One of the all-time favorite opportunities of my life was playing piano and leading music at church camp meetings.  The sound of the huge crowd was incredible as they sang, 

“Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters, 
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain. 
But I received a glorious freedom, 
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain! 

Glorious freedom!  Wonderful freedom! 
No more in chains of sin I repine. 
Jesus the glorious Emancipator, 
Now and forever, He shall be mine.” 

Just playing the introduction to that great hymn was like lightning! 

What can compare to hearing the people sing, 

“I heard and old, old story, how the Savior came from glory, 
How He gave His life on Calvary, to save a wretch like me. 
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning, 
And I repented of my sin and won the victory! 

Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! 
He sought me, and bought me, with His redeeming blood. 
He loved me ‘ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him. 
He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.” 


“My heart was distressed ‘neath Jehovah’s dread frown, 
And low in the pit where my sins dragged me down, 
I cried to the Lord from the deep miry clay, 
Who tenderly brought me out to golden day. 

He brought me out of the miry clay! 
He set my feet on the rock to stay. 
He puts a song in my soul today, 
A song of praise, Hallelujah!” 

We always included, 

“Such love, such wondrous love, 
Such love, such wondrous love, 
That God should love and sinner such as I, 
How wonderful is love like this?” 

Folks loved singing, 

“When we all get to Heaven 
What a day of rejoicing that will be. 
When we all see Jesus, 
We’ll sing and shout the victory!” 

And finally, 

“I stand amazed in the presence  
Of Jesus, the Nazarene 
And wonder how He could love me 
A sinner, condemned, unclean. 

How marvelous, how wonderful, 
And my song shall ever be. 
How marvelous, how wonderful, 
Is my Savior’s love for me.” 

Would altars have been empty without great songs like, 

“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, 
Calling for you and for me.” 


“I surrender all, I surrender all.  
All to Thee my Blessed Savior, I surrender all.” 

“Just as I am, without one plea, 
But that Thy blood was shed for me 
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee 
Oh, Lamb of God, I come.” 

Where would we be without great songwriters like 
John and Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Haldor Lillenas, Isaac Watts, John Newton, William Kirkpatrick, and Ira Sankey? 

I guess I’ve become an old goat like the ones I used to complain about when I was a pastor.  There was an old guy in the second church I pastored who folded his arms and stared at me when we sang songs that weren’t in the hymnal.  Every week we usually led two hymns and then two or three choruses.  When the hymn book closed, he was done. 

I like what the great old general superintendent, Dr. Earle Wilson, said, “I like the new choruses.  The ones that say something.” 

Fifty years from now a new old goat will probably say, “I miss the old songs we used to sing in church that Chris Tomlin wrote.” 

More Scenery Details on the Maple Valley Short Line Model Railroad

I love looking at photos and videos posted by fellow model railroaders. I have learned a great deal about scenery by watching others do what they do best.

I recently discovered I’ve been making a mistake. When I go into my train room, I tend to look at my whole layout from one end to the other. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed because there is still so much to do, and I lose sight of the best part of this great hobby. The work is really never done!

The secret I uncovered is that expert modelers often just work on a small part of the layout at a time. They take a small scene, like the one above on my layout under Three Tower Bridge, and create a masterpiece.

Just in this photo I can see several things that need more work:

  1. The base of the little shed needs to be blended with the surrounding ground cover.
  2. The foliage material around the first tower is too big.
  3. Obviously, this is a section of track that is awaiting ballast.
  4. The towers and the deck could use some weathering. Maybe some weathing powder would be good.

What I should do is focus on this piece of the layout, as if it were a module. For me, it might be a good idea to lay some plastic over the surrounding area so this part is all I see. I probably won’t do that.

I like this small section near Maple Valley. The two tanks on the stand need paint. The sign on the end of the freight shed is blank. I’ve never seen a small work shed with an orange roof.

I’m learning as I write. Looking at small photos of my layout is a great way to figure out how to improve the scenes.

Ballasting is an ongoing project. None of it has been glued in place yet. I’m still using my clear plastic ballast spreader and I’m running out of material, so I’ll have to make another trip to the hobby shop. Yesss!

This track section is the line that carries passengers on The Old General from Uptown to Maple Valley. Maple Valley is a popular tourist destination which is also the focus of a scandal that began over a year ago. A local resident, Sylvia Meisner, disappeared. Her burned car was found under Three Tower Bridge. The caboose on the right is almost directly above where the wreck was discovered. (You can read “Scandal at Maple Valley” on my blog – just click on the menu.)

Getting back to scenery progress, the freight dock on the left is terribly bare. I want to get a static grass applicator, or make one. The dock needs weeds, stacks of stuff, weathering, and workers.

Lots of work to be done here, and I don’t mean by the guys in the scene. The edges have to be blended with ground cover. The tower and small sheds need paint and weathering. Many weeds are needed, the ground cover needs help. A little more brown will look better.

The brush lichen along the curve is too big. I’ll pull it apart and replace it. I still have a lot of ground cover to finish between buildings in Maple Valley.

I still have a bunch of trees I made that are ready to have leaves applied. It’s been a busy summer and the layout was a little farther down the list.

Happy model railroading!

Camp’s Over, Now What?

I hate it when things are over.  Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  Spring break. The school year, sort of.  Summer vacations. Trips down south.  I don’t like movies to end, at least not the good ones.  I feel bad saying, “Alexa, stop.”  

For church folks, summer is the time for annual camp meeting, the week-long gathering for inspiration and renewal of faith.  There is lots of singing and preaching, and sometimes, lots of emotion. I don’t like it when camp meeting is over. 

Church campgrounds are hallowed places. They’re all pretty much the same. Cabins, a dining hall, bath houses, sports fields, a snack bar, and a camping area all surround a huge tabernacle.  

The tabernacle is made of wood beams and boards with big windows covered by large flaps held up by wood posts. At the front of the tabernacle is a long stone altar. The altar is the holy ground where serious decisions are made that might totally change the direction of a person’s life. 

For kids growing up in church, like I did, summer was also the time for youth camp. It was five glorious days away from home with hundreds of teenagers all trying to impress each other. There were lots of fun activities, and two daily chapel services. 

Year after year, the nightly chapel services all followed the same pattern. There was lively singing, preaching that tugged at our souls, and an invitation to go to the altar. “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, oh Lamb of God I come.” 

As the “invitation song” continued, kids streamed to the altar. We repented, cried, repented more, and cried more. We hugged and cried, laughed and cried. Then we cried again.

Every night the scene was the same. We sought forgiveness for everything and cried about it all. By the end of the week, we were in danger of kidney and liver failure from dehydration. And then it was over. We boarded the buses and went home. 

Was it real? Yes. Sincere? Yes. Emotional? Obviously. 

Here’s the point. Not one time, not once in all those years, did anyone, any adult, ever stand in front of us and say, “Listen gang, you need to know something. In just a few days, maybe even before you get home today, all these feelings are going to disappear.” 

Instead, we were left alone, trying to figure out what went wrong when all the emotions faded away. Some kids decided it wasn’t real. The decisions they made didn’t matter because the feelings were gone. 

Years ago, when I was a pastor, I received a hand-written letter that broke my heart. The writer said, “I no longer profess to be a Christian. I just can’t maintain the feeling.” I’ll never forget it. Maybe that person had an emotional camp experience and thought it would last forever. 

I hate it when things end and emotions fade.

Faith lives on, feelings or not.