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On Homesickness

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlfdownload

Call me Tapobu.  I am a gamer.  My game of choice is League of Legends, but I will give almost anything a try so long as it does not contain gratuitous violence and/or excessive profanity.  Not only do I play these games, I write rather extensive guides detailing the psychology behind why people do certain things in online games.  In the time I’ve spent at various churches, colleges, and youth-group conventions, I’ve met some Christians that believe video games are “demonic,” and others who just think that such things are a massive waste of time.  Please allow me to assure you, they are entirely the latter.

 My first blog is about homesickness.  As the college year has begun and many have traveled away from home to college, such a subject seems appropriate.  For the last hour, I have been playing this game called Minecraft.  Minecraft is a game that’s about going into a strange new world populated with all sorts of weird monsters and trying to make a home.  I’m a bit new to the game, so everything was pretty foreign to me and I really had no idea what I was doing.  My first priority was to make a home immediately so I wouldn’t get myself killed.  After about fifteen minutes, I had made my dream home (read: 4x4x6 house made entirely out of dirt).  After finishing my home, I looked around to discover exactly what my back yard entailed.  Enormous lake, lots of little caves, and a giant ravine that goes down for miles and would almost certainly kill me if I were to fall in.  This is…home, I guess.

Well anyway, after I’d finished exploring familiar territory, I grew braver and braver.  I decided to set out across the massive world to see what else I could find.  Unfortunately, I was a rather foolish adventurer who forgot to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.  Needless to say, I became hopelessly lost.  As minutes turned into…well, more minutes, I became strangely anxious for reasons I couldn’t understand.  I had the resources to make a new home where I was, and in fact I had planned for this.  But I didn’t want to make a new home.  I wanted to find my way back to where I began.  I wanted MY house and MY lake and MY death ravine.  So I continued exploring, getting more and more lost, until night came and I was eaten by zombies.

 The moral of the story is, naturally, don’t get eaten by zombies.  Not good enough?  Okay, how about this: If I’d tried to accept my new location as a new home, things would have turned out a lot better for me.  But I didn’t and so I became brain food for the walking dead.  To those who are new to this whole college experience, try not to do as I did and just bide your time until you can get home.  If you do that, you won’t make life-long college friendships, and when you finally do return “home” you’ll very likely realize you’ve outgrown it and long for something else.  Wherever you end up before, during, or after college, use the resources you have to make a home for yourselves.  Oh, and watch out for zombies.

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day from the Cardboard Team! Thank you to everyone who devotes their life to protecting and promoting our freedom. God is good and His love endures forever.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Cardboard Magazine! Thanks for reading.

The Wonderful Danger of Honest Prayer

By: Jon Meerdink

When I was in high school, we read a story in Lit class about an elderly couple that encountered a magic device from a faraway land that promised to grant them three wishes. They didn’t know, however, that their wishes would be granted in grisly ways. For example, right off the bat, they wished for money and received it, but only as a death settlement from their son’s employer after he was horribly mangled in a work accident. Hooray for classic literature, right?

This story came to mind this week after an experience I had with prayer. Being a young college graduate, I have a sizeable amount of student loans and in the interest of paying them off quickly, I recently began to pray that God would show me a way I could make more money. It turns out God had a plan in mind, because within a week of praying that prayer, literally all of my coworkers quit, leaving me to carry the full weight of our department by myself. But with them gone, my employer apparently had no choice but to offer me virtually unlimited overtime, giving me a generous amount of extra money, albeit in a far different form than I anticipated.

If you look through the Bible, God had a lot of creative responses to requests. Abraham wanted a son and God gave him dozens of years of waiting and marital trouble before Isaac came along. Jacob wanted to have his father’s blessing and God sent him on the run for decades until he amassed a fortune in unwanted livestock. Peter even asked Jesus how he was supposed to come up with money to pay his taxes and all Jesus said was to go fishing.

I think this is the wonderful danger of honest prayer. When we open ourselves to the will of God, we invite him to do whatever he wishes with our lives. It turns out that if you ask God for something, he may end up giving you exactly what you want, but he’ll give it to you his way, not yours. While I may have preferred a giant check from the sky, God said “Nope, it’s gonna be work for you.” Did I get what I ask for? Absolutely, but it was by God’s design, not mine.

I am convinced that God loves to bless us through answering our prayers, and there are times that he undoubtedly will fulfill our requests exactly how we want them. But more often than not, he’ll put a certain special flair on his answer, as though he’s reminding us who is giving the gift. Even in giving, God is teaching us that he, above all else, is sovereign. We may make the request, but he’s the one whose will is done.

A Word of Caution (For Readers and Writers)

By: Jon Meerdink

On July 15, it will have been four months since the great Cardboard Magazine project took off. I, for one, am glad to be along for the ride, if only in a limited capacity.

Over the past four months, we’ve examined a wide range of topics, including racism, homosexuality, missions, worship, politics, movies, and a score of others. I’m happy to see each of the writers who contribute to this blog (or magazine…blogazine?) tackling such big issues with fervor and excitement.

But now, having completed a third of a year as a group, I have a word of caution. Actually, five words: be careful, and be humble.

Each of us is doing our best to examine serious issues in the world, and I think that’s fantastic, but I think we need to address each of these issues from a careful, humble perspective. It’s important to realize that even though we’re each accomplished writers in our own right, we’re all still relatively new to this ballgame. As far as the two thousand year scope of Christianity goes, we’re pretty small fish in a pretty big pond. Chances are, almost everything we’ve written about has been written about before by many people, so our contributions to the conversation may be minimal.

I recall a situation from junior high. One morning, our sixth through eighth grade Sunday School class got bumped up to the high school class for some reason, and we were invited to join the discussion. I don’t even remember the topic, but I do remember quickly feeling that I had a vital piece of information I needed to share. I jumped in boldly, being a bit of an arrogant kid, and shared what I had to say. The room was quiet for a second, then someone cleared their throat and said “Actually…” and proceeded to destroy everything I’d just said. Humiliated, I shut up for the rest of the class. Clearly, I was lacking a little humility.

Now, obviously the situation here is a little different. We all have a lot more experience (and wisdom, hopefully) than I did as a youngster. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t heed the same lesson I learned. It’s possible, as we examine various topics, that someone else might just know more about what we’re trying to talk about than we do. With than in mind, we need to write from a place of humility, not arrogance or false confidence, if we’re to have any legitimate stake in future conversations.

As we enter the second third of our first year at Cardboard, let’s keep this in mind. There will surely be more great discussions on controversial topics in our future, and I’m confident our discussions and articles will come from a humble, truth seeking perspective. I think Paul’s words in Romans 12:4 are appropriate here: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” The context of that comes from a discussion on spiritual gifts, which fits perfectly with what we’re all putting on display here. Let’s make sure that whenever we sit down at our keyboards, we’re using our gifts not to show what we know but to attempt a humble entry into the greater conversation that is Christianity in the world today.

David as Poet: The Reminder for Beauty

David had been holed up in a cave for the past few days, hiding in the wet, dripping dark, listening for any crack of a footstep or zing of an arrow. Absalom, his wayward son, had just taken over his Father’s throne forcing David to flee the kingdom followed by hundreds of able men searching for his head and thousands shaming David’s name. You would imagine that David would be planning his attack, gathering the few faithful men he still had, and fashioning tools for battle in the secret cave.

But he wasn’t. David was writing poetry.

In fact, David responded to most events in his life with poetry. Whether it was a victory in battle, being hunted by vicious men, or responding to glaring sin in his life, David wrote and related himself to God through poetry.

This man-of-all-men-warrior was not afraid to embrace the creative passionate side of himself: the sensitive artist.

Being an English major, I giddily appreciate that God made David a poet. Through GEN ED English classes and all of high school, students audibly groan over the labor of learning about poetry. Far from appreciating, most students I hear question the reason to attempt understanding a muddled mess of imagery. “What does poetry have to with life anyways? It’s not practical” is usually what tumbles out of frustrated students’ mouths.

But here’s the thing about poetry that I think David might just agree with. Some things just can’t be communicated bluntly and explained. Certain emotions, feelings, thoughts, and soul-stirring things can sometimes only be described through hedging around it with similes and metaphors and pictures. Poetry and art draws us deeper into the human experience by attempting to express the inexpressible. And I think that’s what David stumbled upon: a God so big, so indescribable, and passion for Him so overwhelming that poetry was the only response. It was only through poetry that David could attempt to describe God. The beauty that David saw in the LORD led to the expression of beauty through art.

The fact that God made David a poet should stir us towards the importance, mystery, beauty, & necessity of art, not just poetry, and the creation of it.

Truth has this corollary relationship to beauty that demands art. That’s why for centuries, humanity has been writing, painting, acting, and sculpting. There’s something about us that longs for and desires beauty.

But beauty is such a hard word or concept to pin down isn’t it?

My old Theology high school teacher, a friend, and I actually tried to come up with a working definition during a long fire-side discussion about the nature and experience of Truth. We decided that wisdom is to knowledge as beauty is to Truth. The former completes the latter and is more objective but we need both. If we are too content to sit in “Truth” scouring the Bible solely for theological underpinnings and principles, we miss the beauty and mystery of David’s soul-searching Psalms. But if we focus too heavily on beauty, we miss the important truths that demand obedience.

Perhaps we could say that beauty is the experiential embodiment of truth. What is beautiful about the Psalms is the way that David is experiencing all these true things about God that are so overwhelming that they spill out of his soul into art. Art leaks from humanity’s side as the truth of God pierces through us.

So it is time to embrace David as poet. Embrace the mystery and aesthetic beauty that comes from the Bible, from truth, and from Jesus the true embodiment of truth and beauty. (One could argue that Jesus employs art by crafting parables to symbolize Truths too complex and mind boggling to humans try to explain straight on).

Remember that in your search for Truth, don’t abandon the beauty that you’re heart longs for. And perhaps you are not a poet like David, but it shouldn’t stop you from connecting with poetry, music, and paintings.

The simple fact that God deliberately filled the Scriptures with poetry shows that He is a God of beauty and experience and expression, as well as one of truth and theology.

Wait…This Is From the Bible?

By: Tyler Lehmann

Bible stories come in many varieties. Some tell us about God. Others teach us life lessons. And then are those Bible stories that are just plain weird.

Here’s a sampling of the weirdest stories the Bible has to offer. You’ve been warned.

Weird Bible Story No. 1: A Hairy Situation

2 Kings 2:23-25: “From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him.

‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’

He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.”

Weird Bible Story No. 2: Sh*t Happens

Judges 3:21-25: “Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.

Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, ‘He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.’

They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.”

Weird Bible Story No. 3: All For Love

1 Samuel 18:25-27: “Saul replied, ‘Say to David, “The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.”’ Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins.

They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.”

Betcha never heard those in Sunday school.

Church Hunting

By: Andrew Lovgren

Leaving your home church and finding a new one can be a daunting proposition.

Dressed in a light brown suit from the 70s, Diamond Dave took the stage.

As he sang/spoke about how glad he was that we were there for the show tonight, I turned my head
and whispered to my wife. “What on earth is going on?”

It was the third of our Sunday morning church visits and by far the most unique.

Having grown up within the same church, finding a new one isn’t a familiar task. But with each new visit came a new set of quirks, along with hordes of people to meet after the service.

Diamond Dave continued his show in the darkened, auditorium-like room, and the service
progressed into the launch of a new sermon series. This wasn’t the norm, but for first time visitors
like us, it was a dramatic first impression.

Moving from church to church each Sunday, we’ve encountered almost everything imaginable, and Dave was the tip of the iceberg. Free pizza, hyperactive announcements, an admittedly dying church body.

After each visit, the question remained: what should a home church look like? Some of the churches
had wonderful, concert-like music. Some had a strong desire to create relationships, to the point of
being overwhelming.

Without knowing what exactly we’re looking for, going to the same church every Sunday will be a
difficult decision. Growing up, the importance was placed upon the service itself, and attending at 9:30 each week was crucial to spiritual life. In college, the importance was on the service not being at 9:30.

Growing up, the importance was placed upon the service itself, and attending at 9:30 each week was crucial to spiritual life. In college, the importance was on the service not being at 9:30.

Now, moving into a new area with a lack of connections, the key so far is finding that church family. Catchy music and a strong sermon would be easier to find, in fact we have in several locations.

As our original views of church are challenged by those we encounter each week, what we
look for changes. Until we choose one and settle into the fabric of the church body, it’s difficult to
know for sure what we’re even looking for.

What has your experience been when finding a church? What do you look for? Either comment below or send your story to CardboardMagazine@Gmail.com and it may be published in a future article.

The Importance of Place

It’s so easy to travel the globe, but are we missing out on our local communities?

By: Kameron Toews

I’m from a South Dakotan town of 726 people, but I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the corners of the world in the last four years of college, with a year in Arkansas, three in Iowa, and a semester in Oman thrown in there too. I’ve spent summers in Indonesia, Michigan, and the upstairs of a friend’s house. Each one of these places holds remarkably special memories for me, but that also means my memories and relationships are scattered across the globe. I feel less connected to one certain place.

Sadly, I feel like connectivity is harder and harder to find in this global world. I become isolated in my apartment and struggle to venture out like I once did. I get comfortable and stop connecting with my “place.” Someone once told me to “be here now.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that little phrase.

Someone once told me to “be here now.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that little phrase.

Give students or travelers a map and they might have a hard time putting their finger on “home.” Many of my friends who have traveled on overseas missions or semesters abroad say they left a piece of their heart in that foreign place. It’s beautiful that we can connect to a place and people so deeply in such a little time. But with the increasing ease of world travel, are we really connected to where we are right now? I fear that we are spreading ourselves too thin.

How do you we connect to “place,” an abstract concept. For me it means truly understanding the local people, traditions, and nature. It’s taking an intentional step toward caring about your surroundings, leading to a love of your place and a connection that makes you feel at home.

Sometimes I wish I was back in Medieval days where there was often little need to venture away from family and home, when the daily routine was centered around local markets, gardens, and relationships. Cars and interstates have allowed us to see people on the other side of the country, but have also broken the strength of our local connections. I buy food grown in Florida, California, and overseas. I don’t know my Wal-Mart cashier. I commute 90 minutes if I want to see my siblings and 5 hours to see my parents. Modernization can pull us away from needing to know and care about our “place.” When life is kept local, home feels much more real.

Usually at college, I feel isolated from the town it’s centered in, but last year I experienced a taste of real “place.” The small size of Orange City, Iowa means that people are close, at least geographically. One day in particular, I felt like I belonged here when I stopped in to see some recent graduates living in a community house, walked to visit my past resident director, and finally made my way to the coffee shop where my good friends were studying. It was wonderful having so many great relationships so close together. It felt like real community.

Globalization is here. We’re in the age when thoughts and ideas are transmitted across the globe all seconds of the day. Being a part of this global, diverse community is awesome, but not to the extent where we forget we have neighbors down the street. If we invest in the people we are surrounded by right now, it doesn’t matter where in the world we are—we can find our purpose and community in whichever “place” we may be.