Two podcast suggestions for Lent

For the past few years my Lenten practice has been to give up fiction and read spiritual/religious/vexing nonfiction instead. It’s not the biggest challenge in the world because I love reading in all forms, but it helps me center my thoughts for the duration of Lent during times I’d rather be lost in another realm. I’ve already read Searching for Sunday and The Great Divorce, and now I’m re-reading No Wonder They Call Him Savior, which I read in college but am eager to read it again nearly 20 years later and see how it relates now.

In addition to reading nonfiction I’ve included two podcasts in my daily practice that I want to share with you. The first is The Word on Fire by Bishop Robert Barron, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I discovered Bishop Barron on YouTube when one of his videos popped up in the suggestions section. Surely he’s more well known in Catholic circles than in Protestant ones, but that means little to me in this context. Bishop Barron tackles tricky subjects in a manner that provokes discernment (which is the point), as well as highlights the glorious mercy of God and how He moves throughout this troubled world. I’m particularly enjoying the daily Lent Reflections. Today’s reflection reminds us of Joseph’s commitment and devotion to a plan he knew little about.

The second podcast I’m enjoying is Let Us Reason: A Christian-Muslim Dialogue with Al Fadi, an educational outreach effort from the Center for Islamic Research and Awareness. Al Fadi is a former Wahabbi Muslim from Saudi Arabia whose mission is to reach Muslims for Christ.

I enjoy the podcast in particular because Al Fadi strives to teach Christians the elements of Islam, which is something I’ve felt convicted about since last year’s election cycle. Short of the Five Pillars of Islam, I knew nothing. While standing firm in my own beliefs about Christ, Let Us Reason creates space to understand Islam from someone who was born and raised in it and possesses a deep passion and concern for those who still believe.

Both podcasts are thoughtful, faithful companions while I go about my daily activities and, like the books, bring me to a place of discernment and conviction during this time of Lent.

Five Ways I’m Preparing for the Trump Presidency

It’s coming whether we like it or not. The Trump Presidency will be an animal all its own, and there are plenty of reasons to be concerned that: 1) things won’t go as planned, or 2) things will go as planned. It’s kind of a crapshoot.

As a Libertarian-leaning moderate who did not vote for Hillary, Donald, or Gary, I’m wary of government growth both as an entity and in its specific areas of legislation.

However, I’m more concerned about the deep division our country continues to experience. In the last two months, I’ve seen families and friendships buckle under the weight of political differences, and it’s grieved me. There was even a time when I feared that might happen to a few of my own relationships, but fortunately love and loyalty runs deeper than unforeseen election night results and the residual heartache it brings.

I wish I could make it all better between us, but I don’t know what that answer is.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum – from your comfy seat on the Trump Train to getting your passport out of the country – I want to share with you five ways I’m preparing for the Trump Presidency.

No. 1: I’m casting a wide net for gathering information and double-checking.
When the publisher and executive editor of The New York Times say they will rededicate themselves  to honest, unbiased reporting post-election, you know something has gone awry in the American media. When precious few journalists saw the Trump win as a real possibility, and We The People didn’t consider them, you know something is up.

That is why now more than ever is the right time to know your source of news and information is accurate and unbiased.

I’m a regular reader of The Independent and Reuters, and I’m looking more at The Real News. I’m a big fan of The Cato Institute and Reason Magazine, libertarian resources that do a consistent job of calling out Democrats, Republicans, and third parties when it pertains to the Constitution and our civil liberties.

Cable news is mostly out, though I greatly enjoy the diverse dialogue and banter on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

My goal is simple: Before I read something that tells me what I should think, I want to:  1) already know what happened, and 2) know how my personal belief system aligns on the matter.

Also, hypocrisy runs rampant in our nation’s capital, so before getting upset about something Donald Trump does, I’ll effort to see if he wasn’t the first. (Ahem and ahem.)

No. 2: I’ve established my political priorities, so I’m dropping the anchor.
I’m pretty clear about what I believe politically. I separate church and state easily. In a nutshell, I think the role of the federal government should be much smaller than it actually is. You can ask me how I feel about a particular issue and my first answer will likely be, “I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in it.” This is the standard against which I consider many, if not most, issues. It’s subject to change over time (life and experience forces that flexibility), but for now, today, at 38, I’m pretty firm.

Regardless of what President Trump does or doesn’t do, I will hold him against the standard of my own political standards, regardless of what is on trend, what others tell me I should believe, or what actors/athletes/preachers/pundits say is “right.”

No. 3: I’m learning about Islam.
This one is a biggie. Before the rhetoric starts and legislation regarding Muslim Americans or Muslim immigration crosses the presidential desk, I want to know more about the religion so I can have my own thoughts on the matter. Beyond the Five Pillars, I know virtually nothing concrete about Islam. Is it a religion of peace, or is it a religion of submission? I recently started listening to Let Us Reason: A Christian Muslim Dialogue and am continuing to find other helpful resources as I go on. Your suggestions are welcome.

No. 4: I’m leaning into what I know is true.
– Jesus is my savior, not whomever is president.
– My husband, parents, sister, and core group of girlfriends are my support system, not the American government.
– The balance of power among the three branches exists for a reason.
– There are plenty of good, honorable, respectable people who voted for Hillary Clinton.
– There are plenty of good, honorable, respectable people who voted for Donald Trump.

Whatever happens in Washington, these things will not change:
– how I parent my children
– how I treat others
– how I care for my own well-being
– my convictions about liberty
– my desire for learning
– my deep and abiding love for animals, solitude, and coffee.

No. 5: I’ll take a minute. 
Emotions have run high lately. Way high. In recent days it has taken massive amounts of self-control to turn off social media, to not comment, to not assume the worst, and to not eat all the leftover Christmas candy in one sitting because someone has shared a piece of fake news or condescending garbage online. It’s been hard to take the high road when unsolicited messages have come my way or when I’m watching crazy unfold before my eyes.

The hardest and most challenging obstacle ahead of me is to practice mindfulness, self-calming exercises, and the ever-essential PAUSE before I react. Beyond the pause, there’s yoga, a long run, a Netflix binge, a phone call to my sister. Whatever I need to do to calm down, I will do it. Whatever I need to do before reacting, I will do it.

It’s not a perfect recipe, but I’m trying here. I hope you’ll try, too.

In the words of President Obama from his farewell speech on January 10: “Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”