My 2019 Must-Listen-To Podcast Picks


I am addicted to podcasts.  In my opinion, the podcast is the best media form that has sprung up in recent years. Not only are they an avenue for disseminating quality information on various subjects, they are also an easy mechanism for even the most amateurish to generate conversation and introduce the world to people and ideas that we simply need to know about.

A few years ago, I did a graduate program at Johns Hopkins in science writing.  We briefly covered podcasts, and I remember one of the professors commenting that podcasts would not be a long term, viable option for generating enthusiasm and communication about science.  I scoffed at that statement then and still do. If anything, podcasts are a way to draw people into topics and ideas that maybe they’d never otherwise take a listen to.

So, without further adieu, the following list contains my favorite and go-to podcasts. Some I’ve listened to for years, others I visit only occasionally, and a couple are either new or ones that I recently stumbled upon and find fabulous.  I encourage you to give these a listen, and pass on any podcasts that I need to add to my listening queue.

  1. The Robcast – What can I say?  I love Rob Bell and his podcast for SO many reasons.  He started this podcast kind of as a lark based on someone’s suggestion and records in the “Back House” in his back yard.  He covers basically everything that delights and intrigues him, from theology to music to people he finds fascinating.  Some days he interviews people, other days he waxes poetic on whatever he is currently chewing on, and recently, he’s done a three-part running commentary series on all the books he’s written.  Bell’s ideas were a theological game changer for me starting about six years ago, and he’s just a crazy fun person to listen to. I am also beyond excited to see him live on his Introduction to Joy tour next month.
  2. Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me  – If you listen to NPR, you should have heard about this radio show/podcast.  If not, go immediately listen to an episode.  WWDTM is a news trivia show featuring some of the best comedians like Paula Poundstone, Mo Rocha, and others.  The show producers manage to find some of the most fantastical and ridiculous news stories to ask the panelists about. Some famous person is interviewed and then pulled into the trivia game as well.  This is my favorite lawn mowing and road trip podcast because it keeps me hysterically laughing for a full hour at a time. One day I will be so lucky as to make it the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago for a live taping.
  3. Newsworthy with Norsworthy – This podcast is hosted by Luke Norsworthy, a Church of Christ pastor in Austin Texas, who I happened to go to college with. I didn’t know him well at all, and honestly thought at the time that he was a never-serious, white boy with dreads, youth pastor type. Well, he has impressed me well with this podcast. He’s pulling in great people for interviews, covering a lot of Christian and theological perspectives.  Richard Beck, Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, on and on and on.  And while Luke can be goofy and joke around on his show, he is definitely a deep thinker, and I humbly stand corrected about my first impressions of him.
  4. Sounds True-Insights at the Edge – This is one of the podcasts I’ve listened to for the longest.  I don’t even remember how I found it, but Tami Simon’s ability to bring in diverse spiritual teachers from all walks of life has really worked to stretch my mind. Some of the spiritual teachings that have most helped me were from people featured on this podcast. Pema Chodron, Don Miguel Ruiz, Caroline Myss, and so many others were first introduced to me here. Some of the interviews on this show can get pretty deep, and every so often I’ll listen to an episode where I just don’t buy the teaching at all.  But I very much credit Tami Simon with presenting us with so many spiritual paths to investigate and learn from.
  5. On Being with Krista Tippett – This podcast is another that is actually a radio show. Krista is a journalist who pulled away from her conservative Christian roots to find a broader, more encompassing spirituality.  She interviews theologians, artists, poets, journalists, social justice activists – all in the search of wisdom, meaning, and evidence of our greater interconnectedness.  If you want a podcast where spirituality, culture, and art intersect, this is a good place to visit.
  6. The Rich Roll Podcast-Rich Roll is an ultramarathoner and triathlete with an amazing story.  He was an alcoholic and unhappy lawyer who let the athleticism of high school and college go, finding himself overweight and out of shape. After an epiphany struggling to walk up a flight of stairs one day, along with the encouragement of his wife, Rich turned his life around. He became a vegan and began pursuing some amazing athletic feats, which he talks about in his book, Finding Ultra.  (I recommend reading or listening to this book….it’s really good).Now on his long-form podcast (think 1.5 to 2 hours per episode), he dives deep into conversation with others about fitness, nutrition, spirituality, leadership, self-development, sustainability, and so many other topics. If you want to be inspired to get off your couch and start making some serious life changes, check this podcast out.
  7. Good Life Project – This podcast has something for everyone. Jonathan Fields interviews basically anyone worth listening to these days.  I mean, SERIOUSLY. Brené Brown to Liz Gilbert to Seth Godin to Scot Harrison to Michael Pollan to Courtney Carver to Matthieu Ricard, and a BUNCH of other people that I still need to become aware of.  It’s a show that mixes inspirational stories with motivation to get out and the things that bring meaning and purpose in life. Ya just can’t go wrong with this one.
  8. You Made it Weird with Pete HolmesI first learned about Pete Holmes through Rob Bell.  The two of them are great friends. A couple of years back I was lucky enough to see them on tour together in Boston, and my small claim to fame is that I sat in like the third row of the audience. Pete is a comedian, and a quirky one at that – BUT, he has a deep side, too. He left the conservative religion of his youth but is reconstructing his spirituality now along the same spiritual teacher lines that I am – he name drops Ram Dass, Alan Watts, Richard Rohr, etc, all the time.  And yes, I’m jealous because he’s like the billionth podcaster I know who has gotten to meet and talk to Richard Rohr.  I think I’m going to start a podcast simply so I can try to bribe an hour of Rohr’s time.  Pete interviews a range of people, from theologians to comedians.  His style and sense of humor might not sync with everyone, but he’s worth giving a solid listen to.
  9. Awaken with JP Sears Show– I loved JP from the very first silly YouTube video of his that I saw. He makes fun of everything from eating vegan to using essential oils to “Prancer-cizing”, all to make very good points.  He points out bad logic or our inflexible ways of thinking through a ridiculous persona.  But, also like Pete Holmes, he has a serious side that he likes to express in very non-serious ways. Last year he started an Awaken with JP online community, consisting of weekly videos and a Facebook group.  I was a part of the group for a while (but left only because I needed to divert the membership fee to some other life crisis) and it was really good!  In fact, if you’re gonna join an online group to pursue spiritual awakening in the real world, I totally recommend it. I recently stumbled upon his podcast and have found it to be just another delightful outlet of his personality and what he has to offer the world.  Definitely check him out!
  10. Dance Floor Podcast– I go to a Mennonite church in Indianapolis, and this summer we suddenly had a new guy leading worship. As it turned out, his name was Clint Reed and he and I discovered we used to attend the same church for years but had never met. He and a friend of his, someone I also had mutual friends with but had never met, Larry Mitchell, started up this podcast.  This is a local goodie that opens up the conversation about our doubts, finding connection and meaning, and seeing what God might be up to.  May I especially recommend the episode where my friend, Bob Brown, talks about smashing the patriarchy.
  11. The MinimalistsThe pursuit of minimalism has dramatically changed my life.  And no one can pursue minimalism these days without hearing about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  They’ve written books, they go on tour, they have a documentary on Netflix, they have a podcast.  On their show they discuss all different aspects of minimalism, from philosophy to tangible tips to help reduce our consumerism.  The best part: they aren’t the minimalism police.  They’re real people who live in the real world who just want to show others that it isn’t “stuff” that makes us happy.
  12. Main Street VeganAnyone who eats plants should listen to this podcast.  Victoria Moran literally covers EVERYTHING about plant-based eating and vegan living. She talks to medical experts, plant-based athletes, theologians, chefs, clothing designers, animal rights activists, etc….basically every possible nuance of the vegan world.  If you’re plant-based already, or curious about it, give this how a listen.
  13. Another Name For Everything In honor of my birthday this year, Richard Rohr started a podcast.  Just kidding, I tell myself that to pretend like he even knows that I exist. I hope there really is a heaven just so I can finally meet him, since it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in this life. Richard Rohr is probably one of the greatest single influences on my life, and he has no clue. If you haven’t read his books, like Falling UpwardEverything Belongsetc., you really, really need to.  I’ve been listening to his latest book, The Universal Christ, on Audible and think it might be his pinnacle work. However, if you don’t delve into his books, introduce yourself to him through his podcast, which is a 12-part conversation about the book.

A few other podcasts that I’ve enjoyed immensely in the past and still dip into:

Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, and S-Town (I’m an NPR junkie, what can I say?)

The Enneagram Journey and The Road Back to You (great podcasts on the Enneagram, and Suzanne has the best soft-spoken Southern accent – I’d probably listen to anything she said just based on her voice.

The Fundamentalists with Peter Rollins and Elliot Morgan – Rollins is another great theologian (with a fantastic Irish accent) that I learned of thanks to Rob Bell

And finally……a podcast that I haven’t yet listened to but want to simply because the name is fabulous…….Persiflagers Infectious Disease PUSCAST!

What other podcats should I be listening to?

Coming Home to Yourself

Photo credit: Tim Haynes

*I was inspired by the reflections of others at church today. This is my response to our collective conversation.

When I was young, I truly believed there was something wrong with me.  Something wasn’t right about me being here in the world. I recall, as a child, having moments where a feeling would pass over me – a tangible sense that I don’t belong here, that I’m not fully legitimate.  This feeling would come out of nowhere and usually last no more than a couple of minutes, but it was powerful and had a deep influence on how I viewed myself for a very long time.

A child isn’t usually well equipped to understand these kinds of phenomena, and I certainly wasn’t an exception.  I don’t think I ever mentioned these transcendent moments of gloom to my parents. I would simply try to shiver the feeling off like a chill up my spine and move on.  Eventually, and thankfully, these feelings stopped coming over me – probably about when I was in junior high.  However, beliefs about inadequacy and not fitting in were firmly entrenched in my psyche.


In one of my last posts, I wrote about how it feels to lose one’s sense of home. You know that Bon Jovi song that was popular a few years back “Who says you can’t go home?”? The thing is, sometimes you really can’t go home back to a physical place, or even a group of people. Your family may move on from the house you grew up in. Maybe you’ve changed so much since leaving home that when you come back, there are only faint glimmers of recognition towards you in the eyes of those you once knew so well. Even those things that were part of “home” that once belonged to you might no longer be yours.

I’ve experienced this sense of “losing home” for years now, a little at a time, and then with increasing rapidity.  After moving around the country frequently over the last 13 years, I struggled to find a solid, physical home.  Who are my people? Where is my tribe? Is there a piece of land I can anchor myself to? Who am I without external labels of what constitutes home?

Others have told me that they consider home to be wherever their partner or spouse is, or where their kids are – physical locale doesn’t matter.  This has never been helpful for me – you can be married and still feel more lonely than at any time ever in your life.  Your kids can be snuggling up to you and telling you how much they love you, and still, you can feel lost and uncertain of where you belong.


During this Lenten season, my church has been looking at the story of the prodigal son, from the Bible.  For most of my life, sermons I’ve heard about this parable have focused on the depravity and pure selfishness of the son who spurned his father and left home. The older son was always offered a mild rebuke for being callous towards his penitent sibling. However, as we took several weeks to take a longer look at this story, more and more grace rose to the surface as we threw the traditional interpretation of this story on its head.

As one of my pastors said so wisely today, sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate home. She recalled how, as a new college graduate, she was so eager to jump off into her own life and away from her family. It took being away for months to begin to truly appreciate where and what she came from.

These days, I don’t judge the prodigal son much at all.  The fact is, we all do stupid, thoughtless things when we are young.  We are driven by our egos and we can become enchanted with the systems of the world. We are compelled to strive after those people and things that promise us happiness and meaning. This is just what we do as humans; we just vary a bit on how extreme we go.  In fact, I might argue that the prodigal son was living out an essential component of authentic spirituality – he had to come to the end of himself before he could find who he truly was and what truly mattered. Call me crazy or a heretic, but I’m convinced that sometimes the greatest grace we receive is God allowing us to become completely wrecked at some point in our lives.

*************************************************************************************I think that more important than establishing a physical home, or finding where we fit among a group of people, we have to find “home” in ourselves. As the mystics have said, “I” and “me” is all there really is.  Everything outside of me is ultimately my stories about the world and about people, based on my own beliefs and projections.  But, “I” am the only one who will always be there for me, even when everyone else and everything else is gone.  As such, it seems to me that if that’s the case, I should probably dig deep and find out who I really am.  We’re going to be spending alot of time together.

*************************************************************************************The great journey of this life is to seek after one’s authentic, real self – to move past illusions of what are around us and appear to be real, down to the purest ultimate reality.’Most of my  own life has been spent trying to be what I thought others wanted of me, and then failing miserably anyway. I didn’t explore the deepest realms of myself because the spirituality of my youth taught me not to trust myself, not to trust my instincts and gut reactions. When you think about it, not being able to trust yourself is a dreadful way to live.  Everyone, I mean everyone, in the world, will offer their opinions and judgments on what you should do with yourself, how you should act, who you should be.  But how do you know which of those people to trust to make your decisions? How do you discover the right path outside of yourself if you can’t trust your own reasoning?  It’s all a very circular mess.


Coming home to yourself is a recognition, a learning, that you’re OK and you have all you need within you. When we are finally able to accept ourselves, love every part of ourselves – even the weirdness and quirks and cellulite and crow’s feet and all of our epic mistakes -this is actually the greatest freedom we could ever attain.  Coming home to yourself also brings the life-changing realization that the Source of Ultimate Reality, God, or whatever you want to call her, is within you – not somewhere “out there”.


I have never been the prodigal in the popular sense of the word.  In fact, I resonate the most with the son who stayed behind with his father. But like the older son, I didn’t stay out of altruistic loyalty but out of fear of stepping too far away, crossing the wrong boundary, and losing God’s love and good pleasure. But I think the sons were alike in that both of them were seeking external affirmation for their lives.  One, the older son, was bound to an honor/shame code of what it means to be family, and the second was lured away by all the illusionary glitters of life that he thought would make him happy. Both needed to come home to themselves, to discover what made them tick apart from anyone else’s opinions, and to find the steady love of their father no matter their actions.


As I am, step by step, coming home to myself, this is what I’m finding: my oldest, biggest fears are gradually falling away.  The questions and concerns that created those fears no longer seem so pressing or relevant. I’m discovering that every time I make a decision based on what is truly “me” and not based on someone else’s opinion of what I should do, there is continual grace for the outcome.

The best thing of all is that I enjoy being with myself now.  I used to be embarrassed by my very nerdy tendencies, my lack of interest in things that intrigues so many of my peers, and qualities in me that set me in stark contrast to much of my family.  Now, having given myself permission to be me, I have settled into a delicious relief – no more exhausting struggles to be someone that I’m not.

Yesterday in church a friend of mine shared something that her son said as a two-year-old, years ago, when his father was putting him to bed one night.  “Daddy, you be you, and I’ll be me.”  I LOVE this. Yes! This is what it’s all about.

You be you, and I’ll be me, and God will be all in all and there is grace for everyone and every moment.   Stop being afraid of all the “what-ifs” – just come home.