A Perennial Life

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Angels... Big Whoopin' Deal

In the Christmas story, Jesus doesn’t exactly come on the scene with megaphoned announcers, lights blazing, and cheering crowds. He doesn’t storm in and take over. He slips in under the radar.

There are those who did show up on that night with mysterious power and glory — the angels. They had a light show, backup singers, and a galaxy as their amphitheater. A Broadway show or the most amazing concert have got nothing on them.

In Luke 2 it tells how “An angel appeared among the shepherds, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them… the angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.”

Pretty impressive.

We as humans tend to put angels atop a pedestal as some glorious and supreme beings or, in some cases, atop our tinseled trees. There are TV shows about them, and some of the most beloved Christmas movies have an angel as a central figure. In every Christmas pageant performed at church, almost every kid wants to be chosen as the angel. 

They're all right, I guess. Honestly, I don’t think angels are that big of a deal. Don’t get me wrong. They deserve due respect. They’re quite amazing and show up in crazy ways in the bible.

But think about it… Before the whole “In the beginning God created” thing, God was up there in heaven with the golden cobbled streets, lavish paradise, and beauty beyond comprehension. Who was he hanging out with? 

The angels! 

Apparently, they weren’t keeping God very good company because he decided he wanted someone else to form a relationship with. That would be us. Turns out, we're the ones who are a big deal.

Blows. My. Mind.

Why would he create humankind when he had angels and the glory of heaven? The greater question for each of us is, “Why did he create me?”

Does God really want to hang out with me? Because way too often, I don’t want to hang out with me.

I can see why he created a lot of people in the bible. They were pillars of our faith and larger than life characters. Nations were built from their family trees. Hospitals are named after them, carved statues grace the halls of museums, and cathedrals bear their names.

But me? Most of the time, I feel pretty insignificant.

But guess what? Jesus can totally relate. 

“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7

Jesus came into this world less dignified than most when he was born in a filthy animal stall. I grew up on a farm and it was my job to clean the animal stalls. Trust me, it’s not a cute setting like those displayed in most nativity scenes. 

He wasn’t like the angels. He didn’t come on the scene with fanfare and fog machines. That’s not how Jesus enters our lives either. He enters our hearts like he entered Bethlehem…

“As for you, Bethlehem, seemingly insignificant… from you a king will emerge.” Micah 5:2

He was born in an insignificant little no name town in an insignificant way in what seemed an insignificant time. God is accustomed to making his presence known among the insignificant. 

That includes you, me, and those the world often considers unimportant.

Sometimes I think we feel like Bethlehem — an insignificant little no name. So to combat those feelings we start filling our lives with other things. And before you know it, there really is no room at the inn, our hearts, for Jesus. We push him out, thinking all this other stuff will somehow satisfy and fill the emptiness we feel inside.

We’re good at saying things like “keep Christ in Christmas,” and we forget there are 364 other days in the year when we should be keeping Him just as much.

There’s a familiar carol called Oh Little Town of Bethlehem that many of us sing at Christmas Eve services. Sometimes songs become so familiar that we don’t even realize the words we’re singing. But I pray you’ll embrace the meaning in this verse in particular during this Christmas season…

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today;
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide in us, our Lord Emmanuel. 

We often think of that night more than 2,000 years ago as being a holy night, but for those who make their hearts his Bethlehem and welcome him in, today can be just as beautiful. Just as holy. Have a blessed and merry Christmas.

If you enjoy my blog, please share with others and comment below. If you need a speaker for your next event, I'd love to join you. Visit www.tammyborden.com for more information.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pruning Isn’t Pretty – Life Lessons from the Garden

When my husband and I bought our first home many years ago, it needed a lot of attention in the landscaping department. One area that needed particular help was behind the old single-car garage. There was a neglected and terribly overgrown grapevine. Near it was a tall pine tree. The vine had reached skyward and attached itself to the tree’s branches, climbing to the very top — nearly 50 feet in the air.  
From the earth below, you could see one or two clusters of grapes way up in the tip of the tree. By all appearances, the vine was healthy, lush, and vigorous. But it wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. It wasn't producing fruit.  

Each of us has a purpose. But like that grapevine, sometimes our lives become too far reaching. We spread ourselves too thin, filling our schedules with more and more “stuff,” or reach for heights in a career that may very well take us to the top, but leave us unfulfilled. Or maybe we look impressive from a distance, but others struggle to find the fruit and purpose when they take a closer look.

Maybe it’s time for some pruning. 

Pruning isn’t pretty. Have you ever seen a freshly pruned grape vine? It’s bare, exposed, and scraggly, with only a few remaining stems. It’s a very painstaking and traumatic experience for the plant, requiring the removal of most of the growth and only leaving the best canes to focus their energy on fruit production. It’s the only way you’ll get a harvest.  

Pruning isn't pretty in our lives either. If we want to produce fruit and truly have a life of purpose and meaning beyond ourselves and beyond the outward appearance, things might need to get ugly, too. We may need to have that unnecessary “stuff” we cling to be stripped away and be exposed for who we truly are underneath. Maybe it’s time to stop reaching for new heights and reach for the pruning shears instead.

We may need to cut away the overgrowth so we can spend our energy doing what we were created to do… to produce fruit and have a life of purpose and meaning.  

Often, we think of big things that need to be pruned – maybe a violent temper, addictions, stealing, or cheating on your spouse. Don’t get me wrong. Those things should definitely be pruned away. But those are just behaviors – the symptoms of deeper underlying issues. To experience real life change, it requires deeper pruning of the root of those problems.   

Maybe it’s a heart of resentment, pride, unforgivenesss, or a victim mentality. It could be any host of issues, but there’s only one solution to them all. Pruning.

Pruning is painful. It hurts. It exposes. It can shock us. But take heart. When things are cut away,  there’s still a foundation that’s deeply grounded to carry us through and be the source of new life.  

I struggled with hatred and resentment for past offenses in my own life, and it left me reaching for more and more, yet feeling increasingly empty and unfulfilled. I tried pruning away the dead wood and unproductive showy growth on my own, but always fell short. 

I couldn’t remove the hatred on my own. I couldn’t forgive on my own. I needed the help of others and a power greater than mine to do it with me.  

And I wish I could say that pruning is a one-time deal, but it’s not. With each season, it seems like something new crops up and needs attention once again.

But when we produce fruit for a purpose greater than our own, a life that impacts others and isn’t just in it to impress others with a showy display, we find that the pain of pruning is worth it after all. 

If you enjoy my blog, please share with others and comment below. If you need a speaker for your next event, I'd love to join you. Visit www.tammyborden.com for more information.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The year was 1937. What happens 76 years later is priceless.

My mother as a young girl in Germany.
My mother is originally from Germany, born in 1927. Yep. She’s old. But she’s the hippest, coolest, 89-year-old woman I know. 

She still retains her thick, German accent after all these years, and she can recall with amazing detail the memories of her childhood and beyond. Considering how many of my friends and other family members have watched their parents slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s and dementia, I realize how fortunate I am.

As opportunities arise, I ask her questions about her childhood growing up in Nazi Germany, coming to America through Ellis Island, and a host of other fascinating tidbits about her life. She doesn’t always realize it, but I secretly record her telling me these stories.

I few years ago I was preparing a talk for a Christmas event I was speaking at and wanted to include a few stories about favorite Christmas memories. I have plenty of fond memories of my own, among them the year I got an Easy Bake Oven. Needless to say, my cooking skills haven’t gotten far beyond what that small appliance could create, but I’m getting better.

For my husband, it was the year he got a BB gun. Unlike the disappointing culinary skills that resulted from my little oven, his gift fueled in him a life-long love for the outdoors and hunting. I have several dead, mounted animals in my home to prove it.

When I asked my mom about her favorite Christmas memory, I hit “record.” I never imagined the beautiful story that would unfold, and how special that upcoming Christmas would end up being as a result.

It was Christmas Eve 1937. She was 10 years old. Her father was drafted into the German army and had already been away for eight months. She wasn’t looking forward to Christmas because her dad wouldn’t be there.

As the story fell from her lips, I was enamored. It was a sacred story if I ever heard one. And I had an idea.

Rather than tell you the story, I’ll let you watch the video where my mother shares it. Because I try to record them in secret, the angles and videography aren’t the greatest, but you’ll capture the heart just the same. 

Be sure to watch it through the end to see what happens 76 years later. I’m happy to report I have a new favorite Christmas memory as a result.

If you enjoy my blog, please share with others and comment below. If you need a speaker for your next event, I'd love to join you. Visit www.tammyborden.com for more information.