I don’t know what it is about those cute little orange pumpkins, but they get me every year. There is no other vegetable (are pumpkins considered a veggie or are they in their own category…pumpkin?) that I would pay $10…$15…or $20 to take home with me. Especially when I did not plan to eat it. But those little pumpkins, on a nice cool fall morning, all smile back to me and say, “We are worth every penny!”. Then they load up into the back of my car, buckle in and together we take off to spread fall cheer.
Pumpkins in any other season are just ordinary. But in the fall they become extraordinary. Amazing. Exciting. Fun. We turn them into decorations, lattes, pies, cookies, breads and more thanks to Pinterest! In our tent, they represent tradition, change, holidays, and family time. Some of the ones that live in our home catch a glimpse of the Christmas tree on their way out the door. They stick around for a while. Especially the ones that make it into the Barbie house or the ones that become a “baby” after a face is added to it. Ahhh…pumpkins.
When you catch a glimpse of a pumpkins this fall, take a moment and let that cute little round ball encourage you to find a way to use your ordinary life to do something extraordinary for God. How can you hop on board with God and spread some cheer, hope, fun to those you know and those you have yet to meet? There are a lot of pumpkins around us this fall. There are also a lot of people like you and me. If we all signed up to do one extraordinary pumpkin mission, we could spread a lot of God’s love around.
I always assume that God’s Spirit is alive and well in your life. Tap into that Spirit and together put together a plan that may seem ordinary to you but with God will be extraordinary for someone else.
Also…add a few pumpkins to your tent this week. They are worth every penny!
Reality visited me this week (aka God’s clear voice). We are here to GIVE and not RECEIVE. That was it. Thankfully it was delivered gently from a friend over a delicious cup of hot tea. But it was delivered. It stung just a little bit too. Not because of the way it was delivered, but because of its truth. I know it was God’s voice, because first it silenced me and then it liberated me.
For some reason the words lifted burdens off my shoulders that I had been nourishing and feeding for a while. The burdens had become very comfortable right next to my ears. My burdens like to whisper little lies to me throughout my day, just to remind me that they are still there. Lies like, “I deserve something different” or “If I were in charge…”. Little secular lies that make me believe that I am in control instead of God and that tell me I know more than my Creator.
If suffering is “whenever we are not in control”, then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments, because we can share our power with God’s power.
Ever since I clearly heard God’s voice, I feel that I have been like that rich young man that visited with Jesus about eternal life. The one that simply walked away after Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Then Jesus turns to his disciples and says… As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” Another visit from reality.
But instead of walking away, I have been squeezing myself through the “needle’s eye” simply to shave off all of myself that I need to leave behind. It is a painful process to give up control (again!) , but I know that I am not willing to simply walk away. I am walking around a little bit lighter now.
This past spring I visited a church in Mississippi. In the service, God wanted me to hear one thing…it takes a village. This simple message came from the youth pastor. He gave the announcement about the youth’s trip to the bowling alley that afternoon. But instead of simply reminding the youth, he was actually challenging the congregation…the village. He was challenging them to become a friend to the young people in the church. The church goal was to partner five adults with each young person in their church. He reminded the village of the goal and encouraged them to get started (or keep going) by going bowling that afternoon. Sounds fun!
This made me start thinking about my youthful years. Did I have five people outside my family who I would call a friend? Did I have five people who mentored me and believed in me? Did you?
These people in my life are called the unsung heroes of my life. Their names are not on any diploma, they will probably not be listed in my obituary and they probably don’t even know the impact they made on my life…but they were my heroes in many ways. They had a conversation with me that changed my life. They saw something in me that I did not see and nourished it until I did see it. They were patient. They would answer my phone call anytime during the day or night. I was always welcome in the homes. Some of them were teachers, coaches, friends, fellow church members, and pastors. They were my village. They were my unsung heroes.
This too made me start thinking and open my eyes. (This is probably why God wanted me to hear one thing that day.) Who needs me?…it’s time to go bowling. Who needs you? There are so many people around us young and old that need a village to love them and encourage them. And it may just be time for you and me to take them bowling (or to something else that sounds fun like eating ice cream).
Paula Gooder wrote a book called Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary. I keep my copy on my back porch to read in the morning. It is warped from being wet and yellowed from being scorched by the sun, but it still shares treasures with me each morning. The other day I read these words:
Part of the point of God’s calling to each one of us is that we are called to be God’s unsung heroes and we will know we are succeeding, not when people begin to notice us but when they begin to notice God.
I would love to chat more, but I think I need to write some thank you notes and find some more people to add to my village…especially if bowling and ice cream are involved!
Do you ever feel that you just need room to breathe? Room to catch your breath? Room to remember that you are a living being wanting to experience life instead of just floating through it? I am always impressed with the birds that live outside my bedroom window. They are the first to celebrate the dawn and the best at thanking God for a brand new day. They get it.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a book that I have had for a while and began reading it. A Hidden Wholeness is an insightful book by Parker Palmer. I know I am late to the party concerning this book, but I believe the timing is right for me. I have been struck by the light he shines on the need for our souls to speak and be heard. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.
Over 7 years ago, I was pregnant with my second child. I was overwhelmed by work, marriage, being a mother and life in general. I had not heard from my soul in a long time. It was then that I discovered spiritual direction. During my first meeting with my spiritual director, I experienced hope. Hope that I could undo what I had made of my life. Hope that my life could be lived with a deeper, spiritual purpose. I have also found this experience in small groups. In his book, Parker Palmer explains how groups can be helpful to soul work. Soul work in groups changes lives.
If you are seeking to live more like the birds of the air that celebrate each day, then I encourage you to find space in your days to listen to your soul. Find a group to help you or meet with a spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is within each of us and guides us. Sometimes we simply need to take a breath, clear our heads and listen. What happens then? You watch as you are taken to places and experiences you could never imagine yourself. It’s even better!
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore
During spring break of 2015, my family and I went to Biloxi, Mississippi for a family mission trip. We worked there in Biloxi at a homeless shelter, painting, tiling, doing some general construction-type work, and sharing the love of Jesus with the guests at the shelter.
One day at lunch our work team decided to go to a seafood restaurant right by the marina. A boat had just come in from a guided fishing trip, and the guide was filleting the fish that the group had caught while out in the Gulf of Mexico. A very peculiar thing to me was that a pelican had cozied up to the guide, and was waiting patiently for him to share a scrap of fish. I’d never seen a pelican so close to a human before – it seemed almost domesticated or tame. It goes without saying that this pelican had pursued a relationship with the fishing guide, a relationship that benefitted the pelican greatly.
Isn’t that what we do when we draw close to the Lord through prayer? We pursue a relationship with God almighty. And Jesus encourages his followers to spend considerable time and energy doing this very thing. He tells us to, “ask, seek, knock” – and we will not be disappointed. But the benefits of pursuing a relationship with God through prayer are far greater than a few scraps of fish (sorry, pelican!).
I love what M. Basil Pennington (monk, author, and prayer-warrior) has to say about pursuing a relationship with God through prayer. He states, “In prayer we seek God. We do not seek peace, quiet, tranquility, enlightenment; we do not seek anything for ourselves. We seek to give ourselves… to God. He is the all of our prayer.” The greatest benefit is the relationship itself. We get to give ourselves to this relationship – we get to give ourselves to God. We get to ask, seek, and knock; knowing that whether our prayers are answered the exact way we ask them or not, we are building the most blessed relationship this life (and the life to come) has to offer.
We pursue a relationship with the One who is our Friend, our Counselor; yet at the same time is also our Rock, Refuge, and Guide. We pursue a relationship with the One who is our God – and we will not be disappointed.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Dr. Steven Bell
I live for quotes during my weeks. Quotes and words cause me to pause…remember…reflect…be inspired. They take me from where I am to where I probably need to be in a specific moment. This is why I live for them…they remind me that I am alive. I am capable. I am creative. Quotes give me moments in my day that cause me to collide with beliefs, the world and others. Some push me closer to where I need to be and some remind me that my voice is important. Some even change my life.
My all time favorite quote by Carl Sandburg who said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.” I still have the email from the friend who sent it to me in 2010 and this quote serves as my filter when I take a new project.
For me, the little quotes are gifts from God. God knows me. God knows you. (Even if we try to pretend God’s too busy to notice us.) And God knows how to get our attention on our busy days and on our days when we are just lazy. I need God on both days to either slow me down or pull me out of myself and back into the race for the day. And that is why God created quotes! God was the first in the communication business way before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. God has used bushes, mountains (Moses really had all the fun), prophets,disciples, scribes, friends and more to communicate with us. God was also the first in the recycling business…God takes us from where we are and turns us into a new creation through God’s love.
This week, I have come across some great quotes and I simply thought I would share. And I hope you might send some of your great ones back to me. It is kind of like a recipe exchange. Who knows…we might even change each others lives.
We may feel there’s way too much to do, but some of it is not his (God’s) will. The pressure is coming from you, or your employer, or your friends, or your parents, or someone else besides God! Article by Tim Keller
Thy will be done. From a friend fighting cancer
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 sent from a friend in the mail.
The whole world was changing and I didn’t know how I fit in. Cecil Gaines from The Butler
If you feel your life is terrible, just look at your own profile page on Facebook and your life looks great! from a friend
Who says it has to be itsy bitsy? a talk by Jessica Rey
Sometimes God says yes. Sometimes God says no. And sometimes God says not yet. from a sermon
Enjoy your quote hunt this week!
Just this week I found myself in the middle a modern “fishes and loaves” story. I did not wear any thing special that day because I did not know I was going to walk into the story as a main character. I did not know how my ordinary day would end.
School is winding down for us (in fact today was the last day for one daughter) which means our afternoons are less busy. Routine has been thrown out the window…hello world! We even met friends for a snow cone after school this week… spontaneously. (Oh how sad that even a spontaneous, unscheduled, and unplanned snow cone date can feed my adventurous side. Next week I may spontaneously take on the Appalachian Trail!)
After we cooled off with our snow cones, we headed to the park. What we found there took me by surprise. Our neighbor. She is a teenager and she was with her friends. School was out and she was just hanging out before walking home. We chatted. Then I remembered that after her parents divorced, she is often home alone with her brother in the afternoons until her father gets home from work. Then I remembered this has been going on for a while, but I had forgotten.
Once we returned home, my daughters invited our neighbors over to play. I made after school snacks and started on dinner. For dinner I was preparing a salmon dish. (The fish in the story. But I doubt Jesus served salmon.) I knew the meal would feed my family of 4. But I was not sure about company. Before long, the dinner question arrived in my kitchen, “Can they stay for dinner?” I looked at my fish and it looked back at me as I muttered something like, “Sure”. (God’s response…ABSOLUTELY)
This is when my dinner plans were hijacked by God. God had other plans for my fish…hospitality and love. As I was finishing up the meal, God and I had a chat. My meal prep and serving suddenly turned spiritual. Our neighbors had a place at our table that night. They weren’t alone on the playground or in their own home. They were with us, their friends. Because they were with us, our circle became wider as we simply became aware that they needed us on that day. Our tent grew, our table grew and our love for them grew. And by the way…somehow the salmon (fish) and loaf (well…really Jasmine rice) grew. We all had enough and we were all filled with much more than food when we left the table.
Simply aware. Simply Available.
I love this passage from Proverbs 16:9. It gives me comfort and peace when life is uncertain – when things are a bit out of control. Right now our family is in the process of moving. We are transitioning out of an area where we have lived for 13 years. My prayer every day is, “Lord, direct our steps.” And I truly believe God is doing just that.
Back in the Fall I was outside raking leaves in our front yard when I felt a presence. Something was walking towards me – some things! I quickly looked up to from my perfect pile of Southern Red Oak leaves to see the vile villains with whom I was about to engage in battle, but all I saw were three ducks who had taken notice of my labors (it feels good to be noticed). I thought they were coming for a friendly visit, but they had ulterior motives. They were walking up my street in front of my home for only one reason – smushed acorns! You see, a street runs right in front of our home, and as I raked, acorns rolled into the street. Then cars drove by (some way too fast – so slow down!) and smushed the acorns. Then the ducks waddled into action to nibble the deliciously smushed acorn tid-bits. These ducks knew exactly what to do (eat smushed acorns) and when to do it (right after the acorns I’d raked into the street had been smushed by my neighbor’s fast-moving car).
The question is, “Do we?”. Do we know what to do and when to do it? I believe we can, but it’s neither easy nor normal. We all have plans and agendas (and pursuing these plans and agendas is how we spend much of our time and energy), but there is One who directs our steps. Our plans and agendas may or may not come to pass, but can we trust the One who directs our steps? It seems we have a lot to learn from ducks!