Which is your favorite animal at the zoo? My wife and I experienced the zoo last week like never before -- without children! My perspiration was all from the heat of the day, and not because of riding kids on my shoulders and back, and holding them up at every exhibit to see the animals. Of course, I am not complaining; I enjoy seeing the eyes of my children gleam with joy at all the sights and sounds of the zoo atmosphere.

From a child's perspective, everything they see at the zoo is fascinating. While I was in awe of the cute little capuchin monkey, a little girl beside me was equally fascinated by the small streaming pond running in front of the exhibit with money in it. I do not know that she ever saw the monkey, but she loved tossing a penny into the water and making a wish!

My favorite areas involve water: penguins, otters, and the large fish aquarium where I easily could sit and watch the various species of fish for most of the day. Should I also mention how I like the fans blowing mists of water that offers a quick cool down?

Seeing the variety of animals, their colors, shapes, mannerisms, and natural habitats, I cannot help but think how imaginative is our Creator, God. And above the entire animal kingdom, He made man, arguably the most fascinating of all the creatures.

As much as I take pleasure in the animals, I also enjoy watching the people. I am entertained by their interactions with each other, and with the animals, and how the various ages of children experience what they see at the zoo. The 9-12 year olds are the most unpredictable when it comes to their visible reaction to the zoo experience, but it is obvious that they each enjoy it in his or her own natural manner.

What I enjoy as much as anything is how many of us bear an almost irresistible urge to offer our best animal impersonations for the captive beasts to appreciate. Notably, the monkeys and farm animals really bring out the animal in us! There should be a hidden camera collecting the samples by which the zoo keepers could select the best and award one free zoo admission to the daily winner.

Maybe the Apostle Paul understood that instinct in us when he wrote the believers in Ephesus, "As dearly loved children, be imitators of God." Most of us tend to model the example of influential people in our lives by embracing their values and practices. Our earliest models are our parents or guardians. Then as we mature and naturally seek our own independence, other influences shape us, often without our realizing it.

Paul's instruction is that we should be intentional about who or what we allow to mold our character and behavior. It is normal for those coming behind us to gradually seek their independence in their formative years, but let us exercise our years of influence to guide them towards models that are morally sound and socially courteous and benevolent.

Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.

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