Memphis Archives - Catherine Nelson


The Problem with Potholes

By | Memphis | No Comments

This is not a devotional about potholes. I could try and be cute and stretch an analogy comparing the problems in our life to potholes, but I believe it would translate as cheesy and insincere.

If you have spent much time driving anywhere since “Snowmageddon 2015“, you have noticed the horrible condition of our roads. The problem is bigger than potholes. The truth and core of the problem is much deeper than our recent plague of potholes. Our National infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul.

Complaining about the problem is rampant on the news and social media, but you will not get new smooth roads unless you complain to your congressmen. I have spent some time on Capitol Hill observing road builders lobby for a gas tax and infrastructure bill, and in each meeting, in every office, these requests are rejected. Congress believes that supporting a gas tax is political suicide. These men want to make a difference, but they also want to keep their jobs. Please take a minute to read and watch the links I have attached.

One of our local TV stations did a segment on potholes and my knowledgeable and eloquent husband replied with the following informative letter.

Comedy Central and HBO have also recognized the importance of infrastructure and produced these two very entertaining segments. (Please pardon some of the embarrassing and colorful language… their points are spot on).

John Oliver

Jon Stewart

If you are angry, speak up… Please.  To write your representatives in less than 90 seconds follow this LINK.

Stay safe out there!

From Patrick Nelson:


THIS IS OFF THE RECORD – Disclosure; I have a vested interest in road construction. 
Thank you for your reporting regarding the City of Memphis pothole issues.  It was a fair and thorough story of the current conditions after several vicious freeze thaw cycle that our city has experienced in recent weeks.
I wanted to take a brief moment and offer a perspective on what is the larger root cause of the issues that we are seeing.
Dwan Gillom and Mayor’s team are doing a great job of keeping an aging city infrastructure in the best shape they can with the resources they have available to them.  They have modernized their “patching fleet” and are actually pretty expeditious in getting most issues fixed in a timely manner.  I had a pothole in my cove about a year ago and used the City’s iPhone app to report it and it was fixed within 24 hours – pretty amazing!  The onslaught of repairs needed right now are natural due to the condition of our roads mixed with very strenuous weather conditions.
However, I want to offer that potholes are just the symptom.  Memphis drivers, correctly, are upset about the symptom and not the root cause.  The root cause is that our city’s infrastructure is on a nearly 50 year repaving cycle.  Asphalt simply is not intended for that kind of life cycle.  The result of neglecting our infrastructure is what we are seeing this winter meaning that the City is forced to play “whack-a-mole” trying to put their finger in a quickly leaking damn.  This problem will get worse and if current trends continue and we continue to have harsh winters it will overwhelm our ability to keep up.
Let me offer an example.  The roof on your house is 30 years old and is beginning to leak.  But you don’t have the money for a new roof so you patch the leak.  Its good for a few months but then you spring another leak.   So you patch that one and its good for a few more months.  On the story goes but unbeknownst to you some water is beginning to seep in a rot the decking under the shingles.  Then a bigger leak happens and it drips in and ruins the sheetrock in the den.  You patch it but don’t know about the rotting decking yet.  Then the straw that breaks the camels back – it drips in on your new flatscreen television and fries it.  Exasperated you finally breakdown and decide to put on a new roof.  The estimate that you got a couple of years ago was for $5000 dollars.  So you call the guy to come out and he informs you that since he looked at it last the decking is rotten and he needs to remove the old roof and replace some decking.  Now the estimate is $15,000 and you are have to spend $2500 on a new television and sheetrock repairs.
This is where we are today Sarah.  We are putting patches on an infrastructure that needs major repairs. The Federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and Tennessee’s gas tax has not increased since 1989.  I don’t know about you but I can’t buy anything today for the same price I could in 1989.  If the public is upset about road conditions in the City of otherwise it is time to invest in them.
Thanks for listening and feel free to call me if you have questions.

A Visit to Slave Haven

By | Memphis | No Comments


Last week I took a tour of a home used in the Underground Railroad in downtown Memphis. A German immigrant named, Jacob Burkle built “Slave Haven” in 1856. I took the tour with 4 white friends and 4 black friends. As we listened and walked side by side in the steps of abolitionists and fugitive slaves, we were all profoundly moved. My black friends ached for the pain of their ancestors and the continued effects that slavery and racial prejudice still wound them with today. I ached with them as I was given a clear and tangible picture of this horror. I was also convicted by my lack of conviction, and the disparity between the black and white races that still exists today.

Growing up in white, middle class suburbia, I haven’t been privy to see racism played out in my daily routine. There were not any black people in my graduating class, nor any in my college sorority. Until I turned 25, I only had 1 black friend. I also didn’t know my slave owning ancestors and so I didn’t feel responsible for their mistreatment of their black slaves, but as oral tradition and family legacies go, I incorporated their prejudices and attitudes without even knowing it. My black friends also incorporated the pain and legacy of their ancestors. Both races have carried the pain and sin of slavery into our current lives.

The heat and anger in Ferguson, Mo. has reignited the issue of racial disparity in our country, and as with any awakening, there is a call to respond.

Because I am convicted, I am called to change. I believe that change begins with learning. I still live in a beautiful home in white suburbia, and it is very easy to shut the door and stay comfortable and obtuse while I teach and love on my white suburban children and their white suburban friends…. But there is so much I would be missing.

I have been incredibly blessed by serving in the Orange Mound community (which btw, was one of the neighborhoods I was told to avoid growing up). I have also been blessed by my brokenness. As my eyes have been opened to the generational sin that I am a part of, I have watched God remove the blinders from my eyes and allow me the privilege to repent. Turning a blind eye does not make the problem go away… no matter where you live.

I also know that for healing to happen, I must change the pattern of ignorance in my home. Luke 17:1-3 says:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. So watch yourselves!

It is tempting to close my eyes or ignore the problem, because the problem of prejudice and racial disparity in our country, and more specifically our city seems too big, but the sorrow that awaits is much bigger if I ignore it. This side of heaven, there will be such sorrow if there is not purposeful reconciliation and an effort to understand, and the generational sin will continue to swell.

The sorrow that awaits me if I ignore it and don’t change it in my own household is a punishment that I would never choose. I must repent, need to change and still have so much to learn.

To wrap this up, I want to exhort you to be a purposeful learner and be encouraged. Please, if you have the opportunity, go visit “Slave Haven”; you will learn and you will be moved. I also got an “educating” from Jon Stewart. This clip is raw and laced with dubbed out profanity, but his insight is rich and entertaining. Watch it.

Finally, please, be encouraged. We are all aliens living in a strange and fallen world, and we will always be challenged and tempted by sin. Jesus knows this and he told his disciples (and you):

“In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17 (NKJV)

Footnote: The immediate generation preceding mine ( aka Mom and Dad) are on a much steeper learning curve than I am. Their blindness was worse and they have aggressively answered the call to action and repentance. In the last few years, I have watched them pour their hearts and resources into under resourced communities in Memphis, and as a result, I have seen blessings abound. To God be the Glory…. Always!


Visible Music College

By | Memphis | No Comments

Last week, while visiting my oldest in college, I got to witness her choosing to fill her room with the beautiful sound of worship music while she got ready for the day.

Participating in worship as I poorly sing along with our church choir fills me with joy and often moves me to tears. As lacking of talent as I am in the world of music, I am profoundly impacted by its beauty and purpose.

I was invited this week to visit the Visible Music College in downtown Memphis. If you don’t know anything about this place, rectify that. This accredited music college offers bachelor’s degrees in music, music production and music business. The students who attend are beautiful artists who want to invest in their gifts and learn how to multiply them in order to bless our community and communities all over the world.

Every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year, they hold worship services (free to the public) from 11-12 and on Fridays, they hold performance seminars from 2-4. Dear Friends, this place is awesome and taking the opportunity to learn more about it will give you a sweet taste of what a blessing it is to live in this musical city. Go and Be Blessed!

Visible Music College

200 Madison Avenue

Memphis, Tn


My Response to the Ice Bucket Challenge

By | Memphis | No Comments

Last night, on her Facebook page, Lou Martin challenged me to a sort of “Ice Bucket Remix.” She requested that I share one thought that is impacting me to advance God’s kingdom. Before I answer her challenge, I’d like to thank all of you who took the real Ice Bucket Challenge. Your willingness to join a national conversation by getting cold and wet is fantastic. You have brought awareness to all of us just how devastating ALS is and how desperately a cure is needed. Thank you.

To answer Lou, the thought that is impacting me is, “What is the point of awareness if we don’t do anything about it?” I have been aware of sin in my life and my need for Christ. I have been made aware of the horror and beauty of the cross. I have been made aware of my neighbors being mistreated because of the color of their skin. I have been made aware that there are poor and hungry and hurting people all around me, but what good is it to be aware if I don’t take action?

Yesterday in church, my friend Todd Erickson preached a sermon on how we are all called to bear witness to the light. He reminded us that we were created for the purpose of bringing glory to God, and that the only reason any of us are still breathing is so we can bring him glory by sharing the glorious truth of salvation. It was such a blessing to be reminded of this and to be challenged to fully embrace my calling. With God’s word as the truth and the Holy Spirit as his guide, Todd brought awareness to the congregation at 2PC. Can you imagine the healing and revival that would take place if we added action to our awareness?

By God’s amazing grace, the Holy Spirit came into my heart and showered me with buckets of grace. Jesus’s cleansing blood has covered me from top to toe, and because of this, I wake up every day with the challenge and privilege of being conformed to Christ’s image. I have never worn a WWJD bracelet, but I am daily asking myself what would he do? When Jesus was aware of people hurting, he healed them. He cared for the sick, wept with the broken-hearted, rejoiced with the joyful and brought the light to all those in darkness. Because he has shown me how to live, I am called to add action to my awareness.

There are so many ways we can actively help this broken world. We can pray for and serve our neighbors who are sick and hurting. We can lend a helping hand to their caregivers. We can teach our children the truth. We can shine a light in the darkness. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do what Jesus would do. There will continue to be pain and disease, disparity and brokenness until Jesus comes back and heals it all, but until that day, we need to add action to our awareness.


Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
    and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.[b]’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. Romans 14:10-12 (NLT)

“ In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)



I’m So Memphis

By | Memphis | One Comment

I have really enjoyed the recent walk down memory lane as I read the “I’m so Memphis” posts. The Hungry Fisherman, Peaches Records and Godfather’s Pizza are a few of my East Memphis memories. It is sweet to remember and celebrate our roots, but this trend also brings to mind a reputation that we Memphians have that isn’t quite so sweet.

Pat and I have had the blessing of becoming friends with and mentoring young couples that move here for advanced education or 1st job opportunities. We have heard from them on many occasions that this is a very difficult town to settle in to. I have been surprised and sad to hear this. I have lived here all my life and the thing I love most about this city is the people, but they feel like outcasts when answering the question, “Where did you go to school?”. They see us celebrating our childhood friendships, and not looking to build new ones. For the most part, these young couples don’t feel like investing in Memphis, because the long-termers (including me) don’t receive them with open arms.

I believe that it would be a much better reflection of being SO Memphis if, while we celebrate the past, we also embrace the NEW! Invite a New Memphian into your home or out to your favorite BBQ joint. Introduce the new kid to the things that make you love Memphis today….or…. try something new to Memphis with your own family. Visit the Kroc Center, the Civil Rights Museum or the Visible School downtown. There are brand new and exciting things happening in our city and many new memories to be made. There are ministries all over town that need our time and prayer and money. Pitching in and helping our neighbors in need increases our passion for this great city. I would love to see my children choose Memphis as their adult home and watch them actively love it by investing their time and talent here.

Oh my dearest Memphians, Celebrate. Your memories and heritage are great, but please do all you can to pave the way for those new to our city to create an “I Love Memphis” legacy too. Wouldn’t it be great if people who moved to this town never wanted to leave, because we embraced them and made them feel at home?

I love Memphis. I believe the future is bright for Memphis and I believe we can all help if we are as conscious about looking forward as we are about looking back.

“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
 Write them deep within your heart.” Proverbs 3:3 (NLT)

memphis bridge 1

No Place Like Home

By | Memphis | No Comments

One year ago this week, I was on a mission trip in Belize. I was the sickest I had ever been in my life. The lack of AC and indoor plumbing only exacerbated my yuck. I was ineffective as a missionary and an added responsibility for my team. I wanted to go home. Home is a refuge, resting and re-fueling place. It is such a special spot for everyone. It is filled with things that make us comfortable. We stock it with treasures that are beautiful to us. We clean and maintain it and pay the bills. We create memories of love and laughter that leave an imprint on our hearts and shape our identity. There is no place like home.

I take pride in the fact that I am a homemaker. I enjoy maintaining it. I have a long list of hopes and plans for this house. I describe myself as a homemaker. Recently, I discovered that God identifies himself as a homemaker. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden-home he created. He gave explicit instructions on how to build the temple in the Old Testament, and he dwelled in it. He takes up residence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and He has gone to prepare a place for us in Heaven that we can’t begin to accurately imagine.

It fills me with an endearing joy that my love for building my home reflects the character of God. Our creator is so tender to fill us with a desire to be like Him. He has also promised us that our time here is temporary and for those who love Him, our eternal home will be spectacular. I long for the day to come when I will no longer sin or see the effects of sin on my home and in the world. I long to see Jesus face to face and know Him fully, even as he knows me fully now. I long to praise and worship him in the home he has prepared for me…… Oh what a day that will be! Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6 (NIV)