|More Podcast Episodes

Looking for some quality conversations to listen to, here are some podcast episodes I’ve really appreciated recently. Spring blossoms lining my walk to and from work add to the listening experience; sorry I can’t offer you that here. ūüôā

1) “The Fear is Real” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “Loosely speaking, there are two kinds of fear. There‚Äôs the fear of external, objective hazards‚Äďlike getting caught in an avalanche, or taking a bad fall climbing or getting mauled by a grizzly bear. Then, there‚Äôs the internal, more slippery kind of fear, like the fear of not being pretty enough, or not being popular enough or not being perfect enough.”

2) “The Shorts: Catching Hope” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “We‚Äôve heard the stories of addicts who found salvation in the outdoors and the outdoor community, but that‚Äôs not the way the narrative arcs for everyone. For Paddy, recovery looked less like slashing pow turns with his ski-bum buddies, and more like a game of catch with his dad on the back lawn of a treatment facility in Minnesota.”

3) “Bears Ears” (The Dirtbag Diaries). ¬†“In the beginning, Josh came to Bears Ears, Utah in search of adventure. But the more time he spent there, the less his relationship with the landscape had to do with first ascents, and the more it had to do with connecting to the current people and ancient cultures who call Bears Ears home. Now, Josh is a leader in the fight to protect the 1.9 million acres of wild, history-rich, red sandstone landscape.”

4) Onleilove Alston (Chasing Justice). “Speaker Onleilove Alston joins us today to discuss black representation in the Scriptures and justice from a Christian perspective. Follow her vital work at¬†https://wholeness4all.wordpress.com/propheticwhirlwind/ and on twitter @PropheticWhirl.”

5) “The Word of God in Print and in Person” (Bruxy Cavey). “How are other pastors and church leaders responding to Greg’s proposal for interpreting the violence of God in the Old Testament? In this sermon, we get to hear from the perspective of Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada. He summarizes his interpretation of Greg’s writings, and offers his take.” NOTE: I actually haven’t finished listening to this one, but I’ve appreciated the first 30 minutes.

Sometimes I enjoy a quiet moment in the day walking to work or heading home, but most of the time it’s a brief window for me to think about the deeper things of life. Podcasts (and for some people audio books) can be a great way to nurture a reflective spirit when life is so busy with family, work, and service commitments.

|Podcast Episodes on Race, Bigotry, and a Bit of Politics (Updated)

I often listen to podcasts while walking to and from work. In the past few weeks, a number of episodes have dealt with racial issues and bigotry in one way or another. Here are five (listed in the order I heard them, I think):

1. The RobCast (Rob Bell)¬†— The Priesthood of Alexander Shaia (Ep 137). “No hate.” Thanks for sharing this with me Andrew.

2. The Ingredients Podcast (Michael Nixon) — Andrew Gerard (Ep 004). The former US president, the current president, and what it might mean.

3. The Ingredients Podcast (Michael Nixon) — Garrison Hayes, Pt 1 (Ep 008). Racial reflections on Andrews University. Part 2 is also now posted, but I haven’t listened to it yet. [More:¬†Spectrum article,¬†It Is Time AU Video, & AU Response. I don’t have a link to the original sermon by Dr. Kowlessar; the one listed in the Spectrum article is no longer working.]

4. Chasing Justice (The Justice Conference) — Cornel West (Ep 9). “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Too bad it’s hard to link to specific episodes.

5. Voices of Social Justice (Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights; University of Georgia) — Reverend Attorney Francys Johnson ¬†(Ep 1027). Johnson “gives an impassioned keynote address at Athens 1st Social Justice Symposium.”

Okay, one more that kind of somewhat a little relates at some some level — The Dirtbag Diaries: 2017 The Year of Big Ideas.

6. Update: Chasing Justice (The Justice Conference) — Shane Claiborne (Ep 14). Against the death penalty.

|Resurrection as Biblical Theme

This past Sabbath I led a few friends in a morning “meditation” on resurrection¬†(15-min introduction, 45-min contemplation, 60-min conversation).

Here’s a run-down of my introduction:

  • We usually think of two instances of resurrection–Easter Sunday and Jesus’ second coming. (1) Jesus’ resurrection became the center of my faith when my faith fell apart during seminary. (2)¬†Resurrection at the second-coming is obviously important in the Adventist understanding of biblical interpretation.
  • But… resurrection is a bigger theme than these two critical¬†instances of resurrection. For example, Ezekiel had a vision regarding bones that God would bring back to life. God resurrects the hope and dreams of Israel. So if God is in the same business of resurrecting hope today, what dreams has God brought back to life for you, and what dreams still make you long for resurrection? This was the first of our ten reflection questions (see attached PDF).
  • Taken further, we see the theme of resurrection in any action or situation where we see something comes back to life–a relationship, a neighborhood, a piece of clothing. Little things also convey resurrection; it’s not only the big things like Easter Sunday.

To explore this theme further, I gave everyone a 4-page handout. The final page instructed people how to use it. Yes, that probably should have been the first page, so I pointed everyone to it before we split up for 45 minutes of prayer and reflection. During those 45 minutes, I took the kids out to play in the mud so it would be quiet in the retreat house for the adults.

Then during the final hour of conversation (more or less), my wife played with the kids in a separate room. In that time and also during lunch we shared what we had been thinking about and journaling about during those 45 minutes.

Here is the document we used for the morning — resurrection-feb-2017. [The order to follow is (a) the beginning through Ezekiel, then (b) page 4.]

|Reading Plan, 2017 Edition

Three truths: I like to learn. I have a lot of books. I’m not big on reading.

Last year I made a plan to read a book a month. I didn’t come anywhere close. I guess Tim Ferriss¬†wouldn’t be surprised since I had neither a carrot nor a stick.

This year I’m going public with my list. Again it’s one-a-month plus 3 for Sabbath.

Carrot: I can get on Instagram in the evening after I’ve read either 20 pages or 1 chapter.

Stick: If I don’t finish the month’s book, I have to give Victor my $10 allowance for the month.

The main theme is conflict resolution/transformation and reconciliation. The secondary theme is general Christian social ethics. I read a number of these (or major parts of them) in grad school, but I’ve been wanting to revisit them.

So here’s the plan:

  1. Jan) The Peacemaker – Sande
  2. Feb) The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution – Weeks
  3. Mar) Deep Economy – McKibben
  4. Apr) Journey Toward Reconciliation – Lederach [or updated Reconcile]
  5. May) Christian Anarchism – Christoyannopoulos
  6. June) Making Conflict Work – Coleman & Ferguson
  7. July) Entrusted: Christians and Environmental Care* – Dunbar, Rasi & Gibson
  8. Aug) Reconciling All Things – Katongole & Rice
  9. Sept) Pursuing Justice – Wytsma
  10. Oct) Making Peace with Conflict – Schrock-Shenk & Ressler
  11. Nov) Six Theories of Justice – Lebacqz
  12. Dec) Strategies of Peace – Philpott & Powers; OR Reaching for Higher Ground in Conflict Resolution – Dukes, Piscolish & Stephens

Sabbath Reading (beyond the main reading plan): 

Maybe I’ll write a blog post for each book. We’ll see. ūüėČ

*Seventh-day Adventist authors

FOLLOW UP:

I’m only 75 pages into the 2017 reading plan, and I’m already thinking ahead to next year’s ¬†(2018) theme. I’m thinking about church-based social action and activism, with a secondary theme of intercultural/international conflict transformation.

  1. Churches That Make a Difference (Sider, Olson & Unruh)
  2. The Externally Focused Church (Rusaw & Swanson)
  3. A Culture of Peace: God’s Vision for the Church (Kreider, Kreider & Widjaja)
  4. Peace Ministry (Buttry)
  5. The Just Church (Martin)
  6. Faith-Rooted Organizing (Salvatierra & Heltzel)
  7. Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing (Jacobsen)
  8. Shalom Church (Nessan)
  9. Conflict Mediation across Cultures (Augsburger)
  10. Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation across Cultures (Lederach)
  11. Conflict across Cultures (LeBaron & Pillay)
  12. Managing Intercultural Conflict Effectively (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel)

Then 2019 could focus on human rights with a secondary theme of globalization:

  1. Crowned with Glory and Honor: Human Rights in the Biblical Tradition (Marshall)
  2. Faith and Human Rights (Amesbury & Newlands)
  3. Christian Human Rights (Moyn)
  4. In Our Own Best Interest (Schulz)
  5. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Donnelly)
  6. International Human Rights (Alston & Goodman)
  7. The Human Rights Reader (Ishay)
  8. The History of Human Rights (Ishay)
  9. Philosophy of Human Rights: Readings in Context (Hayden)
  10. Global Neighbors (Hicks & Valeri)
  11. Justice in a Global Economy (Brubaker, Peters, & Stivers)
  12. The Fullness of Time in a Flat World (Waalkes)
  13. Globalization and Its Discontents (Stiglitz)

And 2020 could be on nonviolence….

|The Youngest Disciple

As a parent, I think about what I want to teach the next generation. This includes the spiritual side of life’s journey (and it’s been said that “everything is spiritual”). So what do I want to teach this youngest disciple in the house about following Jesus?

There are many things, but here are seven unoriginal and redundant answers to that question:

1. Loving God and people are the two great commandments. (Matt. 22 & Mark 12)

2. Treating people as I want to be treated has far reaching ramifications. (Matt. 7)

3. Following Jesus is a call to engage this life, not a ticket to escape it. (Matt. 25 & James 1)

4. How I live out my faith in the world is at least as important as what I do in church. That is, actions in church mean nothing if not followed with actions of love outside of organized worship. (Amos 5 & Luke 10)

5. Following Jesus is as much or more about learning to embody Kingdom values (compassion, peace, justice, righteousness) than about believing right theological claims (some people like the words orthopraxy and orthodoxy). (Matt. 23, Luke 4 & Luke 7)

6. Following Jesus is about learning what it means to be a citizen of Heaven and to be an ambassador of the Kingdom here and now. Following another king in another kingdom has political implications, but no political party represents God or speaks for God. (2 Cor. 5 & Phil. 3)

7. Following Jesus leads me to put on display–almost always in little ways–the goodness of God. The “Great Controversy” theme is about revealing the true nature of God’s goodness. Because God is loving and love is generous, my selfishness is a significant barrier. (Matt. 5 & Luke 6)

NOTE 1:¬†There are so many biblical passages that could be given for each of the seven items. The ones I’ve listed are simply starter verses. I especially had to hold back on #5.

NOTE 2: Since teaching is by example and not merely speaking (or posts on Facebook and blogs), I need to step it up.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for your discipleship over these years. And thank you–other family members, church members, friends–for your influence and support as well.

|Questions I Ask Myself

These questions keep returning to my mind as I make the normal, daily decisions of life:

  1. Will this make me happy for the long-term or only the short-term?
  2. Is this an investment or an expense?
  3. Will this make me healthier or drain my life?
  4. Will this increase peace, justice, and compassion in the world, or is it at the expense of someone else’s pursuit of health, happiness, and freedom?
  5. Why do I continue to engage in Facebook conversations thinking they’re remain respectful and mutually enlightening?!

|Instagram Posts

These have caught my attention recently on Instagram:

|Brueggemann on Peace

I’ve been re-reading Brueggemann’s book Peace (2001). Here are a bunch of excerpts from the first chapter.

Page 14:

That persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible; a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness. But the term that in recent discussions has been used to summarize that controlling vision is¬†shalom. Both in such discussion and in the Bible itself, it bears tremendous freight–the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, drivenness, and misery.

Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation. It refers to all those resources and factors that make communal harmony joyous and effective.

Page 15:

Shalom comes only to the inclusive, embracing community that excludes none.

Page 16:

A second dimension of shalom is the historic political community. Absence of shalom and lack of harmony are expressed in social disorder as evidenced in economic inequality, judicial perversion, and political oppression and exclusivism.

Page 17:

The doing of righteousness and justice results in the building of viable community, that is, shalom, in which the oppressed and disenfranchised have dignity and power.

Page 18:

The consequence of justice and righteousness is shalom, an enduring Sabbath of joy and well-being. But the alternative is injustice and oppression, which lead inevitably to turmoil and anxiety, with no chance of well-being (Isaiah 48:22; 57:21).

Page 19:

In historic community, the forces of injustice and exploitation are opposed by God’s will for¬†responsible, equitable justice, which yields security. In personal existence, driven, anxious self-seeking is opposed by God’s will for generous caring. The biblical vision of¬†shalom functions always as a firm rejection of values and lifestyles that seek security and well-being in manipulative ways at the expense of another part of creation, another part of the community, or a brother or sister.

Page 20:

But shalom is not subject to our best knowledge or our cleverist gimmicks. It comes only through the costly way of caring.

Page 22:

It is profound and disturbing to discover that this remarkable religious vision will have to be actualized in the civil community. The stuff of well-being is the sordid collection of rulers, soldiers, wardens, and carpetbaggers in Judah and in every place of displaced, exhausted hope.

Page 23:

Shalom of a biblical kind is always somewhat scandalous–never simply a liturgical experience or a mythical statement, but one facing our deepest divisions and countering with a vision.

Addressing Galatians 3:28-29:

Called to the Lord’s single community, bearers of God’s single promise, children of the one Abraham. Paul runs blatantly over our favorite divisions–black-white, rich-poor, male-female, East-West, old-young, or whatever…. Then Paul comes right out and says it ever more flatly: “He [Jesus] is our peace (shalom)” (Ephesians 2:14).

In addition to the Bible verses listed here, two others stood out to me in this chapter: Jeremiah 6:13-14 and 29:7.

For more on shalom, click here.

|The Violence of Forgetting (Evans & Giroux, NYTimes)

Brad Evans and Henry Giroux shared an engaging conversation at the NY Times — The Violence of Forgetting (20 June 2016). Below are three excerpts on the topic of education:

I begin with the assumption that education is fundamental to democracy. No democratic society can survive without a formative culture, which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflective, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way. This is contrary to forms of education that reduce learning to an instrumental logic that too often and too easily can be perverted to violent ends…. What matters is the type of education a person is encouraged to pursue.

. . .

Education does more than create critically minded, socially responsible citizens. It enables young people and others to challenge authority by connecting individual troubles to wider systemic concerns. This notion of education is especially important given that racialized violence, violence against women and the ongoing assaults on public goods cannot be solved on an individual basis.

. . .

Confronting the intolerable should be challenging and upsetting. Who could read the testimonies of Primo Levi and not feel intellectually and emotionally exhausted? Or Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, not to mention those of Malcolm X? It is the conditions that produce violence that should upset us ethically and prompt us to act responsibly, rather than to capitulate to a privatized emotional response that substitutes a therapeutic language for a political and worldly one.

Read the article here for more thought-provoking material.

|How to Start a Podcast (Part 2)

I spent most of Part 1 looking at recording. That was appropriate because I wrote that section while learning the basics of how to record a podcast. Now that I’ve posted three episodes to iTunes and Stitcher (and have recorded a fourth), it’s time to share a bit of what I’ve been learning about the rest of the process–mixing/production and distribution. Maybe someday I’ll have a third post focusing on podcast marketing.

If you haven’t read Part 1 in a while, check it out. I’ve revised it based on what I’ve learned over the past ~3 months. And this blog post just goes into more detail about what is already covered at the end of Part 1. Read that first, so this will have context.

And it might help to know that of the six recording methods described in Part 1, I use “Option 6‚ÄďMixer, Mic & Audio Recorder” (Soundcraft EPM6, Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, Roland R-05; if I were starting over I’d go with Option 5 using¬†a Zoom H6–simple version, complex version).

Mixing and Editing

Some people are able to do a straight show by using a sound cart (Sound Byte or Bossjock) and by talking coherently (ex., Podcast Answerman). It’s the talking coherently part that really gets me. I stutter. I stall. I can’t think of words I want to say. I make weird sounds. I know I do this, and it almost kept me from starting a podcast at all. Guess who gave me inspiration to try to host a podcast anyway? Diane Rehm. I thought, Diane’s voice isn’t one I’d predict¬†could make it in radio, yet she has a brilliant show. Why let my voice stand in my way?

Right, so my raw audio is not ready for iTunes. Not even close. I require a lot of editing to get rid of the long stretches of silence where I’m thinking about what to say or ask next. I get rid of the “Uh, Uhm, so…” garbage that clutters my audio track. And because I don’t yet use a gate (I plan to add a dbx 266xs¬†[$150 + $105 for a box/stand to store it], not the 166xs that also has a limiter for $90 more), I have a fair bit¬†of audio trash¬†on the line that I need to remove. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time editing my first three episodes, and the fourth will probably take the most time yet.

I use Audacity to clean up my audio files. I import them from my audio recorder, and work on them in three separate sections–introduction, body/interview, and conclusion. In my first episode, I imported all my audio files for each part of the show and tried to work on them with a series of tracks down the screen. My main track. Doug’s track. Ron’s track. The music track. The narrator track. The tracks for parts I had to re-record because the original grammar of the questions didn’t quite make sense when I spliced the two interviews together into a single show. It was a mess.

Now I work on each of the three parts separately and export them when then are each finished. When all three sections are done and exported as three separate WAV files, I import those three into a single new, clean, fresh Audacity working file, line them up (having music fade across these three sections helps connect them into a single experience), and then export the final show. It just works easier this way for me for now.

The introduction has my music track, the narrator’s track, and then another track from me if I feel I need a bit more to set up the interviews. I’ve had a different friend record the introduction for each episode. I plan to continue this for the time being. It’s fun to get friends involved.

The body has my track with my questions and comments, the track of one or two interviewees, and in Episode 3, I had more narration from my friend between the two main interviews.

When I record Skype, I record my voice into one side of the stereo and the interviewee into the other (on my mixer I have my voice panned left and the Skype line/track panned right). This makes editing the conversation easier. I used to split the stereo track to mono before editing. Now I do as much as I can while combined before splitting. This makes moving content easier while keeping the left and right (me and the person/people) synchronized.

Once the flow of the interview is set, I split the stereo track to two monos, and then I’m able to clean up junk hiding in the silent spaces. Episode 2 is a case study in doing this poorly; I left dead space in some places. The first interview of Episode 3 is a case study in why speaker phones are a bad idea for Skype calls. This relates to two tracks, so hear me out. At the last minute, I learned my two separate interviews were going to do it together. But that meant they wanted¬†to use a speaker phone in one person’s office. Unfortunately, the birds outside our home were very loud. The birds should have only been in my track, and then I could have wiped them out from all of my quiet spaces (which is most of the time in my interview style podcasts). Instead, my mic picked up the birds, piped them to the speaker phone’s speaker, the speaker phone’s mic picked up the birds noises and piped them back to the mixer/audio recorder on¬†their track as well. It was impossible to to get the birds out. Three future solutions: (1) no speaker phones, (2) use a noise gate, (3) find a quiet place to record. Or all three!

Then my final section has the outro music along with my final credits, thanks, and a disclaimer.

I use the compression feature in Audacity for each of the three segments before exporting them.

As I said, I work on and export each of those sections independently. Then I open Audacity again, import the three files (intro, body, outro), line them up, and export them as my final file.

A word about¬†using Levelator¬†and¬†Auphonic. I have not used Levelator, so you’re on your own there. And on YouTube you can find plenty of tutorials on using Auphonic, so I won’t go into details now. But here’s what I’ve learned about it: “Adaptive Leveler” is good for the interviews, especially when I have multiple conversations in one episode. However, it messes up the intro and outro music that fade in and out. I want the fade; I don’t want “adaptive leveler” equalizing¬†it. I learned that the hard way. So now once I have the three segments exported from Audacity, I only run the middle one through Auphonic. I use “Filtering” and “Noise and Hum Reduction” along with “Adaptive Leveler.” I don’t use “Loudness Normalization.” It makes the middle section/interviews louder than the¬†intro and outro.

Preparing for Distribution

I now have the episode’s complete WAV file that needs to be prepared for iTunes and Stitcher.

First, I convert it to an MP3 using iTunes. You can watch YouTube videos on this, so I won’t go into the details.

Second, I use MP3 Tag (free) to add ID3 tags and my podcast art (I use the same art for every episode). Some people do this in iTunes, GarageBand, and other software like ID3 Editor ($15). One time I forgot to make the MP3 file, and added the tags to the WAV file. When I realized my error, the conversion process to MP3 removed my tags, so I had to do it over again with the new, smaller file. Convert to MP3, then add tags.

Distribution

First, I upload the file to Libsyn ($5 a month plan). I follow the Podcast Answerman’s advice and use “Add File For Download Only.”

Second–and this will seem ridiculous to some people, but I have my reasons–I use a free WordPress.com blog to make my feed that iTunes and Stitcher pick up. Here are instructions on how to do that. Obviously using WordPress.org would be better, so I could use a plug-in like PowerPress. But hosting a WordPress.org site adds a monthly cost that I’d like to avoid. Plus I was scared off of using FeedBurner, so using the free WordPress blog made sense to me. Here’s the thing. No one knows it’s there. No one ever sees it. That site is just to have a free way to run my podcast RSS feed to iTunes and Stitcher. More on this in the next step in the process….

Third, I make my blog post on the APF blog that has the Show Notes (see all in the podcast category). This is what I promote on social media and on the podcast itself. Why not just run my feed from this blog instead of the secret blog? Because my organization is on it’s third blog in 5 years, and we’re about to move to a fourth (Typepad, proprietary CMS, WordPress, SquareSpace). We are too young and too unstable to run a consistent feed there. With this system, I can move away from Libsyn and away from my current blog/website platform, and still keep a consistent feed via my hidden, free WordPress.com blog. I’m sure there’s a better way, but I’m a newbie and this is the best I’ve been able to figure out so far.

Fourth, I promote the link(URL) to the Show Notes for that episode via Facebook, Twitter, and email. Each of these posts has a link to iTunes and Stitcher, so people can sign up to follow the podcasts there.

For more on each of these steps, check out the resources I listed in Part 1.

BONUS LESSONS LEARNED SO FAR

Episode 1

  • Splicing multiple interviews together to sound like it happened around a table is time consuming and not worth it.
  • Don’t split tracks until all content is in the right order.
  • Don’t change the input recording level between different interviews. Keep it steady and use the mixer to make all adjustments.
  • Skype calls to phones sound better than to computers. Using headsets vastly improves the quality if you have to call a computer instead of a phone. And land lines sound better than cell phones (at least based on¬†my small sample size).

Episode 2

  • Cutting out all sound from both tracks (me and the interviewee) leaves completely quiet dead space, so leave some hum on one of the tracks for a more natural flow.
  • When interviewing in the field, try to have a quiet area. His office was across from the department’s copy machine.

Episode 3

  • Don’t let the interviewee use a speaker phone.
  • A 5am interview after 3 hours of sleep is going to sound tired.
  • Try to have a quiet recording studio.
  • When the interviewee promotes the episode on social media in addition to my own promotion, stats improve.

Episode 4

  • Having two people on Skype at the same time means they are on the same track, which complicates volume adjusting if one person is louder than another.
  • Ask interviewees to use a headset and to find a quiet place to have the conversation.