Podcasts and Blogs: My Favorite 12

How can you get interesting and enriching entertainment? How can you get daily encouragement when you need it? How can you find the answers you are looking for in an easy to accomplish manner? Two words: Podcasts & Blogs. Who has time to read lengthy books? Not many of us. Podcasts and blogs (from authors you’ve thought about reading) are excellent ways to feed your spirit and your funny bone.
If you find a blog you like, subscribe to it via RSS (Real Simple Syndication). This is the little icon that looks like a wireless Internet symbol. You can have articles emailed to you, but I prefer a reader such as Google Reader that is directly on my homepage. I keep it away from the hundreds of emails I get each week, and I can easily see exactly what I want to read. You can also subscribe to many blogs via Twitter and Facebook. Who do I read? Below is a list of the blogs I follow.

  1. In Search for More – This is my blog. You’re probably reading this on it right now. Even though I write it, I like to see it in the various places that my actual subscribers are seeing it too. If you want to learn how to be a better parent and/or spouse, check out my blog where I write about this stuff. Subscribe at www.insearchformore.com
  2. The Disney Parks Blog – We have a trip coming up in October to the House of the Mouse, and I’m keeping up with what’s going on through their blog. I know when the new attractions will open and I even find out about travel tips. www.disneyworld.com
  3. Instrument Rated Theology– This is a blog written by Paul Smith, a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He is also a minister in the Church of Christ, and I stumbled upon his blog when doing a little research. I liked his review of a book so much that I purchased it to use in an adult Bible class and have since been reading his views on having a Christian worldview. Subscribe at www.instrument-rated-theology.com
  4. Musings on Spiritual Matters – This blog is written by my good friend and confidant, Matthew Morine. He too is a doctoral student but at Harding Graduate School of Religion. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Matthew brings insight into the Lord’s work that can easily be missed by some. Subscribe at www.MatthewMorine.com
  5. Social Mouths – With the increase in the use of social media there are people teaching others how to maximize its potential. Francisco Rosales’ articles are well written, well-illustrated, and extremely practical. I credit the work of Rosales with me getting two Kindle books published. It was his easy to read article that showed me how to do this in one afternoon. Subscribe at www.socialmouths.com

Podcasts are also a favorite media of mine. I primarily listen for entertainment but there are others that can help with personal growth as well. Most all podcasts are free and can be subscribed and/or listened to through iTunes. You can also Google them for their respective sites. Here are the ones I listen to when I’m not listening to an audio book (another favorite past-time).
  1. Freakonomics Radio – If you’re a fan of the books, subscribe to this podcast. If you’ve not read the books yet, do so, and then subscribe. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are the hosts of this podcast that can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes long. Learn why your house’s false alarms have a hidden cost and why the president of the United States has a lot less power than you think. Levitt is an economist so he looks at things a little differently than most people and Dubner is an award-winning author. Their synergy is what makes the show so enjoyable, not to mention the curve ball they throw you on a lot of topics.
  2. A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon – I’m not readily able to listen to the entirety of Garrison Keilor’s show, but I can listen to its most famous segment. Keilor started his “old-fashioned” radio variety show in Nashville, TN and he continues to carry the nostalgic theme well in a post-modern world.
  3. Focus on the Family: Focus on Marriage – Dr. James Dobson has done a lot of work in the name of families, and this short yet insightful podcast can improve your marriage in no time. In the podcast, experts are interviewed on a variety of marital topics so there’s no shortage of information. Typically one large recording spans over several podcasts so you receive tidbits of information that are easy to digest.
  4. The Moth Podcast – “Stories told live without notes.” Authors, actors, and everyday people tell stories that are funny or life changing or both. Very entertaining and quick with most shows being less than 15 minutes.
  5. NPR: Live Concerts from All Songs Considered – Recorded concerts from clubs, music festivals, and even from behind the desk at the NPR studios. If you like live music and want to hear some cool jams, subscribe. Through this podcast I discovered the music of First Aid Kit, Kat Edmonson, and I rediscovered Jakob Dylan (Bob Dylan’s son and former front man for the Wallflowers). Very eclectic in their choice of other performers including the Soweto Gospel Choir.
  6. This American Life – Journalist Ira Glass weaves a narrative of stories, typically in four acts, that are designed to make you think, care, and wonder about the world we live in. Unlike talk-radio, they don’t spend hours discussing what most people forgot about two weeks ago. Instead, they have stories that are good sometimes for no other reason than they are interesting. Although, relevancy is also a typical characteristic. Its popularity has grown to a TV show and they are working on an event that will be broadcast live in theaters across the country.
  7. The Truth – My newest subscription. “. . . a contemporary re-imagining of what audio drama is and can be . . . .” That’s right! They are working to revive one of the oldest forms of entertainment to go across the airwaves; radio drama. There are no story arcs that I’ve found. Just good short prose that captures the imagination because it is well written and true to life. 

BOOK REVIEW: Rescue Your Love Life by Cloud & Townsend

The book’s subtitle is, Changing the 8 Dumb Attitudes & Behaviors that Will Sink Your Marriage. Cloud and Townsend talk a great deal about their work with clients and how this man or woman (or both) was doing or thinking something “dumb” and how this dumb thing was ruining their marriage. The authors then relay the practical suggestions they gave to their struggling clients.

Being a counselor myself I really questioned this method of writing. Did they ask their clients (and friends) to sign a release? I didn’t research this aspect of their book but I wonder. The recall of the precise session makes me question the authenticity of Jane and Rick (or whoever), but I could be wrong. I write about things that come up in sessions but I don’t say, “the other day, Michael, Stephanie, and I were in session.” I suppose they could change the names easily enough. My friends think I analyze them already so I tend to stay away from such writing styles.

Their tactic of offering good advice is easy to understand but the suggestions are not always easy to employ. Behavior change can be the answer to most problems in a marriage, but this plan forgets the ingredients of bitterness, betrayal, or any number of problems with the heart. Cloud and Townsend do address these deeper matters as they relay discussions with clients. However, if you or your spouse has other issues, getting help for these may also be in order. The behavior changes suggested in the book are a good start but they may not be enough unless your situation is exactly like the examples in the book.

This is not a book that’s going to move you to act unless you are already there, but it is good for enrichment if you want to improve things. It would also be good for a Bible study class although their  references about marriage and family in scripture are nothing new. If you are going through some serious issues with your spouse, and counseling is needed, this book would be a good supplement to that type of work as well.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as I listened to two experienced counselors lay things out in a way that I probably would in similar situations with clients. If you are struggling with what seem to be simple things in your marriage, this is a great place to turn for practical, no-nonsense advice. But if you think you need more, seek that help first.

Purchase this book from Amazon. (Paperback edition)

Purchase this book on the Kindle.

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Real Men Lead

This article can be found in the June issue of Think magazine by Focus Press.

Real Men Needed

When God instituted the family in Genesis, He set forth an organizational pattern that is seen throughout scripture in familial relationships and eventually in the organization of the church. This is particularly true of parenting as we see in 1 Timothy 3:4, 5. Here, Paul sets forth a direct connection to church leadership and the home, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God . . . ?)

God uses the home as His proving ground for those who will be given the task of leading the church. The wisdom here is obvious as both are families, both have their rebels, and both have their followers, all of which are in need of love, guidance, and a Savior. It is the task of men as father figures to lead the children of both institutions toward eternal life.

Unfortunately, real men can be hard to find. In television’s “Two and a Half Men,” I doubt that any positive male characteristics were shown. The ads for the show were certainly void of any. Everywhere you look from JC Penney commercials to television and the big screen, men are the punch lines. Why? Because their role has been downplayed over the last several decades and thus minimized to an almost useless position. Our young men do not know what it is to be a man because so few of us stick it out. We do not work to fulfill our task set forth by God and thus the home and the church suffer.

In my work as a youth minister and now as a counselor, it is difficult to explain “God the Father” to a young person who has never known his or her own father. They only know that “father” is the man he has never seen or the man who never goes to his ball games or the man who does not love his mother. Many fathers are physically present but emotionally absent. Studies have also shown that ninety percent of dads are out of their children’s lives within five years after a divorce. Men do not realize the toll this is taking on our society. A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of fatherhood research. He says, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” (www.childwelfare.gov)

Our homes and our congregations are in desperate need of real men who will lead effectively with eternity in mind. As Jesus is the mediator between mankind and God, men are the midpoint for others to God whether they are the members of a congregation or the children in his own home. Hopefully, our congregations can supply these real men.

Firm Yet Kind

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) The part of the passage we typically focus on is the latter, “ . . . bring them up in the discipline . . . of the Lord.” We like this. It is the end result of what we hope to accomplish. The first part that gives specific instructions to fathers is often glossed over and forgotten so that the “discipline” part might be proclaimed. However, if we are to accomplish the second command, the first must be understood.

Men are called to be the leaders in the home and in the church. The “how” of doing this is often missed but is encapsulated in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger . . . .” If you can follow this passage, the ripple affects of your influence will be felt for generations. However, this verse can be confusing. “If a man is to lead a congregation of the Lord’s church or his home, is he not going to do things that make his children (those under his care) angry?” Certainly! However, there is a difference between being a man of your word with principles who leads from the heart versus one who provokes those most dependent on him with mindless actions.

A Climate of Fear: The opposite of Ephesians 6:4

All is quiet at home. It is 5:15pm. Mother is cooking, junior is doing his homework and the dog is resting on the porch. Suddenly, a truck pulls into the drive. The dog scampers away, and mom hurries to get any last minutes tasks complete before her husband (with a fiery temper) comes through the door. As he enters the kitchen, mom listens to the pace of his walk and carefully observes how he puts his lunch box down; obvious signs of whether it is going to be a good evening or a bad one. Junior continues with his work, otherwise dad might accuse him of being lazy. This is the way dad likes it; family members doing as they are told. There is little affection but plenty of fear and order.

This is the typical setting of a physically abusive family, but similar settings (although less extreme) can be found in our congregations and our homes. Men can be quick with a criticism or lack in the giving of much needed praise. A boy who never hears, “good job” from his dad may never grow into a confident man. A girl who never hears how beautiful she is from her dad may look for validation from boys who only want one thing. These scenarios do not facilitate the building of soldiers for Christ or young people who grow into healthy adults.

People were trying to bring their children to Jesus when He said, “Permit the children to come to Me . . . .” (Mark 10:14) His disposition had to have been an important factor here. The people wanted to come to Jesus. A father who does not communicate love to his family but rather promotes unhealthy fear as a motivator will create an uncomfortable climate that grows bitterness and resentment rather than faith and love.

Leading by fear can cause poor motivation, resentment, and rebellion. If I continually teach my child to fear my hand while not communicating love and respect, bitterness can set in. While corporal punishment can be effective, it is often not the best teaching tool. In a spiritual sense, we should fear Hell, but a greater depth of love moves us to the fear of missing heaven. Men, we are to do the moving. Moses helped to “move” the children of Israel out of their bondage and closer to God. This is our task.

Because of a lack of ineffective leadership, children often find guidance in the wrong places. Church members look elsewhere because they may not see the appeal of Christianity from those leading the local congregation. Do you talk about happiness and are never happy? Do you talk about self-control yet have your own vices? Do you talk about loving your wife, but your relationship is rocky at best. If we do not show that Christianity is the best way to live, our leadership at home and in the church will fail.

Bringing Them Up Is a Process

Many men lead with fear as their only tool because they do not know what else to do. While the actions of our children may legitimately anger us, we must not let this linger. It is possible to let go of the anger by realizing that bringing up and leading children is a process. Ephesians 6:4 says to “bring,” Proverbs 22:6 says to “train,” and Deuteronomy 6 tells us to “teach.” All of these are processes that take time. Plus, what does yelling at your five year old or teen really accomplish? Children are going to constantly make mistakes, and if this is accepted as a way of life, it will be much easier to handle. We must remember that it is our job as fathers to teach them the right things. They mess up. That’s why they need us.

In the story of the prodigal, the father allowing his son to leave was part of the process in the boy’s upbringing. Father’s today in similar situations eventually have to let rebellious teens (and members) go. This is the epitome of leadership that trusts in the wisdom and the timing of God to work on the hearts of those we love. In certain circumstances, this is part of the process of learning just as it was the process with God and the Israelites. “Then He gave them into the hand of the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them.” (Psalm 106:41) In both scenarios, these children came home.

If fathers and church leaders act with love and eternity as their goals rather than with fear and control, those they are responsible for will be able to speak well of them as David did in Psalm 22:4 and 5. In You our fathers trusted . . . To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.”

Ten Misconceptions that Hurt Christianity

The following are misconceptions some Christians believe. While there is a bit of wisdom in each, believing or stating these to the wrong person and in the wrong context can limit the power of God. The pervasiveness of some of these notions has caused many to doubt God or leave Him all together. Sometimes advice by Christians is equal to instructing a hungry person to go and be full. May these thoughts enrich your walk with Him.
1. Pray to God and all will be fine. How will it be fine and how do you know what God will answer? While we cast our cares onto Him, His answer to our prayer may actually be “no.” The correct statement may need to be, “Trust in God and all will be fine.” Whether Paul was free on the open seas or in a jail cell, he was content. Did his prayers immediately alleviate his troubles? No. However, his trust in God kept him faithful and content.

2. Always wear your best to church. Why? So God knows I’m right with Him? So others do? How does wearing a tie bring me closer to God? This cultural factor found within churches today causes us to focus too much on one’s dress, which can make modesty & discreetness difficult (2 Timothy 2:9).

3. Dress casually at church. Why? So I can impress people with my laid back, Christian attitude? A lack of care over what people think and how we present ourselves in formal settings does not aid in a Christian’s influence because we should be most concerned with what people think. Also, appropriate dress for certain occasions, including worship, can aid in someone’s reverence for the event.

4. The church I go to teaches the right way. While we hope this, we must not be so naive to think that we hold the golden goose when it comes to doctrine. If we are right, then the word of God will speak to that, not us. One can become so stuck in this thinking that they neglect study and a true analysis of scripture.

5. When a young man becomes a Christian, we must get him leading in the worship service ASAP. This is important, as it is part of a man’s role in the church. However, leading a prayer or serving the Lord’s supper is not the epitome of Christian service, but we sometimes treat it as such. Who would God be more pleased with? The man who leads prayer, teaches Bible class, and lives like the devil the rest of the time or the man who is much more faithful but doesn’t lead prayer because that’s not his talent. There’s much more to Christian service than being in front of people. Does the training of our young Christians reflect this?

6. We must get more teens in church. Getting them attending a church may actually make them hate it if the adults don’t show these teens a better way than what they are currently living. They need to learn about the power of God, not just fill a pew space. Their attendance is important, but love, teaching, and guidance must also be a part of the equation. If you bring in a teen drug dealer and don’t show him better, you’ve done nothing but give him a new set of customers.

7. Our lessons are Biblical. While Bible might be quoted a lot, is it used accurately and is it relevant? Are we trying to reach people with the power of God? Are we saying the same things every service or are we sincerely searching for what God is trying to tell us? While God may be our audience in worship, each lesson must be geared to pierce the hearts of those present. Take the lesson of the woman at the well. The lesson found here is relevant for all times, but unless the teacher/preacher bridges it to the listener of today, it’s wisdom may fall on deaf ears.

8. God is testing you with your trial (health, money, or family problems). How do you know this for certain? When giving advice to someone in distress, this is a stretch. If a weak Christian thinks God has brought the turmoil upon them, they might actually stop trusting in Him. Maybe Satan is trying to pull him away from God. Who knows? Will the person’s faith come out as gold as in 1 Peter 1:7? Sure. However, what matters is that the person trusts God enough to get them through the difficult circumstances for whatever reason they may be occurring.

9. The old ways are best. Just how Biblical are these old ways? Humans often think in irrational ways by not considering the validity of a certain point. We call it stubbornness, but it can be a bit more complicated than that. The desire to hold on to what is old can be addressed by a psychological force called “value attribution.” Value attribution means that once someone becomes committed to an idea they have placed a certain value on; it becomes very difficult to help them see the value of anything other than what they have conceived in their minds. If you look in your parents’ medicine cabinet, you might find that they are still using the same product they were using when you were a child. They have placed a certain value on that item and can’t be easily swayed into thinking that something else works better. In Acts 10, when Peter met with Cornelius, Peter references the fact that he should not even be in the company of Gentiles. Because of Peter’s faith in God, however, he changed his ways and accepted them. The old idea of considering others as unclean had been done away with. Peter accepted this new teaching and applied it to his ministry. Click here to read my complete article on this topic and on number 10.

10. Our churches need to work to be more modern. Just because something is new doesn’t mean that it is better. There is a psychological force called “diagnostic bias” that can throw a congregation into a whirlwind of decision making toward the new. After considering a potential or current plan of action, if it is dubbed “old-fashioned,” many congregations would reject it because they have “diagnosed” it as out of date. Sunday school, Bible-based sermons, and familiar songs are main stays of church work and should not be written off simply because they seem to be old. Christians need to love the Word and they can only do this through consistent Bible study. Preachers need to speak on more than what is popular and their lessons must have substance if they are expected to really change lives. Click here to read my complete article on this topic and on number 9. 

"Love Is Here" Live Event

I am proud to announce that my blog will be hosting the first “Love Is Here” Live event. You can view it live on this site, Tuesday, April 5 at 1pm to 4:30pm (Eastern)! 

Join us here to learn about innovative programs, opportunities, and strategies to grow marriage strengthening work in your church and community. Program highlights are below.

RSVP and invite friends on Facebook

Program Highlights:
  • 1:00 pm: Why Marriage & Family Matters (Jeff Fray, Ph.D., Marriage & Family Foundation & Dr. Linda Malon-Colon, Hampton University)
  • 1:15pm: Media Research, “An Exhaustive Look at Content on TV” (Lance Mcalindon, Chief Research Officer, Front Porch Entertainment)
  • 1:45pm: Engaging Men in Strengthening Marriage and Family – (Brian Doyle, Iron Sharpens Iron; Stephen Kendrick, Sherwood Films; and Mitch Temple, Courageous Outreach Team)
  • Introduction to the Courageous Film and information on how churches can leverage this film to lift up their own marriage and family outreach initiatives.
  • 2:20pm: Online Audience Q&A with Stephen Kendrick
  • 2:35pm: The Love Is Journey – Live interview with Nathan and Brittany Fray
  • 2:50pm: National Marriage Week, USA (Chuck Stetson and Sheila Weber, National Marriage Week Organizers)
  • 3:20: The Art of Marriage, A video based Marriage Enrichment for Local Churches (Bill Eyster, Executive Vice President & COO of Family Life)
  • 3:50: Marriage Ministry as Felt Needs Evangelism. (Tim Popadic, Marriage Pastor at Christ Fellowship Church; Scott Mawdsley, National Director of Marriage Mentoring Initiative; and Les Parrot author of “Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring”)
  • How a Date Night Initiative can grow a church and impact a community.

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Providence, Family, & Head Lights

A long time ago I gave up worrying about punctuality. Time moves and I can’t do anything about it. If I’m late, I’m late. Not to say that it doesn’t bother me if we have to be somewhere. I still struggle with it, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that the only way I can keep my sanity is if I do my best to stay on schedule and then whatever happens beyond my control is just that, beyond my control. I’m finding that life is much easier this way. Also, the world doesn’t collapse.

By looking at my watch less and the world around me more, I’m also noticing how God is working in my life. The other day I was scheduled to go to a meeting at central office; I work full-time for a school system. Things were going well as it was one of those mornings that I could leave later than usual. I hadn’t planned on stopping by the school. I’d drop Campbell off at the sitter and be on my way enjoying my latest audio book, The Invisible Gorilla.
As I was driving, I remembered that my lunch needed to be refrigerated. My strategy now had a kink. There was a time when this might have bothered me since any minor setback can ruin an otherwise perfect arrival time. Not to worry though. I would just stop by the office and be on my way. Truthfully, I was still a little irritated.
The event of forgetting about my perishable lunch led me to see my principal who said, “You don’t have to go to the meeting.” Wow! Had I not stopped, I would have gone needlessly and wasted a great deal of time: a dreadful occurrence indeed. I put my lunch in the fridge and went to the high school to deliver some books. This had to be done because I’d actually forgotten them during a previous errand the day before. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Since March I’ve been researching the viability of a non-profit in my area called Project Family. While at the high school, I garnered a guest for my radio show that promotes the non-profit, and I potentially enlisted the help of two volunteers. I didn’t fret over time and God has blessed me. What if I’d gone into the school and ran back out in a huff because my day wasn’t going as planned? I would have missed some great opportunities.
So, I’m thankful that things happened the way they did. He doesn’t know it, but the driver of the old truck whose lights I turned off when leaving the high school is also thankful that things didn’t go quite as planned.

What Does Your Child Like?

As I began reading Mason (my five year old) his Bible story tonight, he let out a sigh. We read out of a children’s Bible that is broken up into short stories for every day of the year. Why was Mason growing tired of this? Well, children enjoy hearing the same stories over and over again. Continuing through this yearly Bible would not give him the repetitiveness that children crave. So, while the Bible is relevant for all ages, I wasn’t giving it to him in a format that he could digest. So, it’s back to his little Bible. I asked what story he wanted to hear. He said, “Noah.” He crawled up into my lap and we read about the flood. We read about it for the 100th time, but really it was as though it was the first.

BOOK REVIEW: Love and War by John & Stasi Eldredge

I have read a lot of marriage books and this one was quite different. While I thoroughly enjoyed Willard F. Harley’s practical steps to a better marriage in Fall In Love Stay In Love and John Gottman’s critical analysis in The Marriage Clinic, John & Stasi Eldredge took me on a journey through the lessons they learned in their marriage and through the experiences of others. This wisdom is invaluable and the teachings of Titus 2 came to mind.
Eldredge & Eldredge did not say that “marriage is blissful if you just follow these steps,” but rather they laid it out in all its difficult and magnificent glory. It’s torrential and possible of great pain, but if used as God’s tool, it can forge you into the person and couple he wants you to be.
As they tell it, marriage is a love story written within the confines of a war for the souls of mankind. I love this depiction of it because, as a Christian, this view of my relationships on this earth and how they relate to the hereafter give me an intense focus, spiritually. I see the scriptural lessons on the home in a new and deeper fashion. Also, the authors’ style and tone of writing press upon me the gravity of my job as husband and father.
What didn’t I like about the book? First, I had a difficult time relating to their spiritual struggles in the last two chapters. I don’t want to be too critical because we are all different and my feelings on the matter are quite personal. I just disagree with some things as I don’t see spirituality in totally the same way that they do. Second, this book may or may not work for you. The Harley book I mentioned earlier is good because it can help people change their behavior; a necessity in many failing marriages. If your heart isn’t open, this book may do you little to no good. 
Third, you may not like the book if you disagree with their positions on manhood and womanhood. While I think it’s their strongest characteristic, many would disagree. Several reviewers speak of John & Stasi’s stereotypical view of these positions in the home, but stereotypes come from truth. I think they even admit at one point that not everyone sees it the same way they do. Although, I think the struggles they speak of are universal as they speak to the root of marital discord. So, even if it doesn’t look exactly like you, there are gems of thought that can bring healing to your marriage. Finally, I also don’t agree theologically with their prayer to receive Jesus Christ as your savior (page 212). While it is important to speak words like this and give your heart to Jesus, it takes more than this to become a Christian.

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