Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vacation From God?

So, my father decided to join the blogosphere temporarily last week and wrote a Pastoral Reflection for It is a cool little reflection, so I've decided to rewrite it below.

See it online at:

Pastoral Reflections

"Vacation From God?"
By Rev. Fr. Robert Popichak

Ah, summertime! Each of us looks forward to the time of year where we get a break from our daily work and school routine.

In the United States, we call it vacation. Other countries call it holiday. Irrelevant of the name, it brings images of leisure time, travel, friends, family, and sometimes adventure.

Whether it is a trip to the shore, a cabin in the mountains, a tent in a park, a luxury hotel, or a cruise on the open seas, we all need a break from our normal routine to recharge our personal batteries. As each of us is different, we all have our own idea of what constitutes the best use of our time away from the office or the classroom.

As I write this, my family is preparing to go to a beach on the east coast for several days—our first true long vacation since our sons were born. Planning, sorting, arranging, packing—all of these take time and preparation. Maps are reviewed, online searches are made for attractions and sites of interest, arrangements to stop mail and newspaper delivery are made…all in the name of an orderly change. The destination is finalized, GPS loaded with our destination address, a temporary home is set for our Dachshund, and the car is packed…now what?

We spend a great deal of our lives looking forward to a break from the norm—whether it’s the typical long summer vacation from school or the ever-so-short week or two away from our jobs, it seems that planning for that getaway obsesses us for many weeks before the actual event.

Time away…from what? We never seem to give much thought about our spiritual lives when we plan a vacation…it’s just a Sunday or two missing church—God will understand! There are 50 other Sundays and other holy days to visit with Him…and of course, since He loves us, we don’t have to worry about Him! He’ll be right there when we get back…and if we need Him on our trip, He’ll be there as well!

Sometimes, we fail to plan for the most important part of our vacations—the spiritual recharge. My most restful, peaceful, relaxing, and recharging vacation was nearly twenty years ago. Pressures from my work were immense—the personalities were grinding my nerves to nothing—all was NOT WELL! I NEEDED a vacation!

For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I decided to visit a friend in Northeastern Pennsylvania—in the Pocono Mountains. Since their family worked as well, I would spend a weekend with them, then do something I had never thought of before—spend a week at a monastery! Arrangements were made and I arrived at the Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. I was shown to my room, met my mentor for the week, Hieromonk Juvenaly—the monastery librarian, then was given the schedule of services…beginning with compline, vespers, and dinner. Church services were nice—quiet, peaceful, NO PEWS! Dinner was quiet as well…and my night’s sleep as restful as I had ever experienced.

At 4 AM, the alarm went off, I got dressed, then up the hill in the dark to the chapel for Matins and Liturgy…which began at 5 AM! I went up the road in the dark—no hint yet of the sunrise. The church was empty except for a monk lighting candles…and the smell! Beeswax candles were burning throughout the church—it truly smelled heavenly. The silence filled everything as I stood in the back, just letting it permeate every cell in my body, until the arrival of other monks and laity. Matins and Liturgy were just a bit more special, the words a little clearer, the hymns a little easier to sing, the prayers ever so much more REAL.

At the end of the Liturgy, when I went forward to kiss the cross and receive the Antidoron, I truly did not want it to end. I had truly been transported away from every care and concern…to be with God for those few hours in His house. Throughout the days, it seemed that there were not enough services, so I spent extra time in the church, just breathing in the scent of the candles, looking at the light on the icons, and thinking about what I was doing there. I even thought about a monastic vocation! Father Juvenaly told me that the life of an Orthodox monk was not for me—I must say I was crushed emotionally…but he said not to worry, God had definite plans for my life!

Now, two decades later, I can honestly say His plans for my life were nothing close to mine. I have loved every moment of my priesthood, but still fondly travel back to my week with God. Just the thought of it makes me smile…to truly vacation with Him, on His terms, in His house! I can take a microvacation just by thinking back to the first morning Liturgy.

As we travel to our family vacation spot, I will still think of that week. Each of us has been given the opportunity to experience God’s love and creation every day of our lives. Do not pass up the chance to see Him in everything around you—trees, hills, water, birds, animals, clouds, rain, storms—all are His creation!

On your vacation, take a few minutes to thank Him for everything He has given you—your health, family friends, and all good things come from Him. Visit an Orthodox church where you find yourself—go in and look around, breathe in the smells, experience a slightly different view of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Recharge your batteries…and save those memories for when the snow flies!

May God grant you a safe journey, no matter where you roam, a safe return to home and family, and His Love and Protection along the way!

Originally Posted on July 11, 2012 at The Article was written by Fr. Robert Popichak for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America's
"Pastoral Reflections" Series. 
This entry appears here with permission from the author

Monday, July 16, 2012

Celebrating 3 Years!

Thank you so much for supporting my site! I'd like to especially thank all of my family and friends that have stuck with me since the start. If this published correctly, 6:30PM July the 16th marks THREE years that I've been blogging.

Got Bored... Made an Anniversary Logo

Friday, July 13, 2012

Walking into the Shot, Becoming a Photographer, and SIX THOUSAND VIEWS

Sample: Riding Shotgun Westbound on the Chesapeake Bay
Bridge in Maryland
Hello there! So I've been taking advantage of the sights around me and living life through the lens of the camera my brother found at a yard sale. This little thing takes fantastic pictures (see my sample) and I have been learning (through trial, error, and YouTube) to take better pictures as a semi-photographer.

What I've decided doing is from now on, attempting to illustrate whatever the heck I am talking about with pictures that I've taken. Granted, I can't wander aimlessly taking pictures of my whole life, but I can take pictures of some things.

I've been experimenting in a largely populated area which has a lot of awesome stuff to see, but it's one of those "you can see it, but you can't get there" area. So, I have to set the camera to super-hyper-shutter mode, and attempt to shoot from a car going at 30 or whatever through a windshield. To say the least, it's a challenge.

Anyway, one of the things that make it more challenging is people strolling right into the middle of your shot. As is, you may get one shot of the thing that you are highway-filming, and the last you need is a blur of old man in swimming suit, lack of shirt, and hat.

I am going to ask you (Most Pittsburghers are okay with this one) to look around as you're wandering in front of something semi-picturesque. If you see a photographer, STOP!!!!

I apologize for the brevity of this post. Hopefully pictures to come with the next one...\


On Friday the Thirteenth, this site hit 6,000 views. I'd like to thank everyone that has been here for the first 6,000, and I invite you to stick around for the next three years and 6,000 hits...

IF you have suggestions for what I should blog about... be it Pittsburgh, Scouts, Q&A, whatever, comment or shoot me an email!

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Adventure in Public Transit

So on Tuesday I went to WYEP. I know this seems semi-repetitive, but I promise, there's an actual story to this one!

So mother dropped me off at the Carnegie Station on the Busway on her way to work this past Tuesday. A few things to non-Pittsburghers- 1)The Busway is a magic highway reserved just for Port Authority buses devised to make routes actually be on time [I realize if they keep cutting, there will be no times, but that's an editorial for another time] 2)I have only ever taken public transportation like once before.

Carnegie is the end/startpoint of this magic Bussuperhighwaythingy so it was kind of comedic having to stand there and wait for a bus that was literally 50 yards away. Granted, it was already comedic being a teenager standing there in my Green Day t-shirt and shorts surrounded by gentlemen in dressclothes and black pants. ANYWAY! So bus gets there 10 minutes early and I need to ask for a transfer once I get on. The bus driver groaned at me and asked me to "PAY QUICKER, I don't have ALL DAY". First off, I am paying HIS paycheck. Second, YOU'RE TEN MINUTES EARLY.

Anyway, I get into town, get off at the wrong stop and have to walk two extra blocks before standing in wait for the next 51 to take me out of the city and to the South Side. I stand for a few minutes before hearing "Hey, Alex!" coming from behind me.

I have been in Pittsburgh for maybe 5 minutes.... and someone already recognizes me.

I turn around, and there's Matt from WYEP. Matt is one of the radio education team that helped put on the made-of-awesome Re(ImagiNATION) event, and I've known for nearly a year now.

Turns out he is waiting for the bus too, and apparently it was his first time on a city bus---granted, he's like 20 something.

So we sit and chat on our way to the South Side and get off at the stop a block away from WYEP and are greeted by a gentleman making a delivery to WYEP as well as my friend Lana and her mother... the Marketing Director of WYEP (too much awesomeness in one lobby).

In this brief moment I was reminded why I love doing this. Through putting up with the old angry bus drivers semi-early on a Tuesday morning. I do it to get together with perhaps the best crew I will ever be able to work with (no offense, WCHS... you never took me to Occupy Pittsburgh or sparked a band competition). And yet on that day, no one from the group was there except for the directors of our little project.

Matt told me that he would be DJing that night from 12midnight-4AM and wanted to pre-record two hours of it. I, jokingly, asked if I could come along. He said he would check. Unfortunately, none of the studios were open for pre-recording then...

The gentleman I had talked to going into the South Side almost put me on the radio.

I took the 48 back with him into town. We missed the first bus by like 45 seconds because it wasn't marked 51 (we probably could have chased it...). We parted ways and I took the 31 and walked the rest of the way home (I wasn't about to run into the grouchy busway driver again). Fresh on my mind was all I had done down at the station, who I've met in my short time down there so far, and just how awesome the next 3 years will be.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Getting Back in Tune with Society

So, in case you forgot to read or noticed that your email had a surprising lack of 2015Blogger post, I spent the last two weeks in the woods of first Ligonier, then Indiana Pennsylvania. The first was leadership training and the second was summer camp at my camp-away-from-camp SEPH MACK!!!

I will post later about my experiences at both (Sorry Kurt [Camp Director @ Seph Mack that knows about the site]). What I want to post about right now is this weird transition period from living out of a tent to living in a real house.

First things first, if you've never lived out of a tent for even a weekend, let me describe it. You sleep on the ground or in some cot, under a temporary shelter that sways with the wind, surrounded by the elements. DON'T carry food into your tent either, because the raccoons will get to it. Rain hits, you deal with it. Lightning strikes, you better hope you can find a shelter. Not fun. But you learn to deal with it.

Anyway, you usually pack either a backpack, duffel bag, or something of that sort. Because you can't get cell reception in the wilderness, you live with the clothes on your back and whatever you packed (hopefully you packed well). It's an interesting, serene, and very lonely feeling.

I did this for a few reasons. First, I wanted a detachment. You may recall from "Becoming Attached to Being Detached" ( May the 26th) That it is a welcome relief for me to be able to focus on nothing but real people, and my own self.

I asked Mr. Y (Scout Leader) before I left what it was all about, and he explained that it was a lot of "Soul Searching."

I am finding the adjustment easier to make, yet at the same time so different. Given the chance to do some soul searching and reflection on nothing but the past, present, and future has (at least I think) changed me for the better.

I had a tough time adjusting to running water (You'll see on my NYLT Day Two reflection how that came into play) as well as adjusting to not having bugs swarming around you (You snap into a camping routine about day 2).

The one thing I have been able to snap into is getting back in touch with texting my friend, writing blog posts, and in general, Interneting.