A #Memphis Cultural Adventure

Memphis is like a patchwork quilt, tightly threaded together by streets, highways, and history. In learning about different cultures, we visited a place that served Senegalese food and spoke Wolof, a dialect in Senegal, Africa. A Yemen restaurant called, The Queen of Sheba, served large discs of bread and homemade hummus. The dishes were ordered and shared among our group while in the background Arabic conversations hummed. Next door to the Queen of Sheba was a Middle Eastern market called, Jerusalem market. You can find the best homemade baklava served by a smiling young man.

Driving along the streets, you pass through hipster towns that open to project housing to mansions to old homes in quiet, tree-lined streets. Sidewalks reach out and trip you from tree roots growing beneath the cement. The historic town is like a shoe broken in and creased in the right places. Old and new buildings sit side-by-side in harmony, like a quilt with its different fabric squares.

Bluff City Coffee sits in downtown Memphis near the Civil Rights Museum and the Blues Hall of Fame, and I learned the difference between graffiti art and graffiti. Graffiti art give brightness and color to old walls and sagging fences. Graffiti just defaces, adding nothing to the town. Graffiti art reminds the town to love each other as we walk this human experience together. But human relationships are complex. Old wounds continue to bleed. Monuments and museums remind us of our mistakes to teach us something new today.

  • Take time to sit and converse over catfish sandwiches at the Germantown Commissary. Don’t park at the Methodist Church. Even after hours, the signs say, “Church parking only.” You’ll have to drive around the block a few times to find a place to park your car.
  • Don’t go too fast. Life doesn’t wait for you to make a decision, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush through the day. Driving in Memphis has been compared to a third world country. I think it’s comparable to Nascar, too. Everything is fast and reckless. Off ramps come quickly and you have to pay attention or you won’t be able to make that turn. It’s okay to slow down and take in the scenery. Pay attention to new opportunities to show Christ’s love.
  • Eat pie. Muddy’s Café sits atop of a low hill. It has outdoor seating and it is adorable. The cakes and pies are fantastic. The plugs are few though. Be patient. You can plug in your phone and enjoy a slice of heaven while you wait for the next thing to do on your list. But don’t put your dirty plate on someone else’s table. Be considerate of others around you. If you practice consideration and other-thinking, your heart will be lighter.
  • Rosa Parks stood for something. Her bus is at the National Civil Rights Museum. She didn’t opt for violence, but sat in her seat, refusing to go to the back. Caste systems and classes exist in our world. Don’t sit in the back. You are valued. Jesus shed His blood for you. No matter how people treat you, remember who you are in Christ. Experiences will change you. Make wise choices.
  • A job is only as mundane as you make it to be. The tour guide on the Ferry made us laugh with his anecdotal stories about the Mississippi River as we cruised through a rain storm. Work so people can tell you love your job. When you love your job, you bring joy to your customers and to your co-workers.
  • Listen to people. You may learn something. As I sat in my host’s living room, I couldn’t believe I was here. I couldn’t believe people listened to me. I listened to them. They had much to offer to our group. They take risks.
  • Listen to people and learn something. You are never too young or too old or too educated.

Facebook is great for reviewing a trip. I read my statuses and felt sad leaving a patchwork town that welcomed me with its diversity and comfort. In the airport, I knew home wasn’t a place. Home is where my husband lives and where God brings us next. Hold loosely to material goods and tightly to people. Don’t be a consumer.

Why Firsts Change People’s Lives

He made me feel empowered when he brought me into his office. I sat down across from him, a nervous twenty-something year old, with the thought in my mind of, ‘What did I do?’ 

My boss ran the whole floor at Bank of America. As I sat down, he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “What can we do to improve things around here?” He held a pen and a pad of paper.

For the first time in my life, someone took me seriously. For the first time, someone believed in me. Someone thought I had value to contribute to a larger than life organization. That’s powerful. For the first time, I wasn’t Nikki who barely got by in High School and laughed at college. That was just the beginning of many firsts in my life that God would show me as He led me to Him. I was reminded of this recently after an extended video conference call. It caused me to think about the path I took since then, and the many mistakes I made getting here.

My old friend, Fear, likes to poke his head out from the shadows and say, “You are stupid. You are foolish.” He represents a very old enemy that, at one time, held power over me. Fear made me spend money I didn’t have, choose friends who weren’t healthy, and date people I knew would leave me anyway. Why should I be courageous when no one would help me if I fail? I was alone.

Yet, God would bring people in my life to prove He had never left my side. From the time Gwen Beatty saw me enter FBC Prescott (now Solid Rock Christian Fellowship) to when God brought a man who would become my husband that would start an unstoppable awakening in my soul. It is because of the people God brought in my life that I changed. Fear is everyone’s enemy.

What stops you from reaching out to people who make you uncomfortable? When I think of the American church, I share with others grave concerns about its ability to be like the courage of the persecuted church. Those concerns made me take a hard look at myself.

  • Am I friends with people who disagree with me?
  • Can I put a name to a different religion? Or in other words, have I ever had dinner with someone from a different religion, even country?
  • Is my Facebook “preaching to the choir,” or am I allowing God to use me on social media to do the hard work in building relationships with people who are different than me?

A verse caught my eye the other day from Ephesians 3:14-21:

This is why I kneel before the Father. Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him. I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.

Firsts in life are important and life changing. You play a part in other people’s “firsts” whether you serve the homeless, internationals, or just go to church. Mentoring is important.

The above verse is my prayer for you and your church.

Can I pray further with you about something?

Grand Canyon Adventure: Facing Fears (Part 2) #OptOutside #SocialMedia


A steady rain fell. Hikers from next door encouraged us to come to their group site which had a large, partial stone and wood enclosure. Other hikers soon joined us. Tony and I ate our Mountain House Breakfast Skillet dehydrated meal and felt the hot food warm us on the inside.


Standing in the chill with the thunder echoing throughout the canyon was beautiful. The gray rain fell in sheets. The rocky canyon walls glistened. Lightening flashed.


The chill of the wet air and the crowded enclosure persuaded us to return to our tent. Standing all day unable to do anything was not a fun proposition. Talking to people we did not know was interesting. Hikers in their element are the friendliest and kindest people versus their city counter parts.


Something about the city causes us to always be in a hurry. The noises of sirens and car horns, the rude awakening of an alarm reminding us of pending appointments, or the fast clip of others crossing the street and passing you with eyes averted that say, “I have my own wall that I don’t want you to cross.”

The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)


The rain did eventually stop while we sipped hot coffee at the Canteena at Phantom Ranch. Water dripped off of the leaves and eaves and the Bright Angel Creek roared, stirring up brown muck from the rising flood waters of higher elevations. Our muscles still ached and even a slight hill caused both of us to groan. We decided to walk and explore a place we have never seen—the Colorado River.


Two bridges cross the river—the Black and Silver bridge. We walked the Bright Angel Trail, climbed over the rivers rocky shores til we sat on its banks. The river is a beautiful sea green with strips of red-brown when the sun illuminates it. The bright Angel Trail crosses the Silver bridge while the Kaibab Trail crosses the Black bridge. When you walk the Silver bridge there are grates, and you feel the sway of the bridge and see the deadly beauty of the rivers powerful current far beneath your feet. You feel both secure and in danger at the same time. Life shouldn’t be lived in fear.

Say to those who are panicking:
    “Be strong! Don’t fear!
    Here’s your God,
        coming with vengeance;
        with divine retribution
    God will come to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Even standing on the Silver bridge, I forced myself to look down and face my fears. It takes a lot of effort to get here and moments you think reaching that goal is impossible. We are here, and I am so thankful.

It is now late afternoon. The rain comes in short spurts as I lay in the tent. I love how it spatters in symphony with the roar of the creek. There is no cell signal and my phone can’t access the internet. I have been out of contact with the rest of the world since Sunday morning.

Being out of contact and unplugged is wonderful. There is a danger of becoming jaded in the online world so much so that you can become ineffective. You must take moments to be out of contact and refuel.

Signs of ineffectiveness:

  • You don’t give the benefit of the doubt.
  • When someone shares something, you judge it as narcissistic.
  • You are short on patience.
  • A loss of creativity and social blindness.
  • Angry, impatient, and self-righteous.

The online world is just as real and fraught with dangers as the face-to-face world. To live fully as a Christian, we need to balance these worlds.