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This Is Not A Test

September 2015
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I grew up during the hippie movement of the 1960’s. I was seven when that decade started on Jauary 1, 1960, and seventeen a decade later when 1970 arrived on the scene. The Summer of Love started it off in a big way during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco (the center of the hippie movement); and two years later it held it’s biggest and most historic event, the Woodstock Music Festivalin August 1969 at Max Yasgur‘s 600-acre dairy farm in White Lake, New York, when almost 500,000 young people showed up for three days of music, peace and love along with lots of sex and drugs. I was too young (still underage) at the time to attend, and in hindsight I’m glad I couldn’t attend. Sex and drugs do not exactly equate with what God meant when he said we should love our neighbors (as in the billboard sign posted above). However, I did keep up with all the latest rock groups with their very famous songs from that era. I loved rock ‘n roll music.

Nowadays, I’m not as inclined to keep up with today’s top Billboard hits on the music scene as I was back then. However, I still like my rock ‘n roll, and, as you know from a previous blog post I wrote last fall when I was in Houston, I’ve also taken quite a shining to country rock, too. In fact, when I’m driving around town in my car, I’ll have the radio stations set to classic rock and country music stations, as well as a contemporary Christian music station that is phenomenally popular here in Orlando–Z88.3 (also know as “The Z”). And it has been The Z that has brought me up to speed on many of the current groups and songs popular in Christian music today. In fact, many of those songs have shown up on my blog posts over the past year or so.

Usually I’ll write a blog post and then go looking for a song to include on it on YouTube. However, on rare occasion, I’ll hear a song on the radio that will lead to a blog post. Such is the case with my blog post today. It is taken from the title of TobyMac‘s latest CD, This Is Not A Test,” and also includes a song from the CD with the same title (see YouTube Video below). Two other songs from this CD are also on my two latest blog posts (e.g., the song, Feel It,” which is at the bottom of the post, Spy Game,” published on September 5, 2015; and the song, Beyond Me,” which is at the bottom of the post, Faith Beyond Reason,” published on September 12, 2015).

There a line in the song, This Is Not A Test,” that states “. . . there ain’t no practice runs in life.” The chorus immediately follows that line:

This is not a, this is not a test 
This is the real thing 
This is not a, this is not a test 
This is the real thing 
We gonna go till we got nothin’ left 
This is the real thing 
This is not a, this is not a, this is not a test 
This is not a test 

(Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com)

Too often, while living in the “here and now,” (which, by the way, is all we ever really get) we are dreaming of some better future “out there” waiting for us (whether we are dreaming of it passively or actively trying to accomplish it). Or we are totally immersed in whatever happens to be going on on our smartphones at the moment, which is the biggest bane of technology as it has the amazing ability to take our focus completely off of the things in this life that really matter, like paying attention while driving behind the wheel of a car. This essentially means that we aren’t all that happy with where we are at in our lives at the present moment so we either escape into a “future dream” we would like to see happen or escape into our smartphones which can keep us so preoccupied that we proceed to drive right off a cliff we didn’t notice.

Personally, I have refused to let the smartphone control me in that way, even though there aren’t very many cliffs in Florida that I have to worry about not noticing. Most of the time I keep my smartphone turned off until I have to use it to check on something; however, regarding the “future dream” I have been very guilty of that one as I have been forced through circumstances I cannot control to live in hotels longer then I ever thought I’d be living in them, and if I could just move on from that one situation I would have done it yesterday, or last year when it all started in the first place.

Life really is lived on a “moment by moment” basis. Whether the dream shows up or not isn’t even the issue. And being consumed by technology is our own fault. All of it has an “off” button. Just turn it off! Ah, but there’s the problem. We don’t want to turn it off as our lives appear to be too boring without it now. We could be sitting next to a really nice person we don’t know but instead of engaging them in conversation, we bury our heads in our smartphones that essentially sends the rest of the world a “Don’t bother me” message while we are waiting for something great to happen that will change our lives. Who knows but that the person we ignored might have held an open door for us if we hadn’t been so self-consumed.

Hello? Life is not a test…. It is the real thing. And we only go around once in life, too. Nobody gets a second chance once this life is over.

James 4 includes a reality check we all need to read on a regular basis. I haven’t quoted from The Message Bible in a long time, and like how it states this particular chapter in James:

Get Serious

1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

4-6 You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

7-10 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master [God]; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

11-12 Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

Nothing but a Wisp of Fog

13-15 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master [God] wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

16-17 As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

That should wake us up out of our fog, right? Maybe; maybe not . . . . We can be a stubborn lot when we want our own way. However, THIS IS NOT A TEST. This is real life, and it’s the only one we get.

vaporSometimes I am astonished at how rude some people can be when I’m out shopping. I’ve been alive a long time and know that while rude behavior has been around since Adam and Eve (hey, they didn’t even have anyone to be rude with except each other until their children came along), it has exponentially increased in our society over the past several decades–probably since the hippie heydays of yore. And “loving our neighbor” does not include the free-for-all swinging sex and drug culture, either. In fact, respect for others (when not “forced” on us to show someone respect in order to get ahead) has gone down the toilet in a big way since those “enlightened” hippie heydays. We now have acquired the right in our culture to hate each other and let them know it, too. No wonder our “moment by moment” lives seems so boring to us and we find ourselves escaping into our smartphones (or “fill in the blank” on that one, too). We only care about what we want, and let the neighbors fend for themselves. Read James 4 again. This is nothing new, folks. 

Regarding my own situation, I’ve been forced to live in hotels for a year now because nobody, including apartment complexes and senior housing organizations, will cut me any slack. And the excuses from them are always the same–either I don’t earn enough monthly income on Social Security to rent a “regular apartment” or I have to wait for two millennium (well, I’ve been told over and over again that the waiting period is at least one-to-three years) before a spot will open up on anybody’s waiting list regarding affordable senior housing. Yet in the interim (which has lasted a year now regarding my housing situation), I’ve been forced to pay between $285/week to $350/week to live in hotels that I can’t afford just to have a place to live. And monthly rent on a regular apartment that nobody will rent to me because of my low income is far less than what I pay the hotels (and I’ve told them what I pay for hotel rooms, too). I can’t do anything about the fact that my only income on Social Security is a little over $1000/mo or the fact that I’ve applied for more jobs since April 2009 then I’ve even kept track of that haven’t produced a job–most of which I am very well qualified for after working in my professional career for over twenty years at colleges and universities until I lost my job in Houston in April 2009. That’s a pretty good reason for me to keep on “dreaming” for a better future, and it’s not because I haven’t tried to do it on my own in every way I know how for over six and a half years now.

However, I’ve also been living in the “here and now” and not just waiting for that better future to open up. I’ve learned to live and respond in the moment-by-moment stuff that is sometimes filled with rude shoppers and people who are so consumed with their own lives or their own agendas or they have their heads buried in smartphones to care about anything beyond their own small worlds. And those numbers are increasing, too. It’s sad how much we really don’t seem to care about those we don’t know. And it’s way too easy to be rude. However, I don’t respond to folks who are rude to me by being rude back to them in return.

I don’t know how many of these folks might actually consider themselves to be Christian, but I’m hoping the really rude ones I’ve run across don’t consider themselves to be Christian at all. For one thing, it’s very bad advertising. Loving our neighbor includes everyone on the planet, which means as Christians we shouldn’t be playing games with others or each other. Ever. And it doesn’t matter who those “others” are, either. And there is no reason good enough to use as an excuse.

Of course, I’ve run into some great folks, too, like the guy working at the computer counter at Target the other night when we got into a really great conversation about some technology I was interested in and he was very knowledgeable about it, and we were rudely interrupted by others, twice, while we were talking (and I was, after all, a customer, too). And also the young woman who was working at a Dollar Tree at the time I was shopping there not long ago and one of the lenses in my glasses popped out. I was holding the lens in my hand at the checkout counter when I was purchasing some other items and mentioned to her that the lens has just popped out of my glasses, and she said she knew exactly where to find a kit in the store to fix my glasses right then and there. And we had a nice conversation while fixing my glasses, too. I am always grateful to the folks I end up having conversations with when I am out and about as that is really what life is all about. It’s about people and not just about things or other stuff we want from people.

Jesus gave the two greatest commandments for us to live by and they are so very simple to remember, but incredibly hard to live out especially by folks who can’t see beyond themselves and what they want. Those two commandments are found in Matthew 22:34-40:

The Greatest Commandment

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

How we treat others matters a great deal to God. And if it doesn’t matter to us how we treat others (especially those we don’t like and/or don’t know), that says a whole lot about what we really think about God . . . .

There are no practice runs in life . . . 

And this is not a test . . .

It is the real thing . . . .

YouTube Video: “This Is Not A Test,” by TobyMac (feat. Capital Kings):

Photo #1 credit here (from GodSpeaks.com billboard campaign since 1998)
Photo #2 credit here

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