The Discipline Series: Exodus – The After Effects

It’s been three months since we completed Exodus 90, the length it took to go through it. My intention was to write more through the experience. However I hit a wall hard. I had to dig deep about half way through to stay on task and some things dropped. The Exodus disciplines, grinding through work, challenges raising a toddler, and finishing writing a book drained me out. I made it to the finish line but the intensity fried me out. In someways it reminded me of a long term Tough Mudder, you keep going and it hurts but when you get to the end you realize how worth while it was.

Day 90 was glorious. Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit and the breakfast of a million calories. We celebrated making the rigorous journey by sharing our last Brotherhood gathering together over food and drink. There was a sense of relief. I never did get use to the cold showers through the long Buffalo winter.

Looking ahead from that point, we all knew that we didn’t want to go back to the way things were before we started. While somethings would come back into daily rhythm we each had pieces we didn’t want back. I was slow to get back into electronics. I never would have guessed how much I used them as a crutch that killed my time and relationships. I completed writing a book and read more during the extra time. Not to mention connecting more creatively with Ani and Izzy. Working out, fasting, and watching my diet every day has greatly improved my physique.

Never had a better Lent too. I have never sacrificed like that before and the spiritual growth that came from it was excellent. Being in sync with the fasting Church made things easier. You felt the purpose behind it. Part of hitting the wall came from the transition from Lent to Easter then Ordinary Time. It became more difficult to explain and maintain focus after everyone else finished walking their Lenten fast. During Lent there was an excitement and general understanding from others. After? “You’re still doing that? Isn’t Lent over?” From Easter, 40 more days, “keep going”.

The Brotherhood consisted of some real warriors. A group of guys who fought through Exodus daily; praying with and for each other, sharing struggles, open to accountability, and our weekly Sunday gatherings consisting of exercise and conversation were a big highlight.

I would say the greatest piece I can walk away with from this experience, is the great appreciation of the Book of Exodus and how much of the Mass is reflected upon it. The daily reflections in our journey tying it all together helped me to see the greater picture between the Old Testament and the New; everything from Manna and the Eucharist, the priesthood, and how we build our churches. I highly recommend going through the Book of Exodus, even the tedious last leg of the book, and see it for yourself.

In the end, life has gone on but I can say that I have changed through the experience. Learning to say no to the things that seek our attention away from God and yes to Him Who is calling, is a powerful tool in your spiritual journey. With building a daily discipline of doing just that, you indeed become a strengthened instrument for the Lord.

The Discipline Series: Interview with a Youth Minister

I sat down with Jeremy Dolph on February 12 to discuss how he applies discipline in his life. As a new husband and leader as the Director of Youth Ministry at Sts. Peter & Paul in Hamburg, NY, Jeremy provides a perspective that is both relatable and fresh. When I first put the call out to interview people with something to say about the topic, he said, “If you’re looking to interview someone who’s considering Exodus 90, but who is also a huge chicken and scared of it… let me know!”

I thought that was a curious place to start. So here is the first interview on my blog with Jeremy Dolph.

A: Where do you see discipline fall short in your life?

J: I get excited for something then lose momentum. It happens in a downward spiral and it is easy to get discouraged. I start on an initiative and when I hit the first road block, stop. It’s difficult to overcome that first hill. I did a six week workout program awhile back where I had put money on the table. Either complete the program and get my money back or fail and lose it. That forced me to stay focused. My trainer also held me accountable during that six weeks and it kept me in the game. Felt good but after I finished the challenge and that accountability was up, I stopped.

A: Why do you think you stopped?

J: I don’t know. Following the quote from Pope Benedict XVI you sent me, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness,” I guess I like being comfortable. I feel like in a way, I’m ok being expendable. Like the 301st soldier in the Spartan army. ‘You 300 go ahead, I’ll stay here.’

A: Do you think this is the result of fear, laziness , or lack of will?

J: Definitely lack of will. I need something that I need to achieve but if I screw up, I get off track. It’s like if I screw up the day after Ash Wednesday, there goes the other 39 days of Lent. I think I avoid this whole process because of complacency. It’s easier to not start than to get down on myself about starting and failing. We can blame the devil or the way of the world but my will should be stronger than that.

A: How are you applying discipline to achieve your goals?

J: I don’t think the short boot camps are for me. I want little achievements to add up over the years. Making the daily sacrifices pay off. I can look back now and say that I am better now than I was before. Events in life have been the catalyst of small changes. I can see that looking back.

Getting married has made me a better man for example. It has changed my mindset from doing things because ‘I have to’, where now ‘I want to’. Household chores for example, dishes. I want to do them for my wife. Before, I’d just say “Hey, I’ll get back to it,” and have her do them. Now, I don’t want to let them sit for her. I got this.

I want to make more out of the day so I have been more intentional in my commute. Instead of learning the Spanish parts of ‘Despacito’, I’ve been digging into more podcasts and audiobooks. I’m learning to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ to things I do. Saying ‘yes’ to spending time to my wife requires me to say ‘no’ to staying later at work. I know this is small but before going to bed I put my watch, my wallet, and keys on the bed stand so I can be ready to go in the morning. It’s given me real practical results and I’m hoping these add up over the years.

Long term, I want to be a Saint. I’d love to walk that path that takes me to Heaven. Maybe this is a matter of pride but I’d love to have a church named after me. St. Jeremy’s parish maybe? Should I be thinking that? I’m just kidding of course but whatever that path is, I want to walk it. I need to be disciplined to do what God has called me to do. I’m reminded of the quote by William Law, “If you look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.”

A: You signed up for the Tough Mudder, how are you preparing for this?

J: Like I did for the “Couch to 5k” and pacing through training. If I can run for two minutes, I can do three tomorrow and move up from there. I have to start early though, like now, to be ready by summer. The plan was to start this week but I got sick so I’m planning on starting next week. I have a group of guys I had as prayer accountability partners that I’m reconnecting with. They’re going to push me through. I love accountability but hate being held accountable.

There are many ways to find and execute discipline in your life. Jeremy has shown the everyday pursuit and application of discipline in the little things. The big and brash boot camps can often psych ourselves out by compare-and-contrasting ourselves with an image of bravado. It can be intimidating and for many of us unattainable or unrealistic. I’m hoping with this series to uncover the disciplines we apply in our life to build our interior strength. So let’s apply that to virtue and grow stronger together.

As a husband and a leader, Jeremy has been building and growing intentionally all along. Don’t sell yourself short and take a realistic assessment of where you’re at.

What intimidates you?

Where are you victorious?

The Discipline Series: Exodus

I’ve been working over the past several years on my self-discipline. I heard a talk years ago at one of the Franciscan U. conferences about building discipline in your life. Being painfully unstructured in my early 20’s, I heard that as a call to arms. It was already a hunger but I didn’t know how to put it into words or action. The speaker, ex-military, spoke of starting your day off right by making your bed well. Every single day. Even days you just don’t feel like doing it and build off of that.

So I did.

Started off strong but as days turned into weeks I noticed I started losing the will to keep at it. I recognized that desire to quit. It was something I was familiar with. I’d get excited about something, get started, then move on to something else. Not everything was like that however. There were enough things in my life that I was keeping up on. Just enough to make me feel consistent but I was fooling myself.

I began to realize I was losing time and burning opportunity to be the best I could be. I realized I wasn’t living as what Matthew Kelly would call “the-best-version-of-yourself”. The most capable version of myself that God had designed. If God truly built me for more than I was being, then how would I get there?

That answer has been lying in the hard fought battle of prayer and self-discipline; prayer providing the compass and discipline as the engine. Jocko Willink, ex-SEAL and entrepreneur, defines discipline in his “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” as such,

Discipline: The root of all good qualities. The driver of daily execution. The core principle that over comes laziness and lethargy and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: Not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.

While I am far ahead of where I was, I feel like I am just getting started. Starting February 15th I will be starting an intense 90 day regimen focusing on asceticism and physical discipline with a program called Exodus90. I will be shedding the niceties and distractions of life like warm showers, sugar, and social media (except for work). In addition to what will be cut, it will include rigorous physical and spiritual exercise. Lastly, a small group of us will keep each other accountable. All of this is designed to wrench out vices and build virtue in men.

I’m building a small band of guys looking to enhance the same thing in their life. Calling it “The Brotherhood”, we’ll keep each other accountable with a group chat and weekly meet up. This will be the most challenging Lent yet but as one of the Brothers have said, “Let’s make this the best Lent ever!”. Definitely not your “I’m giving up chocolate,” kind of fast.

I feel as if the Holy Spirit has been leading me further down this road, so appropriately, the 90 days end with Pentecost. I’m hoping this will be the start of a series on the topic of discipline. I will try something new with the blog by interviewing other men in what it means to been disciplined in their life. I will also be cataloging the 90 days periodically through our young adult Instagram account for St. Greg’s, @stgregsyouth (that’s the work element) with the intention that our test group will serve as an example for future endeavors. Stay tuned for more.

Check out Exodus90.com for more information.