Posted on: June 12, 2020 Posted by: vufc2 Comments: 0

By: Katie Choi

A few weeks back, I shared what I’m watching and reading right now.  Since then, I have continued on my quest to Mordor and am on the last book of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  It’s been a wonderful adventure.  I feel a connection to the characters in a kinship sort of way.  Their fears are my fears; their celebrations mine, too.  I have gotten to know them, and I love them.  Now, I have less than 100 pages to go, and I’ll be sad for it to end.  Of course, I can re-read the series, picking up on things I may have missed the first time through, and delight in the storytelling all over again.  But, the feeling of reading a book for the first time is one of those things is hard to explain but rare, wonderful treasure. 

I talked to a few friends to see what they are reading or watching right now.  Hoping to get some ideas on what quest to set off on next.  I also want to see what others are absorbing so I can perhaps gain new perspectives.  Paying attention to stories is one way to learn and grow at a time when community life has been altered.  You can find empathy and understanding through storytelling.  You can connect to the people and characters, and in learning more about them, root for them, give them grace, and try to understand the nuances of their choices.  Below, I share a few podcasts, books, and films from some friends.  All very different.  Here’s what they recommend: 


My friend Meggie is an avid podcast listener, and this is one medium that just hasn’t taken off for me.  So I was glad when she gave me some examples as another well-loved area to explore.  As an Enneagram enthusiast and mom of three kiddos, she shared a couple recommendations that are really relevant to her right now:

  • The Enneagram Journey with Suzanne Stabile
    • “This is a part of Suzanne’s usual great podcast, but there are also some live-streams and additional content with COVID.  She has a couple panels that go really in-depth, and I found them very interesting and helpful.  Her Q & A episodes are also some of my favorites.  She’s such a good teacher.”
  • Laugh and Learn Bible for a Kid by Phil Vischer
    • “This has become a family favorite over quarantine.  52, 5 minute stories.  Each story also has fun facts, two discussion questions, and a short prayer.  It’s made for some great breakfast conversation and reminders of truth for all of us.” 


  • The Truth About Us by Brant Hansen
    • My friend Ian is reading this book right now and is a big fan.  The premise focuses on how we all think we are better morally than the average person.  Womp.  But Hansen does so in a way that feels hopeful and he reminds the readers he is right there with them.  Hansen is a Christian, and he references his beliefs throughout.  Here are Ian’s words about the book: “This is the third book I’ve read from Brant Hansen, and what I love about him is his closeness to and familiarity with Jesus. He’s also painfully honest about how he gets it wrong all the time, but is covered by grace. I put these books down and feel ‘found out,’ but not alone, and encouraged that I really can love more like Jesus does. Brant doesn’t just make it seem accessible, but appealing.”
  • The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
    • This title may seem familiar around VU because it circulated as a One Read and Small Groups last year.  My friend Stan is a big reader, and he is really thoughtful about what he picks up.  This was his favorite book he read in 2019, but he said that recently he just can’t stop thinking about some of the ideas.  Here is why he appreciates this book: “The book, written by two self-admitting liberal leaning professors, lays out what they see as three prevailing “untruths” that are now accepted in our society.  The scary part is that as I read the book I could feel parts of what they said in my own thought processes over the years, and I could just as easily see examples of what they discussed come up nearly weekly in the news and fellow Americans’ reactions to almost anything.  It’s a book that takes an honest look at how even good intentions can have poor consequences and they did a fair job of holding themselves accountable and then even providing some items for thought concerning what we could do to change it moving forward.”

A Documentary and Movie

  • 13th – A Documentary
    • My friend Ben recommended this to me and to another friend of ours last week.  It is relevant to the racial injustices that are being addressed today.  Here are his thoughts:  “I think a large part of racial reconciliation in our country must start with education.  And sometimes, that education is uncomfortable.  I highly recommend watching the 13th on Netflix.  It tackles some really difficult subject matter that spans American history and even jumps into our present-day issues.  A lot of people thought racism “ended” in America when the 13th Amendment was adopted, which ended slavery.  Or when black people could legally vote.  Or when Barack Obama was elected our first black president.  This documentary takes a closer look into historical and present-day issues that challenge those thoughts head on.”
  • A Hidden Life – A Movie
    • This wasn’t recommended by a close friend, but through Twitter murmurs several with its December 2019 release.  People were recommending the movie based on the storytelling, cinematography, and its basis in truth.  In the film, Austrian farmer, Franz Jagerstatter, must attend military training to fight in WWII alongside Germany.  He recognized the evil of the Nazi regime, and he ultimately refuses to sign an oath declaring his allegiance to Hitler and the Third Reich.  This movie is about his life, and what that decision meant for him and his family.  I am going to watch this over the weekend.  

Maybe you will give one of these a try soon or find some other stories to take in.  Hopefully you are finding ways to learn, grow, rest, and recharge. And taking time to notice—really notice—the immense stories all around us, and the sheer immensity of the macro story of which we are a tiny part.  Now, off to the story—there and back again.  I am praying with you and for you and wishing you peace.  

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. – 1 Peter 3:8

**Next week, our blog will feature a new recording series called ‘Book It!’.  It will be a weekly discussion about a book with Matt Gordon and Ellen Nimmo.  They also share a passion for wanting to read, watch, or listen to stories as a way to increase empathy and understanding.  This is also helping to fill that small group void that maybe many of you are also missing right now.  These will post on Tuesdays, and next week, they will talk about the book Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.  Tune in and give it a listen.  I think it’s going to be great!**


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