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. 

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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.  

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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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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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Where Have You been That You Wish You could Forget?

We want to thank all the people who have been subscribing to our RSS feed on this site. It has been awesome! We just passed 28,300 subscribers. We averaged over 90 new subscribers a day for March. Why is this happening? Because we offer quality posts of encouragement daily. Many people who come here are searching for hope. We provide this.

The latest exciting news is that we have passed the 1.35 million mark in total hits for our site. That is impressive, and you are the ones that did it.

We have been on the first page of the Google Search Rankings for over three years.  As a matter of fact we are # 2 this week. Help us stay on that page by subscribing today if you haven’t already. Just click on the icon right after the title to do that.

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The book, “Signs of Hope: Ways to Survive in an Unfriendly World,” is now out in eBook form at all of the eBook outlets. Just recently we lowered the price from $4.99 to $2.99. That is a big savings. Don’t miss out on this great sale. It may not last all that long.

The hard back is on sale for $15.99 compared to the retail price of $19.99. There is an excellent book trailer on the right under the Amazon icon that gives you more insight to the book. Just click on it and a video will start.

This book has words of hope, not only from this site, but personal thoughts from Doug Bolton the author, and an administrator of this site. You can order a hard book or eBook by clicking on the Amazon icon on the right.

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Where have you been that you wish you could completely forget? Have there been places that you knew afterwards you shouldn’t have been there, but went anyway? Then you are over loaded with guilt from the whole ordeal.

I know I have been there. When I was only eighteen years old, (eons ago!) I was a good kid that didn’t even drink beer. I hadn’t had my first drink of any alcohol.

Myself and two other buddies decided to join the Army. We were one of the first “three amigos.”

I was a little worried, because I hadn’t been away from home. I hadn’t even been out of my home town. Just before we left, the three of us decided to have a going away bash. (Actually my buddy decided, I didn’t have a clue what to do at a party.)

We had a older friend buy us beer, and some kind of hard liquor that I can’t remember. It started out very innocent. I had  couple of beers, and then I got “giddy.” I liked the feeling I had, and wanted more. That is when my friend opened the bottle of liquor. I had a couple glasses of that, and then the room started spinning. (No I didn’t have vertigo.) I said I  need to stop drinking, but my buddy called me a sissy, so I continued.

To cut to the chase of what happened, I got extremely drunk, and actually very sick. My “buddy,” decided I needed a cold shower, but then he thought maybe we should switch back and forth with hot and then cold water.

That is the last thing I remembered the rest of the night. I was very sick, and I was laid out on the bed in the hotel room, stark naked. My friend told me several girls came into the room, and laughed about me being naked.

One of the girls ended up being my wife, and I have asked her to never talk to me about it, because I was too ashamed.

I still, 55 years later, think of that night, and it still causes me  pain.

If you have done something that you now regret, you can do something about it like I did. Ask your heaven father to forgive you for what ever it is, and it will be erased from the book of life that God is putting together with your name on it.

I still think of that night, and feel badly, but I know I am forgiven for what happened, and I have moved on. What happened is past history.

Don’t let past sins drag you down like a huge magnate. Let the weight fall from your shoulders by turning all your worries, sins, hurts, and pain over to God. He doesn’t stop the storms in your life, but He will help calm them.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

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Who Knows You?

“Nobody knew.”

I don’t enjoy thinking about how many times I’ve heard those words. She was still struggling with the abortion she had in college. Nobody knew. His porn addiction had taken over his life. Nobody knew. 

Over the years, I’ve watched from the sidelines as the lives of several friends and acquaintances “all of a sudden” crashed and burned. Revelations about addictions, habits, and shattered relationships always seemed to come out of nowhere. People seemed fine on the outside. But they weren’t.

As I look back on each of those situations, I don’t think the problem was what ultimately caused them to crash. I think it was the hiding. It was the self-imposed isolation. It was the irrational belief that “I can never tell anyone about this.” Shame is a soul-killer. The antidote – the thing that offers freedom – is unguarded confession and accountability with another soul.

It Takes Two
Any of us can keep our deepest struggles hidden from view if we really want to. But it’s generally easier for singles than it is for married couples to isolate their hearts. In our weekly small groups and Bible studies and after-church dinners, we share a snippet of ourselves here and snippet there – just enough to be real without overburdening anybody or embarrassing ourselves.

But at the end of the day or the week or the year, who really knows us? Who can encourage us in our dreams and call us on the mat about any negative patterns in our lives? We are free agents, after all, accountable to no one.
 
But this isn’t how God intended us to live. We need to seek out people who walk with us as we follow God. This is more than just friendship with another Christian; it’s a purposeful spiritual relationship between you and another growing follower of Christ. Such a partnership is an alliance of design: You create the relationship together so that it serves to keep you both on the path of growing deeper in Christ and away from any pitfalls that may have sidelined you in the past.

In a way, establishing this kind of alliance is like asking someone to be your running partner: You invite him or her to train with you and run the race with you. If he or she accepts the invitation, you need to lay out the guidelines of the relationship (for example, keeping things confidential and avoiding judgment or ridicule). When you’re ready, you can begin to share your dreams and fears, and design a training plan to help each of you reach your goals.

I have developed strategic spiritual alliances with four different men in my life. We speak regularly, pray for each other, and actively look for ways to encourage each other toward intimacy with God and fulfilling His purposes for our lives. Our conversations have not always been easy, but they have always been life-giving.

As these relationships have deepened, I’ve noticed myself doing something interesting. Anytime I find myself being criticized by someone in my life – whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a family member, or a colleague – the first thing I want to do after praying about it is take the issue to one of my spiritual partners and ask, “What do you see here? Is this person saying something valid about me or my behavior? What part of this criticism is true?”

I know before I ask that these men will be completely honest with me about what they see or don’t see in my character and my life. They will not shy away from temporarily hurting me in order to help me grow. The proverb is true: The wounds that I receive from these men can be trusted because I know the motivation behind them is selfless love.

Not long after you’ve established a spiritual alliance with one or a few key people in your life, something unexpected will happen: You’ll begin to notice the incredible power and influence of other key relationships in your life. More specifically, you’ll become keenly aware of every relationship that drains your soul. There may be people within your inner circle of friends who do not share your desire to put Christ first in your life. Being around them can discourage you from faith and hope.

“The one who walks with the wise will become wise.” If you are spiritually accountable to another growing follower of Christ, you will grow in wisdom. And part of that wisdom will be the bold recognition that following Christ is as much about letting go of wrong relationships as it is about building right ones.
 
 “No man is an island, entire of itself … I am involved in mankind,” wrote the poet John Donne. His point? As part of humanity, we’re all interconnected with the ability to affect one another. God never intended for you to stumble in faith down a lonely path. He intended you to run – together – so that when you do fall, you can help each other up.

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