Posts Tagged With: fear

linvilles in Love with m&ms, Act 3

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

Act 3

Scene 1:

I know the gospel and I know how to share it with others, but doing so has always been nerve wracking for me, until that moment. On that day the Lord began taking away my fear of others and of what they might think of me, beginning His process of freeing me to fully enjoy the privilege of sharing Him with the world!

So, with my new found freedom, I walked across the hall.

Scene 2:

Mekhi answered his door and, upon my request, followed me into our apartment. On the way, I told him that we were going to help financially, but only if he allowed me to share the gospel with him. Somewhat bemused, he agreed. We sat down at the dining room table to begin.

Feeling prompted by the Lord, I prefaced with a most important clarification: that Mrs. linville and I were not good people, and this financial act of benevolence didn’t affect that. Only Christ is good and all goodness comes from Him and from being in Him.

He was confused. Good. That’s honesty.

With that unintentional introduction, the Lord had led me to express our depravity which logically requires an explanation of original sin! Praise God, He really does give us the words to say! This lead into God’s justice in forgiving sin while remaining just: the necessity for Christ’s deity, incarnation, personal perfection, wrongful condemnation, prophetic crucifixion, atoning expiration, redeeming resurrection, and miraculous ascension!

Such topics were not expressed so tersely to him; although, God did drastically limit my propensity to proliferate verbiage. Yes, He did! It happened!

Scene 3:

Mekhi didn’t break eye contact with me once while I  shared with him, but I didn’t realize this until after his humble reception of our gift and departure. During the moments following, I felt confident that something substantial had really gotten through to him. But how substantial?

The doorbell rang.

Mekhi entered holding a Bible, asking where he should start reading! All Glory to God! Having only moments before our Sunday night small group started shuffling in with the distracting aroma of food and the cacophony of children, we looked over John 1:1.

The experience was greater than any I have ever had. It was more than I would ever deserve. I was in awe, but this was nothing compared to the awe that I would know on the following night.

…To be continued in Act 4

Categories: linvilles in sharing the gospel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

linvilles in Love with discipline

All obedience is a gift. It is the gift of life.

Naturally, we have fear to thank for obedience. The father of fear could be called pain, but the concept of punishment works better in my opinion because punishment denotes negative causation for a conscious action. In short, pain can just happen, while punishment is something earned from a cognitive decision.

Therefore, punishment is the gift of life, usually, and most naturally, learned through pain. If I touch a red hot stove, I will learn to avoid red hot stoves thanks to the painful punishment of being burnt. If I eat spoiled meat, I will learn to avoid spoiled meat thanks to the painful reaction of my stomach. Punishment can also be received emotionally.  If I mock someone, I can learn to be more mindful of his feelings through the guilt born in me by his tears (or his fist). Finally, if I rebel against my father, I will learn to obey through his correcting discipline. This is the lesson all have been shown, but not all have learned.

Life has displayed this lesson to everyone. Cuts, bruises, burns and broken bones linger on as reminders to be careful, watch your step, look both ways, chew your food, etc. As I live, I learn to live less painfully, some might say because I’ve grown wiser, but the honest truth is that it’s because I’ve grown more fearful.

But why the negative connotation with being fearful? When did self-preservation become a point of weakness? I have no idea, but literature seems to paint it in a poor light … always. The Hero is the fearless one. The self-sacrificing one. The coward is … the one who tells his story. The survivor. Hmmm. Oh, but Mrs. Linville just made a great point. She defends the Hero as not being fearless, but an overcomer of fear, which is often perceived as fearlessness. Looking closely, I could even argue that the Hero overcomes whatever terrifying circumstances confront her because of something that she fears happening even more. Thinking about it, I see how fear could possibly be humanity’s greatest motivation for doing anything (Mrs. Linville: “yeah, good or bad”).

Nevertheless, the Bible clearly encourages being fearful. That is, being fearful of the most fearsome. God.

Deuteronomy 10:20 plainly says: “You shall fear the LORD your God.” Such verses span across all of Scripture. Why? Because God is terrifying. God is the enveloping definition of fear because God is absolute holiness. Entirely separated from what I instinctively desire; before God I would be utterly obliterated. Nevertheless, I am His, and He will have me in His presence. The only way that this is possible is for me to be perfect. I am light eons away from perfect. I need Jesus Christ. He is perfect. In fact, His perfection is God’s perfection. He is God. In Jesus Christ, I am saved … from Jesus Christ. He will judge the nations, meaning He will judge me. To stand before Him without Him, outside Him, against Him, is to know perfect fear. Perfect in the sense that it will be complete, whole, finished. There is no learning from this fear. It is the quintessence of finality.
God made a way for us to Himself in Jesus Christ. He is punishment’s remedy. In Him, no longer do my actions earn me death. In Him, I know joy in the presence of God. In Him, the presence of God is paradise.

The way is not easy. God is a loving Father, even to His most rebellious sons (including yours truly). For this reason, He punishes me. He appeals to the instinctive mechanism that moves me in the most primal way: towards the response of avoiding or pursuing. He disciplines because He loves.
Hebrews 12:7-11 is pretty clear about this, saying:

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

All obedience is a gift. It is the gift of life.

in Love

the linvilles

Categories: linvilles in life, linvilles in scripture, linvilles in sharing the gospel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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