Friday, November 30, 2018

Listening to podcasts and longing for home

Back in September I (finally) acquired an Android phone that, as I like to say using technical jargon, "does stuff." I apologize to Apple affectionados, among whom is my wife. I jokingly say, when pressed by Apple users, that Apple is the tech subsidiary of Scientology. Then, a few weeks ago for my birthday, I was given a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Since then I have discovered podcasts. What a vast domain! The app. I chose for podcasting, after doing a little market research, is Castbox. I won't bore you with all my adventures in the podcast-i-verse over the past few weeks. I have to say, it's been kind of fun.

I have found a number of entertaining, inspiring, and informative podcasts. One is an old stand-by: the podcast of Harry Shearer's weekly radio program Le Show. This is a program I have listened to for years. It's nice to be able to listen to it almost anywhere on my "audio device of choice." While I know this will rub some people the wrong way, I also very much enjoy listening to Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing podcast, which I discovered onboard a Delta flight on business trip earlier this year. Most recently, he interviewed Roger Daltrey, lead singer of one of the greatest rock groups of all-time, The Who. I have also found a couple of useful podcasts that help me with some issues with which I struggle.

On the spiritual side of things, I benefit immensely from the Renovaré podcast with Nathan Foster. Over this past week I have listened to a few episodes of In the Studio with Michael Card. Michael has a new book coming out that I am excited about- Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God's Lovingkindness. A recent podcast features Michael giving a deeply insightful presentation on the Hesed, or lovingkindness, of Jesus. Do yourself a favor and listen to exactly the first 24 minutes of it.

One particular episode of Michael Card's podcast that struck me even to the point of tears, touched on a theme I have explored on this blog: my longing, our common human longing, for home. In a post from more than four years ago (tempest fugit!) I wrote about this (see "Odysseus and the quest for home"). From 2002 to 2009, The Studio with Michael Card was a weekly radio program. Judging from the episodes available for listening, about a year ago Card resurrected this for a podcast. Some of the episodes, those dubbed "Classic," are radio programs that were digitally recorded and now made available for podcasting.

The episode of In the Studio that struck a deep chord within me this week is a Classic episode. Well, actually, it's the first-half of an episode. This part of the the program featured Dr. Larry Crabb, from whose writings I have benefited for years, and contemporary Christian musical artist Sarah Groves. It is one of the "Classic" episodes, meaning it was originally broadcast at least nine years ago. It also features a pretty insightful discussion on the Book of Job.

Home is where the heart is, which is why our hearts our restless as we journey towards what the inspired author of the Letter to the Hebrews called our "sabbath rest" (see Hebrews 4:9-11). I suppose this is a good place to cite the over-cited observation of St. Augustine, which he made in Book I Chapter 1 of his Confessions: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

Yesterday on Facebook I posted the titles of several movies that I think are among the best Christian movies (another post will follow on this). I asked my friends to do the same. I was surprised by how many responded (I only have 112 FB friends). One friend of very long-standing, not-so-tongue-in-check, put forward Monty Python's Life of Brian. This prompted me to immediately call-to-mind these lyrics from the song with which the movie ends - "Always Look on the Bright of Life" - "Life's a piece of shit/When you look at it/Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true..."

Hope, it often seems to me, is simply the obstinate belief that somehow, in the end, the journey of life is worthwhile. The idea of returning home, of suffering to return home, like Odysseus, which is what the word "nostalgia" literally means (not "Odysseus" but suffering to return home - language is a funny thing), is how this obstinate belief can be understood in the service of being realized.

Fittingly, our traditio for this final Friday of this year of grace is Sarah Groves singing her song "Going Home"-

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