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Hot Springs past and present

by davesandel on March 21st, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 21, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

Hot Springs past and present

Where I am, Jesus said, there also will my servant be.

Yesterday I took an early morning walk along the Grande Promenade above Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The tourists (that included me, of course) were just waking up. Robins hopped around madly on the ground. Hot water bubbled up from the ground in several places along my walk. I put my hand on the water; it was warm, like 110 degrees, wonderful. Bluer than a robin’s egg, the sky rested over us, blessing.

In the Arlington Hotel elevator I asked a couple of folks why they were in town. “I come every weekend that the racetrack is open,” a man from Memphis told me from behind his mask. Two ladies had been here three days and done a week’s worth of sightseeing. They loved the botanical gardens and the trolley tour. In the dining room the breakfasters filled up buffet plates with waffles, bacon, blueberries and whipped cream.

This is my new covenant, says the Lord, “I will place my law within you and write it upon your hearts; I will be your God, and you shall be my people. No longer will you need to teach friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

I took photos of a shy couple, on their honeymoon, on spring break. “One of you should put your arm around the other,” I said. Their smiles widened when they did.

Whoever holds on to love as it is will lose it. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

The springs have been pouring out their healing waters for hundreds of years, and Arkansan entrepreneurs have been capturing it for at least two hundred of those years. The old spas were made of wooden boards, which splintered underneath you if you moved too fast. The spaces between the boards let in lots of air, which didn’t improve the experience when it was cold outside. During the roaring 20’s the Superior Bathhouse catered to well-heeled girlfriends of famous gangsters, some of whom made Hot Springs a second home. No cracks between the logs for those folks. Now the Superior Bathhouse is also a brewery.

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum sits closed (until 10 am) across the street. Nearby is the Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcake Shoppe. I found junior ranger vests and hats and compasses for Miles and Jasper in the National Park gift shop. The park is free, but there are lots of other ways to spend my money.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.

Central Street (the Hot Springs Historic District) is in a valley between the mountains. After walking a couple of hours I drove up the mountain and saw everything from above. Up there I took a picture or two of the line waiting to pet the alligators, wanted to join the line but didn’t, and got back on the road to Austin. Saturday traffic was getting worse by the minute.

Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered.

On the front of the brochure for Hot Springs’ Gangster Museum of America, Al Capone crushes a cigar between his lips. He smiles around the cigar, big lips, oily face, glistening black eyes. After 1930 he spent much of his time in prison. Syphilis ravaged his brain. Two years before he died his psychiatrist said he had the mentality of a 12 year-old child.

He died in his fancy home in Florida. His wife and son were there. I wonder what he was like, lying in bed the morning that he died. Sabbath and obedience were forced on him. God’s love never fails.

(Jeremiah 31, Psalm 51, Hebrews 5, John 12)


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