Friday, November 2, 2007

The Voice in My Ear

Last night my church choir finished cutting our second Christmas CD. Until last year I had never been a part of any kind of audio recording session. It is a fascinating and invigorating process. It is also rather tedious, but the results are awesome.

When we record the music, we use a process the sound engineer called "punching in." That means that what you hear when you listen to the CD is actually the choir's gazillion different attempts to sing the song, all edited and spliced and mashed together! Here's how it works:

Everyone in the choir has their own transistor radios tuned to a specific FM frequency. We're all positioned in the choir loft in the sanctuary and the engineer is in the choir room behind us with all of this fancy smancy equipment. He has positioned a few high powered microphones and a video recorder in front of us so he can capture our sound and see what we're up to. When it's time to sing, the music comes to us via our transistor radios. For optimal listening and blending, we have one ear phone on and one off. The music comes only through our headphones; the sanctuary is completely quiet, other than our voices. We sing along with the music until he stops us, tells us what all we need to do differently (better cut-offs, better attacks, better pronunciation, etc.), and tells us where we'll start again. He also tells us where we'll "punch in." That's the point in the music from which he is actually trying to record a good take. He's giving us all these directions through our radios. We don't actually see him. We just hear him through one headphone speaker. The result is that he sounds like he is in your head. So the conversation in your head may go something like this:

Music: la, la, la, dee dah!
Choir: La, la, la, dee, dah!

Suddenly the music stops.

Male voice in my head: Choir, we're going to stop right there for now. You are doing a great job! That's some good singing. From those two pages, we're going to keep measures 72 and 73 (For those of you who are not musicians, 2 measures is not much - usually a couple of words!). Men I need you to smile more at measure 71 (that's musician speak for 'you're going flat there'). Everyone watch your cut offs at measures 68, 70, and 74. There's also a soprano who sounds angry on the crescendo in measure 70. And we have a tenor with a hang over in measure 74. We're going to start again at measure 58 and we're going to punch in at 62.

Music: la, la, la, dee, dah!

Male voice in my head: Choir, sing along!

Choir: la, la, dee, la, dee, dah!

Music stops.

Male voice in my head: Choir that was great! You did measures 68-71 great that time and since you just repeat that at measure 73-76 we're just going to cut and paste 68-71 on top of 73-76! Give me just a minute to edit that in! (This is where the engineer does his magic and earns his big bucks!) Okay! Let's do all that over again; we still need to get the cut offs on 78 and 80!

And so the process goes. Let me just tell you, if you haven't already figured this out, this whole process does some strange things to your head. Hearing a male voice in my female head telling me what I've done well, what I need to do better, and what I'm going to do next is a little unnerving! It's as though he has crawled in my head, plopped down in the commander's chair and taken over. I want to please this voice and heed it's directions. It has unusual power over me.

Can you imagine what it would be like if all of life were somewhat like this? What if we could hear the Holy Spirit as clearly as I can hear Mark (that's our sound engineer's name) in my left ear? What if I were to hear Him say something like this:

Holy Spirit: Kay, that was great the way you offered to fix your husband a sandwich and bring him a bottled water. You were really kind when you told him what a good job he's doing in the yard. But right after that you complained about how long this yard work is taking. You sounded a little harsh. You need to work on your "cut offs." Why don't you go back outside and try that whole scene again. This time a little softer too. We'll "punch in" right after you offer the sandwich and give the compliment.

Of course, to me, the greatest benefit would come if the Holy Spirit could also do a little cutting and pasting so I could get a little more mileage out of the few things I do well! It'd be nice if he would say something like:

Holy Spirit: Kay, it's time to fix dinner for you family. Now yesterday you did such a good job of preparing a tasty and nutritious meal. And you seemed to really care about making the meal time special for your kids and husband. But today I see you pulling out the wieners and buns. Tell you what, you work on your attitude and I'll just cut and paste yesterday's meal into today. While we're at it, I'll also cut and paste all the laundry you did yesterday too. Now give me just a minute to edit all this in.

Kay: Thanks Holy Spirit! I feel my attitude improving already!

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way! But here's one thing I think we all might be missing out on that does indeed happen. God does speak to us. He speaks to us loud and clear quite often. He speaks to us through His Word. He speaks to us through nature. He speaks to us through other people. And, yes, I believe He even occasionally speaks to us through a still, small voice that is almost audible.

Perhaps the problem is not that He doesn't speak to us; the problem is we're not listening. I imagine if I walked through a day or two with Mark's voice in my left ear, I would soon learn to "tune him out." Mark is extremely pleasant and very good at sandwiching every bit of constructive criticism between a couple of compliments or encouraging words, but still... Who wants to let someone else call the shots for very long? Our two recording sessions were four hours each and at the end of those sessions I was tired of listening to Mark! In fact, it was tempting at times just to turn off my radio so I wouldn't even have to hear him. Could it be that we sometimes, maybe even often, do that with the Holy Spirit? He speaks to our hearts, but we've tuned Him out or even turned Him off?

I think the remedy to this problem is to realize what a precious gift the Holy Spirit is. Only occasionally did the Holy Spirit take up residence in the lives of Old Testament believers. Most of our OT heroes had to walk by faith without the assistance of the ever-present Holy Spirit. Wow! But we have been given the very Spirit of God to teach us, pray for us, speak to us, lead and guide us, comfort us, and convict us. What a treasure!

Today I'm thanking God for sending His Spirit to fill and lead me. I'm thanking Him for the work He does in my life even when it must be like pulling teeth at times. I'm thanking Him for speaking to me and I'm promising to tune in and listen better.

One more thing. Mark, our sound engineer, didn't waste any time speaking just to be heard. He was trying to help us produce a quality music CD that we can be happy with. He didn't sing a note himself, but he was guiding, instructing, and encouraging us so that we would sing our very best. When we would obey his directions, he could take the sounds we produced and put them together to make a masterpiece that we could not have made on our own. But when we clung to old patterns, didn't heed his instructions, and got sloppy, we gave him nothing to work with. If we had done that enough, I imagine even good-natured Mark would have just given in and let us produce a less-than-acceptable CD. That would have been a shame.

When God speaks to us, he doesn't just speak to be heard either. He speaks to be obeyed. He knows what He is doing and we can trust His expertise. So let's not just listen to hear His voice; let's listen to obey His commands. Imagine the quality product He can produce. After all, He is truly the Master Engineer.


Bobbi Gilchrist said...

Great analogy! After having been at the recording session as well, I'm going to try to listen to the Holy Spirit as carefully as I listened to Mark. I need to be more aware of Him than I have been of late. Thanks for the gentle reminder. Bobbi

Anonymous said...

Your 'blob':) is great, Kay! A good idea wonderfully done. During the recording session,I too was thinking about having voices tell me what to do all the time, and how awful it would be, but comparing it to hearing the voice of God certainly changes that way of thinking! What a great reminder for us to listen to His voice more carefully. Toni

Francine Biere said...

Kay, what a lovely blog. And I really enjoyed this post. It's a great truth. I look forward to checking back.

Anonymous said...

It's fun finding another adult with a blog. I have a small group of friends who have been close for years, and the military is taking us further apart, but we're staying close with xanga. It started because of a tragedy in the life of one of my girlfriends as she needed to see the normal everyday things going on in our lives and is now much less frequent, but we do go through spurts. I think you have to "join" xanga --free-- to see it, but my name is dgunsch. BTW, nice work here. And, I hope to be back in class next week; I've missed it. Ciao!