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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We All Seem to Have hardships

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* 08-24-13 …Update on our new book, “Your Signs of Hope: For the Weak Days.” We have sent many devotions to the editor. We will have 100 when we are finished. We have a ways to go. My co-author Dennis Booth, is hard at work getting some wonderful devotions just for you

I have begun to work on the preface, forward, table of contents, and appendix. I will also start looking for people who might endorse the book.

+ I received an email from my editor and she said she was caught up with editing what I have sent in so far. Back to the keys, and pushing hard to stay ahead of her.  

(Keep  Looking here for more updates. We will eventually want your input as to what cover we should use, and have you share ideas with us as to what you want in the book, etc.)

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We all have hardships. We all spend our time in the muck and mire. To some it seems more than they can bear.

We can look in the Bible and see some hardships. Abraham had to wait until he was very old before he had his first child. Moses was not liked by thousands of his own people. David had to live in a cave for fear of his death. Jesus was beaten, spit upon, whipped, and put to death on the cross.

We have to go through some of the same things. There are families that have never been able to have children. There are people who end up being leaders who weren’t liked at one time or another. Some have had to hide from the government because of their commitment to the Lord.

We aren’t alone. Know that God knows even the tiniest hair on your head. He knows what you are going through. He is there to help you calm the storm.

Have you personally faced serious fears when the doctor wants to meet with you about some test results where you are expecting the worst? I have. Have you felt no one cared, and maybe even felt that you wanted to check out of this hotel called earth? I have. Have you had loved ones die and left you with tears and pain? I have.

We all face these issues and many others. God didn’t promise us a rose garden. He allows some trials and storms in our lives to give us strength when we make it through them and then help others that are going through the same things.

Stay strong through your trials. Keep the faith knowing God is with you. Use your storms to help others who need you.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And never, ever, give up!

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We just Feed Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed

How much faith do you have? Can  you step out into the unknown, and have faith that God will lead the way for you?

Abraham wanted a son. He prayed to go for a miracle to provide him one. Why a miracle? Because Abraham was very old. So was Sarah.

Then one day God said, I will provide  a son for you. However Sarah didn’t have enough faith and convinced Abraham to have a child with one of the servants, and let her have the child as her own.

Abraham lacked faith and agreed.

Then Sarah did have a child after all.

You see God had a plan to provide the child all along, but it was His timing and not Abraham’s. Abraham lacked patience, and couldn’t wait.

So it was hard times after that. There was bitterness and even hatred between the brothers, and the mothers. Abraham had to eventually send his servant and the child away to keep the peace.

This was all due to the lack of faith.

God has a time table that is totally different than ours. We ask, ” Give me patience, and I want it now!”

S0metimes we have to do things completely out of faith. It may be that you won’t even know what God has in mind, but He wants you to move forward on faith.

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading.

Do you feel the presence of God around you when you pray? If you don’t your faith might be lacking. If you do feel Him, then you are on the same wave length, and walk the right path with Him.

The next time you feel God is speaking to you about doing something that you have know idea on how to do it, don’t walk away. God knows your fears, but He also knows that if he has chosen you to do His work that he feels you can do it, and do it to His glory.

You may not have glorious “mountain top” experience each time you step out in faith, but you can count on feeling the Holy Spirit dwelling in your and giving you joy for what you are doing.

Think on this:

  • God has plans for each and every person on this planet.  
  • What he may be speaking to you about may seem impossible, but God never makes mistakes. He has chosen you, because he knows that you are right for His purpose.
  • Fear of the unknown can be a good thing. However, don’t let fear overcome you to the point that you turn your back on the task. This is your time to serve God in a way that will be written down in your life book. You will be told, ” You was  a good and loyal servant.”

So… when you hear the knock at the door, have faith. Jesus said,” If you have enough faith of even a little mustard seed, you will overcome your fears, and succeed.”

 

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Unfounded Fears

Scotty had been begging his dad to play hide-and-seek with him for a couple of hours. Finally, Dad finished what he was doing and jumped into the game. He said, “Scotty, you count to 50 while I hide somewhere in the house.” It took the little guy a while to count to that big number, but he finally got there. He began right there in the living room, looking behind all the curtains and the big furniture. No daddy. He looked in the dining room, the bathroom, the closets, the kitchen. No daddy. Which meant his father was hiding upstairs. Scotty was disappointed after he looked in the guest bedroom, the bathroom, and the master bedroom upstairs. Still no daddy. He knew there was only one place left to look; that big, dark closet in the master bedroom. Apprehensively, he slowly opened the door to that long old closet with the light switch he couldn’t reach. He looked to the right. No daddy. He looked to the left, RRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Suddenly, there was a big grizzly bear, growling and coming at him. He ran as fast as his little legs would go; out of the bedroom, down the stairs, all the way through the downstairs until he was stopped by the locked door of the kitchen. That’s when the growling bear caught him, grabbed him in his paws and hugged him! This was no bear trying to hurt him. This was his Daddy wanting to hold him.

So many people have made the same mistake Scotty made…about God, that is. They think He’s a bear who wants to hurt them. When, in fact, He’s a Father who wants to hold them. It may be that some wrong ideas about what God’s like have kept you from ever experiencing His awesome love. Like that little boy, you’ve been running from a Father who just wants to love you.

Maybe you’ve got what God is like confused with what your father was like. Jesus said when we talk to God to call Him “Father.” But for you, that word may bring memories of someone who hurt you, who betrayed you, who wasn’t there for you, who you were never good enough for. But God isn’t like that father. He’s the Father we all wished we had: fair, trustworthy, loving, approachable, able to fix things for you, always there for you. How do we know what He’s like? That’s where Jesus comes in. We know Jesus was all of those things, and He said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Or maybe your religious background has made you feel like God is a bear to run from. The God they told you about seemed full of anger and condemnation. This was a God to fear, not to get close to. Here’s what God Himself says about what He’s like in our word for today from the Word of God in 1 John 4, beginning with verse 18. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…This is how God showed His love among us…He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

That’s the God you were made by. That’s the God you were made for. A God who wants to love you, not hurt you; whose love drives out the fear. Whose love for you is so massive that He desperately did not want to lose you. So He gave His one and only Son to come here and die on a cross to remove the sin that made it impossible for you to get to Him or to go to heaven and be with Him forever. All of God’s anger against human sin was taken by Jesus on the cross. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He blasted out of His grave and proved that He can deliver the eternal life He promised. You can tell how much God loves you by how much He spent on you. He spent His Son for you.

And today, this Father you were made for is pursuing you. That’s the tug you feel in your heart. That’s Him. You’ve lived long enough without this love. You don’t have to live another day without Him.

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