In My Ear: Perpetual adolescence, a foster care crisis, and kissing dating goodbye

Welcome to the first installment of In My Ear! For those who may not know, I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. Whether I’m commuting, exercising, cooking dinner, or even taking a shower, I love to listen and learn new things. So I’m sharing my favorite podcasts I’ve heard this week: episodes that I found entertaining, thought-provoking, or (in one case), heartbreaking. Here are five episodes that top the list:

Reveal: No place to run

Length: 53:12

Partnering with the Texas Tribune for investigative reporting, Reveal exposes how the Texas foster care system is failing thousands of children, making them even more vulnerable to prostitution and incarceration. The episode focuses on the moving story of a former foster care child, Jean, and reveals the systemic problems in Texas’ child welfare system and why past efforts have proven futile.

Warning: this is heavy stuff. And it deserves your full attention. (Meaning that this probably isn’t the podcast to play while doing busywork. Perhaps on the exercise bike, though). Also, it contains sensitive topics, so make sure the kids are out of the room.

Planet Money: Budget Time

Length: 15:49

Ever struggle to put into perspective just how much government money goes where? I’ll be honest, after hearing pundits go on about millions, billions, and trillions of funding for this or that, the actual dollar amounts become meaningless to me.

The genius storytellers over at Planet Money came up with a way to help us get a grip on the big-picture federal finances in just ten minutes. They break up the time by designating it to each major item (think healthcare, education, etc.) according to the exact budget breakdown. The more money, the more time.

The best part: they clearly have a great time doing it.

Quick to listen: Can Josh Harris kiss his book goodbye?

Length: 41:00

As someone who is just old enough to remember the loyal following this book earned in my homeschooling and conservative Christian circles during the early 2000s, but who was too young to read it at the time, I was excited for this episode, hoping it might shed light on how the subculture has shifted in the two decades I’ve been alive. (It was published in the year I was born).

And it doesn’t disappoint. Josh Harris, who argued dating is a “training ground for divorce” in the best-selling book he wrote at age 21, is now a pastor who has spent time reflecting and rethinking those ideas. In this podcast, he explains how he does and doesn’t agree with his 21-year-old self and how he’s responding to those hurt or negatively impacted by the book.

Humble, insightful, and humorous, this podcast episode is a must-listen to those familiar or interested in the conservative evangelical world of the 1990s — and today.

You 2.0: Deep Work

Length: 36:34

This is one of those podcast episodes that makes you immediately rethink the way you’re living your life. Sure, I knew that constant smartphone distractions weren’t helping my focus, but it can be convenient to forget the productivity price tag that comes with those pesky notifications.

The timing played a key role, too. I recently interviewed the author of a new study that shows how smartphones tax our brainpower without us knowing it — even when they’re turned off. (The mere act of choosing not to use smartphones when they’re in sight spends cognitive resources.)

This interview with computer scientist Cal Newport strikes a judgment-free tone, offers helpful guidance, and paints a winsome vision of deep, meaningful work. It reminded me not only of the prudence of taking a break from smartphones, but of our spiritual call to stewardship and the abundant life we’re offered — if we’re willing to stop scrolling long enough to look.

Signposts: Senator Ben Sasse and Russell Moore talk about how perpetual adolescence hurts the church

Length: 22:37

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) recently authored an acclaimed book, “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance.” But don’t worry, this isn’t a millennial-bashing rant.  As a new twenty-year-old, I found myself agreeing with Sasse’s argument that the lines between adolescence and adulthood have become increasingly blurred over time.

I appreciated Sasse’s critique of modern churches, which have often siloed kids, teens, and adults instead of prioritizing intergenerational integration. Sasse offers insight into how regarding how we, and particularly young people, fail to distinguish between “production” and “consumption”  — and how this shapes our personal lives and Christian posture.

If you’re part of a family, community, or church, there’s a lot to be gleaned here.

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