They Called Me Frogman

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Jason Stump

Isaiah 55:12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

What’s up Frogman!? Frog! ….Frogger!….Froggy! 

Email newsletter signup

As a young boy I would often hear that greeting offered to me as I’d come out of the patch of woods near my hometown Little League field in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, especially from the members and close associates of the Culbert Family. They’re good folks who, to this day, would cast aside any other name or title I have to call me some form of “Frogman.” 

You see, while I was in those woods, I was often at a very small creek trying to catch frogs. I was supposed to be serving as the bat boy for the Red Lion Café baseball team my dad coached. Now, to paint a better picture, this was back in the days when you wore sneakers and jeans to play at that level. Your uniform consisted of a decaled t-shirt, and what is now called a “trucker cap.” Sports drinks weren’t available to us. We were fueled on Swedish fish, Big League Chew, hot dogs and Mountain Dew. At that age, when someone said, “do you have your cup?” We’d make a fist and knock on our groin area to prove we did. 

So, I’d come out of those woods, just in time for the game, maybe. I’d probably be a little dirty, and there’s a good chance there were wet pants legs. It was a glorious time! I never really felt like I was in trouble for being over there in those woods. Though, my priorities were noted before me by my dad and his fellow coaches, all in good fun. These were men who understood that a boy needed to play in the woods and creeks (though for us, they were “cricks”) from time to time. Catching frogs, skipping rocks, learning the hard way about poison ivy, and all manner of other seemingly small skills for encountering and experiencing nature were really lessons that would travel into other areas of life. 

As I grew older, I found other such places in my life, and they grew larger, from the freedom my parents gave me to explore what was “up on the hill” or “down in the swamp” until dinner time to spending a few summers section-hiking several states of the Appalachian Trail. 

While Sunday morning worship in the community is essential to me, and time in nature is not the same, my adventures, no matter how brief, into nature are a spiritual gulp of the most intimate and raw encounters with God’s creation and will. 

For me, as my spiritual director can tell you, deep down, I’m still “Frogman.” I’m still the little boy who needs to find the wellspring that nature gives me. The play, the imagination, adventure and solitude. Alone or with a group. For reading a book, or for catching a fish. For emptying the closets of emotional and mental overload on a multi-day hike or a quick walk about a park. For staring into a campfire and considering nothing else in the world but still feeling entirely grounded in it. This liturgy of it all goes on. 

I’ve always been happy to enter that world. Returning from it to the Little League field, to do my homework, or to get back into the office helps me enter those areas of life in peace. It’s the kind of place that I love to stay longer in but know that leaving will be done in peace, and returning will bring me joy again.

Friends, I hope you give yourself whatever version of those patches of wood in life you can still find. If you have children in your life, I encourage you to give them this life-long gift that will return benefits to them in mental, spiritual and physical well-being. 

I assure you that upon your entering those places, and especially taking young ones, nature is waiting to burst into song and clap its hands at your intention to gather and be within it.