90 Day Asceticism/Prayer Challenge

A friend invited me to join him and a few of our other buddies on a 90 day asceticism/prayer challenge called Exodus 90.

I’d felt that my prayer life was rote and lukewarm for some time, so to get this invitation and join was a blessing. It’s been the first time in a long while that I’ve had a good long freeform talk with God.

A few of the ascetic disciplines we have to take up daily:

  • Take short, cold showers
  • Regular, intense exercise at least 3x/week
  • Get a full night’s sleep (at least 7 hours)
  • Abstain from alcohol.
  • Abstain from desserts and sweets.
  • Abstain from eating between meals.
  • Abstain from soda or sweet drinks (white milk, black coffee, and black tea are permissible).
  • Abstain from television, movies, or televised sports.
  • Abstain from video games.
  • Abstain from non-essential material purchases. 
  • Only listen to music that lifts the soul to God.
  • Only use the computer for work, school, or essential tasks (e.g., paying bills).
  • Only use mobile devices for essential communications; cut non-essential texting, app, and internet use. 
  • Take Wednesdays and Fridays as days of fasting. (Abstain from meat and only eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.)

There are some exceptions to this list: On Sundays and holy days, we are allowed to relax one discipline. We also check in with each other daily on how we’re doing and share our challenges/struggles.

The tough ones for me are cutting out movies, snacks, and podcasts. But I’m doing a lot more reading and am more involved with my kids now, so that’s great.

It’s been challenging so far, but rewarding. My wife told me she noticed a big change already: “You’re more there, more attentive, and less absorbed with your phone.” She loves it and it makes me happy too. I feel calmer and more relaxed throughout the day. A couple days after stopping snacks and sugars, my average resting heart rate went down too.

There’s a version for women too, called Fiat 90. My wife hasn’t tried it but it looks good.

One criticism of the Exodus 90 program that I’ve seen is that it does nothing for your life on day 91 and beyond. The creators have updated the program though, with a plan for day 91+. We’ll see how it goes!

Origin of the Glory Be Doxology

One of the prayers I try to say every day is the Glory Be:

Glory be to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning
is now, and ever shall be
world without end. Amen.

This is a doxology, or a liturgical formula of praise to God.  The Glory Be has been used in a form similar to what we see above since around the year 529, but it actually comes straight from Sacred Scripture.  For example, see 1 Chron 29:11, Phil 4:20, and 2 Cor 13:14.

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From Catholic Answers: If at any point in our lives, in joy or in sorrow, in the middle of troubles or struggles, in hope and in fear, when perhaps we cannot find the words, we can always pray perfectly that God may be glorified always, and so we will be praying for all we really want. In a way, we will be praying as God “prays,” since the Savior prayed in the face of his deepest suffering, “Now, Father, glorify your Son with the glory he had before the world began”—that is, “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

 

Siena Cathedral

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Siena, Italy, check out the magnificent Siena Cathedral:

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It’s a seriously impressive church built in medieval times.  Inside, you’ll find the chapel of Saint John the Baptist and numerous works of art, including some from Bernini and a  young Michelangelo.

Depending on whether you go during peak tourist season or not, admission is either free or around 8 euro.  Recommended!

Art from the Vatican Museum

My wife and I visited the Vatican Museum a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  From a couple of the windows, you can even peek out on the Pope’s private gardens.  And you can of course enjoy all the wonderful artwork, for example this one showing the Body and Blood of Christ held aloft:

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If anyone knows who painted this, please let me know so I can update this post.  (I didn’t capture the name of the artist at the time.)

The Passion of the Christ Free on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Roku

Amazon is offering The Passion of the Christ movie free on Prime video.  (Vudu and Roku also have it for free, with ads.)

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Perfect movie for Good Friday.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching!

Update: As of June 2020, Amazon, Vudu, and Roku no longer have this movie available for free.  The cheapest place you can currently watch it is Redbox Streaming, for $2.99.

 

Trinity Church in Manhattan, New York

On a visit to New York City a while back, we stopped by Trinity Church.  It’s a beautiful place.  It’s will be nice when churches across the world re-open their doors after it’s safe to do so.   There are a lot of people itching to get back, perhaps for the first time in years.

My little daughter asks every day if it’s “church Sunday”, and I have to say “not yet”.  :/

In the meantime, while we wait out SARS-CoV-2, Bishop Robert Barron offers short Daily Mass videos.  And we can always honor God by performing Spiritual Communion.

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The Rational Bible: Exodus

Just started reading my first Dennis Prager book: The Rational Bible: Exodus. A couple quotes really stuck out to me:

Fear of God—when that God is the moral God of the Torah, the God of the Ten Commandments, the God Who commanded, “Love your neighbor as yourself”—is necessary to make a society of moral individuals. Of course, there are moral atheists, just as there were moral pagans, and moral individuals in even the worst cultures. But you cannot build a good world with a handful of individuals who happen to be good people. You need a universal moral code from a universal God Who is the source of that moral code, and this God must judge all people accordingly.

Consequently, “fear of God” is as inevitable as it is necessary. If God judges how moral we are, of course there will be fear of Him—just as there is of a human judge. Conversely, if God does not judge people, there is no reason to fear Him.

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Really good book so far; in the first chapter alone, there have been several “a-ha!” moments aiding my understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the Bible. Recommended.

MyFitnessPal (Premium) vs. The No S Diet

I needed to lose 10 pounds and tried out MyFitnessPal again, after several years of not using it.  This time, I tried the Premium trial, so I’m getting all the features and stats.

I’m reminded of why I quit using MyFitnessPal years ago.  If you’re not eating the same thing every day, MyFitnessPal is a time sink.  Expect to spend at least 5 minutes before or after every meal, scanning bar codes and weighing foods on the kitchen scale.  Then you’re worrying about what combo of nutrients you need or whether you’re going to exceed your carb/fat/protein quotas for the day/week.

As an aside, I’m reminded of Luke 12:22-23, [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Of course, if you continue reading, you’ll see Jesus is talking about finding food to eat at all, and trusting God to provide nourishment, rather than worrying about where your next meal will come from.

But I digress.  If you want to lose weight, or just maintain your ideal weight, you need something easy to stick with. Something that doesn’t require you to become a “full time calorie accountant.”  The free No S Diet, created by Reinhard Engels, does just this.  The whole diet is explained in one sentence: No snacks, sweets, or seconds, except on days that start with S.  That’s it!

You don’t need to buy anything to get started with it.  It’s not time consuming.  It’s easy to stick with.  No S really works.  It actually works a little too well – I lost 30 pounds the last time I used it, 15 pounds under what I wanted to be.  So I’m taking it easy this time.

I’m getting rid of MyFitnessPal again.  It’s neat to look at the stats, but Premium is not at all worth it at $50-$100+/year, at least for me.  If you really love counting calories though, it might work for you.

This time, I’m combining No S with aspects of the Shoku Iku Japanese food philosophy.  Basically, aim for 3-5 colors on every plate.  If you eat a heavy meal, balance it out with a light one the next time you eat.  Easy stuff.

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Poke Bowl

Working Hard or Hardly Working? Colossians 3:23, and the 7th Commandment

Many years ago, when I was young and working the second real job I had ever held, I bought a portable Zip drive so I could download files at work that were too large for my home Internet connection to handle.  My boss noticed the bright blue drive and asked why I had brought that in.  When I told him, he laughed at me disapprovingly.  He was disappointed in me, and rightfully so.  I felt ashamed, and learned a lesson. Like viewing non-work-related web sites during work hours at this particular company, it was not an appropriate use of work resources, and I should have known better.

One of the special graces Catholics have available is the ability to go to confession, contritely confess all of the sins you can remember, and be completely forgiven.

But how do you remember all the sins you committed?  Some people prepare for confession by going through The Ten Commandments and asking themselves whether they broke any of them.  The seventh commandment is “Thou shall not steal.”

My pastor told the congregation one day, “You may think you haven’t stolen anything, but what about stealing from your employer?  Taking office supplies is obvious theft, but did you know wasting time that your employer pays you for is a form of stealing too?”  This really hit home for me.

I don’t think there’s a person alive that has not looked at a non-work-related web site at work.  If you want to use some of your break time to take a peek at your email or the news, I don’t see a problem, and most bosses don’t either.  Many companies, especially on the west coast, even encourage non-work related activity at work, as long as you actually get your work done on time.

But if you’re extending your breaks or interrupting your work for hours to play games or read non-work related news, social media, or otherwise procrastinate on the real work you have to do, there’s a problem.

I knew one guy who watched Netflix when he should have been answering support tickets.  The result was predictable: customer unhappiness and increased stress on co-workers.  The customers that had written in expecting replies from him got delayed responses, and others on the team had to pick up the slack.  He was a knowledgeable and helpful worker when he wanted to be, but just didn’t have the right attitude.

Everyone has temptations to procrastinate sometimes.  When I get tempted, I try and bring to mind this verse:

“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men …” – Colossians 3:23

Another way of saying this is, “Make sure you bust your butt, because you really work for the Lord.”

The average person puts in about 3 hours per day of actual productive work.  Be better than average.  Do your best.  I keep myself honest by tracking my time at work using a tool called RescueTime.  Here’s an example of RescueTime in action:

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I also motivate myself by trying to get my hardest task out of the way first, before anything else is done in the day.  This concept is called eating the frog.  Block out an hour of your time first thing in the morning and eat that frog.  You’ll feel great for the rest of the day because you got your hardest task out of the way.