Nancy and I spent a couple of weekends in May away from Emporia, one in Kansas City and the other in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Eureka Springs is one of our favorite places on the planet. We arrived on Friday evening, checked into our downtown hotel, and went over to the Czech-German restaurant. We had a great time there, as we have since we first ate there twenty-five years ago on an anniversary getaway. There are many things that have changed over the years, but, thankfully, the food at the Czech-German hasn’t. The sauerkraut is still to die for. The sauerbraten and red pickled cabbage are still wonderful. The spaetzle is just right. So are the potato pancakes. And even when there are new offerings on the menu they reflect the tried and true that have made this restaurant so wonderful. Nancy tried one of the innovations, sauerkraut soup, and it was absolutely incredible.
On Saturday, we spent most of the morning in and out of the downtown shops. Nancy bought a hat and I bought a pair of tennis shoes (at her insistence, mind you). As we strolled along we passed the storefronts that reflect the eclectic nature of Eureka Springs. There were jewelry stores and tattoo parlors, diners, and shops cluttered with incense, crystals, plastic Buddhas, peace symbols, and wooden crucifixes. Walking along the streets, one gets the sense that he or she is in a place that has somehow managed to find the delicate balance that facilitates co-existence between the traditional and new age.
We stopped in Eureka Springs’ only Christian bookstore before returning to the hotel. We bought a CD – Jon Foreman’s “Limbs and Branches” and a book – Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel.”
Later in the afternoon we went to a wild animal preserve, Turpentine Creek. There are more than 200 large cats housed there, including tigers, lions, ligers, jaguars, leopards, and bobcats. The overwhelming majority of them have been rescued from families who had purchased them believing that the cute little cubs they were looking at would somehow remain forever young and cuddly. It was either that or a purchase made as a hedge against neighbors complaining about loud music, un-mowed lawns, or moldy old sofas sitting on front porches.
Before we left on Sunday morning I snatched Nancy’s I-Pad away from her and took a quick peek at the Gazette’s opinion page. I read Floyd Dorsey’s piece, “Miracles,” and spent a few minutes reflecting on my fragile foothold on knowledge and wisdom.
We got back to Emporia late in the afternoon. I was tempted to say we got home, but I resisted the urge. It’s not that Emporia’s such a bad place. I like things here. It’s just that I’m a bit unsettled these days. I really want to go home and I’m learning that Emporia is just a pit stop along the way. I think one of Jon Foreman’s tracks best expressed the way I feel. It’s almost as if I can hear the whistle of a train that’s headed “home” in the distance and I have a longing to get on board. Foreman put it this way:
“So I’m lookin’ out the window and I’m driftin’ off to sleep
With my face pressed up to the pane
With the rhythm of my heart and the ringin’ in my ears
It’s the rhythm of the southbound train.”
In the weeks since we returned the news has taken on increasingly ominous tones. About a week ago, some guy in Miami under the influence of a new drug called “bath salts” was shot by a policeman while he was in the process of eating a homeless man’s face off. In Canada, a porn star mailed severed body parts to legislators. In Syria, the Bashad regime has been shelling cities and massacring women and children while Kofi Anan dithers. In keeping with our national pre-occupation with marriage, a woman in North Dakota got married to herself. In Seattle, a young woman protesting the gentrification of the city got married to a building on the corner of 10th and Union.
The Church, which should be an institution of stability and sanity, is becoming increasingly polarized and politicized, left and right. Political positions, twisted into religious dogma, have become the prevailing theological measuring rod. On one side it’s anything goes. Michael Bird, who lectures on systematic theology at Australia’s Crossway College, recently described this group as “Nero’s chaplains.” I think he may be right, which I suppose would make their right leaning champions of rigidity ‘Cromwell’s captains.”
Like the other Dylan¸ I’m wondering if it might be time to “overturn the tables and disconnect the cables.” Maybe so, but I can’t make that happen. I just need to go down to the station and wait for that southbound train.