A frog caught by a camper
later released safely

My latest adventure has taken me to Buffalo Mountain Camp in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  Every summer camp commences and every week a minister from our tradition will volunteer to lead worship and visit with campers and staff.  I took a week this past June.

I learned something very practical.  Camp is divided into in-post and out-post.  In-post is located in the heart of campus.  Activities for the smaller children are planned sequentially, never a moment of boredom.  Out-post is very different.  It is designed for older youth and they live on top of the mountain.  What I found there was nothing sort of wonder.

My initial approach found a group of older youth gathered around a fire.  Working together, they were cooking dinner.  “What did you do today?” I asked.   The response was shocking.  They reported playing cards, games, cooking, eating and sleeping.  This sounded more like a rest home than a mountain top adventure. 

I toured the sleeping arrangements (noticed I did not call them cabins).  Rustic pavilion type buildings, hammocks, mats and sleeping bags on deck like structures lined the parameter.  With great enthusiasm, campers proudly displayed where they slept, how they slept and when they slept.  Campers retorted with great accomplishment cooking lessons of the open fire and fond memories of games played just the night past.

What I did not hear was what kept me prying, listening, and giving full attention to detail.  Not once did I hear the bemoaning of any electronical device (cell phone, I-pod, video games).  These amazing gadgets that one would assume are surgically attached to our youth were absent and not longed for.  The only music I heard came at worship time from a guitar played by a live guitarist.  The sound of the forest encompassed these campers and they soaked it up, strengthened by its predictable melodies.  The youthful world as I knew it had been turned upside down. 

 On the mountain the kingdom had come and only wonder would understand.


In reflection upon that moment of amazement, I have a theory.  Youth are always attentive to what is “not right”.  According to Piaget (a developmental theorist) this is a normal stage of moral development.  If the youth trust you, they will share with liberty what is “not right” about their parents, school authorities, friendship circles and institutional policy and procedure. But on the mountain, they are stripped of all distraction and before them lay creation.  Perfection rains down on them through the predictability of nature and is punctuated by beauty.  There is nothing to criticize because “not right” doesn’t fit.  Finally, all is right.  As the campers accept the realities of nature they wrestle with the reality of God’s sovereignty.  Suddenly all of the Psalms that call God “Almighty” begin to make sense.  For one week, the spiritual lesson of God’s creation teaching God’s sovereignty takes root.

It is my hope that the seed planted at out-post grows into a practice lifelong lesson.  Just as the youth accept God’s creation for what it is, they can accept themselves and their life situation with open arms.  This acceptance of the good and bad will keep them from bitterness and reveal to them the life changing idea that God is with them through all the storms. 

Anthony De Mello says it best in his book Taking Flight.  I leave you with his words. 

Nothing surpasses the holiness of those who have learned perfect acceptance of everything that is.  

In the game of cards called life one plays the hand one is dealt to the best of one’s ability.

Those who insist on playing, not the hand they were given,

but the one they insist they should have been dealt—these are life’s failures.

We are not asked if we will play.  That is not an option.  Play we must.  The option is how.

—from one Pondering Prophet to another —