83. Pumpkins, Stones & Lives


     I never intended to watch, yet I sat mesmerized by the spectacle being broadcast on my TV last night.  The contest was called “OUTRAGEOUS PUMPKINS” and is sponsored each year by The Food Network.  A hand selected group of carvers face off in an 8 hour challenge to test their creativity as they sculpt gravity-defying scenes out of giant pumpkins.  The winner that impresses the team of judges the most with their pumpkin prowess takes home a prize of $25,000…….not a bad payday for getting elbow deep in the largest fruit on the planet! 

     The creations these sculptors bring to this competition are absolutely incredible. The giant pumpkins,  easily weighing over 1000 lbs each, are a truly blank canvas for these talented artists. The conceptual designs they draw up are pieces of art in and of themselves, but the work of transforming the giant orange blobs in front of them into those compelling scenes is nothing short of remarkable. The winner this year turned his giant squash into a video game dragon being slain by a boy holding a remote control!  The detail was amazing, including the scales on the dragon, the boy’s 3D glasses, and a lightning bolt coming out of the remote control meant to kill the boy’s nemesis.  I don’t know how the young father from Salem, Oregon came up with that idea for his creation, but like the judges, I too was thoroughly, impressed as I saw him transform that pumpkin into the winning entry in this year’s contest.

     Granted, I have no artistic ability myself, so perhaps I just don’t understand how such creative minds work.  One of my granddaughters has that kind of talent and I’m constantly in awe of what she can do already at such a young age. The things I draw, paint or attempt to sculpt tend to look more like something Charlie Brown and his friends put together!!  I don’t know where my granddaughter got that talent, but it certainly wasn’t from me! 

       The ability to see something that is not there and put it on paper, on canvas, in stone, or even via a pumpkin is something I envy   True artists don’t just see the blank medium before them.  They can actually envision what the final piece may look like.  Michelangelo, perhaps the greatest sculptor of all time, definitely understood this concept.  Two of his most famous quotes speak directly to this ability:  “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  and   “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  I have a feeling it would be same thing if he was working on giant pumpkins!!

     I have to imagine things don’t always go exactly as planned for the artist.  A slip of the brush, the use of the wrong color,  a misguided chip here or there,  a decision to make a slight change in the original design,  an unfortunate accident…..all these things can impact the final result and force the artist to address the unexpected.  In fact, that point was actually driven home watching the pumpkin carving champion. He had carved the head of the dragon separately, but when he went to put in on the neck he found the neck sections he had made were too wide. Time was running out so he had to take a chain saw and trim down the neck sections and then re-carve the scales and details on the neck.  It was hectic, but he made the adjustments and completed his project.  Obviously the judges thought the final product was worthy of the prize, despite the last minute alterations. A good artist can adjust, as needed.

      There’s something about this whole concept that is reassuring to me.  I’ve been taught since I was a little boy that I was created by God.  I’ve often heard Psalms 139 quoted to emphasize that point:  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  If I understand that correctly,  that means God is the artist and I am the blank canvas He used to display His creativity.  If all those Sunday School teachers and pastors in my life were correct,  not to mention my mom and dad,  and if God is who they said He is, then I’m a “masterpiece”.   Whoa!!  I’m not sure I fit that description…….and I’m sure most of those who know me would agree!!   Then again,  I’m not sure about you either!!

     Yet, despite all of our obvious weaknesses and flaws,  I think that’s exactly what God feels when He looks at us!!  He created us as reflections of His nature.  In His original design for humanity we were perfect,  an amazing network of physical systems, mental capacities, and moral yearnings that were fully aligned with His character and purposes.  Along the way through history He’s had to adjust His plans for His creation, but He’s never lost sight of what the final product should be.  Like the painter who sees the picture before he paints it or the sculptor who envisions the statue before it is carved, God knows exactly what He wants to create in all of us.  He’s not dissuaded from pursuing that outcome in us any more than my pumpkin carving friend was dissuaded from finishing the dragon he envisioned, even when some last minute adjustments needed to be made. 

    As I look over my life I can see more than a few times when I must have made God’s work in my life tougher than it needed to be.  There have been some twists and turns in my life that forced Him to work around obstacles (most of which I created), but never altered His vision for my life.   Like the artist He is, God has had a plan for my life from before the day I was born, and He’s faithfully carving out that plan each and every day. I’m sure there have been a lot of adjustments along the way, but I’m becoming more and more convinced He knows what He’s doing and sees a way to bring His vision into reality. At times I certainly haven’t liked some of those alterations, but I trust the Artist and His eye to do what’s best. 

      It’s funny how watching a pumpkin carving contest on TV can get you thinking about the deeper things of life.  As I look around there are a lot of us “pumpkins” out there that could use a little more carving before we become a “masterpiece”.  I know I’m one of those. But watching a 1000 lbs squash turned into a piece of art is enough to convince me that God is  able to turn us into something that’s a piece of art worthy to be displayed in His eternal gallery.  All we have to do is to allow Him to be the Artist! 

    Like me, you may not feel like there’s much God can do with who you are, where you’ve come from, and what you’ve done in your life.  But I’m absolutely convinced you’re wrong!  In the hands of a master any piece of stone can be turned into a piece of art,  any canvas can become a priceless painting, and any pumpkin can win a contest.  Whatever has gone on in your life is something God can use to create something beautiful.  He’s got a plan and He’s ready to get to work!   Believe it!!!   You are a masterpiece waiting to be completed!! 

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