Like taking a breath, some things become so familiar that we stop noticing.
Something has happened in Sparta every weekday for decades, yet some may have stopped noticing. It happens eight times a day, Monday through Friday, always at the same time every day – at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 9:10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 2:10 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Want to guess?
It’s the familiar toot of the steamboat whistle at Sparta WoodWorks (formerly Sparta Spoke Factory). With each blast, the whistle sounds out a message: “It’s time to start or end the work day.” “It’s time to start or end the break.” “It’s time to start or end lunch.”
To some, the whistle is an irritating noise. To me, the whistle is the sound of music.
Each blast signals that this family business is still in operation after 124 years. It is still generating incomes for several first-class woodcrafters and their families. It is still supporting many suppliers and their families around Sparta. It is still supporting our customers around the country and their families. And selfishly, it is still supporting my family. Well, enough of tooting my own horn.
Nostalgically, when I was a little boy, my dad told me the story of the “spoke factory” whistle. When I hear the blast today, I still think of my dad, what time of day it signals, and how thankful I am that the whistle continues to blow. And I am not alone. People from all over the county have told me of their tradition of listening to the whistle – especially when the wind helps to carry the sound their way. I guess I will remain a committed whistle blower.
Keeping the tradition of the whistle has been a challenge. A few years back, we solved a power problem by transitioning from steam to compressed air. Another time, the whistle developed “laryngitis,” so we doctored it back to health with a few maintenance fixes (we made it clean as a whistle). One of the greatest challenges has been keeping it in sync with Coordinated Universal Time, the world’s time standard. We have used pocket watches, time clocks, and computers to maintain accuracy. But small calibrations are still necessary from time to time.
Throughout history wind instruments have been used to send messages. The most frequently mentioned musical instrument in the Old Testament is the horn. Animal horns and metal trumpets have rallied troops on battlefields, signaled war and peace, and warned people of approaching danger. Bugles play reveille and taps in barracks. Horns are used in ceremonies, dedications, and even at funerals. Sirens warn of dangerous weather systems. Car horns prevent accidents and save lives. Dog whistles control our pets. Police enforce the law with whistles. Referees use whistles to make half the fans angry.
Wind instruments make critical announcements of future events. The seven trumpets of Revelation warned persecutors of Christians of future judgment. Angels with trumpets will one day announce the second coming of Jesus. At the last trumpet, the living will be changed, and the dead will be raised. It will be the sound of music to those right with Christ.
In some ways, we are like whistles. Our words and actions communicate messages that influence our families and others. So, what kind of whistle are you? Are you an irritating noise or the sound of music?
(1) Are you short on wind power? Transition from human to divine power. Pray for spiritual power.
(2) Have you developed the silence of laryngitis? Walk your talk. Practice what you preach to regain your voice.
(3) Are you out of sync with reality? Calibrate with God’s word. Apply the Bible to realign with God.
Jesus wants you and me to be the sound of music (Mt 5:14-16). He wants us to influence our families, communities, and world for good by being light shiners. But, let’s use our imagination for a moment. What if Jesus had grown up hearing a whistle instead of seeing an oil lamp. He might have said this:
“You are the whistle of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one blows a whistle while under a basket. Instead, a whistle is blown while on a stand, where it gives sound to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds be music for all to hear, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”