Lately I've been listening to a lot of podcasts on my commute. And there are a few specifically that I'd like to mention here because I find them constantly encouraging and fascinating and they fill my heart with joy and hope. Maybe they will for you too.
1. Conversations With People Who Hate Me. YouTuber Dylan Maron started this podcast by reaching out to people who left hate messages on his past and talking through it with them, and now the conversations often include him mediating between other content creators and the people who leave hateful messages on their work. What I love is that this is not a podcast to try and change anyone's mind as much as a podcast just to remind us that, as Dylan says at the end of each episode, "there's a human on the other side of the screen." Listening to the civil disagreements Dylan and his guests have together and how they learn from each other's different perspectives gives me hope. I love how Dylan always centers the conversation on empathy and understanding the other person's experience. It's exciting and rewarding to listen to.
2. Where Should We Begin? A couples therapy podcast. Couples therapist Esther Parel hosts one-time counseling sessions on-air, and we get to hear both snippets of the session and Esther's musing on it later, sometimes even musings like, "If I could go back, I would have done it differently." The issues range from sexual compatibility issues to forgiveness from affairs to abuse to caregiving through chronic illness, and Esther treats each couple with such hope and such compassion that I have actually cried a couple times listening to it because I get so wrapped up in it all.
3. The Robcast. Rob Bell gets labeled a heretic a lot of the time in conservative Christian circles, but his writing on art and faith changed my life as a young adult and I continue to love his work. A lot of the stuff he says on his podcast isn't terribly new, but he couches it all with such joy and optimism and understanding that I never leave feeling guilty (something that can't be said of almost any other Christian teacher I listen to, whose goals always seem to be to just make me feel crappy about myself). His sense of grace and love and empathy for the people around him oozes out to me through the airwaves and leaves me feeling heard and understood, even though, of course, I'm the one listening.
4. Good Christian Fun. My newest discovery of all of these. Two Christians host this podcast about Christian pop culture, and while a lot of it is being snarky and silly about how strange Christian pop culture is (because, yeah, it's weird), they often go much deeper into the aspects of faith that have gotten lost or warped in these culture wars. They have a guest on every week, many times someone who is no longer or was never a Christian, and (as you can see is a pattern with these podcasts that are filling my soul) the empathy with which they treat their guests whose beliefs are so different is refreshing and lovely. It's a very funny podcast, but it also feels like a place where people can open up and have the conversations I never felt like I could have had in my church. (The Facebook community for this podcast is incredible as well -- very much following the tone set by the show itself.)
These four are all worth checking out if you need something positive and interesting to add to your day. They add to mine!