Rediscovering the Heart of Mercy

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 104,335 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. We are only 665 away from our next goal . It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more updates about the new book. 

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+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor recently. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂

There will be some incredible interviews with veterans in this book. Up to twenty different veterans agreed to let me ask them some very personal questions. Some answers will have you in tears.  Some are actually humorous. 

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Glad to have back Linda Clare. She speaks from the heart, and sometime it is gut wrenching such as today’s post. Learn from a mother who has addicted children. 

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Rediscovering the Heart of Mercy

Linda S. Clare

When my son, who’s been a meth-addict most of his adult life, burst into the kitchen, the pot of water for spaghetti noodles was already at a rolling boil. He was boiling mad. Only a kitchen island lay between him and his younger and shirtless brother as they traded insults. The kitchen knives gleamed ominously in their block, as if waiting for one of the boys to snap. It was the hottest day of the year and the most violent behavior I’d ever witnessed from my meth-addicted son.

What they were fighting about, I didn’t know.

I kept my gaze on the boiling water, as my middle child threw food, shoved the toaster off the counter and ranted at his brother. We’d had trouble with fist fights before—mostly late at night when younger bro was drunk and his older sib was high—but this time was different. Meth can induce psychosis, but in the past, he’d always stopped short of attacking me. This time, if he pushed the pot of water off the burner, his brother and I would have serious burns. I prayed the knives would stay in their slots. I was petrified of my own son.

The cords of his neck bulged as he literally foamed at the mouth. We each told him to leave several times, but he wouldn’t back down as he screamed obscenities. No amount of pleading or negotiating seemed to help. My husband finally locked himself in the bathroom and called the sheriff. It was a pretty bad day.

For decades now, I’ve been astounding my friends and relatives by my repeated failures to use Tough Love effectively to drive my three grown sons to recovery. I know I can’t change their minds, and believe me, I’ve tried. Pros call me an enabler and codependent and it’s true. I can’t seem to “kick them out to the streets” so that they can hit bottom, any more than I can take my misbehaving pet to the pound. If I’m responsible for “crippling them” as one friend put it, I am guilty of lots of other no-nos too.

Part of my reasoning has always been that my addicts/alcoholics also have mental health issues, which complicates everything. But more importantly, until now their violence stayed in the realm of sibling rivalry. This time, psychosis and violence teamed up like the New Testament demon who caused that poor guy to fall into the fire. To keep calm, I tried to remember Bible verses.

Over and over again, Jesus asks us to love. To forgive seventy-times-seven. To turn the other cheek. Show mercy and we will receive mercy.  No condemnation. Love not punishment.

How do you show love, forgiveness, or mercy to someone who is psychotic? He wasn’t even making sense. He ran out as the law arrived.

The policeman who responded was courteous but emphatic. We were to toss both these guys out on their ears—today—and go to court for a restraining order in case they weren’t happy about leaving. The cop advised my husband and I to go live our lives and to let our sons go work on their problems any way they could.

I objected, citing their clear need for mental health services, next to impossible to get without a pot of money at the end of the rainbow. Social services strained beyond belief are why so many mentally ill wander the streets unless they go to jail. Self-medication is often the result of untreated mental illness. But this cop insisted the mental problems would go away if my sons got clean.

I wasn’t so sure. Questions rolled through me: What would happen to him on the street? He has little in the way of education, job skills or ways to take care of himself. But if he stayed, what about the feud with his brother? More violence? I couldn’t let that happen.

My psychotic son finally left with nothing except the clothes on his back. He needs help desperately. The system has failed him and millions like him, abandoning sick people to die a slow death from drugs, alcohol, unemployment, homelessness, hopelessness. That day, I felt pretty hopeless too.

But my stance on Tough Love also got an education. I’m pretty sure God’s plan for my life doesn’t include getting scalded by boiling water thrown by a psychotic meth addict. If he is this violent, he cannot stay. If he refuses or cannot gain access to drug treatment and mental health treatment, I can’t trust that another episode won’t happen. I am so sorry. For now, this may have to be the only love, forgiveness and mercy I can offer to him.

This side of heaven we may never know why such things happen. Evil wants to scare the love right out of me and you and anyone who tries to thwart its agenda. I have to stay safe but I won’t stop loving my sons. Or praying for their healing. I pray for wisdom yes, and courage. Courage to do the right thing, courage to stick to my decisions. Courage to keep loving my sons and my God, when a pot of boiling water or a butcher knife might be the last straw.

Today, as far as I know, my son is still alive. The situation breaks my heart but it could lead him to seek help at last. I have no optimism of my own—down here in the pits, everything seems miserable. My heart is a gaping wound.

But a broken heart is tender, fertile ground, where God’s mercy can take root. Mercy then picks up the shattered hope I’ve dropped and lovingly pieces it together again. Pieces me together again. Because He lives, as the old song goes, I can face tomorrow.  Yesterday, hope took quite a beating. But thanks to the toughest kind of love I’ve ever had to give, today it’s coming back strong.

 

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Time to Remember Family and Veterans

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 104,300 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. We are only 700 away from our next goal . It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

_____________________________________

Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more updates about the new book. 

________________________________________

+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor recently. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂

There will be some incredible interviews with veterans in this book. Up to twenty different veterans agreed to let me ask them some very personal questions. Some answers will have you in tears.  Some are actually humorous. 

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This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. It is a time to remember those who have gone before us and protected our country, or to remember loved ones who have passed.

There are far too many stories to share on our fallen heroes. I will share about them but first, I will share about losing our family loved ones who have passed first.

My brother and I went out to the cemetery where our mother is buried. We go out every Memorial Day to stand silently by her grave, and bring back thoughts of good times.

Our mother was a hero to us. She was a single mom, back in the forties. That wasn’t very common back then. Other relatives shunned her. She did everything she could to provide for my brother and I. When she was off she would do a second job like being a waitress. On the weekends she went to the farms to hand weed the crops.  She never had a day off in her life up until she retired.

She made sure we didn’t feel poor. I still to this day can’t figure out how she bought us a house to live in, provide food to eat, and still keep us happy. Her treat each Saturday was to give us a dime so we could walk to the Hollywood movie theater and see those serial shorts and a movie. (I was in awe when the hero in the serials looked like he was dead in the clip we saw one week, only to have him make it somehow the next.)

My mother was Wonder Woman. She never brought attention herself. She always put us first in her life. I miss her dearly, but I know God has a special place for her in His mansion.

The war combat heroes are many. My book I am writing called, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and out of the Trenches of Life,” is full of heroes. I have written about many who talked to me on the phone and shared their story.

I have shared my experiences while deployed to Korea. I speak out against soldiers giving in to PTSD. I cry for those who are maimed and in wheelchairs. I share thoughts on how to survive in this not so friendly world.

One of the heroes I talked to I met accidently. I decided to stop a t Carl’s (Hardy’s) fast food. I got my meal and was walking towards my seat. I walked by a man that was obviously a Vietnam veteran and a Marine since he wore a hat that said so. I thanked him for his service, and eat my meal.

I watched him. He was in pain. He had a cane. He was bent over. He was younger than I was. He got up to throw his trash away, and I saw legs that couldn’t hold him up too well. He had a heavy limp. As he walked by me, I asked him if he would like to sit and talk with me for a few minutes. He had that look like no way man, but when I told him I was a veteran as well, he sat down.

I started asking him questions knowing I had to walk a thin line so I didn’t intrude into area he didn’t want to talk about.

Her is how the conversation went.

Me: Where and when did you serve?

Marine: I was on a helicopter ship off the coast of Vietnam.

Me: What did the helicopters do?

Marine: They sent supplies to troops; Carried troops from one battle station to another; sent food to the villages for the food who were starving.

Me: What was the worst moment you had while stationed there?

Marine: My very best friend was a helicopter flyer, and one mission his helicopter had a problem;  went off the end of the ship down into the water. He and another Marine were trapped in the helicopter and it went to the bottom of the ocean. The water was to deep to try to recover their bodies.

Me: So Sorry my friend. Were there any other bad moments for you?

Marine: When  we came home on the planes the people lined the terminal and called us names, and had signs that called us murders and other things.

I have more from this hero, but you will have to buy the book to read the rest of his story, (This is called a hook!) and many other from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan

I want to thank all over our veterans and current military, for their dedication and service to their country. God bless each and everyone of you.

For those who have lost a loved one, like family, I feel your pain. I have been there. God is our strength, and our fortress. He will see us through the storms we face.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

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Look in a Mirror. You See God’s Image

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 103,300 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. That is only 1,700 away It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

_____________________________________

Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more updates about the new book. 

________________________________________

+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor recently. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂

There will be some incredible interviews with veterans in this book. Up to twenty different veterans agreed to let me ask them some very personal questions. Some answers will have you in tears.  

_______________________________________________

Life is hectic! Life is too fast! Life seems to be leaving me in the dust!

Do any of those statements fit you? I know your pain. The earth seems to be spinning way too fast. There have been times when I felt I want to let loose and allow the world to throw me off of this planet.

Before I actually check out of this hotel called earth, let me share some things with you:

  • I have said this meaning times, but all storms stop and then there is the Son!
  • Everytime I face adversity I seem to grow. Though it is very hard, I am stronger.
  • When I see someone else who is hurting and I reach out to help them, its seems to help  me as well. If I bring a smile to their face, I have one on my face too.
  • If I fall into the muck and mire of life, God is always there to pull me out.

We need to know who saved us, and how He defines we are. Do you know who you are under God’s love?

Genesis 1:26-28

Let me put it this way. God created everyone of us in His own image. He doesn’t make mistakes. He created you for a reason.

You are very special. He didn’t create you like any other creature. We weren’t created to look like the animals of the forest. We weren’t even created to look like angels. We are totally created in God’s image.

We are more like God than any living thing.

Cling to this. Never feel you are inferior to anyone. God created man and woman and said there were create equal.

When you look in the mirror realizes that you are looking at God’s image. Be thankful he went as far as to create you in this way.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never,ever, give up.

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Hope of Kindness: The Jesus Place

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 103,200 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. That is only 1,800 away It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

_____________________________________

Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more updates about the new book. 

________________________________________

+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor recently. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂

There will be some incredible interviews with veterans in this book. Up to twenty different veterans agreed to let me ask them some very personal questions. Some answers will have you in tears.  

___________________________________________________________________

I am very happy to see Linda Claire back as our guest blogger. Her posts are dynamic, gut wrenching, and full of true. Thank you so much Linda for opening up your heart to us. 

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The Jesus Place

By Linda S. Clare

I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonably kind person. I’ll hold open doors for wheelchair users. I smile at an elderly man on a park bench. I brought home every stray cat I ever saw. But put the same old man in front of me at the grocery store, counting out his bill in pennies, and my saintly kindness melts into impatience and even indignation.

When I was around twelve, Mom worked so I had to babysit my younger sister all summer. Sis was pretty typical for a second grader—she loved to play with her Barbies, her friends and since we grew up in Phoenix, she loved to swim. I was not especially kind to her and more than once lost my temper, swatted at her and then for several hours had to plead with her not to tell our parents.

One day, when I just didn’t feel like watching her and her gabby second-grade friends, I was extra mean. I locked her in the bathroom and then went to my air-conditioned room to read. Not exactly the picture of virtue. Big Sister Fail.

For that and many other sins, I doubt I’m winning the Good Girl Award any time soon. Then and now, it’s too easy to stay safe, to be cocooned in the familiar, to resist any push to step out into nothing. Supposedly, this desire for control over our lives goes way back—to that Tree with the fruit and Eve, who didn’t know a serpent from a stick. Any way you slice it, we’re stuck with sinful natures that get us into trouble and lock true kindness in the bathroom.

As my own family has struggled with addiction and mental health issues, I’ve been told to get some Tough Love so many times. My friends don’t like to watch me suffer and others just wish I’d shut up. Tough Love seems like the perfect answer to a really terrible problem.  Most people who see our circumstances from the outside think my addicted/alcoholic sons are simply playing me. Why, they’re having the time of their lives, sponging off mom and dad, getting drunk or high without consequences. I should tell my sons to get out, grow up and by the way, get a job. Right?

Well, hallelujah, you nailed it. Except that life is never so simple.

Fear of threats to our beings and our cultures is a natural human response. When we face a dangerous animal, natural disaster or in times of war, our fight or flight response kicks in to help us survive.

But at times, we trick ourselves into self-serving misperceptions of danger, and it is then that we cling to baseless fears that only hurt us. The early Christians had every right to fear the Romans and others who were trying to kill off the early Church. Over the millennia, we’ve made laws and statutes to keep our ways of life intact. Yet again and again in the New Testament, we are reminded to be kind to one another.

As in the early Church, today it’s easy to slip back into the clutches of the Old Covenant—the Law. The only way to grow in faith is to “long for the pure milk of the word,” which tells us to be humble, not thinking ourselves more than we are. The first step in growing a Just Love is to stop finger pointing and confess our own shortcomings. We can love the Law but we don’t always have to enforce the Law—especially when it comes to those we look down upon. This is grace.

So with my sons and their addictions, I’m compelled to extend to them the grace God freely offers to me. Every day I see my grown children’s brokenness adding up. The scars of addiction, as well as poverty, under-employment, mental health issues are etched deep into their expressions, like crevasses carved by glaciers.

I know this sounds odd, but I genuinely believe my sons hate what they’re doing. Life has become a vicious cycle of mental illness compounded by drug and alcohol use that only temporarily eases the pain.

Every day, the only truly kind act—that mercy thing God is so famous for—stares into my soul. Mercy, compassion, lovingkindness—call it what you wish. It dares me to love my boys again, by yes, first offering a way out. I say, “You’ve been trying things your way for a while now. How’s it working out for you?”

Some days they answer. Other times, they duck their chins and slip out of sight. On days they stay, I can say, “If you want to try treatment, I’m here for you.” On the days they run, I pray for them to run—straight into God’s arms.

Either way, I cannot change their minds. But what I can do no matter what, is treat them with respect. Look them in the eyes. Remind them how very much they are loved. This is the kindness I am learning from Jesus. Trees and serpents aside, I am so much less apt to sin again when I stay in the Jesus Place.

For me, the Jesus Place is about the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus reached out to the poor, the disabled, the ones more successful people looked down upon. When He modeled for them the Lord’s Prayer, he was showing everyone, at any time, that we are so much more than our latest screw-up.

When He said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” He was tapping into much more than the problems we have if we max out the credit card. In biblical times, if you were a subsistence farmer, one bad harvest might not only result in you losing your land. You could wind up an indentured servant (slave) until you repaid your debt. The ones Jesus spoke to were the most vulnerable in that society. The ones living on the edge. Those with little or no hope.

The Jesus Place promotes mercy because it hands out mercy. Mercy is getting a break when you don’t deserve it. In turn, compassion upends cynical stereotyping and replaces it with hope. Hope we desperately need.

I know. It isn’t easy. Giving undeserved passes to rule breakers is really really hard. I’m not good at it either. But love is dangerous, people. It asks you to put your very tender heart out there on the altar when you know full well some bully is going to stomp on it.

But because Jesus was tempted in all things and yet did not sin, He could take all my stinky socks and my catalog of dumb, dumb moves and hang it all with Him on the Cross.

I used to think that made Him seem like some awful Poindexter—teacher’s pet who always knew the answer. My reaction was a little bitter, like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady from old SNL. Isn’t that special?

Trouble is, I wanted to sit in judgment of everyone else (because I’m almost always right) but run crying to God when someone dished garbage back to me. I didn’t see the connection between blue-eyed movie Jesus being annoyingly preachy and the actual Son of God, who is very serious about bringing Light into the world.

For me, His light used to be made of being nice to kitties and old grandpas and kid sisters—but only if they didn’t interfere with my day. It was like earning a Gold Star from the Big Guy if I held open the door for some poor wheelchair user, which by the way, is required by Jesus and not optional at all. Real compassion asks for real love and real hope that love wins.

You don’t have to listen or do what Jesus says. That’s not how He rolls. But He reaches out to those of us who aren’t so tough anymore, those for whom life and awful things like addiction have locked us in the bathroom. He promises that if we are merciful, we shall receive mercy. That if we show mercy to others, we are actually blessed. Blessed! Just for being truly kind, for merciful acts big and small. We don’t even always have to be in control, which is OK although some days, I’d still rather drive than ride. And even then, Jesus is really patient with me. Mostly.

I have to believe He is patient with my sons, too, and doesn’t wish for them to suffer. Tough Love says they deserve to suffer, and maybe that’s right in some cases. But Just Love keeps pointing me back to the Jesus Place, a place where the downtrodden, the forgotten, all of us debtors can find comfort under the Yoke of Love.

And in modern times, if we run up a big bill, we aren’t thrown into debtor’s prison or enslaved, at least not yet. We can, however still be financially ruined for a few bad spending decisions or an unexpected health crisis. The serpent is alive, I’m afraid.

Yet Jesus calls across millennia, looking us in the eyes and saying, “You’ve been trying life your way for a while now. How’s that working out for you?” Hang out at the Jesus Place for a while, friend. You’ll find it full of mercy, love and hope.

 

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