Hurricane Joaquin hit the east coast while we were in the city of Brotherly Love eating a Philly Cheese Steak at a spot recommended by locals. The skies darkened and dumped rain on all the places we were headed after lunch along Hwy 40.
We made Knoxville after dark and pulled into Wal-Mart for the night. Yes, people actually do this and there’s usually a little neighborhood to welcome you after the sun goes down.
The Nashville skyline appeared the following afternoon. We drove straight through. Who gets to Nashville and doesn’t stop? We do. It was the rain, we told ourselves. It was lack of planning. It was dwindling time. It was tourist-weariness. But mostly it was just us being intimidated by our uncertainty of where to go. I phone-snapped a fuzzy pic of Music City from the freeway. With the Grand Ole Opry in our review mirror I began berating myself. What is wrong with you? You should have stopped! I swiped away a couple tears and swallowed in futile reprimands.
We found a two-laner and headed northwest. Incredible scenery spilled out in all directions–think Kentucky Derby–but I learned my lesson in Lancaster and kept my camera out of arm’s reach.
Sometimes, most times, it’s just best to soak it all in unencumbered with devices.
Around 5:00 PM we crossed the border where Tennessee and Kentucky rub shoulders. A mile in we came upon a sleepy little town, which greeted us with giant red letters splayed across the town’s retired grain elevators:
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD
Adairville could have been Mayberry at one time but most of the Opie’s have moved to Nashville. Churches outnumbered businesses still in operation and from the looks of things the population was holding onto the remnants of the thin remnants of a once thriving town. Castello’s Cafe flashed an OPEN sign. We looked over at each other, shrugged our shoulders and made a wordless decision to step inside.
I would absolutely love to tell you all about this relic place that looked part cafe and part someone’s family kitchen. It had all the fodder for an entire book. I can only tell you that it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten in a restaurant where cigarette smoke curled up from amber ashtrays and I’ve never eaten fried green tomatoes made by a pregnant gal wearing Sponge Bob pajama bottoms and an animal print tank top.
The narrow room held a dozen tables, two were occupied. The wait staff –and their family–sat near the kitchen and cash register playing dominos, smoking cigarettes and watching the Tennessee Volunteers battle it out on the gridiron against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
An elderly trio sat near the entrance away from the smoke. We sat near them and puzzled over the menu, not wondering what to eat so much as if we should eat. The Saturday special was hamburger steak, slaw and green fried tomatoes. We ordered two.
It was clear we weren’t locals. The little lady whose chin disappeared into her neck asked if we had come from Nashville for the Gospel Tones. One meal and a bunch of small talk, later we found ourselves seated in the Living Word Church just around the corner.
The front door of the church could have been a time-travel portal. I was immediately transported into my past, among saintly old folks from my younger years in a dozen small churches. My nostrils filled with the scent of vintage church. Sister this and brother that, handshakes and howdies–the room hummed with the warmth of fellowship and the buzz of anticipation. A crooked old gentleman topped with a thin comb-over greeted us warmly. His thick southern accent dripped a honey-smooth hello.
Oh my gosh! We were in the south and it was delightful!
We took seats among the gathering of unadorned country folks. I fought back tears of nostalgia, struck by how fast this old globe spins our nows into yesterdays.
Baritone-voiced Pastor Phil started the meeting off with a couple throwback worship songs that brought a thousand memories into sensory perception.
A grey-haired southern gospel quartet took the stage. Their drummer, as it turned out, had recorded several songs with Elvis and had been inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame. For decades they’d been singing southern gospel songs all through the Bible belt and were still raising gooseflesh on their audiences. From the beginning, their notes of close harmony rang rich through the air and immediately breached my weak tear-levy. For two hours we stomped and clapped and laughed and cried. Lyrics about heaven and Jesus swaddled our news-ragged hearts.
And then it became clear. We weren’t just Bob and Sherrie from Washington State who didn’t know how to do Nashville, who were too early for the autumn colors and too late for the Delaware River tours. We weren’t just scenery hoarders with a cache of blurry pictures or unsophisticated tourists collecting brochures and trinkets.
We were members of God’s family sitting among eternal roommates in a town called Adairville. We were enjoying the sweet presence of Jesus in a rural setting and being reminded that not only does He truly guide each step of the way, but HE IS THE WAY!
It’s a great land we live in and whether or not you see giant red letters painted bold across your world, the truth remains:
JESUS CHRIST IS indeed LORD, and Soon and very soon we are going to see the King!