Category Archives: spiritual

Orthodox Men’s Retreats

Here we are again to reflect on a retreat for neither the first or the last time. Though, it is the first time I’m reflecting specifically on an Orthodox Christian Men’s retreat. I feel like this was a thing that I needed to experience but didn’t really even realize that I needed to experience it until after it happened.

First I must say I am very thankful to two different Michaels that I was able to attend at all – I met Michael Mason through the singles retreat the week before, and he let me know about a ticket that was available through Michael Baclig, who was heading up the retreat. I quickly made the decision that I would try to attend and was able to get off work and make necessary arrangements. My decision to go was also influenced by the fact that Fr. Stephen De Young was on the schedule, and so I am thankful that he was going as well, because I might not have been able to convince myself I wanted to make a 10 hour drive otherwise. I’ve been listening to Lord of Spirits from the beginning, and while I’d met Fr Andrew several times, I’d never seen Fr. Stephen prior, so it seemed like a good opportunity. I’m glad for that because while I wasn’t familiar with the other speakers, I was very grateful to be introduced to them.

I found the talks all to be very valuable, and it really connected in with some of my goals for the immediate future. Recently I’ve been really trying to think of ways to build community in my parish, and between the talks and conversations with other attendees, I got so many ideas for this. I really appreciated Fr Stephen’s analogy to how one goes to sleep: “lay down and pretend like you’re asleep until you’re actually asleep”. That solidified in my head what I plan to do for the small group I’ll be leading starting next week. I’ve got a few people that are lined up to attend, but I’ve told all of them: hey, I’m going to be there no matter what. If no one else shows up, I’ll sit there alone and read a book for an hour, but if even a single other person shows up we’re going to have some fellowship and conversation.

For my personal life, in the realm of what I’m willing to share publicly, thinking about the types of work that we do and the relative fulfillment from them further confirmed for me that I really need to focus on creative endeavors this year. My job is fine, but I don’t really find it fulfilling – the most that there is that I can point to and say “I did that” is something like “well, there are fewer vulnerabilities on these computers than there were when I scanned them last time” or “hey, it’s been another week with no ransomware attack!” It’s time that I got disciplined about my desire for storytelling and actually completed a writing project. That’s part of the reason I’ve committed to the reading goals I did for the year – If I’m immersed in reading, it will help in writing.

If I have any criticism of the event, it is only that it was perhaps too structured. There was always something that you should be doing. I don’t think it should be loosened up too much, but a little more breathing room throughout the day would have been nice. It was a great event though, I was so glad that I went.

Orthodox Singles Retreats

It’s now the second day after the first ever Ancient Faith Orthodox Christian Singles retreat, and I thought perhaps I’d turn to my poor, neglected blog to do some reflection on what transpired there from my own perspective. So here it comes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (There’s no ugly… well, except perhaps for myself).

Overall it was a really good experience. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with a lot of people. Everyone was very friendly. I met some people that I really hope will become long term friends and not just people that exist on my Facebook timeline. Only time can tell that, really. Also I got some contact info from a few of the ladies that maybe/hopefully could lead to something down the road – no sparks flew right off the bat for me, but as I get to know them better I hope to at least develop a friendship and I’m open/hopeful for one of those friendships to develop into something more.

Going into this retreat I was very cognizant of trying to manage my expectations, and to keep them as low as possible. Of course, hope springs eternal, and keeping the idea that maybe this will be the time that everything I’ve wanted for years suddenly comes to fruition completely out of mind and subdued is something that is nigh impossible. That said, I successfully negotiated myself down to “if I leave this with a greater sense of Orthodox community, it will have been a success.” I do think that is achieved. Since coming home, I have been in touch with a few folks from the retreat, and it is my hope that it continues. In a certain sense, it is too early to call, as this may be a short-lived post-retreat reality and a month or two from now I’ll be completely out of contact with all of those people, but it is my hope and prayer that is not the case.

Aside from that, I was surprised at the spiritual renewal I experienced as part of the retreat. I feel like something clicked in me and I have an understanding I didn’t possess before. It’s something that would be difficult to put into words, because it is all based on things I had heard a million times before, and I don’t think the intellectual understanding has really changed – it feels more like a change in my spirit. I’ve struggled a very long time with periods of despondency, and it has caused other setbacks and strife in my life. Despondency breeds despondency. It’s part of the reason why as much as I looked forward to this retreat I dreaded an outcome that was negative and substantially less than what I had an expectation for. It’s why I tried so hard to mitigate my expectations beforehand. I didn’t want to leave the retreat, and come home, and feel the dread of despondency.

That fear was very real for me, as my previous experience at the Antiochian Village had ended that way. I enjoyed my time at Adult Camp in 2022 (for the most part), but the reality is that when I came home I felt miserable and was immersed in feelings of despair. I hadn’t found anything close to what I was looking for. Even the small handful of people I initially had a small amount of communication with quickly fell off the map. I had a real spiritual struggle, and while I felt like in some ways I worked my way through some inner turmoil, by and large it felt like a spiritual regression in the weeks and months following. None of this is the fault of anyone at Antiochian Village, it was all part of my personal struggles, and some interactions with some of the campers there – or at least my perception of those interactions.

So far, the aftermath in my personal life of these two events is markedly different, and I hope that it remains so. As this will be posted to Facebook, many of the retreat attendees will have access to read it, though, who knows whether or not they will. My general assumption is that no one reads any of these, ever. When I write here, it is for myself, though of course I don’t write anything I’m not comfortable with being public knowledge. If any of you do find your way here, please feel free to share your own experience, whether in the Facebook comments or the comments here on this WordPress blog.

I hope that others experienced the same sort of change that I did, and left with a sense of peace and hope rather than despair.