable it on an iPhone.

Settings > General > Accessibility
Tap Display Accommodations
Toggle Color Filters to On
Tap to check Grayscale

What About Maps?

The only thing I feel needs to be in color is the maps app since seeing green and red on the route is really important… at least to me.

So, I do turn color back on for this.  But since Apple buries this deep inside their distraction boxes I created a shortcut!  Now, all I have to do is press the side right button (or home button if you have one) 3 times to toggle color on and off.

Here’s how to create that short cut.

Settings > General > Accessibility
Scroll down to Accessibility Shortcut > select Color Filters

Calling all Android Users

Now, obviously I have an iPhone so can’t offer advice on how to do these same things on an Android device.  But, I am confident there is someone reading this right now that has an Android phone and wants to figure it out… so, if you do, please contact me so we can get that info on the website.

Exodus 90 Shout Out

Finally, I want to give a special shout out to all the men working through Exodus 90. Me and a few of my brothers are working through it with you.  And please know that you are definitely in our prayers especially since the Prince of Darkness hates you for it and will attack when you least expect it.  I even saw some hipster priest out of Pittsburgh bad mouthing Exodus 90 since, you know, asceticism and redemptive suffering are so yesterday.  St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, Pray for Us!

Join the Battle

Cut to the Core officially ended on Christmas day. 50+ brothers united and, all combined, offered up the following for the healing and sanctification of the Catholic Church:

  • 194 Holy Hours
  • 931 Rosaries
  • 991 Chapters of My Daily Bread
  • 195 Partial Fasts
  • 611 Workouts
  • 681 Cold Showers
  • 725 Days of Media Asceticism
  • 711 Days of Dietary Asceticism

It was a powerful experience to say the least.  As I shared a few weeks ago our purpose wasn’t to improve ourselves… even though I can say, for sure, I feel like I personally improved.  Instead, our goal, our purpose, our why was to sacrifice and offer everything – every holy hour, every Rosary, every burpee – up for the healing of our Catholic Church and to strengthen the MANY holy priests and bishops fighting the good fight.

Once Cut to the Core ended a few of us decided to keep the ball rolling.  We even found a free smart phone app that allows us to keep track of what we do on a daily basis.  Now, we’re not quite as hard core as we were during Cut to the Core or when doing the full blown Exodus 90 disciplines.  For example, my son recently had his 8th birthday and I enjoyed some birthday cake.  No big deal.  I just didn’t mark my “clean eating” goal for that day.

Again, our purpose for doing this isn’t self-improvement… even though we will surely all benefit from living more disciplined lives.  Our purpose is to continue to sacrifice for the church.  You see, it’s real easy to sit around and complain about church hierarchy.  It’s easy to point fingers.  It’s easy to get ticked off.  And it’s especially easy to despair!

But all this worry, anger, and frustration does nothing but ruin your day and, most likely, makes you annoying to be around.  Don’t be annoying!

So, if you’re angry, worried, and feeling despair unite with us.  Unite with us and pray more.  Unite with us and read more scripture.  Unite with us and eat clean.  Unite with us and exercise more.  And, yes, unite with us and suffer a little under some cold water for the healing, and sanctification, of our Holy Catholic Church.

And if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like track things… get over it.  Stop thinking about yourself.  Instead, think about how you “checking in” that you did your Rosary may, in fact, motivate me to get off my butt and say my own Rosary!  We need to help, and support, each other brothers.  We can’t do this alone.  And we shouldn’t expect, as holy and amazing as they are, our wives to be the spiritual leaders of our families.  That’s our job.  We lead.

So, if you want to join the battle all the information you need can be found on this Google sheet.  The free app works for both iPhone and Android devices.  And you’re in complete control on how much you share with others.

Finally, if you’ve never done a full Exodus 90 I beg you to remedy this.  Find 3 to 7 other men that live close to you and start your own Exodus.  Do it to be a better man of God.  Do it to be a better husband.  Do it to be a better Dad.  And, most of all, do it for the healing of our Catholic Church.

WOD 122018

On Ramp: If you haven’t worked out before, or it’s been awhile, feel free to modify the novice workouts as needed. You’re also free to make up your own workout. Enjoy walking? Go for a 5 minute walk to get started. Like to lift weights? Do some light lifting. But, whatever you decide to do, please post your workout in the comments section below to encourage other men!

Novice:

50 Burpees for Time

Advanced:

100 Burpees for Time

Post workout results and Spiritual Training to comments.

Cutting to the Core

Frustrated. Irritable. Angry. This pretty much describes how I’ve been feeling about the state of the Catholic Church the last few months. I’ve also seen the same thing from many friends and family members. We’re faithful, strong, Catholics confused and not sure what the heck is going on.

And, at least for me, this frustration has spilled over into other areas of my life. I have found myself far less patient and kind… personally and professionally.

Then, last week, Mike and I were chatting on the phone and I decided to spill the beans about these frustrations (Mike may use another term to describe the conversation… LOL!) as it relates to our Exodus group. You might call our Exodus group one of the “Exodus 90 OGs.” We were one of the first groups of laymen to go through the 90 day program 3 years ago.

As we’ve chronicled on this blog many times Exodus 90 was the single most transformative time of our spiritual lives. It changed us for the better. It also launched a life long brotherhood as we’ve continued to stick together as a group ever since.

But, like anything in life, our group hasn’t always excelled. In fact, the past few months have been down right pathetic. We hadn’t consistently met as a group for a variety of reasons. Kids in sports. Vacations. Etc.

Another point of frustration for me arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago from one my brothers in Christ, Chris Werner. Chris and his Exodus brothers decided to form a version of Exodus 90 for the Advent season called “Cut to the Core.” Now, you may wonder, why in the world would this frustrate me? I’ll explain.

Ever since our group finished our original Exodus 90 we have revisited the Exodus disciplines during Lent and Advent. And, some of us, never stop practicing certain disciplines. Put another way… while cold showers always suck… our group can make it through them. It’s not a big deal. Same thing with the other disciplines. Done it several times, got the T shirt.

So, being 100% transparent, the thing that was irritating me – as it relates to our Exodus group – is that I didn’t want us to think that cold showers and few other disciplines during Advent were going to fix our problems.

Now, back to that phone call with Mike. After I was done throwing up into the phone Mike calmly replied that he agreed… Cut to the Core isn’t a magic elixir for our group. He also agreed that we know how to do the disciplines and can easily make it through the 24 days of Advent!

But then Mike explained that his personal reasoning for doing it wasn’t for himself or our group. It was for the Catholic Church.

I then realized how big of an idiot I was being. I had let my frustrations, irritability, and anger about the state of the church cloud my better judgement. I also realized… it’s not about me at all. It’s about the church.

A weird thing happened once I had this realization. I felt all the worry and anxiety lift from my shoulders. I now realize Satan had placed this weight on my shoulders in attempt to hold me down. And, I’m sad to say, it was working.

But not anymore. During that phone call with Mike I committed to Cut to the Core. And while I will no doubt benefit from the self discipline required to do everything… I am not focused on me. I am focused on doing what I can for our Lord’s Holy Catholic Church. Every Rosary, every Holy Hour, every workout has one intention – the Catholic Church.

Now, I have no idea what your situation is. Perhaps you’ve done Exodus 90 in the past. Perhaps you’ve never heard of Exodus 90 and have no idea what I’m talking about. No matter where you are… I now personally invite you to join me and, at the time of publishing this article, 39 other men in the Cut to the Core program. And don’t worry if you’re just now reading this a few days, or even a few weeks, into Advent. You can still join.

The program is quite simple. We commit to doing certain things like a daily Rosary, attending Holy Hour whenever possible (at least once per week), and reading a chapter from the My Daily Bread book. There are also a few physical disciplines such as working out a few times a week which may mean going for a walk if you’re new to working out. There are a few other things including, yes, cold showers… but, trust me brothers… it’s totally doable.  My kids have even done them!

So, if you’re ready to join the battle… all you have to do is contact us and we’ll get you all the info needed. We’re all tracking what we do on a master Google spreadsheet so we can quantify what we’ve offered the church.

So far, as of the morning of Dec 3, we’ve done 13 Holy Hours, 60 Rosaries, 65 My Daily Bread chapters, 38 workouts, and 42 cold showers. Not bad considering we’re only a few days into Advent!

But, to be sure, we need more men in the battle… so please join us!

My Journey with Strong Lifts

For the past 10 weeks I’ve been following a weight lifting program called Strong Lifts.  Now, when you first land on their website you’ll see phrases about getting ripped and gaining all sorts of muscle.  That’s all good stuff (and true) but it’s not why I decided to give it a go.

Overtraining

For the last year or so I’ve been hammering away at CrossFit 5 days per week with a recovery style workout on Saturday with my Exodus brothers.  In other words, I was usually exercising 6 days per week.

Now, the nature of CrossFit is to keep things “constantly varied” which is why I was able to attend my local CrossFit box Monday through Friday.  The programming was excellent and very rarely was I totally “destroyed” by the end of the week.  One day we’d lift… the next we’d do a short 8 minute metcon… the next we’d do some awful 20 minute aerobic based workout. But, again, I was able to hang with the younger guys week in and week out.

But, eventually, my 45-year-old body started to show signs of overtraining.  I was getting sick more than I had in years… mostly annoying colds, nasal congestion, and coughing that would linger for weeks.  I was also beginning to get the “workout blues” from time to time and just wasn’t feeling great from an emotional perspective.

Now, to be sure, I am not knocking CrossFit or the box I was going to.  I still believe functional style workouts are incredibly valuable…. but, at least for me, I was overdoing it and needed a change.

Enter Strong Lifts

I had heard about the Strong Lifts program from my buddy Taylor Marshall and decided to give it a go for at least 12 weeks.

There’s a free app available that does all the programming for you and allows you to log your results.  It’s also a “smart” app in that it will adjust according to your results.

I had done all of the lifts before and knew what my 1 rep maxes were.  As such I was able to enter this info into the app which is how the app figured out where I should start.

Two Workouts Three Times per Week

There are two different workouts in the program.  One workout has you back squatting, benching, and doing barbell rows.  The second workout has you back squatting again, then doing overhead strict presses, followed by deadlifts.  They have videos to help you learn correct form along with TONS of written content.

They suggest you do these workouts 3 times per week.  But, even still, this means you will back squat 3 times per week and do one of these workouts twice.  I decided to do these workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Introducing 5×5

As far as the rep schemes go every movement, except the deadlift, is to be done in a 5×5 manner.  In other words, you do 5 sets of 5 reps.  And, to make things interesting, assuming you were successful with all your sets and reps for that movement in the previous workout, you will add 5 pounds to the bar every workout.  Put another way your back squat weight will increase by 15 pounds every week!

A Little Boring to Start

Now, I will say… I struggled a little the first few weeks since the app had me start with very light weight.  It was easy, easy, easy and, quite frankly, a little boring.  But I took that opportunity to really focus on good form and technique.  I video taped myself and even asked folks like Mike and Taylor to comment on my form.

It Ain’t Boring Anymore

Fast forward to this morning.  I am up to the most weight I have ever back squatted for reps in my life.  After each set I am literally out of breath and have to rest for around 3 minutes before the next set.

I’ve also set personal records for overhead strict presses and while I still have room to go on the other lifts everything’s getting heavy!

Slipping in a Metcon Here and There

Now, I do need to confess that I have slipped in a medium intensity CrossFit style metcon in here and there.  I usually jump on my new Rogue Echo bike and sling a Kettlebell around when I do these workouts.  But I am not going crazy with these other workouts since, like I said, the Strong Lifts workouts have gotten real the last few weeks!

Oh, I also added strict pull-ups (5 sets of 6) to one of the workouts to make sure I didn’t lose them!

What You Need to Do Strong Lifts

I am doing the Strong Lifts program at home since I have this rack, a 45# barbell, and several hundred pounds of bumper plates like this.  Also, since I usually lift alone I bought these spotter arms that I can adjust accordingly when I bench and squat.  Benching, in particular, without a spotter can be deadly… so don’t do it!

Now, if you don’t have a home gym you can definitely do Strong Lifts at your local globo gym.  I would just look for a gym with a squat rack or, even better, a power rack.  I recently traveled to Canada and found a globo gym close to my hotel and was able to get all my lifting in.  You will get strange looks from the folks doing their curls for the girls and leg extensions… but, hey, it’s all good!

Feeling Strong & Refreshed

And while I have definitely gotten stronger the last few months… I also feel great physically and mentally.

Lifting heavy 3 times a week has given my body, and central nervous system, a chance to catch up.  And while I haven’t done any blood work I’m quite certain my cortisol levels and inflammation have decreased which aren’t a bad thing when it comes to topics such as naturally increasing testosterone!

Another massive bonus to working out at home is that my kids often come out to the barn and work out with me.  I absolutely love this since they’re learning to care for their bodies far earlier than I did!

My Plan After Strong Lifts

I haven’t quite decided what I will do once I finish this initial 12 weeks of Strong Lifts.  I may keep going.  As the weight gets heavier, and reps are missed, the app apparently adjusts to different rep schemes like 5 sets of 3.  And, eventually, the weight only increases once per week… not every workout.  The app will also de-load the weight accordingly when you hit a plateau.

But I’m pretty confident I’ll also begin to work in more metcons… but, one thing is for sure, I’m not going to go hard for 5 days in a row like I had been.  I may experiment with 2 or 3 days on, 1 day off with Sunday’s always being off no matter what.  I will keep y’all updated.

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

p.s. As you have likely noticed… Mike and I aren’t blogging as frequently due to time constraints and raising awesomely huge Catholic families!  Soooo…. if you feel called to help us out guest posts are ALWAYS welcome!  Just contact us!

What’s at the Root of Your Sin?

Have you ever watched the TV show Fixer Upper? If not, no worries. It’s a home improvement show featuring a husband and wife team. It’s also really well done and my entire family could easily binge watch multiple episodes on a lazy afternoon. But, with this said, the show is also quite predictable.

Once the renovations begin Chip, the husband, usually discovers some “hidden” issue like a rotting floor, mold in the bathroom, or some dangerous electrical wiring. A call goes out to the homeowners letting them know. Chip goes on to fix these “hidden” issues and the show continues.

Meanwhile, Joanna is busy figuring out how to design what the eye will see which always includes decorating the house with amazing little trinkets she discovers at some local antique shop.

Twenty five minutes later the big reveal occurs. The homeowners get to see their amazing house. Lots of before and after shots are shown and the owners, and viewers of the show, are blown away.

But, guess what gets all of the attention? No, let me ask it this way. Guess what DOESN’T get any attention during the big reveal? I’ll tell you. The new subfloor Chip installed and the moldy drywall he ripped out of the shower. It’s never talked about.

Instead, the shots all focus on the new layout, the amazing furniture, and that cute little vignette Joanna designed for the end table. In other words, the focus is always on the things we can see. You might say all of the attention is on the FRUIT while none of the attention focuses on the ROOT.

Our physical and spiritual lives are quite similar. We desperately want the fruit but we normally fail to address the root.

Interestingly enough my Exodus brothers and I have been exploring this very topic the last few weeks after listening to another amazing Fr. Mike Schmitz homily. Specifically, we’ve explored what spiritual writers refer to as the 3 root sins – pride, vanity, and sensuality. The basic premise is pretty much all sin finds its root in one of these 3 root sins.

Pride

Pride is the inordinate attachment to our own excellence. Think perfectionism. The need to win. The need to control. The prideful person often believes “everyone else is an idiot” which can lead to anger and lots of criticism.

Some potential countermeasures to pride are gratitude and humility. We should be grateful to God for all that we have and realize all of our success and any blessing ultimately comes from God. And, it goes without saying that those struggling with pride need to practice humility.

Vanity

Vanity is the inordinate attachment to the approval of others. Yes, the vain person places too much emphasis on their physical appearance… but vanity is so much more! In fact, shyness can be the result of vanity since we’re so concerned about what others think of us that we do our best to avoid people. And, believe it or not, purity issues often stem from the root sin of vanity since the vain desperately want others to see them as attractive.

A powerful countermeasure to vanity is hidden acts of charity. In other words, the vain person may very well volunteer at the local soup kitchen only to turn around and brag about their “good works” to their 3,910 Facebook friends! So, yes, go to that soup kitchen… just leave the Facebook bragging part out.  In other words… do HIDDEN acts of charity.

And, as with any sin, bringing vanity issues to confession and our Lord in prayer is always wise. We should ask God to help us know the only opinion of us that truly matters is His.

Sensuality

Sensuality is the inordinate attachment to comfort, ease, or pleasure. So for those that like beer… more beer is better. For those of us who like to sleep in… more sleep is better. And for those who like to waste the day away binging on TV or social media… more TV and social media is better.

The two primary countermeasures to the root sin of sensuality are temperance and fortitude.

Temperance can be understood as using good things in the right way at the right time. So, yes, enjoy that glass of wine with your dinner. Just don’t kill a bottle by yourself 7 nights a week.  And, no, you don’t need an 18 pack of beer to cut the grass.  A 12 pack is more than sufficient.  I kid!  I kid!

And fortitude can be understood as having courage and strength. Of course, it’s easy to have fortitude when things are going well and when you’re hanging out with your faith filled friends. But what happens the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with the temptation to sin? This is when fortitude is hard. But, of course, this is also when fortitude is most needed.

What about you?

Now, we all likely struggle with all of these root sins from time to time. But, one of these 3 root causes is likely your biggest issue. Perhaps it’s pride. Perhaps it’s vanity. Perhaps it’s sensuality. Whatever it is I’d encourage you to reflect on it before bringing it to confession (even if it’s not lead to mortal sin). You can then begin to formulate a plan for how to remove this “rot” from your soul. If needed, seeking out spiritual guidance may also add incredible value.

More help identifying your Root Sin

Finally, I’ve spent some time researching these 3 root sins. During this research I discovered this excellent list from Fr. John Bartunek. Give it a read to see if it helps you identify your primary root sin.

COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF PRIDE

  • too high an opinion of myself
  • annoyance with those who contradict me, brooking no contradictions
  • anger if I don’t get my way or am not taken into account
  • easily judgmental, putting others down, gossiping about them
  • slow to recognize my own mistakes, or to see when I hurt others, and inability to seek and give forgiveness
  • rage when others don’t thank me for favors
  • unwillingness to serve, rebellion against what I don’t like
  • impatience, distance, brusqueness in my daily contact with others
  • thinking I am the only one who knows how to do things right, unwillingness to let others help
  • inflated idea of my own intelligence and understanding, dismissing what I do not understand or what others see differently
  • not feeling a need for God, even though I do say prayers
  • nursing grudges, even in small matters
  • never taking orders
  • inflexible in preferences
  • always putting myself and my things first, indifference towards others and their needs,
  • never putting myself out for them
  • centering everything (conversation, choices..) on myself and my likes
  • calculating in my relations with God and with others

COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF VANITY

  • always seeking admiration and praise, worrying about not getting it
  • excessive concern about physical appearance
  • being guided by the opinions of others rather than principle (this is sometimes called “human respect”)
  • some types of shyness
  • sacrificing principles in order to fit in
  • placing too much a premium on popularity and acceptance
  • easily discouraged at my failures
  • taking pleasure in listening to gossip and hearing about others’ failures
  • always wanting to be the center of attention, at times stretching the truth, or lying
  • outright, or being uncharitable in my words in order to achieve this

COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF SENSUALITY

  • laziness
  • always the most comfortable, what requires least effort
  • not going the extra mile for others
  • procrastination, last-minute in everything
  • shoddiness, complaining, excessively affected by minor discomforts
  • inability to sacrifice
  • not doing my part at home
  • expecting everyone else to serve me always
  • behavior and decisions ruled by my feelings and moods instead of my principles
  • daydreaming a lot with self at center
  • unable to control my thoughts when they attract me, even if they are not good
  • doing only what I enjoy (choice of food, work, etc)
  • uncontrolled and overpowering curiosity, wanting to see and experience everything and every pleasure
  • my senses and impulses overrule what I know is right and wrong
  • acting out my feelings (frustrations, desires…) with no regard for my conscience, God or others
  • only working with those I like, being easily hurt
  • fickleness and inconstancy
  • can never finish what I start

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

Staying Awake Revisited

I’ve been thinking a lot about the our Lord’s Agony in the Garden.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “staying awake” for our Lord.

In fact, my plan for this article was to write about how we need to “stay awake” and not be so critical of the disciples who fell asleep since, you know, we’re far from perfect ourselves!

As I prepared to formulate my first sentence (the hardest sentence by the way) I stopped and asked myself, “Wait, have I already written about this?”  I honestly couldn’t remember so I decided to do a search at the top of our site.

Bam.  There it was. Stay Awake!  I wrote this article 2 years ago during Lent.  It was pretty cool to read it and realize that while I’d like to think I’ve grown spiritually since then I am still, very much, a work in process.  And I still contemplate the same thoughts.

So, if you haven’t read this Stay Awake article feel free to check it out.

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

WOD 030218

15 Minute EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute)

  • 8 KB Swings (post weight used in comments)
  • 5 burpees (be sure chest touches ground, both feet leave ground during jump, and hands clap above head after jump).  God is watching so no cheating reps!  🙂