Lost in Luminary

Many years ago I took a wrong turn in Los Angeles.

That ought to cause you alarm.  It did me!  I actually exited the freeway because I had lost my bearings, but when I was coming down the ramp I almost lost my lunch.

“Welcome to East L.A.” 

Probably not the best place for a pale kid from Wisconsin to be direction-less driving–in a new car none-the-less!  I quickly re-entered the interstate and kept moving.

A similar experience happened this week.  I was lost in Luminary.  You may not have heard about Luminary.  Many people here in Dayton haven’t heard about the infamous area on top of the mountain.  Let me introduce it by sharing some interaction I found on a website.  It begins with a question, presumably asked by someone thinking about moving to that area.

Question:  We Just Left Luminary TN And Seen A House We Are Interested In Buying Whats It Like There And What Is The Name Of The Newspaper???

Initial Response:  Is there a town named Luminary in Tennessee? I can’t find it anywhere.

First Educated Response:  It’s in Bledsoe County, north of Pikeville off HWY 127 in the Nine Mile area. You won’t find it on a map.

Great Summation of the Facts:  Luminary is a black sheep community of the county and has a bad reputation.

At one point in the history of Luminary, so I have been told, 2 of the top 10 on America’s Most Wanted list were from the area and/or were hiding out in the area.  It is known as a very tight-knit community where everyone looks out for each other.  But they are very wary of outsiders.

In the early 1990s, I actually served as a pastor of a small church on the edge of Luminary—Bonham Baptist Church (top of the mountain in Spring City on Shut-in-Gap Road).  Shortly after being hired, I was told I should not make unannounced visits to area homes without calling first.  Some citizens shoot first, then they ask questions.  Hmmmm…neighborhood evangelism.

Well…this is the area that I found myself this week.  And I was lost.  Sort of.

My son Dayton and I were asked to make a delivery to a church on the other edge of Luminary—Friendship Baptist Church.  I knew exactly where the church was due to the fact that I drove by it every day for a year when I delivered newspapers.  I also remembered that the road leading down the mountain into Evansville was near the church.  What I had forgotten was that the road was actually next to the church.  Rather than taking a right on the road, we flew by it and barreled into Luminary.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had missed my road and that I was in unfamiliar territory.  However, it was a beautiful day and my son and I were in the mood for a little adventure so I kept driving and I kept driving and I kept driving.  I also kept looking down at the gas gauge.  We were approaching the red.  My concern truly escalated when our road turned to gravel.  I was beginning to think that I must be close to Shut-in-Gap Road and Bonham Baptist, but none of the roads were marked with signs of any kind.

We finally stopped.  We could see the road ahead.  Another hill.  Still gravel.  We could see the gas situation:  1/8th of a tank.  Several miles back we noticed a small gas station.  It was time to turn around.  If they didn’t have fuel, they could give us some direction.  We arrived five long minutes later.

“Hi.  I was showing my son around the area (a bit of a white lie) and I am looking for Shut-in-Gap Road.”

“You’re on it.”


 “Really?  Oh, good.  Hey, do you have any gas?”

 “We do.”

 “Do you take credit cards?”

 “No.  Is it a debit card?”


 “’Cause we don’t take them either.  Just cash.”

Thankfully, I had a five-spot in my wallet (Dayton was broke as usual).  We put the gas in after I asked her how long it would take for us to get to Spring City down Shut-in-Gap Road.  She replied that it wasn’t too far, but the road was in bad shape.  We decided against it, and made our way back to civilization–to Friendship Baptist.  And that’s when I saw the road I had been looking for the whole time—Liberty Hill Road!  I knew where I was again!  We would survive our adventure.  We would survive being lost in Luminary.

But we really were not lost at all.

We were on Shut-in-Gap the whole time (as you see above, Summer City Road turns into Shut-in-Gap).  We were headed in the right direction (eventually I would have passed Bonham Baptist and made my way down the mountain into Spring City).  We just felt lost.

Have you ever been on the right road, but felt lost?

That kind of describes my spiritual journey for the past several years.

I’ve been on the right road—the narrow road that Jesus described (Mt. 7:13-27). In other words, I am completely trusting Christ alone for my salvation, not attempting to earn my way to heaven either through the doing of good deeds or the avoidance of bad ones.  I have also been utilizing some of the means of grace available to me—attending church, praying, reading the Bible, listening to sermons, etc. Yet I have felt lost.

Praying for me yet?!


I’ve labored to remain connected, yet I have felt so disconnected.  Maybe you can relate.  Have you been through a spiritually dry season?  Have you felt as if your soul has decreased rather than increased?  Have you experienced a time in your walk with Christ that, though found, you felt lost?

Maybe I am alone in my experience.

What should I do?  I guess I should do exactly what I did up in Luminary:  (1) Make sure I am on the right road, (2) Stop for gas and (3) Keep moving.  Without a doubt, I am on the right road.  Christ has me.  I have Christ.  Furthermore, I have no problem with “keep moving.”  I will continue to do what I am supposed to do.  With God’s divine assistance and for God’s great glory, I will persevere to the end.

But where do I stop for gas?

That’s the real question I need to answer today.  Where can I find the spiritual encouragement I need to once again find joy in the journey?  The answer is probably both objective and subjective.  There are black-and-white solutions as well as solutions perfectly suited for me.  And—honestly—I am yet to possess those solutions.  So I will keep moving until I have them.

But thankfully—though lost in Luminary—I am never alone.  Dayton was with me the other day.  God is with me always.

Christian, if you do not sense His presence, be encouraged by the truth clearly revealed in Scripture:

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Jesus words to all of His disciples in Matthew 28:20 [See also Romans 8:29-39]).


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