Pumpkin Guts

medieval

Different seasons bring different flavors.  Christmas is peppermint or egg nog, summer is watermelon or peach, and fall is without-a-doubt pumpkin.

Some people aren’t into pumpkin and that’s okay, but I like to embrace this fall favorite.  Yes, I’m the person that gobbles down pumpkin bread, burns pumpkin candles, goes for the pumpkin tea, and has to resist buying every possible pumpkin item sold this time of year.

So naturally my mind has been on pumpkin a lot lately.  But my mind’s been on a lot of other stuff too.  It’s been on hard stuff.  Like the “why God” stuff and the “what now” stuff.  It’s not surprising that my mind combined the two.  Thankfully, it wasn’t in some sort of crazy nightmare about pumpkins, but it was a reminder of a poem that I’m sure many of you have read previously.  I honestly don’t know where this poem originated or who wrote it, but this is how one of its many versions goes:

Being a Christian is just like a pumpkin! First, God picks you from the world and brings you in.  He then washes all the dirt off the outside that we received from being around all the other pumpkins.  Then, He carefully removes all the yucky stuff out from the inside, all those seeds of sin, doubt, hate, greed, and fear from inside us.  Then He carves a new smiling face.  Now He fills us with His light.  So you see, we Christians are really like this pumpkin! We will never be the same with Jesus inside of us.

The poem isn’t perfect, but I think it serves as a good illustration.  It’s also really helped me mediate on the Lord as I’ve driven by countless pumpkin patches, pumpkin decor, and pumpkin-flavored-everything this fall, especially as I’ve wrestled with the hard stuff.  You see, I’ve felt like lately God has been spending a lot of time removing the yucky stuff.  The problem is sometimes the yucky stuff doesn’t seem so yucky.  Sometimes the yucky stuff seems fine.  Sometimes the yucky stuff actually seems great.

It seems like I usually hold onto the yucky stuff until it creates some sort of problem.  The thing is the problem has to be pretty big for me to even realize it’s worth investigating.  Even if the yucky stuff is seeping out,it usually takes some sort of painful carving and gruesome lid-lifting before I see just how yucky my pumpkin guts really are.

The lid of the pumpkin isn’t the problem.  A nicely carved pumpkin could be just as clean with the lid nicely in place, but something has to go in order to see what’s inside the pumpkin.  Maybe the lid is a relationship or a dream or a job or a feeling.  Maybe it’s even one of life’s horrible losses like health or death.  Maybe it’s something that makes total since to lose or maybe it’s something that makes no sense at all.  Maybe it’s something God called you to do.  But for some reason, that pumpkin lid had to go to expose the pumpkin guts.

In this season, I feel like I keep having lids removed that don’t make sense to me.  I’m sure they make sense to God, but that doesn’t always make it easier to be walking around without a lid.  Sometimes it makes me want to try to fill the big hole exposing my pumpkin guts with something else.  Sometimes it makes me want to try to roll myself up to a wall and hide the big hole and the yucky stuff.  Sometimes it makes me wish I could just start over with a whole new pumpkin.  If being completely exposed isn’t bad enough, examining each seed, string, and bit of goop, mush, and slime just makes this process plain old excruciating.

But how else will I get to a place where God’s light can shine through me? How else will I keep from rolling back into the dirt? How else will I be able to tell others about the new face He’s carved on me?

If I were adding a line to the pumpkin poem, I might include something like this:

With Jesus inside us, He is constantly working to remove the yucky stuff that seeps back into our pumpkin.  He loves to melt away our sin, but first we have to take a look inside and see what needs to go away.

 

Rise Up!

rise-up

Have you ever been to a spin class? Lest you think I’m a hardcore cyclist, my spin class attendance is hit-or-miss.  I’m not really hardcore anything, but definitely not anything exercise related.  I do very vividly remember the first time I went to a spin class though.  I remember people talking about them and what great cardio they are.  I always thought “it can’t be that hard, it’s just riding a bike.” In some ways, I would still say that’s true.  Unlike other exercise classes, the participants don’t have to be coordinated, follow a beat, or have good dance moves.  What I didn’t understand before going to a spin class was that participants are expected to stand and pedal during the class.  Instead of sitting the whole time, you get up at various points during the class.  (It is also excellent cardio.)

When I first did that, I thought “this is awful, let’s sit back down.” I remember thinking it’s like running and the whole point of being in a spin class was so I did not  have to run.

Now I realize it’s actually easier to stand up.

Let me clarify, my heart rate is typically higher the more I stand.  In other words, standing definitely doesn’t mean it’s an easier workout.  It just means there’s relief from the strenuous leg workout sitting requires.

Here’s how it typically goes: we’re biking along, the instructor says “add some tension” (horrible news) and then eventually we’re asked to stand and pedal.  As I’m pedaling in a sitting position when the tension is high, I’m miserable.  Yet, when the instructor says “prepare to stand” (aka add more tension), I am never enthused at first.  I always think “could we just sit this time?” But when I get up, I’m rejuvenated.  I feel a new burst of energy and new motivation to keep going.  Sure, sweat is pouring down and I moan each time a new song starts or I get a glance at the clock telling me we’re only 10 minutes into the class.  But it still feels so good to stand.  I feel free when I’m standing.  I want to do better, I want to work harder.  Call me crazy, but after I’ve warmed up I actually am excited to stand.  I start pedaling faster as soon as the instructor says we’re getting ready to stand–almost like the faster I pedal, the faster it will come.

One of my favorite instructors boisterously proclaims “rise up!” each time we are about to stand. Each time he proclaims those words I can’t help but think about my relationship with Jesus.  (I’d love to tell you that I always am prompted to think about Jesus in random circumstances like this, but it’s sadly not that common.  I still have a lot of thought battles and keeping Him at the forefront of my mind is not easy.)  When I hear “rise up!” I always think about how miserable standing seems at first.  I think that if it were up to me, I’d just continue sitting.  Without the instructor, I would never stand.  Similarly, Jesus often calls us to “rise up!” He often tells us to get out of the pits where we’re oddly content and enjoy the race He’s called us to run.  We–or let me be more specific, I–often respond to God’s call to “rise up!” with “eh, I’m good, I’ll just sit here.  Maybe next time!” or “that looks a little hard for me.  Any other options?” We may even try a few of our own plans.  Maybe we just leave the class altogether when we hear that call.

To “rise up!” with the Lord, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park.  It may mean there are moments of relief, but sometimes it may still be hard to get up.

The question that invades my heart when I hear that call is: What am I failing to do because it just seems to tough? When do I hear “rise up!” and respond by staying seated?

What follows is: What is keeping me seated? What is keeping me down? Where am I too content in my mess to enthusiastically “rise up!” and run with the Lord?

After all, we aren’t living to just burn a calorie or two.  We are living to run with the Lord.  We are living so our hearts beat way faster for Him than they ever would for a spin class.  May we “rise up!” and join Him.