In a post from just after Easter, I talked about the lessons I learned while abstaining from podcasts during Lent. It was a challenging but helpful exercise, though I have to say I’m glad to return to the many voices and influences of the podcast world.
As the host of a podcast myself, I know what it takes to create these audio adventures. I still marvel from time to time that a purely audio medium has such power. Yet podcasts and audiobooks continue to grow and expand in influence. I believe the reason for this is simple:
When we hear something, we have to engage with it differently.
Hearing stimulates the imagination. We picture the person behind the voice, sometimes with the aid of a headshot or bio photo. Yet we know that no one exactly resembles their headshots. When I listen to podcasts, I try to create an image of the conversation.
The image represents what’s happening in either the monologue or the interview. I attempt to give a visual to the ideas and philosophies flying through my car or my earbuds, with varying degrees of success. The point of all this is that our brains are engaged. We are creating images and making connections, all of which is healthy for our souls.
“Love God with your mind,” I heard someone say.
Today’s post is to recommend a few podcasts that challenged me in the last few months. I don’t recommend these because they are the final, authoritative statements. Instead, I’ve chosen podcasts that are geared towards creating conversation and challenging convention.
As you will notice, all three of my recommendations have a vein of Christian spirituality and Biblical studies running through them. Notice also that they are not “brand new,” because let’s be honest we’re all a little behind. Even when it comes to our favorite podcasts.
My hope in these recommendations is to draw your attention to conversations that I believe are helpful, provocative, and ultimately beautiful. They are poetry for the journey of “everything becoming.”
1. The Robcast (Rob Bell), “You and Me and Ruth”
Rob’s podcast has been a staple for me over the last two years, mainly because he takes angles on Scripture and spirituality that are creative and refreshing. I believe that’s a good thing. Rob’s philosophy leans towards a universal and open understanding of spirituality of which the Scriptures are a key piece.
In this episode, Rob engages with the First (or Old) Testament book of Ruth in a way that challenges our presumed reading of the text. While this episode only deals with the first two chapters (a “Part 2” is apparently on the way), I believe the discussion Rob creates around the book of Ruth is well worth your time.
The takeaway: When we are able to place ourselves within the context of stories – any stories – we begin to see things about God, self, and world that escaped our notice in the past.
2. The Bible for Normal People (Pete Enns & Jared Byas), “Pete Ruins Exodus, Part 1“Much like the Robcast episode above, Old Testament scholar Pete Enns takes us into a very familiar book of the Bible. In talking through the context of Exodus, Pete challenges some of the preconceived notions about the book and sheds light on some of the dynamics between Moses, Aaron, and the Egyptian empire.
Pete’s thoughts will no doubt challenged the way I see the book of Exodus. They are by no means unique or novel perspectives but occasionally what breaks us out of a stagnant relationship to Scripture is a shot of cold water. When Pete talks about the historical issues with a massive “exodus” of slaves from Egypt, he creates enough destabilization in us that we begin to think and explore the story differently.
The takeaway: Many who have gone before us have thought of the Bible stories from different perspectives. Yet they have also honored the power and authority of the Bible in a way that can challenge and inspire us today.
3. The Portfolio Life (Jeff Goins), “Do The Next Right Thing (with Emily P. Freeman)“
I credit one of Jeff’s writing challenges as the genesis for my first book, Becoming Curious. His podcast deals with the way the lives of creative people really work. He handles questions of inspiration and discipline, as well as marketing strategies and income streams.
However, in this episode he talks with Emily P. Freeman (who coincidentally endorsed Becoming Curious!) about her book The Next Right Thing. They deal with the process of decision-making and how oftentimes it is difficult to pinpoint the next “right” move. They talk through the implications of decision-making for creative work and marketing as well as for managing the everyday details of life.
The takeaway: Not to be obvious, but the best decisions are made when we choose the “next right thing,” no matter how small or insignificant that step might be. Of course, we are always saying “No” to one thing as we say “Yes” to another. That is a tension that simply has to be managed.
My hope is that these podcasts might find their way into your world. The conversations and insights are well worth your time, even if you strongly disagree with the conclusions.
As Richard Rohr says, in our spiritual journey “Everything belongs.” That includes our disagreements, questions, and decisions. We are blessed to have conversations like these within our “everything.”