A Year to Listen and Read

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For me, 2020 was a year of questions and changes. In the midst of a global pandemic, we made the radical decision to sell our home of 25 years and move back to Oregon after almost 40 years in Southern California. While 2021 has also had its share of questions—What have we done? Does the sun ever come out in Oregon?—mostly, for me, 2021 has been a year of reading and listening.

While I’ve listened to podcasts before, this year I counted podcasters among my best friends. This of course has something to do with the difficulty of finding real friends in a new place during a pandemic. I found myself needing the familiar rhythm of a human voice to mediate truth in a way that reading written words does not.

So before I share my top ten reads for 2021 in my next post, I am going to tell you about my favorite podcasts. If you haven’t yet delved into the wonderful world of podcasting, I encourage you to try it!

Marion E. Wade Center. Dr. Crystal and Dr. David C. Downing are the current heads of the Wade Center, part of Wheaton College. The center focuses on the work of C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and other Inklings. The podcast includes their director Aaron Hill and this year featured extended discussions on the Lord of the Rings and Narnia, among other topics. Every session is filled with insight, humor, joyful appreciation, and moments of profound truth. I looked forward expectantly to each episode!

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. This podcast has been one of the most popular this year, up in the top ten, and for good reason. Produced by Christianity Today and hosted by Mike Cosper, its outstanding production work is only rivaled by its timely significance. The mercurial rise and sudden fall of the Mars Hill church in Seattle led by Mark Driscoll has deep relevance to many of the abuses that are plaguing the evangelical world today. Since the Reality family of churches that was my home for 17 years was influenced by the Mars Hills model in the early days, I have found the series particularly relevant in helping me understanding my own church experience. This is a painful podcast to listen to, but one that I recommend for its warnings and relevance.

The Russell Moore Show. Dr. Moore has had a challenging year, resigning his position as the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), as well as leaving the SBC altogether. In the midst of all this, his podcast in always uplifting. He interviews Christians from all sorts of backgrounds and on a broad range of topics with unfailing courtesy and humor, and provides additional commentary when needed.

The Stott Legacy. This special one-year series marks the centenary of John Stott’s birth. In each episode, Mark Meynell interviews someone who has been impacted by John Stott’s legacy. This year I have been greatly helped by Stott’s Bible studies, reading several, and this Podcast added a deeper understanding of this wonderful father in the faith, whose favorite pastime was bird watching.

Help me Teach the Bible. Since 2015, Nancie Guthrie, herself an accomplished Bible teacher, has interviewed experts on each book of the Bible, as well as on some topics of Bible Study. Her series concluded last year, but I didn’t discover it until recently and finished listening to discussions of all 66 books this year. I tried to listen in sequence as I went through the one year Bible reading plan. These hour long sessions hold a treasure of insights. Their focus is on Bible teachers: how to understand the structure of a book and the key insights, but who doesn’t want to know this?

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