I visited Chandler's in Dyersburg, TN recently and as I entered the showroom, I was brought to a standstill by the painting hanging on the entrance wall. Not only could you not miss it, but it would not be ignored.
I don't know if this post would have been written if Harry Hart had not been at the door, but, he was and there was the beginning of my next post for "Tales from the Bootheel".
Yes, I know. Dyersburg isn't precisely part of the Bootheel but when your own small town has lost its small Wal-Mart (not a Super like the surrounding big boys) well, even an itty bitty Wal-Mart can't compete. So, as a consequence, we Caruthersvillians cross the river a lot. Memphis has its West Memphis in Arkansas. We have (or at least I have) an East Bootheel. I'm in TN a lot and so it was that this day I was in Chandler's and Mr. Hart told me the story of the remarkable and really BIG painting.
It was an Easter morning service at the Dyersburg First Church of Christ. As the pastor preached, a lady of the church community commenced painting an amazing portrait, all with her hands, not a brush in sight, behind the pastor. By the time the service was over the painting was completed. Harry Hart was so moved by the power of the painting that he eventually asked if it could be moved to Chandler's where it could be seen by anyone who entered the store.
As I viewed the painting, I continued to visit with Harry as he proudly spoke of the young and vibrant community that had grown from a membership of 400 to over 3,500 souls now. Along with this remarkable painting, there seemed to also be an openness to all in the town and various church communities. Each Sunday at each service 2 or 3 of the other local churches, their congregations, and the pastor are specifically prayed for by name,
Coming from radically liberal California, one of the things that's most impressed me is the importance of church here. It is practically the first thing people want to know about you. The lessons of Christ are taken seriously here. People of faith take it seriously in California, too but unlike California, where faith is disdained by the powers that be, or the monied, or alt-lifestyle folks (whatever form their alt-life takes), not to mention the influential entertainment industry, in Missouri, there is a balance, an inclusiveness, a desire to serve all that does not exist in California anymore. Granted, Missouri's not perfect, but there is a whole lot more thoughtfulness and care brought to the political table here and that painting, so boldly displayed in a Tennessee town, drove the point home.
Where there are people, there will always be problems but, where there is Christ and/or a strong belief in a good and loving God, there is a path to sane living and I'm seeing a lot of it here. And, THAT gives me hope,