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27 August 2009

Living with Headroom

Wow! I've been on an unannounced blogging sabbatical. Life has been pushing me to become stressed lately, and I'm on my guard against it, but it's a difficult battle. Below is a post from almost two years ago that I felt was appropriate for me, and I wanted to share it again:

Headroom. The first (and probably most obvious) meaning of this word would be something like "the space from the top of one's head to a ceiling or door facing," or something similar. Or possibly "the amount of space between the top of a truck and a tunnel or a bridge's overhead girders."

But I tend to think in terms of audio when I hear this word. Let me explain as simply as I can.

Headroom, in the world of audio, is the loudest signal (music, for instance) that someone will be actually playing through a sound system vs. the loudest signal that the sound system could produce before beginning to distort (which typically sounds pretty nasty).

So, for example, on a given day I might be playing a Nat King Cole CD on my boom box at a relaxing volume of, say, 60 decibels (the typical volume of a normal conversation), but if I really wanted to, I could crank it up to an ear-splitting, rock-concert volume of 120 decibels before my boom box started going all buzzy and crackly, blowing speakers and what-not. (Doing the math, that's 60dB of headroom.)

However, if my CD player is capable of playing at only 70 decibels and I run it at 60 decibels, that gives me only 10dB of headroom, constantly pushing the limits of the boom box and delivering sound that is not as "clean" as one capable of spitting out loud volumes.

Bored yet? Stay with me -- by now you surely see the analogy I'm making.

Thinking in practical terms, does the "volume" at which we typically live life leave us enough headroom for emergencies, when we need that extra boost? Or are we running mostly full-blast all the time? This situation applies not only to the life of a church fellowship, but to any individual person's or family's life -- finances and schedules being the first areas that come to my mind.

When I consider church work, do we pour so much into what we're doing that when a situation comes along where we need to "go the extra mile" for someone -- to be the body of Christ in an extraordinary way -- that doing so would cause "distortion," either spiritual, mental, financial, or physical?

Since each person and each church fellowship has a different amount of this kind headroom, some fellowships and some people may find that they work better at a "louder volume." Many, though, may find that they're either giving themselves too little headroom, or possibly even 0dB.

I encourage you to daily and continually seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in knowing where your headroom lies and how to wisely use your volume control.

Paul summed up this thought perfectly when he talked to the Corinthian church about giving:

Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.

(Fellow techno-nerds, no need to point out the differences between volume, level, and loudness.)


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