Exodus

When making any life-altering decisions, we’ve really got to question our motives. If our motivation for change isn’t really worthwhile then we are likely to fall off the wagon sooner rather than later.

Beginning about mid-February I had come upon another weight loss plateau. I didn’t have to look very far to see that this latest pause in progress was self-inflicted. I began to increase my carb intake ever so slightly. Going into this plateau I was about 20 lbs down from my starting weight. Two weeks later? I was still 20 lbs down. I began a struggle with my will power; it seemed as though I had lost my resolve to just stick to the program.

I began to realize that my weight loss “for my family” was a thinly-veiled disguise for my own vain ambitions of getting fit again. I didn’t just want to be healthier, I wanted to look good. I wanted to regain some semblance of self-confidence that I hadn’t felt in years. I’m not here to tell you that these are entirely bad motivations. In fact, they are quite reasonable for any man. Confidence is a good thing.

But I was doing it again; I was falling back into the same old mentality. I was living for myself.

In the latter part of last year, I had stumbled upon a blog post by Taylor Marshall, of the New Saint Thomas Institute, wherein he mentioned all of the benefits that had come from a ninety day program called Exodus 90. I remember thinking to myself, “I want that.”

So I slowly began to research the program and had come to the firm decision that I was to begin on March 1st. Ash Wednesday. This regimen which includes moderate ascetic practices, daily exercises, prayer and reflection, and weekly accountability meetings, was just what I needed. It was almost perfect timing that my decision to begin at the outset of Lent came on the heels of me slipping away from my new low-carb lifestyle.

Exodus 90 for me was not going to focus on how I looked in the mirror; it was going to be about who I am as a Husband, a Father, a Friend, and, most importantly, as a Catholic. Today (March 7th) is Day 7. Our fraternity, which includes me and three other guys, has already had our first meeting and we are off to a great start. The literature that accompanies this 90-day challenge warns us time and time again that while this program starts out “easy” that this Exodus will be anything but easy. I am not only part of a fraternity of four guys, but of a larger community of 1700+ men who have already gone through their own Exodus.

To give you a quick overview as to what my Exodus looks like, here’s a bulleted list of what I am giving up with brief explanations:

  • To combat my love of comfort: Cold/Lukewarm showers only, No snacks between meals, No sweetened beverages, No alcohol, Abstinence & Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, No desserts or sweets, regular and intense exercise
  • To combat my addictive tendencies: Computer/Mobile Devices for work/research purposes only (i.e. no social media, etc.), no television (this includes movies and Netflix), Only music that lifts the soul to God, no major material purchases (beyond toiletries)
  • For my wellbeing: Commitment to getting seven hours of sleep each night (harder than you might think), Weekly accountability meetings with your fraternity (small group), Make time for regular holy hour (aka the two hours I spend commuting each day, now without radio)

Why did I list everything?

Not to gloat. Not to prove anything, but to inspire.

Maybe someone will end up reading this who is also in need of a change, just like me. I wanted to disclose the Exodus 90 system in this way to show you that it is no joke, and there will be countless reasons to quit or to not take the challenge at all.

“I just can’t give up social media. I need it for…”

“No hot showers? Are you kidding me?”

“But I’m not even Catholic! So why would I…”

There are endless reasons why someone should NOT do Exodus 90.

I’m doing it for my freedom, because an unhealthy attachment to worldly goods limits my capacity to give of myself and live for others. I’m doing it to get my life back, and to give God control over everything. I’m doing it for happiness and health. I’m doing it for my own salvation.

If these types of improvements don’t sound desirable, then Exodus is not for you.

I do, however, ask that you remember me in your prayers.

Progress Report: As of 3/7/2017, I have lost 24 lbs.

On the Wrong Side of History.

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Being “on the wrong side of history” is a phrase that finds its way into the media from time to time. When asked why someone would support controversial issues, such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and even the legalization of marijuana, this is a defense to which they often cling. Such a defense has even found its way into the pulpit, the sermon, the homily, and even the Christian blogosphere.

There seems to exist a new breed of Christian in western culture. A politically correct Christian of sorts, who will go so far as to redefine their understanding of the faith in order to avoid being “on the wrong side of history…”  Don’t get me wrong, quite the case has been established to support this way of thinking. Extremist groups such as the KKK and more recently, Westboro Baptist Church have both come under the guise of “doing the work of God.” As we learned, both during and after the fact, all Christians supporting these causes were certainly, on the wrong side of history. Add to these two blemishes, the grossly ill-perceived crusades, the sex-abuse scandals, among other things and anyone would seemingly be justified in their opinions towards Christianity.

Continue reading “On the Wrong Side of History.”

A “No Win Situation”.

Converts to the Catholic faith come in many different forms. I, in particular, would be considered a convert of the over-zealous variety. My conversion story (available in a bookstore near you, late 2015) (hopefully) is one of an evangelical protestant who initially set out to settle the debate and disprove Catholicism once and for all. God had a different outcome in mind… In any sense, I was the protestant that most cradle Catholics would never hope to encounter. I was hard-headed and faithful to the teachings of the evangelical tradition. Disdain for the Catholic faith was a part of my Christian upbringing.

Since joining the Church, I will often encounter various forms of my former self. I am not the most learned Convert but I am becoming somewhat of a burgeoning bibliophile in terms of Catholic literature. I hate to read… so this is a big deal. Periodically, I’ll find myself lodged in a debate over theology or social teaching and about half of the time I’ll come out victorious by social media debate standards. The other half results when I either get blindsided, consequently directing my independent reading in a new direction to safeguard against that in the future or I’ll be in a no-win situation. This is when the person I am debating has taken serious issue with the Catholic Church altogether. Part of the time this will result in a blatant refusal of truth on their behalf or my arguments could not stand up against their concerns. In the later of these situations, the best remedy is just to be there.

As a Catholic and an apologist-in-training I will never have all the answers and sometimes the answers will never be enough. There may come a time when you will find yourself with your back up against the wall and the only way forward is to make peace, accept it as a moment to grow in humility and offer up kindness. Whatever ends up happening, we must never stop praying for our brothers and sisters of different faiths (or no faith at all).

Religion = Relationship

Jesus assures us that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. St. Paul asserts in his writings that a freedom exists in the life of a Christian. Wouldn’t it make more sense that St. Paul was not inviting us to abandon a moral and holy lifestyle but to embrace love instead of legalism?

“God did not ask us to follow Him because He needed our help, but because He knew that loving Him would make us whole.”   -St. Irenaeus of Lyons

I think it’s important to consider that religion (adherence to a set of beliefs) and legalism (the position that obedience to the law is the pre-eminent principle of redemption) are not the same. Religion, for most Catholics and orthodox Christian traditions is very much rooted in love and devotion to a merciful God. Additionally, there are many cases when a believer proclaims “Relationship!” over their view of religion with an ulterior motive in mind. It is no secret that the downside to the common, misguided view of religion exists in all of the restrictive rules and regulations.

Love, in its purest form is the gift of self to another, a sacrificial lifestyle. When we choose to view all of the sacrifices required of us in Christianity as obligations and not as acts of devotion, our views take on a legalistic identity. Furthermore, throwing out all of the ‘rules’ for a more basic, free-form gospel is not the remedy for religion but a perpetuation of misinformed opinions. Maybe, if we gave up everything, took up our cross, and followed Christ we would experience true freedom? All because we did it out of devotion and not of duty? As we continue to walk with Christ, we will find that a life lived in Christ is much more demanding of us than a life lived in obligation. All Christians would do well to ecumenically say “it’s not legalism, it’s love” as opposed to “it’s not religion, it’s relationship”. As these two statements are not the same in any regard.