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?

Think the election was tough…

So a lot has been going on in the world as of late. This election season has been especially energetic with both sides rallying hard to the finish. As has been true for the life of our Republic, a candidate has emerged as victor. Life continues. However, you would think that wasn’t the case with the responses seen from many college students. Safe spaces and coloring books a plenty, we have took a turn back to kindergarten. What are we doing?
This might sound a little insensitive but I would like to remind college students that life is tough. Nobody is sheltered from adversity nor should they be. What matters is not the burden we are given but how we handle it. When we give it to God, we can climb anything. When we don’t, we hide in fear to color in books for children. God says in Isiah, “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you.” What in your life can stand when the same Being that created volcanoes, blackholes, lions, and t-rex’s also says this to you? The same God who offers eternal life.
We grow through trials. Diamonds only become diamonds through pressure and heat. We need to look no further at the long line of people in our faith to put our lives in perspective. St. Steven, the first martyr, was the first disciple stoned for his faith. Peacefully not backing down to a crowd who ganged up on him. St. Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake, unjustly accused of witchcraft and treason. St. Eustace and his family was burned alive in a Brazen Bull for not fitting in and worshiping the pagan gods. St. Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, jailed, jailed again, beaten more, and kept getting up. Only to be beheaded. St. Ignatius of Antioch was transported across Europe with the same lions that he would be fed to at the end of his journey. St. Bartholomew was tortured and had his skin flayed off. St. Maximilian Kolbe offered to take the place of a father’s execution at Auschwitz and starved for two weeks before being injected by poison. This summer I listened to the live witness of an Iraqi bishop telling about the slaughter in his Diocese right now. Thousands are being martyred in Syria and Iraq for their faith.
The mentioned saints and martyrs are not just known for how they died in the face of adversity but how they lived for God. They didn’t fear punishment or death because they knew God was bigger than that. When St. Peter was condemned to death by crucifixion, he told his executioners that he wasn’t worthy of the death of Jesus and requested to be crucified upside down. He didn’t request crayola.
So no matter who you were rooting for in the election, take a look a these heroes of faith and countless others from when persecution is real and armed with teeth just to put things in perspective. Aspire to live gracefully and peacefully when it does happen. When the perceived slights and altercations of the world falls short of that pain, recognize that, and still live gracefully and peacefully.

 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Part 3: Happiness vs Joy

This is the third and last of a three part series on Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, wrapping up with happiness. Coming from the first line of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, these inalienable rights for all make up the foundation of our society. Not to be viewed as an ancient scroll but a living manifesto of the U.S., it is something that any shade of American can hold as their own. Left or Right, all people in the melting pot can subscribe to this. The Constitution is what sets it in practice. While the Constitution has mechanisms to adapt to the times, its strength comes from being nearly timeless. It’s important to note that these rights are not given by man but by the Creator or for you atheists out there, nature. The point is still sound; the Founders recognized a truth, a truth that mankind’s basic rights are not subject to the will of those who hold power. These are your rights. You own them. The original entitlement. This is what makes us, U.S.. Don’t throw them away. Embrace them for yourself and those around you.

I’ve been chewing on happiness for a while. This has been the most difficult of the three rights to write upon. What is happiness? Merriam-Webster defines it as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment of life, situation, etc,”.  Ok, that’s easy to grasp. Happiness is a vague and general term that can change from one person to another. There is no doubt when you feel it. If I were to ask you if you could recognize when you feel happy, you wouldn’t hesitate to answer, “yes”. You know what it is.

Ask yourself this, are you happy now? When was the last time you felt happy? Are you happy often? Don’t you deserve to be happy?

Now seriously, think about that for a second. Really. How often do you think about the happiness in your life? Do you lack happiness or are you overflowing with it? Why is that for you? Do you know why? Do you know the root cause of your happiness or lack of?

Defining what happiness is, is the easy part. Finding and maintaining it is difficult. I would like to define happiness into two categories. The first is what I think many confuse with the second, and that is a shallow, self serving, “happy”. A materialistic and consuming happiness. It’s the feeling you get when you go shopping and grab a new pair of shoes, get likes on Instagram for that cute selfie, or even a first date. When I say shallow, I don’t mean it in a deragatory way, just simply, that it lacks depth. It’s fleeting, circumstantial, and momentary.

The second, is a profound, selfless, purpose driven joy. It’s Love or service to others without repayment. This one is expensive however. Not in money of course, it’s a different kind of currency. A currency of the soul. It requires that you pay in time, attention, and dedication. It requires growth and perseverance.

Happiness is something that has been written about since the start of time for us. We the people though have been losing sight of what that means and have been confusing the selfie happiness for selfless joy. American’s are notorious for consuming. We consume materials, things, money, time, and people.

An abundance of likes is not equal to abundant joy. This isn’t a tirade on the shallow happiness and by no means seek to avoid it. It happens all the time. Just recognize it for what it is. What I am advocating, is the pursuit of joy. Dive deeper than the whimsical happy. Get your hands dirty. Commit your heart. Suffer the pain that can come from the risk of opening your soul.

As a man of faith, I draw unending joy from the pursuit of the power of God and the blessings put upon me, like my family and fiancé. I highly recommend it but if you’re not there, simply looking up from the phone or beyond the mall could be a great step for you.

The Forefathers knew that happiness is different for all. You have the right to pursue it anyway you choose. Free will is an awesome thing. However as a man who has chased the cheap and moved towards the deep, I recommend taking the dive.