November 30, 2020

What I’m reading, watching and listening to these days.


Jesus Wants To Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden. A survey of the Bible’s message using the theme of the “New Exodus,” with lots of application to the current empire. Packaged in a rather distracting way, but plenty of good material in a relatively few pages. Good, not great.

The Church in the Making: Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, Orientalium Ecclesiarum by Richard R. Gaillardetz. Part of the seven volume series “Rediscovering Vatican II.” An extremely well written history and survey of the Vatican II documents on the church. Plenty to learn, and surprisingly inspiring. Many nuggets of exceptional prose and insight. I want to read more in this series. Outstanding.

Benedictine Book of Daily Prayer. I’d heard of this book for quite a while, but I was too cheap to buy it. My wife dropped the cash for my birthday. One of the best prayer books in my collection. A few quibbles (too much Apocrypha in the daily readings), but overall an exceptionally well-done resource with strong possibilities for ecumenical appreciation.

The ESV Study Bible: Notes on Amos, Nehemiah, etc. I’m just getting to know this resource, but I’m impressed with the study notes. They are generally more scholarly and have more content than the NLT Study Bible notes, though not as uniformly well written. They are actually less doctrinaire than I anticipated, given the make-up of the contributors. Solid. Comprehensive. Only occasionally omitting comment on a verse I’m interested in. Impressive, especially if you have a background in Biblical studies.

Stuck in the Middle: Thoughts on Mid-Life by Paul David Tripp. I’m about a third of the way in, and I’d count this time more valuable than the average conversation with a pastoral counselor (and I have a good one.) Tripp is a substantial pastoral theologian and a very good writer. He understands mid-life and he understand it in a deeply Christian way. I tend to have problems with nouthetic counseling, but Tripp is not assigning me verses to memorize. He’s demonstrating a deep experiential and pastoral understanding of the mid-life soul. Must read, especially if you are over 40.

Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson. The fourth in the five part Spiritual theology series. Just started. I heard some of this material in person. How bad can it be? It’s Eugene Peterson.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Reading this with my students in Advanced Bible. Always a remarkably beneficial read, though I’m continually surprised with how Roman Catholic Lewis sounds when he writes about the Christian life.

First Things. (Just got a gift subscription.)

Touchstone. (Ditto.)

Listening (Music and Podcasts):

John Mark Macmillan, The Medicine. (Heard this guy a couple of years ago. Wow.)

Rob Mathes, Orchestral Songs. (Rob Mathes is an incredibly talented musician, performer, writer and arranger. Everything he records is exceptional.)

Charlie Hall, The Bright Sadness. (As far as the “Passion” brand of CCM goes, I find Charlie Hall to be the most interesting.)

Tony Rice Sings and Plays Gordon Lightfoot (This is my favorite music in the world.)

Jeremy Casella (If you don’t know this artist, you need to. His latest CD is wonderful.)

Pierce Pettis, Various (The best songwriter you’ve never heard of.)

Gordon Lightfoot, Various

Sara Groves, Various (My favorite female CCM artist and a tremendous songwriter.)

Frank Sinatra, Various (What can I say?)

Folk Music (Trying to catch up on what I missed.)

ESPN Daily Sports Podcast (This is about an hour of the best of ESPN, with a lot of interviews. Very good.)

UK Wildcat Sports Podcast (Covers all sports. Go Big Blue!)

/Filmcast podcasts (pronounced “slash film.” Their regular podcast and the After Dark podcast. MAJOR MAJOR LANGUAGE WARNING. Film and TV geeks from all over the blogosphere. Often with interesting guests. This is deep in the geek universe and it’;s not for everyone, but the host is a Christian and the discussion is interesting. I like this take on entertainment.)

Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson. (Audio magazine on popular culture and media. Must listening.)

The Peasant Princess Series, Mark Driscoll (His “exposition” of Song of Solomon.)

Radio Derb (Political commentary from John Derbyshire. Derb is a great curmudgeon and libertarian. Always fun.)

The Dividing Line (James White. Reformed Baptist apologetics. I differ with White on many things, but he is a good teacher, especially on apologetics with Muslims.)

Will Willimon sermons. (Not updated regularly, but priceless when it is.)

White Horse Inn. (The quality is uneven, but it is consistently some of the best theological discussion on the web.)

The Godpod (Evangelical Anglicans. I’ve only listened to a couple, but this may be the best theology podcast out there.)

Speaking of Faith Podcast (Krista Tippett does the best program on religion you’ll find.)

Sound Opinions Podcast (Popular music magazine)

Garrison Keillor’s News From Lake Wobegon


Baseball playoffs and World Series (Go Rays!)

House, M.D. (Denise and I can’t miss this show.)

Fringe (I’m giving it a chance.)

X-Files reruns on Sci-Fi. (On in the afternoons. Nice wind down.)

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

[Had something here, but somebody would use it to get me in big trouble. But it’s good!]

Millennium (The Complete Three Season DVD set. This was my favorite show when it was on, but I missed a lot of it. So now its cheap and I can watch it whenever I want.)

Dead Poets Society (With my AP English IV class. A useful movie that demonstrates a lot of the flaws of existentialism and conformist religion.)

We Are Marshall (I like sports movies.)

I’m Not There (I’m very into Bob Dylan.)


  1. Michael,

    Random Comments:

    Logistical question: How do you read so many books at one time? Is it like channel surfing? How do you keep them straight?

    Gordon Lightfoot: I bought Gord’s Gold on CD 18 years ago when my wife and i were first married in our first apartment in upstate NY. I hear GL, and I think of autumn, apple cider, young love, and wicker furniture(all we could afford…).

    Um, Go Phillies! (but I’m sure they’ll let me down.)

    TV: I don’t have cable. How do you read so much if you watch TV?

    Love your writing, keep it up!

  2. I’m probably mega ADD. I read a few pages all the time, whatever time I have wherever I am. I sleep 6 hours. I love to read.

  3. Baseball….you can read during baseball.

    House and Fringe: two hours one night a week.

    Stuff on DVD: Saturdays or when I have down time. Or on the computer.

    Audio: I listen while I walk, write, etc.

    I get in from work at 2:30 p.m. and go to bed around midnight. I watch very little tv.

    I also prepare sermons and classes. I’m blessed with multi tasking skills and I love to be productive.

  4. Steve in Toronto says

    Great list I look forward to exploring in it. One quibble I think you mean Godpod not godcast The podcast is based at Holy Trinty Brompton Home of the famous Alpha Course and one of the most influential voices for Orthodox Evenjilical Low Chuch Angilcanism in England. Jane Williams the wife of the current Arch bishop of Canterbury is a regular contributor but don’t let that turn you off she’s great.


    Steve in Toronto

  5. Hmm… I gave Fringe a chance. And I’ve pretty much closed the book on it. Which makes me sad–I’m a J.J. Abrams/scifi/etc fan.

  6. Michael,

    I love lots of what you listed, but Millenium has a special place in my heart. Just last week I was looking for someone to discuss it with. It’s so atmospheric and other-worldly. I remember a Halloween episode. Great!

    Well, I’ll have to buy it. I’m always hoping for another weird, atmospheric show like X-Files and Millenium, but they’re rare. I was hoping Fringe would be like that, but it hasn’t struck me that way.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Millenium… Yeah…

    I’m most familiar with the first season, before things got weird. (I had other committments on my time mid-second season — right after they hinted about “5/5/2000” and the Priory of Sion — and never got back to it.) I’d read the memoirs of some FBI profilers, and used to pick out what RL serial killers they’d composited the fictional perps from.

  8. Michael,

    About prayer books, have you tried the Divine Hours? I remember your wife had a guest post about it. I was recommended it by a friend, and it’s good.

    Oh my. House is my show, but due to school, I can barely catch it anymore. Everyone says that I’m House in a Nigerian girl’s body, and I’m lucky my patients will be dead before I cut them open because I’ll just be too sarcastic and biting for my own good.

    Oh, sci-fi, I have a love/hate relationship with it. Orson Scott Card was in town this weekend, but I couldn’t make it. So I stick to my paladins and mages and rogues.

    Good stuff. I have a LOT to check out once the work week and midterms are over!

  9. Clay of CO says


    Since you are fond of folk and acoustic music (as I am), I’d like to add a recommendation to your music listening list: Andrew Peterson’s new CD, “Resurrection Letters, Volume II” (it’s a prequel to Volume I, which is being written now). Just listened today and it’s agruably his best CD yet. Outstanding lyricist and musician.

  10. 3 unsolicited things:

    book recommend! – “Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology”, by Neil Postman. This is the most intense (rhetoric-free) book on culture I’ve read this year. The incredibly nuanced discussion of Gutenberg vs. the Catholic Church is just one of 100 solitary reasons this book is worth the sticker price. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be overawed by great scholarship – this book could come out 10 years from now and still be bleeding edge. Everybody please read it. I bought it yesterday for $4. To anybody curious about the future of culture and worried about ministry and education, jump on it.

    music recommend! – I think you’ll like Tim and Mollie O’Brien’s “Away Out On The Mountain”, since you’re into folk, Jesus and you’re an Appalachian guy. Also, have to recommend (from DURHAM) the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

    movie question? – I remember Dead Poets Society being annoyingly Existentialist, not critical in the least. Are you saying you found the movie critical of E., or did I misunderstand you?

  11. On Dead Poet’s Society- Yes, I have to unveil the flaws in existentialism, but the movie is a good demo to work with.

  12. New to this blog – I’m a doctoral student in Biblical languages, part-time Old Testament instructor, and run a small-time online store (

    The latest book I have read is Christopher Hitchens God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Since I teach Old Testament, I got it for the chapter “The Nightmare of the Old Testament.” I read some quotes to try to get my students to understand that if they do not address issues in the OT someone else will. What really scares me is if instead of a book, someone did a literal, cinematic presentation of book of Joshua, kind of like an atheist/agnostic response to The Passion. Because we tend to sweep texts like these under the rug, I think that would be very damaging to a lot of people.

    I also have checked out The Hebrew Bible in the Modern Scholar series. I think this series is a replacement of the old Barnes and Noble Portable Professor series. The audio is by Lawrence Schiffman whose voice isn’t great, but there is a lot of good material. He has also done one on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I want to check out. They are kind of expensive, but you can get them on the cheap from if you sign up for a trial.

  13. Thanks for the GodPod heads-up. Looks interesting.

    Sad you are not watching college football (or at least not mentioning it). I’m sure God will forgive you anyway. 🙂

  14. If you want to learn about the effects of sloth/acedia, check out Kathleen Norris’ new book Acedia and Me. It will have you praying for forgiveness and strength of will.

  15. Just caught my fifth Gordon Lightfoot concert a month ago. I’ve always avoided the “Tony Rice Sings” stuff, but I’ll have to check it out.

    Caught my fifth Bob Dylan concert about a year ago.

    Indeed, Pierce Pettis is a brilliant songwriter.

    I gave Fringe a chance too, but gave up on it. I think it has potential to turn into something good, but I’ve taken on Heroes now, so something in my TV schedule needed to give.

    I’m planning to start renting both Millenium and X-Files.

  16. It brightened my day to find another
    TONY RICE fan!!

    I’m a big admirer of his both as a guitarist
    and vocalist. I’ve seen him a couple times
    over the years, but due to his severe vocal problems, have never heard him sing in person.

    “Sings Gordon Lightfoot” was my first exposure
    to TR and set me off in pursuit of all his other recordings.

  17. I love Eugene Peterson. I’ve tried to turn all my friends on to him, but alas, it’s an uphill battle. I’m currently reading a novel he recommended in one of his books. Its called, “The Diary of a Country Priest.” I’m also reading a collection of essays by Dawid F Wright on infant baptism.

  18. Curious what you thought of last night’s House. My wife and I never miss one either. I knew something in that vein would be coming given the previous banter about Thirteen’s lifestyle in previous episodes.

    My wife decided to pause the DVR after a kiss between Thirteen and her newfound “friend” to ask me “So why is that a turn-on to guys?” Not looking to get into that conversation when I’m just trying to watch my favorite show.

  19. I missed it. I was working and we botched the taping. We’ll watch it Fri on USA.

  20. Well, sorry for the spoiler. Suffice it to say, you will know in the first 30 seconds that it will not be an episode to share with your favorite culture warrior in an effort to convince them of the program’s insight into the human soul.

  21. Ugh – a U of K fan. Are you sure you’re saved?


  22. [Had something here, but somebody would use it to get me in big trouble. But it’s good!]

    That’s gonna keep me up at night!! 😉