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. 

________________________________________________________

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.

 

Share This Post
Share

Is There Hope at the End of the Day?

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 93,775 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it. We have a new promotion going with prizes. The person who is our 95,000 follower will receive two nice prizes, which we will not name. (This is called a hook in writing.) The number of followers raises fast. We are averaging close to 30 new subscribers each day. So don’t hesitate! Click on the icon right after the title of this post to subscribe to be eligible for the prizes. 

______________________________________________________________________

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 will be reaching out the many military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and the many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. Doug wants to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Doug Is also seeking military who would be willing to do an interview. It will be part of the book. Sharing by actual soldiers will help many others. Look for updates here.

____________________________________________________________________

Something exciting happening soon.

_________________________________________________________

This post for this Christmas season is powerful. Linda Clare has been through the gauntlet of despair the last few years. Her determination to not be overcome is amazing. Read her story about an addicted family and their struggles. 

____________________________________________________________________________

Hope Resurrected

 

That Christmas was going to be the year: The year my fractured family had a happy Christmas, full of laughter, giving and hope. The year we stopped lobbing snarky remarks at each other and started hugging instead. The year I hoped to celebrate Christmas rather than plan another intervention.

That year, my family, like many families, gathered around a seven-foot artificial tree shimmering with lights and ornaments. The fake fir looked noble sitting next to a sickly, withered African violet on the window sill. We were at Mom’s place, set to do the whole Christmas Dinner thing. My mother was trying out a “new” Christmas menu taken from some gourmet magazine. You could say that’s when the trouble started.

Everyone crowded into Mom’s apartment, marveling at her tastefully appointed formal table set with silver and charger plates. One of the grandkids asked, “What’s that terrible smell?” Mom answered, “Brussels sprouts with shallots and salt pork!” The rest of us grumbled that we’d prefer instant mashed potatoes, jellied cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. Mom took this personally and poured herself another glass of wine.

Yet while we all wore holiday outfits, displayed wide smiles and politely raved over Mom’s “interesting” cooking, inside every one of us simmering resentments, personal grudges and high anxiety brewed. My adult sons and nephews busied themselves with making sure the beer and wines were never lonely, while I cast nervous glances to gauge just how blitzed they were becoming. One family member, who always tries to convert my hedonist boys, was preaching his yearly sermon from his spot at Mom’s grand piano, not realizing his own son was already six fingers into her liquor stash. I looked from face to face, reading the expressions: if I was even half-right, everybody in Mom’s living room appeared to be contemplating a jump off a bridge. With the brussel sprouts.

Whatever hope I had for a Norman Rockwell Christmas wilted like the African violet in the window. And I know my family isn’t alone.

December, perhaps more than any month, is where hope flickers and threatens to die. Even if you’re not particularly religious, the month of giving is known for overindulging, stress and expectations. While everybody seems to slouch toward excess, for those with addiction problems, temptation lies in wait everywhere. For those with mental illness, the demands of December’s holiday cheer can mean a cruel and isolated season. And for those of us who love addicts and/or the mentally ill, December marks the season of holding one’s breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. That night, I was sure that shoe would crash down in the form of embarrassing and loud behavior from any number of inebriated fools and judgmental teetotalers. In other words, my relatives and me.

Measuring Advent in terms of catastrophes had become a habit for me. I’d become a kind of grinchy let’s-just-get-through-this kind of person, and I thought I had a good reason. I’d spent my tenth Christmas two states away from my family in a Shriner’s hospital ward, recovering from orthopedic surgery. Back then inpatients were only allowed two books and stationery from home. We couldn’t even wear our own clothes. Most of us stayed for at least three months—since October, I’d had two major surgeries on my paralyzed left arm and hand. At times, all of us felt more like inmates than inpatients.

Christmas Day, the hospital staff tried to make our day festive, feeding us a turkey dinner, bringing in a fake Santa and holding a street parade that we on the third-floor couldn’t really see. Most of the other girls on my ward were encased in plaster from their chins to their toes, and I was the only patient who could walk unassisted. That Christmas, I remember that nobody cared much about the parade, the dinner or even the phony Santa Claus. What we really wanted—no, needed—were our families.

But our moms and dads hadn’t even been allowed to send us gifts—to help keep patients from low-income homes from feeling bad. Instead, each patient, sitting on her hospital bed, got a visit from that fake Santa and two small wrapped gifts marked, “For a Girl.” I opened mine and stared at a cartoonish, stuffed Rudolph and a cheap plastic doll. I scolded myself. Be grateful, don’t cry. I felt under my pillow for my little white Bible—one of my two books (the other was a Nancy Drew) from home.

At that moment, more than anything, I wanted someone to hold my hand and tell me I was loveable, if not loved. That even though I wasn’t home for Christmas, they hoped I’d be released soon. The ward nurses scurried from patient to patient, handing out bed pans, taking temperatures and admonishing girls to stay on their beds.  I kept my feelings to myself.

I kept smiling, but my prayer for a Christmas Miracle, in the form of being somehow transported home to Yuma, Arizona, faded away like the Santa’s ho-ho-hos. I buried a boatload of hope that day, not understanding how God had overlooked such a heartfelt request.

Three weeks later, I finally made it home, where my family had kept the Christmas tree up until I arrived. That tree was brown and dead now, but it resurrected my hope for better days ahead. I don’t remember what gifts I received, only that I was so happy—happy to have Christmas with my loved ones, happy to be home. Even then I wondered whether I would have known such happiness if I hadn’t lived through the Fake Santa Christmas first.

And that fateful Christmas at Mom’s, it occurred to me that we continually walk this path of death and resurrection.

The death of hope when a child’s wish isn’t fulfilled or when a codependent mother secretly tracks her sons’ drinking shadows the thorny path from the Cross to Easter’s resurrection. Death is necessary to create new life.  It’s a circle of Good Friday to Sunday, played out on a small scale, again and again.

While I don’t wish suffering or calamity on anyone, it does seem as if our best times come in contrast to our worst times. We savor warmth if we’ve been cold, food if we’ve been hungry. We appreciate shelter if we’ve been homeless and kindness if we’ve seen discrimination or indifference. I doubt I could ever entertain unconditional love if I hadn’t also experienced the pain of rejection. Even so, I struggle to understand the addiction and mental illness in my family and my own role in it. But hope allows me to keep on learning.

Hope is about failing and daring to hope again. It’s about hurting someone’s feelings with a careless remark but sincerely atoning for it and vowing to do better. It’s about extending love to all those who are different, disabled or even those whom we wish would get their doggone acts together. Hope rises from the ashes of our mistakes and helps us keep lurching forward, even if we’re bound for another valley of trial.

Christmas time is tough for so many. For those who suffer from loneliness, addiction, mental illness or just a crazy family like mine, December can be the cruelest month.  Yet I’ve found that the best cure for times when hope withers and threatens to croak is to look outside myself. The One Who is Hope guides me to those who need a little cheer. Hope is born again in me as I embrace others just as they are. Even when you’re broken and hurting and secretly wish those with the glowing annual Christmas letters would stuff it, just keep walking toward the Star, and hope floods in.

That year at Mom’s, I watched as one of my sons withdrew more with each bottle of stout beer he drank. I went to him, huddled in the corner, booze on his breath, desperation in his eyes. There was nothing I could do or not do to convince him to lay aside alcohol. Just as nobody could talk Mom out of her horrid gourmet menu, I was helpless to fix my son’s substance abuse problem. So I did the only thing I could: I took his hand and said, “I love you to the moon and back—and by the way, we could go out for a little fresh air if you need some.”

“Mom.” He smiled. “I love you too.”

 

Share This Post
Share

Don’t Forget Wounded Warriors in Sports

We have a winner! We past 86,000. The winner was notified, and we have started a new promotion. The next winner will be the person who is our 90,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes very fast. We average over 50 new subscribers a day. We will get there pretty fast. We just passed 86,795.

If you haven’t already subscribed please do by clicking on the icon right after the title of this post.

______________________________________________________________________

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 military 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. Be looking for more details about the new book.

_______________________________________________________________

Welcome back our guest blogger Dennis Booth. He is our blogger on the third Sunday of each month. This blog is very uplifting and gives us hope.

___________________________________________________________________

Folks the human spirit is alive and well and rather than look at what is wrong with this world we should be rejoicing in what is right with it and what makes that so.

I write a weekly column for a newspaper where I live and this week it is about how the world has embraced those shunned for too long.

We all know the Olympic Games champion athletes from around the world who want to be seen as champions in their own right and proudly wear hopefully the gold medal of their sport.

But now there is recognition of those who are disabled either by accident or from birth and so the Paralympics began.

Now those who had lost a limb or were regarded as disabled from the Paralympics standards could strive to show those more fortunate that they had something to give to the world, something that would make others appreciate that despite their setback physically they were overcomers.

And they have but even more so they have inspired others to challenge themselves and strive to show the world and their own country that they are as competitive as able bodied athletes and by athletes I mean all sports within the Paralympics.

Then we saw the advent of the Special Olympics…for those possibly best described by others as having special needs, many born with Down Syndrome.

But shunned as they might have been in the years previous by all but loving parents and relatives and those who helped them, the Games gave them an opportunity to believe they too could dream like the Olympians they may have watched on television, listened to on radio or read about in print media.

And if we sobbed when we saw the obvious joy on the faces of those receiving medals as their national anthem was played…we sobbed with them…not just the Special Olympians but the Paralympians as well.

Now we have the Invictus Games for Services’ men and women who have returned from theatres of war with lives tortured to an extent by post-traumatic stress, loss of limbs etc and seemingly only to many to be  able to relate to those of the same ilk.

Not so anymore. The Invictus Games now brings them together on a world stage to take part on events designed around what they can do with what they have and the cause has been championed by a Prince among men….Prince Harry of England.

He is royalty but he has been a soldier on the frontline overseas and he knows what these people have gone through and it is almost like this is a God given mission for him to support them in every way he can….and don’t they just appreciate it!

They too probably have felt shunned by society until this sort of opportunity came about and we who have had every opportunity in life that has robbed the Paralympians, the Special Olympians and those in the Invictus Games are getting a lesson in how to stand up and fight against the odds.

And if you are every feeling down and out can I suggest you go to You Tube and watch some of the Paralympics, Special Olympics and the Invictus Games.

Those who take part in those Games will tell you they have striven to overcome but you know something they have done much more…they have probably helped so many more overcome and not just those disabled, not just those with special needs and not those just from experiences within war.

Dennis Booth

 

 

Share This Post
Share

Living Water Quenches our Worst Fears

We are very happy to have Linda Clare back as a guest blogger tonight. She has a story to share about her own life that will let us know that we can have hope in the darkest moments of our lives.

_________________________________________________________

Living Water, Living Hope

 

            Hope is that quality which never disappoints; is new every morning, the evidence of things not seen. We who walk with God have likely memorized these verses, and we like to think we could never stop hoping in God for our needs. But what exactly is this hope? How can we hope when a miracle never comes?

            I thought I knew what hope meant—until my husband was laid off his job after 13 years. We’d just bought a home at the peak of the real estate frenzy when he came home in the middle of the day. The hair on the back of my neck stood up—he never came home at that hour.

My husband of thirty-two years confirmed my worst suspicions. “They let me go,” he said, holding a cardboard box with his desk supplies and a potted plant. The battery-powered hula girl, a gift from a colleague, sat in the box too, and she somehow seemed as sad as my husband. I’m a disabled part-time writer and teacher, and we both knew that unless he found another job quickly, things were going to get interesting.

We both prayed for that job to appear, and did anything and everything else we thought would help. No job offer arose, in fact, in the next two years my sixty-four year-old spouse had exactly one interview.

During this time, I clung to my understanding of hope and meditated on every Scripture verse about it. Psalm 39:7 summed up my feelings: “My hope is in Thee.”

Meanwhile, we were making house payments but very little else. We did all the loan modification work our loan holder would agree to, and were able to make reduced payments for a few months. Then, the bank demanded we begin our regular payments again, plus several hundred dollars per month to pay back the reduced months’ amount. As unemployment benefits dwindled, we were faced with a dilemma. Short sale the house or let it go.

We got up every day and reminded each other that God’s hope is new every morning. Somehow it kept us going, although I admit I hoped for a miracle or two. If God sent miracles, I bargained, I’d be forever singing His praises.

To see our name in the newspaper foreclosure notice was terrible. We were forced to accept food stamps, help with utility payments and pitying looks from our neighbors. At this point, the only hope I could think about was from Proverbs: Hope deferred makes the heart sick. We were more than sick. We were desperate.

You’ve probably read stories like this, where a last-minute miracle restored Job-like health or prosperity, providing a wonderful testimonial of God’s awesome power. I have too, and there have been other times when hope resulted in restoration. But this time, God needed to teach me about hope in the face of obvious defeat.

Could I hope despite an awful outcome?

In the weeks that followed, no short sale buyer emerged. My husband applied to be a WalMart greeter and wasn’t even interviewed. They said he was too old for McDonald’s. Food stamps didn’t go far enough. Our phone jangled with creditor calls. Instead of being new every morning, my hope resembled a crinkled paper-bag that’s been reused one too many times. 

I began to think like poor old Job: just put me out of my misery, God.

That was when the true miracle occurred.

I have no idea of the why or the how, but God’s hope began to replace my flimsy, paper bag version. I think of it as similar to the way fossil bone is gradually replaced by rock. Little by little, still clinging to the Bible’s wisdom, I claimed a hope which didn’t originate with me.

My human-hope saw only obstacles, barriers. What could be worse than losing a job, a home, one’s dignity? Gently, lovingly, He fortified me. At the time we were going through the foreclosure process, Haiti was devastated by the earthquake that killed thousands.

Suddenly I could understand that while my husband and I would probably end up in a low-cost rental, the Haitian children running down a dusty road begging for water had nowhere to call home. I couldn’t help but feel guilty. My husband started a small business, we found a cozy home to rent, and neither of us had gone hungry or thirsty.

No matter what size your trouble is, there’s always someone whose trouble is bigger. Focusing on helping others instilled God’s hope in me.

Hope isn’t about wanting a certain outcome, or about miracles that may or may not come. I’m thankful for the chance to learn to truly live in hope as opposed to just hoping.

To hope something will or won’t happen is to engage in chance. To hope in God is to gain the kind of hope which sustains. Like peace or living water, God’s hope passes all understanding.

No matter what you’re going through in these difficult times, you can abide in God’s hope. He WILL take care of you no matter what. He WILL hold you in His hand even when you’ve lost a home, a job, your health or you just need a drink of water. Hope in God is the Living Water we all need.

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 novelThe 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!

 

Share This Post
Share