“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Pumpkins are awesome. They announce for all who see them that fall has arrived. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are typically a cheerful bright orange. Seeing pumpkins in the fields and in the stores means we can bake pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and well…pumpkin everything! They are fun to carve faces and other pictures depending on how artistic you are. They are filled with seeds that you can save for next year to grow, or you can roast for a delicious snack. They are nutritious and delicious and lots of fun, fun, fun. If you can’t tell, I like pumpkins. And I love pumpkin season because it means cooler temperatures and the comfort of fall flavors and activities.
But did you know pumpkins are a member of the gourd family? So are cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe watermelons, and zucchini. They are all native to Central America and Mexico and are now grown on six of the seven continents. Do you know which continent can’t grow pumpkins? If you said Antarctica, you would be right but then not much grows in ice. Did you know that over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are grown in the United States? And did you know that Illinois is the number one grower of pumpkins in the nation? And finally, did you know that the largest pumpkin ever grown was in Belgium in 2016 and weighed over 2,624 pounds?! Now that is a big pumpkin! The largest pumpkin grown in the United States only weighed in at a mere 2, 528 pounds and was grown in New Hampshire in 2018. Giant pumpkin growing contests can be found all over the world and people who grow giant pumpkins guard their pumpkin gardening skills almost as much as a bank guards its vault.
Growing up on a farm in Ohio, we would occasionally head to Circleville for the pumpkin festival. Everything and I mean everything is pumpkin flavored! They also have a giant pumpkin weigh off. It is fun to watch all the pumpkins get weighed as they hoist them up using heavy duty straps or for the really big pumpkins a web style basket attached to a small crane to lift them onto the scales. It doesn’t sound exciting but as the pumpkins get bigger and bigger, the excitement fills the air to see which one will win and if that pumpkin will beat the heaviest pumpkin record.
The giant pumpkins are fun to see. And they are huge. One of our farming neighbors grew giant pumpkins for fun. I remember how we wrangled to get those pumpkins on the wagon. They weren’t record breakers for sure, but they did weigh in around 400 to 500 pounds each. They were monsters to us! These are the pumpkins I think about when I watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
There is also a wonderful bible lesson in pumpkins, but then I believe nature is God’s first bible. When we have eyes to see we can learn very clearly about God and God’s ways in this world. And the lesson we learn from pumpkins: Pumpkins must be cultivated by the gardener in order to grow. They must be planted, watered, the garden weeded and kept free of bugs and other pests. Like the pumpkin needs the gardener, we need God who also loves us, takes care of us, and ensures we have what we need in order to live. (Remember, God gives us what we need, not what we want) When the pumpkin has been harvested, in order to use them all the “goo” and seeds need to be cleaned out. Like the pumpkin, God wants to clean out all our “sins,” so God gave us Jesus who died for our sins. And then, the gardener gives the pumpkin a face, just as God makes us a new creation when we repent of our sins and begin our faith journey. A journey of a lifetime and one that is filled with so many blessings. Finally, in order for a Jack-o-lantern to shine, a candle is inserted…just as God gives us God’s light as we live and work in the world, so we can be a beacon to all who are searching for what we have found: God.
Pumpkins. I think our world would be a much sadder place without them.
May your October be filled with cooler weather, warm smiles, and lots of pumpkins!