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.