Episode Sixty-Four: The Foster Care System with Gwen Hicks

gwen hicks.jpg

This week we’re talking about the foster care system, the good, the bad and the ugly. Guest Gwen Hicks is an educator, advocate and champion of kids in the foster care system.  As the Chief Dreamer of Amarillo Angels, a non-profit designed to support children in foster care and their foster families, she has served those on the front lines within the foster care system.  Gwen and Colleen discuss the challenges the foster care system is facing, what is most needed and why people should care about this system.  

Check out the work that the National Angels Organization is doing and see if you could partner with them to serve your community!  And follow Amarillo Angels on Facebook and Instagram.  Also, connect with Gwen on Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t forget about the listener survey!  You have until August 1 to be entered to win a $35 Amazon gift card.

Also mentioned in today’s episode:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

Episode Sixty-Three: Changing our Opinions with Lyra Repplinger


We’re back!!! This week we are kicking off a new set of episodes with a conversation with an old friend. Lyra Repplinger and I are discussing a few things that we’ve changed our opinions on over the years. You may remember Lyra from episode 39, a recap episode. This time Lyra and I are each taking turns sharing a few of the big and small things we’ve changed our opinions on. I’m learning that we don’t give ourselves a lot of freedom in our culture to change our mind about things.  It feels like a betrayal of our ideals or values sometimes to admit that maybe we’ve come to think differently about things.  And in our social media culture where it is painfully easy to pull up anything we ever said publicly about something 10 years ago, it becomes even harder to be able to say, I thought that, but now I think this.  So this will be the first of what I hope will be a number of conversations, with a number of people who will be willing to share a few things they changed their minds about and how they managed to do that.

Connect with Lyra! Come find her over on Instagram!

And, did you know we’ve launched a listener survey?? For the month of July I am begging, pleading and even bribing you all to take a moment to fill out our listener survey.  Your answers to these questions will be so helpful to me as I begin to think about what is next for A Year of Listening. To express my gratitude I’ll be drawing one responder at random to win an Amazon gift card on August 1. Find the survey here.

Episode Sixty-Two: Polarizing Summer Opinions with Marty Finn


We’ve got another special episode!   Every once in a while we take a break from all of our serious conversations for something a little more lighthearted.  Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend which is the unofficial start of summer and so we are going to discuss polarizing summer opinions.  Our “fun” polarizing opinion episodes can be some of our most contentious, so buckle up kids, you may have some strong feelings about these polarizing summer opinions.  

Joining me for this fiery conversation is my long-time friend and fellow pop culture junkie, Marty Finn! Marty and I go way back to our college days at the University of Illinois and then we also lived in New York City at the same time.  Marty and I both do not have any shortage of strong opinions and this episode will be no exception.  We share our most polarizing opinions about all things summer.

Go follow Marty on Instagram! I promise he’s a good follow. His #TBT posts are worth their weight in gold.

Also mentioned in the episode:

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Episode Sixty-One: What We Learned Episodes 52-60


This week we have a recap episode!  Every eight or nine episodes we pause to think about what we’ve learned from our guests.  This week it’s just me behind the mic sharing what I’ve learned from this set of conversations.  We’ll be looking at episodes 52-60.  This includes Pornography Addiction with Mark Macdonald, Depolarizing Politics with David Lapp, Sexual Orientation in the Church (part 2) with B.T. Harman, Mass Incarceration and Prison Reform with Dominique Gilliard, Trans Identity and the Church with Ellie Dote, The Reality of the American Dream and Upward Mobility with Lindsy Wallace, Non-Binary Gender Identity with Mason Aid, Sexual Orientation and the Church (part 3) with David Bennett and Reframing the Singular Narrative with Jonathan Brooks.  I’ve got 5 things I learned from these conversations.

Episode Sixty: Reframing the Singular Narrative with Jonathan Brooks


This week’s conversation covers a multitude of topics.  My guest, Jonathan Brooks and I discuss the damaging effects of a singular narrative, what happens when escaping from your neighborhood becomes the definition of success and how falling in love with the place you live is the best hope for effecting change in your community.  Jonathan is a lifelong resident of Chicago, IL. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at Canaan Community Church in the West Englewood neighborhood.As a firm believer in investing in your local community, Jonathan has a deep desire to impress this virtue on all who will listen.  This is a conversation for everyone whether your community’s narrative is positive or negative.  

Connect with Jonathan!  Find Pastah J on his website, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  And go get his book Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods.

Our year of action call this week is simple.  I challenge you to consider the pervasive singular narrative in your own community and then find ways to bring out the other sides of the narrative.  If your community is one primarily known for its brokenness seek out and share the beauty.  Post it on social media, tag myself and Pastah J (or use #ayearofaction).  And if your community is one known for its beauty, could you bravely speak about your own brokenness?  Share it with a friend, or a family member.  Or even on social media.  Let’s all challenge our own place’s singular narratives.  And finally, consider how you can fall more in love with your place so that you can impact your community.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Episode Fifty-Nine: Sexual Orientation and the Church Part Three with David Bennett

David Bennett.jpg

This week we are finishing our series around sexual orientation and the Church.  My guest is David Bennett.  David hails from Sydney, Australia, lives in Oxford, where he is reading for his PhD in theological ethics, and works as an international speaker and research fellow for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and RZIM. He holds postgraduates degrees from Oxford University and St Andrews in Theology, and recently published his first book, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.

David and I chat about how his activism changed when he discovered Jesus, how he feels about his personal calling towards celibacy and whether or not this is an issue in which faithful Christians can disagree.

Connect with David!  Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!  And check out his book, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.

My Action challenge this week is an extension of what I said after chatting with B.T.  Continue to do the work but this time be very intentional about following and listening to gay Christians whom you would disagree with.  If you are affirming, listen to Side B Christians.  If you are not affirming, follow and engage with some Side A Christians.

Also discussed in the episode:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

Episode Fifty-Eight: Non Binary Gender Identity with Mason Aid


This week we are tackling a topic many may be unfamiliar or uneducated about.  Mason Aid is here to talk about non-binary gender identity. Mason is an LGBTQ educator and advocate who helps educators and mental health professionals know how to better support teens as they come out and/or deal with mental health issues.  Mason and I discuss what it means to be non-binary, how this identity has implications beyond just pronoun use and how people can be good allies for those who identify as non-binary.

Connect with Mason!  Check out Mason’s website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Year of Action: Consider, as Mason said, what your next step is.  For you is it using non-binary pronouns when appropriate?  Is it getting curious, asking more questions, doing more research?  I encourage you to follow Mason and other non-binary individuals, do some learning and see what you discover.  Figure out that next step and move towards it.

Also discussed in this episode:

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Episode Fifty-Seven: The Reality of the American Dream and Upward Mobility with Lindsy Wallace


This week we are talking about the American Dream.  What is the American Dream?  Is it accessible to everyone? My guest is Lindsy Wallace, a wife and mother who has followed Jesus to the margins of society.  We talk about the concept of the American Dream as well as downward and upward mobility, the ways in which our systems are designed with some inherent injustice, and what is necessary to begin to affect that.

Follow Lindsy on Instagram.  Check out her podcast and follow it on Facebook and Instagram.

Year of Action:

Spend some time researching and considering the American Dream.  What do you think it is?  Do you think it’s accessible to everyone?  What does the American Dream actually look like and how does it play out for ALL people?  Spend some time coming to you own understanding of the American Dream and it’s possible limitations.  If you want to go further perhaps check out some of the resources Lindsy mentioned.

Also mentioned on this show:

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Rethinking Incarceration by Dominique Gilliard

Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle

Episode Fifty-Six: Trans Identity and the Church with Ellie Dote

Ellie Dote.jpeg

This week we are talking about the intersection of trans identity and faith.  My guest, Ellie Dote, is a deeply faithful Christian who has transitioned from male to female.  She is on a mission to start the conversation about how and where trans people can belong in faith communities.  Ellie and I chat about her story, theology and the role she sees her presence play in faith communities.

Connect with Ellie!  Find her personal website and business page or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

My Year of Action challenge for you is the same no matter how you feel about what Ellie said.  I encourage you this week to seek out the stories of trans people, particularly trans Christians.  Consider whether you need to see the human people in this issue more clearly and how you can do that.  And if you are a person in a community of faith who would like to see your church more open and accepting of the trans community consider asking your pastor, “would my trans friend be welcome here?” Start these conversations.

Also mentioned in the episode:

The Reformation Project

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Episode Fifty-Five: Mass Incarceration and Prison Reform with Dominique Gilliard


Today we are continuing with a topic we first explored in episode 46: Post Incarceration Employment and Rehabilitation.  My guest Dominique Gilliard and I are chatting about mass incarceration and prison reform today.  Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores.  Dominique and I discuss the many different aspects at play when it comes to issues in our prison system, solutions that can chip away at these injustices and some countries that are having success at restorative justice.

Connect with Dominique!  Check out his website and his book!  Find him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

Year of Action Challenge:

If you found yourself skeptical of what Dominique was saying I encourage you to head over to the show notes for today’s episode and check out his resource from the Walk Towards Love website as well as any of the resources listed from our conversation today.  There’s a lot of really great research happening right now in that field. And it’s worth researching yourself.

And if you feel spurred to action after this conversation I think a great first step is doing a little research into what banks and companies profit off of our current prison system.  Can you write a letter to your bank?  Choose different brands to avoid contributing to this system?  Or, even better start a campaign to encourage those companies to use the profits they make to help the formerly incarcerated return to society and to employ the formerly incarcerated.  It seems like there are a lot of different solutions to these issues.

Also discussed in this episode:

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores by Dominique Gilliard

Washington Post: Five Myths about Incarceration 

Walking Towards Love curriculum

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DeBois

Episode Fifty-Four: Sexual Orientation and the Church (part 2) with B.T. Harman


We are continuing our conversation this week around sexual orientation and the church with B.T. Harman.  B.T. is the creator and author of the website Blue Babies Pink: A Southern Coming Out Story in 44 episodes.  First as a blog, and then later in podcast form, BBP details B.T.’s story as a young man growing up in the church and coming to terms with his sexual orientation as a gay man.  B.T. is a freelance content-creator for millennials and the brands that serve them. His consulting work focuses on brand strategy, design, marketing, social media, leadership, and more. 

B.T. and I chat about how he went from denying his orientation, to a commitment to celibacy to finally taking an affirming stance and getting married himself.  We also chat about whether this is an issue in which faithful Christians can disagree and how you can love and support affirming brothers and sisters whether or not you agree with them.

Connect with B.T.  I HIGHLY recommend you listen to the Blue Babies Pink podcast or read the blog.  You can also find B.T. on his website or follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He’s a great follow!

Year of Action

Do, as B.T. says, the work on this issue.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue of sexual orientation in the church, whether you are affirming of gay marriage or not, I encourage you this week to seek out the story of a gay christian.  Seek out many stories, as it is all deeply personal and nuanced.  Suspend your opinion on the issue and seek out the story of someone who maybe falls on the opposite side of you theologically.  Try to understand where they are coming from and the path they’ve walked. As BT said, do everything you possibly can to empathize from a human connection.

Also discussed in the episode:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Episode Fifty-Three: Depolarizing Politics with David Lapp


This week’s guest will give you hope for the state of politics in this country.  My guest today is David Lapp, co-founder of Better Angles, an organization determined to depolarize politics in our country.  Better Angels hosts Red and Blue workshops around the country with the goal of promoting respectful dialogue and better understanding between the two political parties.  David and I talked about what is needed to depolarize politics today, surprising things that have happened in his workshops and why it’s worth it to stay in these conversations even when they are messy.

To learn more about David and Better Angels head to his website Better Angels USA and follow the organization on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  

Year of Action Charge:  Find someone who is on the other side of the aisle politically from you and have a conversation.  Work towards respect and connection and stay in it as best you can.  Don’t try to change each other’s mind, just try to hear each other well.  We can do this.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Pantsuit Politics podcast and I Think You’re Wrong But I’m Listening by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

Video of BLM leader speaking at Trump rally

Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis

Episode Fifty-Two: Pornography Addiction with Mark MacDonald


This week we are tackling a very taboo topic.  Licensed clinical social worker Mark MacDonald and I sit down to talk about pornography.  Mark began his private practice about 20 years ago just as high speed internet was coming into homes and he saw his business immediately boom as people struggled to get out from under pornography addiction.  Mark and I discuss the science behind porn use, common myths about pornography and some ways to protect your kids from inadvertently accessing it.

For more information about Mark and his work, check out his website.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Psychology Today Article The Great Porn Debate

Resources to safeguard your internet:



Covenant Eyes

Teen Safe

Books to help talk to kids about porn:

Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Episode Fifty-One: What We Learned Episodes 43-50


It's a recap week!  This time we've crowdsources responses from the Year of Listening community!  Listeners sent in voice memos or emails with their thoughts on episodes 43-50.  It was interesting to see which episodes struck a nerve and what inspired you all. 

As always I am so inspired and encouraged by my listeners. You all are amazing, thoughtful, nuanced, compassionate people who are doing so much good in the world. THANK YOU!!!

Keep the conversation going!  Leave a comment here about what landed with you this in this set of conversations.  Or comment on an instagram postor in the facebook group.  We love hearing from our listeners!

Episode Fifty: Separating Church and State, God and Politics with Cody Cook


We’re talking faith and politics today!  Whether or not faith plays a role in your politics, it is impossible to escape the role the Christian faith has played in politics in recent years.  And if you’ve never contemplated to what degrees church and state are and should be separated, it’s worth considering.  My guest is Cody Cook.  Cody is a theology graduate student living in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of three books and the host of the podcast Cantus Firmus which explores theological questions as they relate to the wider culture.  Cody and I discussed what the Bible says about the role the Church plays within the state, the lenses each side tends to view the world through, and how we can be political but not partisan with our faith. 

Connect with Cody!  You can find him and info about his podcast on his website and check out his books!

Year of Action steps:

If you are a person of faith, regardless of your political leanings I challenge you this week to consider ways in which your politics may only be benefit a specific group of people rather than the whole, particularly if those people are people who agree with and think like you?  How might your politics expand to benefit people who are different from you?  How can we hold more loosely to our partisan politics in the name of speaking truth to power?  And I mean this deeply for both sides, not just Republicans or Democrats.

If you are not a person of faith and you want to understand more how faith influences politics on both sides of the aisle, I’d encourage you to start listening to The Pantsuit Politics ladies.  Both are Christian women whose faith informs their politics even though they ascribe to different parties.  I think they give a good picture of how faith can influence politics in the best ways.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Focus on the Family article about Biblical Citizenship

ERLC article Four reasons Christians Should Care about Politics

Christian Century article Do Politics Belong in Church?

Autobiography of Malcolm X

Episode Forty-Nine: Coming Out to a More Full Life with Heather Vickery


This week’s guest is Heather Vickery.  Heather Vickery is an award-winning entrepreneur, business owner, and coach.  She is also a mother of four and host of the Brave Files podcast.  Heather shares her story of coming out later in life as a married mother of four.  We talk about sexual orientation, marriage, divorce, and how sexuality is about so much more than just sex.

Connect with Heather!  Check out her website and podcast The Brave Files.  Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Year of Action steps:

Seek out stories of people who have come out, whether they were later in life like Heather or as a young person.  There are countless books, articles, websites and even TV shows that focus on this experience.    

Also mentioned in the episode:

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Episode Forty-Eight: Parenting Philosophies with Meg Tietz


This week we are tackling parenting.  While on the surface this may not seem like a hot button issue, anyone who has bumped up against a conflict in parenting methods knows that there are big feelings involved.  My guest is Meg Tietz, creator and producer of The Sorta Awesome podcast and writer and creator of the former blog Sorta Crunchy.  She is also the co-author of the book “Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year.”  Meg and I talk about trusting your parenting intuition, the abundance of fear and judgement we seem to have today around the art of raising kids, and why we wish “Mommy Wars” would just be put to death already.

Connect with Meg!  You can find her on Instagram and Facebook and be sure to check out her podcast, The Sorta Awesome Podcast.  It’s such a good show!  (You can find the show on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well.)

Also discussed on the show:

NYTimes piece “Motherhood in the Age of Fear”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Episode Forty-Seven: Sexual Orientation and the Church (Part One) with Nate Collins


This week I am sitting down with Dr. Nate Collins. Dr. Nate Collins is the president and founder of Revoice, an evangelical organization that supports, encourages, and empowers gay, lesbian, and same-sex attracted Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.  Nate and I talk about his story as a gay man in a mixed orientation marriage, the ways the church can do better with regard to this issue and how to support gay Christians who also observe the traditional Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.

Connect with Nate!  I encourage you to check out his organization ReVoice.  Follow Nate and ReVoice on twitter.  And take a look at his book All But Invisible, out now!

Year of Action:

If you agreed with Nate: How can you encourage or support kinship for gay brothers and sisters who feel called to celibacy?  What are ways you can open your lives and homes to these men and women to provide the kinship that we are all created for?

If you disagreed with Nate- Follow and listen to some voices of gay Christian men and women that are not affirming of same-sex marriage like Nate.  This would include Nate.  Check out his book, All But Invisible.  Wesely Hill is another great person to follow (twitter) and learn from.  You can read his book Washed and Waiting. Finally, think of how you can support your gay brothers and sisters by being, as Nate discussed, mindful of their conscious. 

Also mentioned in this episode:

Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead

Episode Forty-Six: Post-Incarceration Rehabilitation and Employment

Ricky’s business and writing partner Dan Walser, Marvin and Ricky.

Ricky’s business and writing partner Dan Walser, Marvin and Ricky.

This week I am sitting down with a dear friend and his friend to talk about incarceration, rehabilitation post-incarceration and the employment and mentoring of the formerly incarcerated.  Ricky Staub launched Neighborhood Film Co from a homeless shelter in Philadelphia with a mission to mentor and employ men returning home from prison. Marvin is a former apprentice of this program.  In our conversation we talk about what led Ricky to this kind of work, the nuts and bolts of the program and we hear from Marvin about how his involvement as an apprentice changed his life and why we should care about this kind of work.

Find out more about Neighborhood Film Co and the apprenticeship program on their website.  I highly encourage you to listen to Ricky’s TED talk and read Marvin’s article about his experience (which was featured in Variety and Rolling Stone!)  You can follow Neighborhood Film Co. on Facebook and Instagram.

Also discussed in the episode:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson

Episode Forty-Five: Women and Money with Bethany Bayless


Money, power and gender are all pretty taboo cocktail party topics and this week Bethany Bayless and I are tackling them all.   We talk about why women have a hard time leaning into personal finances and advocating for themselves when it comes to compensation for their work.  Bethany Bayless is a professional speaker and emcee. She has a podcast called The Money Millhouse where she and her mom, Ellie Kay, discuss personal finances over a cup of coffee each week.

Connect with Bethany on social media!  Follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and check out her podcast The Money Millhouse.

Also mentioned in the episode:

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile