New Podcast! On the Waves: Engaging the World

New Podcast! On the Waves: Engaging the World


“On the Waves” is back with our new Podcast Assistant Student, Nathan Jekel. This year he’ll be spending time with OCF alumni Maria McClatchey and Andrew Abboud discussing topics related to everyday college life. Today, they talk about what it means to be “on the waves” and what it means for our Christian lives. They also give a preview of this year’s topics, and ask for your ideas, too! You can email Nathan at with your questions and comments.

Click here to listen!

Nothing Greater than Great Lent: Told by Snapchat and a Busy College Student

Nothing Greater than Great Lent: Told by Snapchat and a Busy College Student

Great Lent. It’s pretty much the best time of the year. Growing up, I always got super excited when Lent rolled around for some of these reasons:

1. You get to sing all your favorite hymns.

2. There are more opportunities to attend church services.

3. Prostrations = working out

4. It made me thankful for everyday things, like having a regular glass of milk.

5. Lenten food, despite being simple, is actually really good. (Editor’s note: agree to disagree)

6. There are more opportunities to receive Holy Communion.

7. And when Pascha finally comes, Lent teaches you how to feast.

But when I got to university, Lent became a little different. Scheduling in the services became much more difficult with my classes, finding Lenten food on campus is a daunting task, and my professors wouldn’t accept “I was at church” as a reasonable response for not having an assignment done, like my teachers at my Christian high school did. I remember one time talking with one of my non-Orthodox friends and casually naming off church services that I attend during Lent. “Wow,” she said, “How on earth do you have the time for that? I definitely don’t.”

You know what? Maybe my friend is right. Maybe I don’t have time for Lent. Maybe I’m just a little too busy this year. It’s March, and the list of assignments, tests, and extra-curricular events is piling up in my planner (not to mention the fact that it’s the end of the school year and I’m starting to feel pretty burned out). Right now, I want to be living from church service to church service, but the reality is I am sometimes living from deadline to deadline. What am I supposed to do?

I’m going to give it everything I possibly can.

You know why? Someday, that assignment, that test, that extra-curricular activity–none of it will matter. The time I spent praying, going to church, fasting, and serving others will. By the world’s standards, I absolutely do not have time for Lent, but we need this time of preparation more than we could ever possibly know. And no, the Snapchats I posted really can’t describe how beautiful and awe-inspiring this season is.  

Many things have changed in my life, but when I say the Prayer of Saint Ephrem or sing one of the hymns during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, I feel as though nothing has ever changed. You see, we are most ourselves during Lent. Praying, going to church, giving alms, fasting, serving others–you will never be more human than in those moments. Yes, our other commitments are important, and I do not want to undermine the importance of those activities, but nothing ever is more important than church.

One of my fellow Blog Contributors, Paul, recently told me that one time, after he missed a Presanctified Liturgy many years ago, he told his priest, “I’m sorry I couldn’t come Wednesday, I had a few assignments and knew I needed to finish them and get some sleep.” His priest  responded, “That’s fine, but remember that when you come to church, it elevates your soul, and it often takes the body with it.” There’s nothing we need more than the healing Christ can give us if we allow Him to do so.

So please, I don’t know who you are or what your situation is, but I ask you not to let this opportunity to be the most human you can be pass you by. Don’t let our churches be filled with kids, teenagers, young professionals, middle-aged adults, and senior citizens, but empty of college students because this is one of the busiest points of the year for us. My dad’s a priest, and one thing I’ve always heard him tell his parishioners is that by the end of Lent we should be different people. And why would we not be different people? If we allow Lent to be a season of prayer and repentance, of course we will not be the same.

I’m not even going to try to advise you on what your Lenten discipline should look like, because that should be between you and those involved in your life. But I ask you to seriously consider doing something! If you have not started yet, it is never too late to start. When the Paschal homily of Saint John Chrysostom is read on Pascha, I am always amazed by these words:  

If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

If you have not begun your Lenten discipline yet, do not be afraid to start now.

College offers us so many amazing opportunities. It is pretty much common sense to know that we need to take the chance to have these experiences before we move on to a different phase of life. Some of these experiences are experiences of a lifetime. But Lent is even far more fulfilling than anything college could ever offer us, definitely much more profound than sending each other Snapchats of our fasting food and far beyond all human comprehension. So when the priest opens the church doors on Pascha, I pray that we will enter the church prepared for the feast, knowing that nothing in life is comparable to witnessing the glory of God.

All Snapchats were used with permission.

Anastasia Lysack in her third year of her Music degree at the University of Ottawa. She attends Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa, where she teaches Sunday School and sings in the choir. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, volunteering, and visiting just about any coffee shop in the city of Ottawa.


New Year New Me | 4 New Habits to Build This Year

New Year New Me | 4 New Habits to Build This Year

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 2017! I’d like to start off by saying that many of us (myself included) will turn twenty this year, and that is the silliest thing I have ever heard. My number is gonna start with a two. Two is an adult number. You could do ridiculous things when you were nineteen and people would be like, “It’s fine, guys: his number starts with a one…you know, he’s still young, he makes mistakes, it’s okay.” But if you do ridiculous things now people are like, “Hey! Your number starts with a two now. You can’t be a doofus anymore. Time to shape up.” Scary, man.

Re-centering our focus, it’s 2017, and if you’re not back at school already, you’ll be heading there shortly. After breaks, we always return to school rejuvenated–at least, that’s the hope and intention. In our revitalization, we have the opportunity to make and adhere to new resolutions, more austere resolutions, that we may have failed to achieve later in the semester, browbeaten by the rigors of college life.

Of course, this return has the added brunt of the new year–the opportunity to demonstrate the tangible individual change from the person you were in 2016 to the person you will become in 2017. Some of you may have resolved to accomplish certain things; others may have foregone the opportunity. Regardless of which year it is, from where you are returning, and where you are heading, I want to give you some resolutions you can pursue, some reasons to pursue them, and how to get started. Here we go:

1. Read a book

I don’t know a better way to get smarter faster than by reading. The people who teach you things learned those things from a person who read a book, or they learned it from reading the book that someone wrote. Think about all the learning you do on an average day. The majority comes from reading articles or reading books for class or listening to someone speak on a topic they understand–they are well-read, as it were.

Eric Thomas is a pastor and motivational speaker who likes to say that “knowledge is the new money.” I don’t really know what this means, besides the fact that knowledge has value. The speakers you listen to might be limited to the people you know, but the books to which you have access–unfathomable depths of knowledge, man.

Concrete things to try:

  1. Ask your priest/spiritual father for a good spiritual book to read–and recommend to your OCF chapter president that the entire chapter read it together, occasionally meeting for discussion.
    1. No OCF chapter? Hit up a friend, show them this blog, and read with them.
      1. No friends? Oh, c’mon. Hit me up at
  2. Do you regularly watch Netflix before you go to sleep? While you eat meals? Replace your dead show time with a book for one week straight and see how you feel.
  3. Start small (less than 250/300 pages) and only commit small chunks of time per day (30 minutes).
  4. Find a topic in which you’re really interested
    1. A lot of comedians write hysterical books, fyi.

2. Read the Book

If you were fortunate enough to attend College Conference East, Fr. Bogdan Bucir gave an incredible talk about reading the Bible as Orthodox Christians. Daily scriptural reading supplements and informs our faith. It contextualizes many familiar prayers and hymns. It purifies our mind and infuses our day with life, especially when we do it in the morning.

It’s tough to fully experience the Church without attending divine services regularly, participating in the sacramental life, praying, fasting, and reading Scripture daily. Quite simply, daily Scripture reading is part of the prescription given to Orthodox Christians by the church fathers–when we neglect it, we neglect caring for the roots of our faith. It’s a dangerous proposition.

A lot of students don’t read the Bible every day–or, you know, ever. That’s okay. Don’t be like a lot of students. Be like Christ.

Concrete things to try:

  1. Download the DailyReadings app from the Play Store or App Store. It tells you the fasting prescriptions of the day, the saints and feasts of the day, and the daily Epistle and Gospel readings. Nice.
  2. Download a Bible app that either has the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or New King James Version (NKSV). These are the two accepted translations of the Orthodox Church. This is the app I use (for Android). I can bookmark and favorite and stuff. Still nice.
  3. Check out the website My Bible Plans. It lets you create a custom Bible reading plan with which books you want to read, and over how many days you’d like to read those books. It gives you an iCal feed that you can easily hook up to your Google Calendar, or will send you an email every morning with your chapters for that day (in English Standard Version, so use your app from #2 to read the right version)
  4. Set a time every day to read the Bible. Don’t just add it to the to-do list. It’ll fall off as the world overwhelms you. My time is every morning, after I wake up. Chose a time and stick to it.

3. Smile

via flickr by jessicahtam

I still remember the talk my junior high received from a man whose teenage son had unexpectedly committed suicide. Incredibly heavy stuff. He told a story of a man who killed himself by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and in his apartment, they found his suicide note, and it read: “I’m walking to the bridge today. If one person smiles at me on my way there, I will not jump.”

I hope the stakes of your smile aren’t that high. If so, that’s a lot of pressure, and I don’t do well smiling under pressure–I look terrible in pictures. But we forget blessings so much quicker than curses; bemoan struggles far before giving thanks. What a pleasure it is to be attending a university, to have unimaginable opportunity buzzing in through our every action, every moment cracking with the electricity that is our potential. I own cool sunglasses and bright red pants; I have amazing friends and a family that teases me as much as I do them; I watch football on Sundays and eat hot dogs sometimes; I believe in a merciful God and His ultimate sacrifice for my salvation.

How dare I be anything less than joyful?

P.S. Sometimes things stink. Yep. Smile anyway. It makes things better.

Concrete things to try:

  1. Watch this Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, who (IS THE MAN!) works at Yale (I think?) studying happiness and positivity. Then, do literally everything he says
    1. tl;dr: take time, every night, and write three things for which you’re grateful. Describe them in detail; put them in a memo in your phone if you don’t have a journal.
  2. Pick a person every morning that’s valuable to you and find a way, that day, to adequately express to them why and how they’re valuable to you.
    1. Not always with words.
  3. Empathize with others. In every interaction, ask yourself what it’d be like to be in the other pair of shoes, and how you’d hope other people treated you.
    1. You’ll find yourself saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’ roughly, I dunno, 7 bajillion times more than you do now.

4. Experiment

Image by © moodboard/Corbis via flickr

I honestly believe everyone should read, and read as much as they can, and a big part of that reading should be the Bible, and they should smile a lot more too. I think everyone can be reading more and smiling more than they currently are.

I can think of plenty more things that fall under this category, but you know you a lot better than I do. I’m gonna throw out a bunch of things that I think are awesome, and a few of those concrete tips that might help you out. You do you, and pick a good one.

  1. Pray daily for 30 days
    1. Scientifically, the prevailing belief is that it takes roughly seven weeks to fully ingrain a new habit. That’s 49 days. But just for 30 days, pray daily. See if it’s ingrained by then
      1. Set the alarm five minutes earlier and pray in bed if need be.
      2. Place an icon on your pillow every day, so you can’t lay your head down without hitting it
      3. Copy prayers from and put them in a note on your phone, so you don’t have to worry about a book
  2. “Swing that collection plate this way!”
    1. Beginning the habit of giving to the church now–yes, now, as a poor college student–empowers you to do it later. You might not have the monetary means to make a big impact now–because of the whole poor college student thing–but you may later.
      1. When going out to eat/for coffee, buy a cheaper option than you’d usually purchase, and donate the difference to the church
      2. Ask your priest about the ability to give online. Some church have those now #innovation
      3. When you come across something you really want to buy, but don’t need, and find yourself using the “it’s really not that much” rationalization, donate that money to the church.
  3. Find a service opportunity
    1. Yes, you, poor and busy college student. Begin building a habit now that you’d like to have later. If you ask yourself the question, “Do I want to be doing this in ten years?” and can answer ,”Yes,” start doing that thing today.
      1. There are student organizations on your campus that are built for charity. I’m almost positive. Find them and see how you can get involved.
      2. If the homeless are around your area, grab an extra fruit from the dining hall, make a sandwich, and have it in a Ziploc bag for when you’re walking around.
      3. Cough Real Break OCF Cough

Good luck to you, my friends. Comment below with your struggles or stories, and feel free to email with any cool or interesting results!

Happy New Year!