In the shower today, I got an idea. (By the way, why do some of my best ideas come in the shower?) As we wrap up 2017, I thought I would share some of my favorite things from the year. Stuff I read, places I visited, music I’ve listened to. All of those, and more, will follow in blog posts to come.
I’ll start this series by sharing my favorite podcast episodes of the year. First, some housekeeping items: the podcasts didn’t have to come out this year; I just had to listen to them this year. Some of my favorites come from podcasts I listen to religiously. Some have no particular religious content. One is a series; another is an ongoing random conversation that I listen to when I have ten minutes and I don’t feel like starting something serious or new.
Anyway, enough caveats. Here’s the list, in no particular order:
- Unbelievable: “Can science, God (or both) explain the human quest for meaning?”, 7/22/17. This podcast usually brings together a Christian believer and an unbeliever for a honest, intelligent, and (usually) civil conversation about the most important questions of faith, life, and reality. This particular episode has two Oxford profs debating the meaning of life. Even if you don’t listen to the entire episode (and you may not want to), at least fast-forward to about one hour in, where the host, Justin Brierley, asks a materialistic scientist: What is the meaning of life? His answer, I think, is honest, and is the approach a truthful person has to take if we truly are here by chance, and chance alone.
- Love + Radio: “The Silver Dollar,” 2/27/14. This is a conversation with an absolutely fascinating individual, Daryl Davis. He is an accomplished musician, a student of history, a friend to Klan-members — and a black man. Davis may be one of the few people in our culture who moves beyond rhetoric and rage to really reaching across the aisle. And let’s be honest: an African-American reaching out to members of the KKK — that’s a huge aisle.
- Radiolab: “Match Made in Marrow,” 11/9/17. This is a beautiful piece of radio, dealing with faith and doubt. It is presented with an honesty and openness to faith that, honestly, I seldom experience in radio that comes from the world of NPR. (BTW: I really enjoy NPR; I just wish they could see their own bias against faith and the faith perspective. But alas, like so many of us, they can’t see what they can’t see). But this episode is different. It is truly moving, for it takes seriously the Christian faith, and presents it in a way that is breathtaking. If you listen to only one of my recommendations, you’ve got to listen to this episode.
- Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast: Interview with Jon Acuff, episode 157, 9/12/17. Jon encouraged me to be more focused on reading. He also challenged me to rethink how I start my sermons. And he challenged me to make the most of the time I’m given.
- Poddy Break with Tim Hawkins. No particular episode here; I simply enjoy listening to comedian Tim Hawkins banter with other comedians, his crew, and whoever wanders close to the microphone. Whenever I need a smile, or I simply don’t want to start something heavy, I can count on some laughs with Tim. But it’s not all fun and games. For a funny guy, Tim has some helpful insights that show up between gags, like this line: I’m not on stage to get laughs; I’m there to give them.
- John Ortberg’s messages. Again, no particular episode to recommend; John is just my go-to sermon podcaster. He consistently balances biblical and human insight that is both profound and practical.
- On Being with Krista Tippett: Interview with Martin Sheen, 12/16/15. I dialed up this interview after getting through all episodes of The West Wing on Netflix. (Before this summer, I honestly don’t think I’ve watched every episode of any show, ever.) I enjoyed The West Wing, I guess, because I am fascinated by the presidency. (If I had another life to live, I might have chosen to be a presidential historian.) Sheen clearly brought his spirituality into his role as President Josiah Bartlet, and while he and I would have some significant conversations about the root and the results of that spirituality, it’s refreshing to hear a Hollywood star unashamedly address matters of faith, God, and prayer.
- Kingdom Roots with Scot McKnight. Nearly two years ago, McKnight, a New Testament professor at Northern Seminary, began a weekly conversation about God’s kingdom, its biblical roots, and its current fruits. Each 30-minute episode is short enough to be digestible, yet deep enough to make me think. I went ahead and started at the beginning, so I’m still listening to episodes from 2016 — but I figure, Why not listen to every episode? So far, it’s definitely been worth it.
- 30 for 30: The Lights of Wrigleyville, 11/28/17. As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I was intrigued to hear about the evolution of lighting at Wrigley Field. The first night game at Wrigley was poetically held on 8/8/88. As a Cardinals fan, I can also laugh that the night poetically ended in a rainout.
- In the Dark: 9 episodes, plus a post-podcast update episode. An engrossing and thorough look at the first truly public child abduction in the U.S. The reporter digs into how the Jacob Wetterling case was (mis)handled, and the impact Jacob’s case has had on how we respond to abductions — and abductors. Well-researched, well-written, emotional, and thought-provoking; in short, what a podcast series should be.
So, that’s what I listened to this year that I’m still appreciating. How about you?