40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media • Day 3

Anyone get why this picture is here?  20 points to the first person who can tell me in the comment section.

Anyone get why this picture is here? 20 points to the first person who can tell me in the comment section.

Here it is, the end of the third day of my challenge to consume only Christian media, and I’ve survived.

Not only survived, but I’ve actually learned something, I think.

I’m ashamed to say it, but taking part in this challenge has brought home to me the obscene amount of media that I consume on a daily basis, without even realizing it. As if waking up from a dream, I clearly see now that from morning until night, I’ve got somebody else doing their level best to manipulate or influence me in some way.

“Buy this product! Be scared of this threat! Believe this ideology! Curse this leader! Praise this celebrity! Think like I do! Achieve! Agree! Purchase! Comment! Consume!”

watch-tvThe craziest thing about this is that just a few years ago, we were taking in a fraction of the media that we consume now. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had four television stations, a morning newspaper, a collection of books, magazines, and records, and on the occasion of something really good to see, an infrequent trip to the cinema.

Now, we carry all of those things around in the device in our pockets.

And we’re constantly staring at the little screen.

And taking in the noise of it all.

Having nothing but Christian media to consume has forced me to turn my back on 95% of the noise, and my subconscious desire to see the vacuum filled has been foiled time and time again these last three days. It’s certainly not been from a lack of trying, but from a lack of much to interest me coming from the world of Christian media.

51VzxrUA+NL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Yes, I have found some things that I like.  I’ve enjoyed listening to a few good podcasts (Steve Brown, etc; More Than One Lesson; Christ and Pop Culture); I’ve started what seems to be an interesting novel (The Green Ember by S.D. Smith); I watched The Song (read my review here); and I began developing the habit of waking up every morning to Skye Jethani‘s daily devotional – which also includes a good reading of Scripture.

I’ve also spent hours wading through all sorts of Christian media that hasn’t interested me in the least.  Some, because of the content, and most others because of the quality, or lack thereof.

But I think this has been a good thing.  Even though there’s not much to interest me, I have been impressed by how many Christians are still out there creating.  This, I believe, is to be celebrated.  Rather than just consuming the noise, they are trying to create something that offers a counterpoint to the noise.

After all, there is the off chance that God will do what He did so often in Scripture, and use our weakness to show his strength, and even our often unimpressive media to draw people to Himself.  Does that mean He desires us to make bad media?  Of course not.  Might it mean that He wants us to do our best, depending on Him along the way?  I think so.

Yes, God uses some pretty foolish things and pretty inadequate people to point others to Himself.  Who knows?  He might even be using this blog!  Wouldn’t that be something?

To celebrate that idea, I leave you today with one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers (Christian or otherwise). Enjoy, and be about the business of being creative – no matter what you do.

By the way, I’d just like to point out that it’s been about one year since I published my first novel, Thimblerig’s Ark.  My own attempt to create a counterpoint to the noise.  I’d love to hear what folks think about it!

FINAL

Thimblerig’s Top Five Favorite Podcasts

Crowded_Nanjing_Road_in_ShanghaiI’m always on my feet living in China; walking to the bus stop, walking to the store, walking to the school where I teach, walking, walking, walking.  And riding on buses.  And subways.  And not understanding what’s going on around me most of the time.

The result?   I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts.  Over the years, living in China and Kazakhstan, I’ve found that podcasts have become my primary source of entertainment and information, replacing talk radio, the news, late-night television, and talk shows.  It’s like the people hosting the podcasts have become a part of my expat community and my overseas experience.  They’ve become one of my important connections back home.

Hasn’t the internet made everything weird?

Be that as it may, I’m particularly interested in podcasts that are somehow connected to the American entertainment industry, to screenwriting, to storytelling, to the culture, and how they all connect to the Christian faith.  You’ll find these things reflected in my podcasts of choice, some moreso than others, depending on the podcasts.

And so, I’d like to introduce you – my faithful readers – to my top five favorite podcasts, for your consideration, and in no particular order.

Thimblerig Podcast B

1.  The Phil Vischer Podcast

MV5BMTM5MzA4NTkxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzY5NTAyNw@@._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_You might know Phil Vischer as the man who created Veggietales, and provided several of the voices of the characters, including Bob the Tomato.  Phil has an amazing story, which you can read about in his book, Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables

In a nutshell, Phil created the wildly popular kid’s videos featuring talking veggies, and he had lofty aspirations to become the next Walt Disney – but in a God-honoring way – and then lost it all.  Phil’s story is a real-life example of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, as he went through a very dark place but has come through a better man as a result, with an incredible perspective on life, success, faith, and culture.

I just discovered Phil’s podcast a few months ago, and have grown to really enjoy it.  I appreciate that Phil has a great sense of humor (how could you create Veggietales and not have a great sense of humor?), but he can also come through with some really profound perspectives on faith and modern American culture.  maxresdefault

Each week, Phil – along with co-host Skye Jethani and the occasional guest host – discuss cultural issues, the entertainment industry, and current events from a Christian point of view with a refreshing and healthy mixture of seriousness and silliness.

Now, if we could just get Phil to ditch that darned ukulele…

2.  On The Page

Pilar-AlessandraPilar Alessandra‘s podcast about “the craft and business of screenwriting” was one of the first podcasts I started listening to, and is the one I’ve been listening to for the longest time.  I found On The Page while living in Kazakhstan sometime around 2006 (give or take) when I first became interested in screenwriting.  I remember digging in my garden in Almaty while listening to Pilar talking about loglines and treatments, amazed that it felt like I was taking part in an online screenwriting class – with all the fantastic quality content I was receiving.  For free! Actually, I feel like Pilar has been my unofficial online instructor for many years. I even took one of her online courses a few years ago, and enjoyed what I learned. I’m grateful for all that she’s taught me these past few years!

Pilar invites guests from all walks of life in the entertainment world to her podcast, but most commonly writers.  She researches her guests well enough to tailor her interviews and bring out the most teachable moments from the lives and work of her guests, all with goal of helping her listeners to improve in their own writing.  This is what I appreciate the most about On The Page – that I always get important new concepts and information that help me in my writing.  If writing is your thing, particularly screenplays, then you should be listening to On The Page.

3.  Steve Brown, Etc

stevebrownwebWhile I’ve been listening to Pilar’s podcast for the longest time, I’ve actually been listening to Steve Brown for over 20 years, just not in podcast form!

In the late 1980’s, I attended King College with Steve’s daughter, and – as the audio technician in the college chapel – I had the pleasure to run his microphones during the chapel service when Steve visited and spoke.  I was so taken by his focus on God’s grace that it led to me ordering cassette tapes (!) of his talks from Key Life, and always trying to find him on local Christian radio stations when I went from town to town.  I also often subscribed to the Key Life newsletter, where I was encouraged and challenged by Steve’s written outlook on life and the Gospel.

I don’t know when I actually found out that the old white guy had a podcast but I was thrilled when I found out that he did, and even moreso that it wasn’t your typical Christian podcast.  Thanks to the offbeat humor of producer Eric Guzman, and the wonderful variety of guests from all backgrounds, Steve’s focus on the grace of God really resonates.  Steve Brown, Etc can be joyfully irreverent while diving into some very deep waters at the same time, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

You think about that.

4.  Wretched Radio

frielMy family was home for the summer, and we were driving across the south in a rented car that had SiriusXM radio.

Usually, we had to listen to the Disney station (thanks, kids) but every now and then – when everyone was sleeping – I would scan around until I found something interesting.  I remember when I found Wretched Radio, and heard the voice of Todd Friel.

He was brusque, loud, and arrogant.

And the more I listened to him, the more I liked him.

When we returned to Kazakhstan, I immediately went and found Wretched Radio‘s podcast, and began to binge listen to past episodes.  I couldn’t get enough, and considering that he uploads new episodes five days a week, I had plenty to listen to!

Typically, Todd unpacks events of the day, examining issues from a Christian point of view, also with his somewhat warped sense of humor (Todd was formerly a stand up comedian).  But what I really enjoy are the Wednesday episodes, called “Witness Wednesdays”.  In these episodes, Todd goes out into some public place with a microphone and talks to people about spiritual things.  He will often go to a university campus and talk to students, and sometimes a state fair, and sometimes just out on the street.  The more I listened, the more I realized that Todd is not actually brusque or arrogant, he’s just willing to say what he believes with conviction, and he challenges others to think logically about what they believe.

Todd and Wretched Radio have some sort of connection to Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master ministry (although you don’t hear as much about that these days), and so he is quite serious about challenging people to examine their Christian faith critically to see if they really understand what it means to be a Christian.  It’s challenging stuff, and usually pretty entertaining.

5.  Never Not Funny

imgresSome people enjoy Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.  Others spend hours watching grown men chasing balls all over a field.  My guilty pleasure?  A podcast.  A podcast that is true to it’s name – Never Not Funny.

Hello, everybody, indeed.

Hosted by stand up comedian Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny is – by far – the most rated R podcast of the group, and it is also the most consistently laugh-out-loud funny.

Pardo and producer Matt Belknap (who used to also produce On The Page – which is how I found NNF), who have been doing this since 2006, have guests from all over entertainment, including comics such as Weird Al, Conan O’Brien, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, Sinbad, and many others who I met through the podcast.  He typically has stand up comedians on the show, but not always, and the reason I like it so much is because I feel like I’m sitting around a table with some of the funniest people on the planet, just listening to them riff off of each other, tell stories, and bust each other’s balloons.

Ideologically, Pardo and I couldn’t be more different, but I would love the chance to get to know the man, and actually sit down and talk to him, because he’s just an incredibly interesting guy.  In fact, with his wit and style, I’ve often thought Pardo’d be the perfect performer to voice the main character in my book, Thimblerig’s Ark, if it were ever made into an animated feature.

Let me make this clear:  unlike the other podcasts I’ve mentioned, you don’t want to listen to NNF with the kids around.  But if you can handle the occasional sailor-like outburst, and if you think it would be fun to hang out with some very funny people for an hour and a half, you should give it a try.

Well, that’s my five.  What podcasts do you like, and why?