Tag Archives: listening

8 Favorite (Commute-Tested) Podcasts

Fun fact 1: I do a lot of driving. Currently, I enjoy a 45-minute commute to-and-from my home and school (and grad school friends), and a 20-minute commute to church.

Fun fact 2: I actually enjoy driving. It gives me a weirdly therapeutic space to think, where I have to be actively focused on the road but don’t have any other distractions or competing pressures. Sometimes, if I’m feeling thoughtful or reflective, I’ll talk out loud and record it on my phone, to then transcribe into my journal later. They’re awkward to listen back on but when I’m driving back from night class at 10pm, we do what we gotta do, ya know?

Fun fact 3: I’m also a big “car-performer.” The highway is my stage, Spotify provides my soundtrack, and the steering wheel is my mic. Neighboring cars judge, but honestly it’s their loss.

When I’m not talking to myself or pretending I’m at a Broadway audition, I enjoy a good podcast. I’ve cycled through my fair share. Podcasts are a tricky business – sometimes they sound too superficial, sometimes they sound to academic, and sometimes the content is just strange. It’s a delicate balance.

Podcasts are like any other form of entertainment: everyone’s got a preference. I’m not saying that these podcasts are for everyone. But in my limited search over these past two years, these some of the ones that I keep coming back to. Obviously this is not a sponsored endorsement and I am not throwing myself behind all of the content (because, let’s be real, for most of them, I’ve only listened to a couple episodes). But in general? 10/10 would recommend.

 

This is probably one of my favorite podcasts, for the way that it combines easy-to-listen-to conversation with incredibly deep topics. Don’t be fooled by the beauty of the website: this is not wishy-washy Christianity; Kayla, Lindsy, and Shannon don’t shy away from the hard questions. Gentrification, ethical fashion, and finance are just some of the topics that they aren’t afraid to get into the nitty gritty of. It feels like you’re sitting around a coffee table, listening to real women wrestle through the beautiful and messy realities of our life in Christ.

Favorite episode(s): Gentrification, Downward Mobility, Radical Hospitality

 

  • Journey Women: Life’s a journey and we were never meant to walk alone

This is another one that’s pretty low key, in terms of its intensity, but is incredibly authentic and thought-provoking. Hunter Beless interviews “mentor”-type women (and men) about an area of their ministry or testimony. Similar to Upside Down, it’s great because you can choose a topic, clearly labeled in the title, based on things you’ve been thinking about recently. The result is lots of stories and encouragement, from people who could be having the conversation in your backseat.

Favorite episode(s): Sharing the Gospel with Sarah Pape, Waiting with Ann Swindell

 

This is my favorite apologetic podcast. The questions are relevant and the dialogue is always honest and fair for both sides. Topics range from inter-Christian debates on things like abortion, role of women, the existence of hell, or sexuality, to inter-faith/atheist dialogues, on topics like the existence of God, approaches to poverty alleviation, Jesus and Allah, or the separation of church and state. While Brierley is a Christian, his moderation of the discussions is gracious and unbiased; the point is constructive debate and agree-to-disagree dialogue. In a world of hostile, polarizing opposition and flame-throwing rhetoric, it’s refreshing to hear people converse with civility, integrity, and intellectual strength.

Favorite episode(s): As if – I’m not about to tell you what my favorite topics of debate are. Honestly though, it’s hard to pick and choose with this one, because there are so many (they go back to 2007!) and the topics are so expansive.

 

Who doesn’t love a good Ted Talk? For as varied as Unbelievable is when it comes to apologetics, Ted Talks daily is that much more expansive, in every content area. If you don’t find at least one episode that you like from this podcast, I’d encourage you to expand your interests. Seriously, there’s a myriad (new ones every day) and they’re quality talks from experts. The best part? They’re short (most of them are between 5-20 minutes), so if you’ve got a quick drive, get bored easily, or if you’re not super into the one you picked, it’s not a huge commitment.

Favorite episode(s): A practical way to help the homeless find work and safety (Richard J. Berry)

 

  • Serial: Tells one story – a true story – over the course of a season

This one may not be for everyone, but if you know my family, you know we’re big into Forensic Files and NBC’s Dateline. We recently watched Netflix’s The Keepers and Making of a Murderer. In another life, we might have been a family of detectives. What is fun about this podcast is the ways it feels like a TV show or movie. It’s less thought-provoking, in terms of change-your-life content, but it’s no less engaging. The story and narrative structure is sure to keep you awake on late-night drives. When I started this podcast, I found myself  leaving earlier and earlier for my commute, so that I could find out what happened next.

Favorite episode(s): THE WHOLE THING (!!)

 

I listen to a lot of podcasts on missions, missionaries, and ministry. But, since a lot of them are conference podcasts, meaning they’re from a 2015 missions conference and aren’t producing new content, I’ve opted to leave them off this list. Engaging Missions, however, is a current podcast with new content every week related to life on mission. Topics range from support raising to spiritual refreshment to specific trends or movements of God around the world. If you’re a missionary, going on a missions trip, or are interested in the cross-cultural ministry of Christians around the world, there’ll be something in this podcast that stirs your spirit.

Favorite episode(s): Eastern Europe and the Power of Prayer, How to Write Great Missionary Support Letters, How Love Conquers Fear in a Majority Muslim Nation

(Global Missions is another good one on the topic of cross cultural missions)

 

  • Hope Writers: Online membership community for writers of hope

Another content-specific one for you, if you’re a writer or like listening to podcasts on writing, this is a fun one. The conversations center around writing, whether it’s dreams, practicalities, or realities of writing, publishing, and inspiring hope. The titles make the content clear, which is helpful. You won’t end up listening to a conversation on book launching, when you’re really looking to hear about how to make time for writing.

Favorite episode(s): Ian Cron – Enneagram for Writers, Ann Voskamp – Inside the Writer’s Heart

 

It’s important, like with anything else, that my podcast exposure match the diversity of the world and the body of Christ. If I’m only listening to people who look, sound, and think like me, then I’m missing valuable content, perspectives, and voices. While the other podcasts I’ve mentioned bring those in through speakers and a variation in content, Propaganda and Alma do it by nature of who they are. They talk, with wit and honesty about relevant, critical topics of today. It’s an upbeat, thoughtful listen.

Favorite episode(s): S01 Bonus Episode

 

If you’ve got any favorites, I’m always looking for new ones! I’d love to hear #sharethewealth.

 

A Season of Socks?

I got a lot of socks this Christmas.

Socks are one of those Christmas gifts that get a lot of attention because of their disappointing nature. With the exception of something like a plunger, socks are one of the most lackluster, practical gifts you can get. When they’re in competition with literally any other gift, socks seem to lose every time. The younger the recipient, the more likely the loss.

In fact, the only reason that my privileged self was excited about getting socks this Christmas is because, at twenty-three and living in the Midwest, I see the value of keeping my feet warm. And when you work part-time for a church, socks can quickly become a luxury item that eats away at your budget.

What do socks have to do with anything? I think, and stay with me on this, that these next two months are season of getting “socks” from the Lord.

If you know me or are following the story, you know that I submitted an application that, at least at this point, the current plan for my future is dependent on. By early November, I had confirmation, on all sides, about specific, future missions work. Not only was it confirmation from the missions organization and the city’s current team, but it seemed like consistent confirmation Lord. Believe me when I say I’m ready to go. Perhaps even more than just “going,” I’m ready for clarity. I’m ready to move forward in the plans of the Lord, regardless of what they end up looking like.

But I can’t.

My hands are tied until at least the end of January, more likely the beginning of March.

There’s nothing else to process or pray about. The search for confirmation and discernment has been called off. There’s nothing else for me to do but wait. I’m living the epitome of “it’s out of my hands and all up to Jesus.”

I was praying, admittedly from a place of impatience, the other night. I found myself a little disoriented, fumbling around my Scripture reading and worship, in light of the question-heavy nature of my relationship with Jesus these past few months. All the sudden there was nothing to ask, no specific thread that needed pressing into.

This time is a gift, Maddie.

“Okay, sure. All my time with you is a gift, Lord. Times of waiting are always a gift.” I brushed it off. Believe me when I say that I’ve done seasons of waiting with the Lord before. But then again:

This time is a gift, Maddie.

Since the summer, my prayers have revolved around questions of missions and calling.

Come March 2, regardless of the outcome of the application, the reality of my life will resurface that.

But for two months, there aren’t questions driving my spiritual life. Everything is in a rhythm (or out of my hand). And here is Jesus, saying that this time is a gift.

 

It was only after a Holy-Spirit-inspired revelation, after I heard my answer to a friend’s “how are you doing” inquisition, that I got it. That I realized that He’s giving me a season of socks – and how simple that may seem, but how necessary it really is.

My answer to a simple “how are you doing” revolved around the future, my waiting, the application, and missions. It seems innocent enough but, without realizing it, I had linked what I may be doing with how I actually am. Those are two very different things, and they are both grasping for control of my soul and identity.

The reality of who I am in Christ had become dangerously muddled with what He’s leading me into. Season that force me to ask questions about work, calling, vocation, and ability run that risk. It is so easy for my identity to get tied up in my circumstances when, realistically, those are the things that I need the Lord to speak into. I know that in March the temptation will return to sync my identity with what I’m doing and what God is calling me to.

But, for two months, He’s all but removed that temptation.

He’s giving me a gift that is practical and necessary, however lackluster it may appear. I need a season, regardless of how short, of re-learning what it means to just be Jesus’. Because He loves me, is for me, and is good. Full stop.

I need to be reminded of what God thinks of me and what it means to be with Him, irrespective of anything else.

I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on this “gift of socks season.” It’s a hard sell that waiting is the greatest thing in the world. Like with socks, I appreciate them a little more than I might have five years ago, but there are other gifts that I think I’d prefer. But that’s why He’s the Giver, and I’m not.

Because what could be better, what could be more necessary, than the gift of just being His?

Stop complaining and put on the socks, Maddie. Enjoy this time of learning what it means to just be with me. To be loved by me. If my love for you never went beyond this, right here, knowing that I love you, it would be enough. I want this to be a time that you look back on when the demands are a lot, when you forget that I don’t see you as “faithful servant” first. There’s nothing that you can do these next two months, nothing you have answers to, no spectacular story to share, nothing that makes you look spiritual. So find me when you feel like you have little to give, when your faith feels small. I’ve wired your for things and set about my plans in your life, which you follow in costly obedience, but Maddie, what you were ultimately built for was just to be mine. I want to teach you about the consistency of my nature in a season where I’ve given you little else to hold onto. You may not know what I’m doing, but you know who I am. You may not know what you are doing, but know who you are. Let me remind you of exactly who you are. 

Meeting Jesus in the Quiet

I’ve become hesitant to talk so frequently about having “quiet time,” “devo time,” or “time with the Lord.” Not because I don’t think it’s one of the most important ways we can spend our time, but because it’s not the most important. In our individualistic, western view of Christianity, it’s easy to adapt a solely personal and isolated view of our faith and relationship with Jesus. We can lose a value for cooperate worship, fellowship, prayer, giving, and service when it becomes, albeit subconsciously, a me-centered emphasis. There’s a fine line, which isn’t to say that spending time alone with God isn’t imperative or universally commanded (Jesus Himself makes it clear that He needs time in solitude and seclusion with just the Father).

After all, my time alone with Jesus leads to some of the most necessary, precious, and life-giving moments of my day.

However, sometimes I believe a lie about my time alone with the Lord. I’ve been fed this idea, through a variety of often hidden means, that every time I sit down before Jesus and force myself to be aware of His Spirit, usually with Scripture open, that I should expect something profound. I’m sitting before the God of the universe and I’m told to approach with a sense of expectation. If I don’t walk away with some incredible spiritual revelation about my life or someone else, what was the point? What am I supposed to tell people about my “quiet time” when they ask?

The point of our time with the Lord isn’t anything more than our being. Stop. Period. It begins and ends with our willingness to simply show up and be. To still our hearts and minds, as best we can, and listen to Him, as best we can, because we not only affirm that He’s worth it but we prove it by our actions. We genuinely and wholeheartedly believe that He is worth our time, our attention, our hearts, our minds, and our response.

It’s less about what I walk away with and more about who I’m slowly becoming.

Ten minutes of alone time with Jesus doesn’t necessarily guarantee my spiritual rejuvenation.

What it does is remind my soul, whether I feel it or not, that I’m the Beloved. It reminds my spirit what His voice sounds like, whether or not I feel like I’m hearing it in the moment. It sensitizes my soul to His nearness. So that when His whispers and nudges come in the midst of the noise of my daily life, I’m more able to recognize it.

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The Lie of Over-Processing

Maybe it’s just me that struggles with “over-processing.”

Or overthinking.

Call it whatever you want.

The point is, I think about things deeply. My brain never shuts off. It’s how I’m wired. Everything in my life has always has meaning, no matter how insignificant or simple it might seem. And that can be such a gift when it comes to looking at people and the things Jesus is doing in their lives.

But like with any gift, it can also be used to hinder and distract me from what the Lord is actually doing. I felt something a little similar at the beginning of Sophomore year, thinking about how I press into my emotions instead of Jesus. I feel like I keep learning the same lessons over and over, just in slightly different ways. I’m learning and growing, I guess I just haven’t arrived yet. Then again, when did this become about the destination instead of the journey?

My dad explained it as playing a whole game of chess in my head when I’m thinking about the next move: “if I move this piece then they could move that piece or that one,” “maybe I should move that one instead,” “I don’t want to move the wrong piece and regret it two moves later”. . .

Basically a lot of what I’ve been thinking lately boils down to this: when I don’t process things with Jesus, or when I over-process/overthink things, it leads to the re-surfacing of a lot of fear.

When I submit things to the Lord and He speaks into them, there is always a lightness, a clarity, and an “aha” moment, even if I don’t totally understand or like what He’s saying.

I can tell if there’s a problem when pressing into things is confusing and overwhelming. When it feels like pieces that don’t fit together. When it feels like fear. I know it’s not the Lord when I’m thinking more about things than what is actually happening. Or when I’m talking more about things than I am submitting them to Jesus.

People say all the time that we need to sit and wait and listen for the Lord. And that is so true. But waiting on the Lord is never passive. It never breeds fear or confusion. It always leads to freedom and life. His yoke is easy, remember? It’s the Enemy who would love for us to get wrapped up in our heads about whether or not what we are doing or saying is right, or enough, or really the will of the Lord.

The beautiful thing about the love of Christ in my life is that it frees me to live. We are free to be human, continually transformed by His grace. We are free to embrace our failures because they don’t define us and they lead us to new places of humility.

I think back to the “failures” of Abraham. Even when he made decisions without pursuing the Lord first, God was still very much in them. He’s bigger. He’s always been bigger! We have to have a view of God where His love, sovereignty, and omniscience are bigger than our humanity. Bigger than our emotions. Bigger than our fears. Bigger than my fears.

Waiting upon the Lord doesn’t mean I have to sit and process until I understand everything. Seeking the Lord doesn’t mean I have to have all the answers. But, if I’m honest, that’s often how I act. We wait and seek with freedom, childlike faith, joy, and security in His love.

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So what are we afraid of? What is my overthinking mind so afraid of?

Am I afraid that I’ll be rejected? Because I’ve already been accepted by the King of Kings. And if I’m rejected by people, it will be a place of humility, which will probably dethrone some idols in my heart if it means that much to me. Or that I won’t be perceived well? Well, that’s a fear of man and not God. If I’m overthinking what others may be thinking about me, there are very few more worthless ways of spending my time. Not only am I not living in the security of my identity in Jesus, I’m focusing so much on myself that I’m missing what the Lord is doing in the lives of other people. I miss the opportunity to see it, be blessed by it, and encourage them in it! Am I afraid that I’ll make the “wrong choice” or do the “wrong thing?” Then I’m not living in an understanding of the grace of the Lord. If I’m pursuing Him in everything, then I have to trust in His superiority and providence. While I need to be listening for His voice and the nudges of His Spirit, if I can’t read other people’s minds, how much less can I read God’s? I’m never going to figure out what He is going to do, so I might as well focus on seeing His movement and grace in the moment and stop trying to “process” what the next move is going to be. He never fails. He never leaves. I don’t have to be processing things to be seeking Him. I should be seeking His will in Scripture and in prayer, not in the circumstances of my life that I don’t understand. We all know that He loves to be found by those who seek Him. What an awesome God we serve and are loved by.