Did you wave the lamp?

This is a story I once heard.  I’m sure there are a few variations  of it going around, but the core principle I’m sure has remained the same:

Dwight L. Moody used to tell the story of the terrible train crash outside of the small town in the Colorado Rockies. It seems that the railroad trestle at the bottom of a long grade had washed away in a storm. 

One night, the railroad company telegraphed the station manager of the station farther up the hill to tell him about the washout, and told him to flash a red lantern to stop the train there so that the passengers could spend the night there.  It was the job of the station manager to wave a lamp to warn locomotive engineers of danger ahead on the railroad tracks. 

So that night, for some reason the train did not stop, but continued down the hill and off the tracks, into a ravine with great loss of lives.

Of course an investigation was convened as to the cause of the crash, and the station manager was called to the stand to be interrogated.

The judge started, “Did you wave the lamp?”

The watchman responded,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”

So why didn’t the train stop?”

“You’ll have to ask the engineer.”

“We can’t ask him, he is dead! Did you wave the lamp?”

“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”

The judged asked the watchman the same question several more times with increasing intensity, “Did you wave the lamp?”

Each time the watchman’s answer was the same,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp”, but the watchman seemed less and less convincing.

After the inquest was over, the watchman and a friend were talking. The friend asked, “You seemed upset when the judge asked you that question, and each time he asked, you seemd less and less sure of your answer. You did wave the lamp, didn’t you?”
The watchman replied, “Yes, I waved the lamp.”
The friend said, “Then your answer should have been the same no matter how many times the judge asked you.”

The watchman said, “Yes, but you see, there was a problem. I was doing some paperwork when I heard the train coming. I thought I could finish the paperwork and still have time to warn the train. But the train came faster than I thought, so I grabbed the lamp, ran out, and waved it. I waved the lamp just fine… but I didn’t have time to light it, and the engineer of that train didn’t see the lamp, and he drove on to disaster.”

Do you wave an unlit lamp?

One comment to “Did you wave the lamp?”
    “But the people of Beroea were more open minded than those in Thessalonica, and gladly listened to the message. They searched the Scriptures day by day to check up on Paul and Silas’ statements to see if they were really so” (Acts 17:11, TLB).
    Albert Einstein, who discovered the theory of relativity, asked, “What would a light wave look like to someone keeping pace with it?”
    Bill Bowerman, inventor of Nike shoes, questioned, “What happens if I pour rubber into my waffle iron?”
    Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, reasoned, “Why can’t there be reliable overnight mail service?”
    Godfrey Hounsfield, inventor of the CAT scanner, asked, “Why can’t we see in three dimensions what is inside a human body without cutting it open?”
    And Masaru Ibuka, honorary chairman of the Sony corporation who came up with the idea for the Sony Walkman, queried, “Why don’t we remove the recording function and speaker and put headphones in the recorder?”
    Asking the right questions is one of the fundamental keys for opening the mind to new ideas, some of which have made profound changes for mankind. However, whenever people come up with new ideas, they need courage to overcome the criticisms of negative people who seem to feel that their calling in life is to discourage creative change.
    For instance, shoe makers called Nike’s idea for waffle shoes stupid. Godfrey Hounsfield’s CAT scan idea was seen as “impractical.” Masaru Ibuka was asked if he was crazy when he proposed the idea for the Sony walkman and Fred Smith wrote a paper at Yale suggesting the idea for Federal Express—and got a “C” grade!
    We, too, like the Christians in Beroea, need to question doctrines we are taught to make sure they are Biblical and not just outmoded traditions of man which can “kill” the church … and our enthusiasm for God. We also need to be open to and actively seek better ways of doing things for improving the quality of life for ourselves and others.

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