The Ballad of the Model Steam Engine

When my brother and I were teenagers, we had a train layout in our room. My brother got a beautiful old-timer 4-4-0 steam locomotive as a gift. To this day, the only other 4-4-0’s I’ve seen that are nicer are the really really expensive brass models (and I’ve looked). There may have been some jealousy, but I’m not admitting to anything.

The problem with these kinds of models is that the engine (locomotive) is too small to hold a motor. Instead, the motor is placed in the tender and a rod connects the engine in the tender with the worm-gear (and wheels) in the engine.

And of course, that rod became lost. But not before the company that made that engine went out of business (probably from making such nice models and selling them too cheaply). The engine was put away back in it’s box until a replacement rod could be found. Eventually all the trains were boxed back up until about 5 or 6 years ago when my Dad and I got working on another layout. Then we found that beautiful train, and remembered the missing rod.

One day four years ago, we were at a train show and one of the shops there had bins with spare parts for sale. In those parts we found two different connecting rods! We bought both of them, anticipating that one of them should fit my brother’s train.

However, before we had even left the show that day, we lost the bag with those parts in them. We spent at least an hour retracing our steps through the busy show, asking the seller if someone had found it, peeking under tables. It was simply nowhere. The engine would have to wait.

Just a few days ago my dad called me to tell me he had found the bag! I was shocked. Where was it? My dad had put it in a hidden pocket in his jacket, and then forgotten about it, including the fact that the jacket had a hidden pocket. The bag was found when Mom insisted he wash his jacket and clean out the pockets. That bag had sat in there for four years and dad used it everywhere, including working out in the yard.

I got the two rods out and tried them on the train. One had ends that were too large. The other had ends that were the right size, but the rod was too long. I thought this was going to be an extremely anti-climactic end, but Dad insisted that we could still make it work.

We took the long rod and cut it. Then we dug through Dad’s spare brass parts (he’s a kit-basher) and found some brass tubing that was almost exactly the right size. With some experimentation, we discovered what the right length should be, cut the rod to length, and used the brass tubing and some glue to assemble it together.

Old-timer 4-4-0

Old-timer 4-4-0

And this beautiful train runs again!

The Gospel is like…

A Symphony.

We attended a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. We had the “cheap” seats, which meant we were in the front-right corner, smack behind the bases. As the symphony began, I wondered if we would hear any of the other instruments.

As it turned out, yes we did. The bases were a little louder than normal, sure, but it ended up being a small enough difference that it didn’t matter all that much. In addition, there were a number of places where the bases had a fairly interesting line that I hadn’t ever noticed. Also, at some points (especially the fourth movement), where they were playing a lot harder and faster than I would have thought they could play. I wondered how those performers managed it–it was really striking to see them working so furiously. It was an awesome performance, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

And of course there are some obvious parallels to the gospel and/or the church and a symphony orchestra. Similar parallels are much more commonly applied to sports teams. Here are some thoughts I had. Nothing really deep…

  • Follow the conductor. If the conductor thinks a certain part should be soft and you think it should be loud, you should still play it soft. “Going your own way” really doesn’t work in this setting. Neither does refusing to play (in protest).
  • Play your part. Not someone else’s. Don’t get worked up about whether your part is currently working furiously while someone else is resting (or visa verse). Everyone’s part is different, and important.
  • Your part is not the only part. You are not necessarily the only one playing your part. Be part of the orchestra. Like it or not, you are in this together, so you’ll have to figure out how to work with each other. The ability to blend is very important.
  • The best soloists know how to not drown out everyone else. Instead their voice enhances everyone else’s. In this particular performance, the soloists were in the back of the orchestra, and just in front of the choir, rather than all the way up front. I thought that worked out quite well.
  • A solo part is not as glamorous as it may seem. Earlier we heard Mahler’s 1st symphony, and a base player had a very important and difficult solo part. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as nervous as he was! I certainly didn’t envy him.
  • Don’t get hung up on mistakes.