linvilles in giving

What we learn as we give.

linvilles in Love with Mr. Bishwas

[UPDATED as of Sept. 17th, 07:50am EST]

Dearest prayer warriors,

On September 17th, at 4:41am EST, Mr. Bishwas’ old and broken body lost it’s mortal grip, releasing him to behold his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, finally and forever.

We’re so humbled and thankful for all of your love, prayers, and support.

Please pray for my national partner, Jacob (Mr. Bishwas’ son). Jacob was out getting one of his dad’s medications when Mr. Bishwas passed away. Jacob is thankful that his dad is now with Jesus, but he’s very disturbed that his dad died alone, calling out: “Where’s my son? Where’s Jacob?” as heard by Jacob’s wife who found Mr. Bishwas deceased when she checked on him a few minutes later.

Please leave encouragements and Scriptures in the comments and we’ll be sure to write them all out on cards and give them to the Bishwas family.

in Love

the linvilles

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linvilles in Love with m&ms, Act 2

For Christians, it is important for us to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. Why not make it a prayer?

…Dear Lord…

“Salvation is transformation, not behavior modification.” – Mr. Linville

What follows is an on going story. Please read these previous posts before continuing if you haven’t already:

The Intro

Act 1

Act 2

Scene 1:

The cat was out of the bag. We had seen Mekhi and Melanie at their worst, and that didn’t bother us at all. We are just as bad, if not worse, so now we might all get to play on the same team. The team that knows we are lost without Christ.

Indeed, we ironically started seeing more of M&M after the night of the fight. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn’t. Regardless, we were glad they knew that we couldn’t judge them; that they could be themselves around us. Eventually, we had them over for dinner, and got to know them a little better formally.

Unfortunately, life sometimes sweeps us away and we get distracted from what’s really important, and this is what happened to me. I stopped checking in on my neighbors. When I finally did after three months, I was embarrassed that I had failed to be there for them. Things were still getting worse, just less drastically so.

Scene 2:

It was July 22nd, twenty one days ago, when I finally caught up with them. I was walking toward the apartment when I noticed Mekhi and another tenant, Darnell, talking together outside the entrance. As I approached, I was tempted to just say “hi,” and continue on my way, but the Lord wouldn’t let me.
I greeted them and stuck around awkwardly, listening and learning. What I learned made my heart sink. M&M’s car had been repossessed with all of their belongings inside due to a recent trip they had just returned from. Mekhi was venting about how it was going to cost him cash he didn’t have to get his own luggage back.

We are just as poor, if not more so, but God was pricking my heart to act. Unsure of how much we could afford to help him out with, I offered to talk to Mrs. linville about it. He seemed hesitant, but after a moment his shoulders drooped and he commented that any help would be appreciated.

Scene 3:

Talking to Mrs. linville about this was…interesting. We began the discussion pessimistically; after all, we are trying to raise support for missions! Every spare dime already has a destination! When we started talking we agreed to give Mekhi half of what he needed, but as we talked more and more, the amount quickly went lower and lower, until suddenly we couldn’t help him at all. God began pricking my heart again; this was wrong. I suggested that we take some time to pray alone and reconvene.

What a difference the Lord makes! When we came back together our hearts had completely changed! Where there was apprehension before, there was conviction after; in the place of stinginess, there was generosity! Fearfulness was replaced with cheerfulness, and frustration with joy! God was giving us the grace to give! But it didn’t end there. After we were settled on giving, the Lord laid another task upon our hearts: we needed to share the gospel.

…To be continued in Act 3
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linvilles in Love with m&ms, Act 1

What follows is an on going story. Please read this previous post before continuing if you haven’t already:

The Intro

Act 1

Scene 1:

Some people can break one law and have to pay it for the rest of their lives. Some people can break hundreds of laws everyday and just walk away. Mekhi was the latter. Despite getting caught up in a bad way with a rough crowd, Mekhi was able to keep his record relatively clean; clean enough to get a good job as a correctional officer here in Raleigh, NC.  Now he had a good roof over his family’s head and he was bringing home the bacon with a respectable career. Mekhi was even pleased to meet some neighbors who lived around him and, even though they seemed a little weird, he could tell that they were harmless.

Yes, their new home was definitely nothing like Atlanta, but with everything falling into place, being here just felt right; and then it happened.

Scene 2:

Mrs. linville and I were in a dead sleep when we heard it: a blood curdling cry. I opened my eyes to see red and blue lights flashing against the blinds, but no sirens. Another unrestrained scream. It had to be around 1 or 2am. Another long mournful cry. It was coming from the stairwell right beside us. More crying. I heard the static of a police officer’s radio through the wall. Someone was talking to the woman crying. We didn’t know who it was, but we prayed for her. The sobbing erupted into another vocal chord ripping scream that became a cry which ended in a chocked out moan and within the moan we heard words. Horrible words.

“No, no, noooo, no, no, no…”
“Not my baby, NO! Not my baby!”

Another blood curdling cry.

Scene 3:

We couldn’t get any details until 2 days later when I happened to be out in the hall as Mekhi emerged from his Apartment in a daze. He shared with me what happened in broken sentences and random pauses wherein he seemed to see something invisible far away that would steal his attention. Hope was gone. The police investigation concluded that she passed away from S.I.D.S. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Mid-Sentence he turned and shuffled out the door, still talking.

After sharing this with Mrs. linville and praying, we began to feel from the Lord a powerful compassion to serve them in whatever capacity we could. We made sure to be at Hope’s funeral to reflect His love.

Scene 4:

We learned later that the ordeal had rocked M&M so violently that it cost them their mental stability for several weeks. Having nothing to turn to they sometimes resorted to drowning their sorrows in booze, a pursuit which almost killed Melanie when, crazed, drunk and distraught, she leapt from their car while Mekhi was driving. Although bruised and bleeding, she survived! Mekhi also suffered from a bad emotional roller coaster that alcohol only made worse, leading him and Melanie into several fights that ended violently, something we were totally unaware of until one fight spilled right into our apartment. That was a rough night. The doorbell rang at around 11pm. Our hearts broke when we saw Melanie, trembling and bleeding out of her left eye with Kayla huddled by her side. Mekhi was close behind, bleeding from his arm and yelling. The tension was almost tangible, but God is always greater. We got them separated and spoke with Melanie. After hearing her side of the story I went and spoke with Mekhi. We labored in prayer for them to know His love.

In the end, Melanie threatened to leave Mekhi. He said the right things to convince her to stay; but try as they might to make things right, an even greater challenge awaited.

…To be continued in Act 2

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linvilles in Love with cheerful giving

On the sidebar to your right, you will notice a convenient PayPal “donate” button that you may use to give us money. Why should you be so generous? Because we see this everyday and we want to end it:

Nope. He's not trying to give me money.

Nope. He’s not trying to give me money.

If we don't reach out, she reaches in!

If we don’t reach out, she reaches in!

What would you do if she were your grandmother?

How long can you look into her eyes without feeling?

…But who are these people?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” …“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? ’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:31-33; 41-46, ESV.

They are the least of these. In their own way, they are emissaries of my King, and as I do unto them, so I do unto my Lord!

However, notice what the verse above does not say: it does not say “give money;” but perhaps Jesus addressed that here:

“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:40-42, ESV, emphasis mine

I think it’s purposefully vague and therefore meant to be more encompassing than not, so yeah, Jesus knew we’d be faced with opportunities to give money and wanted us to take those opportunities to love others.

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’—when you already have it with you.” Proverbs 3:27-28, ESV

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18, ESV

To be clear, the Apostle John is teaching that we not love in word or talk ONLY, but ALSO in deed and in truth. If there’s no verbal Christian witness behind my generosity then I get the glory for my good actions instead of God, and I want God to get all the glory.

When my generosity is empowered by the joy of the Lord and established in the promises of Christ, I ALWAYS have something to give, even if I have no money on me:

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” Acts 3:1-8, ESV, emphasis mine

And this is the point:

I shouldn’t give as the world gives!

To bring this around full circle: Christ calls me to do more than just give money:

He calls me EAT with the poor; welcome the stranger into my home; CLOTHE the naked; and VISIT the sick and imprisoned! What’s terrifying is that Matthew 25 explicitly describes these behaviors as evidences of salvation!

Let that sink in a minute. Now rejoice with me for our Savior Jesus Christ!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV

Rejoice! God’s worked this out. When I don’t have the ability (or time) to break bread and dress up naked, sick, or imprisoned strangers, it’s okay. God knows. What’s important is my heart. Do I care about the least of these? Am I planning ahead to make time to serve them?

Here’s my confession: I don’t.

I don’t care about the least of these – especially not the way Christ cares for them. Those pictures above were not taken so I could share them with you. I took those pictures because it makes [most] of the least of these go away. Here’s the usual response:

Can you love him?

Can you love him?

It might be hard to tell, but the tall man was upset with me for getting my camera out. What’s easier to see is the shame/resignation in the smaller man’s downcast eyes. They were not feeling loved, and I didn’t love them–but I gave them money.

And this has been one of the most transformative realizations that I’ve ever had about giving:

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

After my field supervisor shared this with me, I wrote it on our refrigerator. I read that sentence everyday, and God used those words to change me. If I want to love and I want to give out of love, then I must give. What must I give?

Myself.

Money is the bunny slope of generosity. Since it’s just a means to an end, money is a 3rd party, distant, and cold gesture of pity. The lost and starving least of these in South Asia don’t need money. They need love. They need love to feed them, give them drink, invite them in, clothe them, and visit them in their distress.

Money is a curse when I use it as a shield. Money is a blessing when I use it as a sword.

Shield money is defensive, unproductive, and passive. Sword money is offensive, progressive, proactive, and intentional.

Here’s where you come in.

1. Pray for me and my family. We must be love to the least of these. We need Jesus to show us how we too were poor, blind, and naked before he saved us. In this we can relate to every broken person we meet: we’re all equally hopeless without Jesus!

2. Donate to our ministry. Yes, we need your money, but it’s not to buy name brand caffeine or kick-starter gadgets. I’ve even been rebuked and corrected for my Romans 13:8 blunder – so it’s not even to help us pay down my student loan debt. When you donate, you decide how we pay it forward. If you don’t specify, we’ll use your benevolence to FEED, INVITE, CLOTHE, & VISIT. Otherwise, here’s what’s going on:

The Deep Tube Well Project!

A tube well is like sticking a straw into the earth. The straw is PVC piping and the depth is between 800 and 1,000 feet! The wells need to be this deep to avoid the arsenic deposits that are present between 100 and 700 feet. We’re hoping to donate ten deep tube wells to villages in the southern division of the country. We’ve completed seven, and already a few have broken.

Student loans are a nightmare, but it is the only debt we have. At the time of this update (Feb 12, 2015), it amounts to $20,580.14 and it grows about $2.30 per day, but we’re currently only able to put $5 per day ($1,825/year) toward it. If you have experience in financial counseling, we’d appreciate any help you can offer, just leave a comment so we can connect with you. If you can afford to send some money our way, we would be incredibly grateful! If you understand the horrific burden of this type of debt, then please pray for us!

Helping us eliminate this debt is giving to missions.

We earnestly desire to conform to Romans 13:8 and we believe that this is the only stipulation given in Scripture for NOT giving! We must pay off those who already have a legal claim on our income before we can do anything else. Therefore, if you are in debt, don’t give to us! Get out of debt first, then stay our of debt! I definitely need to write a whole post on this, and if you disagree, please explain why in the comments (it will enrich the aforementioned upcoming post)! In short, the faster we get out of debt, the quicker we will be free to begin wisely lifting up the financially destitute multitudes around us in the name of Jesus. But how will we do that? Freeing up $5/day doesn’t seem like much lifting power. Wrong.

Five dollars a day can make a huge difference.

Since moving overseas, we’ve learned that our charity should never pass directly from us to the poor, but should always go to them through the local church; and only AFTER we’ve prayed, shared our specific intentions with our stateside home church and church partners, prayed again, and shared our intentions with the local pastor here. Using this accountability,

  • we are able to receive wisdom several times over before giving anything,
  • we engage more of the Body of Christ in our work,
  • we shower the giving in prayer,
  • we submit ourselves to the local church to encourage its authority in Christ, and
  • we then give to the local church.

Giving to the poor through the existing local church here affirms that the local church is the vehicle for administering God’s love; not us outsiders. Your donations will be used to open doors, and through those doors we will walk, and everywhere we walk we preach Christ.

Categories: linvilles in fellowship, linvilles in giving, linvilles in life, linvilles in prayer, linvilles in scripture, linvilles in sharing the gospel | Leave a comment

linvilles in Love with failure

To all of those who faithfully remembered us in prayer: thank you.

To all of those who sacrificially gave to us: thank you.

To all of those who loved us enough to regularly engage us in soul strengthening dialogue (late into the night): thank you.

To all of these we pray: may God overwhelm you with His blessed presence and Love. We certainly felt God’s Love through you!

But what follows is not happy or pleasant, but quite difficult to disclose. I pray that God would be glorified in the disclosure.

The linville(s) are not going to 中国/中华 China.

I take responsibility for this.

I learned about the trip through our church in August and I decided then and there that we would go. I prayed about it afterwards, but not initially and not with my wife. In that alone, I greatly dishonored God and failed my wife, but there is more.

Not only did I “prayerfully” pursue this in my own strength, but I continually forgot to include my wife.

In the Bible, 1 Peter 3:7 says, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” (ESV). The NIV, which translates more idiomatically, says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives.”

In this I greatly failed. I know my bride. I know how she thinks and how much she appreciates having a few days to consider things before acting on them. How, if she’s forced into making a decision, it will constantly nag at her because she hasn’t spent the time she needs to think about it and pray through it for herself.

As August passed by with its many blessings and trials, we entered September which was when we were to meet with pastor Travis who leads our church in missions. I had forgotten about this meeting and was reminded by Heather, Travis’s secretary, the day before. That’s when I told my bride about the trip for the first time.

We prayed about it then. We prayed about it before the meeting. That was it. God, in His infinite power and mercy, gave my wife peace about going. Excitement even. He had given me a second chance to be proactive. Again, I blew it.

“But how!?” you might be thinking, “now she knows!”

This time I blew it by failing to lead my family. After that first meeting, we got home spiritually charged and ready, but emotional highs are fleeting and easily thwarted. Life distracted me. I distracted me. If anyone has ever tried to raise support before, you know how proactive you must be, and I was not being proactive.

In the end, Mrs. linville had to do it, and she did it out of desperation. She did it because the due date for our first $500 was in a week and I still hadn’t sent anything out. You ask, “what were you thinking? That the money would just appear?” I wish I could say even that! Even that would be better than what I must confess!

The problem was that I wasn’t thinking about China at all! The need to raise support had completely fallen off my radar! I have no excuse for this. I was completely irresponsible to prayerfully lead my wife and raise support.

Nevertheless, I was stubborn. After sending out the support email, we still had to turn in the $500 support to the church. Instead of backing out immediately, I thought (I stated thinking again!) God might still work a miracle. Therefore, I wrote a check for $400 (everything in our account) and turned it in, thinking that God just needed to see our faith in Him and He’d provide.

Again, 1 Peter 3:7; I failed to be considerate of my wife. Now, I did this with her consent, she knew that God could provide, but I did not do this with her. Instead of walking down the road of life hand in hand, I had thrown my bride over my shoulder and was running around blindfolded. She did not appreciate that.

If that weren’t enough, all this came out the weekend of our interviews with the International Mission Board, to be considered for full time vocational missionary service! We were running late, trying to get ready, and it felt like there was a wall between us.

It got to a place where I had to call a time-out. Something was wrong and everything needed to stop until it was made right. Seeing this opportunity, my wife poured out her heart to me. Through tears she shared how my actions (and lack thereof) had greatly hurt her. She felt trapped and she felt no peace about going China.

Broken at really seeing my wife’s pain, I realized how stupid I had been. I could finally think clearly. We didn’t need to go to China; not on this trip. Holding my bride, we talked and agreed together that we should back out. Immediately, a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I could tell that my wife felt the same way.

The atmosphere of the entire evening changed from a cold lonely stiffness to a warm inviting embrace. There’s no situation that God can’t use or overcome to get glory for His name. I write about my failure to magnify God’s success. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). He is always the hero and I rejoice that He saves my family from my failure.

Now, when I recall my epic failure, I see God’s love and I can be in Love with it. So, here’s to God’s great mercy in not only forgiving us for our failures, but also using our failures to move us into a deeper relationship with Him!

in Love

the linville(s)

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linvilles in Love with loss

So much has happened in the past month to destroy us, our marriage, and our faith. Through it all, God prevails.

It started with a hurricane. Thankfully, hurricane Irene shot further north at the last second, so its real destructive force missed us, but was now aimed directly at where my dad lives, in Virginia Beach, VA.

He called me on Friday needing somewhere to evacuate to. Our place was perfect, being safely far enough and geographically close enough to his place. The only problem was that my wife wasn’t feeling well and her ailments seemed to be related to the pregnancy.

The plan was for dad to leave Virginia Beach on Saturday morning at around 6:00am, and arrive at our home around 9:30-10:00am. I’d be at work until 2:00pm. That’s not what happened.

Mrs. linville woke me up at around 2:20am in extreme pain. She was bleeding heavily. I called my Aunt Sandy who had been through a miscarriage. She also just so happened to be married to a doctor, and the man who had delivered five of their six children at home, my Uncle Tim.

They comforted us well, provided us with things to expect, and assured us that, based on my wife’s symptoms, there was presently no need to go to the hospital. I was relieved to hear that for Mrs. linville’s sake, as well as for the sake of our finances because we have no health insurance. The morning crept on. Mrs. linville struggled through the pain. I emailed my boss telling him that I would not be coming into work that day.

More than anything else I did, staying home to simply be near my wife did more for her than the strongest of pain pills. I can grasp that now, but at the time I wanted something tangible to fix. Something objective to deal with. So I did research on my bride’s symptoms, which kept me busy enough to satisfy my growing sense of helplessness as my wife suffered before my eyes.

Her pain came in waves. She was so exhausted that during the down times she would pass out asleep. I held her hand and prayed. A part of me felt that this simple task benefited her in no way; that praying for her was more about making me feel better. Amazingly, God had prepared me for just such a moment. Only 2 days ago I had participated in a men’s Bible Study that specifically dealt with whether or not our prayers actually affect change. I learned in preparing for this study and during this study that the Bible speaks very plainly about how our prayers certainly do affect change in the world (Matthew 6:10), in the lives of others (John 17:9), and in our own hearts (Philippians 4:6-7).

Recalling these words of Scripture was like being filled with living light. The hope that accompanied them was so needed and delightful. I may be helpless, but God is ever helpful and able to intervene (Ephesians 3:20).

So my prayers continued on earnestly. The morning finally blew in, Mrs. linville seemed to be in amiable spirits, and my dad arrived. We enjoyed the McDonalds breakfast he brought us and then the power went out. Somewhat surprised, we looked out our 15ft windows to see nothing but a windy day. Why had we lost power? There were obviously innumerable reasons, but my frustration robbed me of such helpful logic.

It was nice having Dad safe with us, even though his chosen refuge now proved somewhat lacking. The Smith(s) joined us with some snacks and games shortly after the black out. We played Apples to Apples, my wife answered the phone (many called to check on her) until it died, and everyone enjoyed the deep leisurely conversation that stems from having nothing but conversation to pass the time. Initially, it was wonderful. Eventually, it was not. If electricity were a drug, then we were addicts, and our addiction led us to abandon our place for another.

As the night approached our powerless palace, we called up the Hilliard(s). Always ready to serve, they unhesitatingly welcomed us over. The Smith(s) and the linville(s) (including my dad), headed over for a fun night of food and fellowship. Claire made a delicious meal for everyone and we all had a splendid time playing Dicecapades. By 11:30pm the air outside had cooled down, we bid farewell to our hospitable Hilliard(s) and headed home.

The night passed restlessly. The windows had remained opened all day, even while it rained; and as the sun set, the temperature dropped, and the wind blew, I awoke with yet another frustration. I could barely swallow. My throat was sore and swollen. Yippee.

Thankfully, no one else had suffered likewise. At least, not as far as I could tell. My Dad had been unable to sleep, so he packed up and headed home very early that morning. When he arrived, everything about his place was fine, even the power. The eye of the hurricane went directly over his condo, and he had power. I’m not bitter.

We skipped church since my bride was still experiencing some relatively serious pain and I was now sick. Unable to really prepare any food, we rested around the apartment until our hunger moved us. Craving breakfast food, we visited the new Waffle House in Wake Forest for lunch. Delicious.

Not wanting to return to our uncooled dwelling during the hottest part of the day, we ventured forth to public places with AC, namely, the Triangle Town Center Mall. We tried to walk around, but that proved to be unhelpful for my wife. So, we sat around, got some Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones, watched people, laughed, and headed home.

We host one of the many small groups that make up Treasuring Christ Church. Even if we don’t make it to church, we always try to keep our home available as a meeting place. Thus, we headed home to get everything ready for the evening. It was only after we had cleaned up that we remembered that everyone was meeting at Joyner Park. We were okay with that. It’s always nice having a clean home, especially when no one is feeling well.

Checking the cooler that was preserving our perishables, we realized that we needed to find a working refrigerator fast. The Hilliard(s) were happy to oblige, and, before I hung up, I remembered to inquire for the Smith(s) as well. After speaking with the Smith(s) I called the Hilliard(s) back to inform them of Ross’s desire to prepare them dinner with some chicken he needed to cook. The Hilliard(s) were delighted and we all headed over…again.

Desiring to increase my cooking skills, I helped Ross prepare the chicken. I’d never before taken a whole chicken apart and took this opportunity to let loose my inner butcher. It was fun, albeit messy. Ross took over once the dirty work was done and seasoned away, creating an incredible gastronomical masterpiece out of some rather poorly butchered poultry. The final result was scrumptious.

Hunger temporarily assuaged, the Smith(s) took to studying and everyone else took to watching Tim Burton’s movie: Corpse Bride. I’d already seen it and consequentially spaced out through it, thinking about whether to take the Hilliard(s) up on their offer to stay the night, or deal with another muggy night at home. If my wife was suffering, she hid it flawlessly; so I was planning on going to work the next day and knew it would be more convenient to do so from my own dwelling. But, I also knew that I’d get a better night’s sleep in the Hilliard(s) artificial atmosphere. Twas a pickle.

Fortunately for me, the pickle was eaten, for shortly after Corpse Bride, our power returned. Yay! Getting ready for work would be so much easier now! So, with a final farewell from our hilarious Hilliard(s), we returned to our wonderfully wired homes. Everything seemed to indicate that this ordeal was over, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

At first, Mrs. linville sounded as though she were far, far away, down a long tunnel. Something about her voice was wrong. Danger! My tired exhausted mind dropped a huge dose of adrenaline into my system. My hearing sharpened. I jerked upright, taking in a huge breath. Reaching out to find her in the darkness, it felt like my hand passed right through her since I had aimed in the direction of her voice. Then I realized I had reached over her, seeing now that she was doubled over on the bed.

Danger! My heart was racing. I began to ask her if she was okay when I was suddenly interrupted by a heart shattering sob. She rocked back and forth weeping. I put my hand on her back to let her know I was awake and there for her. The next sob was worse, deeper, almost guttural, and much louder. It hit me that she’d been holding back to keep from waking me. My darling wife, suffering in the darkness in unimaginable pain, was still putting herself last.

I fought my own tears back. Controlled my voice. Spoke with assurance. I let her know that everything would be okay. I held her. But something was different. Saturday mornings episode seemed to be painful, but this seemed to be excruciating. Cold sweat covered her body. Tremors passed through her frequently. Her cries were like those of someone dying. My heart stopped. Was my bride going to die?

She seemed in a trance and I needed her to communicate with me. She spoke in short broken sentences, but she confirmed my initial thoughts immediately: that this was different from before. There was so much blood! It didn’t take long to see that she needed to go to the emergency room. The Cooper(s) lovingly agreed to sit in our place while baby linville slept (and to feed him once he awoke), so off we went.

My wife had delivered baby linville at Rex Hospital and her OB/GYN office was there, so that’s where we ended up. By this point it was 2:00am. Telling the attendant at the check in desk, a total stranger, that my wife was bleeding profusely and was probably having a miscarriage was harder than I thought. Saying those words hurt my heart. Everything became concrete, cold, and undeniable in hearing it. I had to accept this. I was not dreaming in a nightmare. I was living in one.

The nurse behind the desk assured me that she’d take care of my bride and that I should go park the car. When I returned my wife had been moved behind the ER doors and into a hallway. When the nurse buzzed the doors to open, I gasped. my wife’s head was completely back, eyes closed, lips pale blue, and beneath her wheelchair was a pool of blood. I’d only been four minutes! As calmly as I could I screamed, “Why is she still sitting here!?” The nurse came around to quiet me and assure me she’d be helped as soon as possible, but when she saw my wife, she quickly turned, muttering a surprised, “oh-my-gosh,” and hit a button. My wife was in a room in seconds.

What I didn’t realize was that “hitting the button” had a down side: you get the sleepy nurse who was just about to go home. It was good that Mrs. linville was finally on a bed and hooked up, but this nurse was so sleepy that she had to get two pairs of gloves three times (she kept dropping them). Furthermore, she seemed more put off by all the blood than I did, making Mrs. linville change twice before she realized, “oh, this girls just gonna keep making these gowns bloody.” When she knocked an entire tray of supplies over, I began to get a little frustrated.

Nevertheless, she was relieved shortly by someone on the other end of the spectrum, Julie (RN), who did a wonderful job taking care of my wife and getting her prepared for the doctor. Dr. Segal was also excellent: very forthright with us about what was happening to my wife, what it meant, and what our options were in proceeding. He gave us his professional opinion, but didn’t pressure us to do anything. In the end, we can look back and know that our decision was our decision.

As Mrs. linville was taken away for an ultrasound, my own emotional pain set in. “Still a family of three,” kept running through my mind, usually followed by a deafening ‘why!?’ despite my deeply rooted knowledge of God’s sovereignty. I’m amazed I didn’t pass out standing right there. I was sick, mind-numbingly exhausted, and spiritually spent. In short, my flesh had free reign over my soul, and by my sinful heart I was beaten down with every horrible thought imaginable. “You didn’t pay attention.” “You missed the signs.” “You could’ve prevented this.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re the worst husband ever.” “You failed your wife.” “You killed this baby.” “You’re such an idiot.” etc.

Well, I’m quite familiar with self abasement. Growing up believing that God only loved me when I did good things, I became oh so ever aware of my innumerable faults and endured years of self depreciating thoughts. As I studied the Bible and learned that I cannot be saved by good deeds but only by Christ, I was liberated from such thinking. I continue to battle these thoughts, but I have the grace of God to overcome them as I walk in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. At 2:30am, however, I wasn’t walking in His power. I was trying to sprint in my own, but I was falling. I mentally folded and I couldn’t  pray or recall Scripture. I just couldn’t fighting back, and that lead to a much more horrific train of thought.

“It’s her fault.” That was the next thing I thought. It entered my mind and it felt as though the lights dimmed and the temperature (which was already freezing) dropped. Inexplicably, despite my complete exhaustion, I found the energy to get angry. Anger towards her and towards God, filled me. But how could I be angry!? How, knowing my precious wife’s fight for life raged on in the next room!? How could I feel anything but worry and desperation for her life?! The answer was clear, for it hung over me. It was painful, dark, and demonic. I wanted to scream. I wanted to connect my fist with something. I wanted it to hurt. Any pain would be better than the pain I presently felt,  consuming me from within.

But I was too weak to even stand, let alone pick a fight with an inanimate object. I could barely hold in a deep breath, let alone scream. A migraine pounded away at my brain, a sore throat burned inside my neck, and my raging emotions were trapped within my breaking evil heart. No matter how great the emotions became, I couldn’t release them. My beloved wife was being ripped from me by anger, and I found myself being inexplicably tempted to be mad her. What!? Impossible!

My sweetheart, my bride, the woman I love more than my own life, was enduring unimaginable physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish! How could this temptation be!? What was its source!? I proclaim to all the world that I love my wife wholeheartedly and cannot even imagine being angry toward her! But there the temptation lurked! Darkness overshadowed me and I was powerless before it.

Then God stepped in.

Please forgive my crude comparison, but this is the best way that I can describe what happened next:

I was sitting in this cold room, still as a statue,  but with this chaotic angry temptation whirling inside me, when something that felt like a rolling pin rolled over my mind. The words I had been thinking to form these emotions disappeared. I couldn’t think in words. All I had were images and feelings. No words. My wife’s face was before me. The anger in me wanted her. My wife’s face turned apologetic, sad, tearful. The anger changed into pure grief, but the chaotic angry temptation held on.

Please note: I am describing existentially metaphysical concepts of feeling that are never as substantial as the conveyance of such into written form makes them. What I’ve written is but the brightest facet of said feelings and is by no means meant to perfectly or entirely depict what was felt. One thing must be clear: thanks to God’s intervention, I never hated my wife in this.

The migraine pounded, my throat burned, my body ached. I was so very tired. I could still feel the temptation: that I was about to think that hatred towards my innocent wife when it happened again!

My mind was touched and felt like it was being rolled over. I couldn’t think in words and this time all thoughts of my wife disappeared along with my ability to “see” images in my mind. Instantly, I was alone in a cold room, my mind silent and dark, with this incredible anger churning inside me. I wept. The pain had to go somewhere, so it came out my eyes in tears. But crying didn’t assuage the anger and it made my head feel like it was going to explode and restricted my sore throat even more.

“This is God’s fault” came the thought, but not in words, just in unspoken, unvisualized concepts. My evil heart was blaming God. Like attempting to hurt a brick wall with ones bare hands, I was trying to beat on Him. The futile effort made me even angrier, to the point of almost screaming out my indictments against the Almighty. The breath to do so filled my lungs, but fell short by the most amazing thing yet.

Another rolling pin. Another touch to my mind. But this one was different. When it hit me I gasped; both hands flew up to my head. For a moment I couldn’t tell if I was experiencing incredible pain or incredible relief. As my anger inexplicably faded, as the migraine disappeared, as the sore throat vanished, the relief was obvious; but this was a secondary thing.

I didn’t notice these physical reliefs until later. What I noticed first was God’s overwhelming love. It filled me and pushed everything else away. I was loved! In the midst of this anguish, I was not alone! The emotional and spiritual relief was far more satisfying than anything else. Images of my wonderful loving wife filled my mind, untainted by the rage that oppressed me only moments before. I loved her with God right there, and prayed that she too would have this peace that cascaded over me.

Words of thanksgiving and praises to God flowed through my thoughts. It was while praying and thanking God, and thinking of things to thank Him for, that I realized my physical relief. I sat in that cold room, warmed by God’s presence and care, fully aware that I had done nothing to deserve this, in fact, I had done everything to deserve the opposite. So I sat and waited for Mrs. linville in the bliss of my heavenly Father’s mercy.

The ultra sound confirmed what we already knew: that little Linville was with Jesus. Dr. Segal explained to us my wife’s unique situation, which was that her body wouldn’t pass the tissue naturally due to the uterine septum. He therefore advised us that the best course of action was for my wife to get a D and C (dilation and curettage). They left us to talk it over. After considering the pros and cons, we decided that the safest thing for my wife was to get everything cleared out now.

As they moved Mrs. linville to surgery, I followed closely behind, offering words of comfort. With a final kiss, they took her away from me again. The difference in how I felt this time compared to how I felt when they had taken her for the ultrasound was incredible. This time I was filled with the peace that passes all understanding, for my heart and mind were being guarded in Christ Jesus. In the surgery waiting room I prayed for my wife until I passed out asleep. The next thing I saw was Dr. Segal. Like a caring father he gently woke me up and patiently waited while I got my bearings. He then explained to me that everything had gone perfectly and that we had made the right choice to go with the D & C. That was comforting. Shortly thereafter I was taken to see my wife in the post-op recovery room.

When the nurse pulled back the dividing curtain, there sat the love of my life, my wonderful wife: the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She would’ve described herself as showcasing the “just hit by a train” look, but nothing could change my mind. My wife was alive and giving me the most welcoming smile and she was absolutely beautiful. Hugging her gently took a tremendous effort. I just wanted to hold her.

It was all downhill from there. A nurse sent me for the car and we made it home alright. It had been the longest eight hours of my life, but it was over, and, in the midst of it, God had richly lavished His blessings over me, and He wasn’t finished.

Later we learned that Rex Hospital has a benevolence fund for the uninsured and that Mrs. linville’s pregnancy medicaid might also cover the expenses retroactively. Furthermore, we received so much love and support from Treasuring Christ Church that my wife was able to truly rest and heal and grieve (as was I).

I know it’s not over. The loss is ours forever, but we do not bear it alone; we bear it in God, who is love.

So, we are the linvilles, and we are in Love with loss.

Categories: linvilles in fellowship, linvilles in giving, linvilles in life, linvilles in scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

linvilles in Love with tom

Last Thursday, Ross and I met Tom. He is first mentioned in linvilles in Love with new friends (3rd paragraph). We met Tom in Raleigh, on the corner of Durant Rd. and Capital Blvd. He was just walking along when I saw him, and then the Holy Spirit moved me: “Yeah, get him” was the impression I got. I told Ross to get his attention and see if he wanted a ride. He certainly did.

I will not put a picture of Tom up, but he’s a good looking guy of 24 years; very friendly southern drawl that bespeaks of intelligence, despite expletives. He was so nicely dressed that one could’ve thought him just another extremely environmentally conscious fellow walking to work, if not for the bags he carried. He unhesitatingly jumped into the car with a big smile and an unapologetic openness in expressing what he needed.

Tom wanted us to take him south. Our destination was north. We went south, but not as far as he wanted. Veder (1995 Volvo station wagon) is no longer a long distance kind of car. Tom was good at small talk. He told us about the hard times he’d been experiencing: getting kicked out by his mom, getting in with a bad crowd, getting a DUI, losing his driver’s license; with no explanation for why he was kicked out by his mom to begin with.

We dropped him off at the bus station in the Triangle Town Center Mall’s outer loop. On the way, we attempted to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He thwarted this with a plethora of exclamations that he was indeed a “born again Christian,” which clearly contradicted the lifestyle he had just described; but that didn’t seem to bother him as he now divulged to us his abounding Christian devotion. We parted ways after exchanging cell phone numbers. Yes, he had a cell phone.

Working with homeless people in the past, and knowing how they can often just disappear, I assumed that this would be the last time I would see Tom. It wasn’t.

Driving home from work on Monday, I received a call. The caller ID read “Tom” so I answered: “(Hello, this is Mr. linville.)” Silence. “(Mr. linville here, is anyone there?)”

(~Side note: Ross told me that since I’m recalling this dialog from memory, I should use “(…)” instead of just “…” ~)

“(Uh, is Mr. linville there?)” came the response.

“(Yes, this is Mr. linville. Who is this?)” A car honked on the other end.

“(Hey, I need to speak to Mr. linville. Is this Mr. linville’s phone?)”

“(Yes, it is, and this is Mr. linville speaking.)”

“(Dude, it’s Tom. Hey, I’m sorry to bother ya, but I’m not gonna lie, I need some help.)”

“(Sure thing, man. How can I help?)”

“(Well, I’m here off Capital Blvd., man, at the Walgreens across from the Crystal Palace, you know. I need some money to find a place to sleep tonight, man. If you could just spare $20 bucks that’s all I would need, man. I’m just here off Capital, you know. Are you close to here? I’m being honest, man, $20 bucks would help so much. Dude, Mr. linville, man, could you please help me out?)”

“(Not really Tom. I’m already way north of where you are, and I don’t hand out cash.)”

“(Ah, man, that’s okay dude. I’ll be honest with you, man, I’m just glad you answered. People aren’t honest anymore. They say they’ll answer, but they don’t. My mom doesn’t answer. My dad doesn’t answer, you know. People lie. But I won’t lie to you, man. If you got $10 bucks, that would be helpful too, you know? You’re a Christian dude. I need to be around someone like you who’s honest. I know you’re honest cuz you’re a Christian. You don’t even have $10 bucks?)”

“(Nope.)”

“(Yeah, okay, yeah. Thanks man.)” *click*

I wanted that to be the end. I wanted to drive home, change clothes, eat dinner, and relax with Mrs. linville. I wanted to get a good nights sleep for work the next day. I wanted to forget about Tom. Ignore his need. Close my eyes to the figure hiding in the bushes trying to sleep. Pretend he’s unafraid of bugs, and snakes, and thieves, and death. I wanted to just let him disappear. God wouldn’t let me.

Then the King [Jesus] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt. 25:34-40, ESV

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matt. 5:38-42, ESV

Such verses flooded my mind. I had to pray. Pray for wisdom regarding what I could do. Pray for peace regarding what I was going to do. I called Mrs. linville. She was amazing. Her faith in God and readiness to serve in whatever way possible astounded me. We prayed together. It was good. I called Tom:

“(Hey Tom. Mrs. linville and I just talked. If you’d like a warm meal and a place to lay your head tonight, we’d be honored if you would stay at our place. The only exception is that you will have to be ready to leave with me at 5:30am tomorrow morning when I go to work.)”

His response was one of pure gratitude. He knew exactly what buses to take to get to me. We agreed that when he arrived in Wake Forest, he would give me a call and I’d go pick him up. When the call came 2 hours later, he was still in Raleigh. He was at the Triangle Town Center’s outer loop bus stop where I had initially dropped him off last Thursday. Going and getting him without Ross just seemed wrong, so I called Ross up and together we headed out. This was not an easy decision on the Smith(s) part in light of an overdue date night they’d been planning. I thank the Smith(s) for their willingness to put others before themselves. They are so cool.

God rewards faithfulness. Before Ross and I had driven even one mile, Tom called. He had caught the Wake Forest bus and was right around the corner. We made it back in less than 10 minutes. Ross and Sarah got to go on their date AND be a part of God’s work in Tom’s life. God is so gracious!

As Tom walked toward us from the bus stop, the first thing we noticed was that he had acquired a rolling suitcase (not a big one; but like a duffel bag with wheels). When he got in the car, we noticed more. Tom was totally drugged up. He immediately confessed that he was on Hydrocodon because of the pain in his hand, at which point we saw the stitches and the gash in his right hand. According to Tom, he was cut wrestling a knife away from a lady friend of his who was attempting to stab herself to end her life.

It was difficult to believe anything he said. His eyes were glazed over and droopy with dark circles beneath. He was fidgety and quietly chuckled to himself as he attempted to communicate. These attempts failed. He repeated random things he had already told us all the way home. Getting a little unnerved, I confronted him for an explanation about his behavior. He was unable to give me a straight answer about anything. Except that I could trust him; he prefaced almost every sentence with “I’ll be honest with ya, man,” or “I won’t lie to ya, man.” That made trusting him difficult.

Sitting in the car beside Ross, I began to struggle. Twisting around to look this guy in the eye, it felt like my spirit was also being twisted. Mentally, I began to doubt this decision. I began to believe that Tom’s choice to get this way exempted him from mercy. What if this guy snapped? What if he killed all of us as we slept? What is he carrying in those bags? What am I about to allow into my home? Drugs? Needles? Knives? Guns? Bombs? Anthrax?
(~Side note: like you, this was my FIRST thought when considering the repercussions of taking Tom in; but God gave me peace about it. My selfishness, however, never stopped screaming against it and as my fears grew, my focus on God slipped. When God falls out of focus, the world becomes a terrifying place, and I was becoming terrified.~)

I had to pray. Silently, staring at Tom, I begged God for help. God responded immediately. Before my eyes, Tom transformed. I no longer saw a sad, broken, bleeding, and untrustworthy thief. In my back seat sat Jesus Christ. However you want to take that, there he sat. No, I didn’t see Christ’s face in place of Tom’s, but Christ veiled Tom so as to powerfully remind me that I was safe. My family was safe. Ross and I, and our families, we are almighty God’s; of whom shall we be afraid? Of none.

Tom slept like a baby. Better than a baby. Mrs. linville fixed us a delicious meal, lovingly prepared Tom’s bed, and truly made him feel like a part of the family, which he expressed to me later. Joining us in family devotions, Tom was zealous and enthusiastic about the sonship promised to the followers of Christ. When he heard Ephesians 1:5-6, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved,” he freaked out at Christ being called the Beloved. He designed a tattoo for it and designated the entirety of his right forearm to it on the spot. I had never really meditated on Christ as being the Beloved. Tom’s observation was a blessing.

The morning had to come. Tom and I enjoyed some scrambled eggs and toasted bagels with orange juice. My heart ached at the possibility of putting him back on the street. After a night of eating together, singing together, and sharing together, I new – at least in part – that my previous fears were unwarranted. Tom very easily could’ve been me, if my life had happened to him, and I would’ve definitely been him, if his life had happened to me. The saying is horribly true: that we fear the unknown. Oh, how we fear it. I thank God, who knows all things, that he comforted me and overcame my fears.

5:20am and back in the car, Tom was a different person. Aware, lucid, and scared, he spoke clearly and intelligibly, the way he did when we first met. As we drove south, to Lake Boone Trail, he expressed true conviction over his sins. He told me things that would’ve made me pull over and kick him out. He looked to me for hope. I hesitated, still processing what he had shared. That’s all his doubt needed. He wept, certain that he had ruined his chances at ever knowing God. Recovering, I had to almost scream his name three times to get him back. He was upset. Totally sure of his conclusion. Resigned to his damnation, what more could I possibly know that could comfort?

I shared with him what God wanted. I shared with him God’s standard, which Tom totally understood in light of seeing the clarity of his sin. God wants holiness. God’s standard is his own holiness. Nothing less can save. I told Tom that this meant that all people were hopeless. The most benevolent man in the world could not give enough to please God. I saw something click in Tom’s eyes. The Spirit was giving him understanding. He said, (“That’s why we need Jesus!)” and I was able to tell him what he had heard all his life, but this time with ears that hear.

For Tom, there was no need to repeat a prayer after me. There was no canned incantation recited. God was after Tom, just as I saw last Thursday. Tom’s salvation was happening, one day at a time, and spiritually, he was soaring. Physically, however, he was sinking like a stone. He had not slept well due to the pain in his hand for five days. I prayed again about what I could do. The Lord laid on my heart the story of the good Samaritan. I then prayed for peace about what I was going to do.

Only two miles from where I worked, there is a Ramada Inn. I checked Tom in at 6:00am and he could stay there all day and into the next day until 12:00pm. We found his room and got him settled. I gave him some Scripture to read and think about, prayed for him, and said goodbye.

This story enabled me to share my faith with three co-workers that day. With one I was even able to share a little bit of the gospel. I prayed earnestly that Tom was using this time wisely. When I checked my cell phone, I had 2 messages from Tom. Listening to them made me smile. He had slept well after I dropped him off. He said that when he awoke, he jumped into the Bible and now had too many questions to leave on a voice mail. He had watched the 700 Club on TV, which got him thinking about the judgement day, and then Raleigh, NC felt the tremors from Mineral, Virginia’s 5.8 earthquake. He was sure it was the end of the world.

After work I went back to check on him before heading home. He met me in the hall, too excited to wait for me to take 10 more steps. The barrage of questions was hard to keep up with. We examined passages together until his questions dwindled. I walked him through Matthew 24, emphasizing that the sign of famines and earthquakes was but the beginning of the end. He was glad there was still time to talk to his family about God! He ran, got his phone, went to the hotel’s phone, read and dialed a number, and handed it to me. “(What’s going on?)” I asked. “(Tell my brother about Jesus.)” he said. “(Oh, and that I didn’t sell cocaine to get this room.)” I couldn’t help but chuckle at the proximity of those two requests.

His brother didn’t answer the phone, so I left him a message explaining how Tom didn’t sell cocaine to get the room, but how God had put him there through me because of His love for Tom. It didn’t feel right to go much further than that on a voice mail, so I hung up. Tom was overjoyed. We looked over a few more scriptures about God’s provision and power and then, at Tom’s request, bowed down together and prayed. Tom’s prayer was totally selfless. He asked that God would take care of my family, bless us, keep us healthy, grow Judah up strong, and let the new baby be born healthy. I felt so honored to be a part of this.

After leaving Tom to let him get some sleep, I felt so full of the Spirit. Getting to share this, getting to tell of God’s work in Tom’s life, has been such a tremendous privilege. Nevertheless, even after experiencing all that, my fearful flesh creeped in. The next day I began to worry that Tom would not check out at 12:00pm and I’d get billed for another day. I began to worry that Tom had rented a bunch of movie’s through the hotel, had ordered room service and booze, and had run up a huge tab. My fears grew so much that I called the hotel to double check. Tom had done no such thing. In fact, Tom had checked out at 9:00am. He was gone.

I called his cell phone several times to see how he was doing, where he was going, but he never answered. As I pray for him, I am given peace that he’s walking with God. I have confidence that I’ll see him again, whether because he’s failed or succeeded, I don’t care. We are all wrecks. We all need God; and all who walk with Him succeed. I look forward to reuniting with Tom someday; though if it’s not here below, then I pray it’s up above.

in Love,

the linvilles

(thanks for reading this crazy long post)

Categories: linvilles in giving, linvilles in life, linvilles in prayer, linvilles in scripture, linvilles in sharing the gospel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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