Thursday, December 6, 2007


I have a friend named Rob.  Rob has two Grammys. When Rob tells me how to make my recording projects sound better…I listen.  You see, Rob is a mixing engineer and his job is to take what people like me record, and make it sound good.  He has a great set of ears.  I’ve never actually seen his ears; since his hair often covers them, but I know that he hears things I don’t hear.   Kind of like a bat.


Because I know that he has great ears, and he has two gold gramophones on his mixing console to prove it, when he gives me advice about recording, gear, etc… I try to take it. Recently he sent me to a web site that explained all about acoustics in a mixing environment.  It was for smart people.  I had to look up a lot of words.  Basically, what the site said was that there are rules about how sound bounces around a room and interacts with the walls, sofas, and other bouncing sound waves.  All of that effects what you hear when you listen.  This is important when you mix a record because you need to hear everything.  I don’t know who had the time to figure all this out, but one of the rules was called the “38% rule”.  What it says is that the ideal listening spot in a room is usually about 1/3 into the room (38% to be exact).  Well…since Rob had sent me to that site, and I listen to Rob, I got out a tape measurer to find out where I should be sitting when I listen to stuff in my studio.  I was close but I was about 6 inches off from where that site told me I should be sitting.  So I moved my desk 6 inches.  Not a big adjustment.  I skeptically sat down to listen to something I had been working on, and WOW! I felt like I had just got a new set of monitors!  I could hear things that I hadn’t heard before.


The purpose of studio monitors is to tell the truth.  Not to sound pretty.  If they were humans, they would be prophets.  They would say things like, “Repent or God is coming to smite you, sinner.  Oh…and by the way…your recording sounds like garbage.”  So, if the speakers tell the truth and, by making a small adjustment, I could hear them better, this is both good and bad.  It’s good because I can hear it clearly.  It’s bad because I may not like what I hear.  That means I need to fix things, and fixing things takes work and work is…..well…  And I’m lazy.


So I have a choice. Fix my mix or move my monitors back to where they were so I can’t hear the truth.  I have the same choice with God.  Make adjustments when He reveals things to me and go further toward intimacy with Him knowing that each step of trust and obedience helps me hear Him better.  Or I can pretend I never heard Him and keep on doing what I was doing.  Seems like an easy decision.  I wish I could say that I always chose the better of these two options.


The flip side to all this is that I might hear things I like too.  My mix might be better than I thought and making the adjustments might actually encourage me.  To continue the analogy, I might hear, “Well done!  I’m so proud of you!  Keep fighting.  I’m crazy in love with you and will not rest until I see you face to face. I love you, not what you do for me. I’m faithful.”, and lots of other stuff that absolutely thrills my soul.


“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

                                                                                    John 10:27

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pumpkin Pie and Judges

This past Thanksgiving my wife Laura and I decided to try something different.  We decided that we would take the pumpkins from Halloween and try to turn them into pies.  The thought wasn’t purely spontaneous (since we had bought “pie” pumpkins back in October) but it was more of an inspired decision after watching Ratatouille, a movie about a cooking rat.  If a rat can whip up gourmet French cuisine, then surely I can make a pie out of a pumpkin.  So, we made the pumpkin puree, we made the pies and then put them in the fridge for the coming holiday. 


Well, Thanksgiving comes and, after a full day in the kitchen basting, roasting, and whipping, we sit down for our feast.  And we’re truly thankful.  The amount of food could feed the better part of Mainland China.  We are a blessed family.  We have healthy and happy kids, and they have happy and healthy parents who think nothing of slaving in the kitchen all day so that they can have a special holiday experience.  You see where this is going, don’t you?  So, when our eldest looks at his plate full of yummy food and declares, “I don’t like it” without even a taste, I tried to let it roll of my back.  After all, he’s only four and most kids, myself included, don’t cross from selfish to gratitude until they are twenty at least.  He does eventually eat some of his food but, at this point, he has made no small secret of the fact that he wants some pumpkin pie.  He’s antsy at the table so we use the pie as leverage and he sits still.  He gets sassy with my wife.  He gets punished.  We use the pie as bribery.  We like to call it a “reward” but who are we kidding.  Overall, he doesn’t do a very good job eating his meal or listening to his parents.  We tell him that he doesn’t deserve the pie but, since it’s a holiday, we’ll still give it to him.  Plus, I think, patting myself on the back, I’ve just given a good object lesson on Grace.  Getting what you don’t deserve.  He asks for whipped cream and I, being a benevolent father, oblige.  As I write, I’m reminded of a saying.  Pride cometh before a great fall. 


So my son scrapes the whipped cream off the pie, eats that, and then after a mere nibble of the pie, brings the plate to the sink and dumps it.  The “handmade-from-Halloween-pumpkins” pumpkin pie!  The pie of Grace!  Dumped.  So I loose my cool.  On a scale of serenity to total apoplectic fit, I’m heavy on the apoplexy.  How can he take this thing that I’ve made for his pleasure, to bless him, and dump it after only eating the fluffy, store bought junk on top?  I tried not to let it show too much because, after all, he is only four and I’m thirty-one and I’m supposed to be mature.  But I was pretty mad.  He got a lecture about gratitude and Thanksgiving.  He’ll share this story with a therapist one day.


A few days later I sit down in my favorite chair, our house now decorated for Christmas, and I start to read the book of Judges.  Not the normal Advent reading, but I felt like that was where I was supposed to be.  The book starts out with the Israelites finally arriving in the Promised Land and beginning to settle there.  It’s pretty R-rated due to violence.  People’s thumbs get cut off and such.  But what happens is that the Israelites don’t do what God told them to do.  They don’t wipe everyone out.  It’s too hard.  So they settle with the people God told them to get rid of and God gets angry.  How can they take what He has offered them as a blessing and “dump it” by not obeying?  As I start to get filled with “righteous indignation” at the foolishness of the Israelites, I look up and see my Christmas tree.  And I’m convicted.  Here I am, celebrating the biggest gift, given at the greatest cost, offered with unfathomable Grace, and so often I “dump it” because I’ve eaten the fluffy, easy junk and considered that enough.  I take the simple, the immature, the pre-packaged, and the lite instead of feasting on the rich, ineffable, substantial, deep, and the joyous.  I’ve heard it said that what annoys you most in other people is often the very things that you do.  Maybe that’s why my son’s reaction to the pie bothered me so much. He was a reflection of my own faults.  Maybe that’s why God chose the Israelites.  Perhaps it’s because they exhibit so many of our weaknesses.  They are undeniably human.  Since conviction is supposed to fuel repentance (unlike condemnation which brings shame) I spend some time asking God for forgiveness and then go have another piece of pie.  No whipped cream added.

Monday, November 5, 2007


This past Halloween, my kids and I went out trick-or-treating.  I don’t know where you all stand on Halloween.  I’m not sure where I stand on it either.  I just know that my kids looked really cute as a train and a sheriff and people were willing to give us free stuff. And I love free stuff.  Plus it’s a great time to see the neighbors we never see.  I wanted to go and knock on the door of the house that always has a strange blue glow coming from behind the curtained windows.  The list of what that light could be grows long in my imagination.  Is it a home tanning bed and is their skin all dark and leathery like a purse from the hours of compulsive tanning?  It doesn’t flicker so it’s not the TV.  Maybe they are gardeners and they are gingerly tending their baby tomatoes under grow lights.  Or they’re growing drugs.  Needless to say, Laura wouldn’t let me knock.  I was disappointed. 


So we get home, and the kids unload their sugary bounty and we tell them that they can only have two pieces tonight or else their heads will spin around and pop off.  Or they’ll throw up.  It’ll be one or the other.  Both boys picked a candy bar and a box of “Nerds”.  For anyone who doesn’t know, “Nerds” are little, colored, sour candies that look like shrunken head versions of a Sweet Tart.  Anyway, we dumped the little candies into bowls for the boys.  Brehm had purple ones and Elijah had pink.  Then it began. 


“Mom.  I want a pink one!”

“No son.  You have your own”

“Mom.   Brehm took mine!”

We look and find pink Nerds in Brehm’s purple Nerd bowl. 

“Son, did you take those from your brother?”  

“Go sit in time-out for lying and we are giving some of your Nerds to Elijah.”


We wait for the time-out to be over.  Meanwhile, ninjas and princesses are ringing our doorbell begging for treats and threatening retribution, or “tricks” if said treats are not dispensed.  You gotta love a holiday based on extortion.


With the time-out over, Brehm goes back to his bowl and the first thing he notices is that some of his purple Nerds are now in Elijah’s bowl.  In fact, it’s the only thing he notices.  It consumes his mind.  He dances and cries and insists that he wants purple Nerds.  All the time, he has a full bowl of purple Nerds sitting there.  They, apparently, are invisible. The only thing he cares about are the, literally, five Nerds in his brother’s bowl that “should have been his”.  Finally the Nerds get taken away and they get nothing.  Parental justice.  Look out.  He missed what was his because he wanted what his brother had.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve done that.  I’ve missed what God had for me, all because I was too busy desiring what God was doing in someone else’s life.  Basically I wanted God’s timing and plan for their life and not what He had for me.  I’ve been so focused on the “Nerds” in someone else’s bowl, that I’ve ignored the bowl full of Nerds in front of me.  It all boils down to trust and gratitude.  Do I trust that what God has for me is the best for me?  Do I trust that His timing is perfect?  Am I grateful for all He has given me already? Some of the biggest mistakes in the history of Israel were made because they wanted something other than what God had for them.  They wanted the “idol nerds” of their neighbors, or their “king nerds” and forgot about the whole bowl of “chosen people nerds” right in front of them. 


Sometimes I think I need to read Psalm 145 everyday.  It says, “The Lord sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”  I need to remember that the part that says “…every living thing.” includes me.  And it includes you.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Red Day, Green Day

My son’s daycare is great.  Maybe it’s because we were the first family to sign up with them when they opened, but they’ve always treated us, and our kids, well.  That being said, they need to keep order.  Order and control are two really important things when you are responsible for two hundred kids under the age of five.  So, for the older kids, they have a system.  If you have a “green day” it means you have had your “listening ears” on, you’ve “played well with your friends”, and you haven’t been “ugly” (ugly being an attitude not unfortunate genetics).  I think more adults need to have green days.  A “green day” is indicated by a green smiley face on their behavior chart.  Some times they even get a sticker. 


The next step down from a “green day” is a  “yellow day”, indicated by a yellow straight face.  No smile.  Yellow means their “listening ears” were broken part of the time and they may have talked back to the teacher.  Then there is a “red day”.  This means that they got sent to see the principal and they were acting more like a rabid wolverine than a human child.  “Black day” means that there was gnashing of teeth and they had to call the National Guard.  All this is just the introduction.  Here’s the story.


The other day I picked up Brehm from school and, before I got him from the playground, I checked his behavior chart.  Sure enough, he had had a green day.  He even had a sticker of a ladybug that said “super”.  But this is where it got strange.  When I picked him up, and we got in the car, he insisted that he had a “red” day.  I mean he really insisted.  I told him that I had checked his chart and that it said he had done great. 

“No, Daddy, I had a bad day.  I can’t have strawberry milk,” he said referencing our reward for a “green day”. 

“Sure you can, Buddy!  I saw your chart and you had a green day.”

“No I didn’t!  It was red!”

And this went on for most of the ride home until I was finally able to convince him that he had a “green day”.  It amazed me that I had to try so hard to get him to believe his innocence.  As his dad, it broke my heart.  And, as is often the case in situations like that, God gently reminded me that He’s a dad too. 


He reminded me that anyone who claims to be sin-free is a liar.  But Its also true that when I repent and God declares me innocent but I continue to wallow in my shame and condemnation, I’m doing what Brehm did.  I’m not trusting my Daddy.  And it breaks His heart, because His forgiveness is complete and He tells us over and over again.  That’s why Jesus said, “It’s finished”.  Done.  Case closed. We get a “green day” on the behavior chart.   Our sin gets put as far as the East is from the West.  I’m glad God didn’t say North and South.  If you sailed North far enough you would eventually start heading South.  They meet at the poles.  But if I went East……Even if I got back to where I started from, I would still be heading East.  East Never becomes West.  Ever.  And so, for anyone with a broken and repentant heart, the “behavior chart” called the Bible declares, “Green days” for all of us.  And we have a Father who just can’t wait to give us strawberry milk.