I was thinking...
One of my mentors in ministry and life was the late Bob Cagle. Bob was, at least for me, the expert in camping ministry. He, his wife Brenda, and their son Hoke were a team committed to outdoor ministry that allowed for God’s creation to come alive for countless children, youth, and adults. Bob was one of those gentle souls that embodied grace and joy. I am forever grateful that our life paths crossed. He’s on my mind these days as I seek to be faithful to my call and serve God with integrity. Occasionally, I wonder “How would Bob handle this or that?” He was gifted with wisdom that stirred my mind and soul on many occasions. I thought of one of his favorite life experiences with his son Hoke. He articulates the experience in his book’s introduction entitled “Youth Ministry Camping.”
“It was early one morning high in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. The late-June sun draped the purple peaks, like a flowing mantle sliding down from the summits, shining on the craggy rocks and snowfields. Downward and outward it moved, till the lofty, frosty meadows sparkled as the sunlight touched flowers and tender aspen leaves.
All was silent on the mountain—except our 18-month-old Hoke, who’d been awake since before dawn. Bundled up and outside, he was running through the knee-deep grasses, slowing, then ambling flower to flower, bowing like a miniature monk to smell each one. It was a perfect picture. I pulled out my camera, crept closer, knelt, lowered my head to get a good angle, focused. Then I stopped. To my amazement, Hoke wasn’t smelling the flowers; he was kissing them.
As I recall that time in 1981 camping with more than a dozen outdoor leaders, I’m struck by the notion that any of us can learn from all of us. The night before, Paul Petzholdt, founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School, had bounced Hoke on his knee beside the glowing embers of the campfire. All of us reveled in Paul’s outdoor wisdom. But come morning, the child among us was the teacher. In all my life, I’d never thought of kissing flowers!”
The prophet Isaiah speaks of a preferred future where “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them…The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea.” (11:6 & 9b, CEB)
God’s world is intended to be a gentle, peaceful, and easy world where children can lead and play with dangerous wild beasts and yet remain unscathed. It is a childlike world where everything is a blessing with peace and security. Children bring an innocence to us that we often dismiss as naïve when it is that innocence that God desires for our lives. Through a child who grew to be a man and died for our guilt we become innocent once again.
There is such a difference between being childlike and childish. One leads to healthy living while another leads to suffering and pain.
I need to be led by a child, maybe you do too. I need to kiss some flowers, maybe you do too. I need to let go of ‘childish’ behavior, maybe you do too. I need to live, maybe you do too.
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop