Monday, January 30, 2006

Walking in Memphis

Last week, Geoff Calkins, sports columnist for The Commercial Appeal, celebrated his 10th anniversary in Memphis noting some highlights of his time in the city, and then commented on 3 places in town he's yet to visit:


Bellevue Baptist

Platinum Plus

and it left me to think - "you know, I haven't been to those places either."

For the purposes of full disclosure, let me qualify that a bit.

I have never been to Six Flags over... uh, I mean, Bellevue's new location. Although . . .

I have been to the church once (when it really was on Bellevue) back in the late 70's when Tom Landry spoke there. A vanload of us came down from Jackson. I was a teenager, and I remember being disappointed though. I wanted to hear football stories, but mostly heard about Jesus and how badly I needed him.

Which is true, I do need him, badly. But, I always had the feeling that if Jesus had been there in the flesh to hear Coach Landry, he would have wanted to hear football stories, too.

I've never been to Graceland.
Although . . . I lived around the corner from it for years. When Dad was appointed to Grace UMC, I lived in that parsonage for several years while going to Memphis State. My second ever church job was as youth director of Whitehaven UMC on Elvis Presley Blvd., and let me tell you, during "death week" in the hound dog days of August, we had hunka hunks of hot, sweaty Elvi out the wazoo coming by for a cool cup of water or looking for bus fare home. Can't tell you how many times I heard - "thank you, thank you very much."

I've never been to Platinum Plus.
Although . . . I served as Associate at Asbury in the days that "establishment" was trying to open in "our part of town." It's there on Mt. Moriah on car lot row and it was and is a part of the parish area for that church. We fought to keep it from opening, to no avail, of course. For me, it was part and parcel of what was going on in the Fox Meadows area, because at the same time this strip club was attempting to open, Tunica was getting into the gambling business, and I was noticing in my old neighborhood that businesses I had long since known were closing and giving way to pawn shops and now strip clubs.

Makes me angry still to think about it.

No, I've never been to Platinum Plus.
Although . . . I have been in the building it now occupies. Back in the day, it was known as something else. It was a restaurant called "The Loft." I took my senior fall formal date there for dinner before the dance. I had my little suit on, my 80's moussed back hair (I had a lot of hair in those days), awash in Halston Z-14(something I remember daily now that I can smell my older sons about 10 seconds before they enter a room), and a pretty girl on my arm. As memory serves, it was a good night, a very good night.

So, thanks, Geoff, for reminding me of where I haven't been, either. Or, where I have been in another time and place. But that's just how it is, isn't it? Things we've known as something become something else over time.

Makes me think of the decisions of people not to move - not to forsake their setting, their context.

Makes me think of the generation of folks from St. John's who intentionally chose not to run away from midtown when everything and everyone else was - including too many churches.

But if the Bible does nothing else, it reminds us that even if all that's left is a remnant, it's enough to establish new memories for generations to come.

Because while individuals, businesses, and churches may forsake a community, God doesn't. And God still needs agents of grace who will remain and make a witness, trusting in the day that those who remain will be "blessed to be a blessing."

That we see the fruit of faith now planted back then should be a lesson for us all.

Thanks be to God.

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