Proverbs 12:1 “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth…”

Hello to everyone in this delightful time of year. The sun is showing it’s face more as the days lengthen. The earth is slowly warming up from a long winters’ reprieve. Ahhhh… pure bliss, this renewing of the earth and our spirits.
This past week our sons have felt that urging of the inner man. At a young age they already feel that urgent need to go fishing. It is important to me that we take the time off of our daily work and at times, slow down and take an interest in our children’s lives. One such way is fishing. It is something that we all enjoy. We happen to have two farm ponds within a few minutes walk of our home.
My wife and I decided that our work will not run away and we went fishing. It was a decision that we will not regret. The water level was not lowered a bit from the fish that we caught, however our family enjoyed some excellent quality time. The few that we did catch will always be written in the memories of our mind.
Brandon, our oldest son, has already caught some in past years. Yet the thrill of a bluegill fighting on the line never grows old. We had given Jayden, our youngest, a pint-sized fishing pole for Christmas. After putting up with wild casting of the rubber fishie that became with it, we confiscated the pole until warmer weather. It would have been alright except that having a rubber fish go whizzing through the house in practice is not my idea of relaxation. It was clear however that the practice paid off. Both boys are casting their lines with the ease of years of experience.
Up until this time, Jayden never had the thrill of a catch. The closest he ever got was when I had rigged up a broken twig with a hook, line, and bobber. I would cast it out and he would be content to simply watch it bob up and down with the current of the water. As it goes with pre-schoolers, the attention span is short. This time we had Grandpa along and Jayden handed it to him. This is where the story took a slight twist from plans and created a memory. Is it not ironic how sometimes the simplest little change in routine can make a memory?
As Jayden was moving around the bank in idle passing of time, the action began. Grandpa held the makeshift fishing rigging in his hands as he lazily relaxed in a camping chair. Grandpa wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on but rather, was enjoying the break from a hectic work schedule. This improvised pole was just something to pass the time.
I was winding my way around the pond, doing what Dad’s do on a fishing expedition, re-baiting hooks, untangling lines, and occasionally taking the opportunity to feed worms to the fish on my own. What was going on! I heard a scrambling sound followed by a soft splash. We looked around in time to see Grandpa recovering himself from the edge of the water with the broken twig still attached to a taut line. That bobber was dancing a jig in the water. While Grandpa was idly relaxing a fish could not resist the free meal. It bore down on that hook so hard that it broke the feeble twig and in Grandpa’s hasty dive to recover the fleeing pole, line, and fish, he almost fell into the pond. We all had a good laugh over this and etched a memory in our minds that will probably always stay there. Our boys will occasionally ask us, “Do you remember when Grandpa almost fell into the water?”
This time the excitement began when Jayden’s bobber took a dive under the water. He got all excited and could barely reel in the line due to the excitement. He was calling out, “Dad, Dad I got a fish. Help me.” This fish was clearly a fighter. It was diving to and fro and in general creating a good fight. When it was reeled in Jayden immediately retreated to the safety of Mom’s side. He wanted no part in the wriggling fish. As soon as it was removed he was back in on the action. Both boys caught a few fish that evening. The excitement of a catch never growing old. My wife and I never got our line in the water but we both agreed that it was more fun just watching the boys.
By now you are probably wondering what Proverbs 12:1 has to do with fishing. My memory went reeling back to the days of my youth. Many stories have been written about “rumshpringa”, or this mysterious period in time when Amish youth “find themselves”. There are stories that show the Amish youth as a wild, ungodly, unruly butch of ruffians. While some morsel of truth may be in some situations, I wish to clarify that this is not true universally. Why is it that the media does not wish to portray the ones that truly try to follow the life that the Bible teaches us to live? I will give you a small glimpse into my memory bank. These particular memories involve fishing.
We are members of a group that comes together once a week for Bible study and then has organized youth activities. One of the yearly traditions that started before I was with the youth is a fishing trip for the boys. At the age of 15 it is usually the inaugural fishing trip that declares “full membership with the boys”. A couple day trip is planned and the bags are packed. We did all the cooking over a campfire and slept in tents.
Now let’s keep in mind, the focus was fishing and fellowship. Should the media wish to follow these activities they would need to be up at the crack of dawn. As the sleeping bags are unzipped and tent doors open, you will observe that these boys are grouped together by a tie stronger than social status or age. This tie is a friendship and faith in God. The parties wend their way to the docks and you might see a fresh 15 year old, a 20 year old fellow with plans for marriage, and a 30 year old bachelor launch a boat together. This unlikely trio will spend the day from dawn to dusk in a small fishing boat together. It is a very inspiring time. Age and interests are meshed as we have a time of fellowship. It is something that is planned for long ahead of time. When you have been to one of these trips, you are officially a part of the youth group. I will share a few memories to give you an idea of what it is like. Keep in mind that this is all young menfolks. In the early years, supper was always depended on to be fish. If the catch was poor that day, supper was slim. We always took along hotdogs just in case. After docking the boats at dusk, all hands were supposed to be applied at the table. It was fish filleting time. A few of the more queasy fellows stood in the background and helped with the less gory chores. Then when the fire was stoked, fish were grilled and eaten hot off of the fire.
This all changed one year after a meager catch. The backup meat, hotdogs, were closely calculated. The fellow in charge of planning knew exactly how many boys were going and, not being big in stature, allowed one hotdog per participant. One innocent freshman, being of a burly stature and a hearty farm lad, did not realize the meager supply of food and had a voracious appetite. He quickly downed two hotdogs. As the leader gave the last hotdog from the fire to a hungry diner, he looked around a bit for the last ones to put on the grill. Some other compatriot explained that they were all gone. There are none left in the chest.
This leader, being of an exacting nature did a quick analysis and the answer was quickly voiced. “Listen guys,” he said, “There were 14 people and 14 hotdogs. I did not get one so that means someone had two.”
Timidly this freshman steps from the ranks and admits his mistake. This is quickly forgiven and soon thereafter plans were always made to have a substitute meat such as grilled chicken breast, steak, porkchops or something of similar nature as supper.
My last year was the biggest memory maker to me. We usually encountered some rain on one of the days if not a little on every day. This only added to the experience. I had a girlfriend at the time and we had plans for marriage in the future. This trip was not to be missed by anyone if at all possible. My future in-laws had planned a family chicken BBQ at their house that Friday evening. But that was no excuse to miss the trip. It would not have been accepted by my peers. So I dutifully went along. The van was loaded and the drive began. Slowly the sky lowered and began raining. We were still undaunted. The fun was beginning. We arrived, unpacked and set up camp.
All tents were set up and sleeping gear stowed inside. We loaded the boats and began fishing. A few boys had a wedding they need to attend the next day so around 6:00 they left for home with a driver.
Put yourself in my shoes for the time being. Here I am in a little fishing boat. 20 years old and merrily fishing with a 15 year old and a 30 year old. We all wear rain coats and can hear the gentle patter of rain on our hoods. The fish aren’t really hungry tonight. To top it off, the temperature hovers around 60 degrees. After a few hours of this, my fingers are almost past feeling. They are so stiff that I can almost not bait the hook properly. We look at the watch and I think of the night before me. I am just thinking that if I would head for the dock now I might still be able to catch the ride home and surprise my girlfriend. I could enjoy an evening in warmth and eat the chicken that I know to be delicious. We happen to be fishing close to the road, I look up and there goes the van. It is almost enough to bring tears to a grown man’s eyes.
So the evening continues with the drizzle not letting up. We dock boats at dusk and head for camp. The drizzle continues. We manage to keep the fire going between the sizzling rain drops. Typically we have a period of sharing, scripture reading and devotions before retiring for the night. This trip, I was designated to be the leader in devotions. However, a change of plans needed to be made. The rain was too wet to sit outside. We forgo these plans and turn into the sleeping bags with visions of a clearer day ahead. That night I awaken to a sensation like to floating down the river. In a stupor I reach out and feel the ground below me. Beneath the tent floor I find a mini river running under me. I shift to higher ground amongst sleeping bodies. The next morning we awaken to a nicer morning. Not bright sunshine but still a beautiful Saturday of fishing, fun, and fellowship.
What inspires me most about it is the next day, Sunday. After church it is typical for us married men to surround the unmarried “boys” to be regaled with fish tales. It is a part of our fellowship. We see a value in our various ages being together in harmony. Our younger “freshmen” are influenced by the older more mature members.
We strive to maintain and promote an orderly walk with God regardless of our age and whereabouts. We are expected to be respectful even in our recreation. We enjoy spending time with each other and in the peaceful stillness of the pond or lake we can fellowship and grow closer in our relationships. When we spend a few days together in a small fishing boat, our differences are forgotten and we get to know each other on a more spiritual level. Yet in it all, we have good clean fun. This is where we remind ourselves to remember our creator in our youthful days.

“Seize the moment, Enjoy the opportunity, and Grow by it.”