Grandchildren love to ask questions about our earlier days. Why did Grandma ever marry you? Have you always been this strange? Has that long hair always been growing out of your ear lobe? (They didn’t really ask these.) Why do your teeth come out? (They did.) A few years ago, we had a brief encounter with the daughter of an old college friend. One of her first questions was “What was my Dad like in college? Was he wild and crazy?” Now while we’re on campus and at it as a student is a good time to start working on our answer. Cia Matthew thought so and penned this beauty for Cornerstone Magazine, a Christian literary arts magazine done by undergrads at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
“When I’m 75 years old with crow’s feet wrinkles around my eyes and arthritis in my knees, I want to tell my grandchildren that I was rebellious and counter-cultural. That I believed in the impossible, and that I talked about a scandalous grace. That I welcomed death… And that I practiced the most unusual sexual behavior – chastity and abstinence.”
“Being a 21st-century, American, Christ-follower in your 20’s is not the norm. I stick out. When most of my peers are passing joints and making jokes about Moses, I’m at worship nights and leading Bible study. When I’m 75, I want to tell people that my choice to pursue Christ made me different. And I want that difference to be something that turns heads and makes my friends question me – because with that I can point them towards a God that can satisfy them more than any substances, romances and successes of this world.”
“When I’m 75 years old, I want to be positive that God used me. I want to have been used for his Kingdom, and I don’t want to regret missed opportunities. My young 20’s is an age where I have few commitments (no family, no pets), I have a three-month summer vacation, and I can still ask my parents for money. It’s the perfect age for traveling and exploration, and the options to serve God are endless. I want to be 75 and know that I didn’t set boundaries for how God could have used me. Instead, I allowed Him to take total control of my life, and I took the backseat with assurance I was in unfaltering hands.”
How do we want our answers to read? Not just for years from now when our grandchildren ask, but for right now when we’re walking through those days. We will spend these days so quickly. And Jesus Christ has so much to write in the wet concrete of these years that will last a lifetime and beyond.
Could there be Christian students spread across the Christian ministries on campus who could launch a theological journal even there at your secular university? A journal that could address the big questions, review media, offer cultural critique, explore theology, explore campus life and issues and put up a decent cartoon once in awhile – all from a serious, thoughtful Christian worldview. Take a look at The Augustine Collective. Not only Cia Mathew but others on many campuses have these up and running. And they will help anyone get started, providing what you need to know except for the party hats and butter mints. Take a look and pray about it.
Maybe you have a question about something you read here. I sure do. Maybe about the Christian life in general or something in particular is chewing on a vital organ. Feel free to write me at email@example.com. No names have to be mentioned. I do reserved the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with a good answer.
If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them , then share, tweet, subscribe and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe, then think about joining Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors business people, theologians, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. All in Geezer 1 get the latest post from geezeronthequad.com as well as good things from the rest of the gang. They’re a sharp bunch; you will only make us better.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Not always do we stand on such a well-defined edge of a life-changing time. Now is one of those times…welcome to the campus.
Originally posted on geezeronthequad:
It’s time (as some old friends would say) to get things started…It’s time…To cram a car, maybe rent a trailer or hit on a friend with a pickup and come back to campus… To see if we can negotiate eight flights of stairs clogged with three couches without dropping any of the stuff we carry but can’t see over…To buy stock in the Maruchan Corporation. They make Ramen Noodles and they’re stock is about to go on steroids; buy now and sell off next March before everyone goes home…To find out if the Christians we’re excited about rooming with this year are better than the fang faces the computers threw us in with last year. To take all the deep breaths we can. When the first professor in the first class utters their first syllable, our heads will drop and the note taking will start. Many won’t come up for air until…
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What is a pascal? The short answer is that it’s a scientific measure. A better question might be “Why is this important to me?” Can’t help you with that; it’s expressed as an elaborate equation. Equations always make me queasy and I start shaking all over. A retro reaction from my student days over horrific math experiences I’m sure. But before “pascal” was a measurement, it was somebody’s name. And if they name some scientific thing after us, we must have been somebody important. Blaise Pascal was – both spiritually and scientifically.
Someone settling his affairs after his death found a piece of paper sewed into the lining of his coat. Apparently he’d quietly carried it everywhere, transferring it carefully from a worn out coat to a new one. It’s called “Pascal’s Memorial“. While we don’t exactly know what happened, we do know that God showed up. FIRE. The same thing happens here with Elijah. I’ve written about spiritual experiences before (See Nov. 2013 – Feb. 2014 in the archives) so I won’t repeat any of that here.
Jesus said that we shouldn’t pray to be heard by people (Matthew 6:5) but this prayer was different. “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel…” This prayer the people needed to hear because they’d forgotten who they were. They could give the “right” answers but, losing sight of God in their sinful deadness, they’d lost track of themselves. C.S. Lewis said, “May it be the real I that speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.” The real Thou was about to show up.
Fire – one of the most unsettling pictures of God. There’s no dialogue with fire – no discussion, no negotiation. Even in it’s barely restrained forms in our fireplaces and fire pits or melting down marshmallows for S’mores, fire bristles with a dancing wildness that reminds/warns us that it’s nothing to be callous or careless around. I went to sleep on many cold Iowa nights to a comforting but far from tame roar inside the Franklin stove in the next room. Although nobody in Elijah’s day was around, this wasn’t Israel’s first brush with God Who is fire. Moses himself met God, not just as fire, but as fire that did not do what fire does – a fire that burns without consuming. All Israel met with God at Mt Sinai. No limos were available so He came down in fire in what must have been a blessedly terrifying (These do go together.) time for the people (Exodus 19:16-19). Every night, for the entire duration of their wilderness time, a pillar of fire reaching up into the night sky burned outside the camp. (Ex.13:21-22) The New Testament says clearly that God still has His fiery moments as the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3) and Hebrews 12:29 reminds the church, then and now, that “our God is a consuming fire.”
Fire. What can it do? It can destroy and does. It clears away old forest growth so new growth can emerge and thrive. It purges waste and purifies with its searing heat like little else can. It warms our bones in winter and delights with the perfume of wood smoke. We read good books by its flickering light. (Thank you, Lauren Winner, for stirring my thoughts here.) And again, it melts marshmallows for S’mores (Is God good or what?). Fire also captures our gaze and our spirit goes places – some we’ve thought we’d lost and some we’ve never imagined. We just can’t help but stare at it, can we? Sometimes for hours. I think God likes His image of fire, beautiful and hypnotizing, wild and woolly in both His love and His holiness.
But these stories like Elijah’s seem like the dark side of the moon to most of us. We haven’t seen fire like this. A lot of our days of living our faith sit flat and filled with the mundane stuff of everyday. A lot of the Christian life is like that. That’s why we need Elisha and his servant as we find them in II Kings 6:8-23. Backstory. The King of Aram’s army was harassing Israel through direct action and black ops. But every time they staged an ambush, it failed because Elisha knew their plans and tipped off the Israelite king. The King of Aram sent an army, probably his best, to capture Elisha in the city of Dothan. Elisha’s servant gets up early and goes outside to find the city surrounded by enemy troops. He freaks. People who freak are never content to do it alone; they want others to freak along with them. But Elisha doesn’t because he knows that our hair and our faith cannot be on fire at the same time.
Surrounded by an enemy intent on his scalp, Elisha does the only sensible thing under the circumstances. He finishes his corn flakes or whatever prophets have for breakfast. He simply says in verse 17, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Or loosely paraphrased, “You show him, God, my flakes are getting soggy here.” Elisha knew something important gleaned from Elijah on Mt Carmel and on the occasion of Elijah’s death (II Kings 2:11-14.) The fire of God isn’t just reserved for when the Arameans show up. The fire of God burns all around us all the time whether we see or feel it or not.
So, campus staff, keep on working your tails off to be ready for the new year. Figure out a cool give away or some other jazzy attention getter for club day. And students, pack up your gear – especially incoming freshmen saddling up for the first time. Prepare to wander around campus for a day or so wondering why the campus under our feet doesn’t look much like the campus map. Buy those thick, expensive books. Help the freshmen move in so Dad has enough strength left to lift his wallet for that last dinner out before they drive off. But remember one thing. Someone burns all around us. He burns in love toward us. He burns in holiness to show us how beautiful and desirable His work in us is regardless of cost. He burns in judgement against all forces of evil that accuse, intimidate and roar against us. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” See them. Feel them. Or not.
If you think this might encourage a student or someone who loves students, then share, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If someone shot this to you then why not subscribe so I can keep you company through the coming college year? We’ll share Jesus and some laughs together and you won’t find any old pizza crusts from me on the floor of your room. If you already subscribe, why not join Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com? It’s mix of students, student ministry leaders, artists, writers, musicians, composers, professors, administrators, pastors, business people, theologians, booksellers, broadcasters, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group and you will only make us better.
I also entertain questions about anything written here or about faith issues in general. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No names are required but I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions of my own to pay proper respect to your question with a decent answer.
Please return your seat to its upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at gfeezeronthequad.com.
Louie Palu shoots photos in the darkest corners of the world – war zones, disasters, urban poverty, etc. An interviewer asked him how constant exposure to death, suffering and hardship affected him. Louie replied that he was not religious but he came to realize he had a soul and that it was nearly destroyed. Souls of people, universities and nations die slowly – almost evaporating while we numbly go about our stuff, absorbed with ourselves. Wake ups from this creeping death come neither cheaply nor subtly.
Israel stood right there without knowing it. Rump deep in pagan sexually immoral Baal worship, they mouthed God but worshipped the cravings of their bellies and glands (just like today). God uses times like this to unveil someone He’s been building in the shade but now it’s time to step into the noonday sun. Elijah was now “the man”. He called the shots even over the king. He ordered everyone to Mt. Carmel and the king as well as 450 prophets of Baal got in line and showed up. Whatever the Lord calls and gifts us to be and do, a time will come when we must step up, step out and own it. Maybe we’ve been asked to lead a small group, be part of the worship team, spearhead a new outreach or just to go public and be out there with our faith. Yes, Elijah made the call on the years of famine (I Kings 17:1-6). But then he bugged out in seclusion for those years. He then had two big step up moments (miraculous provision of food and a healing, I Kings 17: 7-24) with the widow of Zarephath. But these were hidden. As the Holy Spirit gives gifts, a time comes when this Jesus thing can’t stay private; we must jump on and start pedaling. And Elijah sported a few rough edges; he said he was the last of the Lord’s prophets. That wasn’t true and he knew it. (I Kings 18:13). But on that day in the noonday sun, Elijah was the only prophet of the Lord standing on the summit of Mt. Hermon.
Elijah asked the Big Question. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” God’s existence is not THE big question. WHO HE IS stands as the big enchilada. Believing in god is no big deal as long as I can make him up after my own tastes like this. Michael Green, the British evangelist, nails it in saying, “Once we say God exists, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans what we think about Him. We’d better find out what He thinks about us.” Baal, a god of fertility and the harvest, stood powerless to reverse the famine. God had beaten Baal’s dog in his own living room. The entire nation of Israel stood there with a thumb up each nostril; they said nothing – one of the telltale signs of cowardly guilt.
Elijah sets the table proposing a showdown of two prepared sacrifices; the god who answers with fire wins. The Baal gang goes first. There were a lot of them. At a big deal like this, I’m sure they wore their robes and Baal priestly stuff. One must represent and all. You have to style, walk the look. A shame those expensive clothes must have gotten smeared with dirt, wood chips, blood, fat and other icky gook. Servants usually did this and they’d have brought some if they’d only known. But they got it done.
Elijah set up his sacrifice nearby – all by himself. No help. the important people of the world have people, an entourage, to do the menial stuff. That’s how you know who’s important; they have people. And their people wear expensive sunglasses and strike poses. Elijah hauled his own wood, did his own slaughtering and butchering. A lot of those that some seem to think are the big guns today dress more like the Baal gang – and they have people. If we will press on to spiritual depth and excellence in following the Lord, we will do most of our own hauling. Celebrity and/or “fat cat” treatment will always dull and smooth the edges of anyone desiring to run hard after God.
And the Baal boys flat-out went after it. I mean yelling and screaming, flailing the air, slicing themselves up. You’d think they were fighting for a good spot in line for the latest Apple phone. Christians talk about God being sovereign, in control, on the throne, etc. That just means that God is always fine to let evil go first; He will make the last play. Consider the opening of the Book of Job. Go ahead and touch Job, his possessions and his family. How about Daniel with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Anyone who doesn’t bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol gets the fiery furnace. Paul and Silas preach in Philippi and then get beaten and jailed. Jesus grabbed by thugs, beaten and whipped, framed in a corrupt pretense of a trial and then crucified and buried. And then God slams down his ace.
That “ace” will wait until next time. Meanwhile, if we think this will encourage a student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe, then may we need to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leader,professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, business people, theologians, pastors, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. Take a look and see what you think.
I’m always open to any question you may have. Something poking at us or disturbing us spiritually? Any question. Any topic. Anytime. No names required but I do reserve the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with the best answer. Send yours to email@example.com.
Pleas return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with a neighboring couple. They were childless so I became their kid and they became Aunt Athleen and Uncle Vern. Like almost everybody around Pittsburgh back then, he worked in a nearby steel mill. One night at the plant, a ladle of molten steel he worked near burped out a “spit cloud”, hot steam trapped in the molten steel forced out at high velocity (read explosion) and temperature. The heat both stunned Vern and blinded his work goggles. Disoriented, he staggered blindly toward the hot steel. Everyone yelled and screamed but the roar of things drowned out their warnings. A friend did what had to be done; he snatched up an empty fifty gallon steel drum and knocked Uncle Vern flat with it.
God does what has to be done to love people. Elijah popped out of the Jewish woodwork, not to condemn Israel but so that they would turn back to the living God. Think about it. God didn’t need Elijah to judge Israel; all He needed to do was let them go on the way they’d chosen and do nothing. Saul of Tarsus – breathing out threats and slaughter until he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Let’s just say that Saul’s spiritual goggles were a little steamed and he was confused. Jesus had a steel drum ready; sitting helpless and blind for three days (and he didn’t know it would be three days) isn’t my idea of a good time.
Whatever God may be doing in and through us this summer, He has a plan. He will work to mold and morph us into the shape of One Who didn’t come to be served but to give His life as a ransom for many. He works to make us a ransom for someone. (See Mark 10:45) But as for now, we need to eat. Elijah had been riding out a famine (steel drum) by a brook with room service by ravens. Then his lease expired; the brook dried up. Then like many students in off campus housing, he needed a place. God had it covered but not where Elijah would have expected or chosen. A widow up in a place named Zarephath (Gentile country, non-Jewish) would be the next stop. But there was a problem. The widow hadn’t gotten the memo from God and Elijah found that not only did she not know about his reservation, she was in quite a pickle herself. Even though Elijah didn’t know what God was up to when he arrived in Zarephath and the widow wasn’t expecting company, God still was pulling the threads of His plan. God’s effectiveness in our lives cannot be measured by our seeing His hand or our approval of surface circumstances.
The famine brought her and her son to the edge of death. Just enough oil and flour for one last meal. Then they would die. Elijah then both said and did something strange. He said, “Don’t be afraid.” If we ran a quick search through the Bible to find every place where someone on Team God said, “Don’t be afraid.”, we’d find that most of the time, a lot of good reasons to be afraid screamed in someone’s face. And then Elijah said, “While you’re fixing your last meal, throw another cake on the griddle for me.” Elijah doesn’t sound very Christian here by some people’s yardstick. Shouldn’t we connect her with a food pantry or food bank or something?
This woman was something. Excluded from the nation of Israel, she showed more respect for the God of Israel through her words than Israel’s king (see v. 12) had done with his life. And then although it made no sense on the human plane to cut into their last meal to provide hospitality to a stranger, she did it. People unsurrendered to Jesus Christ can be pretty cool – even more pleasurable or admirable than some Christians we know. And there’s more. God tips His hand here with a little secret. His heart was never restricted to just being Israel’s God: His heart was always in pursuit of the whole world. His covenant with Israel cobbled out in the Scriptures and His mighty works was to be a showcase revealing God to the world. And so He moved Elijah in with a Gentile woman and her son.
And they ate…and kept on eating. The oil and flour never ran out (at least for a while, more later). This summer may not be what we’d planned or what we’d like. But the back story of this summer is that God will move us in with the Gentiles. It is both His way and His heart. The salt and light Jesus has both made us and that He lives through us must be out where it’s needed. So if we’re somewhere in a summer missions project, let’s suck it up and play through that fatigue, the other cranky selfish Christians in the group and the shock of the need assaulting our senses. We are interns in one of the Holy Spirit’s most advanced labs. The time is short and the lessons will shape the rest of our lives. If we’re in a summer job, God has placed us in a unique group of Gentiles every day. People always talk about their lives at work, spill their guts actually. They will tell us about the darkness that’s killing them sometimes without knowing it: the pain of the unwashed masses we will be around the rest of our lives. Another choice lab of the Holy Spirit. Take spiritual notes and pray lots. Maybe there’s no job – at least yet and we really needed one. One, keep looking. Two, go somewhere and give this life Jesus Christ is in the process of building in us away. Somewhere where we get dirt on our faith, calluses on our spirit and give our self-centeredness a kick in the rump. Somewhere where we’re not in it to be thanked, get a reference (although we might) or to feel good about ourselves. Look for Gentiles whose oil and flour are about gone and jump in – without complaining.
If something’s been chewing on us spiritually or life-wise, feel free to shoot me a question at firstname.lastname@example.org. No names required but I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with a better answer. Any question. About anything. Anytime.
If you think that this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter, “like” and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, then maybe we need to be part of Geezer 1, the online clubhouse for the blog. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, musicians, writers, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, theologians, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group and there’s always room for another chair. You will only make us better. Take a look.
Meanwhile, please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post on geezeronthequad.com.
SORRY ABOUT THE EARLIER ONES. THEY WERE POSTED BY MISTAKE!!! Okay we’re in it now. Home from school. Working the job (maybe). Seeing high school friends again. It can be a weird disconnect from them as we realize that the old days are gone. They talk about their school and it’s hard to get lathered about it because we have our school. The church we grew up in may be okay but something’s changed and it could be us. It’s just not the same as the campus Christian group we left behind: they dispersed everywhere. The campus is now home (Have we ever been on break and referred to returning to campus as “going home”?). And we’re here feeling it’s, well, nowhere.
God likes nowheres. When we find ourselves there, we’re in a good place. Elijah (a knuckle busting mega prophet) came from Tishbe (somewhere east of the Jordan River) which made him a Tishbite (I Kings 17:1). Sounds like something we find in a drop of pond water under a microscope. He bursts on the scene out of nowhere announcing a famine on the land. We know nothing about him but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to know. Spiritual depth and power doesn’t spontaneously hatch from eggs. God’s way is often to work on someone in private, in solitude, away from intruding eyes and distractions. He does it in deserts (John the Baptist, Moses), prisons (Joseph, Paul), hospitals (Soltzhenitsyn) and small towns. Ever heard of Postville, Iowa? John Mott grew up there and grew up to be a giant in ministry to college students and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1946 (That’s right. Someone actually scored a Nobel for Christian work with students).
Getting back to our current “nowheres”. God often uses them to take the training wheels off, to knock the props away we need at times but must lose if we’re to walk (and become strong enough to hold up others). Being away from those great Christian friends (except on Facebook, of course) and that great church forces our roots deeper. We draw strongly on God Himself in His Word. This burns off two corrosions of our culture – the emotions and feeling drivenness of postmodernism and it’s handmaid, a steroid stoked narcissism where the only sin comes when it’s not all about me. God also sandpapers us in our nowheres. Chances are pretty good someone in our “nowhere” summer world aggravates the snot out of us. Could be a family member. Moving out in the fall gave us separation but that’s all erased now. Could be a co-worker on that summer job or our new boss. Could be a Christian in our life for the next couple months. Here we were needing fellowship and we’re stuck with this Bible memorizing self-righteous uber-whiner! Thank God for them. They lay bare all our rough spots, all those places of heart and character still resenting God’s touch, still largely untouched by the Holy Spirit and ignored. They show us we are the problem; they’re a current flag to something that’s been going on.
I Samuel 17 tells the David and Goliath story. Here the back story is where the gold lies. His brothers thought him a punk. His Dad didn’t think much of him at all. They shovelled him off tending sheep while his brothers did “man stuff” like fighting Philistines. The Philistines put their guy, Goliath, out there defying Israel to send out one man to settle the whole enchilada, pro wrestling style without the spandex. He did this for forty days; Goliath kicked Israel’s dog right in their own living room. But out in “nowhere”, David faced down both a bear and a lion. He had two great opportunities to get eaten alive but it didn’t happen. What eating us alive out in “nowhere” this summer? How we live into the teeth of that will make all the difference someday – for God, good or ill. God shapes for a time to come when His Kingdom, the world’s hurt and deadness and our deep joy entwine.
So we will outrun our lions and bears together this summer, you and I. If we’re feeling a bit chewed, let me know at email@example.com. No names required and prayer always ready.
If you think this might encourage a student or someone who loves them, please share, like, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe, then consider Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, theologians, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, pastors, a few campus rats and a Goth or so who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. they’re a sharp bunch and you will only make us better. Take a look.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Summers off campus can be tough…I’ve got your back until the fall comes
Originally posted on geezeronthequad:
What do we need to survive tough times? Some answers come from those “desert island” surveys. A Swiss army knife with enough attachments to build a beach condo and sharp enough to slice through thick trees or perform unexpected surgeries. Enough games on my smart phone to keep me too preoccupied to remember I’m on a desert island. The best answer might be Ramen noodles. Why? First of all basic nourishment. Most desert islands don’t have trees loaded with mangoes and herds of wild boar who will lay down in front of us and die ready for the barbecue. If most desert islands were that great, wouldn’t somebody already be there and have built a five-star beachfront hotel? If we’re the first, it’s a grim ride. And we could hurt ourselves with homemade weapons. A second reason, escape. A raft made from Ramen noodles will never let you down; it…
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