This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who called that church “home.”

 Day 11: More Pictures To Come

 “I think I better backup my files,” I yelled from the dining room table to my husband who was busy feeding the dog in the kitchen. I could hear him whispering to Sofie, our Bernese Mountain dog, “I told your mommy she needed a new computer. Did she listen to me? Noooo.”

Yes, I should have listened to him because now my computer was really acting up, doing some kind of light show that I probably could have charged admission to see. It was that amazing in an artistic way, but not so good in a computer kind of way.

I took my external backup hard drive and connected it to the computer, praying it wasn’t too late to secure my documents. As I began the task of transferring them something caught my eye. A folder on the external hard drive named, “Church.”

I was curious to see what was in it. I opened the file and there before me were hundreds of pictures of many moments at the little white church. I had forgotten about these pictures and so I began scrolling through each and everyone. As I went from picture to picture the story of God working powerfully through God’s children flashed before me on the computer screen.

The story of hope realized as seen in the way of a very crowded chancel where many kids stood to sing for worship, a sight the little white church thought it would never see again. But there they were, not just singing. There were more pictures of them greeting people, reading scripture, playing the piano and, yes, even preaching.

Chris was entering the fifth grade when I jokingly asked him one Sunday if he wanted to preach for me. He diffused my joke with an eager and serious, “Yes. I would love to.”

And so one Sunday morning a few months later, Chris delivered a mature, beyond his years sermon of God working in his life. His picture brought me back to that day in which the ancient Hebrew texts came to life for us in the little white church. We had heard the stories of God calling little Samuel in the night and we had heard the opening of the prophet Jeremiah’s story in which Jeremiah tells God he can’t speak because he is only a boy. God disagrees and reminds Jeremiah that he can and will speak of God’s greatness and might.

There was Chris smiling in the picture. The picture, though, I wish I had of that day was the one of all the smiles and tears of those in the pews as they realized they were also capable of speaking of God’s greatness and might.

I clicked more pictures and more stories came.

There was the story of the warm fellowship emerging among the family of faith with old folks, young folks and children, crowding around a table filled with goodies during coffee hour. There they stood with arms hugging one another and kids smiling. What made this picture beautiful was it wasn’t taken at some special coffee hour. This picture was just your typical Sunday at the little white church for every week was a time lively fellowship.

For me as a pastor this time after the official worship hour was a time when true worship took place. It was a time when we talked about the scripture, we talked about those in our community needing help and we talked about one another’s needs for prayer. We talked, shared, listened and, most importantly, connected with one another. And in the midst of fruit juice and coffee and home baked cookies and cakes was a very special guest working the room. God’s Spirit was moving among the chatter and laughter and hugs and even the occasional tear.

I kept on clicking to the next picture, and then the next, then the next. There were many stories emerging, but the one story that came across the strongest surprised me. It was my story of who I was as a minister. For in those pictures I looked happy, even radiant. Some where, though, along the way in my walk to serve God, I had forgotten the joy I once felt even in the midst of challenges. I had forgotten the smiles that always came to my face when after crying tears of what seemed like defeat, God carried me on to victory.

I needed to see these pictures because lately whenever I caught my reflection all I saw staring back at me was someone I did not recognize. Where was my smile? Where was the radiance? But most of all where was that feeling deep down in my soul of knowing I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do?

I could remember many days walking to my car through the parking lot of the little white church thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe you called me to be a minister, God. Thank you. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” And that prayer of thanks was being lifted on some of the most trying days in ministry. Now, deep in my Lenten journey, I couldn’t remember the last time I said, “thank you, God.”

I called to my husband to stop feeding the dog and come see what I was seeing. “Look,” I said pointing to the computer screen. “Do you see that picture? Now look at this picture? Are you looking? Do you see?”

He looked and his eyes watered up.

“I see,” he said quietly, then adding a soft, “I remember.”

I closed the forgotten file on my external hard drive named “Church” and shut down the computer. As it hummed in a way a computer shouldn’t hum when shutting down, I sat and stared at the screen. The glowing screen faded slowly till all that was left staring back at me was the reflection of someone I didn’t recognize.

“I remember too,” I sighed.

Sometimes in life we stray of course, not paying attention to the blessings already around us. Maybe it’s not that we don’t pay attention. Maybe it’s more we take for granted what we have and lose sight of the need to nurture the blessings. Maybe sometimes in life we just need to look back at pictures to remember the things that brought us joy, that made us smile, that made us feel whole.

But this I know. God is never done with us. More pictures will come and with them more stories.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Be honest. When you catch your reflection do you recognize the person staring back at you? If not, what do you need to do to reconnect with who you used to be? And as you search, invite God into your heart to lead you back to joy.

 

This Way of Life Lenten Journey

A Little White Church Lent

When the cold of winter turns into the bleakness of mud season, hope is hard to find. Yet beneath the hard ground and in the midst of life’s muddiness, there is always new life waiting to bloom. Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who call that church “home.”

 

Day 2: A Snag in the Fabric

I was worried, perhaps even a tad bit apprehensive. Okay. Truth be told, I was being overprotective of my big brother.

Even though there were many months to go before my summer wedding, I was already dreading what the reaction might be to my brother from the children of the little white church—as well as from the rural village I served as pastor—whom were all going to be participating in “Pastor Donna’s big day.” I was marrying one of the village’s hometown boys and so this wedding was going to be a community celebration—one in which my brother would be coming to.

Growing up I was always told my brother was “different,” which didn’t help me understand why other kids were being mean of the very things that made my brother “different.”

“Don’t worry about him,” my parents tried to tell me whenever I dared to broach the subject of my brother at my wedding.

Still I worried—a selfish kind of worry. While I didn’t want to see my brother hurt by remarks or stares, I didn’t want the pain of witnessing those remarks and stares. I learned early in life when you truly love someone you can’t help but to feel the pain they feel and shed the tears they shed. So I was bracing myself for what might come.

“Something wrong, pastor?” I heard being asked as I sat at one of the church’s big old folding tables that, if dropped on your foot, would probably take off a toe or two. The table was set up for a meeting in the sunny chapel that did double duty as the fellowship hall/meeting room.

“No,” I said as I pretended to organize papers for the meeting that was to start in 15 more minutes. The person asking the question, a man who I could see was clearly on some spiritual journey, didn’t buy my answer.

“Come on, I know something’s up. What’s going on?” he prodded some more.

Not one to hide my emotions very well, I fessed up about my worry, apprehension and overprotectiveness of my brother and the upcoming wedding. I even fessed up that all of this was rooted in my own selfishness because I was the one who didn’t want to hurt.

With one huge smile and warm laugh, this man wiped away all my selfish worrying. He then went on to tell me how his wife and him took in special needs kids years ago and how everyone in the village welcomed and watched out for those kids as one of their own. He then told me of this person and that person who had either a special needs child or knew of someone who did.

“Your brother is going to be welcomed by us with opened arms. And these kids in this church, these kids in this village…they are not going to make fun of your brother or stare at him or be afraid. That’s not who we are around here. We look out for one another and try to care for one another the best we can,” he said.

Tears filled my eyes and soon my smile was just as huge as his.

The following day I made a not so quick trip to one of those big box stores that carried everything. I needed some fabric for a Lenten prayer table I wanted to create for our prayer circle. I found the fabric in the store and stood waiting and waiting for someone to come along to measure out the yardage I needed. A manager whizzed by assuring me, “Someone will be over to help shortly.”

Shortly became not so shortly and before long there were three more women standing behind me with bolts of fabric needing to be cut.

Finally that long-awaited someone came.

Even though I was first in line I could see the eye rolls happening among the women behind me. The someone who came to help was a young man who was “different.” His coke bottle glasses and slow speech didn’t incite confidence in the others. But it was his deformed hand that really made the women behind me wonder if this young man was capable of unfolding, measuring and cutting the bolts of fabric. They watched closely to see what he would do to my fabric.

I handed over the bolt of purple fabric (perfect for the season of Lent we were in) and told him what I needed. With some struggle he unfolded the fabric and began slowing measuring it out. The eye rolls turned into huffs and puffs. It was then I knew this young man was not suffering from hearing loss. His body language told me he was taking in every hurtful huff and every painful puff. And I took them in with him.

Still he continued on with unfolding the fabric to the correct yardage I wanted. All of a sudden he stopped. There in the middle of the fabric was a huge snag. He looked at me and said, “This will ruin what you are making. Let me cut this off and start over again.”

Another hurtful huff.

Another painful puff.

“You don’t have to do that. The snag is okay,” I assured him.

“But it’s ugly and totally different from the rest of the fabric,” he said.

“I think it’s pretty. Not everything in life is perfect, right?” I smiled at him, not telling him how the snag made this fabric even more special for the draping of our Lenten prayer table.Unknown

What a reminder this will be for us as we pray, I thought. Jesus, who walked to the cross for us, also taught us that along the way to take time to embrace the beauty in the imperfect. Jesus, who taught us to love one another, meant for us to love even the snags that we are so quick to disregard.

“Yep. This fabric is perfect,” I reaffirmed, thinking about that Lenten prayer table.

With a shrug of his shoulders, the young man went back to painstakingly measuring and cutting and folding the fabric before finally handing it over to me.

I turned to leave and did my best not to glare at the women who huffed and puffed behind me. It was then I noticed a manager of the store staring at what just took place. As our eyes met she said to me, “You must not be from around here.”

I just nodded.

She was absolutely right.

I’m from a little rural village an hour away from this big store. It’s a place where our wilderness journeys are not journeyed alone. We reach out to one another.

I’m from a place where those who have “snags” are not cut out but are incorporated into the fabric of community.

I’m from a place where a little white church taught my heart not to worry or be apprehensive or be selfishly overprotective about what others might think of my brother who is “different.”

I’m from a place where when someone cries, we all cry.

When someone hurts, we all hurt.

That’s just what happens when you truly love as Jesus wanted us to love.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Snags in the fabric can be beautiful. Today open your eyes to that in which the world is so quick to throw out or toss aside or make fun of and see God’s beauty and purpose.

Day 18—Wide Eyes and Wonderment

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 18

“How many children do you expect will be at the caroling dinner?” my mom asked, not once, not twice, but a number of times throughout our phone call.

“I’m not sure,” I answered, not once, not twice, but a number of times. I tried not to show my agitation, but I really wasn’t planning on the little white church’s caroling dinner to be a big production. I had envisioned just a low-key night together to share a favorite casserole or dessert and sing some Christmas songs. All I wanted was a simple night of holiday togetherness.

And so the conversation with my mom went as such:

Me:      Why do you want to know how many kids will be at the caroling dinner?

Mom:  Your father just bought a Santa suit.

Me:      What?!

Mom:  You heard me correctly. A Santa suit, and I have to say, he makes a convincing Santa.

Me:      Where does dad plan on wearing this Santa suit?

Mom:  At the caroling dinner.

Me:      What?! (My parents lived more than three hours away from the little white church and so to drive all that distance for some potluck cuisine and off-key singing was dismaying.)

Mom:  We want to surprise the children with a visit from Santa.

Me:      What?!

Mom:  And Santa has to have gifts in his big old sack.

Me:      (Stunned silence on the phone.)

Mom:  So…how many boys do you expect? How many girls? Oh, and can you give me an idea of the age range, so I can get gifts they will like.

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My dad getting ready in my office the year he played Santa for the children at the little white church.

The little white church’s caroling dinner was turning into a big production. Still, even though I had more on my plate to plan, I couldn’t begrudge my parents the delight they were getting from being part of the Christmas celebrations at a church, while quite a distance away from them, was fast-becoming their family of faith. There was no denying, too, my mom sounded really excited to be buying gifts for what would be a handful of children.

Perhaps it was because there were no grandchildren in our family that made my mom interested in showering the children at the church with gifts. I had always wrestled with God as to why I never had the opportunity to have children of my own. Now, though, as pastor of the little white church, I was blessed with many children to love and nurture in the faith. Slowly I processed the pain in my own life and realized the healing and wholeness of God’s plan for my life.

The night of the caroling dinner came and it was turning out to be a beautiful, low-key night, in spite of the extra Santa event that was to take place.

The casseroles came in and were set out. Folks gathered around the table. I said a blessing over the food. Bread was broken. Laughs were shared. And throughout the night, as my mom and dad sat at the table smiling with the secret they had for the children, I kept saying to the kids, “Do you hear that?”

They would all get quiet trying to hear what I was hearing.

“Do you hear it?” I asked again. They all began to squeal, “What, Pastor Donna?”

“Bells. I hear reindeer bells. I think Santa is in our village tonight,” I said.

The older kids gave me “are you kidding me?” looks, while the younger children’s eyes grew wide with excitement and awe. One little boy in particular seemed very intrigued with these mysterious reindeer bells only I was hearing.

All throughout the dinner I would interrupt the children’s chatter and laughter with an impromptu, “Do you hear it? I just heard the bells again!”

Older kids’ eyes rolled growing tired of the “joke.” But little eyes grew wider and wider.

It was time for me to gather the children and begin reading the nativity story. That was my father’s cue to sneak out the chapel door and go outside to the sanctuary door that I had unlocked for him. He would have to walk through the cold and dark sanctuary to get to my office, which sat off the side of chancel. My dad, once transformed as Santa, would then go back outside and jingle the bells he had with him. That would be my cue to say to the children once again, “Do you hear that? I hear reindeer bells. I think Santa’s here.”

The Santa plan went perfectly. At the end of our discussion about the holy night in which Jesus was born, the soft jingle of bells could be heard approaching the chapel door.

“Do you hear that?” I said.

The kids heard, but instead of jumping and running to the door, they looked stunned. I wasn’t expecting that look.

The door burst open and in came my father, um, I mean, in came Santa with his “ho-ho-ho” said in an accent revealing perhaps Santa was from Switzerland and not the North Pole after all.

As the kids clamored around Santa, I noticed once again that one little boy who throughout the night seemed particularly in awe by the prospect Santa might be close by. By now, he was in an extreme state of excitement that he couldn’t even talk. He kept staring at Santa and waving his hands excitedly. And his eyes? They were the widest I have ever seen and they shone with joy beyond joy.

I was mesmerized by his reaction to the point I almost began crying. I could relate to his excitement for I remember a time years ago early in my call to ministry that many times I was left speechless and in awe by how God was working in my life. Many times my eyes would grow wider and wider and shone with joy beyond joy with the God moments happening right in front of me. I looked at the little boy and I looked at the children surrounding Santa and prayed that someday they would have their own wide-eye, joy-beyond-joy God moments.

For now, though, it was clearly a Santa moment and I had to quickly jump in and play Santa’s helper as some of the children were picking up on Santa’s accent and beginning to question where in the North Pole Santa really came from?

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Santa and Pastor handing out the gifts at the caroling dinner.

“Santa, let me do some of the talking,” I said to my dad with big smile.

Together we helped hand out the gifts and as I did so I looked up to see my mom at the table, her eyes were wide as well, wide with love and joy and glistening a bit with perhaps a tear or two as she watched the excitement of the children getting their gifts.

Santa soon had to leave and the children said good-bye, not one of them noticing that my dad was not at the table all this time. It was time to sing carols and perhaps it was just my imagination, but the songs seemed to be sung with more meaning and emotion.

When the last dish was cleaned and the lights of the chapel went out, I walked my parents to their car for their long drive back to New Jersey. In the snow covered parking lot, I thanked them both for the gift they gave the children that night. I thanked them for the gift they gave me, the gift of being such supportive parents, willing to go out of their way to make this a memorable night for the children.

We talked a bit more not really wanting to say good-bye, but it was getting late and it was very cold. So with a hug and a kiss, we parted ways.

“This is Christmas,” I thought as I drove home. The magic in the air, the giving freely of our time to the children, the generous spirit to buy all those gifts, but most of all, the remembering we should always keep our ears attuned not to reindeer bells in the crisp winter air, but to a more beautiful sound that is always there.

We should be listening to God’s whisper of love to us—a love, if we are open to it, will make our eyes grow wider and wider with wonderment and fill us with joy beyond joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5—Speak From the Heart

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 5

… the word of God came to John, the son of Zachariah in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John 3:2,3

It was Friday night and the little white church’s after school program, Faith Filled Fridays, was coming to a close. Kids coming down from their sugar highs found their backpacks in the mountainous pile of packs thrown on to the floor in the corner of the chapel. Stray mittens were matched to their rightful owners and one by one, little voice after little voice said, “Bye Pastor Donna. See ya next week!”

It was Friday night, but I could not go home yet. I was still hanging out with two teens as they waited for their moms to come to the church and pick them up. I tried not to appear eager to leave, but I was feeling anxious to lock up and hit the road for home. I had a very full weekend planned and a sermon still to write for Sunday.

So when one of the teens asked me what fun plans I had for later that night I surprised her when I said, “I have a sermon to write.”

“That doesn’t seem like fun at all,” the teen sneered.

“Well, sometimes it’s fun. And sometimes it’s not. It all depends if the words flow freely or not,” I said.

Knowing this teen was a good writer, I joked with her that perhaps she could write the sermon for me. For a second I thought I had piqued her interest as she straightened up her slumped-over-in-the-chair-body and asked, “What are you preaching on?”

“John,” I said.

“John who?” she asked.

“John the Baptist,” I said. “You know. John. Elizabeth’s son. Jesus’ cousin. He wore camel hair. Ate locusts.”

Crickets chirped and the teen stared blankly at me. It was then I realized how true it was that the word of God was not really known anymore. I went on to explain who John was. She looked at me and for a second I thought I was going to have a deep, engaging theological discussion with her when all of a sudden she jumped out of her chair and asked, “Can I play the piano?”

“Sure you can,” I said.

It was then I realized just how true it was that teens lacked focus. But a few minutes later, she sought me out in the kitchen where I was just straightening up a few odds and ends and she offered me some help with the sermon I had to write.

She said, “Just speak from the heart, Pastor Donna. If you do, I am sure it will be good.” As quickly as she came in, she left the kitchen and the sounds of the piano began again clanking out a tune that was no tune at all.

I stood there stunned. All my years at Princeton Theological learning (and slogging through) Greek and Hebrew to better understand the meaning of scripture to write a good sermon, all the focus on exegetical analysis in prepping for sermons…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…and I get the best advice ever from a teen who didn’t even know who John the Baptist was.

Just speak from the heart.

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She was right. The most effective sermons I have preached have been the ones that came from the heart. But the thing is speaking from the heart is not easy. It is frightening because when you speak from the heart you make your heart vulnerable. And so it is often easier to hide behind academic discourses or lofty words or findings and studies, for then, if someone disagrees or takes offense you can easily say, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

“Just speak from your heart,” this teen said. I wondered at what point in her young life she would stop saying that? I wondered when she would begin to guard her heart from hurts of others and begin learning to choose her words more carefully? I wondered when her beautiful truth telling innocence would end? For speaking from the heart is a frightening thing, but for those who speak from the heart it is also beautiful and powerful and, ultimately, healing. For when words come from the heart they often shed light on hurts that have been hidden for far too long.

Just then I wondered what would have happened if John the Baptist guarded his heart and chose his words more carefully?

What about Mary? She spoke from the heart when she sang her beautiful response to God’s will for her life—to bear the Christ child. And what would it have been like if Jesus didn’t speak from his heart? We would have a gospel that was empty and ineffective. Wait…isn’t that happening now?

The clanking of the piano stopped. I heard the voices of the mothers who had arrived to get their daughters.

Faith Filled Fridays was finally over, but my Friday night of faith was just beginning. I had a sermon to write. No. Let me correct myself. I had some speaking from the heart to do.

In this season of Advent when we hear from John, from Mary, from the angels, from the shepherds, may we remember just as they spoke from their hearts, we need to do likewise. May we all find ourselves in that place of beautiful vulnerability where we speak freely from our hearts what God has done, what God can do and what God is doing among us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer Pumpkins

I wonder how old the little boy is now? Let’s see. It’s been seven years since we started Pumpkinfest for God, which would mean…(counting the years on my fingers)…which would mean, yikes, it can’t be. He must be in high school now.

The years have gone by but much to my surprise and joy there in the yard of a once little boy was a huge selection of pumpkins, organized neatly by size, sitting in various corners of the yard. I have come to look forward to seeing this festive fall display on the winding country road that led one out of New York state and into Vermont and vice versa. The sight of all these homegrown pumpkins by one little boy was for me the official kick off to fall. I felt the same childlike excitement as I felt with Santa’s arrival at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which when I was a child ushered in the official start of Christmas. We all know nowadays Christmas comes way before the fall pumpkins. Don’t even get me going with whatever happened to Thanksgiving.

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Pumpkins shine forth an inspirational message on All Hallows Eve as a little rural church’s witnesses to the hundreds of trick or treaters.

Should I stop? I really don’t need any pumpkins for I was no longer the pastor of the little white church in which hosted Pumpkinfest for God.

Ah…Pumpkinfest for God. That was one of the many ideas that came to me on my habitual morning run on the treadmill at the gym. It was early on my ministry and the little rural village had the tradition of welcoming hundreds of trick-or-treaters. From the ghoulish to the cutest, children of all ages from surrounding villages came to Salem (not Massachusetts, but New York was the village I served in) for there was the guarantee of plenty of candy to be collected. The first year I was there we did what every other house or business did. We set up a table and made sure we had plenty of candy. The following year, though, I wanted to do more. I wanted our church to have more of a presence. I wanted us in some way to reach all these children—there were indeed hundreds—with some word of hope, some message of the good news, some non-threatening and definitely not in your face message that God is good all the time and Christ’s love is there for all.

There was a church down the block from us serving up hot dogs. That was their tradition. It was a good one for God does indeed feed not just the body but the soul as well. Then there was this trying-to-start-up-non-denominational church up the road who was against Halloween, but used this night in which hundreds of children descended upon the village to hand out religious tracts asking if they knew they were saved. With free hot dogs on one side of our church and religious tracts on the other, how could we be a light of Christ on All Hallows Eve?

Light. Pumpkins. Ever since I was a little girl I have adored jack o’lanterns. I looked forward to the day my parents took us kids pumpkin picking. And when Halloween drew near, we would line the kitchen table with newspaper and have a family pumpkin-carving party, which would end with a mess in the kitchen and all of us standing in the crisp night air admiring our lit creations.

What if we, the church, carved an inspirational message in the pumpkins, lined them up in front of our old historic building, right by the table in which we offered candy, and lit them up for all to see?

Pumpkinfest for God was born! The first year we posted the inspirational message on the bulletin board, one letter on one piece of construction paper, and asked folks to take one letter and carve it into a medium to large pumpkin and bring it back with a candle in it before dusk on the night of the festivities. Strong winds, however, blew that night and candles were being snuffed out. Fretting over this failure only lasted a second as a farmer quickly came to the rescue and showed up with a drill in one hand and white Christmas lights in the other.

Soon the Christmas lights were fed through the pumpkins and, thanks to a very long extension cord, the message illumined the darkening night.

The response was amazing as little children were drawn to the pumpkins. Those who couldn’t read would ask, “Mommy, what does that say?” Moms, who were surprised as to what they were seeing, leaned down to their child and told the good news, “Jesus lights the way.”

Soon Pumpkinfest for God became our church’s beloved tradition with every year a different message being lit up. One year, volunteers bought the pumpkins. Another year a local farm allowed us to glean the pumpkins from their fields. And yet another year, I stopped at this little boy’s home where the festive fall display had always caught my eye.

It was the year I challenged the church to stop thinking in terms of what can we get free from the community. Instead, to start thinking how the church can help local business owners who daily faced the heroic struggle of doing business in an area in which it seemed almost impossible.

So there I was ready to load up my car with 20 pumpkins and then some. Pumpkin by pumpkin I hoisted into the back of my Subaru, and as each was hoisted I lifted a prayer. I prayed for this little boy who grew these pumpkins year after year. I prayed for his family. I prayed for the youth group who was in charge of coming up with the inspirational message and the carving of the pumpkins that year. I prayed for the children who would be coming into our village. I prayed that in some way this message would indeed be the light for someone walking in darkness. I prayed for the little village I served asking God to bless it. Pumpkin by pumpkin a prayer was lifted.

I was ready to go. There was a problem though. No one was home and pumpkin purchases were made on the honor system. A little boy’s chicken scratched note read, “Leave the money in the metal box. Thank you.” The metal box had no lock on it, no slit in which to place the money securely into it. Nothing. I stood there with a crisp $100 bill, way more than what the total came to for the prices of these pumpkins were the best around. I hesitated leaving the money, but I couldn’t wait around. I looked at my watch and knew that soon the little boy would be home from school. So I took the chance. In went the $100 bill among the ones and fives and quarters that were already there. I smiled as I wondered what this little boy’s reaction would be when he saw that much money in his metal box.

It was then I prayed one more pumpkin prayer. It was a prayer of thanks that God had opened the hearts of our congregation to bless this little boy with such a generous gift of gratitude for the work he had done growing pumpkins. I thanked God for providing our church, which faced the same daily struggles as the businesses in the village faced, with means in which to do this wonderful act of generosity. I prayed a pumpkin prayer that day simply thanking God for the beauty of being connected to one another and the joy there is when we realize that connection and we help one another out.

One, two, three…yep, seven years have gone by since Pumpkinfest for God started. The little boy isn’t little anymore, but he is still growing the best pumpkins around. I looked at my watch. He is still in school. I slowed the car down. Should I stop?

I did. Pumpkin prayers were lifted once again. And a little boy who is not so little anymore had yet another surprise waiting for him in his now rusted metal box.