Hope’s Battleground is Upon Us

I am so honored to be with you each day sharing hope. The outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. There are over 50 new subscribers a day. The site just past 105,100 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

+ WE HAVE A WINNER IN OUR PROMOTION.  THE PERSON WHO HAS THE 105,00O REGISTRATION WILL WIN SOME NICE PRIZES. 

We are starting a new promotion tonight. The person who is our 110,000 followers will win some great prizes. As you can see it goes fast. 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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I am excited to say Linda Clare is back with her monthly guest blog. This one is her best in my opinion. As always she speaks directly from the heart and doesn’t pull any punches. 

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Hope’s Battleground

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I Timothy 1:7 KJV

The day the doctor pronounced my mother legally blind in one eye, we both cried. That same day, a close friend, also in her mid-eighties called me, worried her only son’s fourth heart attack meant he might die before she does. I was still reeling over my own son’s recent psychotic episode—a meth-fueled outburst I’d never witnessed from him before. All the while, more mass shootings rocked the nation as gunmen took aim at innocents.

A man had shot and wounded US Congressmen during baseball practice. Whether from personal loss or mass shooting, that day we stood with our arms wrapped around one another, grieving in unison. Each fresh sorrow strained our shoulders. Spring would never come and our hearts would always be frozen, stuck in the numbness that presides over tragedy.

That day, hope got whupped by fear.

Fear like we’d never known—until. Until the Twin Towers fell. Until Dad got cancer, until the long-awaited baby died in his crib. Until. Now fear stormed our psyches, bullied optimism into the corner.

In airports, we’ve learned to be afraid of bombs in shoes—from now on we’ll glance about nervously at the stadium too. Fear will follow our days and lie down with us at night. We’ll worry our sons and daughters will die before we do and terror will stalk us if we go blind in one eye.

Life is so much scarier than in the good old days, some say. Now just going to the mailbox or heading out to ball practice might end it all.  But as the world grows more and more dangerous, we must not lose sight of life’s most dangerous thing.

Love.

Love is the most dangerous way to live. It runs into burning buildings. Real love swoops you up the day you come home and find your suicidal spouse sitting with a loaded gun. Love risks getting hurt, and doesn’t make blanket assumptions. Love hopes all things.

Love knows that if we cannot resurrect hope, our fears will surely come true.

I saw this up close and personal the night my son went berserk on a meth high—screaming obscenities, he threatened to shove a pot of boiling water off the stove and onto me. After the cops left, I went for a walk. I needed to pray.  I walked and sobbed.

I cried for my lost son, whose meth addiction has gone on so long that it seems intractable. I wept tears of rage for my failure to do as the cop admonished: kick out my two grown sons. Most of all, I cried because I was afraid. Afraid I couldn’t trust God anymore. Afraid God wasn’t there.

Over and over in scripture, my faith tells me not to be afraid. Christians are supposed to trust God, even when it makes no sense.  That day, I was terrified, not of the prospect of my son living his entire adult life as an active addict, but of something deeper. Love was excruciating. Hope had left the building.

I stumbled along, raking in gulps of air as my nose ran and my throat ached. I kept my head down in case neighbors saw me mumbling like a crazy woman.

At that moment, I feared God didn’t exist.

Living in fear instead of hope has chilling consequences. When bad stuff happens—like blindness or heart trouble or when a nut job with an automatic rifle shoots up a ball field—fear orders us to assume the future, too, is loaded with horrible events.

Fear said to me, “Don’t trust anybody. Keep your fists clenched, ready to fight. Lock the doors and sit in the dark. Don’t make eye contact with strangers, in case they’re ready to blow themselves up and take you with them. And by the way, your addicted sons are hopeless.”

Fear laughed. “There is no hope.”

My heart turned leaden. The beautiful mystery of an aspen tree’s leaves left me. Every prayer I’d ever aimed at heaven seemed stuck to one side of the sky—the way the wind pins trash against a chain link fence. What if the whole story—heaven, the God of Love, Jesus—is just a myth?

“God. You have to be there,” I said, “You have to be real. If you’re not, nothing matters.” My tears grew hot as I thought of my poor feeble-sighted mom, my worried friend, my struggling, addicted sons. How could a loving God allow so much heartache?

Fear gloated, but something else said, “Dare to love anyway.”

I sank down on the street curb; gazed up at the aspen’s shimmering leaves. I had no answers. Still, a strange sense of peace came over me as I thought about those I care for. “God, be there for them,” I finally said. “Be real to those who need love.”

Somehow I saw that hope takes its marching orders from the One who is Love. Hope says, go ahead, love your neighbor. Open your fist. Look people in the eye. Forgive them when they screw up. Be generous and compassionate and stop letting your judgments about other people splatter all over everybody. And even if you can’t quite do all of this, Hope says don’t stop trying. Keep right on loving, right on hoping.

It isn’t easy. If I could work miracles, I’d spit on the dirt like Jesus did, rub mud on Mom’s bad eye and she’d see again. I’d give my friend’s son a decent heart and I’d cure my son in his fight against meth. But even if I can’t work miracles, I won’t stop loving. Or hoping for a better tomorrow.

For a while, I let fear take over my life. I questioned the faith I live by. And Fear delighted in my weakness.

But Love answered, bringing with it hope I sorely needed. All sorts of disasters happen in life, but Love says don’t live in fear. Don’t assume the worst. With Love, we can hope for the best, trusting that we are all valued, watched over, loved.

I stood up and drew my sleeve across my wet cheeks. My tears were spent but I walked home surrounded by renewed hope in the Lover of souls.

If you get a horrid disease or you go blind or your child becomes addicted, that’s awful. I’m sorry. But as we grieve, look to love, not fear. And then we can get up and shine our love on somebody else’s hurt, another person’s tragedy. Tell them we love them and hand over a piece of our hope. Some may push us away, but we can’t stop loving, we won’t stop hoping. We’ll march out to the sandlot to play ball, even though there’s a chance people might die. Love smiles when hope beats the tar out of fear.

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Are We in a Rut Ignoring the Hurting?

We tried to give away a prize a few weeks ago, but the winner never returned our email telling them they had won. They had won because they were the 70,000 subscriber. What we will now do is give those same prizes to the person who is the 71,000 subscriber. We now have 70,590, so we have a little ways to go. We hope to keep growing every day, so if you haven’t already subscribed please do now. You just click on the icon right after the title to do that. _________________________________________________________________
Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, has written a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It will be reaching out the many soldiers and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, and the many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides ever day. That is almost one every hour. Doug wants to help stop those statistics. He just got back from a writer’s conference and had some very positive meetings with some agents who are interested in taking him on as a client for his new book. He will up date you as he finds out more.
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Are you tired of the daily routine? Does it all seem like a blur? You get up in the morning. Go to work. Come home and eat dinner, and go to bed.
So many of us are in a rut. We accept the status quo and trudge through life unaware of what is happening around us.
I have been there myself. No thoughts of wanting to seek adventure. No feelings about anything outside of my world.
In church today I was awakened to something that struck me right between my eyes. We were told by our Pastor that we get so busy being church people, we forget that there are people on the outside the church who are crying for help.
We feel so comfortable with all the other church people around us that we don’t even think about what is going on the other side of the walls.
There are the homeless. There are those who are out of work. People have broken relationships, and broken lives. Some are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Who is there to help them? Who cares enough to stop and hand a homeless man a dollar?
We all need to think about those who aren’t as fortunate as we are. They need our attention. They deserve our attention.
It could be you that is needing that help. It could be you lying in the gutter, drunk out of your mind and crying for someone to help you.
I have adjusted my thinking to look farther passed my normal horizons. I need to turn my head and look at them when I pass a homeless person needing help. I need to bend down when a person can’t get up.
It doesn’t take much from each of us to reach out to the less fortunate.  It changes lives.
Remember:
You are never alone.
You are never forsaken.
You are never unloved.
And above all…never, ever, give up!
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Psychology of Addiction

On why addiction is largely a state of the mind so addicts are more addicted to their addiction, the temporary feeling of pleasure, rather than the drugs…

Addiction is primarily psychological although addiction is defined according to the physiological changes in the body, and addiction continues to be considered as a social, cultural, genetic and experiential process as well. Addictive behavior could be explained as any behavior that gives temporary or short term pleasure and also provides relief from discomfort although there may be long term adverse effects.

Addiction is generally described as dependence on any drug and results from substance abuse. Any drug or alcohol can produce addiction as can other things such as the internet, gaming, gadgets, chocolates etc. However the physical and psychological effects of drugs and alcohol are detrimental and actually result in loss of productivity, withdrawal and physical dependence and lack of attention and such other conditions. The primary feature of addiction is dependence as an individual shows increased psychological and physiological dependence on the substance he is addicted to and without the addictive substance the person is unable to return to normal life.

Dependence on anything may not be too bad and some amount of social dependence is expected of us as social beings. However when there is excessive dependence with inability to live without the substance in question, then withdrawal symptoms result and there are physiological changes in the body including pain and in some cases medical attention is required. Addiction is an extreme dependence and can cause people to lose sense of reality as people become cripple without the substance they are addicted to. Addiction leads to crime and anti-social behavior as addicts can resort to violent behavior, to stealing, to murder simply to attain what they want. Addiction to a substance could be separated from healthy use of the substance such as some amount of alcohol is considered acceptable and healthy in a social setting but being completely dependent on alcohol to that which amounts to addiction can have adverse social and personal implications for the individual. Some of the common addictive drugs and substances are opium, alcohol, nicotine and barbiturates. Giving up any addiction, requires strength and this is largely the strength of the mind that aids in stopping any addictive behavior. Thus if addiction is a disease, the cure of addiction or even its prevention is largely a psychological process suggesting that the ‘mind’ is responsible for the addiction, the beginning of it and also the end of it.

Using addictive substances stimulate and release the pleasure inducing neurotransmitters in the brain and the dependence on this feeling of pleasure leads to more such pleasure seeking behavior and this can spiral out of control and doesn’t remain within the control of the individual who then is completely controlled by his addiction rather than the other way round. Withdrawal or abstinence symptoms of an addictive substance could include anxiety, depression, craving, irritability, restlessness or even thoughts of suicide with fatal consequences. Craving, irritability, depression, anxiety are all psychological withdrawal symptoms of addiction although closely related to the physical withdrawal symptoms. So addiction is largely in the mind and if a person wants, he or she can overcome this extreme dependence on an activity or a substance through self control and with better insight into his condition.

Why do people develop addiction?
People who develop addiction are more prone to mental illnesses as addiction has been related to mood or affective disorders, to neurotic illnesses and obsessive disorders, to anxiety disorders and many other psychological problems. Addiction is largely akin to compulsion or the need to repeat any particular behavior in an abnormal dependent manner and addiction like compulsion is an abnormal dependence. Addicts are obsessed with the substance or objects or activity that they are addicted to and show an abnormal dependence on the substance or activity. Individuals with mood disorders or people prone to frequent depression are prone to addiction as any addictive substance or drug or even activity such as sex that gives short term pleasure can cause the addict to return to this activity or substance again and again so that the depression is forgotten for a while. This need for short term pleasure leads to repeated pleasure seeking behavior and thus creates addiction.

All human beings are necessarily pleasure seekers, we all like to experience all that is good or beautiful or provides a moment of happiness but addicts are in turn addicted to this pleasure as well. In fact addicts are addicted to the pleasure and not to the drugs, which are simply catalysts to provide them this pleasure. The drugs and the objects as also the activities that they repeatedly engage in provide them a solace that they feel they would not find in other options. There are of course chemical changes in the body so there are substantive proofs that addicts do get short term pleasure. Thus a drug addict repeated uses drug because it provides a particular form of pleasure that he will not get by say watching films and a sex addict repeatedly seeks sex because the pleasure from sex according to her may not be found in other activities such as travelling or reading. However this is only a belief that the addict has and is not necessarily true. In fact there is a sort of fixation of want, and an obsession with the object of want so an addict repeatedly thinks about this want and convinces himself that without the addictive substance he will not be able to survive. When love becomes an addiction, it can lead to suicide or fatal consequences when the object of desire is not attained.

Addicts are thus obsessed and largely depressed individuals who sometimes use the obsession against the depression or to overcome the depression. They are socially withdrawn although they may apparently have a huge circle of friends with whom they may not be able to relate at all levels. Addicts are also susceptible to suggestion and they are vulnerable to opinions of other people. Strange that it may sound, it is easy to mould or change addicts and also easy to hypnotize them as they are very impressionable and easily affected by what people and society have to say about them. This weakness of addicts is also their strength as both negative and positive influences can act equally well on addicts and the right guidance would be necessary to show them what is good for them and what is bad.

How is addiction controlled and stopped?
Stopping or overcoming any addiction could be a challenge but as addicts are changeable and affected easily, it may be relatively easy to bring them back to normal life provided they have the right type of guidance and counseling.

One of the strategies that could be used to cure addictive behavior would be ‘diversion’, providing alternative substances/activities or shifting their attention or interest into something other than the addictive substance or object. As a TV addict could be encouraged to develop more constructive habits of reading for instance.
‘Substitution’ would be another method and a person addicted to alcohol could be encouraged to take a drink that tastes like wine but does not contain alcohol.

‘Eradication’ or complete unavailability of the addictive substance or object can gradually lead to forgetting the pleasure giving substance and interests in other activities. The complete unavailability of a drug, even a sleeping pill can lead to lessening of addiction for that drug and help the addict to develop other interests, although this should not be done abruptly as physiological and psychological symptoms of withdrawal may result. So if someone is addicted to a specific medicine or pill, the doses could be slowly reduced before completely stopping intake of the drug.

Finally ‘suggestion’ or counseling to change behavior highlighting the bad effects of a drug or an obsessive activity could be effective at a later stage after withdrawal from the drug or activity has been attempted as when in need of any substance, addicts lose all sense of reality and may not even want to listen to advice. So, only when their dependence reduces to an extent with the help of the other methods of substitution, eradication or diversion, counseling could help them to show more reasonable and socially responsible behavior and prevent further conditions of relapse.

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Why is God so Scarce When I Need Him the Most?

 

 We are honored to have Linda Clare as our guest blogger tonight. I know you will be inpsired by this post.

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Uncle Julio and the Tongues of Fire

When I’m feeling defeated, God’s often elusive.  As soon as I ask God to hand out an instant solution to my problems, poof, He disappears. Sometimes, when the final strand of hope slips from my fingers, I wait for the miracle, and nothing happens. I’m more discouraged than ever.  Maybe you feel this way sometimes too.

Times like these, I feel abandoned. Why must God make Himself scarce when I need Him the most? Money doesn’t fall from the sky, my addicted adult children don’t get clean, my pain doesn’t heal. What’s going on? Isn’t God supposed to do something when I’m at my lowest?

Just when my moans veer off into self-pity, a familiar nudge quickens my heart. The Holy Spirit has arrived. I feel like a live wire or be warm all over. An especially apt Scripture may spring to mind. Power courses through me.

 But what exactly is this Spirit? This part of the Trinity baffles many of us. We grasp God as Father. And Jesus as His Son makes sense. But Holy Spirit? How do you connect with something so elusive?

Maybe you have to know what you’re looking for.

 Lots of times the symbol for the Spirit is a dove, but I identify more with the tongues of fire sitting atop the heads of the early believers. I know it’s only symbolic, but this heads-on-fire image reminds me of the Mexican-American neighbor boys who were my only playmates when I was around six or seven, Peter Bone and Bobby.

Bobby was the mean older boy and Peter Bone (I don’t know why he was called that) was feckless but tended to follow Bobby’s lead. They both got ultra-short haircuts in the summer, where Yuma, Arizona temps could sizzle near 120 degrees.

Their mom, Chu-chi, fascinated me with the way around a hundred relatives would show up at her house for practically no reason. I don’t have that many kin in the world, but this huge extended family descended upon Bobby and Peter Bones’ house to mark every birthday, anniversary or Mexican holiday. The adults marked celebrations with tequila. Which brings me to Uncle Julio.

Tio Julio, as the boys called him, was the kind of uncle every kid wants. He was older, white hair slicked back just so and his torso was round but in a solid way. Julio could do magic, a very important skill for uncles, and his booming laugh could rattle your teeth loose. Julio’s favorite magic trick was to light a match to one of his nephew’s burr haircuts, and the trick was to see how long the kid could be on fire before he cried out.

I don’t recall if the boys’ mom was for or against the ritual, but nobody stopped Uncle Julio and neither boy tried to run. Maybe it was about machismo or maybe it was simply an odd family tradition. I hope those boys grew up to be compassionate husbands and fathers, uncles who traded Uncle Julio’s magic for unswerving search for God. In any case, I was awestruck.

If you’ve ever smelled hair burning you know what this is like. Julio, now many fingers into the tequila, would stand Bobby or Peter in the yard, garden hose at the ready, and strike the match. That sulfur stink always made my nostrils sting, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the spectacle. This skinny Mexican kid standing there shaking, smoke curling up out of his nubby haircut, trying not to look like a baby in front of his burly uncle. When Tio was finished terrorizing the boy, he baptized him with the hose. This was a nice touch because I suppose the kid could then cry without being detected, but he still shook as if his bones had suddenly turned to rubber. I made a beeline for home in case Uncle Julio called for another volunteer.

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t sport a flame. No, the real H.S. is invisible. And when you’re broke or heart-sick or just sick, you know how hard it is to trust in things we can’t sense in the usual ways. That’s when, for me anyway, God shows up without an easy solution and asks me to trust. Trust? You’re kidding.

I’m miserable. At wit’s end, suffering in body, mind and spirit. I feel so alone. God insists that although He’s not going to fix my problems supernaturally, I’m to trust that I’ll get through this. Correction, God says. We’ll get through this.

So I trust, wait on the Spirit, unsure exactly what I’m waiting for. A dove? A tongue of fire? Rushing wind?  Yet God assures that as I trust, I’ll know Him when He shows up. He won’t resemble Uncle Julio any more than I look like his nephews. But the Holy Spirit will come.

I crouch down, clinging to the hope of God’s promise: I will not leave you alone. My heels sting with blisters of my trials. The sun hides on the other side of the mountain, indigo shadows blanket the land.

Then, a rustle. I leap to my feet. Something stirs in the thicket. My hands tremble and I wait, try to be still and know.

The sky splits; the veil is rent. I’m petrified. Quick, shut my eyes; don’t dare peek. The flame rests on my crown, and for an instant I’m overcome with smoke and the weight of God’s gift of power to us. Then, as the wind, it’s gone. But so is my fear. Somehow, heart-break is bearable, even pain is more tolerable as I abide in Him.

This is where the true power manifests itself. You and me and Uncle Julio are more than the sum of our parts. We’re on fire and we can’t stop telling what we have heard: that Jesus is risen, Alleluia. No need to douse this flame.

BIOGRAPHY:  Linda S. Clare grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and taught art as well as elementary school in public and private schools. She has published four books, including her debut novel The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press 2099). She has won several fiction awards, teaches college writing classes and works as a mentor and editor. Her husband of thirty-two years and their four adult children, including a set of twins, live in Eugene, Oregon, along with five wayward cats, Oliver, Xena Warrior Kitty Paladine, Melchior and Mamma Mia!

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