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3 Reasons I Keep Rewatching Parks and Recreation

A few weeks ago, Steve and Emma took on Game of Thrones after our summer hiatus from Y2AM’s weekly podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour. The episode raised a bit of controversy as some perceived that Y2AM was offering a whole-hearted endorsement of the show, and while we were quick to suggest that it’s worth watching “if you have the stomach for it,” Steve and Emma nonetheless continued with the stated purpose of PCCH, which is simply looking for Christ even in the darkest of places. For those caught in the middle of the controversy, Steve issued an apology, which you can read here.

 

This week, however, Christina and I teamed up for what will doubtless be a remarkably less controversial episode of PCCH, wherein we discuss one our mutual favorite shows: Parks and Recreation.  I’ve seen all seven seasons at least three times each, and honestly, I keep wanting to go back for more. Christina and I dive into some of the finer points of what makes Parks and Rec such a great show (you can listen to the full episode here), but for now, here’s three reasons why I keep coming back to the show.

  1. The Writing

I was an English major in college, and after graduating, I had the lofty idea that I was going to apply to screenwriting school. Needless to say, I didn’t get in, and so I instead pursued a life in counseling and ministry (I’m gonna go ahead and chalk that up to God having a different plan for me than I did). Regardless, I have remained a junky for great writing, particularly in television. This is the reason I love shows like Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock. While AD might be my favorite of all time, Parks and Rec comes in a very close second.

It’s hard to talk about this show without noting the genius lines that each character has. As Christina and I chatted, we couldn’t help but quote the show at every opportunity we got. It’s truly amazing to me that human beings would be so creative, that they would have the potential to put together such a flawless story while also making it impeccably hilarious. If you’re going to stop and watch Parks and Rec, you can’t stop listening for two seconds, otherwise you might miss a joke.

The writing is truly a testament to the creative power of creative people, and I can’t help but sit back and marvel that God could make people so capable of making something so wonderful.

2) The Characters

This show is full of amazing humans. Actually, it’s pretty silly. The people are ridiculous. But somehow Parks and Rec takes a random group of people, throws them together in a local government job, and magic happens. Each of them is a misfit, but somehow, they belong together. When I watch, I can’t help but feel that maybe this is in someway an image of what the Church ought to be.

Everyone is unique and have plenty of disagreements, yet somehow, they are able to stick together, to be (for the most part) unwavering for one another. Too often, however, it seems the Church is not a place for such celebration of communion amidst diversity, but rather becomes yet one more place in this divided where we are all too willing to cast the first stone at people who aren’t like us. Rather than working toward the Kingdom together, we become distracted by arguments that defame other persons.

Generally speaking, in Parks and Rec, we don’t see people who disagree with one another calling into question one another’s moral standing. Of course, there are some characters in the show who are portrayed as despicable (and rightly so), but the core crew is a group of people devoted to working together not only in spite of their differences, but through their differences. It is not uniformity that makes them strong, but unity amidst diversity. If only we could learn this lesson, too.

3) The Light

Finally, I continue to come back to Parks because it’s just so darn pleasant. It’s happy. I don’t think you have to look very far to find Christ because He radiates through the warmth and love of the people who run the Pawnee Parks Department. It’s a very silly show, but doggonit, I’m so happy to find something that I know will cheer me up when I’m faced by the realities of today’s world. It’s not that such a show distracts me from the horrors of reality, but rather it gives me hope to face the horrors of today.

Parks and Rec paints a fun, joyful, light-filled vision for the possibility of communal life together. It is my hope that you’ll listen to our podcast, watch the show, and find as much hope for the future as Christina and I did.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, homebrewer, and CrossFitter. Christian has an MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Life Lessons from "This Is Us" - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

My wife and I are huge fans of NBC’s new show, This is Us. We love it so much, that we are even willing to admit that Mandy Moore isn’t annoying in this particular show. Seriously. She isn’t.

The show follows a family of five. Jack and Rebecca Pearson are the parents of three triplets, two biological (Kevin and Kate) and one adopted (Randall). This is Us does something unique with its storytelling, however, by splitting the narrative into two timelines. One focuses on the life of the family when the kids were children (usually when they are 8 years old), while the other focuses on the lives of kids as adults, after Jack has died and Rebecca has remarried.

Each episode is full of joy, pain, struggle, and reality as we follow these people’s lives and come to understand the unique issues that each faces. Almost every episode has made me cry at some point. Of course, it really isn’t too hard to make me cry, but still, I think it’s worth noting the emotional honesty of This is Us.

Even though Jack Pearson is dead in the timeline that follows the adult Pearson children, it is clear that he has made an indelible mark on his family. They love their father, and his family has been shaped by his optimism, his humor, and above all else, his utter dedication to them.

In the Thanksgiving episode, we learn that the Pearsons annually recreate their best Thanksgiving, which involved a 3.4 mile hike (to a convenience store), roasting hot dogs against an open furnace flame, and of course, a pilgrim’s hat. Behind each of these traditions is Jack’s unwavering faithfulness to his family, his devotion to ensuring that they are seen, loved, and cared for.

As a father myself now, watching this show resonates with me deeply. I look at how Jack has shaped his family’s life, and I can’t help but hope and pray that my children remember me as fondly as his remember him.

I hope that I leave a mark on my kids.

Jack’s mark, however, is not necessarily based in anything that he says. He doesn’t just have the right words at the right time for his kids, but rather, his impact is based on who he is. It is not so much the issue of Jack’s parenting, but rather it is the issue of Jack’s character.

I’ve talked with my wife a whole lot about how I want our girls to know and love the Lord, how I want them to feel brave and resilient, to have self-control and to be humble. We’ve discussed how we want them to stand up for goodness and truth but to be kind and merciful.

In watching This is Us, however, I increasingly realize that if I am to have any hope of my children learning these lessons from me, it has to be because I demonstrate them myself. You can’t share what you don’t have.

If I wish my children to know and love the Lord, then I must decide today that I am going to relentlessly pursue knowledge of and love for the Lord myself. If I want them to be tender, compassionate and merciful, then I need to demonstrate tenderness, compassion, and mercy in my dealings with them.

Above all else, This is Us has made me look at my own life and my own heart and realize how desperately I need to work on orienting myself toward Christ before I even dream of having an impact on my children. Both parenting and following the Lord are not just about saying the right words, but rather they must be about becoming the kind of person who has the right words instinctively, as a second nature.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is frequently quoted for saying, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and a thousand around you will be saved.” I guess “a thousand” must start in my own home, with my own wife and my own children. But even before them, it starts with me, with my own acquiring the Spirit of peace.

This Nativity fast has been trying (and not because of the food). I have continually been presented with opportunities to see myself clearly, to admit that I’m quickly frustrated and extremely defensive/offensive when people disagree with me. It sucks.

But if I’m going to teach my children to repent, it means I’m going to have to model repentance in my own life, it means that I’m going to have to see myself clearly, that I’m going to have to model self-understanding and then the humility it takes to admit that I was wrong.

This is Us has been a fantastic show. It has given me an image for the kind of husband and father I want to be. Jack Pearson isn’t without his faults, but he is committed to his family, and that’s a commitment he passes on to his family.

My hope and prayer is that I, too, can become a man of commitment, first to the Lord and then to my family. Instead of just talking to my kids about Jesus, I’ll be able to talk to them as someone who knows Him, trusting that His grace will fill my words and kindle the fire of love for Him in their own hearts too.

Photo credits: Depositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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For more on this idea, check out this episode of The Trench:

 
 
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