Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Podcasting 101

A couple of people have had questions about starting a podcast and were wondering how to get started. We're not podcast gurus in any sense of the word. We're still learning but we can offer some suggestions and a few of the things we've encountered along the way.

First, doing a podcast is extremely simple and fun. Don't over think it. All you need to begin is:
  1. Something to record your voice into and, 
  2. Someplace to put the finished recording so the world can listen.
When we started our podcast, we recorded at the kitchen table using an old beat up Sony laptop running a freeware recording program called Audacity using the built-in laptop mic. That's it. That's how we recorded our first 3 or 4 episodes. With a couple of mouse clicks, Audacity will export your recording into an MP3 format, which is the format needed for podcasts.

If that sounds like more than you want to do, there are easier options. Any smart phone will have the ability to record your voice and save it. My iPhone has a built-in app called Voice Memos. So does yours. You can push record, set the phone next to you, and start talking. When you're done, you can send the file to your cloud service or export it any way you like. The voice intros we've used on our podcast were all done this way. It's very simple.

If you don't have a phone that will do this, you can use an iPad, tablet, or an MP3 recorder. We have a Roland R-05 that we've used a couple of times. It's great when you're away and your regular podcast equipment isn't with you. We take this with us on road trips, day trips, or any time we're away from our regular recording hardware. You never know when the podcast bug might bite. Ours has a 32 GB SD card that all the recordings are on. After recording, you can remove the card and stick it in your computer or cable directly to it to transfer your recordings into your editing software. We recorded episodes 12 and 15 using the Roland R-05.

We experimented for well over a year as we continued to podcast. You can tell. From episode to episode of our early podcasts, the audio quality changes. Some of it's just bad. Sorry. It's been a learning process for us, so thank you for putting up with us and being part of the journey.

Once you have your podcast audio, you're going to need a hosting service for it. That's a place to put it on-line so others can listen. After using SoundCloud (When it was in beta), we moved to Podbean for a time before settling on Libsyn. Wherever you host your podcast, they'll be able to help you get listed in iTunes. Once your podcast is published you might find it magically appearing on other sites like Google and Stitcher.

In case you're interested, here's a list of the hardware and software we've been using for the last 8-10 months. All of this has grown slowly and is now set up in a dedicated sound room in our house with acoustic foam panels on the walls to eliminate echo and provide quiet acoustics.

  • Susan and I use Shure SM7B microphones on tabletop boom stands. These are some sweet mics with great quality. They require a preamp and the preamp in our little mixer (see below) needed some help, so we purchased a Cloudlifter CL-2. This device takes the 48-volt phantom power supplied by the mixer and converts it into a separate amplifier providing an additional +25db of amplification for each mic. Problem solved.
  • For in-house guests, we have two AKG D5 vocal mics on floor-standing boom mics. We had two friends join us for episode 55 (the Brocast) and they used these mics.
  • We record most of our podcasts through an Alesis MultiMix 8 mixer. This is a small 8 channel desktop mixer that meets all of our recording needs. This mixer is USB connected to our iMac. We import podcasts we recorded on our Roland R-05 directly into our recording software, bypassing this mixer and doing all of the mixing in software.
  • For software, we used Audacity through episode 53. Beginning with episode 54, we started using GarageBand instead. Audacity is a powerful tool, but GarageBand has more pro audio tools in it and post-production editing is faster. Plus, I believe the overall quality is better. Years ago, I used a pro audio software called Cakewalk to produce a music CD so while moving to GarageBand was a bit of a re-learning curve, it wasn't too bad. GarageBand has many more built-in tools than you'll ever need for a podcast, but it's now my software of choice. Plus, it was included with our iMac and integrates into iTunes nicely.

This is what we do, but it's not what you need to do. We're in a season of life that allows us to invest more time in podcasting. Starting a podcast is easy and never has to move beyond easy. I have some experience in audio production so I wanted to get back into it a little. You only need the two things we talked about earlier:

  1. Something to record into, and...
  2. Someplace to put the finished recording so the world can listen.

That's all you need for a great podcast. Keep it simple and have fun!! We are!!

- Mike

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Forgiveness, Trust, and Social Closeness

NOTE: This is a blog post Susan wrote in 2010 on another site we had at the time. After a little bit of updating, we decided to share it with you here. It seems like this topic is always applicable. Enjoy!

A Pastor friend of mine recommended a book to me recently because of the chapter on forgiveness. Most of this blog will be quotes from that book because I don't think I could say it better. The book is 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.

I have been questioning what it feels like and what it means to forgive someone when there has been tremendous hurt. If there is still hurt and distrust, is it really forgiveness? How do I get past it all? What am I doing wrong? These were just some of the questions I asked my friend. Osborne addresses the false beliefs we tend to have about forgiveness. Here is one:
Some of us have been taught that forgiveness is pretending nothing happened - a head in the sand posture that ignores the obvious. Some of us think of it as a never ending series of second chances. Others view it as a fresh start with all the consequences and old baggage removed. Still others imagine it as the immediate and full restoration of a broken relationship, complete with the same level of trust and privileges that preceded the wrongdoing. But the goofiest idea of all is the widely held belief that genuine forgiveness means literally forgetting what happened - wiping the slate so clean that every memory of the transgression disappears.
He then spends time talking about how we think that God actually "forgets" our former transgressions and so we should forget it when people sin against us. But God doesn't forget in the sense that he can't remember things!
So, what does the Bible mean when it speaks of God remembering our sins no more? It means that he no longer responds to us in light of those sins. They no longer derail our relationship with him. They no longer garner his wrath. They are gone - completely - from our account. But it doesn't mean he can't remember all the things we've done. An omniscient God doesn't forget stuff.
He then talks about why this is such a big deal:
When forgiving becomes synonymous with forgetting, it tends to produce spiritual confusion and other rather unfortunate spiritual responses for those of us who have been forgiven and those of us who need to forgive.
Simply forgetting that someone has deeply hurt you or abused you, allows the door to remain open for even more hurt and abuse. While a Christian’s vertical relationship with God remains untouched in the midst of sinful actions, there are horizontal consequences in the form of broken or lost relationships that often accompany deep hurt and wounds. Osborne continues:
There's another problem that occurs when forgiving gets confused with forgetting. We tend to assume that if someone has forgiven us, whatever happened in the past should be a dead issue. The other person should just get over it and move on. But that's unreasonable. It unfairly turns the tables on the one who has been wronged. It assumes his or her pain should magically disappear. And if it doesn't, we get to write off the injured party as an unforgiving slob. Our sin is now their problem. Not a bad deal! Yet, in reality, healing takes time. Forgiveness is a decision lived out as a lengthy process. The expectation that those we've wronged should simply forget about it is not only unreasonable; it's emotionally unhealthy. People who can't remember what happened to them or who bury their pain are not spiritually mature; they're mentally or emotionally handicapped.
That really spoke to me. I think for a long time I've dismissed emotions. After all, God is Sovereign and He does everything perfectly and for my good. Yes, He is and He does, but that doesn't take away my humanity. I was created with emotions. Jesus displayed
many emotions while walking on this earth with mankind. He had compassion, He cried, and He was angry at times!

The Psalms are full of emotion. The Psalmists cry out to God. They praise God. Tears of anger and joy abound in the Psalms! So why do we think that our hurt and pain should just go away? I heard someone once say that the Holy Spirit is pleased to sometimes work in decades. But we live in a culture of quick fixes. TV shows abound with huge problems that are solved in 30 - 60 minutes. We can cook a meal in minutes with our microwave ovens, so why are you still hurting? Come on, get over it! I've been guilty of expecting

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Welcome to our New Home

Welcome! We're Mike and Susan Adams and you've found the new home of the Known & Loved Blog! Welcome to The Grace Cafe! We've been busy moving all of our content over here. All of our future blog posts will be posted here and you will find many of our favorite podcasts from the Chief Sinner Podcast and The Known & Loved Podcast on our new Grace Cafe Podcast page. Enjoy your stay.

We're glad you're here!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Leave it to Beaver and Other Impossible Myths

It's been a really rough month for me. I'm sure most of you will be able to relate. It’s been a month filled with introspection and regrets. Motherhood regrets mainly.

I come from a broken home. I never wanted to have children. I never wanted to get married. I didn't want to put anyone through what I lived through as a child. Then... Jesus. He saved me and set me on a whole new trajectory. I met Mike and suddenly I wanted marriage. I wanted that relationship. But I told him from the beginning I didn't want kids. But.... Jesus showed me how beautiful babies were. And I had hope. Hope that I could somehow be a mom and do it differently. So after 2 painful miscarriages we had our first baby. I was a mom. I was going to do it all differently. My kids were never going to experience divorce. They were never going to experience the abuse of an alcoholic step-dad or the abandonment of a father. They were going to have a Leave it to Beaver family. My dream family.

And I thought that's what I was doing. I thought I could protect my children from the world. I thought I could be the one to get it right. If we just followed the "rules". If we just kept evil out then our kids would be problem free. Pain free. But all of those Christian parenting books and programs we followed? They didn't factor in the sinfulness of the parents. They didn't tell me that I was so messed up that I needed Jesus everyday so that I could love my kids. Parenting is so much more than having rules and first-time obedience. It's about being aware of my need for forgiveness every day. It's showing my children I'm broken and that my only hope, their only hope is Jesus. That he did it all for us. That he loves us just the way we are. We don't have to be what we hear from so many pulpits and books - people who think they have it together. People who claim to be getting better and who look so good on the outside. That's as false as Leave it to Beaver was. It isn't real. It can't be real because we all live in a fallen world in need of a Savior.

So when I'm alone in the dark feeling all the pain and regret of everything I did wrong as a mom, my only hope is Jesus. Because I couldn't do it. I can’t do it. I've come to the end of myself and found Jesus there. He's my only hope and he's the only hope my children have.

Sermons and blog posts on how to be better and try harder aren't what I need to hear. I need to hear those who know they’re broken talk about Jesus. I need to hear that I'm not the only one who’s screwed up. I need to hear that he isn't surprised or disappointed. He knows I can’t pull it off and live a perfect life, obeying the law, striving to be good enough. That’s why he came! I can't be all that. I'm not all that and I never will be. But he's not surprised. He knows me fully and loves me perfectly. And I believe he loves my kids more than I ever could. And that’s where my hope is. In him. Not in my parenting or in my failed attempts at the perfect family.

Leave it to Beaver is a myth just like the idea of the perfect Christian.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Who Are The Weaker Vessels?

I think we have it backwards. I think we've made a terrible mistake. By "we", I mean the church. By "we" I mean church tradition. By "we" I mean the traditional way we've interpreted 1 Peter 3:7. By "we" I mean most commentators who've commented on 1 Peter 3:7. I mean "we" in a collective sense. By "we" I also mean me, as I've accepted the traditional view of this passage without questioning what I've heard. Peter writes:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
The traditional interpretation of this passage goes something like this: husbands need to remember that since their wives (and women in general) are weaker than they are, they need to be nice to them and show them honor. But I don't think that's what Peter means and in fact, I think that interpretation falls under its own weight in light of the context here. The context goes all the way back to chapter two:
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17, emphasis mine)
And also in chapter two:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. (1 Peter 2:18-19, emphasis mine)
Do you see the theme developing in Peter's letter? It's one of voluntarily subjecting or submitting oneself to someone else. First he tells everyone to "be subject" to every human institution which is a tangible way to "honor everyone", including the emperor. Then he tells servants to "be subject" to their masters which is a way of showing respect. The context is voluntary submission to another. When one is voluntarily subjecting themselves to another, they are placing themselves voluntarily in a weaker position than those they are submitting themselves to. This "be subject" theme of voluntary submission to another continues in chapter three where wives and husbands are instructed to be in voluntary subjection to one another. The word "likewise" continues this theme:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2, emphasis mine)
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, emphasis mine)
In the context of 1 Peter, one shows honor to another by voluntarily subjecting and submitting themselves to that person or to that institution. In doing so, the one being subjected to is shown honor and the one voluntarily subjecting themselves is the weaker vessel by comparison. It is no different in this verse and it is the context that drives our interpretation. There is no punctuation in the original Greek text, but I personally think there should be a comma after woman in this passage. I think Peter is saying to husbands, put yourselves in the weaker position by showing honor to your wives. Live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman, as the weaker vessel, because she is an equal partner and a joint-heir with you. Show honor to your wives husbands, by becoming the weaker vessel and voluntarily humbling yourselves, becoming a servant. It's what Jesus would do. Oh wait, it's what Jesus did!
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7)

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Prodigal's Father

If you're like me (and I hope you're not) you may be rolling your eyes right now, thinking, "Oh great! Another blog about the story of the Prodigal! Haven't we read and heard enough about this story already?" If that's you, I empathize with you. I suppose you're right and a part of me feels the same way. For several years running, it seemed the story of the Prodigal was always popping up somewhere. Perhaps it was due to the popularity a few years ago of Keller's book, The Prodigal God. It does seem like that book started a trend that perhaps has been overdone.

But I think this post is going to have a different flavor - a different emphasis - because I want to talk with you about the Prodigal's father. Not as a picture of what God is like, although I think that's accurate, but as a human father. A broken father. A hurting father. A disappointed father. A worried father. An anxious father. A scared father. An unknowing father. An uncertain father. An angry father. An unappreciated father. A sad father. A powerless father, unable to fix the obvious wrong he sees. And a doubting father who often finds himself questioning the silence and absence of an all-powerful God in the midst of the heartbreak.

What about that man? What was it like for him when his son "gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living." (Lk 15:13)? What was it like for him in the ensuing years of silence, with no contact? Never hearing, never knowing, and always wondering where he was, how he was getting along, and if he was okay or even alive. What was it like for him at family gatherings, parties, and holidays without his son there? What was it like for him when family and friends started to lovingly question him about the obvious absence of his son? What was it like for him when the realization fully hit that he was powerless to do anything about it? That he was powerless to intervene and help his son? What was it like when he realized that all he could do was wait and do nothing?

And wait he did. As hard as it was, he stepped back and did nothing. Nothing. He didn't chase after his son to bring him back or try to prop up a temporary fix but instead, he embraced the gift of his own powerlessness and waited. He didn't pursue him with clever and persuasive arguments. He came to the realization that God was at work writing his son's story and he was powerless to interfere or change it. So he stepped back, prayed, watched, and waited, not knowing the outcome. And it was in the waiting that God brought his son to an end of himself. It was in the waiting that his son crashed and burned and "came to himself" (Lk. 15:17). It was in the waiting that the father determined that even though he was powerless to fix his son, he would always be there for him when needed. He would always be waiting. Waiting for his return and available at a moment's notice. He would always be there. And then one day, it happened. And when his son came to the end of his rope, his thoughts turned to his father who was waiting. Always waiting. Just waiting.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:17-24)

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Go To Prepare a Place For You

On the night of his betrayal, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." - John 14:1-3
These words were intended to bring us much needed comfort, and they do. We rightly anticipate the return of Jesus and the culmination of all things as we enjoy in all of its fullness, what has been prepared for us. But what if part of that reality is intended to be more immediate than just some far off obscure day relegated to the future? What if there is both a "now" and a "not yet" in Jesus' words?

I have long thought that Jesus' words, "I go to prepare a place for you" have more to do with his death on a cross than him busily working away somewhere preparing a place for us to hang with him. In other words, I think his death and resurrection are themselves, the preparation for our inclusion - "I prepare." This is especially true in light of the fact that he chose us to be with him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).

If that is the case, this promise has both a now but not yet flavor to it where we get to taste now, what awaits us in its fullness later in the new heavens and the new earth (Matt 25:34). If Jesus' death on the cross is the final preparation for our entrance into the Father's house, then that final work of preparation is finished (Jn 19:30) and Jesus' invitation into rest (Matt 11:28-30) means we're in the Father's house now. It's this affection of the Father that Jesus came to show us in the first place (Jn 14:8-10) that draws us into the Father's house. Jesus showed us a Father who isn't mad at us and one who delights in showering us with affection in the here and now. Christian, the Father cherishes community with you. You're already in his house. You just can't see it yet.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Father Lost; A Father Found

I've been thinking about my dad for a long time. He died several years ago. When I was little he was my hero. It really wasn't until I had my own little girl and saw Mike's love for her, that I realized my dad was not who I thought he was.

My parents divorced when I was about 4. I was beside myself with grief. I only saw him every other weekend and for summer vacations. I became a very angry child, often getting into fist fights. My older sister and I became latch key kids which really wasn't a thing yet so there, shame began to invade my life.

When I was in 4th grade my mom married someone I had never met. Turned out he was a mean, abusive alcoholic. He moved us out of state the next year. At that point my dad decided that his job was done. He never contacted me or answered any of my letters. He was a party guy and his life didn't have room for 2 little girls. I was heartbroken and in my mind it was all my step dad's fault. After all, my dad could do no wrong. I found him a few times when we would go back to CA to visit my relatives but not without the help of my cousins who were in law enforcement. He would be surprised to get a call from me and meet me for dinner. But I soon gave up on that. After I married I really wanted to find him again and have him meet my husband but it wasn't until we had children that we actually saw him again. He was still the same, married several times over, living the party life in Mexico and only thinking of me if I contacted him.

When he was 80 years old I got a letter in the mail from my latest stepmother. In it was a flyer announcing my dad's baptism in a little Baptist church in Mexico. We were shocked. By this point I had given up on him as a dad but I had been praying for his salvation. When they moved to Georgia I flew out to visit him. By thenhe was almost completely blind and was sick from cancer. We sat and talked about the past. He shared his testimony. He grieved his life and the people he had hurt. He was sorry he had hurt me so much. It was surreal to be having this conversation with my dad. Even though I had been praying for this man for all these years, I didn't really expect God to answer it. But he did. We went to his church on that Sunday. He introduced me to his pastor and then we sat down. I don't remember much about the service but I do remember standing next to my dad and singing about Jesus. Together. Me and my dad. Wow. I remember looking over at him and crying tears of joy. God gave me a gift that day. A gift of worshipping Him with my dad.

He began calling on a regular basis. Asking about Mike's ministry and chatting. He was building a relationship with us and it was very cool.

He eventually moved to Texas for medical reasons. When he was 89 he was hospitalized. He was dying. I went to see him and we got to talk some more. We talked about Jesus and what a miracle it was that my dad was a believer. On my last day there he told me something. He said he didn't feel like he had ever done anything for God because he was sick the whole time he was a believer. He felt such regret for "wasting his life." At the time I told him that God was using his story in so many other people's lives, giving them hope that it really is never too late for someone to become a believer. And that was and remains to be true. But now, this side of my understanding of grace, I wish I would have told him that its not about what we do for God, but about what God has done for us. But he knows that now. :)


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sanctification Gone Wild

I was reminded today of some truths that I haven't written about in a while. I was interviewed for the Theology for the Rest of Us podcast this morning and we talked at length about performance-based Christianity. Based on my own experiences, I define performance-based Christianity as sanctification gone wild. Performance-based Christianity can set in when we start believing the gospel is something that we needed at the beginning of our Christian life, but as we progress through life, we need it less and less. In performancism, we call sanctification progress and its goal is self-sufficiency. We view it as a movement away from life's messiness into some type of have-it-togetherness where God is more pleased with us than he is with poor Joe Blow who is still steeped in his messiness. Performancism views God's law as attainable because after all, we've been given a new heart so we ought to be able to pull it off.

I spent years as a Christian preoccupied with God's law and my obedience. The burning question each day was how is my obedience today. Is it better than it was yesterday? As I spent countless hours, days, months, and years muscling my way through my sanctification, certain that my obedience was THE barometer for knowing I was a believer and knowing God was pleased with me, I assumed I had a high view of God's law. After all, I was pulling it off, or so I thought. I was at least doing it better than most of those around me. Or so I thought.

But then I discovered through severe trials that a preoccupation with God's law doesn't mean one has a high view of God's law. Quite the opposite. I found out the hard way that my preoccupation with God's law actually resulted in my having a very low view of it for the simple reason that I thought I could pull it off. I thought God's holy standard was attainable by my own effort. After all, I was a new creation with a new heart and sin was no longer my master.

But then God stripped everything away from me and brought me to a place where I had nothing. Literally. Nothing but Jesus. It was there that the doing stopped. The masks I was wearing to fool others into thinking I was a Christian Superman started to crumble and the idols of my heart started being exposed, and the real me, the broken me, started to show. And there was nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. By putting me in a place where I could do nothing, God started to show me that Jesus is enough. His grace is sufficient. "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" finds its rest in "It is finished." I'm so glad Jesus knows the real me. The ugly me. The broken me. And he loves me just as I am.