Sunday, January 25, 2015

More than just a song.....

"I'm moving on". From the Rolling Stones to Hank Snow to Rascal Flatts, many recording artists have sang various versions of a song with that very title....."I'm moving on". The mere mention of that phrase is probably tied to at least one deep and heart-etched memory for most every human-being who has walked on the face of this earth. The phrase can be identified with all sorts of transitions in life.....moving on from a job, a relationship, a health condition, a living situation, you name it. "I'm moving on" is one of the few constant common denominators that we have in our lives from the time we take our first breath to the moment we take our last. Sooner or later, we all move on. 

Such has been the state of my family since the final Sunday of November 2014. After 9 of the best years of our lives, Angie and the kids and I began the process of moving on from our ministry work at the Fairfield church of Christ....and what a wonderful work it was. As a family we have been blessed over the years to worship regularly with a number of great congregations. Each of those congregations have loved and encouraged us in ways that we will never forget. We are better people because of the various places where we have worshipped. That being said, the folks at Fairfield found a way to love us to a depth that we never thought could be attained. From first Sunday year 1 to final Sunday year 9, we knew we had become a part of a spiritual family that knew what they were doing in the love and compassion department. No doubt that attitude and atmosphere had been cultivated long before we came. For 65 years and going strong Fairfield has been the church home of some of the best people this community has had to offer. Over the course of the last 9 years we have made life-long friends and deeply embedded memories for which we will forever be grateful. Our love for the Fairfield church of Christ will never waiver and prayers for that good family will continually be on our lips. 

So here we are, moving on. It should go without saying that a great deal of this process for us has been met with much sadness. As with any departure from a relationship of many years, it will take a bit of time for us to transition from the "once was" to the "what's next". Don't get me wrong, we have lots of things in our lives to be thankful for and excited about. Angie is growing her own business as a nail tech, we have a new little granddaughter who we couldn't imagine life without, Kaylee has a new job and is engaged to be married to a good man in a few months, Ruby and Jordan are involved with various activities, making good grades and occasionally working for their mean ole boss down at KayJoe's. Indeed, God has been working overtime on sending blessings to the Pickards. 

There are times when we hear "I'm moving on" and assume that it must mean something negative. I have learned many times in my life that is not always the case....such as ours. I know that every now and then it is overused and may even sound trite, but I do believe that when God closes one door he opens another. I believe God moves us on from one place to others as we are needed. Sometimes God lets us stay a few days and sometimes he might let us stay 9 years or even longer. Whatever the case might be, we need to be reminded that we are here to fulfill God's purpose, not ours. We are here to be plugged into the puzzle he chooses, which may or may not be the one that we want at the time. The interesting thing of the whole deal is that 99.99% of the time, many years later, we realize that God knew exactly what he was doing with all his door opening and closing activity. I already know this will be the case for our family as it has been the case for so many of you. Sometimes you just have to get out of the boat and start moving on..... 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's all I've ever known.....

"It's all I've ever known." You could use this phrase about many aspects of your life. I can too. There are some folks who have never lived anywhere near a paved road. The entirety of their existence has been spent way off the beaten path on some dirt road somewhere in an area of the county where they may be lucky, perhaps, to have one bar of cell signal, and that is only when they walk to the top of the tallest hill on their property and hold the phone up in the air as high as their arm will reach and their tongue stuck out just right. Those same people are able to wake up early in the morning at the same time every day without the use of an alarm clock because they have at least one red-crowned feathered friend who summons them out of a deep sleep almost to the exact second on every morning of every week of every year. Those same people know how to repair fence rows, plant crops, milk cows, slop pigs, cut hay and about a thousand other things, because,'s all they've ever known. Granddaddy did it, daddy did it, and now they do it. It just comes second nature. It's in their blood. They were born into a family of farmers, so by deduction, they are farmers too. 

There are other folks who, when they came into this world as slimy newborn babies, whether they knew it or not, were already fans of a certain sports team before they ever inhaled their first breath of post-womb oxygen. Some of those newborn little people will even live their entire lives having been named after a famous athlete, stadium, mascot or coach. They will spend the rest of their lives wearing certain colors, singing certain fight songs and traveling to certain cities to cheer on a certain team that was their favorite team before they knew they had a favorite team. Most of the time these scenarios take place because mom or dad, or grandma or grandpa just so happen to root for a certain professional or college team. So, in some ways, they were born without a choice. Thus, as a result, sometimes not really always understanding why, people will have a favorite team that they will always pull for until the day that the undertaker lets their box down into the ground. Why? "Because it's all they've ever known." Their grandparents cheered on that team, their parents cheered on that team, so now they cheer on that team. It's just how it works. In fact, I just so happen to have a 15 year old son whose first name is Jordan. I just so happen to have a 20+ year old Chicago Bulls tattoo on my right arm. Go figure that one out. It ain't brain surgery.  

Please keep in mind.....this phenomenon isn't only vocation or hobby specific. There are many other important areas of our lives that are the way they are because of our early-in-life conditioning. Religious preference is certainly another. From the time that my brother and I came into this world, we regularly attended a church of Christ; the Twomey church of Christ to be exact. The reason? Because our mom and dad attended the Twomey church of Christ. And their reason? Because my grandparents attended the Twomey church of Christ. My brother and I attended the Twomey church of Christ until we grew up and moved away to go to college and, in fact, Bart is now back there regularly worshipping again. I have many, many fond memories of growing up in that wonderful church and wouldn't have changed where we went to church at that time for all the tea in China. It was great.....and it was all we had ever known. 

There are many reasons that I could give you for my being a member of the church of Christ, but if totally honest with myself, one of the biggest reasons is simply because I was born into a family that went to the church of Christ. In other words, "It's all I've ever known." Now, as I have traveled through adulthood I have accumulated many more reasons to explain why I stayed a member of the church of Christ. I made my religion "my religion" rather than just continuing to go because "it's just always what momma and daddy did." I'm sure I'm not the only person who would admit to such a spiritual journey. Whoever you are, wherever you attend church, whatever religious preference you claim.....I dare say there is a really good chance you can say the same thing that I did. You are what you are because someone else was what they was.  (That may not be good grammar but you catch my drift:) Now, I do realize that there are also lots of folks where this "my momma did so I did" equation doesn't fit, at least religiously. But I would be willing to bet a BBQ sandwich that there are more folks out there like me than not. 

Many religious groups have a segment of their membership population who hold to a belief that "if you ain't with us, then you ain't with God....and if you ain't with God, then you ain't going to heaven....plain and simple." I used to think some segments of the churches of Christ had that "we are the only ones going to heaven" market all to themselves, but alas I have had Baptist friends and Methodist friends and Pentecostal friends and many, many other church-goin friends say that it's not only some of the c of C's who think that.....most all religious bodies have a certain segment of that mentality. So therefore, if that mode of thinking is theologically correct, and only this group or that group can go to heaven, then by deduction it would mean that really the best determining factor of whether or not someone gets to spend eternity with Jesus is by happenstance of what family the stork dropped them into. It was just complete luck if you fell into one of the privileged families who had it all figured out and were going to heaven. And chances are, the family you were lucky enough to be dropped into practiced the religion they practiced simply because, "It's all they had ever known." 

Is there a good chance that I would be part of another religious group had my parents been part of another religious group? It's almost an absolute surety. Does it mean that there would never be occasion to study the Bible and come up with a different conclusion of where my church membership should be and move it accordingly? Of course not. I know many people who have changed from the religious affiliation of their birth to another. Peter said that we should be "prepared to give an answer for the reason of the hope that is within us" (1 Peter 3:15) I'm frankly not sure how many of us can do that. It would be a fearful situation for many religious folk to have to take a pop test over the foundational aspects of their chosen church affiliation. I'm satisfied that on Sunday many pews worldwide will be full of folks who are what they are in the religious world, and do what they do in the religious world because "it's all they've ever known." They have stopped searching Scripture, they have stopped studying, they have stopped questioning, they have stopped living with spiritual intent. They are simply coasting. They are going through the motions. They have become creatures of habit. They have become satisfied with checking a few boxes on Sunday morning to fulfill their obligation to God and then go about their lives the other 6 days a week without giving their Savior another second thought. It's all they've ever known.....and that's scary. 

I don't want to stand before God on judgment day and, when asked about my spiritual journey on earth, only be able to say, "I did it that way because it's all I ever knew." I want to be able to say that I lived and worshipped and served and encouraged and assisted and on and on and on because I searched and questioned and studied and never was satisfied with ever thinking that I had it all figured out. I want to stand before God with me and God both knowing that I did my dead-level best to be my best. I want to stand before God with me and God both knowing that I never became satisfied and stagnant with my understanding of Holy Scripture. I want to stand before God with me and God both knowing that my earthly spiritual journey was one of many miles traveled and many truths learned. I want to stand before God with me and God both knowing that I was never satisfied with just doing the things I did because "It's all I ever knew." I want God to be proud of me because I never quit trying to know him better. And in the end, that's really all I want to know:)