Notes from Nashville

Driving to take a look at Johnny Cash’s former home, lakeside in Hendersonville (a sign outside it says “Sold”), I came across a little village called Trinity Music City USA. Wondering what it was, I drove in and entered the gift shop. It turns out that it used to be Twitty City(!), but was bought in the 90s by… drum roll please… TBN. Yes, Paul and Jan Crouch. The gift shop was sort of a Kirklands, TBN style, loaded with the sort of accessories you’d expect to see on the TBN set. Amid the gilding and Joyce Meyer titles, I was amused to note several New Geneva Study Bibles. One can only imagine the reaction of its authors (not to mention the original Geneva Bible commenters) to this store. Such are the accidents so typical of TBN’s latitudinarian approach (and that of the evangelical movement for that matter). The New Geneva Study Bible is out of print, which may mean that they’ve been sitting on the shelves for a while.

Saturday night brought a visit to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. An Opry show is a series of five live, half-hour segments, each usually hosted by a country star who last had a hit in 1979. Acts play two songs each. There are good and bad; bluegrass bands interspersed with New Country types who still insist on rhyming “night” with “morning light” (one act actually did a remake of “Rub It In,” a song that really should have stayed forgotten). The host sandwiches the acts with a song at the beginning and end of the segment, and commercials are read live. The Opry is a dream for those with short attention spans. It’s a mighty fun couple of hours.

On this night, the Whites did their fantastic version of the Carter Family classic “Keep on the Sunny Side,” Del McCoury added his yodelling bluegrass, and the entertaining “Riders in the Sky” contributed their tumbleweed standards (“Cool…clear…water”). However, it was left to the last act, a man named Doyle Dykes, to steal the show. As the oldsters in the audience were checking their watches, ready to escape into the winter night, Dykes played a virtuoso guitar piece with simultaneous rhythm and medley. It was pleasant-enough noodling in the Chet Atkins-meets-Phil Keaggy vein, but then he brought out his daughter Haley to do their version of “Amazing Grace.” This seemed like a “nice” way to end the night… and then the young woman began belting. And the world stopped, the heavens opened, and there was nothing to do but sit there with your mouth open and drink it in. It reverberated off the wooden pews and filled every empty pocket of air. It said, “Be still and know that I am God.” After she finished, the audience sat stunned, then finally burst into a standing ovation. “When we’ve been there 10,000 years…” What a joyous thing. What a powerful display of God’s truth. The Potter so often molds the clay when least expected.

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