Pumpkins seem to disappear from the marketplace the day after Hallowe’en. So early in fall, I gather a lot for outside autumn arrangements. At the first hint of frost I bring about five inside and begin to turn the golden pulp into purees, which then get turned into other things—breads, a scrumptious pumpkin/red lentil/sweet-potato soup with just a touch of red pepper, and slices to be browned under the oven broiler and served as sides for the Thanksgiving turkeys.
Usually, I haul the big pumpkins in lest I lose them when they freeze and thaw. But I had a bright idea this year: Just let the pumpkins freeze; bring them in at the first sign of warmer weather and then bake them. Usually, I bake pumpkins in the oven whole, then slice them, carve out the seeds and peel off the skins. But why go to all this work? Just let the weather freeze them up.
In the winter months I often joke about my “walk-in freezer” (the garage). Right now, the whole outside is my walk-in freezer. This morning I considered taking my axe to those pumpkins I couldn’t lift frozen from the ground.
Actually, few Americans know that the Continental Congress and General, then President, George Washington decreed various days at various times in response to various events to be days of thanksgiving. Early America assigned many days to giving gratitude. One such proclamation reads:
“Deeply penetrated with the sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons, whomsoever, within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next, as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer. … And generally for the prosperous condition of our affairs, public or private, and at the same time humbly and fervently beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to merit the consequence of His favors by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a corresponding conduct as citizens and as men to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, morality and piety, and finally to impart all the blessings we possess or ask for ourselves to the whole family of mankind.”
Oh, that we had such leaders now to guide us through the perils of the modern age. In the past, Thanksgiving proclamations for a nation of people were made so abundantly they sometimes became the subject of satire.
The thing about pumpkins and Thanksgiving is that both are a metaphor of plenty. Round heavy orange balls bounce capriciously in a field of yellowing vines; and a table groans with platters and plates of well-prepared food, savory and sweet. These enduring pictures are embedded in our minds, enduring emblems of Americana. I love the line, however, from the above quote, “…preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity.” Sometimes we are not thankful simply because we have more than enough, some more than what they know what to do with. Few of us have really known want.
To be ready for Thanksgiving next year, my daughter Melissa and I are planning to plant hillsides of pumpkins—white, golden, orange and greenish—at Turtle Creek Acres, the farmette she and her husband own in McHenry, Illinois. The ground sweeps down from the roadside toward the driveway and the stables. This is the perfect spot for tangling vines. Next year, there will be plenty of pumpkins to use and plenty to give away.
In countries around the world, pumpkins are a food staple and often the difference that staves off starvation. Part of me wants to honor the pumpkin—honor it because its personality is conducive to morphing into so many various recipes—pies and stews and soups and puddings. But also, I thank God for creating pumpkins because they fill so many empty stomachs.
An early American folksong goes:
For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon,
If it was not for pumpkin, we should be undone.
Today, let us pray that God will give us grace to offer thanks that is not perfunctory—“I’m grateful for … what are you grateful for?” But let us offer up gratitude in this heartfelt manner that realizes the bounty we know is exceptional—a favor that Americans have somehow been granted. Let us seriously consider the fact that men, women and children around the world and in our own country are hungry. Let us share what we can, invite whom we must, comfort those with sorrow, listen to those with something burning to say.
Let us be thankful.
The scientists have discovered that being thankful can change a person’s attitude on life. One strange Scripture I wrote out in my prayer journal seems to verify this. “But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be instead no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting but instead let there be[ready—?] let there be thanksgiving[thanksgiving?].” Thanksgiving?—this is the antidote to verbal garbage? Really?—thanksgiving? Think about it. Think deeply about it. I suspect you may discover that this is so.
“Let us humbly and fervently beseech … a deep and solemn sense of our obligations … to estimate their immense value…” Washington seemed to consider the act of thanksgiving a remedy for what ails a nation.
As a reminder that thanksgiving is coming, next year buy pumpkins—or grow them—before Hallowe’en.
Be happy. Be healthy. Give thanks.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.